Sheryl Jesin


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Jamie’s birth story

It’s hard to believe that Jamie is 8 weeks old today!

The last 8 weeks have simultaneously flown by…and also some moments seemed endless (usually when I was awake in the middle of the night or when all 4 kids needed something from me at the same time!)

I figured it was time to document his birth story before I start forgetting the details.

Where shall I start?  How about with a quick overview of my pregnancy.  I feel very lucky that overall my pregnancy with Jamie was smooth and uneventful.  I felt nauseous the first trimester, I felt better during the second trimester, and started feeling heavy and slow in the third trimester.

In the last few weeks, I felt done and also apprehensive to give birth and have a newborn to take care of.  I had great, unmedicated birth experiences with both Benjamin and Alex, so on one hand I knew I could do it again, but I also know that nothing is guaranteed with birth so I definitely had fear of the unknown.

We had spoken with my midwives about place of birth during the last few months of my pregnancy.  Jake and I originally thought that I’d give birth at the hospital, as that is where we had our other 3 kids.  However, at the back of my mind I was always curious about home birth, and when I mentioned that to my midwives, they told me that I was a great candidate for home birth, as I had already had 3 straightforward deliveries, and my pregnancy was very low risk.  We honestly didn’t know until I went into labour where this birth would end up happening!!

My labour and delivery with Alex was extremely fast.  You can read about it here. As a result I was worried that this labour would be even faster, and that I’d end up giving birth in the car on the way to the hospital, or even worse, in the parking lot picking my kids up from school one day.

My midwives reassured me that this would NOT happen, and that as soon as I felt ANY signs of labour, I was to page them and they would tell me what to do and they’d be at my side as soon as possible.

Well…starting at about week 36 I had Braxton Hicks contractions all the time, and especially when I was walking or standing.  I felt a lot of pressure in my pelvics and baby’s head was down and low.  Did this mean I would go into labour in any moment?  No one knew!  But I certainly felt on edge a LOT near the end.

I had my 38 week checkup at home – my midwife came to check me and also to scope out our house in the event we went with a home birth.  She asked me if I wanted an internal exam and/or stretch and sweep and I declined.  She also said our house would be great for a home birth, so it felt good to have that option open!

Then it was time for my 39 weeks appointment.  I was 39 weeks and 5 days at this point.  I was REALLY uncomfortable. It was hard to walk.  It was hard to sleep. I felt like I had a bowling ball between my legs.  My pelvis hurt.  I was out of breath all the time.  This time when my midwife Carla asked if I wanted an internal and a stretch and sweep, I said OK.  I was still nervous to get things started, but I was also DONE!   So I had a stretch and sweep at my appointment around 11:30 am.  By the time we got home, I felt things happening.  I felt some light contractions that felt like more than Braxton Hicks.   This was IT!  Jake called his mom and asked her to pick up the kids from school as we knew it would be happening soon and it would be easier without them at home.

Me at 39 weeks!

My midwife who was on call, Rivky, called me to check up on me a few times that afternoon.  (My midwives work in pairs – on any given week, one is in clinic and the other is on call.  Carla was in clinic the week I had Jamie and Rivky was on call, and a third midwife Anne would be assisting Rivky.  I had met all three of them during my prenantal appointments and felt very comfortable with all three).  I felt contractions but they were pretty subtle and about 7-10 mins apart.  However, in light of my previous speedy labours, she wanted to come over.  She felt more comfortable coming over too early, rather than too late and I agreed with that!  At this point, I wanted to stay at home and try this whole home birth thing!

She was at our house by around 6pm, and things were progressing, but they were SLOW!!  She set up all her equipment in my room.. She checked me and I was 3 cm dilated.  Not bad…but nothing too exciting…so we waited…I bounced on my yoga ball…walked up and down my halls…and we waited some more.

All the equipment my midwife brought! It is what you’d find in a level 1 hospital. Thankfully we needed very little of it.

Around 8pm, things weren’t really progressing…and Rivky suggested breaking my water.  I honestly felt a bit nervous about it…I was tired at the time and kinda just wanted to forget the whole thing and go to sleep!  But then I realized I was just prolonging the inevitable…so we did it.  She broke my water.  Now with Alex, when my midwife broke my water I immediately went right into very active labour and I thought this would happen this time.  So Rivky called Anne, the midwife who would be helping her, to come, as we thought breaking my water would make things happen quickly!  Anne arrived, but nothing much changed.  My contractions got a bit closer together and bit more intense, but I knew that they were not painful enough yet to mean that things were happening quickly.

The last picture I took of myself pregnant, at about 8pm at night before Jamie was born early the next morning!

Honestly…I felt discouraged at this point.  I walked a bit, bounced a bit, went up and down the stairs…but things were progressing SO SLOWLY!  At least it felt really slow because I was expecting things to be fast.  In the grand scheme of things, in retrospect, it wasn’t that slow…it’s just that my expectations were unrealistic for this birth – they were based on my previous birth, and every birth is different.

At 10:45 Rivky checked me again, and I was only 4 cm.  That was disappointing, although not that surprising because my contractions were not that painful.  I was tired at this point and annoyed.  Rivky felt that perhaps the baby’s head was in a bit of weird position and was not pressing down on my cervix as much as it could in an ideal position.  Rivky sent Anne home at this point and we’d call her again when I was close to delivery.

I kept walking, bouncing, and waiting….

