Sunday, October 30, 2011

NNIPL November - Secret Agents Week One





Here's our enlisted Nursing in Public secret agents for the first week of November!! Interested in being an agent for next week? Email in your info and a picture if you'd like to include that to thegoodletdown@gmail.com by noon Sunday. NNIPL agents - please report back by Friday on how your experiences went this week and include photos of you nursing in public if you've got 'em! 




I know it's still officially October but I had this pic of me nursing in the Crossroads Mall in Waterloo, Iowa on  Saturday.  No cover, on a bench right outside one of the big stores (Penney's I think).  I had about 70 people walk by and only one little old lady took a second look, and then smiled!
Next week I will be nursing in the dr's waiting room while I wait to get my ultrasound. 

~Alissa



Hello! Here where we live in Colorado Springs CO there is a small theme park called The North Pole.. I plan on going on Monday and can definitely do my part and nip there! Not sure on a time or if it's positive I'll go, (dd has been sick this weekend, I'm hoping she will feel better) Either way I'll let you know! And I plan on nursing with NO cover!! Thanks!~Melinda




Hello! My name is Rachel. I am a 21 yr old, full time college student, and mommy of a 3 year old girl, who self-weaned just before her 2nd birthday, and a 10 month old boy. I am going to commit to nursing in public at the Knoxville Zoo, in Knoxville, TN this week! I have nursed in public many times in my almost 3 years of breastfeeding, but I am much more confident this time around than I was when my daughter was younger. Although my mom breastfed all three of her children for a year, my parents were not very supportive of me nursing in public. It took some time, but I have succeeded in normalizing it for them, and I hope to do he same for many other people.




I want to participate in the November challenge. I NIP nearly every week depending on where we need to go. I am a homeschooling mom of 4 children, 3 boys age 11, 5 and 3 and a new baby girl who is 7 weeks. our oldest boy is adopted but I have nursed all the others for a total of over 4 years nursing so I am not new to NIP at all. I will be NIP on Sunday at church in Austin, MN.  Monday at the dentist in Northwood and the Orthodontist's office in Mason City, IA. Tuesday at a friend's house for lady's Bible study, though that is not very public. Oh and depending on how long we stay at the costume harvest part tonight at the elementary school with the kids, I may NIP there as well:)
Baby girl goes everywhere with me and at 7 weeks nurses every 2 hours at least so I am glad that I am comfortable NIP, have never had a bad experience. though I think the strangest NIP time I have had was a few weeks ago when I nursed her through a cleaning at the dentist's office. I did use a light blanket so she didn't get anything on her or look into the bright light. not sure what the dentist thought:) but I didn't ask permission.
~Brea

I am 24. I have 2 beautiful healthy children. 22 mo daughter  i nursed until 10 mo when i found out i was expecting my 2 nd baby.  I didn't know anything about nursing while pregnant and stopped cold turkey. And after a few weeks of engorgement and pain i was on a mission to figure this whole breastfeeding thing out. I've done tons of reading and found out i didn't have to stop nursing which broke my heart.  So i found the leakie boob and good let down on facebook.  And went to wic here in my town and tried to contact lll but was disipointed to find out they don't do meetings. So i created Yuma on tap page on facebook.  And have a few very few moms there.  And try to have meetings but only one will show. So i have talked to wic LC and a few other women but i have had no luck with my attempt to spread the breast feeding word.  I want moms in this town to know and have support because not everyone has wic or know about lll. So eventually i want to team up with wic and lll and have outreach programs for breast feeding support.  I need help! And information.  I still haven't gotten a hold of the yuma arizona lll. But any who my son was born july 22 snd has been thriving on boobie milk. 15.4 oz at last check. My first had so much trouble and i had to supplement at first. Iam proud to be able to. Breast feed my baby.  And i would love to be a nnip agent.  
~Renae

