Parenting

First-Time Breastfeeding

Immediately after Jai was born, I attempted to breastfeed him. Rather, he wanted to breastfeed after they put him on my chest. Even though I was caught up in the emotions of the moment, I couldn’t help but be amazed at his tenacity and instinct.

We worked through it together and he suckled a bit while the hospital staff bustled around us doing what needed to be done in those moments.

Nursing, while it may be a natural act, didn’t come naturally for me. I remember struggling to ensure a latch, that he was getting enough milk, and concern for nipple confusion should we need to supplement.

This week I am focusing on breastfeeding, the struggle to breastfeed, and why I decided to extend breastfeeding beyond the first year despite personal health risks.

Before going further, it is important that I make the following disclosure:

Better Fed No Matter What

While I will primarily be focusing on breastfeeding this week, I do plan to discuss formula feeding, both as a sole means of feeding a child and as a supplement.

My personal philosophy on the matter: a fed baby is the best kind of feeding for the baby. Whether you solely breastfeed, supplement with formula, or solely feed formula, as long as your little one is nourished and fed that is all that matters. I pass no judgment on a mother’s decision regarding how she feeds her baby. I recognize that some mothers aren’t able to breastfeed due to reasons beyond her control.

These posts are meant to be informational, though they are more anecdotal in nature based on my personal experience. I will be discussing the concerns I had early on about feeding and what information I found on the matter and why I arrived at the decisions I did. That being said, while I was able to make the choice to breastfeed and it worked out, I know that not every woman arrives at the same decision I did (or can).

These posts will try to reflect that as much as possible and provide a balanced view on feeding when possible.

Continue reading “First-Time Breastfeeding”

Parenting

I Wish I Knew: Pregnancy & Birth

This is the second part of my “What I Wish I Knew” posts.

While I covered most of what I wish I had known in the previous post, I wanted to add a few extra thoughts that came up in the past week and continue to highlight some answers I received from other mothers regarding their pregnancy.

What I Wish I Knew

While I detailed how my pregnancy went in this post and highlighted what I wish I knew last week, some additional points I wish I knew or paid closer attention to prior to getting pregnant:

  • Women love to share their horror stories with a first-time, pregnant mother. Some stories are good to know because it raises the necessary awareness of what to expect or advocate for in the delivery room, but many others are completely unhelpful or unnecessary. I did not need to know about a second cousin’s, best friend’s, mother’s aunt getting ripped apart as the baby left her body. This was an extreme scenario that most likely wouldn’t apply to my own labor and delivery.
  • Expect to get bad advice or advice that isn’t applicable to your situation. Every pregnancy is different, so advice is helpful provided it applies to your situation. Old wives’ tales are fun to think about, but may not be helpful for an expectant mother to hear. Girls steal a mother’s beauty during pregnancy? What are you really trying to say to me?
  • We’ve read this one before: being pregnant gives people (acquaintances and strangers alike) the “okay” signal to talk frankly about your body or touch it without your consent. While your body is temporarily no longer your own, as creating a life does take it away from you, it is still yours to decide who comments on or touches it. Feel free to correct people if they take liberties with your body.

Below are some more thoughts other mother’s had to say on the matter.

Continue reading “I Wish I Knew: Pregnancy & Birth”

Parenting

Jai’s Birth Story

Below is my birth story. 

I made specific decisions about how I would manage my birth plan and I detail why I made those decisions. My justifications aren’t meant as judgment towards other women who’ve made different choices with their pain management. My life philosophy is that each woman has a right to her own care decisions and that decision is what is right for her. What you are reading is my personal experience, so please do not take this as the correct/right way to give birth because there isn’t one.

If you have any questions about your own experience, please consult your healthcare professional.


There was one thing I wasn’t looking forward to before and during my pregnancy: giving birth. Prior to pregnancy, I liked the idea of being pregnant, but I couldn’t wrap my mind around the potential pain and process of giving birth. All the changes my body would go through, the recovery… it was overwhelming to contemplate.

I heard about was how unmanageable the pain was and how I would be begging for an epidural until staff gave me one. Media and sex education drilled it into my head that giving birth would be the worst pain a woman would experience in her life.

When I saw my friends begin down the path of motherhood, I always asked how it went afterward because I was curious if their experience matched up with the narrative I created in my head. It scared me into holding off having children for several years. But when we decided to start our family, I’d have to get over my fear of giving birth.

 

Before Labor

Whenever I am in the dark about something, I research all that I can about it.