At about 1 am I was really done.  I lay down on the bed and wanted to just go to sleep.  I was so tired. This made my contractions slow down a lot…

At this point Rivky said to me:  “Sheryl, you have get up and move around and help this baby out…or we are going to the hospital and you may need pitocin and a epidural.” She said this in the kindest way and most honest way, so that I was aware of my options. I was so tired at this point that an epidural actually sounded great.  In my head, I was even thinking that a c-section sounded like a wonderful way to get this baby out.  I was tired, and done, and didn’t want to do this anymore.

But then I decided that I would give this one more shot.  I had given birth twice before without medication and I could do it again. Jake made me an Energize (the preworkout energy drink I have before my workouts).  It gave me a nice burst of energy, and it helped me get out of bed and on my feet again.  I summoned all my energy and a positive mindset.  We put on some Taylor Swift and I danced!!!!  I kept saying to myself “down and out” and I visualized the baby moving down and out. All of these things together, the Energize, being on my feet, dancing, visualization, the music and a good mindset made things happen.  My contractions became more painful.  They started coming every 2-3 minutes.  This was a good thing even though it REALLY HURT!  Each contraction came and went in a wave, and the peak hurt a lot.  And I mean a lot. It radiated towards my back and we think it was due to the positioning of the baby.  Either way…things were working.

At about 2:45 am I was 7cm.  And then the rest – is basically a blur.  The contractions were really intense and really painful.  They were about 2 mins apart.  The pain that radiated towards my back was pretty horrible…but I was in a zone…and someone coped by leaning on Jake during each contraction while Rivky rubbed my back. We were an awesome team.

At about 3:25 I felt like I needed to push.  I instinctively went down on my hands and knees on the floor beside the bed.   Rivky quickly called Anne to come back!  But there was no way I was going to wait for Anne to arrive…this baby was coming out STAT!

Rivky and Jake helped me up on the bed.  I stayed in the hands and knees position and felt like this baby was going to POP out!  Rivky coached me like a pro….she told me not to push…but to just breathe…and let this baby out SLOWLY!  I’m forever thankful for her skill…it HURT and BURNED and I wanted to push hard, but I’m so glad that I didn’t, as it gave my perineum an opportunity to stretch slowly.  Jamie was born at 3:37 am with two very slow controlled pushes, and I had no tears and didn’t need any stitches.

WHAT A RELIEF!!!!!  I did it!!!!  It was the hardest thing I’ve ever done, and it was also the BEST experience.  It was AMAZING giving birth at home, in our room.  Anne arrived shortly after Jamie was born, I delivered the placenta, and everything was wonderful.  Rivky took care of me, Anne took care of the baby, and Jake and I were just in happy la la land with our perfect new son.  About an hour after he was born, Anne helped me go to the bathroom…I was shaky and weak but I peed and it didn’t even hurt that much!  Rivky and Jake changed the sheets on my bed, put together a bag of garbage and a bag of laundry, and you’d never even know a baby was born in our room.  It was clean, cozy and peaceful.

The glamorous reality of postpartum – a diaper and a stomach that looks 6 months pregnant! This was me a few hours after giving birth.

At about 5:45 am, Rivky and Anne left.  Jamie and I were both doing well and lying in bed.  Jamie nursed like a champ right after birth and I felt amazing.  I was high on endorphins and wasn’t in any pain.  I truly felt amazing.

A few hours after Jamie was born…the endorphins were high and I was sooo happy!

Natural birth without medication is HARD.  I will never say that it isn’t.  BUT you feel SO GOOD afterwards, and the recovery is so much easier that I think it’s worth it.  I had an epidural and vacuum for Dylan’s birth and I felt horrible after and in pain for a few weeks.  I had almost no pain after having Jamie and felt amazing.

Is a home birth for everyone?  No – I don’t think it is right for everyone, but it was right for me. I did my research, which showed that in Ontario, with midwives, homebirth is just as safe as hospital birth.  I felt very comfortable the whole time and I trusted Rivky and Anne and my body.  It was an amazing, empowering experience and I’m so glad I did it.  It was amazing to not have to go to the hospital or come home. It was super cold out that night and I never had to leave my house. We were snug and warm and happy.

Jamie’s birth was the hardest thing I’ve ever done, and also the most fulfilling.  If you’ve read this far, thank you!  This post ended up super long.  I hope that my experience can show other moms that birth can be wonderful, empowering and miraculous.  We often just hear about the horror stories when it comes to birth and I think it’s important to share the positive stories too.

Also, if you live in Ontario, and you are considering using a midwife for birth, you absolutely should.  I received the best care from my midwives during the prenatal and postpartum period, and of course during birth.  After Jamie was born, Carla came to check on us 3 times at home.  It was amazing to not have to leave the house for the check ups.  She was so reassuring and made me feel so confident and capable during that first week.  I am forever thankful to my outstanding midwives.  (They work out of the Uptown Midwives clinic in Toronto, and they have privileges at North York General Hospital!  I highly recommend them!)

 

Visiting Rivky at my 2 week checkup. I’m forever thankful for her skill and care during my delivery!


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Alexandra’s Birth Story – Part 2

So Part 1 of Alex’s birth story left off with Jake and I heading over to the hospital to meet my midwife, Nicole, for an induction.  It was a strange feeling leaving the house and driving to the hospital without being in labour at all!  In a way it was nice not to have to drive with contractions.  It was easy to call my parents and ask them to come over and watch the boys – it wasn’t the middle of the night, no one had to rush!

We arrived at the hospital around 6:30 PM and headed to triage.  Here’s how the night unfolded:

6:30 PM

Nicole hooked me up for a non stress test.  This involved watching the baby’s heart rate and movement over half an hour.  The baby looked perfect on this test, and this meant that the induction could go ahead.