Hi!! My name is Holly aka Lynne lol :) I have a 23.5 month old and he is a super nurser! :) He nurses ALL. THE. TIME :) Comfort, tired, hungry, thirsty, BORED, etc :) He eats solids really well too but is not ready to stop nursing yet at all lol! :) I will be NIP Sunday at my church (The Grace Place, Colorado Springs, CO) sometime between 10:30 and noon. I will be NIP Wednesday but not sure where/when. Thursday the 2nd I will be nursing at the Fountain/Widefield/Security CO MOMS Club!! :) (also looking for new members so holler if interested!!!) Probably at least one other day I will be getting out of the house and be nursing too! :) Anytime we leave the house you can pretty much guarantee that we will be NIP since kiddo nurses all the time :) 

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Coming Out of the Tandem Nursing/Toddler Nursing Closet

So, last year my grandparents came into town over Thanksgiving to meet their new great granddaughter Chicklett. They knew I had breastfed big brother Chicken Little, but as far as I knew they assumed I was no longer nursing him at that point. They stayed in our home for 10 days and I basically hid the fact that I was still nursing this 2-year old boy. I hid, not out of shame, but simple because I didn't feel like having to explain myself to family from that generation. It'd be one thing if they weren't staying in my house... but since they were... I really didn't want to make anything awkward between us for their stay. I only get to see them once a year and I'd like the visit to be pleasant. They are pretty liberal folks... but I know nursing a toddler could be over the limit. Or they could be fine with it... I really have no idea. For all I know she breastfed my dad until he was eight years old... I really have no idea! 


So... here we are... three weeks away from them coming for another long visit. Now I'm nursing a 3-year old boy and a 1-year old girl. Chicken Little is a lot more obvious about his nursing requests by voicing "Boobies please!" loudly and proudly. I know I was skirting around the issue last year and I'm sure the few times that my son mentioned boobie time confused them. So, enough is enough... I should probably just come clean. I think I'd like to do it in email form with some links to resources... but which ones? What are some of the best, clear, concise, informative online resources for information on extended/full term nursing and tandem nursing? Help me form this out because I'm a big wuss about it since I don't like confrontation or debating. 


Here's what I have so far....


We're very exciting to have you staying at our home again this year! I wanted to get something off my mind before you arrived just so you aren't surprised by it. We are practicing what is known as "child led weaning" in this house, which means that the children can breastfeed until they are ready to stop. It is a pretty normal occurrence in my bubble of a community. I know things were much different back when you were having babies, and the fact that you breastfed at all might have been taboo depending on who you were around. 


I know my mom breastfed me until 11 months and that my husband was breastfed until he was almost 3 years old. Long term nursing is just kind of normal for us, and the boy is much more vocal about it this year than he was last year... so I figured I'd better explain the situation before you got here just to give you some good information to digest. 


So, yes, I am breastfeeding both a 1 year old and a 3 year old at the same time. I will never run out of milk as the body works on a supply and demand situation so the kids combined tell my body how much milk to make. 


American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that "Breastfeeding should be continued for at least the first year of life and beyond for as long as mutually desired by mother and child... Increased duration of breastfeeding confers significant health and developmental benefits for the child and the mother... There is no upper limit to the duration of breastfeeding and no evidence of psychologic or developmental harm from breastfeeding into the third year of life or longer."


This is a great article that outlines the natural age for humans to self wean as biologically compared to other primate species; http://www.kathydettwyler.org/detwean.html


[here's where I need y'all help the most!! Help me fill in the gaps... and I don't want this to be too long winded... no need to overload them... just a highlight of the biggest and most important things] 


Friday, October 21, 2011

Baby Led What?

I guess you can consider this a bit of a follow up on my Sleep Thing posts. I've had to come to a realization about what my son's needs are and it has meant a lot of thinking on what mothering is about for me.

I am exhausted. Chase is not a good sleeper and he nurses most of the night so I have not had a good night's sleep in a year. Since he was six months old I've been on and off scrambling to gently guide him towards less nursing and more sleeping at night. A few weeks ago I was pretty much having a mental breakdown about the whole thing. My husband has been sleeping in the guest room for a couple months while I've been trying to find an arrangement for Chase that respects both his need for night time parenting and nursing and my need for sleep. In order to find some guidance I picked up a book I thought I never would pick up: Dr. Sears's Attachment Parenting Book. I'm not done yet but it has really helped me to better understand the inner battle I'm having with the sleep issue in my house.

