The end of breastfeeding is very much like the beginning of breastfeeding- a beautiful irony. My breasts are leaky, I have a bit of engorgement, and as the days pass, I wait for my supply (or end of supply) to regulate itself. A little bit of Mother Nature’s poetry.
It’s been three weeks since my Oliver nursed for the last time, and though there is nostalgia, it has been wonderful. His last time nursing was much more emotional for me than it was for him, as he happily nursed, blissfully unaware that he wouldn’t breastfeed again.
With nothing else other than our love for each other bringing us together now, it’s been wonderful to feel how bonded Oliver and I really are. He still asks to nurse every now and then, and when I say the milk is finished, he puts his hands on his face for a bit, but then easily distracts and we usually end up having a cuddle, or playing a game or singing a song.
Judging by his reaction, I think we were both ready to stop but neither of us wanted to make the first step.
Our two years breastfeeding have been so absolutely wonderful, and I loved every day, hour, minute of it.
From the newborn days where nursing sessions seemed endless and I had to often remind myself that I knew it would get better, to days later on in our breastfeeding journey when I looked forward to him nursing as it was a quiet moment in the day, to the many times when nursing is all he needed to be OK.
I’m proud of us, I am proud of me.
As I end this chapter in my motherhood journey, I feel like I need to share wise words of wisdom, and so I say this.
Breastfeed for as long, or as little, as it feels right for you and your baby.
Do it with love, patience, and confidence knowing it’s what you want to do.
Surround yourself with people who are supportive, and steer clear of those who aren’t.
And more importantly, enjoy the time you and your baby share while nursing.
Some days it will seem like you’re ready to end the journey, other days you will cry thinking about the end, but when you’re ready, you’ll know.
Every now and then, when I walk into my master bedroom, I still feel that high from the day my son was born. In less than a month, he will turn a year old, and I find myself reminiscing about the days before his arrival. What I was doing, how I was feeling.
My son was born at home. If you’ve read my birth stories ( here and here ) you’ll know that having a home birth was something that was important to me, but after my first birth didn’t happen at home, I knew I needed an additional tool to help me through labor.
I had heard of hypnobirthing before, but in all honesty, the idea of meditating through labor as a way to manage discomfort and cope through pain (which is really what most women are afraid of when it comes to labor) seemed a little hard to believe. But – I was determined to try it, and to be diligent about it.
If you’ve never heard of hypnobirthing, it’s a form of self hypnosis and guided meditation that you practice before, and while in labor. It guides you through breathing techniques and positive birth imagery and affirmations. It helps your body to relax, and allows it to labor without you fighting against it. It gives you something to focus on to stay calm, and for some women, it has even provided pain-free births.
I bought a hypnobirthing book and read it cover to cover in about 3 days. Pregnancy and labor are topics that I find fascinating, so learning more about the science behind it was incredibly interesting. Once I finished the book, I started to practice the breathing techniques, and every night before bed, I listened to the meditation tracks. It was a routine I continued from the time I was halfway through my pregnancy till the day I went into labor.
Like with many things in life, the more you practice something, the better you are at it. Hypnobirth is no different. It would have been very easy to read the book, listen to the tracks once or twice, and hope that it would help me during labor. I practiced as often as I could. I wanted to train my mind and body to go into a relax and calm state whenever I would listened to the tracks.
In my experience, I started to benefit from hypnobirth even before labor had begun.
I slept better
From the time I was 5 months pregnant, I would got to bed 30 minutes before my regular bed time every night, and I would listen to the meditation tracks. Most of the time, I would fall asleep while listening to them, which was a great sign of relaxation, but since I was already in bed, I easily transitioned into a deep sleep after. We all know how uncomfortable and difficult sleep can be during pregnancy, so deep sleep was so very welcomed.
I felt very connected to my baby
I had dedicated time, every day, to talk to my baby. I didn’t know whether I was having a boy or a girl, so I never called my baby a name, but every time I practiced hypnobirth, Oliver would move a little bit more, or let me know in a way that he could feel me. My Oliver is a very calm and happy baby, and I feel a lot of has to do with how connected we were from the beginning. He understood me, and I understood him long before he entered earth side.
I experienced a very gentle and calm labor
The day came. My water broke and I knew that labor was imminent. I was preparing for a longer birth since my first was 33 hours, but little did I know that my entire labor would be less than 5 hours from start to finish, and only 2 hours of active labor. Perhaps it was because it was my second birth, but I can very confidently say that I felt the hypnobirth practice make a huge difference. It gave me the skills to learn to trust my body, and to then instinctively go along with what my body was telling me to do.