8:00 PM

A room opened for me on the labour and delivery floor.  We headed over to the room.  To my surprise, it was the exact same room I had for Benjamin’s birth – lucky number 18!  Number 18 has special significance in the Jewish religion – it represents life and therefore quite a fitting room for the occasion.   The room was tiny, crowded, old, run down, worn out – there wasn’t even a pillow on the bed and we couldn’t find an unclaimed one anywhere else on the floor.  This didn’t phase me much – I wasn’t planning on spending much time lying down in bed.  The room was adequate and I was hoping I wouldn’t be spending too much time there.

9:30 PM

First step in the induction process was getting an IV.  This was necessary because at 37 weeks I had tested positive for GBS and therefore required a dose of IV antibiotics.  The insertion of the IV really hurt – but I knew I had much more painful things ahead of me that evening!

10:00 PM

The antibiotics were done, and my IV line was disconnected, but a saline lock was left in my hand in case I needed another dose.  It was uncomfortable to leave the line in my hand, but there was no other choice.  As the night progressed, I would forget it was even there.  Nicole suggested that I have a little rest at this time, to give the antibiotics time to work and so that I would have the energy necessary for labour.  I lay down and tried to rest, but I was quite excited and unable to sleep.  Instead, I ate a banana, a Larabar and drank a lot of Nuun.  Felt like preparation for a half-marathon!

11:00 PM

The time had come to break my water.  As soon as Nicole did this, I immediately felt a pop and a contraction.  It was amazing how quickly my body responded!  Regular contractions followed.  They weren’t very painful right away, but they were certainly uncomfortable.

From 11:00 PM to 1:00 AM, the contractions came regularly every 3 minutes or so.  They increased in intensity over time.  I had to be hooked up to an electronic fetal monitoring machine, to monitor baby’s heart rate.  This was the hospital’s protocol for an induction.  It was a bit of nuisance to be hooked up to wires, but Nicole ensured that I could still move around and remain upright, rather than being limited to lying in bed.  This was very important to me.  Contractions when you are lying down hurt 1,ooo,ooo times more than contractions when you are standing up.  Moving around and standing up allowed my baby to move into an optimal position, and I believe this helped to minimize pain during contractions. At around 1:00 AM the contractions were quite painful, but always bearable.  The reason for this was that I always had a break in between contractions to regain the strength needed to tackle the next one.  I knew that each contraction meant my cervix was dilating further, and that I was one step closer to meeting my baby.  I was becoming a little bit worried though, as it had only been 2 hours of labour, and I wasn’t sure that I could handle the pain for too much longer.

1:00 AM

Nicole asked me if I wanted to be checked to determine my progress so far.  She said that I shouldn’t get my hopes up too much because it had only been 2 hours since she broke my water.  I said definitely YES!  I needed to know how far I was. However, I remembered vividly from Benjamin’s birth that lying down to be checked was extremely uncomfortable.  Nicole suggested that I climb up on the bed, but remain in a hands and knees position.  This worked out quite well and was much better than lying down, and felt just as good as standing up.

Nicole checked me and we were all shocked to learned that I was already 10 cm.  She asked if I felt ready to push, and at the point I did not.  She said let’s just wait a bit until my body was ready.  She called my second midwife, Noushin, to come down to the hospital.

1:05 AM

After a strong contraction – I went from not needing to push, to needing to push right away.  I told Nicole and Jake that this baby was coming soon!  Nicole called to the nurses station to ask for a respiratory therapist to come and help since it looked like Noushin would not be at the hospital in time for the birth.

1:15 AM

After a few more strong contractions, I yelled out:  This baby is coming RIGHT NOW.  Nicole picked up the phone to tell the respiratory therapist to come immediately, but there was no time for that.  Almost involuntarily, I gave a small push and out came Alex’s head, followed shortly after by the rest of her body.  Jake and Nicole were not expecting it to happen so fast – Nicole caught the baby with one hand and Jake didn’t even see Alex come out.  Nicole and Jake helped me out of the hands and knees position and I lay down in bed.  Alex was placed immediately on my chest skin to skin and we were all in a bit of shock.

The respiratory therapist came into the room a couple minutes after the birth.  I said to her:  That was amazing and so much fun!  She told me she hasn’t heard new moms say that before.  I truly felt great at that moment – so many endorphins were running through my body and my baby high was starting.

Alex and I snuggled for about an hour after birth.  She latched on immediately and nursed like a pro.  Noushin arrived and she and Nicole took care of all the paper work that needed to be done.  After an hour, Noushin did the new baby exam on Alex and we learned that she weighed 5 lbs 10 oz.  This corresponded to 2551 grams.  We were quite happy  – if she had been under 2500 grams we would have to stay in the hospital for 24 hours.  We were ready to go home!

4:45 AM

Noushin wheeled me to the door in a wheelchair and it was time to take Alex home.     Alexandra didn’t make a peep on the way home.  My parents heard us come in and came downstairs to meet their new granddaughter.  Dylan followed shortly after at around 6:00 AM and was immediately in love with his new sister.  Benny woke up at 7:00 AM and was a bit more cautious about the stranger in his house.  It was so wonderful to be at home, eating my own food, resting in my own bed, and showering in my own bathroom.

Final Thoughts

After weeks of worrying, both about the initial breech presentation, and subsequently about Alexandra’s size, I was so thankful that she had safely joined us and that she was perfectly healthy, despite being little.  We will never know why she was little – the placenta and cord both looked good.  She is already growing so much – she reached her birthweight before she turned one week old.