I enjoy sleeping with Chase, he is a snuggly, delicious little boy and he loves to sleep close to me. It's a beautiful thing. I also love that he has access to me when the need strikes him at night. I think he is more secure because he knows he can count on me to be there for him whenever he needs me. I've often said that for a baby, their wants are the same as their needs. Chase has reached an age now where the two are beginning to differentiate. So, he WANTS to eat the crayon, but he certainly doesn't need to. For some families Chase's desire to sleep in my bed at night (he adamantely refuses to sleep in his crib any more than thirty or fourty minutes) is a want, a habit, and not a need. I beg to differ. I believe that he needs to sleep with me. As he crosses more milestones, grows and learns with every passing day, he needs the reassurance that in this great big, exciting, sometimes frightening world, his mama will always be there for him. He needs to feel safe, and he needs me to help him feel that way at night when he is most vulnerable.

So I tested the waters with limiting night nursing and moving him to his own space to sleep, but he did not respond well. I had to read his signals. This is following his lead. Baby Led sleep is as important (to me) as baby led breastfeeding. I feel like he needs me to follow his cues, he wasn't responding positively to gentle sleep guidance, so...we will wait and try again later. I think I can handle this.

What I call the "Baby-Led Lifestyle" is not easy. Parenting in general is not easy, and I'm not saying that my kids rule the roost, but on meaningful issues like sleep maturity, nursing, food, and independance, I think it is important for my boys to have their cues recognized and respected. This probably would be referred to as "Attachment Parenting" by a lot of people, but I'm sorry, I really don't like that term because it then gives the impression that if you are not parenting within those parameters, you are not attached to your children. Baby-Led gives more of an impression of give and take. I see an opportunity for growth, I follow his lead. We go too far beyond what he is ready for, we back off a bit. I can encourage his growth and development in a positive way by watching how he responds and following his lead.

I will admit to being exhausted. I will admit to wishing I had the balls to have him Cry-It-Out on particularly difficult nights. Come the light of day, however (and a few cups of coffee) I know that I"m doing the right thing by my boys. Is Aiden allowed to sleep with us every night? Will I give him unlimited sippy cups as he works through his usual delay tactics? No. But if he wakes feeling unsafe or unwell in the night and needs to sleep next to mom or dad, he can do that. This is a great big world he is trying to learn his place in, and he needs to know we are there for him when it gets a little frightening. This gives him the strength and confidence to move forward and grow more within it.

I also remind myself that being a mom is not meant to be easy. It's not a small or simple task to be trusted with the growth and development of people, and yes, as a mom, I frequently have to put my kids' needs before my own. As parents, once we stop trying to fit our children into our existing lives and recognize that our children ARE our lives and start working other things (including ourselves) around their needs, our perspective changes. YES, the child's need is more important than my needs, they are are still growing and maturing, we are their guideposts in this crazy world, and they need us more than we need pretty much anything. We can be more compassionate about their needs, following their cues instead of trying to teach them to make our lives more convenient. Being a mom isn't about convenience to me. Do I love anything that makes my life easier? Heck yes, but not at the expense of my children's emotional and physical development. Sign me up for bouncy seats so I can get a shower when my little baby is fussy, an exersaucer to safely contain my baby while I finish making a meal, and even a little TV if I need my toddler distracted long enough that I can finish up something I'm doing. But overall, it's more important to meet their needs than anything else is going on.

My house is a mess a lot. I'm ok with this too, because a spotless home is the sign of a neglected child.