I experienced a pain-free birth
My decision to practice hypnobirth for my second birth was to help me cope with labor, especially if it happened to be as long as my first. Hypnobirth doesn’t promise a pain-free birth, it is simply a tool that allows you to surrender to your body to let it do what it already knows how to do. In my case, I experienced tightening and pressure, but in no moment did I experience pain.
It kept me extremely calm in what could have been a traumatic birth
My son had shoulder dystocia at birth, so his entry to the earth side was not as gentle as I would have liked it to be, and it was a little scary. In spite of this, I was calm and connected to my baby, I knew he was OK all along, and even with a few crazy minutes towards the end of labor, his birth was beautiful, calm and a very positive experience.
It tapped into a strength inside me I didn’t know I had
After my son was born, my midwifes were checking him to make sure he was OK after his shoulder dystocia birth. It was a very easy moment for me to panic and be scared, yet the opposite happened. In the most vulnerable moment, I strength inside I didn’t know I had manifested in song, as I calmly sang my baby to wake.
Recovery was easier
After the birth of my daughter, I remember so many muscles in my body hurting, especially my back from curling over while pushing, and my eyes were quite swollen from the pressure. One of the things hypnobirth talks about is not having to push, because your body will do it on it’s own. I practiced this with Oliver, and after he was born, I clearly remember that the only discomfort I felt was in my abdomen, because it was the only part of my body that had done the hard work during labor, and I recovered very easily.
The first weeks postpartum were calmer
The nights when he cluster fed as a newborn and I was getting very little sleep, I would practice my breathing and meditation while he was nursing. It helped me get through those harder nights a lot easier, and he was calmer after it too. I like to think that my calmness in those moments was passed to him through my milk.
On the days the kids drive me crazy today…. I still go back to that calm
The days that the kids are cranky, or whiny, or are crying more often that usual. I go back to that calm, I slow down and remember to breathe the way that I did while in labor, and I feel better. It’s a tool that I use still, months even after my baby was born.
It gave me a very positive birth experience
My birth wasn’t perfect. Then again, what is a perfect birth? Every woman’s journey is unique. There is no text book birth, and sometimes holding on to that idea is perhaps what leads us to be disappointed when the outcome is different. Hypnobirth gave me confidence that my birth was going to be exactly what my body and my baby needed, and to feel positive about the experience that I had.
Pregnancy and labor are experiences that are different and unique to every woman. In my experience, even my own births were quite different from one another. Hypnobirth was an amazing tool that helped me stay calm and in control during my pregnancy, birth, and even postpartum. The benefits of this practice are something I continue to use on a regular basis in my motherhood journey. I couldn’t recommend this more to all expecting mamas.
Did you practice hypnobirth? Did it help you during labor or postpartum? I would love to hear your stories!
A few months ago, my Penelope, my two and a half year old daughter, started nursing again. She stopped breastfeeding on her own shortly before her bother was born, but recently, what started as little curious requests for suckles and kisses, turned into her sitting on my lap, in cradle position, breastfeeding again.
Perhaps she was craving that closeness, or maybe it was simple toddler curiosity, especially as she sees her brother nurse often. Regardless of the why, my girl, the one who very often needs very little from me, was asking me to nurse. I could have easily said “There is no more milk” or “This is for your brother” – and I very well may still say that – but not today. I allowed her to need me, and if I was able to honor a request she had, I was absolutely going to.
When I was pregnant with Oliver, I often wondered what tandem nursing would be like. I imagined holding both my children in my arms, sharing the warmth, comfort and closeness of breastfeeding with them simultaneously. Experiencing that now, when I didn’t expect I would, has been wonderful.
Nursing a toddler, in my experience, is very different than nursing a baby – but maybe not in the way I would have thought. Penelope is a little fire cracker; constantly on the go, full of energy, but then she stops and asks for “leche” (usually when her brother is nursing too) and her little body melts into mine. For a few minutes, she finds a calm and stillness in me, one that I otherwise don’t see very often anymore, and it’s precious. It’s pretty special.
Some days she doesn’t ask to nurse, others she asks more often, but the feed that almost never fails, is before bed time. After stories, I position my children on my lap, and at the same time, nurse them before they go to bed. They smile at each other, they laugh, their little legs intertwined in such a way that allows them to both comfortably fit on my lap, and for about 5 minutes, the three of us just are. As they simultaneously breastfeed, I look down and see the two little humans I carried in my womb. They are completely connected, the closest to how it would have been had they shared a womb, and at their center – me. To experience that, I know I am lucky… even if it’s just for a little while.
I would be lying if I said I didn’t experience conflicting feelings about all this.
