[info_box]Guest Blogger #10: Kaitlin Mayhew. Kaitlin and her husband own a small vegetable farm in Stafford County, Virginia. She loves real, traditional food, cooking and preparing from scratch, and living off the land. Visit Kaitlin’s blog at San Ysidro Farms. [/info_box]
Last week I bought a tomato. Now, this may not seem out of the ordinary to many of you. It is still summer, and tomato season is supposedly in full swing. I was, however, very upset about this purchase. The fact is I live on an organic farm, with over three long rows of tomato plants yielding tomatoes of all shapes, sizes and varieties.
Over the last few months I have become positively tomato-addicted. My favorites are the big yellow heirlooms with bright pink juicy centers.
My daily meals came to rely on tomatoes. I made everything from tomato salads, tarts, sauce, sandwiches, curry and anything else I could think to add them to.
I was spoiled with our seemingly endless crop.
Then, disaster hit. A few weeks of the hottest, most humid weather we’ve had in a long time, mixed with no rain created the perfect climate for full fledged insect colonies to descend on our poor defenseless garden.
Our squash, melons, cucumbers, swiss chard, and tomatoes, among others were devastated. Needless to say it was a terrible blow, and we weren’t sure how to react. We salvaged what we had left of our crops, mostly various peppers, onions, and a few greens to dole out to our CSA shareholders. We started pulling out the dead plants and re-tilling and raking the beds to try and plant some quick fall crops. But there were no more tomatoes.
Luckily for me, a farm down the road had managed to salvage a few more than we had and were selling what they said was “the very last” of their own attacked tomatoes. I bought a couple of small, very ripe tomatoes to get my fix for the day. As a person currently craving tomatoes I have a couple of options. I can:
It’s option 3 that I am particularly concerned with. It’s just not something I’m used to, and the truth is, most of America isn’t used to it either. Just for a moment lets forget the fact that I have a particular taste for in-season heirloom tomatoes, if I was willing to just settle for any tomato or even any tomato product, my choices would increase dramatically.
For someone planning on making a homemade spaghetti sauce recipe they just found for dinner one particular night, the notion that there may not be tomatoes would never enter their mind. No matter what the season, draught and humidity or no, the shelves at the grocery stores always have tomatoes. They also always have multiple varieties of canned tomatoes: whole, halved, diced, with or without salt, Italian flavored, with jalapenos, etc.
Want to make tomato soup? A favorite of mine all year round, I keep a steady supply of tomato paste on hand for whenever the mood strikes. Tomato paste is about 50 cents a can, about $1 a can for organic. Tomatoes, in certain form are so accessable people forget what a commodity they are. I have been rudely reminded.
But what happens if modern agriculture the way it exists now does collapse? All of us who are loyal patrons of organic, local food, support the sustainable food movement and sign petitions against the huge industrialized companies. We want to live in a world where all of our food is ideally local and organic, but then, what happens when there are no tomatoes? In a Time Magazine article in 2008, Bryan Walsh asserts that we would need 40 million organic farmers to feed the world, whereas there are currently only one million.
Can we increase the number of organic farmers in the world by 39 million? How would that change our world? We know WHY we want to eat this way: We want to eat real food. Food that is as close to the earth and it’s original form as possible.
As Nina Planck said in her book Real Food: What to Eat and Why, “Real foods are traditional.” Hydrogenated vegetable oil made solid and dyed yellow is not as good for your body as butter. How could it be?
The sustainable movement has many champions, among them, Carlo Petrini. In his book “Slow Food Nation,” Petrini claims, “All this development…has proved to have great limitations and has created a number of situations…which are unsustainable.” He goes on to cite pollution, soil death, scarring of the landscape, reduction of nonrenewable energy sources, and loss of variety of produce and livestock as results of industrialized agriculture.
It’s a controversial issue. Can sustainable, organic agriculture feed us all? Even the urban and low income areas? Petrini holds that “only through a new sustainable agriculture that accepts both old traditions and modern technologies, can we begin to have hopes for a better future.” He advocates networks of what he calls “gastronomes,” or people with passion for food. In essence he describes a network of local food distributors that work together to feed a community.
I think a portion integrating a system such as this comes down to planning. And that is where, I think it is going to hurt for most Americans used to convenience. Want tomato soup? If (like me) you didn’t think to can your own tomatoes because you thought you had another month of tomato excess, then you’d have to either seek out others who have and pay the price, or go without.
Want a burger for dinner? You needed to have sought out your cow farmer in advance and set up a time to buy in bulk. Craving bread? Buy your wheat in season in large amounts and grind your own flour. Set up a sourdough starter in your fridge. All these things are hard, extremely hard for those used to popping into a grocery store for a $4 pound of ground beef and a $3 pre-sliced loaf of bread.
And I’m not saying change all your ways. I can’t say that I won’t find myself in the grocery store next month snatching some tomato paste. I’m just asking you to give it some thought. We need to think about what going local on a large scale would do to our everyday lives, and how we could accommodate it.
We’re all busy, but taking small steps towards depending on sources we can put faces on is a positive step. What do you think? Can sustainable small farms feed people on a large scale? What are your feelings on a month with no tomatoes?
NOTE FROM MOMMYPOTAMUS: Leave a comment below to help Kaitlin win the Blog For Mommypotamus and Win Your Own Blog” Contest!Read More »
[info_box]Guest Blogger #9: Lesley Spradlin. Lesley is a certified birth and postpartum doula, wife to Shea, mom to Austin (3yrs) and Alexa Faith (4 months.) “I am just a woman trying to figure it all out…knowing that I truly am blessed!” Visit Lesley’s blog The Blessed Life.[/info_box]
Four years ago my life looked very different than it does now. My husband and I had just bought our first home, had a few dogs, I worked a full time job that I enjoyed for the most part and had a part time job that was my passion, I spent time at the gym or with my friends whenever I felt like it and enjoyed my sleep! I loved my church, felt that I was a woman who had come to understand the word selflessness (by getting married!) and prided myself on seeking to know what Gods plan was for my life. I was not confident in all things..but I felt confident in where I was. And then….I had a baby!