I am by NO MEANS a perfect parent, not even close. Maureen Campion, a therapist and Attachment Parent in Minnesota, posted a wonderful perspective on a post once that has stuck with me for the last year or so: if we are good enough and do our best 80% of the time, the other 20% doesn't matter so much. So yea, sometimes I want to drop both boys off on a curb somewhere, and sometimes I just want to lock myself in a closet for some peace and quiet...but overall I am striving to follow my boys' leads where it matters most for their emotional development. Sometimes I fail, but that's OK, because more often than not, I am meeting their needs when they arise and I am following their lead as best as I know how and am able to.

I think I will copyright the term "Baby Led Parenting." It makes sense doesn't it? According to The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding if we allow babies and young children to lead the way on eating...nurse and eat when they are hungry, however much or little they choose, we are fostering the development of healthy eating habits later in life. The book refers to a study that found that children who were fed on schedules, a set amount were more likely to eat everything on their plate at age 3...regardless of how much their was...because they were taught to eat what they were given regardless of hunger. Dr. Sears and many other child development experts talk about the importance of night-time parenting to a child's social and emotional development, largely stating that following your baby/child's cues on sleep will help to foster healthier sleep habits as the child grows.

So there you have it, that's my sleep update. Chase has been waking up A LOT in the last week and I'm very tired, but I'm keeping his needs in perspective. He is teething, coming down with a cold, and coming up on more milestones. They are only little once, and I only have one chance to get this "right" for them. I can do this.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

NNIPL November

In November we'd like to start the Normalizing Nursing in Public agenda. We would love to have volunteers from around the globe set a personal goal of nursing in public and then report back to us on how it went. You can be a first timer in public or an old pro. You can do it alone, with friends, whatever you want to do. Consider yourselves NNIPL agents on a secret mission.

Example:




Hi! I'm Jennifer, stay-at-home-mom of a 4 month old daughter, and I have committed to nursing in public at the Westfield Mall in Pittsburgh Pennsylvania this week. I has never nursed in public before because I've always been afraid that someone will harass me. I am the first in my family to breastfeed and have not had a role model. I plan on using a cover and will try to nurse on an isolated bench somewhere in the mall.





Here's the plan: By Sunday noon of each week send your commitment information, like the example above, to thegoodletdown@gmail.com - we would love to have a photo of you too. If you want to be really specific (11am on Thursday) in the hopes that some of our fans would join you in there to also nurse or just provide support please do so, otherwise you can be vague and just say it will be sometime that following week.

Sunday night we will publish a blog with all the folks who are going to NIP (nurse in public) that week and you will have a whole lot of people cheering you on your quest! After you have nursed in public please report back to us on your experience by Friday evening. If possible, take a photo or having someone else take your picture while breastfeeding in public to also include on the blog.

We will be doing this the whole month of November! Please sign up if you'd like to be one of our league members getting yourself out there and normalizing nursing in public!


Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Only Twelve Months?

I have been nursing my baby girl Chicklett for 12 whole months! This is a feat that many mothers think is the longest amount of time you should nurse a baby and right after that milestone birthday they start the weaning process. Sometimes when over hearing women weaning their babies at a year my brain gasps and I think to myself, "You're stopping at only 12 months nursing?? Why??"

Being on the other side of the coin now nursing a 38 month old and a 12 month old... weaning just seems like the unintelligent misinformed thing for any mother to do. It is hard for me to take a step back and realize that not all paths are the same, and that ANY amount of time a woman is breastfeeding should be celebrated.

Three years ago when I was a new nursing mom I thought that 12 months was an eternity. The longest I had heard anyone nursing was to 11 months. Weaning at a year seems almost automatic in our society, it's assumed by pediatricians and an accepted practice among mothers. A rare few sneak through to 15-18 month range, but then usually outside pressures from family cause them to question their stance and force wean. Then there's bitches like me... I didn't listen to anyone other than myself and my son, and now my daughter. I just might end up tandem nursing a 7 and 5 year old.

Take Megz for example, she nursed her first to 8 months old and thought he self weaned. She knows now that it was nursing strikes and has now worked through those same issues with her second son and is coming up on 11 months of nursing. That is AWESOME! I am so proud of her every day for learning from the past and persevering through complicated nursing strikes and challenging times.

