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Our Last Breastfeeding Session

It was short and bittersweet. I didn’t expect to feel such sadness at our last feeding session. I thought I’d be relieved and glad to have my body back so this wasn’t really what I was expecting this morning. I actually sat up and cradled her in my arms like I did the day she was born instead of my usual half-sleep-lying-in bed-trying-to-get-the-most-of-my-last-15-minutes-in-bed-routine. I was near tears and tried to look into her eyes and talk to her while she was nursing this morning.

Of course, while I’m trying to be all sentimental and gushing over how big my baby girl has gotten she is pushing my face away from hers because she HATES when I watch her nurse. I had to turn on the weather so that I had a distraction from replaying the first time we had done this moments after she emerged from my body all purple and screaming.

I didn’t rush her off this time. I’m usually jumping up to get ready from work and have to fight with her to end the session. But TODAY, she pulled away on her own and then tried to run off the end of the bed as if there was some invisible surface level with the bed that only she could see. As I dove to save her from a fall, I realized I didn’t have time to think about the stage we are leaving behind because the one in front of us is gonna be a doozy.

My baby is growing up so fast! It’s her last day as an 11 month old and I’m one sad mama that the sun is setting on  her infancy. As it rises on her toddler hood, I have to wonder, exactly how much more exhausting is this gonna get?

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Feminist Parenting Collective

I must apologize for the long delay in posting. I had a very exahsting experience preparing for and taking the LSAT in combination with some trying financial issues that have kept me from having the mental capacity or time to write a blog post. However, I’m back. I’m going to try to post more regularly again. Please. please forgive my absence. You forgive me don’t you?

I have however taken this time to jot down ideas that I have finally compiled into something that is (somewhat) coherent. After reading it please don’t hesitate to comment or ask for clarity about things. I’m all for revision and it is currently after midnight so I’m sure there is need.

Anywho, since I found out I was preggers I thought of creating a collective. At first it was a childcare collective that I was thinking of but the more research I did on feminist parenting the more I though of creating this collective statement about what 4th wave feminist parenting is. I just started to realize all of the changes necessary both in society and within the feminist movement in order to support feminist parenting and change from this idea of mothering dominating all discussions of parenting. The more I read about feminism and childrearing the more I realized that feminist literature did nothing but talk about mothers and mothering. It rarely, if ever, spoke of fathers except to critique traditional roles of the male parent. Literature was almost exclusive to parents that were heterosexual and married. There just isn’t any practical information on parenting at all. You can find a ton of “What to Expect” type parenting books (that are almost exclusively geared toward women as parents) that guide you through the various stages of your child’s life but NONE that provide similar practical knowledge from a feminist perspective.

This bothers me. How on earth is one supposed to learn how to parent as a feminist if we are only reading non-feminist how-to books? How do you perform the acts of feminist parenting? And what the heck is feminist parenting?

Well those thoughts (coupled with some experiences) led to bigger thoughts. Why can’t O’Neil get more than 2 weeks off from work to stay home with the baby? Why am I only getting paid 60% of 5 weeks pay when I was out for 9 weeks? What the hell cost $12,000 when I didn’t even have an IV!? Why is every-damn-thing in the girls department PINK?! Why do I have to pay to ask a question about proper latching (breastfeeding)? And most recently, can someone else watch this child and not charge me more than I make in a day so I can remember who the heck I am? Or, at least, so I can gain at least a bit of my sanity back?

So, it’s late and I’m tired but you can read more about my brilliant idea here. Please comment and discuss. I’m really interesting in what everyone thinks. Good night all!

My Natural Birth Story

I know this is long but it’s the story of how my little one came into the world drug and intervention free. I will be posting this on a permanent page under the About Me & a link to it from the Natural Birth page in the Parenting section. Please leave comments/questions below.

Early 1st Stage Labor

On Saturday, August 22, 2009 I woke up at about 8am with contractions. These contractions weren’t strong at all and they felt a lot more like period cramps than contractions, which was a little different from the normal Braxton Hicks I’d been getting. Besides, who goes into labor ON their due date? I had this crampy feeling before and been told it wasn’t anything to be concerned about so I didn’t think it was labor. The biggest difference was that the contractions were coming at regular half hour intervals. Again, I thought too far apart to be labor and really not hurting, so I can’t be in labor right?