Over that first year of my sons life, I realized that I had not even begun to scratch the surface on what selflessness really looked like until HE entered my life. Gone were the days of sleep, all focus on “me”, quiet moments with my husband, a few dogs and my career focus.
In that first year I felt like I lost myself to this new little human being. I no longer looked the same ( 9 months of pregnancy and little time to exercise will do that to you!), I no longer could think the same ( my brain somehow turned to mush around the 6th month of pregnancy and never really recovered!) , I no longer had a full time job ( trying to juggle a new baby and full time work was NOT something I handled well!) and I felt my husband no longer saw me as his strong, confident, sexy wife…but now as this spit up covered, sleep deprived and often grumpy, shell of who I used to me. I grieved who I had been and began to frantically search for who I was now to become. My title now was not only wife..but mother—and that new title scared me to death!
Fast forward a few years and I now am “mother” to a 3 year old little boy and a 4 month old little girl…and I am still searching for how to fill the role of my “new” title…mom. Before I had children I would see some moms and think “ wow—that looks so easy!” OR I would see others and think “holy cow, they look insane! That does NOT look easy!” I now wonder how other young, naive girls look at me …do I make it “look” easy or do I look insane? Because I am pretty certain I probably look more like the insane ones!
The one thing I have learned over the past 3 years is that although many woman may make it look easy and it may actually BE easy for them…for the rest of us, it’s a constant journey that feels like an uphill battle. I am constantly stressing over if I am handling discipline right or am I teaching my children to have kind hearts or to be servants, or am I feeding them well enough, are we handling school choices ok, or are we as parents setting a good example of love, blah, blah, blah. Seriously the list goes on and on.
I admit it…I don’t feel “natural” in my role as a mom. I feel like I constantly have to search out the answers for things because very few of them just come to me—I don’t just know the correct way to answer a question on life or how to handle a difficult discipline situation or how to make my son understand that not eating ice cream and cookies all the time is important for reasons he can’t quite grasp yet! Basically I fall short…A LOT!!
But here is where the mercy comes in. God is gracious and forgiving. He knows I am going to mess up daily…but yet he STILL entrusted these little souls to my care. He chose ME to mother these two kids..for reasons I am not sure of and can’t quite grasp…but I trust him so I am going to trust this. I believe he created them as perfect beings—he does not do anything half way or mediocre.
So here enters the mercy for myself. If I believe he created my children so wonderfully, why can’t I believe he created me the same in my role as “mother?” If he continually loves me, forgives me and gives me second chances…how can I not do the same thing for myself? One of the many definitions of mercy is “a form of love determined by the state or condition of its objects. Their state is one of suffering and need, while they may be unworthy or ill-deserving. Mercy is, at once the disposition of love respecting such, and the kindly ministry of love for their relief.” ( Ungers Bible Dictionary)
As moms we rarely grant ourselves mercy nor do we hand it out easily to other moms in our exact situations. What is interesting is that this week as I was writing this blog post, I had a heck of week with my kids and some of the challenges we are facing. I also was put in situation after situation of seeing others moms also not at their best…almost like this topic of mercy needed to really be hammered into me before I could share about it.
I want to show myself mercy—let myself off the hook and not try to control it all, but that’s soo hard for me. This is part of the reason why I think it’s so important that we give it to each other—showing mercy to each other slowly teaches us how to show it to ourselves. I have so far to go in this learning process, but I am trying to make myself aware and do better. I am trying to find my “groove” in motherhood and allow myself to continually be shaped…it isn’t pretty and most days it’s downright messy, but growing children into incredible adults is hard work!! ( I wonder if God says that about dealing with us most days??)
So this week I am going to give myself some room—I am going to focus on the fact that I am doing the best job I know how to do with the information, resources and challenges I have been given. I am going to try to not chastise myself for not keeping it all together and I am going to try to show my kids what mercy can look like. I am going to remember that the women I come into contact with are juggling their own challenges—and might just need someone else to say they understand, free of judgment or advice. This week I am going to try to do better ..knowing I won’t ever it get it perfect.
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To show grace is to extend favor or kindness to one who doesn’t deserve it and can never earn it.
- The Grace Awakening Devotional, Charles R. Swindoll
After being coaxed out of the birthing pool I got on the bed and worked through some contractions in an inverted “V” position. Cindy’s goal in suggesting this acrobatic feat (besides getting a good laugh) was to encourage baby’s head to disengage and then re-engage at the proper angle. Daniel really, really wanted to tweet this photo but held back out of kindness. He HATES this bathrobe!
Cindy gave me one final adjustment to help baby’s head reposition and . . .
Finally, something worked. Like magic.
I had barely been able to walk for the past 24+ hours. After that final adjustment I started stomping around the house like a parade elephant.
Within just a few minutes of my one-woman-parade the pressure increased so much I thought I needed to use the restroom. I headed for the toilet and sat down.
12:38 pm: My water broke. Since that hadn’t happened with Katie (it was still intact when I was pushing her out so my midwives had to break it) I just sat there, trying to figure out if I’d ruptured an organ.