I go overboard trying to understand the ins-and-outs of a situation so I can make an informed decision or opinion on the matter. Because I had no clue what labor would look like, I took a month-long class with Ash about the whole birthing process: from the first contraction to the final push, I learned about the whole process and what to expect.

Because this was a “natural birthing” class, they were going to cover all the options for handling the pain without interventions and they also leaned against using any form of pain management intervention for the mother. They didn’t flat out say “don’t get an epidural” but they did make a point to highlight all that happens to the labor process and the baby when a mother gets one.

According to the class:

Getting an epidural would slow down the contractions which would drive the staff to administer Pitocin (induction drugs) which would speed up the labor, but then cause more pain for the mother; which would mean the mother would need more epidural; which would slow down the contractions…It would be a tiring loop that would drive the mother and the hospital to perform an unnecessary C-Section.

The epidural would also cause the baby to be sluggish after birth, lowering their APGAR score and interfere with the bonding because the baby would only want to sleep.

Finally, they said taking drugs would interfere with my own recovery and increasing my chances of having post-partum depression because I hadn’t allowed the natural hormones do their work to “protect” my body. *

*Please do not take these statements to be my personal belief on the matter. I am merely repeating what I was told whether it is good science or not. It is important to highlight the information I had prior to giving birth to understand why I made certain decisions.

Despite my fears about pain, I wanted to attempt a medication-free birth which is why I selected the class at a friend’s suggestion. Another friend mentioned that had she gone the entire labor without an epidural (the nurses missed the fact that the line fell out and all the medicine was leaking into the bed) she probably would have handled it fine because she would have been used to the pain.

Doing independent research outside of the class, I couldn’t find a reason to disagree with attempting it medication-free from the beginning. I looked at giving birth like running a marathon (something I want to do someday): if I approach it prepared and pace myself, I could do it.

At the end of the pregnancy, it became a competitive goal for myself: to see how long I could last without needing pain medication and if I could do the entire birth medication-free. I had it in my mind that if I could handle giving birth without medication, then I could do anything I put my mind to – no obstacle would ever be insurmountable. We still decided on having the birth in a hospital:  I wanted to have the option to get an epidural if I found that the pain was too much.

The two biggest concerns I had which overruled my fear of the pain:

  1. I have vaso-vagal syncope with needles. This means anytime I have a needle or IV catheter in for an extended period of time, I faint. While I knew I would be distracted by the task at hand, I was too afraid of needing “unnecessary” lines attached to my body and interfering with my ability to stay calm (or even conscious) through the process. I wanted to limit the amount of poking and prodding I would need in an already stressful situation.
  2. I have issues with depression and I wanted to give my body as much of a chance naturally to combat the possibility of postpartum depression (PPD). I had heard prior to the class that medication-free births were linked to lowering my chances, but doing a simple Google search now shows that medication-free births are linked to increasing PPD. I obviously went with the information I had at the time.

During this month, I signed us up for other classes that were offered at the hospital: breastfeeding, baby care, and hospital tour. I came to each and every class with a list of questions that could be answered online, but I wanted to hear it directly from a human.

To make up for my aggressive need for information and detailed birth plan, I made sure to bring a box of snacks as thanks for the nurses when I came in to deliver.

Continue reading “Jai’s Birth Story”

Parenting

MS and Pregnancy

I had a textbook pregnancy.

I didn’t hit any of the stereotypical “high” notes that people expect from pregnancy: I never threw up, I didn’t have any strange cravings, and nor did my water break to alert me that Jai was on his way.

Yet my MS played a small role in how the pregnancy was handled and how it played out. I don’t believe it was particularly different than someone without MS or a chronic illness, but I did have a couple extra steps that other women may not have experienced.

Below is my pregnancy story. Because I was a first-time mother, I probably did things wrong, did things backward, or overdid things I didn’t need to stress over. It was a new experience and I did the best I could with what knowledge I had through trial-and-error and research.

My pregnancy will always look different from another woman’s experience: in fact, if I got pregnant again, my second pregnancy will be different from my first. What you are about to read shouldn’t be viewed as “the best/correct” way, but the way I handled it for good or bad. If you have MS or a chronic illness and thinking about getting pregnant (or are pregnant), understand that my experience is going to be vastly different because of how my disease manifests itself. Always speak with a healthcare professional if you have any questions. 

Pregnancy with MS

Because I have MS, my pregnancy was always going to be different.