Penelope asking to nurse again after months of being weaned, seemed like a regression, which in definition, it was – a return to a former state. Regression, however, is a word that has such a negative connotation, that part of me began to wonder (and care) what people would say or think. I still did what felt right and intuitive, to me; I just didn’t share it with many people.
The stigmas associated with breastfeeding “timelines”, the criticism, and the pressure from the world on what one must, or must not do, are there. As much as I would like to say I didn’t care, I did. I was afraid of being judged. Fortunately, the confidence in what I was doing returned, and I felt good about it, but also a little hypocritical.
I was comfortable sharing images of me breastfeeding my 10 month old, and yet, I hadn’t shared any images of me tandem nursing my babies.
So today, I share this.
I am tandem breastfeeding my baby and toddler, and though it wasn’t something I was expecting, it has become an experience I am completely loving, and one I will cherish forever. I am their mother, I am doing my job, and I there is no shame in that.
* La Leche League and BACE (Breastfeeding Action Committee of Edmonton) are two amazing breastfeeding groups in Edmonton that I highly recommend whether you’re looking for more information, education or support when it comes to breastfeeding. In the past few months, the meetings and events I attended made a huge difference in my confidence towards my tandem breastfeeding journey.
9 months ago, I met my little Oliver. For months, I spoke to him while in the womb, caressing his little body through my skin, counting down the days until I would know his face. I say “his”, but at the time, I didn’t know what I was having. Unlike my first pregnancy, the feeling on what I was carrying this time wasn’t as strong. A few weeks before going into labor, I had a dream that my baby was born en caul, and pressed against an intact amniotic membrane, all I could see was a little piece of male anatomy. It was then, that for the first time in my pregnancy, I had a strong feeling that I could be carrying a son.
I was much more relaxed going into pregnancy second time around. Knowing what to expect when it came to everything – pregnancy, labor, postpartum, breastfeeding, caring for a new born, sleep (or lack there of) – was comforting. Initially, I was nervous to attempt a home birth again, but I knew it was still something I wanted, it was important to me. We were fortunate enough to work with the same midwife who delivered our first, which helped so much. She knew us, she knew our experience, and I felt so safe to have her go through this journey with us again.
My “due date” came and went, which I expected. I made peace with the fact that I simply gestate a little longer, and knew my baby would come when it was ready, which was going to be soon.
November 25th. It was a Friday afternoon, and my daughter and I were both taking a nap. At 40+2 weeks pregnant, every day was potentially the day my baby could arrive, and I needed to take every opportunity I could to rest. Not only was I going to be going into labor any time soon, but after that, I was going to be a mother to a newborn and a toddler- I needed all the rest I could get. When I woke up, I felt a more than normal amount of discharge between my legs. It caught my attention, but this late in pregnancy, I assumed it was a normal pregnancy symptom. My daughter woke up, and as I lifted her out of her crib, I felt another gush of discharge; this time, enough to drip down the inside of my thigh. My waters had broken.
I called my midwife to let her know. The fluid was clear, I had no other symptoms, and we agreed to keep in touch as things progressed. Though I wasn’t in active labor, my husband decided to come home once I called him. I remember he told me his coworkers teased him, because of course his wife would go into labor early on a Friday afternoon to start the weekend early, haha.
My husband got home, I put on a sanitary pad, and continued our day as normal. Later in the evening, my midwife called to check on my progress, and since there hadn’t been any, we agreed that if nothing happened overnight, she would come over first thing in the morning to discuss our options. My husband and I decided to put our daughter to sleep downstairs in our guest bedroom, just in case, and called it a night.
At around 10:30 pm, 7 hours after my waters broke, labor began and I felt my first little surge. I was GBS positive, and it wasn’t too long before my contractions were far apart enough for me to need the first dose of antibiotics administered. My midwife and I chatted while the IV bag emptied, and I would stop and breathe through my surges as needed, and we laughed that the contraction tracker on my phone was telling me “Go to the hospital now!”. My midwife didn’t think she had come over to deliver a baby yet, and neither did I. Contractions were quickly becoming more frequent, but they still very manageable, and since she lived 5 minutes from my house, it was better for her to go home and rest, and come back when I actually needed her. She left our house just a little after midnight.
After she left, my husband and I went back to bed. I had my head phones on playing my hypnobirth tracks, and would fall in and out of sleep through my contractions. The room was dark, and in an almost dream like state, I moved my body as needed through my labor; sometimes lying down, sometimes on all fours, sometimes sitting down, whatever felt right to get through the surges. At around 1:30 am, things were starting to change; active labor had begun. I called my midwife and just said “I think I need you here”. We decided we wouldn’t call any family to come over and watch my daughter at this point; there was no reason to disturb anyone’s sleep. If she woke up, we would go from there. I texted my birth photographer letting her know it was time, and at 2:15 am ish, my entire birth team was with me.