When I finally realized what had happened I was terrified. When a woman’s water breaks in the hospital she is put “on the clock,” meaning she has to deliver within a certain time frame or the doctor will insist on a c-section. I thought it was the same for homebirths and since my labor was progressing so slowly I thought I’d just bought myself a big fat lemon of a birth. After Cindy reassured me we had DAYS left on our clock I relaxed and tried to assess my situation.
The relief from pressure in my belly was ah-MAZ-ing. I stood up, put on some fancy new Depends, and began walking through contractions. With each one more amniotic fluid came out, reducing the pressure. I don’t imagine there will ever be a time when wetting my pants will be as delightful as it was right then. My mind, which had been overwhelmed by indecision about what to do next (rest or not, walk or lay down, etc.) cleared.
Rather than try to figure things out, I put myself in Cindy’s hands. From then on it was “Yes Ma’am” to whatever Cindy suggested. Labor on the bed? Okay. Two more like this? You’re the boss.
That’s what contractions are supposed to be like when you’re near the end, right? I thought so. My contractions were ten minutes apart at this point. I could have told you my whole life story while waiting between them, so when Cindy told me we should probably get in the tub and get ready to push I was completely dumbfounded.
Push? Now? Cindy informed me that Lynsey, our birth photographer, was on her way. I could tell by the way she said it that Lynsey was racing to get here, and that was when it finally hit that I was almost there.
Despite all my second-guessing I was going to make it and not have to be transported to a hospital. I climbed in the tub and wept for joy.
The front door opened and in ran Katie, eyes glowing with excitement. My mother-in-law Marian and sister-in-law Kristine trailed behind, followed shortly thereafter by Lynsey Stone, the rock star of birth photography.
It was standing room only when everyone finally gathered. There was my all-star birth team: Cindy Haggerton (midwife #1), Christy Martin (midwife #2), and Alexa Gumm (doula). Surrounding them were my Mom (Gigipotamus), Marian (mother-in-law), Kristine (sister-in-law), Katie and Lynsey.
Daniel climbed in the tub with me and held my hips together as I prepared to push.
The contractions were still ten minutes apart, so Christy gave me a homeopathic remedy to help make them stronger and closer. The first contraction I had after taking it resulted in baby’s entire head being born.That’s good stuff, I’d say!
We had to wait ten more minutes for another good contraction, but when it hit baby’s body was out. I wish I could insert some suspense about baby’s gender here, but ya’ll already know we had a boy. For us, though, this was the first moment we knew our “sense” about this pregnancy had been correct. We’d never come up with a name for a girl and toward the end of the labor I didn’t even pretend I was trying to be objective. It was “he” and “him” and “Micah” all the way.
Micah came out extremely blue, but I saw that at a good friends birth before so I wasn’t alarmed . . . at first. But as the seconds ticked by and he remained limp in my arms I started asking “is he okay?” He was not breathing. My amazing, competent midwives worked quickly to revive him, rubbing and stimulating him until he gave a good, loud cry. It took two long minutes, but it didn’t freak me out because Cindy said he was okay and I trust her that much. Cindy later told me that his umbilical cord was wrapped tightly around both his neck and body when he was born, basically choking him until they intervened. I love my midwives. LOVE LOVE LOVE those women.
After our little scare Katie climbed in the tub with and welcomed her baby brother while I stared at Daniel in amazement.
Throughout this whole pregnancy we worked to overcome the barriers that had prevented me from reaching out to him when I was in labor with Katie.
Bringing Micah into the world is one of the (if not THE) most intimate experience of our marriage. Daniel was with me every moment . . . comforting me, rubbing my back as I puked all over him, literally holding me up through contractions until I could feel the strain in his muscles. His love was present, physical and real. He showed up for me when I needed him most and I have never been more in love with him than I am today.
Since I got the Sept. 12 birthday I wanted for Micah I don’t regret my decision to rest and try to delay. However, I will always wonder if making a different decision would have changed the course of the birth. Many of my friends have “butter births” that go so quickly the midwives barely make it in time to catch baby. So far I have only succeeded when the process involved 30 hours of pre-labor drama which exhaust me so much that I start talking jibberish. I like lizards . . . seriously?
My confidence in my ability to birth a baby has been somewhat shaken, but my confidence that I am doing something right in the kitchen has never been stronger. My placenta was HUGE and extremely healthy. Because of the length between contractions my midwives were concerned I may have excessive bleeding (not sure why), but instead my bleeding was lighter than what’s considered normal. Cindy thinks both of these were a direct result of all the good food I ate while carrying Micah. Go me!
Oh, here’s the surprise ending: Micah finally has a middle name!
Welcome, Micah Cole! We love you!
[info_box]Guest Blogger #8: Jennifer Carroll. Jennifer is passionate about seeing people come to their full potential in God. She enjoys teaching, journaling, going to the beach, and LOVES being newly married. She resides with her husband, Matthew, in Fort Worth, Texas…and…. enjoys a cup of coffee for special occasions. ;-)[/info_box]
The contemporary music played – not too loudly – over the speakers in the university coffee house, as if to remind the college students that the night was young and ready for some caffeine-induced study time. Choices, choices…the menu was full of them.
Finally I settled on my favorite – a white mocha – and gave my order to the blonde-haired guy working behind the counter. We exchanged a few words about upcoming tests, and he ducked behind the espresso machine. Within just a minute or two, he scooted the drink across the counter with a grin, “I threw in an extra shot for you; hope that helps you pass!”
Whoa. My roommate didn’t quite know what to do with me, but I felt great. It was only about nine, and I had until eight the next morning to internalize the concepts needed for my music theory test. “Who needs sleep?” I thought, “This is awesome!” The buzz, and my oh-so-productive study time lasted until four o’clock the morning of the test. I crashed for a few hours, then got up, and aced it. Feeling that this approach was a great success, I continued my coffee habit as often as I could, and felt quite pleased with the grades I was making.