Well, I text messaged O’Neil anyway just to give him a heads up if it did turn into something. I also text messaged Yazi, my assistant coach, as had been the routine anytime I had contractions. I had a little bloody show when I went to the bathroom but this also had not been the first time I’d seen it so I wasn’t really alarmed and I was trying not to get my hopes up because the past couple weeks were full of false hopes. Each time I’d think it was THE time and it wasn’t, I’d get even more depressed. The last few weeks of pregnancy were really taking their toll on me.

This particular day was my neighbor’s (who was pregnant with twins) baby shower. O’Neil was going to be coming home after work to do some cooking for them. I decided to make macaroni salad because they love my macaroni salad and it would keep me occupied. I also started the beans for O’Neil’s rice and peas and took out the chicken he’d been marinating for Jerk. I also asked them if they needed any help setting up. I was completely convinced I was not in labor despite the fact that the contractions kept coming pretty regularly.

O’Neil came home about noon and I was still having contractions about 25-30 minutes apart, but we kept making preparations for the Tiffany’s baby shower. At about 1pm I decided to try to time the contractions using Contraction Master and they had begun to get a little closer about 20 minutes apart. My neighbor was telling me I was in labor but I just said I don’t think so but I sure do hope so. I kept doing things around the house until the shower began. The contractions got closer about 10 minutes about and I was pretty exhausted so I decided around 4pm to take a nap and asked O’Neil to wake me in an hour.

Active Labor – 1st Stage

While I’m sleeping, the contractions start to come a little stronger; strong enough to wake me at each contraction. O’Neil comes in to wake me just as a contraction comes and I’m already awake. I tell him that the contractions are so strong I can’t sleep through them. He says he thinks Kenisha will be coming tonight. I’m hungry so I go up to the shower and have something to eat. I’m pretty sure I’m in labor at this point and everyone at the shower is teasing me because I’m still moving around, still at home and just climbed the stairs to get food. While I’m up there, the contractions really start to take their toll, but I’m not sure how far apart they are so I tell everyone goodbye and go downstairs to start timing the contractions again.

O’Neil helps me time them with Contraction Master because I can no longer make it to the computer to hit the space bar when the contraction starts. They are really demanding my attention, but I can still talk, although not walk, through them. I’m also really tired but I’ve missed my window of opportunity for sleeping because I was in denial. After timing a few contractions we realize they are about 5-7 minutes apart and lasting about 30 seconds. I text Yazi at this point and tell her that this is really “it” but that she can wait until after she breaks her fast with her family (it’s the first day of Ramadan for her). This is at about 6:30pm or so.

O’Neil and I time contractions for another couple of hours. Yazi arrives at about 9pm. The contractions are 4-6 minutes apart and lasting between 30 and 45 seconds. O’Neil is exhausted because he’s been up since 4:30am has went to work then done some catering for the neighbors and has coached me through contractions for the rest of the evening. I tell him that Yazi can take over and he can get a nap. Yazi helps me to get through the next couple hours of contractions.

Late 1st Stage Labor

While he sleeps the contractions get stronger and it is getting much harder to concentrate on anything else while having one. Yazi and I try different positions until I’m finally sitting on a pile of pillows in front of a chair in the living room and when the contractions come I lean forward and let my belly hang as I breathe deeply. This works for a while. I get up to go to the bathroom and a contraction brings me to my knees in the bathroom. I decide it’s time to wake O’Neil but he gets up and walks into the living room just as I’m about to send Yazi in to wake him. I guess 12 weeks of Bradley classes really helped us get in sync.

We get into the car and then everything starts to get fuzzy during contractions. I’m concentrating on them very hard and I can’t pay attention to anything else. I just know that the bumps in the road and O’Neil’s fast driving are causing the contractions to get worse. When we get to the hospital, I have about 3 contractions on my way to the birthing room. I’m offered a wheelchair but opt to walk since it hurts to sit at this point. It’s about 12:30AM.

