Guest Post

Guest Post: Thoughts on Fatherhood

I sat down with Ash and asked him to write about fatherhood. Questions ranged from his thoughts on fatherhood before we considered starting a family to how much they changed after Jai was born.

Read his perspective below.


I didn’t really have any idea of what fatherhood would look like.

I was more afraid of the amount of responsibility that being a parent entailed and I was concerned with what I could mess up than with any real ideas about being a parent. So before I talked with my partner, I hadn’t really been thinking about fatherhood.

After some conversations, once the idea of being a father cemented itself and I started really talking to other people about it, I really only had the expectation that everything would change once I saw my child.

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Parenting

Celebrating Fatherhood

I am lucky to have three important men in my life: my dad, my husband, and my son.

Two of those men are fathers, the third may become one someday. That’s his choice when he’s ready.

I wanted to spend a post talking about how much I love and respect these two fathers in honor of Father’s Day yesterday.

My Father

I could list all the things my father did like many Father’s Day posts do: sitting with me when I was sick, teaching me something important, or dispensing sage life advice when necessary. All of which he’s done.

Or I can write about two formative lessons he passed on to me. One was an individual incident and the other was taught my entire life.

While I was “daddy’s little girl,” that didn’t mean I had to be girly-girl. In fact, I was more like “daddy’s little tomboy” growing up. He taught me how to climb trees, build a tree house, shoot a bow, ride a bike, scare my mom, and not allow boys to push me around because I was a girl.

Never once growing up did I ever feel the need to adhere to a specific gender role from my father. He never told me “no” because it was unladylike, nor did he expect me to behave a certain way because that’s how it’s done according to gender.

He made sure I understood one thing: don’t be what other’s want you to be. Only be yourself.

One of the best examples of this in my life happened when I was around 11/12 years old:

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Parenting

I Wish I Knew: Toddlers

This is the final part in my series  “I Wish I Knew.” Read about what I wish I knew relating to pregnancy, birth, and babies in parts onetwo, and threeThis post contains affiliate links. Please read my disclosure policy for more information.

Culturally speaking, toddlerhood is equal to teenage years when it comes to least favorite times to be a parent. Toddlers throw tantrums without regard to location or convenience, refuse to move, refuse to eat, and are all around terrors. Add a hundred more pounds and you’ve got a teenager.

The narrative is this: when someone asks how old your little one is and you answer somewhere between 1.5 and 3 years old, you get that look of “may God have mercy on your soul,” and the question of “so how bad are they? they must be going through their terrible twos?”

I had a neighbor make a comment about Jai’s age yesterday when he was mad I wouldn’t let him put all his sidewalk chalk in water. He whined a little, but soon got distracted by the neighborhood cat who came to visit.

What I Wish I Knew

I am at the very beginning of the “terrible twos” stage so I still have a lot of naiveté when it comes to how Jai is handling the whole situation. But something I wish someone had told me?

It’s really not that bad. It’s not easy, definitely not saying that it is easy, but it isn’t as bad as I’ve been lead to believe.

My mother told me that parenting is only as hard as you make it out to be, so if you don’t take the necessary steps to help foster certain behaviors you want and help them manage the behaviors you don’t, then there’s a chance you will end up with an unmanageable child. There are other factors at play in this scenario: means, temperament, and patience.

Lots and lots of patience.

There were things I wish my parents did or did not do when I was growing up, so I am making adjustments to my parenting to reflect what I think might have made a positive difference in my life and therefore in Jai’s life. I am hoping to remain flexible enough that when I see something isn’t working I can adjust it.

Because I am currently involved with this developmental stage, I wanted to offer my thoughts on the questions I asked other mothers as well.

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black cat cuddling baby
Parenting

Breastfeeding Struggles

For today’s post, I featured a photo I took when Jai was 3 months and my favorite cat used Jai as a bed. This doesn’t make for an easy nursing session and while it’s fun to show off silly pictures of cats making nursing difficult, struggling with breastfeeding is no laughing matter.

I struggled at first and then it got better. And then I struggled again and that got better.

This was my personal experience, so what worked for Jai and myself may not work for everyone, nor will you have to deal with the same issues I did. Please take what is contained in this post as suggestions/anecdotal evidence and not as universal fact. Please speak with a professional if you have any major concerns regarding breastfeeding.

Something to Remember

Prior to giving birth, I attended a breastfeeding class, took a bunch of notes because it is hard to shut the academic off most of the time, and requested a lactation consultant (LC) once I was in the recovery room. One thing that was never mentioned in the class or in the hospital, and this may be a failing on my birthing hospital’s part, was that there are two people in the process of breastfeeding.

It was only Jai and me.

I had the intellectual or logical knowledge of what to do and he had the instinctual knowledge. Unfortunately, I brushed aside instinct in favor of logic so I asserted what I thought was best on Jai. This is to say that when the LC came into the room, she shoved my breast into Jai’s mouth and snipped at me to listen for a swallow while holding his head to the breast. I tried to copy her aggressive manner of shoving the nipple into Jai’s mouth and keeping his head close so he wouldn’t move and prayed I would hear that swallow to indicate a latch.

Needless to say,  this manner of feeding was ineffective and did not work.

Both he and I got frustrated. I was frustrated because I wasn’t feeding my child and he was frustrated because he was hungry. I began to stress about my milk not coming in, that he’d be underweight and they wouldn’t release us from the hospital, the nurses were already getting judgemental over each box of newborn formula they brought in, and my hormones were working in overdrive.

I don’t remember crying, but I do remember feeling like a failure as a mother.

But the moment I shut out the intellectual learning and trusted my son to know what to do, he latched and within days my milk eventually came in strong. We were on our way to breastfeeding.

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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.

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