When I began college, I began to slowly understand what it meant to have your professors run your life. I was a music major, which meant that I was practicing somewhere between two and four hours every day, in addition to completing all my other homework, attending classes, being a part of the school choir, and trying to have clean laundry by Monday morning. Eating and sleeping quickly became luxuries that I often did not have time for, so…I emptied my wallet and filled my body with the wonder drug of caffeine.
Symptoms can accumulate slowly sometimes, and, like the well-known story about the frog in the boiling water, we may often learn to ignore them until suddenly we are at a crisis point. As each stress-filled month passed, I got more tired and more depressed, but still was intent on the completion of my degree, regardless of the cost to my body. I wasn’t having fun with my music, I became exhausted, and I was frequently not good company, since smiling and laughing took precious energy that I literally did not have to spare. I thought to myself that it didn’t matter so much if I didn’t feel well; I could always feel great again in about five minutes once I had my coffee. To me, It was all about being in control.
I had finished most of my classes for the day, and walked in the door of our little duplex, absolutely spent. As I lay on the homey quilt, staring up at the bunkbed slats, I felt as if someone had attached a vacuum hose to my arms and legs, sucking all the energy and life out of me. Getting up and taking three steps would have been a monumental achievement, because I was too tired to even think about doing that. I was so tired, it scared me. I thought to myself, “Will I ever have normal energy again? Will I ever feel good again?” I was too tired to eat, and it literally took too much energy to go to sleep, so I just lay there.
God was gracious to me in the midst of all my lapses in dietary judgment, and He got me through those next couple of years leading up to graduation. I was able to limit my caffeine intake, supplement my diet with whole food sources, and make better menu choices, but deep damage had been done to my whole system. The shock of pushing so hard had left me, at the end of it all, totally worn down. I cried often, and felt depressed almost constantly. I would wake up after fourteen consecutive hours of sleep and feel exhausted, as if I had just run a marathon.
As I tried to work through, and pray through, and improve my eating through all of those low, low months, the thing that I struggled with most was how distant I felt from God. I remembered in past years, how my times with Him had been full of delight and joy. I remembered insights and analogies He had given me. I remembered such sweet, sweet fellowship—and now? What was this shadow, this cloud? It was as if my soul were wearing fogged-over glasses. I would squint, and try to see through, rubbing the lens over and over again with precious little results. John 10:10 haunted me: “…I am come that they might have life, and have it more abundantly.” If this was abundant life, I wanted out.
It has been four years since that season of my life, and since then I have come to realize that God has designed our bodies to work in such a way that all parts-spirit, soul, and body- harmonize together. The state of your body affects the state of your soul. Depression was a very real companion to me during that season, but it wasn’t because I was a failure as a Christian, it was because I was abusing God’s temple, and paying a very high price for doing so. I wanted to be in control at all times, and caffeine was my way to accomplish that.
I tend to be a perfectionist, so the caffeine to me translated into having control over my grades. For others, it may mean having control through having a spotlessly clean house, or perfectly groomed children. Control may mean that you get to be in charge of the ladies’ ministry at church, your home-owners association, and the PTA meeting tomorrow night. It may translate into perfect, gourmet meals that would send Martha Stewart running to get your recipe.
I don’t know what control means to you, but I know what control did to me, and it wasn’t worth it. Here is the hard truth about control: the more in control you try to be, the more out of control you probably are. Am I advocating poor grades, messy houses, dinner at McDonald’s, and no community involvement? Absolutely not. What I am advocating is the idea of balance.
Four years and a lot of sleep and whole foods later, I am enjoying so much more of the abundant life that John 10:10 talks about. And I have learned to ask a different set of questions. Instead of asking, “Do I get some rest, or drink coffee?” I am learning to ask, “Am I trying to take control over this situation, or am I allowing my body to have the things God designed for it to have like pure food, exercise, sleep, and water? Am I worried, anxious, or irritable? How might that be signaling to me a depleted area of my body? Do I want to pay the price of crashing after the buzz wears off?” And when I think about it in that light, the decision is not so hard after all. Now, when I am feeling like I want to take control, I gladly remind myself that God is in the driver’s seat of this girl’s life. Then I take a nap.
NOTE FROM MOMMYPOTAMUS: Leave a comment below to help Jennifer win the Blog For Mommypotamus and Win Your Own Blog” Contest!Read More »
[info_box]Guest Blogger #7: Kristine Dessinger. Kristine (aka Kiki) is the full-time caretaker of Grandmapotamus. In her “free time,” Kristine enjoys playing with her niece Katie and her nephew Micah, visiting friends, learning Mandarin Chinese, leading worship, and participating in outreaches to victims trapped in the sex industry. She is passionate about the nations, worship, and mentoring.[/info_box]
I have a very non-crunchy kid. She is 87, and she’s my grandma. Her idea of a good meal includes anything fried, processed, sugared, or sweetened with artificial sweeteners. I can visualize the looks of horror on your faces right now. Oh, and did I mention that she’s a redhead? Let’s add hair dye to the list of toxins she adores. My kid has some memory problems. Sometimes she can’t remember her family members’ names, her name, her birthday, the day of the week, or what she just said. It is very frustrating for her and for her family.Read More »
Warning: This is a BIRTH story. It’s graphic by nature and not for shock value. The pics are pretty tame, but you’ll have to decide on the narrative yourself.
This is probably not the most common way to begin a birth story, but in my view birth is a completely paradoxical experience. People talk about how it is one of the most sacred, life-changing experiences a woman can have.