At this point, my body had taken over. I was bearing down without my control, and sometimes, that pressure made me sick too, so I carried my handy throw up bucket with me at all times, ha. My husband got the birth pool ready, and though I was eager to get into the comfort of the warm water, I wanted to advance as much as in my labor before getting in. I realize my concern was a little irrational, since my body was starting to push at this point – we didn’t even have time to do a second dose of antibiotics. I asked my midwife to check me before getting in the water, she responded, “Nope. You need to get in the pool, now!”, and so I did.
Getting into the the pool was just as lovely as I remembered. The warmth of the water and it’s weightlessness was exactly what I needed. My body was doing what it was supposed to do, I was calm and in control. I was able to have conversation in between my contractions, and I was even smiling and laughing…a little, I was in labor after all, haha. I trusted my body to move me into the right position to birth my baby as I could feel the head descending. In the calmest of voices, something we all joked about later since women usually scream this, I said “I can feel the ring of fire”. The student midwife looked, and the head was there. Following her guidance, I pushed my baby’s head out with a few small pushes to make sure it was gentle on both of us. I remember thinking, “I am going to meet my baby soon. Only a few more pushes. I will have my baby on my chest right away”.
For this birth, I was lucky enough to have three midwives present. For any home birth, it is standard to have two, but my midwife had a student midwife who had been working with her (and I) for the past couple of weeks, and I was happy to have her there. Having three midwives at my birth was almost serendipitous, because suddenly, the pace of things changed very quickly, and the next few seconds required all the hands available…
My baby’s head was delivered, and though I was pushing, the body wasn’t coming out. My baby was stuck. With the head delivered, I climbed out of the birth pool and got on the bed. My midwife was calm, but there was urgency in her voice. I can’t remember if she assigned each midwife a job, but they all seemed to know that to do. I was lying on the bed with the hands of 3 midwives on me; one pushing my baby down, another guiding it center, and the main midwife maneuvering his body to help him out. Within seconds, he was on my chest, but the sense of urgency was still there. My husband was asked to call EMS, my baby’s airway was being suctioned, his heart beat monitored, oxygen being pumped into his little nose and mouth; everything to make sure he was OK after a somewhat traumatic birth. Once stable, the student midwife took over the EMS call my husband was on, and he came back into the room.
Everything happened within a minute or two, max; but it was a lot. Though I know it happened (because I was there) and because we talked about it afterwards, in the moment, I experienced something completely different.
From the moment I got out of the pool, in the middle of so much action, movement and unknown, my world was calm and quiet. On November 26th, at 3:26 am, less than 5 hours since I had felt my first contractions, I pushed my baby out with the assistance of my midwives. I held my baby on my chest, and immediately felt his little hand grab my finger. In that moment, in an uncontrollable, almost animalistic impulse, I began to sing.
I began to sing.
In the moment I least expected, but in the moment I needed it, in the moment my baby needed it the most, a new strength in me awakened. The feelings that coexist within you while you are both strong and vulnerable for the ones you love, transforms you. It transformed me. In that moment, the most powerful, yet gentle strength inside of me came out, manifested in song. I was singing my baby a lullaby to wake – isn’t the irony in that is so fucking beautiful?! I knew everything was going to be OK. Already a mother, I was a mother born again, and my identity once again defined. My husband came back into the room, saw his wife and baby both healthy, and tears of joy ran down his face. We had a son; our little Oliver.
My husband and I sat with our little boy. We hugged him, kissed him, welcomed him to the world. One of the midwives asked us what his name was, and we both immediately knew. Oliver Adam. Oliver after the “Olive Tree” which symbolized everything he was; beauty, dignity and peace, and Adam after his father. He was a beautiful. Born with a full head of hair, and the chubbiest little cheeks, he was perfect. He was calm, looking around at the world and taking it all in so confidently. At only a few minutes old, I was already so proud of him, and so proud to be his mother.
Our third stage of labor was managed. I received a shot of pitocin on my thigh after Oliver was born, and my placenta was delivered immediately after. Labor was officially done. My perineum was intact (which I was so grateful for, once again), and both Oliver and I were doing well. I was hooked up to an IV, just in case, since the birth had been a little traumatic, and my midwife wanted to be prepared and monitor me closely for the next couple of hours. EMS arrived shortly after, checked our vitals, confirmed that both Oliver and I were doing well, and after some paper work between them and my midwives, they left.
