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.

 

 

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!

My First Go At Pregnancy: Part Four

Hours later, I was having contractions in my stomach and in my back, I needed oxygen and was stuck at six centimeters for what seemed like an eternity. I finally gave in to the epidural. I cried. I felt like a failure, but I was so tired and over it. Getting an epidural is like waiting for your teacher to grade your paper in front of you. You’re quiet and trying to concentrate, you don’t move and you’re praying for a positive outcome. The difference is the process of an epidural is much longer because it’s such a tedious process. In addition to it being tedious, the anesthesiologist has to stop every time you tell them you’re having a contraction so that way you don’t move and damage a nerve or something when in pain. It felt like another 10 years had gone by waiting for the process to be over (yes, I’m being dramatic!) But boy oh boyyyyyy when that epidural hits your system?! Lord have mercy on my soul, the relief you feel is amazing. I immediately went to sleep. I want to say two hours later I was back up watching Phineas and Ferb on the Disney Channel while James and my mother slept. My mother-in-law is part robot and would not go to sleep (If you subscribe to my blog, you will learn just how dramatic I am.) so she kept me company. Another hour later, I could move my legs and looked at James like Miss Sophia looked at Harpo when he hit her on “The Color Purple.” I was confused as to how the numbness was wearing off, and I could feel my legs again. We notified the nurse on duty. She said, “Can you feel the contractions in your stomach?” I said, “No, not yet.” She responded, ” Well then you’re good. If the epidural had truly worn off, you would feel the contractions.”

I wish you could see my face as I type this because I’m definitely rolling my eyes. Maybe 30 minutes later, the pain started to shoot through my body all over again. The slow-paced breathing James and I had learned Lamaze was no longer working. He quickly reminded me how to do the fast-paced breathing in order to cope with the pain. It only worked for a little bit. The contractions were coming so fast, then all of a sudden there was so much pain at my butt-hole. I swear Taniya had it all confused and had began to press her way out of the wrong hole! We called the nurse back, and I told her “The baby is trying to come out of my butt hole!” Her response, “Well let me go do my hair and makeup because the news cameras are gonna be here if that baby comes out your butt hole.” It’s a little funny now, but I could have slapped the perm out of her hair the moment she made fun of the pain I was in. She left out of the room, but the doctor came in and checked my cervix. She said that I was only 7 centimeters dilated and if I pushed my cervix would tear. When she left, I told my family that the baby was pushing and I couldn’t help it. James is my homie for real. He said, “Man, just push a little bit to help her get down.” I want to say 15-30 minutes later I screamed at James and told him that if he didn’t get someone in there to deliver the baby, she was coming out on her own. He picked up the phone, and when the nurse asked how may she help us, she heard me scream. James didn’t have the chance to say we need a doctor, she said the doctor is coming right in.

When she checked my cervix that time, the baby’s head was right there. Everything began to move so fast. Nurses swarmed in to set up everything for the baby, and broke the bed down for delivery. I got so nervous and forgot about the pain for a second. I remember saying “Wait! I’m not ready!” No one responded so I wonder if I just said that in my head?? Sooner than you know it, James is holding my right leg, his mother has my left, and my mother has her big head right there front and center beside the doctor. Mind you, this was after months of her saying that she will be there for support, but she didn’t want to see the baby coming out. Well homegirl was so close you would have thought she was delivering the baby! Anyways, the doctor who was a direct employee with the hospital was the woman who was delivering me, but because I was a Kaiser patient, a Kaiser doctor had to be present as well.

Having the extra doctor there was annoying. There were way too many people in the room to listen to. On one hand, my family is encouraging and motivating me, on the other I have the doctor from the hospital telling me to listen to my body and to push when I felt a contraction, and then the Kaiser doctor looking at the monitor telling me when to push. I kept my eyes on the doctor in front of me and tried to listen to her, but eventually gave up and stopped pushing. Well that was a big no-no. Apparently, Taniya’s head was all the way out and my vagina closed on her neck. The Kaiser doctor came over and said “You have to push now!” while roughly stretching my vagina to release the her neck. I screamed out and put my eyes back on the doctor in front of me. Once she and I were on the same page, baby girl made her way into this crazy world at 10:59 p.m. weighing 7lbs 15.9oz (8lbs per birth certificate). Small for gestational age right?  A little after, the placenta was born.  I didn’t have the opportunity to do skin-to-skin contact because they wanted to make sure my daughter didn’t swallow any of the meconium (poop). My husband and I cried so hard! I remember his knees buckling and him hanging on to the bed crying and saying, “Love, she’s so beautiful.” Behind him was my mother with her arms stretched to the ceiling saying “Thank You Jesus!” over and over. To the left of me was my mother-in-law rubbing me, crying and saying “Oh my God, she’s here! You did so good!” I eventually got myself together and told James to go check on our baby to make sure she was okay. He came back, started crying again, so I began to cry with him. He put his hands together making a mountain peak with his fingers and said, “She looks beautiful, but her head is so pointy!” In the mist of our tears, we burst into laughter like our normal silly selves. 22 hours of labor, 17 hours with no epidural! Well I would say I went longer without the epidural because God answered my prayers and I delivered my daughter naturally. Because the Kaiser doctor stretched me, I had small tears. I felt every stitch. That was true confirmation that the epidural had worn off.

After birth, I was extremely exhausted. I was so tired and weak, I could barely hold my child. She felt so heavy. I kept giving her back to James, and then I eventually told him to hold her because I couldn’t do it. I guzzled down the cranberry juice that had been waiting for me after a day of nothing but ice chips. And just like that, my journey of motherhood had begun.

Things that I now know from experiencing pregnancy a second time: August 5th was the due date given to me based on my last menstrual cycle. When I went to get the testing at 13 weeks to see if the baby had down syndrome, the sonographer told me that the she actually measured smaller than the due date I was given. He said the due date was actually August 11th. Kaiser refused to go with that date. I gave birth on August 12th. That nurse saw that I was in early labor because I was actually starting up naturally on my true due date! Also, there was no reason for me to be induced. According to their due date, I was 40 weeks. I now know a woman can go as long as 42 weeks before delivering. Lastly, the first doctor on duty didn’t allow enough time for my water to break on its own. When you are admitted to the hospital, they really want to speed things up and get you out of there. She rushed me. But I’ll stop there. You’ll read more about what I’ve learned in my second go at pregnancy. 🙂