So true . . . but no one reverently whispered amen when I pointed my bum at them and began pushing Babypotamus out on my hands and knees. They may have prayed, but it was probably along different lines. Anyway . . .
There is a lot of talk about how empowering it is. Which, again, is totally true . . . as long as you’re first willing to feel the full brunt force of all your weakness, own up to it and then move past it.
There are other paradoxes, too. Time, for instance. Technically, I was in active labor for about 3 hours. What that doesn’t include was the far more difficult early labor that lasted 31 hours. The numbers are two sides of the same coin, but they sure do look different depending on which side I tell people about!
Friday, September 10. 10:35 pm – Text from me to my midwife Cindy on her birthday – “How long can wine hold off labor? If I wake up tonight is it even possible to delay for 24 hours?”
10:37 pm – Response from Cindy - “Will only hold it off if it’s very early or warm up labor”
10:37 pm – Me to Cindy – “Okay just checking.”
10:38 pm – Response from Cindy – You know u r cracking me up. You still have an hour and 20 min ; – ) [To have the baby before midnight]
10:49 pm – Me to Cindy - You don’t know the half of it. I am standing in my birthday suit in the kitchen because I am washing my pants (the only ones that fit right now) so they will be clean in case I go into labor. Talk about paranoid. Going to bed now before doing something completely insane.”
Looking back, I wasn’t paranoid. Somewhere deep within I felt my body warming up for labor just an hour shy of the one day I didn’t want Babypotamus to be born.That’s the long and short of how my plans for this birth flipped upside down.
At Katie’s birth I had been timid and hesitant rather than proactive, practically running from the pain until I was completely spent. Because of that (and the fact that Katie was born with her fist up around her face) labor was a lot more difficult than it had to be. This time I planned to throw myself into the process wholeheartedly so that I could make progress while I still had the energy to finish.
Unfortunately, the last thing I wanted to do on September 11 was make progress and have a baby, so when I felt my body warming up I tried to stall it with warm baths, resting, etc. I have dubbed that 17 hour stretch Groundhog Day for labor. I wouldn’t let my body go forward and it wouldn’t go back, so I had the same. exact. contraction. All day long. By the end of the day I felt like I’d had a battering ram applied to the lower front of my pelvis. Great, I thought, I haven’t even started yet and I already feel black and blue on the inside. Looking back, this is probably a huge part of the reason this labor ended up being so difficult. But I am getting ahead of myself . . .
When we got within a few hours of September 12 I was ready to work. We called our birth team “first responder” – a gorgeous mother of four that happens to be a doula. When Alexa walked in around 10:45 I looked up at her kind, comforting expression and briefly forgot I was in labor.
Alexa began helping me find different positions to labor in. She rubbed my hands and feet, focusing on pressure points that help with pain around my ankles. With her guidance and encouragement and Daniel’s strength I finally ventured out for a walk in my neighborhood (If you’re new to the natural labor scenario, walking often does a lot to help labor progress).
She may have regretted that when I kindly puked all over the sidewalk AND her feet following a strong contraction.
Alexa was the only member of my birth team that wasn’t already a friend (or friend of a friend) prior to me getting pregnant, but that didn’t stop us from chatting about GMO’s in between contractions. She was totally in tune with me and didn’t miss a beat when I randomly blurted out “I like lizards.” Yes, I was borderline hallucinating at that point. At least I wasn’t back in Smurf Central like with Katie’s birth.
By 4:00 am (23 hours since my first early labor signs) I was exhausted. I’d worked hard, puked harder, and I was ready to know if it was getting me anywhere. We called Dr. Cindy and asked her to come check me. I thought I should be a 6-7 by then (okay I was really thinking 8 . . . I had worked hard!), so when she told me I was a 3-4 I was crushed. All that work for a THREE?
Since Cindy is also a chiropractor she gave me a quick exam and identified the problem. Babypotamus’ head was engaged deeply into my pelvis, which is usually very good. Unfortunately, it had engaged at a weird angle that was thwarting my ability to progress yet spurring my body to continue to try.
I am going to get adjusted immediately when I go into labor. I wasted 24 hours on contractions that were only partially effective. If that is going to be the case then they should hurt half as much! Since I don’t know how to work that kind of deal I want full payment for my pain.
Cindy adjusted my hips and gave me two options:
A) Keep going despite being up for over 24 hours.
B) Take a Benadryl or 1/3 cup wine to help my body slow down and rest before it geared up again.
Since I obviously had a long road ahead, I opted B for Benadryl. I really wanted the wine (I LOVE red wine and I’d purchased an organic, sulfite-free bottle just in case), but I only wanted to take one shot at sedation and Cindy thought my body would be more responsive to the Benadryl. We sent our birth team home and settled into bed for a few hours rest.
It didn’t work.Baby’s head was too deeply engaged to allow the contractions to stop. I tried sleeping on the bed . . . no dice. Sitting backwards on the toilet. Nope. My attempt to rest ended up with me yelling deliriously in the background while Daniel dialed Cindy’s number.
She arrived a few minutes later and recommended we try the birthing tub. The morning was spent laboring in a deep pool of warm water, which compared to everything else up to that point was heaven, but compared to everyday life is ahem, much more like the other place.
Despite having succeeded before, by this point I lost confidence in my ability to finish birthing Babypotamus at home. I could not seem to get on the same page with myself . . . either I was resting while my body tried to labor or vice-versa. To help things keep moving (or at least give this thing a fighting chance) Dr. Cindy coaxed me out of the tub and got me to try some new positions.