These other mothers I speak of might be in the place that Megz was two years ago. Unsupported, uninformed, and unsure. I never know if I'm going to sound like an elitist nursing snob, crazy crunchy hippie, or all around whack job if I try to talk someone into nursing past a year. Most of the time I'm hearing people after the fact... so then my informing them of extended nursing probably comes down as a judgement on their parenting choices. I want everyone to know how normal and beneficial it is to continue nursing past a year, but I know not everyone cares as much as I do.

It's easy to think that your 1 year old is a "big" kid now, no longer a baby. The fact of the matter is, and all three of us have noticed this with our second, a 1 year old is still just a baby. Chicklett BARELY takes in any solids and if she were weaning right now, it would not be in her best interest. I refuse to force her to eat solids, she will eat in her own time when SHE is ready. Until then, she gets her nutrition, comfort, and security at the breast. Afterall, she is JUST a baby at 12 months. She can't talk, doesn't walk, and is learning new things each day. She needs the important support that breastfeeding provides her. If, as a society, we stop thinking of 1 year olds as "big kids" we can collectively wrap our brains around nursing past a year. Afterall, it's more accepted to nurse a "baby" than to nurse a "big kid."

Monday, October 10, 2011

They don't HAVE to eat it!


Does that site look familiar? Trying to get your baby to eat baby cereal but they're crying or spitting it out or turning their heads away? I cannot even tell you the number of times I have seen people ask "How do I get my baby to eat baby cereal (or other purees)?"

The answer? You don't.

In the first year, food is just for fun. Breastmilk is all your baby needs for their first year. It fulfill all their nutritional needs. They do not need rice cereal or any other solids. In fact, there are some sources that say you shouldn't even FEED your baby those infant cereals. They are worthless calories and offer no nutritional value to their diet. Regardless, it's just not necessary. So if your baby isn't digging the cereal, don't ask "How can I get my baby to eat it"...just stop giving it to them! The day WILL come when they eat solids, I promise.

Since we're on the topic, I really feel that the best way to feed your baby is with baby-led weaning or baby-led solids. And I'm not the only one. There are multiple organizations out there who are behind BLW. Wholesome Baby Foods says BLW is:

Baby Led Weaning means offering your baby (age appropriate) foods that are soft-cooked and cut or mashed into small easily manageable pieces. You may choose to offer your baby a large hunk of apple that she can easily hold and gnaw on or a bowl full of soft cooked mashed apples; the choice is yours. The foods are then given to your baby to eat without being pureed and without being spoonfed. You do the cooking, the dicing or mashing and the offering of the foods and your baby does the rest.  It is important to note that your baby should be in control of what he is eating and you should never actually feed him by putting the foods into his mouth!

Why BLW? Well, for one, it's completely letting your baby control what they eat and how much they eat. For two, it's easier! When Olivia was a baby, I made all her baby food. And omg, what a total pain it was! I steamed all the food, mixed it, separated it, froze it into ice cube trays....etc etc. It took a lot of time. With Ella? I cut up some food off my plate, put it on her tray and let her dig in!! If we have Black Bean and Quinoa Tacos she'll have black beans, quinoa, cheese and avocado (all the stuff that goes into our tacos). BLW also gives them the opportunity to experience real textures and practice chewing. The general idea of BLW is that if they aren't able to handle the pieces of food, they aren't ready for food.

A lot of people are concerned that their baby isn't getting enough with BLW. Well, like I said (and like the experts say!) "food before one is just for fun!". Don't worry about their nutrients from their solids. During the first year, solid food shouldn't make up more then 25% of their diet. Breastmilk is all they need and solids are just a way for them to experience food.