Once things settled, we debriefed about what had happened. As a bigger baby, a whole 9 lbs 8 oz chunk, Oliver experienced shoulder dystocia, which is when the anterior shoulder gets stuck behind the pubic bone during delivery. It was something we could have not foreseen, and I was so incredibly grateful to have had such an excellent birth team to have handled it so incredibly well.
I cleaned up a bit, my husband did skin to skin with his son, and my midwives made the bed with fresh sheets. We were in pure post birth bliss. I couldn’t stop smiling and was on the happiest high. I had a beautiful son, I had the home birth I wanted, and even with the scary minute towards the end, perhaps especially because of it, I had found a new strength within me, both physically and emotionally.
The world never gives you anything more than you can handle, and this birth, this beautiful birth, is what the world had given me.
My son was born in our master bedroom, in the early hours of the night while his sister peacefully slept downstairs. My little family was complete. My husband and I enjoyed our little son alone for a few hours, and when morning came, we woke his sister up so they could meet. The most beautiful moment of my life… (to be continued)
I have told my children’s birth stories before; to family, to friends, but I finally sit down and write them.
Today, I am 9 months postpartum for the second time, the same amount of time I carried each of my children in my womb, and in honor of that, I share their birth stories.
I begin with Penelope’s, my first born.
The technician at our 20 week ultrasound asked me and my husband if we wanted to know the sex of our baby. We didn’t, but I already knew. I have never been one to really think about the meaning of dreams, but when it comes to my children, they have been true. I met Penelope in my dreams years ago, and when I found out I was pregnant, I knew I was having a daughter. Picking names was easy. We had a boy name, just in case, but in my heart, our search was done once we had her name.
Penelope, “Weaver” in Greek, and Eve, “Life” in Hebrew; she was, and still is, our little weaver of life.
The same way I knew I was having a daughter, I also knew I wanted a home birth. It was important to me, I trusted I could do it, and it was just something I wanted. We found the most wonderful midwife, bought all our supplies for our planned home birth, rented a birth pool, read books, did prenatal yoga and classes; we did what we were supposed to do as expecting parents. My confidence as a first time mom-to-be was high, and I felt strong and prepared. The weeks passed, and so did our “due date”, but we knew we were close, and just patiently waited.
I was 40+3 weeks pregnant, winding down from another day passed. It was 9:30 pm, and just as I was feeling this was another day gone with no baby, I felt my first little contraction. I smiled. There was a note pad next to me, and I started writing down how often I was getting these period like cramps. I did that quietly for the next two hours, and only then, looked at my husband and said “I think I’m in labor”, ha! We tried to go to bed, and the excitement that labor was imminent didn’t allow me much sleep, but I made it through the night. My husband woke up later in the morning, made me an egg and avocado sandwich for breakfast, which I remember clearly, as I ended up flushing that down the toiler later, ha. We waited a few more hours before we called our midwife, my family arrived to keep us company, went for a walk, and a little after noon, my midwife arrived. When she checked me, I was about 7/8cm dilated! I was so excited, like “YES! I’ve got this, we’re almost there!”.
We called our birth photographer, my husband set up the birth pool, my midwife was getting all her equipment ready, the second midwife was on her way, my family in the living room downstairs, patiently waiting for this baby to be born; everyone had a job. At this point, my contractions were getting stronger, and I was bouncing on my toes as my coping technique. It was working well, but when they told me the pool was ready, I got in right away. My goodness; that was B L I S S. The warm water was so comforting and my contractions stopped for a wonderful break that I so desperately needed. Once the contractions started again though, they came on strong. One of them broke my water, as I felt a pop in between my legs, but the fluid was clear, which was a good sign; my baby was happy.
In the months leading up to labor, I had visualized how I saw the whole thing happening. I always saw myself giving birth during the day. At that moment, I was in the birth pool, the afternoon light was beautiful; it’s what I had been visualizing for months and it was happening. I was starting to get the urge to push, the end is near, but I still wasn’t fully dilated, and I had cervical lip. I got out of the pool, my midwife guided me through some movements that could better position Penelope’s head since that cervical lip was in the way, and I followed along.
At this point, my confidence from earlier in the day was starting to shift. I had progressed relatively quickly for the first part, but the last few centimeters were taking longer than I had expected. Of course, there is no formula for how quickly a cervix dilates, but at the time, I figured if I got to 7/8 cm easily, the last 3 were going to happen fast too, right? My body was doing everything it was supposed to do, but exhaustion was setting in, and with that, a little bit of fear, but mostly pain. The hours passed, the contractions kept getting stronger, and we still didn’t have a baby.