Between each contraction I kept hearing the phrase “transport” in my head. I imagined the OB cutting me open and pulling a big flap of my stomach up to get my baby. I thought of my baby entering the world while I layed on an operating table, unconscious and unable to be an advocate for him. I imagined the dingy cast of flourescent lights and rough, impersonal hands enveloping our baby. I imagined goop being slapped in his eyes and needles in his body while a nurse whisks him to the nursery to give him a bottle of goodness knows what. I wish I could say my mind never went there, but it did.*
* I know this is not what every cesarean is like, but it was my imagination of the worst-case scenario. The only doctor I trust was not within range and therefore I would be stuck with a complete stranger had we needed to transport. That scared me.
[info_box]Guest Blogger #6: Dianthe Hall. dianthe (with a lower-case d) is Wifey to Kelley and Mommy to Sydney Jane (2) and Myles Emanuel (6 months) – in her spare time (ha-ha-ha!!!) she plans weddings, wastes time on Facebook and Google Reader, chronicles her life at OneOfThoseMoms.com and eats a LOT of ice cream![/info_box]
If you had told me 3 years ago that I would be nursing a toddler, I would have laughed in your face. If you had told me I would be tandem nursing a toddler AND an infant, I might have had you committed. But now that I’m in the thick of it, it might be me that’s headed to the loony bin.
When I first considered the prospect of tandem nursing it seemed easy enough. You’re already feeding one baby, so how hard could it be to feed one more? Little did I know … there is a HUGE difference between breastfeeding a baby and breastfeeding a toddler! Don’t get me wrong, it’s been a great experience and I don’t regret it at all. But I’m thinking, hoping, praying we’re headed towards the end.
There was never any question that I would breastfeed, but initially I only planned to nurse for 6 months. I knew all about the recommendation to breastfeed for at least a year but my goal was 6 months. Sydney and I hit our nursing groove almost immediately so when I hit the 6 month mark, I knew I could make it to a year … but that was it. There was no way I was going to be one of those crazy moms that breastfed walking and talking children!!
But in those next 6 months, something in me changed. And then I met a few of “those” moms. They weren’t hairy, unshowered, tree-hugging hippies. They were regular moms, just like me. And like me, they just wanted what was best for their kids. As Sydney’s 1st birthday approached, she began to wean herself from both the bottle and the pacifier and I figured she would wean herself from me fairly soon too. Our nursing relationship was still going really well, so 18 months became my new cutoff. But when Sydney was 16 months old, I found out I was pregnant.
Breastfeeding while pregnant was completely uncharted territory for me; and apparently, for almost everyone else too. Not only was I getting the “when are you gonna cut her off?” questions, there also seemed to be a big concern as to whether or not breastfeeding while pregnant was safe. My OB had given me the green light to continue breastfeeding, though she did warn me (as had a several friends) that there was a strong possibility that Sydney would self-wean due to the pregnancy related changes in my milk.
Sydney and I had a good thing going and I wasn’t ready for her to quit nursing. But I did expect her to wean based on what everyone had told me. But not my girl!!! My husband and I went on a 4 day Sydney-free vacay when I was 6 weeks pregnant and I thought that might be the end. But when we got back from Mexico, I don’t know who she was more excited to see: me or my breasts. And that’s when I knew I’d be tandem nursing!
Just in case you’re wondering, breastfeeding through pregnancy is no cake walk. Towards the middle of my pregnancy, I would not have been at all disappointed if Sydney had weaned. To say it was painful would be an understatement. If I could just get past the first minute after she latched on, I’d be okay. But that minute seemed to last an hour and it felt like shards of glass were being pulled through my nipples. I began to cringe every time Sydney asked to nurse. I would try and distract her but she had a one track mind. I had taught her the word nurse early on and she was NOT afraid to use it. And instead of nursing less, she seemed to nurse more and more.
But I just couldn’t bring myself to do it. It wasn’t like Sydney just wanted to nurse. It was as if she needed it. And the closer we got to my due date, the less I wanted to rock the boat. A new baby was going to be a big enough change for the Queen of the World and I didn’t want her to feel like I was abandoning her. And everything I’d read said that children who tandem nursed typically had close relationships with their siblings and I loved the way that sounded! Plus, I’d actually had an oversupply the first time around and was looking forward to Sydney helping out with that. So outside of my own selfish needs, all I could see were positives – sure I’d be super tired – but who am I kidding? I worked in morning radio for 6 years and I’d been a mom for the last 2 – how much more tired could I get?
Another tandem mama had suggested I read, Adventures in Tandem Nursing – and even though it had become my tandem nursing bible, I was still a little worried about how it would all play out – but as it turned out, my concerns were misplaced because the transition was seamless … at least in the beginning – I ended up nursing Sydney while I was in labor (which probably helped move things along – lol) and then a few hours later, I nursed Myles minutes after he was born (in the car!) – later that day i nursed Sydney for a few minutes when she came to meet Myles at the hospital (which I was told not to do, but whatever, I’m a rebel!) and then when we came home the next day, I just began to nurse them both – at first, I tried to nurse them simultaneously – the nursing part wasn’t difficult and it seemed to work for the kids, but I was never able to find a truly comfortable position.
Sydney had no problems with the fact that Myles needed to eat first, and when the engorgement hit she was happy to take the foremilk so I could save the fatty hind milk for Myles. Even though she’s only 2, Sydney had no problems comprehending that her baby brother had to nurse because he couldn’t eat real food. Sure, sometimes she would ask Daddy to hold Myles knowing it would free mommy up to nurse. And sometimes she would ask me to put Myles in the swing because she knew she was next in line. But there never seemed to be any animosity towards Myles. She adores her brother and there haven’t been any problems on that front. The problem now is me.