I am so grateful that I was able to have a natural birth again, without medication.  I was so concerned that I would require either pitocin or an epidural, and I am so glad I didn’t need either.  I know people think it is crazy to even consider a birth without an epidural.  I don’t think I accomplished anything special by not needing one – I think anyone can do it with proper information,  an open mindset and lots of support from a partner and health care provider.  Jake and Nicole didn’t doubt me once and kept telling me I was doing a phenomenal job.  I thank them both, and Noushin as well, for all of their help and their love during all 39 weeks of my pregnancy.

Alex at one week old

Alex at one week old

And now we adjust to life with three kids.  It is crazy, tiring, amazing and wonderful.  I feel like our family is complete and look forward to watching Alexandra grow up, alongside her two big brothers.

Photos by Kelly Fischstein.

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Alexandra’s Birth Story – Part 1 – The Background Info

So, ya….a lot has happened since I last posted in February. To summarize the most important parts briefly – I got pregnant with baby #3, experienced 39 weeks of pregnancy, and had a baby girl last week!

Needless to say, we are overjoyed with the safe arrival of our brand new daughter. I feel like the luckiest mama in the world to have two wonderful boys and now and a healthy little girl. The hormones are definitely flowing and each time I look at my new baby, my eyes well up with tears and I am so grateful.

And now for her birth story.

It starts back at 31 weeks when Alexandra presented herself in a breech position. She stayed in this position until 36 weeks, and for those 5 weeks I was extremely stressed out at the prospect of a breech birth. I was not interested in a c-section at all, and was very skeptical about the idea of a vaginal breech birth. It would require transfer of care from my midwife to an OB, and the birth would have to take place in an OR…the whole thing made me want to cry whenever I thought about it.

What did I do from weeks 31-36? I swam 3-4 times a week, I saw a chiropractor regularly and I did some yoga moves involving inversions. I can’t say exactly what did it, but I was thrilled when I went for a checkup at 36 weeks and Alex’s head was down. This was confirmed the next day at an ultrasound.

However, at the same ultrasound, Alexandra was measuring small, in the 10th percentile. This meant I had to go for another ultrasound at 37 weeks, and then another at 38 weeks to keep an eye on her, with an induction on the radar if she dropped from the 10th percentile. I know that there are people out there who enjoy ultrasounds and feel reassured by them, but they stressed me out immensely. I kept worrying that they would find something bad at each one! The ultrasounds at week 37 and 38 were OK…she was still looking small but everything seemed fine. I was worried about an induction – I really wanted to have a natural, drug free, intervention free birth, like the one I had withBenjamin .This seemed to be slipping away from me. I was also of course and more importantly very worried about the baby – how was she doing in there? Did she need to come out?

At week 39 I went for another ultrasound, and this time Alexandra had dropped from the 10th percentile to the 5th percentile. This concerned the OB that reviewed the ultrasound, and he suggested at this point that I be induced and not wait any longer. He wanted to make sure that the baby could tolerate labour, and there was a chance that if we waited too long, this would not be possible.

So here I was, at 39 weeks plus 5 days…I called my midwife after the ultrasound, and she agreed with the OB that it was time to be induced. So we made a plan to meet at the hospital and get this show on the road! At this point it was already almost 5pm. I went home to get a quick bite to eat, and to pick Jake up. And we headed down to the hospital at around 6pm. To be continued…

 


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Birth Matters! Part I

In March, I had the honor of attending a day long seminar at the University of Toronto given by Ina May Gaskin. Ina May is a world renowned midwife, called the “midwife of modern midwifery”. She has practiced midwifery for almost 40 years at the Farm Midwifery Centre in Tennessee. She is the author of some of my personal favorite books about birth and breastfeeding, including Spiritual Midwifery, Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth, Ina May’s Guide to Breastfeeding and her newest book, Birth Matters.

I first came across Ina May after my first son, Dylan, was born.   A few months after his birth, I was browsing the aisles of a local bookstore, and stumbled upon Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth. I picked it up and flipped through the pages, and could not put it down!   I had never read a book about natural childbirth before, and found it so fascinating.  So many of the principles Ina May speaks about in the book rang true to me and helped shed light on my birth experience with Dylan.   The book inspired me to do things differently for my next birth – I knew after reading it that I wanted a midwife, rather than an OB, as my health care provider and I wanted to try and have a natural, drug free birth.   As mentioned in an earlier post, my second birth experience was fantastic, and I definitely owe a lot of that to Ina May!!

So when I heard that Ina May would be speaking in Toronto, I had to go!  Benjamin and I headed down to UofT very early that Saturday morning.  The seminar was all day – from 8:30-4:30 pm, which is a long time to be out with a 3 month old.  But I was determined to go.   I’m so glad that I did – Ina May is a wonderful speaker and is truly an inspiration!

Ina May Speaking

Ina May spoke on a number of different topics – breastfeeding, labour, birth and the post partum period.   She spoke so frankly, and so openly, sprinkled with humour and personal stories.  The day focused on many ideas from her new book Birth Matters.  

I love the opening of Birth Matters.   On page 1, Ina May tells us why we should care about birth:

Birth Matters.  It matters because it is the way we all begin our lives outside of our sources, our mothers’ bodies.  It’s the means through which we enter and feel our first impressions of the wider word.  For each mother, it is an event that shakes and shapes her to her innermost core.  Women’s perceptions about their bodies and their babies’ capabilities will be deeply influenced by the care their receive around the time of their birth.

My Signed Copy of Birth Matters

Ina May shared many positive birth stories.  So often, moms-to-be hear horror stories about pain or about something that went wrong, and not often enough do we share the positive stories!  Ina May says:

I have found it helpful, even necessary, to tell positive birth stories.   This is one of the best ways for women to learn the kids of things that may help or hinder labor and birth.  Stories teach in memorable ways.  In that sense, they are much more valuable than rote learning and memorization.