I was unfortunate to have gotten the ONLY midwife in the practice that I did not like or get along with because she was not supportive (and was down right condescending) of my birthing choices. Having her as my birth attendant made me uneasy and made handling the contractions when she was in the room A LOT more difficult.

I changed into my nightgown and O’Neil and I walked the hallway once and the contractions are now right on top of each other. I am exhausted and my legs are weak so we go back in the room and try different positions but the pain is nearly unbearable and my legs are like putty. I am 7 or 8 cm. My midwife keeps trying to check the baby’s heart rate and the monitor is painful from her pressing so hard. She keeps telling me she thinks the baby’s heart rate is dropping but she does not have the monitor on the side where the baby actually is and she refuses to listen to me when I tell her the same.

Transition

The midwife tells me to try getting in the shower and O’Neil helps me get in and stays with me and the water is soothing but I have to stand and I feel like I’m going to fall because my legs are shaking. The contractions are very strong and on top of one another. I get out of the shower and get back in the bed. I was not allowed to drink orange juice as I had intended and I was trying to drink water but it was making me feel sick. The midwife/nurse tells me I can have apple juice (which I am allergic to) or cranberry juice. Normally, I would have read the ingredients of the cranberry juice but, given the situation, didn’t think of it. I drink a little of the cranberry juice and suffer through the contractions. The midwife comes back in and she keeps making me try different positions and I just want to stay still. She’s annoying the hell out of me and I’ve lost all concentration on the contractions. I can’t breathe well and I feel like I’m fighting for air. My legs are trembling. O’Neil and Yazi are trying to coach me through breathing and running cool rags over me and giving me water/juice (not sure). I have reached a level of pain that I can’t even explain. I’m moaning and yelling pretty loudly.

Until this point I have no IV and pain medication has not crossed my mind (it must be after 3am or so now). The midwife comes back in the room and against my birth plan offers me 3 options: 1) to break my water, 2) an IV because she says I’m dehydrated and 3) “something” to “relax” me. One and two were easy to turn down because I knew that breaking my water would cause the contractions to strengthen and I was in enough pain that I felt adding to it was not a great plan of action. Yazi and O’Neil are reminding me of the other reasons not to break my water but at this point avoiding more pain is the only one I need. The IV was out too. I hate needs and with the pain I was in already there is no way I was going to allow anyone to stick me with a need. The 3rd one: here’s where I lose it. I just want this pain to stop or at least ease up a bit. I’m at the “I can’t do this” point of labor.

This is where my support people were absolutely mandatory. They did their best to shield me from her continual pushing for me to do things that were not in my birth plan and out right unnecessary. I was begging and pleading and screaming for O’Neil to stop the pain and he just kept telling me I was doing well and that it was almost over. Yazi kept reminding me of all the benefits to me and the baby if I could just hold out a little longer without drugs. As absorbed as I was in my own pain, I remember they both looked as if they weren’t thoroughly convinced in what they were saying. I know they didn’t want me to hurt but I had instructed them not to let me cave in.

I turn on my knees in the bed and I’m trying hard to breathe deeply and concentrate but it’s still hard to breathe. The midwife-from-hell is constantly telling me what to do and her voice irritates me. She keeps trying to scare me into submission by telling me my baby’s heart rate is dropping but I can feel her moving from time to time. My body has started involuntarily pushing. I have absolutely no control over it so I don’t fight it but instead give in. I have to use the bathroom so I struggle, with the help of O’Neil, to the bathroom and just as I’m over the toilet my water breaks! (I find this absolutely hilarious because I later found out that while I was in the bathroom the midwife was telling Yazi she was going to have to break my water but Yazi wasn’t trying to hear it. HAHA jokes on her! We were thoroughly educated on the birth process and none of us cared that she wanted to go home!)