In case you’ve never breastfed before, it takes a lot out of you … both physically and emotionally. In fact, it can be downright exhausting. So imagine what it’s like to breastfeed 2! Those first couple of weeks, there were days when all I did was nurse – Kelley and I basically traded babies all day long and in between nursing sessions, I tried to remember to eat and sleep. Myles was still sleeping a lot and I was really engorged, so I would encourage Sydney to nurse for a few minutes “to take a little off the top” – plus it gave us some alone time that we might not have otherwise had, so I was okay with it. To be honest, I even enjoyed it – but I also assumed that at some point there would be an end in sight – and so far, that’s yet to be the case.
I’ve now been nursing Sydney for 28 months, and tandem nursing for 6 and she doesn’t seem to be any closer to weaning than she was a year ago – she still asks to nurse several times a day – and while it’s driving me crazy, I have to admit that she is quite polite about it (“Mommy, can I nurse?”). But she is also quite insistent:
“Mommy, can I nurse?”
“In a few minutes.”
“Mommy, can I nurse?”
“In a few minutes.”
“Mommy, can I nurse?”
“In a few minutes!”
“Mommy, can I nurse?”
“I SWEAR IF THIS CHILD ASKS ME AGAIN I’M GOING TO RIP MY ARM OFF AND USE IT TO BEAT MYSELF SENSELESS!!!”
As much as I would like for Sydney to wean, I still feel like I’m fulfilling an emotional need for her rather than merely a physical want – but I’m also starting to feel like there needs to be a light at the end of the tunnel
I am WAY touched out these days and Sydney has become even more touchy-feely if that’s possible. Unlike Myles, who is still content to be held and snuggled while we nurse, Sydney has to do the holding and snuggling – she has to move and reposition herself several times throughout our session and she has to touch me. Not just by resting her hands on me, but by fondling my (jiggly) belly or arm or elbow or cheek or ear. And it can’t be over my clothes, it has to be actual flesh. Not good for a touched-out Mommy! She’s also started to get a little lazy with her latch. It’s hard to explain the feeling and while it doesn’t hurt, it is irritating. If we get to the lazy latch point, I tell her that “Mommy’s going to count to 10” and then we’re done. Usually that appeases her, but sometimes it brings on a meltdown and then we have to nurse to calm her down – do you see the cycle?
Sydney also recently potty trained so she’s not sleeping as well as she had been and has taken to coming into our room at 2 or 3am and asking to nurse – and because nursing 2 babies all night long is more than I can currently handle, I’ve taken to lying to her. That’s right, I’m lying to a 2 year old to save my sanity. I either tell her that Mommy’s breasts need a rest (which is true) or that Mommy’s breasts need to make more milk (which is kind of true), so it’s not TECHNICALLY a lie, right? Instead of nursing, I try to offer to hold her and sometimes that works – but usually when I tell her no, she gets upset and starts to cry which wakes up Myles – then I have to nurse him for at least a few minutes so he’ll go back to sleep which means Sydney still doesn’t get to nurse!! Another cycle. *sigh*
Honestly, I have no idea. If it was up to me, Sydney would already be weaned and Myles and I would continue our perfect nursing relationship. It’s weird, but despite my being ready to end things with Sydney, I still feel like I could breastfeed Myles another year or so. I guess just like everything else with your kids, your nursing relationship is individual to each child. I wish it was as easy as just going cold turkey (which has been recommended to me), but I’m uncomfortable with that idea and I doubt it would work for us anyway. I’ve been told by all of my extended nursing mama friends that nursing is a 2-way relationship and that it has to work for all parties involved.
I’ve also been told that it’s okay to set limits and that it’s okay to tell Sydney “no”. Believe me, I’ve tried. I do a LOT of nursing til “Mommy counts to 10”. I also tried to implement the “you can only nurse if you’re going to sleep” rule. But the only thing that has done is teach Sydney to say “Mommy, can I nurse? I’m tired!!” Clearly this child is too smart for her own good! I think if we could get it down to a session before nap time and bedtime and to calm the occasional tantrum, I’d be okay. But on the days when she is literally begging me to let her nurse all. day. long. Telling her no seems cruel and the guilt gets me every time. So for now, I’ll continue on and pray that I’m not inflicting irreversible damage on her fragile psyche (sarcasm) … and that she’ll wean before she turns 3!
NOTE FROM MOMMYPOTAMUS: Leave a comment below to help Dianthe win the Blog For Mommypotamus and Win Your Own Blog” Contest!Read More »
I had a couple different plans, actually. There was one for the year leading up to getting pregnant—switch to organic foods and all natural soaps and lotions—and there was a plan for during the pregnancy, which was all about glowing, gentle yoga, and cute maternity clothes. I had a birth plan too, of course, which involved no drugs, perhaps a water tub, and a general celebration of birth and my body’s abilities. I also had a plan for after the birth day, which was a bit vague. I knew it involved breastfeeding, but I didn’t think much beyond that.
Everything was going according to plan, right up until about the tenth week of pregnancy. I had a blood test that showed elevated levels of hormones, which hit my internal panic button. In an effort to allay my fears, my OB sent me in for an ultrasound. My husband and I were waiting anxiously to hear the confirmation that our baby was ok, and there was nothing to worry about.
“Do twins run in your family?”
I didn’t think much of the technician’s first question. I figured it was routine, something she asked everyone. So I answered,
“Because I see two babies in there!”
At first, I thought that exhilarating news meant the end of my best-laid plans. My OB began tossing around words like “elevated risk”, “c-section”, and “prematurity”. I realized that I had two choices: I could acquiesce to her plan for me, or I could find a way to create a better reality for myself and my babies. So, I signed up for a natural-childbirth class, fired my old OB and found a new one, one who had conversations with me instead of talking at me.