Lastly, I tell you...baby led weaning...well, it's fun! It's cute! I LOVE watching Ella eat! it cracks me up! Today, she was eating steamed carrots and she was nomming them pretty hardcore. All of a sudden she bit her finger. She pulled her hand out of her mouth and looked at her finger (not crying) and I swear to God I could see the thought, " What the BLEEEEEEEEEEEP?? You're not a carrot!!" just fly through her head. She looked down, grabbed more carrot, and continued nomming on them. You wouldn't get that with purrees! :-)

For more information on baby-led weaning (solids) see:

Wholesome Baby Food
Tribal Baby
Kellymom article on offering solids


Thursday, October 6, 2011

New plan for Ella's sleep!

Last night was probably one of the worst nights we've had in a while. I was at my wits end and it didn't help that Olivia (almost 3) woke up as well and had a royal tantrum. So this morning, I was texting Megz while also researching some stuff on my phone and came up with a new plan.

New plan for Ella: Megz and I were talking and came up with a theory that maybe this isn't about sleep. Maybe it's leftover trauma from her NICU stay. Megz suggested that maybe falling asleep feels similiar to being paralyzed. Maybe...it could be! So, new plan. No pack and play. She does NOT like to sleep away from me so I'm going to make an essential oil blend/buy a blend that promotes relaxation, sleep and reduces anxiety (still doing research on the exact combination that's best but they all go hand in hand). Each night, before bed, I'm going to go in our bedroom, set up relaxing music and give her a massage using these oils and an organic lotion or maybe coconut or sweet almond oil. I'm also going to get an oil burner so that our room smells like this. Then, I'll nurse her and we'll lay in bed and relax and be calm.

I'm also going to get a lovey or make one, and start holding it whenever we're doing something calm. Nursing, cuddling, sleeping. We'll sleep with it together so that it smells like us together and let breastmilk get on it so it smells like my milk as well. We'll associate the lovey with all good things. Being relaxed, loved, snuggled and fed.  I'm going to make sure our room is a nice temperature and dress in appropriate pajamas,...maybe even just a diaper cover over her diaper (otherwise she takes the darn thing off!!!).

I'm getting a laptop next week with my financial aid so I'll start doing my homework in our room so that as soon as she starts stirring, I'm right there and can pat her to sleep. That seems to be somewhat effective, which makes me wonder if waking up alone is scary for her, which would make sense...her first 74 days of life were spent in a crib alone, as opposed to nestled in her mamas tummy like she was supposed to.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Sleepin' and boobin'


For the first time last night, I said to my husband "I can't stand breastfeeding this baby!". I didn't mean forever, or that I wanted to wean. I had been nursing her for hours off and on. She sleeps for 30 minutes, maybe an hour, wakes up and wants to nurse. Sounds slightly annoying right? It's so much more then that. She screams and screams and fights me or Shane. The ONLY thing that will calm her down, is it I nurse her. I know some people would say, well then, just nurse her. This is literally a 1-2x a hour occurrence. As much as I appreciate that she's my last baby and the fact that I need to enjoy my baby, the reality is that I still have a home to clean, homework to do and dang it, I need some mama time. So nursing 2x an hour, and fighting a baby to sleep for 30 minutes to an hour every night just...well, it just freakin' sucks. And I'm tired of it.

So I've been going over different ideas as to what I can do. I don't believe in cry-it-out. I am adamantly against it. I don't believe it's healthy for babies. Although I'm not going to lie...it crossed my mind for a second. I was so frustrated, so tired, so upset and angry that I thought "maybe I should just let her cry". It was a quick thought and immediately I knew I wouldn't but a part of me wished I could. So, with CIO off the list of possibilities I started thinking about what else I could do. First of all, I'm not nursing her to sleep anymore. I'm going to nurse her and then rock her. She's very calmed by the Bee Gees...yeah, I'm not kidding. You play "More Than a Woman" for that baby...INSTANT quiet. It's like magic. And not just any music does it. It's the Bee Gees. Weird, I know, but whatever. So I brought our rocking chair in our room and I am going to rock her and play the Bee Gees for her until she dozes off. Then I"m going to lay her in a pack and play.