First of all, I would not be able to be on my medication. Second, I had the chance of seeing an abatement of my normal, day-to-day MS symptoms. It wasn’t a guarantee, but there was a chance and I was looking forward to normal, something I hadn’t experienced since high school.

At the OB-GYN’s, I was flagged as a potentially high-risk pregnancy due to the MS, so I needed to meet with the high-risk OB to get a screening. To say this was intimidating and stressful would be an understatement. Fortunately, after some questions and some simple in-office tests, the OB determined that I would unlikely need her care unless something drastically changed towards the end of the pregnancy.

Each trimester brought a new set of challenges and experiences but nothing I couldn’t handle with a shake of my head or a laugh. Because when it comes down to something you can’t control, all you can do is laugh.

Continue reading “MS and Pregnancy”

Parenting

I Wish I Knew: Before Getting Pregnant

Before getting pregnant, I will admit that I was completely in the dark about a lot of details. I knew what went into getting pregnant, but I didn’t know anything beyond the basic mechanics and my personal expectations were limited to media portrayals of pregnant women.

Sperm and egg meet. Cells divide and grow. Skip the pregnancy test, first sign would be morning sickness. Strangers touching my belly and offering strange prophecies about the child inside. Nine months later my water breaks in the middle of a store. I’d barely make it to the hospital in time. Three pushes and the baby is out. Oh, and the pain was unimaginable.

That’s all there was to it.

As I said in Wednesday’s post, I had a lot to learn about the process and alter my preconceived notions. I read some books, blogs, and message boards about pregnancy but once I was pregnant there were still a lot of gaps in my knowledge. Even now, if I got pregnant again, I am sure I will learn something about the process that I didn’t even know was possible.

Part of the problem was I didn’t know what I didn’t know. What was important information for me to know ahead of time might be common knowledge for another person; and what I might be familiar with may be a gap in another person’s knowledge.

There were things I wish I knew before getting pregnant, but I wouldn’t have known how to ask for that information at the time.

What I Wish I Knew

Cultural stereotypes surrounding pregnancy happens for a reason: there are some universal commonalities about the experience. Most women will experience morning sickness, most women will experience extreme fatigue, most women will have strangers offer unsolicited advice, and most women will be over the pregnancy by month eight.

What get’s missed in these cultural stereotypes is that while there may be some commonalities, each woman’s experience will be unique to her and she will experience her pregnancy differently from the next person.

I wish I had known this ahead of time. I also wish I knew about some of the more minor details about pregnancy that I am sure other women have experienced. Obviously, there is no way to know every little detail about pregnancy that every woman has ever experienced, but I wish the message of “this is perfectly normal even if it doesn’t feel like it” had been driven home.

Note: I am not referring to things that may be medical complications. If something seems wrong always go to your medical professional immediately. I am referring to the minor day-to-day things, like passing a lot of gas or having bad heartburn.

Again, I blame my public school education for the gaps in knowledge, but I also blame a cultural aversion to talking about the finer points of pregnancy. I cannot change the school system, nor can I shift cultural attitudes, but I can write a post about what I wish I had known based off of my experience.

Many of these are unique to my own experience, so please do not take them as universal fact, but these are the things I wish I knew before getting pregnant:

  • It isn’t easy to get pregnant
  • The baby gets everything first, so if you are feeling fine, don’t stress that the baby isn’t getting enough nutrients
  • There’s a chance that you won’t look pregnant through much of the pregnancy (you’ll just look like you’ve gained weight), so people will look at you funny when you use the expectant mother spots in a parking lot
  • Additionally, because you won’t look pregnant for a long time, people won’t clamor to help you like they might with other pregnant women. Don’t get offended by this
  • You are not required to gain weight. In fact, you aren’t eating for two. You really are only eating for one (you) and a half (the baby)
  • For those with MS: pregnancy is addicting considering how good you may feel for the second and third trimesters
  • If you have the energy, NESTING IS AMAZING FOR GETTING THINGS DONE
  • Regular sleep ends around month five or whenever the baby settles on your bladder. Waking up in the middle of the night will become a permanent issue (even after the baby is born)
  • Sciatic pain is a real thing when trying to sleep at night. You will have to shift a lot to find comfortable positions
  • Never stretch your legs in the middle of the night. No matter how tempting or good you think it will feel. You’ll only end in tears from the Charlie Horse pain and force your partner to massage the cramps out

Because pregnancy is both a universal and deeply unique experience, I didn’t want to restrict this post to my own experience. I reached out to some other mother’s to provide their own experiences and advice.

Continue reading “I Wish I Knew: Before Getting Pregnant”