I agree!  I was really moved by the natural birth stories I had read in Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth.    Before reading that book, every birth story I heard involved an OB, a hospital and an epidural.   I was fascinated by all of the “regular” women in Ina May’s book who gave birth naturally.   If they could do it, why couldn’t I?

In addition to birth stories, Ina May spoke about the importance of birth images and watching videos and seeing pictures of birth.   Interestingly, Ina May showed a You Tube video – The Dramatic Struggle For Life.  It is a video of an elephant giving birth in an animal park in Bali.  (Just warning you that you have to sign in to prove you are over 18 – but it is well worth the effort!)  Ina May suggests that pregnant women view this video, along with other videos of large mammals giving birth.  It’s fascinating to see how birth happens naturally in nature.  Ina May points out how the elephant shifts her weight from foot to foot as she labours.  The elephant also opens her mouth when her baby begins to emerge from her body.   These are two things that humans can do to assist the birth process!  Being in a standing position and shifting weight from side to side helps the baby descend and be in the optimal position. (I definitely remember doing this during Benjamin’s birth. It wasn’t something that my midwives or doulas suggested, I just did it instinctually!)  Opening your mouth helps to relax your body and open up the cervix.  It’s amazing how similar we mammals are when it comes to birth.   The video also demonstrates how the mother figures out how to stimulate her baby to breathe – something she accomplishes without having taken a course in neonatal resuscitation.  Unbelievable really!  We have a lot to learn from this elephant.

I have more to say about Ina May and what I learned at her talk, but if I try to capture everything, I will never publish this blog post.   So consider this to be Part I…Part II (and possibly Part III and IV) to follow at a later date!


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Tandem Nursing – The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

This post is part of the Carnival of Breastfeeding on the topic of “Extended Breastfeeding” hosted by Blacktating and The Motherwear Breastfeeding Blog. See below for links to the other participants’ posts.

Benjamin was born approximately 3.5 months ago, and I’ve been tandem nursing ever since.   What is tandem nursing you ask?  Tandem nursing is the term used for breastfeeding siblings concurrently.  Tandem nursing has been practiced by moms around the world for centuries.  It happens when a nursing toddlers does not wean when his or her mother is pregnant.  The toddler nurses throughout the pregnancy and continues nursing when the new baby is born.   This is what happened in our case.  Never did I imagine that when I started nursing Dylan over 3 years ago that I would be tandeming…but here I am!   I’ve tried to be as honest as possible about my experience, and hope that I can help other moms who are tandeming or considering it!

The Good

There have been a number of benefits to tandem nursing.

First, with both Benjamin and Dylan nursing, my milk came in really quickly after Benjamin was born.  Within 48 hours after birth, my milk was in.  This was wonderful! So many moms have a rough time nursing before their milk comes in, as the baby can be very fussy, won’t sleep and often wants to nurse around the clock.   This of course is normal – the baby needs to nurse extremely frequently to stimulate the milk to come in, but can be tough on moms who are exhausted from birth.  By having my milk come in quickly, I avoided those issues – Benjamin wasn’t fussy, gained weight quickly and slept well, right from the get-go!

Tandem nursing also helped with engorgement!  My milk supply was plentiful when it came in.   Whenever I was feeling a bit engorged, I would ask Dylan to nurse and the problem was solved.  This was particularly helpful at night when Benjamin started sleeping longer stretches.   Sometimes I would wake up uncomfortably full and in pain and I’d latch Dylan on in his sleep (even though he had nightweaned during my pregnancy)!  Much easier than trying to hand express or hook up a pump in the middle of the night.

Tandem nursing also helped Dylan adjust to all the changes in our lives.  It was comforting and reassuring for him to know that he could still have “mommy milk” after Benjamin was born.  Nursing Dylan during the early postpartum days was an easy way for me to give him attention – I could do it lying in bed, and it often led to a nap for him, which was a great way for him to get a bit more rest when our routines and schedules had been turned upside down!

The Bad

I’m not going to lie.  Not everything about tandem nursing is sunshine and roses.  Firstly, it’s difficult to deal with all the doubters.  My family basically thinks I’m crazy to still be nursing a three year old.  I don’t blame them – while nursing past the age of one is common around the world, it is not common where we live.

I’ve also been battling with oversupply, and I believe that it has been made worse by tandem nursing.  When Benjamin was around 6 wks old, I finally clued into my oversupply problems.  He would often choke on my milk during a feed.   It would dribble down his face and spray everywhere if he popped off during a feed.  He was extremely gassy and spit up like crazy.   He’d often be cranky and cry after a feeding, and he would rarely comfort nurse.  So while it was wonderful in many ways to have an abundant supply thanks to the extra stimulation my body was getting from a nursing toddler, my oversupply was negatively affecting Benjamin.  After recognizing that I had oversupply, we changed our nursing patterns and now my supply is mostly under control.

The Ugly

In the last few weeks I’ve felt DONE with nursing Dylan.  This saddens me because up until recently I’ve really loved our nursing relationship.  I am passionate about extended nursing and strongly believe in all of its benefits!  I believe(d) in child-led weaning and wanted to wean only when Dylan was ready.

A wonderful resource for tandeming moms is Hilary Flower’s book Adventures in Tandem Nursing.  I read it while pregnant, and recently started flipping through it again while trying to figure out how to deal with my new desire to wean Dylan.