Up until now, we've bed shared every night from start to finish. I'm going to try to get her to sleep the first part of the night in the pack and play. I'm not 100% comfortable with this because she's only a year and I don't feel that either of us are totally ready to stop bedsharing but it's only until I go to bed, which is usually around midnight. I'm just trying to get her to sleep a 3-4 hour stretch without waking to nurse. If/when she wakes up to nurse, I will rock her back to sleep and put her back in the pack and play. I'm not night weaning at all, I'm just not nursing 1-2x an hour.

I'll keep you all updated on how this works...and it's very possible that my plans will change but for now, this is the plan. I just can't keep dealing with the hour long scream fest at bedtime and then the 1-2x an hour wakeup-to-nurse parties.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

A letter to myself on my daughters first birthday



To myself on the day of Ella’s birth,

A year ago today, the nurse came into my room and told me I couldn’t eat anymore because they thought they’d be taking the baby. I was 29 weeks and 2 days pregnant. My baby was not ready to come. I was not ready to give birth. Soon after, the doctor came in and told me they couldn’t keep me pregnant anymore. They were chasing my blood pressure and if they didn’t take Ella now, there was a high likelihood of an emergency c-section where I wouldn’t even be able to be awake for the birth. She said at best, they could stretch it another day but it wasn’t safe. So the decision was made to perform the c-section that day. She had to deliver triplets first, and I couldn’t do it yet anyways because I’d eaten an early lunch. So, now we waited.

We made phone calls. I got on facebook. I wrote a short blog post. We chatted. I felt a sense of peace. But it wasn’t real peace. It was shock and numbness with a mask on that felt like peace. When they came to get me to bring me to the OR, my mask melted away and I completely broke down. Shane wasn’t able to come with me right away because they had to prep me and I sobbed the entire way to the OR. I sobbed as they did my spinal, as they introduced me to the neonatologist and all the other doctors. My mind was running a million miles a minute and I was desperately trying to calm myself down. I HAD to stop crying because regardless of the fact that this was my second c-section and I was about to give birth at 29 weeks, it was still my birth. I managed to calm myself down and go through the delivery. Right before she came out, my body bore down and pushed. They may have took her out using their hands, but my body pushed her out in the best way it could. Even through the spinal, my body was doing what it was supposed to…even if the baby was coming out of my belly.

I didn’t get to see her right away, I did hear her cry though. Oh her cry…it was so loud. So fierce. It should have told me what she would be today hearing that cry. She’s the epitome of strength and that cry said it all. She was breathing on her own and I got to spend what felt like seconds, but also hours, looking at her and kissing her and touching her tiny face. I couldn’t tell how small she was because they had her bundled up. Over the next 74 days, we experienced more then I ever thought humanly possible. The emotions that wracked my body and brain were, at times, almost more then I could bear. I knew that God would only give me as much as I could handle, but sometimes I thought that God thought I was stronger then I was. On her 4th day alive, Ella got sick. So sick that they told us she had a very slim chance of making it through the night. I couldn’t bear it. I remember gripping myself and rocking back and forth, pulling at my hair and face and sobbing as I sit in her room watching them work over her tiny body. Her chest touched the bed below her as she struggled for each breath and no matter what they did, she just kept getting sicker. I didn’t know it at the time, and it’s probably good I didn’t, but they resuscitated her twice that night.  She pulled through it and over time got stronger and after 74 long days in the NICU, she came home on oxygen.