Le Leche League meetings and kept practicing yoga. I befriended a midwife, and collected positive twin stories. I got acupuncture, prenatal massage, and super-fruit smoothies. I visualized the birth I wanted, I talked and sang to the babies who were stretching my womb and my imagination. I woke up every day of my second trimester smiling and rubbing my burgeoning belly. My original plan was altered but still basically intact.
Because my husband and I decided to stay within the medical establishment, I also saw a perinatologist. He was a specialist in caring for mothers of multiples, and he won my trust with honest answers to my copious questions. So when Dr. M dropped the “b word”, I listened. Bed rest?! Bed rest would ruin my hope for an active pregnancy, but I decided to plan for it accordingly. I squared away everything at work, found a substitute for my class, and checked up on my short-term disability policy. I honestly thought that if I worked so hard at preparing for bed rest it would never happen. However, right before I hit 24 weeks, I was put on modified bed rest due to a structurally unsound cervix.
I was devastated at first, but I decided to roll with the punches and enjoy the quiet weeks I had before my babies arrived. I had a lot of weeks to go, but I truly enjoyed my first Friday of bed rest. I rested, reflected, and fidgeted. I was feeling “off”, but attributed that to the fact my professional life had just ended for awhile and I was anticipating being bored. I spent that Saturday turning and readjusting myself on the couch. I was irritable and short with my husband. When, around seven pm, I started cramping in my low back and getting a feeling of heaviness in my uterus, I called my midwife friend. I explained how I was feeling and she told me to go the hospital. Really? Well, if the midwife-who-hates-hospitals tells you to go, you go.
Once at the hospital, getting hooked up to a contraction monitor was the first step in a nightmarish journey through pre-term labor. I learned all about—and experienced—terb, mag, and the chilling dread brought about by a visit from the neonatologist who told us what to expect if our boys should be born so devastatingly early. At this stage, all my energy and focus went inward, to convince my body to keep those precious baby boys on the inside. They were not done cooking, and I was determined to let them finish.
Literally and figuratively. I prayed and bargained and hoped against hope that we would make it to 38 weeks. I kept up the visualization, but after every subsequent visit to the labor and delivery floor, every new plunge of the needle, every time I hooked myself up to the home contraction monitor, I grieved for what I was losing. I knew I would not have a peaceful drug free birth. I had lost the pregnancy I wanted, but I still had my babies, and for that I was grateful with every fiber of my being. I clung so hard to that fact that I didn’t allow myself to feel much else.
Just before I hit 34 weeks gestation, I had to go back to the hospital. Never in my wildest dreams did the drugs not work. All of my imagined scenarios told me that if I had to be readmitted, the magnesium sulfate would work and the contractions would stop. This time, they did not. I was delivered of my babies on February 9, 2010 at 2:07 and 2:08 pm via c-section. It was everything I did not want. The next three weeks were a blur of pain, hormone-driven despair, leaving my babies in the hospital NICU when I was discharged, endless visits to that very same NICU to see my babies, and pumping.
My mother—my angel, my guide, my support, how many names do we have for mother?—made me pump my breast milk for my babies every two hours, day and night. My supply soared, and I delivered the “liquid love” faithfully to the nurses to give my boys. I latched on to breastfeeding as eagerly as a baby to a breast. It was the one thing I had left, the last shred of my plans that I could accomplish. I was grieving the loss of the pregnancy and the birth I had so desperately hoped for. I realize that this may sound selfish or petty. My babies had been born successfully, and barring some serious reflux issues, were healthy. I had everything to be joyous about, but try telling a post-partum mom how to feel! It would have been easier to scale a mountain than regulate my feelings at that point.
That permeated the cloud. I was so proud of being able to pump 6 ounces per session! My husband and I learned how to feed premature babies from slow flow bottles, and we brought each of them home in due time. My babies were getting optimum nutrition, but I still felt something was missing. That something was undoubtedly sleep, but it was also a stronger bond with my babies that I was craving. Finally, one day my mom told me, in essence, to “Sit down and nurse your babies.” Their mouths were big enough at this point, and they were more than eager. My some miracle of chance, there was no nipple confusion at all. Both of my squally squirmy squeaky baby boys took to the breast like pros. Because they were! They wanted the comfort and fullness of mama’s breasts. And it gave me unspeakable joy to give it to them.
I nursed my babies when they were hungry, when they were sleepy, and when they were hurting from the reflux. Nursing became the only thing that soothed my fussier twin, so we had marathon nursing sessions, the longest of which was four hours straight. I was a zombie shell of a woman, but my children were thriving and growing. I was a mama.
Now, seven months into this crazy adventure, I am still nursing my boys, day and night, although we are all sleeping more. My confidence grows with each day, as do my boys. I have become very adept at juggling two wiggling bodies when it’s time to nurse, and I’ve managed to accomplish tandem feeding just about everywhere we’ve been, including in the (non-moving) car and on the beach. But my favorite nursing sessions are the quiet ones at home, with both boys snuggled around me like commas.
Their sighs and hums are my favorite music, and my heart melts every time one of them stirs to check and make sure I’m still there before drifting off again. The miracle of hormones, those that I cursed just a few short months ago, is that nursing makes me feel so good. The love-chemicals get released each time one of my boys latches on, and they go to work, easing the tension of the day and softening the ragged, visceral edges of my memories of the early days.
I didn’t get the pregnancy I wanted, and I certainly didn’t get the birth I wanted, but I got the children I dreamed of. I got two healthy, happy boys, and I get to nurse them every day. Breastfeeding has eased my heart while providing for my children. I am lucky, I know I am. It couldn’t have worked out better if I had planned it…
*Photo graciously provided by Michelle Monk PhotographyRead More »