On page 174, she lists red flags that may indicate that a nursing relationship needs some changes.   They are as follows:

  • You feel yourself withdrawing from your nursing child
  • You hear an irritated tone in your voice when you say “yes”
  • You feel you have no choice when it comes to nursing
  • You are prone to snapping at your child while breastfeeding
  • You are getting exasperated enough to consider weaning on the spot

I read this list and felt like it was written just for me!  Dylan and I have always been so close, and lately I feel myself withdrawing from him.   He just seems so BIG when he nurses, and nursing him is grating on my nerves.  It is funny really, because I could nurse Benjamin all day and not be annoyed, but when Dylan nurses for even a couple of minutes I’m beyond irritated and start pushing him off and often snap at him, as listed above!

I call this the “ugly” because I feel like I can’t really complain about tandem nursing, because I created this problem since I chose to nurse Dylan this long.  It is also very conflicting for me because I so strongly believe in extended nursing and in weaning when a child is ready.  However, I have to honor my own feelings towards nursing and I’m allowed to want to wean Dylan.

Hilary Flowers says “sometimes a ‘loving, gentle weaning’ describes the space the mother is holding, and leaves room for the child to go through a range of feelings and reactions”. I take this to mean that while Dylan may be upset as I wean him and put limits on his nursing and say no, it is still possible for this to be loving and gentle, because that is my intention.

Wish me luck…I will keep you posted on what happens!

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Update – April 17, 2011

Since I wrote this post on April 11th, we have cut down on Dylan’s nursing sessions.   He was nursing when he woke up in the morning, sometimes in the afternoon, and always before bed.   We’ve cut out all nursing sessions except the one before bed.  It has not been traumatic at all – there was a bit of complaining on the first few days but he seems used to it now.  I’ve decided to keep the before bed one because it really is such an easy way to get him to sleep easily and peacefully.   I’m quite happy with this arrangement.  I’ve realized that I don’t need to fully wean Dylan right now…setting limits has really made a big difference in my mood!

Please be sure to check out all of the other submissions in this month’s Carnival

Mamapoeki from Authentic Parenting: Extended Breastfeeding?
Mama Alvina of Ahava & Amara Life Foundation: Breastfeeding Journey Continues
Diana Cassar-Uhl, IBCLC: Old enough to ask for it
Karianna @ Caffeinated Catholic Mama: A Song for Mama’s Milk Judy @ Mommy News Blog: My Favorite Moments Tamara Reese @ Kveller: Extended Breastfeeding

Jenny @ Chronicles of a Nursing Mom: The Highs and Lows of Nursing a Toddler

Christina @ MFOM: Natural-Term Breastfeeding

Rebekah @ Momma’s Angel: My Sleep Breakthrough

Suzi @ Attachedattheboob: Why I love nursing a toddler

Claire @ The Adventures of Lactating Girl: My Hopes for Tandem Nursing

Elisa @ blissfulE: counter cultural: extended breastfeeding

Momma Jorje: Extended Breastfeeding, So Far!

Stephanie Precourt from Adventures in Babywearing: “Continued Breastfeeding”: straight from the mouths of babes


The Accidental Natural Mama: Nurse on, Mama Sarah @ Reproductive Rites: Gratitude for extended breastfeeding Nikki @ On Becoming Mommy: The Little Things

Dr. Sarah @ Good Enough Mum: Breastfeeding for longer than a year: myths, facts and what the research really shows

Amy @ WIC City: (Extended) Breastfeeding as Mothering

The Artsy Mama: Why Nurse a Toddler?

Christina @ The Milk Mama: The best thing about breastfeeding

TopHot @ the bee in your bonnet: From the Mouths of Babes

Beth @ Bethstedman.com: Extended Breastfeeding: To Wean Or Not To Wean

Callista @ Callista’s Ramblings:  Pressure To Stop Breastfeeding

Amanda @ Postilius: Nursing My Toddler Keeps My Baby Close

Sheryl @ Little Snowflakes: Tandem Nursing- The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

Zoie @ Touchstone Z: Breastfeeding Flavors

Lauren @ Hobo Mama: Same old, same old: Extended breastfeeding

Tanya @ Motherwear Breastfeeding Blog: Six misconceptions about extended breastfeeding

Jona (Breastfeedingtwins.org): Breastfeeding older twins

Motherlove Herbal Company: Five reasons to love nursing a toddler


41 Comments

Top 10 Ways to Get Breastfeeding Off To a Good Start

Welcome to the March Carnival of Natural Parenting: Natural Parenting Top 10 Lists

This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama. This month our participants have shared Top 10 lists on a wide variety of aspects of attachment parenting and natural living. Please read to the end to find a list of links to the other carnival participants.

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I am often asked by moms-to-be what they can do to prepare for breastfeeding during pregnancy and what they can do during the early days and weeks to ensure that they are able to breastfeed.   While breastfeeding is certainly natural, it is not always easy.   Here are my top 10 tips to help breastfeeding get off to a good start:

  1. Attend a La Leche League (LLL) meeting (or two, or three or four!) during pregnancy – Going to a meeting can be a great way to meet other breastfeeding moms who live near you.   You will hear what it’s really like in the early weeks, and you will learn from the experiences of other moms.  Your group leaders can also be a great resource to you once your baby is born – either via email or phone.
  2. Buy a good baby care or breastfeeding book – Two great books are Dr. Sears’ The Baby Book or LLL’s Womanly Art of Breastfeeding. I found both books full of really useful information about breastfeeding specifically and about taking care of a baby in general.  What I like best about both books is that they empower moms to trust their own mothering instincts and listen to their babies.
  3. Have minimal medical interventions during labour and delivery – Interventions such as c-sections, forceps or vacuum delivery, episiotimies, epidurals and IV lines can all lead to a more difficult recovery during the postnatal period for a mom.   In addition, a natural birth reduces the likelihood that the baby will have to be separated from the mom after birth.  This is very important, as immediate skin to skin contact for an hour after birth has been shown to increase the likelihood of successful breastfeeding.
  4. Hire a birth and/or post-partum doula – Having a doula at birth can enhance bonding between a mother and her baby. This can lead to more positive interactions between mom and baby and can assist in establishing a strong milk supply.   A post natal doula can assist with things that need to get done around the house so that a mom can rest and focus on feeding her baby.   Some doulas also have breastfeeding experience and can help if problems arise.
  5. Know where to go for help –  After birth, have phone numbers handy for your LLL leaders or an IBCLC (International Board Certified Lactation Consultant).
  6. Keep your baby skin to skin for the first hour and delay the new born exam – Babies are quietly alert during the first hour after birth.  Babies who are kept skin to skin for the first hour are likely to latch on, and likely to latch on well.  They also are more likely to have stable and normal heart rates, blood pressure and temperatures.  Studies have shown that babies who are kept skin to skin for the first hour are more likely to breastfeed exclusively longer.
  7. Keep visitors to a minimum during the first couple of weeks – Everyone wants to see a newborn, especially well-meaning family members.   However,  moms need their rest so that they can recover from birth and meet the demands of a new baby.  It’s best to keep visitors to a minimum so mom can focus on two things:  getting sleep and feeding the baby.   If visitors do come over, let them bring over a meal or two, or help around the house.
  8. Keep your baby close during the early weeks and feed often – Feeding your baby on demand is crucial during the first few weeks to establish a strong milk supply.  By keeping your baby close at all times, you can respond to early cues of hunger, rather than waiting for full out crying.  You can’t feed your baby too often, and the more you breastfeed, the more milk you will make for your baby.    C0-sleeping can be a great way to ensure your baby feeds often at night without disturbing your own sleep too much.
  9. Surround yourself with other moms that breastfeed – It’s great to have friends who are currently breastfeeding their babies, or who have breastfed in the past.   They can be a wonderful source of information and encouragement. Sometimes just hearing how someone else is dealing with an obstacle or problem can provide you with enough inspiration to overcome your own difficulties, should they arise.
  10. Don’t give up! The first few months are hard.  I think of the first three months as breastfeeding boot camp where you put in the hard work, and then after that you reap the benefits.

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Carnival of Natural Parenting -- Hobo Mama and Code Name: MamaVisit Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama to find out how you can participate in the next Carnival of Natural Parenting!

Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:


4 Comments

Supermom syndrome – at 35 wks pregnant?

A few weeks back I wrote a post about balance and how I attempt to juggle the many different aspects of my life.    My life can sometimes seem like a big balancing act and in the last few weeks that is what it has been – more of an “act” than reality.   

I’m almost 35 weeks pregnant, I work full time, and I have an almost 3 year old son.  I try to exercise, cook and eat healthy, and keep our house in order.  I’ve had a burst of energy in the last few weeks so I’ve been cleaning out closets, going out at night for dinner with friends, and even took a post partum doula training course this past weekend.   Let’s also add that the last few weeks at work have been really busy, trying to get things in before year-end.   No wonder I’ve been exhausted!

I’ve been in denial regarding the extent of my tiredness and the emotional upheaval I’ve been feeling inside.   When people ask me how I feel (as they tend to ask quite often to a pregnant woman), I say I feel good and leave it at that.   I leave out the severe round ligament pain I’ve been feeling for the last few weeks that make it nearly impossible to roll over in bed, the tiredness I feel each night and the insomnia I experience at 3am, leading to more tiredness each morning.   I don’t mention the anxiety I’m starting to feel about having a newborn to take care of while also balancing the constant needs of a rambunctious 3 year old.  No one really wants to hear those things when they ask a pregnant woman how she feels.

Attempting to be supermom near the end of my third trimester really hasn’t done me any good.  I’ve been pretending that it’s no problem keeping the house in order, with laundry done, the dishwasher loaded and emptied each night and having healthy food in the house and on the table every day.  

I should have noticed the warning sign I had last week.  I developed a bad eye twitch  which was making me very nervous.   I managed to convince myself that I was developing pregnancy induced Bell’s Palsy, or pre-eclampsia, or perhaps both.   When I spoke to my midwife and discovered I had no other symptoms of either syndrome, I calmed myself down and realized that my twitch was likely a result of being overtired.   Or you could say it was a symptom of supermom syndrome.

I also had a reality check yesterday when we had a prenatal visit with our labor doula yesterday, and when she asked how I was feeling, I burst into tears and remained weepy for the extent of our appointment.   I’ve been stretched too thin during the last few weeks.   I don’t have anyone to blame other than myself – my husband certainly doesn’t care if I don’t wipe the kitchen counters one night and it doesn’t matter to my son whether or not we make the beds each morning.   My newborn won’t care if the garage is organized or not.  And my friends certainly will forgive me if I skip a girls’ night out.   I put the supermom and superwoman pressure on myself. 

So I’ve decided to cut myself some slack over the next 5 weeks or so, before baby is arrives.   The house doesn’t have to be perfect.   Non-urgent projects at work can wait.  We can order take out occasionally.  Dylan can watch Toy Story 2 so I get an hour and a half of peace.   I will take up my mother in law’s offer to bring us some food and watch Dylan one afternoon.   Laundry can pile up for a few days.   I can get into bed at 8pm at night.   I can even burst into tears now and then and not feel like a crazy hormonal person.   

Have any of you been plagued by the supermom syndrome lately?


