Breastfeed Here, Breastfeed There, I’ll Breastfeed Everywhere!

Except for the bathroom… or a closet. I would never nurse my child in those places. It’s unfortunate however that many people in the world are so against breastfeeding that they’d rather a mother take their child into a public bathroom and nurse. I guess it’s extremely difficult to turn your head and continue to mind your business on this strange planet called Earth.

I wrote a blog titled To Cover Up or Not to Cover up? back in January when my youngest daughter Jayla was three months old. I was still getting the hang of the new mom life for the second time, and was in the early stages of breastfeeding. I became engulfed with all things motherhood and breastfeeding. One thing I found myself uncomfortable with was nursing without a cover. I didn’t disagree with women who chose not to cover, I just preferred to keep myself and daughter covered. It gave us as much privacy as we could have in public.

I had no idea what would transpire only five months after I wrote that post. Jayla turned eight months and grew irritated with being covered. Partially because of the Summer heat, majority of it being because she needed to see my face and feel my skin. She and I would go back and forth playing “tug of war” with the cover the entire time we nursed in public. I would be embarrassed each time my breast was exposed. I didn’t want any negative attention or encounters. I had been reading about so many terrible experiences women were having while breastfeeding in public places, and was also witnessing pictures and videos going viral of women being shamed for breastfeeding in public. More specifically, the black woman who was breastfeeding her child uncovered on the airplane.  I was appalled that someone would find her nursing her child uncovered disgusting, but had no issue with recording her baby and bare breast. To top it off, the video went viral.

I didn’t want that to happen to me. I wasn’t totally confident in myself or my breastfeeding journey. Although it had been eight months, it was still new to me. It’s new each month I go on because it’s a month longer than I expected I would nurse. I had to get my mind right QUICK because Jayla wasn’t in the mood to give me a grace period. So I upped the ante on the amount of breastfeeding pages that I followed on Instagram, and  joined a breastfeeding support group on Facebook to surround myself around women who were on the same journey as me. These women were unashamed of their purpose no matter the size of their breast and the setting where a feeding would take place. I grew to feel empowered.

I had to “get rid of my stinkin’ thinkin'” and remember my purpose is to provide for my daughter in the most natural way that I can. My breastfeeding journey doesn’t need to be a stressful one because of my fear of stares or negative comments. My baby needs her mother’s milk. I refuse to walk down the formula aisle at the grocery store losing my hair over the prices when I already produce milk for free. I remember that feeling when Taniya was younger.

Once I refocused and got inline with my vision for my mothering and breastfeeding journey, I began to see more positive breastfeeding posts and experiences. Definitely had to change my perspective in order to see this. I began to see animals of all sorts, which is as natural as it gets, breastfeeding their young. Monkeys, dogs, pigs, bears and more. During one of Taniya’s science classes in homeschooling, we learned about the blue whale. I was amazed to learn that baby blue whales, mammals just like humans, survive only on their mother’s milk for their first year of life, gaining about 200 pounds each day. I was getting reminders during a homeschool lesson! Not only is breastfeeding beautiful in all forms, but a reminder that our babies can definitely survive off of our breastmilk and be ok without anything else for the first year of life. I am now 1 year and 2 weeks strong on my breastfeeding journey. I thought I would stop at 1 year, but it didn’t happen that way.

Now I don’t just whip my breast out while I’m walking down the grocery store aisle, but I would do it if I need to. Nurse and continue to shop like I intended on doing in the first place. I’m learning that I can’t let motherhood stop me from doing what I set out to do. I’ve breastfed in the gym in between workouts, before I went out on my high school’s track to do an alumni cheerleading performance and more. Amazingly, I’ve received such beautiful feedback. An older woman at my high school’s homecoming football game said, “I just want to tell you that you are doing an amazing job! You are out here doing your thing. One moment I saw you breastfeeding your baby, the next you’re out their cheering like you’re still in school.” That same day my mother said, “I’ve noticed that you’re much more comfortable with feeding Jayla in public now. I’m proud of you for being confident. I know that’s been a struggle for you.” My heart was so full.

I am still the mother who enjoys privacy when she breastfeeds though. One because I just love peace and quiet when I’m nursing because it’s calming for me, but two because toddlers are extremely distracted. I can’t count the amount of times Jayla has snatched off my breast to see what was going on wasting precious milk. So when an establishment has a room designated for breastfeeding mothers, I’m in there! If there’s no room, I’m nursing proudly and confidently. Restaurants, my car, the gym, the mall, football games, dentist offices, doesn’t matter. In Dr. Seuss’ voice, I’ll breastfeed here, I’ll breastfeed there, I’ll breastfeed anywhere.