At around 6:30pm, almost 21 hours since I had felt my first little contraction, I was starting to feel like this baby was never going to come. At one point, I remember asking my midwife to “Just cut the baby out!”. We tried pushing to see if we could get the cervical lip out of the way, but it wasn’t moving. I was lying in bed, tossing and turning, trying to find the best position to cope with the surges, but they were very painful no matter what I tried. I looked at my husband and he knew what I was going to say, but as my biggest advocate, he was going to support the birth plan he knew I wanted. I was trying to be strong; I never once uttered that the contractions hurt, or that I was tired. I wanted the home birth I had been dreaming about for so long, but I was tired and tense. The more I tensed up my body to escape the pain, the less my contractions were working, but they still hurt just as much. I needed to rest, I needed a break. With a feeling of defeat, but great certainty that is is what I needed, I told my midwife that I needed help and wanted to transfer. At 9cm dilated, we grabbed our hospital bags, and transferred to the hospital.
The car ride to the hospital was horrible. My poor husband would have ran all the red lights if he could have, just to get there faster. My midwife had privileges at the hospital we transferred to, and walked right into a room when we got there; that was wonderful. I got some gas and air, and got an IV hooked up for all the things I was going to receive. I was GBS positive, and though we opted out of antibiotics for our planned home water birth, now at the hospital, I needed them. A pitocin drip was started, and still that last stubborn centimeter took 6 hours to dilate. The gas and air was wonderful, I was smiling away, but then that stopped working. The epidural was not part of my birth plan (planning a home birth), but at this point, I wasn’t refusing one, I was requesting one! The epidural was administered, and I wish I could say I was able to relax after, it really only took the edge off. I still moaned and groaned through my contractions, and adjusted my position on the bed as often I could with the restrictions of all the monitors on me. Several times, my midwife touched my thighs and belly and asked me if I could feel them, and I could.
Though we had transferred to the hospital, I was happy to still be working with my midwife exclusively. She was sitting a few feet away from me the whole time; she’s just amazing. My family were great too; bringing snacks to the hospital, sleeping on the floor or sharing couches to get some shut eye, to keep me company while I slowwwwly dilated. I felt guilty that I was taking so much of everybody’s time, but it made so happy to know this was my birth team. I rested as much as I could, and when early morning came, I was fully dilated and ready to push. I asked for more privacy at this point, and the only people in the room were my husband, my midwife (and lovely birth photographer) and a hospital nurse who would come in every now and then. It was quiet and intimate, which is something I wanted for my home birth. As the epidural had not taken well, I was able to use my contractions to help me, but as a first time mom, I still pushed for about 2 hours.
On May 13th, at 6:58 am, 33 hours after I had felt my first contractions in my basement couch, after many hours of roller coaster feelings and emotions, my beautiful baby was born. Everything in the world made sense again. She was perfect. My midwife placed this beautiful little being on my chest. She wasn’t crying; she was calm, lifted her head, and looked straight into my eyes as if to say “Hi Mama”. We met earth side. After a few seconds, she let out the quietest cry, and they confirmed that she was indeed a little girl; my Penelope. My husband cut the cord, they cleaned her up a bit, and she was back on my chest, skin to skin.
You never know how you’re going to react when you meet your child for the first time. My husband had the most wonderful tears of joy, and I, the emotional one out of the two, had none – go figure, haha. I was so happy, the happiest I have ever been, and all I could do was smile. Penelope was big, bigger than what I thought a new born baby would be like (she was 9 lbs too), but at the same time, she was the smallest and most precious little thing I had ever held. We kissed her, counted her toes, said her name and caressed the softest of skin. While I delivered my placenta, my husband did skin to skin with her, and I treasure the pictures captured of that moment.
Labor was officially done. Penelope and I were doing well, my perineum was intact, and 3 hours after Penelope was born, we were on our way home.
When we got home, I showered, then took a 4 hour nap with my new little family. It was perfect. After our nap, immediate family came over to meet Penelope, and for the rest of the evening, it was just the 3 of us; my new little family at home.
About 6 weeks later…
I got an email from my birth photographer letting me know that my photos and video were ready! My first reaction was excitement, and then I was nervous…
My birth had not gone as I had planned. I didn’t get the home birth I so very much wanted. We didn’t transfer due to an emergency; Penelope and I were healthy during the whole birthing process, it was me – I wasn’t able to do it. Would watching my birth video/photos bring back feelings that I had dealt with in the previous weeks? My baby was healthy, so was I, that’s all that matters! Yes, and no. I grieved the experience I didn’t get, and I feel incredibly guilty saying that, but it’s true. The birth experience is not a throw away. We all have a vision of how we want our births to be, and when we don’t get it, it’s sad. How can an experience that provides you the epitome of happiness and love the moment you meet your child, also be the same experience that, depending on how it went, can cause sadness as well. It’s a weird feeling, and for many weeks, I felt guilty that I associated a feeling of grief with the same experience that had brought me my beautiful daughter. I’m not the only woman who has felt this, and if you, the person reading this, has felt the same, know it’s OK to feel these feelings. It’s part of healing.