Second Stage

When I get back to the bed I try to use the squatting bar but my legs are way too wobbly. As I’m trying to change positions from squatting I have to push a bit and I can’t explain this feeling well but I just KNEW Keni was coming. I could feel her way down low and I know that it’s time to push her out. The midwife makes a snide remark about the position she’s going to put me in not being a Bradley position (she apparently doesn’t know anything about Bradley because sitting at a 45 degree angle IS a Bradley position). This is where things get a bit fuzzy. I know that I’m not push right and I’m having trouble figuring out the right way to do it. Then I get a cramp in my upper thigh and butt! Yazi let’s me stretch my leg out against her hand and it goes away (and I had to push while attempting to stretch out that cramp). I know that O’Neil is there but I honestly can’t remember what he was saying except “you can do it.” But the nurse! Yes, I remember that nurse because she was speaking almost in a whisper and telling me what to do. Something about her calmed me. I think she made me feel like I had an ally on the hospital staff. She told me to get mad, keep my chin down and push and that’s just what I did! I got to reach down and feel all of Keni’s wet curls as she crowned! It was so amazing. In another couple of pushes she was out and on the breast!

**Remember how I kept saying it was hard to breathe? The “cranberry” juice had apple juice in it (a common practice to add sweetness). I guess all of the action averted any serious allergic reaction but I know this is why it felt like I was breathing molasses. But of course, according to the midwife, OJ would have been bad.**

Pincer Grasp – Dealing with Anger as a Feminist

It’s high time for a practical everyday parenting post. So, I’ve had this brewing in my head for a while and I haven’t been very sure how to approach it until last night.

Kenisha is now almost 6 months old. She is still breastfeeding and, as a matter of fact, she outright refuses to drink expressed milk from a bottle. I even tried formula just to see what she would do and the result was no different. If it’s milk, it must come from the breast. Direct from the tap, no substitutions. This is fine except that occasionally, I need a break! She does eat baby food now so if I absolutely have to be away from her she doesn’t starve herself anymore. That has at least made things easier on me when I go to work on Saturday nights. As a result of my being home with her more now that I’ve had to cut my hours back, Kenisha is way more attached to me and my breasts (although the former may be a result of the latter).

Lately, Kenisha has taken to doing two things during our breastfeeding session that drive me insane. The first is biting. She doesn’t actually have any teeth yet but those gums can bring tears to my eyes. Every time she does it I howl with pain. And what does she do? She laughs! This makes me want to toss her out the window (not literally of course, if she’d bounce maybe). I’ve tried not to show any reaction so that she won’t get the satisfaction and want to do it again, but alas, it is impossible not to respond to a clamp down on your nipple. This has led to two things: 1) as you may have inferred from the window reference above, I get angry, and 2) I’m very reluctant to (and afraid of) feeding her, especially when I know she’s not real happy with me.

The second thing she’s been doing lately while breastfeeding is pinching my nipples! She has realized that if she wants to suck and she puts her lips on my breast or starts grabbing at my shirt that I’ll feed her. It’s good for me because I don’t have to guess if she’s hungry anymore since she let’s me know. But here’s the catch: she doesn’t always want to eat! Sometimes she just wants the comfort and drifts off to sleep but other times it’s a ploy to get at my nipples! She will latch on and suck as if she’s sooo innocent and then pull off and look around a bit, then at me, then at the nipple she was just sucking on. And then she does it! she takes her little thumb and forefinger and pinches my nipple. Luckily, her pincer grasp isn’t fully developed so this doesn’t hurt but sometimes she’s try to rake it and grab it in the palm of her hand. Still not as painful and the biting but it is rather annoying. I’ve obligated myself to the task of breastfeeding. It’s demanding; it’s tiring and, as illustrated above, sometimes painful. I did not agree to let this little girl fondle my nipples! I get enough of that from her father (and that’s a whole other dimension to this story).

I have demands on my body now from both my partner and my daughter. They both drive me insane and I love then about equally as much as they make me crazy (which is a whole lot).

Am I mad about all this because I’m a feminist? I struggled with that question for a while but I’ve come to realize I’m actually not as mad as I would have been had I not understood the dynamics involved in my situation. Feminism has taught me well to examine each situation and take it apart at it’s root. And while initial reactions tend to be heated and angry, I can step back and take appropriate action as a result of this knowledge. Anger is normal, our actions as a result of anger are what need to be examined. Do we perpetuate or to we imped this cycle of inappropriate and hurtful reactions?