I hope other mothers who are experiencing shame, embarrassment and fear of negative responses read this and leave with an understanding that your responsibility is to your child, not the comfort of others. If you are the friend or family member to a breastfeeding mother, please continue to support her and uplift her on this journey. She’s doing the best she can. She doesn’t need to hear your comments about how HER child is ready for cow’s milk or formula. Or how HER child is too old to still be breastfeeding. If you’re a stranger and you see a woman breastfeeding and it makes you uncomfortable…. turn your head, and mind your business like a normal functioning adult. Most likely, you’re making that woman uncomfortable and staring for long periods of time only makes you come off as a perv.

 

 

Movies with the kids? Nope!

Like everyone else, my husband and I anticipated watching Black Panther on the big screen. It had been a long time since we had gone out and enjoyed ourselves as a family, so we decided to take the girls along. In addition, we really wanted our oldest daughter to see women and men with her skin color uplifted, shown as Queens and Kings… people of color being shown as heroes!

Huge mistake! 5 minutes into the movie, our youngest, who was 4 months at the time, had a vocal awakening. Every scene where there was no loud music or action, my baby said “it’s my time to shine, ACTION!” I’ve never heard that little girl talk so much until that moment. I had to stand up in order to quite her down a little. That didn’t happen until I nursed her about four times and she finally fell asleep 10 minutes before the movie ended. Yes, I stood the entire movie.

While I took care of the baby, Jayla, James took care of our 6-year-old, Taniya. His journey began 15 minutes into the movie. That’s when the first request for the bathroom happened. I believe she had to go a total of five times. Mind you, she will only ask a total of one time during a kids movie.

Whenever I had the chance to sit down, maybe five minutes at a time, I spent my time saying “Taniya, there is nothing to be scared about!” “Taniya, you have to watch the movie to see what happens.” “Taniya, it’s just a movie. These people are all actors.” “You better not cry!” I won’t say which parts made her emotional in order to not spoil the movie for anyone who hasn’t seen it, but in the last action part of the movie, homegirl started rubbing my back and shoulder. I thought she was rubbing and loving on me because I spent the movie standing and keeping Jayla quiet, but it was really her calming herself from being afraid. I accepted it regardless because her gentle touch helped soothe both her and I.

From what we saw of the movie, James and I thoroughly enjoyed. We agreed that we would leave the girls home next time and see the movie again, ALONE. For now, we’ll only be seeing kids movies as a family.

I wasn’t embarrassed at all during the movie experience though. Jayla was actually a great baby. I just didn’t want to ruin the experience for other movie goers with her constant baby talk and occasional cry for the breast and sleep.

While I wasn’t angry with Taniya, I was slightly annoyed. I couldn’t understand her fear. I couldn’t understand how she couldn’t see the value in that movie. If you actually sit and have a conversation with my daughter, you’ll understand why it’s easy to have high expectations on her way of thinking. I tried to explain the movie a little and it’s importance for the black community. Her response was, “Mommy, I just don’t like seeing evil and death. There were people being killed or almost dying and that scares me.” In that moment I was reminded of who my daughter was and how my husband and I raise her.

We shield Taniya from a lot of things because we believe that a child should cling onto their purity (mind, body and soul) and innocence for as long as they can. We share the truth with her in pieces as she matures. Black Panther was the first movie with violence that Taniya had seen. I was being selfish when I expected her to be okay with something she never experienced. She has attended only one funeral since being born, and she was so young she doesn’t remember. At this age, my husband and I have decided that when someone dies we won’t tell her unless she asks about that individual. So at the end of the day, she doesn’t witness death unless it happens in a kids movie.

Many people may not agree with our parenting method(s), but it works for us. Some people call it sheltering the child and creating a false image of reality, but we call it letting a kid be a kid. Our daughter is highly intelligent. She doesn’t ask questions suitable for a child her age. She has always asked questions that should be asked by someone 4-6 years older than her. So we like to let Taniya think and act (be) like a child as much as possible.

Who knew that a trip to the movies would be a learning lesson for a mom and dad? Well, besides the fact that you shouldn’t bring the kids to tag along for a movie you actually want to hear and see.

It’s still Wakanda forever though!

My First Go At Pregnancy: Part Three

In part two, we left off at how my husband and I’s car broke down and it seemed like things couldn’t get any worse. Well, I wouldn’t say things got any worse, but they sure didn’t go as planned. Isn’t it funny how you will make a plan and God will give you the side eye and say, “Now you know you don’t have that sort of power!” ? I feel like I should be nice enough to say “viewer discretion,” or I apologize in advance for any graphic details you may read.

After months of successful prenatal appointments, at 37 weeks we hit a bump in our smooth sailing journey. Our princess Taniya was no longer measuring on target. She was actually measuring 3 weeks smaller, so our baby was now deemed small for gestational age. My once-a-week appointments then turned to three times a week. One appointment was for our normal prenatal visit, the other two were for an hour-long fetal monitoring. We went to the doctor three times a week until my induction.