I sat in my photographer’s office, and I watched my birth video for the first time while Penelope nursed in my arms.
After watching it, I went upstairs, and she asked me “What did you think?” My first response, without thinking about it twice was, “I fell in love with Adam all over again”.
The woman misses a lot during the process of labor and delivery. Your body is doing a lot of work, and your mind doesn’t have energy to remember the details. I’m sure many women have thought “Oh, that’s right, that DID happen, etc” when remembering their birth stories. Just 6 weeks postpartum, I was watching my birth video and remembered things I had forgotten or missed. I was worried that my birth video was going to bring up feelings, and it did, but not the ones I thought. I saw my husband’s unconditional support during the entire process, the look of love and concern on his face, the tears when he saw his daughter for the first time. I’m tearing up just thinking about it.
I noticed something else watching my birth video. I didn’t feel as much pain as I looked like I did. I remember labor being very hard, but I didn’t remember it being that hard. Perhaps it’s Mother Nature’s way of protecting the woman; a way of allowing us to heal from childbirth, by making us forget the “labor” part of giving birth, but remembering everything else. Just 6 weeks postpartum, I felt like I had learnt so much from my labor and delivery, and was wiser and more prepared if I had to do it again right then and there.
Time is a wonderful thing. I write my daughter’s birth story 2 years after she was born, and I write it with so many feelings of gratitude and love for the birth experience I did have. It was different than what I had planned, but it was beautiful. It taught me to be humble to an experience which I have no control of, and to be grateful for the beautiful things that happened outside that control. I was able to witness the amazing love and support from the people around me; my family, my midwife, my amazing husband. Giving birth was my official journey into motherhood, my transition from woman to mother, but it was more than that, the experience was part of their journey too; my parents became grandparents, my sister became an aunt, my husband became a father. It’s a beautiful thing.
Giving birth to my daughter will always be one of the most amazing experiences of my life. I became a mother, I met the love of my life, and nothing takes away from that.
Thank you for reading. xo.
Oliver’s Birth Story here
My wonderful midwife, Teilya Kiely.
When I was pregnant for the second time, I knew I wanted to do whatever I could to help make the postpartum period easier, especially since I knew I would be taking care of a newborn and a toddler this time around. Placenta encapsulation was one of those things.
I had heard about placenta encapsulation in my prenatal classes, from some friends and my midwife, but didn’t actually go ahead with it for my first pregnancy. Second time around, I knew I wanted to try it. I did some research on it, and the benefits sounded like something I would want. In a nutshell; helps with post labor recovery, replenishment of iron levels, increase in milk supply and can help with postpartum depression.
I’ve recently started to wean off my placenta pills (I am 4.5 months postpartum) and from my experience, I would definitely recommend it. Overall, I feel the pills really helped, especially during the first two weeks postpartum, which to me, are always the hardest. I felt really great given I was getting little sleep, recovering from labor, and taking care of two little people. My milk came in faster and my supply was stronger. In terms of my mood, I was less stressed and happier (this could all be because it was my second time around too), and in my husband’s words “I was nicer” (haha). I didn’t experience any hair loss, until I started to wean off them…that’s why I’m still sort of taking them.
The encapsulation service was done by a local doula, so if you’re thinking about it, I would start looking there. The service can be a little bit pricey (around $200 or more), but the benefits, in my opinion, were definitely worth it. The service included pick up of the placenta, encapsulation, drop off and a little umbilical cord heart shape keepsake (which I loved!).
It’s so incredible to believe the things I’m emotionally attached to since becoming mom; I still have the positive pee tests for both kids, their fallen baby hair in an envelope, and I’ve had Oliver’s heart shaped cord and both Penelope and Oliver’s stump saved for what seems like forever. I know, I know- I’m THAT mom.
It’s amazing to believe that the cord was what kept my little babies alive in my womb, so special. I finally got around to doing something with the cord and stumps, a little DIY below, and I absolutely love it how it turned out.
Did you do anything with your placenta? I would love to hear your experience!
Penelope and Oliver are 18 months apart, and I am currently 3 months postpartum. My pregnancies were pretty straightforward and I had two relatively uncomplicated births. Penelope’s was lonnng, and for Oliver’s, I climbed out of a birth pool with a head already pushed out (yep! haha). With 9+ lbs babies, I had an intact perineum both times and am forever grateful for skin elasticity! Though my postpartum periods and recoveries have been fairly easy, they haven’t been challenge free. In fact, the reason I thought about writing this post is because I’m currently going through a few postpartum complications. I also had challenges that were not directly related to me with each of my babies. By definition, postpartum means the period shortly after childbirth, so it encompasses a lot.