17 Comments

November’s Carnival of Natural Parenting – What is natural parenting?

I am participating in November’s Carnival of Natural Parenting:  What is Natural Parenting, but I am doing it a bit differently this time.   My post won’t be published today. Instead, it will be featured on the Natural Parents Network‘s site on November 23rd.    I am honored to have a post on NPN’s great site and I invite you all to check out all the great work they’ve been doing.

In the meantime…be sure to read the great posts from this month’s carnival!

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Carnival of Natural Parenting -- Hobo Mama and Code Name: MamaStop by Natural Parents Network today to see excerpts from everyone’s posts, and please visit a few to read more! Visit Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama to find out how you can participate in the next Carnival of Natural Parenting!

Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants. Three of the participants below will instead be featured on Natural Parents Network throughout the month, so check back at NPN!

This list will be updated November 9 with all the carnival links. We’ve arranged it this month according to the categories of our NPN resource pages on “What Is Natural Parenting?”

Attachment/Responsive Parenting

Attachment/responsive parenting is generally considered to include the following (descriptions/lists are not exhaustive; please follow each link to learn more):

  1. PREPARE FOR PREGNANCY, BIRTH, AND PARENTING:
  2. FEED WITH LOVE AND RESPECT:
  3. RESPOND WITH SENSITIVITY:
    • Attachment Parenting Chose Us” For a child who is born “sensitive,” attachment parenting is more a way of life than a parenting “choice.” Dionna at Code Name: Mama shares her experiences. (@CodeNameMama)
    • Parenting in the PresentAcacia at Be Present Mama parents naturally by being fully present.
    • Parenting With HeartKat at Loving {Almost} Every Moment parents naturally because healthy attachments early in life help our little ones grow into healthy, functioning adults.
  4. USE NURTURING TOUCH:
  5. ENSURE SAFE SLEEP:
    • Sometimes I Wish We CosleptSheila at A Gift Universe has started to add cosleeping into her sleep routines and has found frequently unspoken benefits. Watch for her post, which will be featured on Natural Parents Network on Tuesday, November 30. (@agiftuniverse)
  6. PROVIDE CONSISTENT AND LOVING CARE:
  7. PRACTICE GENTLE/POSITIVE DISCIPLINE:
    • Unconditional Parenting” The philosophy of Alfie Kohn resonates with Erin at Multiple Musings, who does not want to parent (or teach) using rewards and punishment. (@ErinLittle)
  8. STRIVE FOR BALANCE IN PERSONAL AND FAMILY LIFE:

Ecological Responsibility and Love of Nature

Holistic Health Practices

  • Supporting Natural Immunity” If you have decided against the traditional vaccination schedule, Starr at Earth Mama has some helpful tips for strengthening your children’s immune systems naturally.

Natural Learning

  • Acceptance as a Key to Natural Parenting” Because Mrs. Green at Little Green Blog values accepting and responding to her daughter’s needs, she was able to unravel the mystery of her daughter’s learning “challenges.” (@myzerowaste)
  • Let Them LookBetsy at Honest 2 Betsy makes time to look at, to touch, and to drool on the pinecones.
  • Why I Love Unschooling” Unschooling isn’t just about learning for Darcel at The Mahogany Way it is a way of life. (@MahoganyWayMama)
  • Is He Already Behind?“Ever worry that your baby or toddler is behind the curve? Danielle at born.in.japan will reassure you about the many ways your little one is learning naturally every day. Watch for her post, which will be featured on Natural Parents Network on Tuesday, November 16. (@borninjp)
  • How to Help Your Child through Natural LearningDeb Chitwood at Living Montessori Now offers tips on how to understand and nurture your child’s natural learning style. (@DebChitwood)

Healthy Living

Parenting Philosophies

Political and Social Activism


5 Comments

My experience with a midwife thus far

As I announced in a previous post, I am pregnant with my second child, and decided this time to use a midwife, rather than an OB, as my care provider during my pregnancy.  My first pregnancy was fine and I was under the care of a great OB.  However, I was looking for something different this time.  I was looking for a model of care that is less medical and more personal.  So far it has been a great experience.  I am loving the care I am receiving from my midwife!

Here are a few examples.  I went to my midwife last week for one of my monthly checkups.  I am now almost 18 weeks pregnant.  When I go to my midwife, there aren’t tons of women sitting in a waiting room, like there was when I went to an OB appt.   The reason is that with a midwife there is no waiting!  Each one of my appointments has been precisely on time.   With my OB, I’d wait minimum one hour (sometimes two) and then would see the doctor for a maximum of 5 minutes.   Here, each appointment is a lovely and lengthy 45 minutes.

During my last appointment, my midwife went over the results of the blood work from my previous appointment.  With a midwife, there is no waiting in line at a lab for blood to be drawn.  My midwife draws my blood during my appointment.   She went over the results with me in detail – going through each element that had been tested.  With my OB, he’d just say “everything is fine”.  By going through the results, my midwife directly involves me in my care.   It is empowering to be involved!

Here is another example –  before each appointment, I pee on a stick to test for protein and glucose in my urine.  With the midwife, I am given the stick and told to compare it to a chart on the bottle to make sure everything is normal.  With my OB, I’d pee on a stick and then give it to his nurse for her to look at.  Just a very small difference, but with the midwife, I am an an active participant in my care.

I feel very lucky to live in Ontario where midwifery is governmentally regulated and covered by our universal health care plan.   I feel lucky that I have the choice to use a midwife and that I have the choice to give birth either at a hospital or at home.    So far the experience has been just wonderful!!  I will keep you all updated with my experience as my pregnancy progresses.