Unfortunately, my nurse practitioner became concerned when it seemed the baby wasn’t growing anymore. She requested that we meet with one of the high-risk doctors, and we did. It was by far one of the worse and pointless medical appointments I’ve had in my life. I’m actually grateful that I can say that being as though many women have had several terrible appointments in their lives.

It was August 2nd, three days away from my due date. As soon as the doctor came into the room with James and I, he gave us a negative vibe. He went on to say that according to my previous prenatal visits the baby was no longer growing and was in the 39th percentile. I was approaching my due date and the baby was measuring about 35-36 weeks in size. He said that it was most likely due to my placenta no longer working properly, and that it was important that we scheduled a c-section that day. At this point James and I are holding hands, shaking and confused. I told him my due date was only three days away, and asked if we could at least wait until then to see if labor starts on its own. I also had a hair appointment scheduled the next day and didn’t want to miss it.*Kanye Shrug* I had planned on going into the hospital and meeting my baby with my hair looking fresh!

The doctor went on to say, “Let me tell you this… labor and delivery is a matter of life and death for both the baby and mother. Our job is to make sure that both you and the baby are as safe as possible. But we can not make sure of that if we don’t get that baby out as soon as possible. If your placenta is no longer functioning, it is no longer a safe place for the baby. At this moment, there’s a chance that something could happen to you or the baby.” He should have never said that. It took everything in me not to break down and cry. But before I could, he then said, “Let’s take an ultrasound to get a look at the baby.”

He began to look. “Hmm… your amniotic fluid looks great.” “Let’s check out the heart rate… Wow, the heart beat is perfect.” “Okay, well let me get an estimate birth weight for the baby… I’m actually seeing that the baby is about 7 pounds 12 ounces.” “Your baby and placenta look healthy.” Nothing but God! I was so disappointed that the doctor would tell us all those terrible things before taking a look himself. But when I think about that appointment today, I wonder if what he said could have been true, but God turned it around for us in that room? With all the knowledge I have today, I’m 100% sure that the medical staff didn’t have it right. During my earlier appointments, Taniya would be super active and run away from any attention. I mean literally move to one half of my stomach during the measurement and Doppler reading. I was also told from a specialist that my baby measured a week or so smaller from the sonogram. I didn’t think anything of it though. Near the end of my pregnancy, I’m also convinced that she was engaged in my pelvic area and had dropped so low that the measurements were off. BUT I’m also 100% sure that God was with us and blessed my baby to show up on the ultrasound and shut that doctor’s negativity all the way down.

My due date arrived and there were no signs of labor or baby. My nurse practitioner decided that I would be induced the following week. I can’t say that I tried everything to get the baby to come naturally now that I am aware of all the options. I definitely tried to walk a lot and even jogged a little out of desperation. We tried having sex in order to soften my cervix, but to be honest once my third trimester hit, I hated kissing and having sex. Kissing and sharing spit was disgusting to me, and having sex seemed like it was more of a business ordeal. Poor James…

Before you know it, it was time to be induced. I couldn’t sleep and barely ate because I was so nervous. I kept on anticipating the pain that I would be in, and I feared what life would be like once the baby was born. Would my daughter love me or cry whenever I tried to love on her? Would I be a good mother? Was I capable of having someone’s life depend on me? After James and I checked in (at midnight on August 12th 2011), I broke down in the room. I was so scared! Being induced was not a part of the plan. In mind, I was walking into planned-pain. When you start labor naturally, it catches you off guard so you don’t have the choice to run away from it. At that moment, I could have run out of those hospital doors!

After getting setup on all the monitoring machines, the first nurse on shift said “You’re actually in early labor, you don’t feel any contractions?” I told her no, and she responded with “Well you’re about to feel them once I start this Pitocin.” She was right. Moments later the pain began to hit. A few hours after that, the first doctor on duty ruptured my membranes (broke my water for those of you who support and may not know 🙂 ). When I tell you that was also painful, I mean it! It was like she tried to stretch my cervix open to aid in dilation. When she broke the sac, James watched and he began to gag. I laugh at his reaction now, but I got nervous when I saw it that day. There was meconium (poop) in the sac so he watched it ooze out. (I couldn’t think of another word outside of ooze. I know it sounds nasty.) Boy oh boy, when she broke my water that really increased the amount of pain I was feeling. Not to mention, every few hours, the level of Pitocin being sent in the IV was increasing. I was losing it, but I was not going to give in. I couldn’t start labor naturally, but I was going to deliver that baby naturally. I insisted that I did not need an epidural.

Finish reading in My First Go At Pregnancy: Part Four!