Before I got pregnant, I wanted to make sure my pregnancy was healthy. I worked hard on my health. I lost almost 40 lbs, got all my labs to where they should be, I was healthy! My BP was good, sugar levels were good, everything was good. I was cleared to get pregnant again. And I did…very quickly! We were thrilled and I had full intentions of having a VBAC. My OB was very supportive and felt I was an excellent candidate for a VBAC. I was so excited to have a normal, natural delivery. I didn’t even end up with Gestational Diabetes this time around, thanks to, in part, I believe my highish protein diet. I was on a high protein diet to avoid GD and pre-e. I didn’t eat much as I could have, for sure, but I still managed to get somewhere around 50-70 grams a day. I did try though. So it was crushing when I ended up on bedrest with pre-e again. I was still sure of my VBAC however up until 2 days before Ella was born. They told me I would have to have a c-section. Oh how I fought them. Every doctor in that hospital knew who I was. I talked to them all. I argued and argued and cried and refused to have a c-section. Unfortunately, it just wasn’t in the cards for me. I was beyond heartbroken. This was my chance. This had been my chance to fix the failure of having had a c-section with Olivia and now I’d failed again. My beautiful preemie needed a vaginal delivery…it was better for her to go through labor and delivery the normal, natural way but once again, my body failed her. This was how I felt. And in a way, I still feel this way. If I hadn’t had a c-section with Olivia, if I had gotten that epidural which I think was a major cause of my c-section, they could have induced me with Ella. Maybe she wouldn’t have been so sick if she’d gotten to be born vaginally…I don’t know. I’ll never know. I’ll also never know what it’s like to give birth vaginally. After 2 premature births due to pre-e, and the second one where I actually TRIED to do everything right, we knew in our heart of hearts that this was it for us. We wouldn’t have anymore biological children. This is so hard for me because we’d planned on 3. And I’d be happy with 2 if I’d gotten to have normal deliveries. It sounds odd to some people that I wanted to experience natural childbirth but it’s something I’m passionate about.

Once Ella was born, my sense of failure increased each day she was alive. I had failed to protect her. I had failed to avoid getting pre-e again. I constantly thought that maybe my symptoms weren’t as bad as I thought and that I had overreacted and caused her to be born more prematurely then she should have been. I would go over my pre-e over and over again and wonder if I could have just dealt with it for longer. I know I couldn’t have. I look back and I think about the shape my kidneys were in…I was spilling 8 GRAMS of protein in my urine by the time they delivered. They were almost completely non functional. I was gaining upwards of 4 lbs a day from the water retention. I gained almost 70 pounds, over half of which was water retention. I wanted to pop myself open in hopes I could make the swelling feel better. I don’t know if I’ve completely come to terms that I didn’t fail Ella but it’s gotten better. With the support of my friends, and running a group for preemies, it has helped me work through this. Writing this letter to myself and really thinking on it, I realize that I’m in a much better place then I was about everything. I still feel guilt, but as I watch that sweet baby…that sweet, chunky preemie who is a year old today, I know that even if I did fail her in utero, once she was out, I gave her all that I could. I was at that NICU everyday 2 times a day except for 2 days. I pumped my milk non stop, and I was there, advocating for her, questioning the doctors in their decisions and being a part of her health care. I was her voice and her protector. I know that now. As I was doing it, I didn’t see it that way. To me, this was just what you did. This was one of the few ways I could be her mother and I was going to do it.

Today, Ella is a year. She’s somewhere around 19 lbs. She is crawling, pulling herself up, says “Mama”, “Dada”, and “baba”. She waves and claps. She’s still breastfeeding and going strong. She has an amazing relationship with her sister and has an amazing personality. She is my hope, my strength, my reason for being (along with Olivia). When I look at her, I am filled with so many emotions. I can’t believe what we went through to get here. I can’t believe what I was capable of. Without her, I would have never known what I was capable of.  I thank God everyday for choosing me to be Ellas mama. I am so very blessed. I have so much to work through still. I still struggle with knowing I will never experience term labor or a vaginal delivery or the feeling of bringing your baby right to breast. But that is my story. That is my norm and I can go forward and help those mamas whose stories are like mine. One major thing I have learned through all of this is that even though my birth was not what I wanted, it was still my birth and no one can take that away from me. My friends, all the women who have given birth before me, they were all there with me that day. I pictured them behind me, lending me their strength as I gripped onto the necklace my best girlfriends and doula had made for me during my blessingway and I owned my birth. I owned my c-section, I owned my premature birth…it was mine. It was Ella’s and mine. And I got to touch her and let her know me when she was born. I know that I’m capable of strength beyond anything I ever imagined but more so I know that Ella is. As I watch her grow, I know that she can do anything and nothing will stop that girl. She’s already let us know that!!