Penelope was born with a tongue tie. As a brand new mom, I remember not even knowing what a tongue tie was, or how it could affect breastfeeding, but with limited tongue mobility, Penelope wasn’t able to latch for longer than seconds at a time. My midwife’s support was instrumental in our breastfeeding success; she recommended we use a nipple shield right away, referred us to the doctor who performed the tongue tie revision, and even provided us the syringes we used to give Penelope top up feeds the first few days of her life. We saw a lactation consultant to evaluate our technique, perhaps that could get Penelope to latch better, but she couldn’t. At two weeks old, Penelope had her tongue tie revision, a short laser surgery that released the frenulum from under her tongue. We had to massage the wound for 4-6 weeks after to make sure the skin didn’t re-attach, but breastfeeding after that was so much better. We successfully weaned off the nipple shield when she was one month old, and breastfed until she self weaned when I got pregnant again.
Oliver was 9 lbs 8 oz when he was born, so I call his postpartum complications #bigbabyproblems ha! He had shoulder dystocia at birth; his anterior shoulder got stuck behind my pubic bone, hence my having to climb out of the birth pool with his head already out- yep. My midwife was amazing again, did some quick manipulation, and my baby was out in seconds, and perfectly healthy. If that wasn’t exciting enough though, the surprises didn’t end there. Two days postpartum, my husband and I noticed his head was still a little misshapen. I figured, vaginal birth, misshapen head, normal right? Nope. He had a cephalohematoma (a WHAT?!). His larger head bruised against my pubic bone during delivery, and caused a swelling on the top of his head. It wasn’t harmful or painful to him, it would go away on its own, and just looked a little (a lot) funny. My midwife and pediatrician told me it could take weeks or months!! to go away. I wanted my baby to have a perfectly shaped head NOW, so the waiting period sucked a little. He also had higher jaundice levels due to the extra bilirubin in his body from the bump, and almost needed light treatment for it. A few days before he turned one month old, his bump disappeared, almost over night, and he has a perfectly shaped head now. His jaundice lasted a little bit longer, but it was completely gone around 2 months old.
In the grand scheme of things, a tongue tie and a cephalohematoma are pretty minor postpartum complications, and I am grateful for my children’s health every day, but when it’s happening to your baby, it’s scary. I was also simultaneously recovering from my own labors at the time, and the first 2 weeks are when I’m most emotional and sensitive. In regards to my postpartum recovery, my first was easy. I had the occasional incontinence accident, but with pelvic floor strengthening exercises, I was able to get that under control fast. The second time around has been a little different; I have mild bladder prolapse this time, still dealing with a little bit of incontinence here and there, and I have the occasional vaginal flatulence accident during yoga class…known to many as a queef #justkeepingitreal (haha).
I know I am only 3 months postpartum, and early in my recovery, but never in my life did I think I would say I go to physio therapy… for my lady parts! ha! My boobs are a completely different shape than they were prebaby, I have stretch marks on my hips, legs and stomach area, and still working to comfortably fit into my prepregnancy jeans. I write about this comfortably for many reasons 1. It’s the reality of a lot of postpartum bodies so I know I’m not alone 2. I have a new confidence in myself since becoming a mother 3. My postpartum body housed and grew two perfect little babies, and I love my new body.
The beauty of motherhood, to me anyway, is how it shapes you in ways you didn’t expect. The challenges it throws at you, sometimes during pregnancy, sometimes in childbirth, sometimes after. We get through the unexpected, and come out of it more confident, stronger, and beautiful. We are just fucking amazing!
For the past 3 years, my identity as a woman has been heavily defined by my role as a mother, so when thinking about what my first post could be in this blog, I figured I would start from here. From the beginning of that journey and transformation.
Reading through my note books from second/third year university days, I found a page where I jotted down ideas for an art project about identity. I wrote the following:
“What fascinates me about being a woman – pregnancy, birth, creation, strength to be a mother, to raise a child”.
At the time I wrote that, it was all conceptual. Now, I am mother of two- a 20 month old and a 2 month old. Everyday I am amazed with what my body can do and has done — Mother Nature is quite amazing!
I dedicate this post to celebrating my, our, all pregnancy bodies. To the vessel that has grown two babies, and with its imperfections and stretch marks unique to each pregnancy, is so beautiful!
Cheers to being a woman, a mother, to the beautiful process of pregnancy and the wonderful gift that we have to grow life.