Nips, Lips, Hips, ‘N Fingertips

…I learned from Breastfeeding. Yeah, you read that right. Because I breastfed a baby before I gave birth to one. My firstborn was delivered via Cesarean surgery, and it rattled me to my core, but was the stepping off point for many new truths that I now hold dear.

Here is what I learned from my baby, and all of the wise women of La Leche League:

  • The consumption of food and healthful drinks need not be restricted in pregnancy, labor or while breastfeeding. (“Good nutrition means eating a well-balanced and varied diet of foods in as close to their natural state as possible.”)  
  • Prenatal care that follows the Midwifery Model of Care supports the healthy growth of women and babies. (“Mothering through breastfeeding is the most natural and effective way of understanding and satisfying the needs of the baby.”) 
  • Pregnancy and labor are a time of complex, intense, symbiotic communication between the baby’s brain and his mother’s brain. (“Mother and baby need to be together early and often to establish a satisfying relationship and an adequate milk supply.”)
  • The calendar is not helpful. (Watch the baby/momma, not the calendar.)
  • The clock is not necessary. (Watch the baby/momma, not the clock.)
  • Birth doesn’t have to hurt. (Breastfeeding doesn’t have to hurt- and shouldn’t.)
  • You can sleep between contractions (nursings) and must!  (Sleep when baby sleeps.)
  • Birth works best without intervention. (“Alert and active participation by the mother in childbirth is a help in getting breastfeeding off to a good start.”) 
  • Natural birth is best for mom *and* baby. (“Breastmilk is the superior infant food.”)
  • Separation after birth (for “routine” procedures such as weighing, measuring, and bathing) is unnecessary and inhumane to the newborn baby and mother. (“Baby has an intense need to be with his mother which is as basic as his need for food.”)
  • Mother is the only sustenance necessary for the healthy, newborn baby. She has the ability to help regulate his temperature and breathing- veen if he is premature- and can calm him with her voice alone.  (“For the healthy, full-term baby, breastmilk is the only food necessary until baby shows signs of needing solids, about the middle of the first year after birth.”)
  •  It takes *at least* a year after childbirth to regain ones strength and recover from the stress of pregnancy, childbirth and the sleep-deprived, postpartum period.  (“Ideally, the breastfeeding relationship will continue until the baby outgrows the need.”)
  • The experience of birth impacts the entire family negatively or positively, whether it is one that ends in surgery, a vaginal delivery, or loss. (“Breastfeeding is enhanced and the nursing couple sustained by the loving support, help and companionship of the baby’s father (partner). A father’s (co-parent’s) unique relationship with his (her) baby is an important element in the child’s development from early infancy.”)
  • New mothers need the encouragement and support of other mothers. (“From infancy on, children need loving guidance, which reflects acceptance of their capabilities and sensitivity to their feelings.”)

Thank you, La Leche League,  and thank you, “Yummy” boy!!

Inspired by Hathor’s Attending La Leche League Meetings Is Political Action, in her new book THE MILK OF HATHOR! THE BREASTFEEDING COMICS, available now at


{October 21, 2006}   Did you watch ER last night?

I’m becoming an ER junkie. I’ve been watching the show for years but it is now dovetailing so nicely with my own angst that it is like Gestalt therapy to watch.

I find myself wanting to pull for Kovac, but knowing that it’s more complicated. Forest Whitaker does an amazing job of portraying the frustration of being asked to put ones life in the hands of doctors who chat and eat bagels with cream cheese while we are suffering.

I was bawling again watching last nights episode, at how deeply Ames (played by Whitaker) felt betrayed- and the distrust that comes from betrayal.

Yes, I know the big picture- and I LOVE that the writers of ER are digging deep to really show how complicated it is- but I have also been on the receiving end of malpractice.

I wonder how many people out there watching ER can relate?

How many of us women (before and/or after birth) have been left to sit in our own blood/milk/sweat/urine-soaked bed for hours or days, neglected, overlooked, patronized- even abused, or can I call it brutalized?- by an Obstetrician and “overextended” nursing staff? How many of us have been told that the doctor knows what is best and that is what will be done? How many of us have had a doctor or nurse play the dead baby card in an effort to get us to comply with hospital protocol? How many of us have been denied food, water, comfort, and our lover or other partner while in labor? How many of us have been told that we do not know what we are talking about, that being flat on our backs in a hospital bed on the monitors with a posterior baby isn’t as bad as we are saying it is, that we just need to relax and if we would only get the epidural all the pain would go away? How many of us have taken the epidural (after several tries) and still been in pain but then unable to move about? How many of us have been cut open for no good reason except that we were taking up too much of our OB’s time? How many of us have been told that our babies were in distress because of late decels when s/he was simply responding to contractions the way God/Nature/The Universe intended? How many of us have been told that if we refuse surgery our babies would die? How many of us were told we needed a hysterectomy when we didn’t? How many of us have had our babies taken too soon, because an ultrasound was wrong? How many of us have aborted babies because an ultrasound showed a defect that wasn’t there? How many of us have worried about a defect the entire pregnancy only to find out that it didn’t exist at birth, and better yet that the baby was the complete opposite sex that we were told she was? How many of us were not aware of a defect until birth despite the fact that we had countless ultrasounds during our pregnancies? How many of us have been told that we needed to have an episiotomy to ease the baby out at birth only to tear from clit to anus and find that we are then in pain for the rest of our lives? How many of us have had an OB (or a resident) put an entire hand inside of us and extract a perfectly healthy placenta that just needed a little more time to come out on its own? How many of us were told we had to be induced because the placenta was dying only to find a healthy baby and healthy placenta? How many of us have pushed out one twin only to go to the OR to have the other one surgically removed because s/he was breech? How many of us have had a scheduled Cesarean surgery for a breech baby simply because knOBs do not know how to deliver breech babies anymore? How many of us have had a scheduled Cesarean surgery for breech, only to have the baby turn before surgery, but been told that it is best to go on with the surgical plan? How many of us have been denied a VBAC because our knOB doesn’t want the possibility of a lawsuit? How many of us have been told that VBAC is dangerous and been coerced into an increasingly risky second, third, fourth or fifth Cesarean? How many of us have had a nurse holding- even pushing back in- our baby’s head while waiting for an OB to show up so s/he could “catch” the baby? How many of us have been told not to push so that we could make it to the OR for a scheduled surgery? How many of us have been told how/when/where/why to push (an urge that is extremely primal and best followed by the mother without “coaching” or counting)? How many of us have been told that we couldn’t have given birth vaginally, and gone on to prove them wrong? How many of us have vaginally birthed babies larger than the ones we were cut open for? How many of us have avoided sex after Cesarean for fear of getting pregnant again? How many of us had babies we didn’t really need or want just to have another chance to birth? How many of us have wished we could back to being ignorant and perhaps more blissful? How many of us have been told after having an avoidable/preventable/unnecessary Cesarean: “You should be grateful” or “Fifty years ago you would have died in childbirth” or “All that matters is a healthy baby!” How many of us have been told while undergoing repair for a fourth degree tear that the really hot water the resident is pouring on our labia is not really that hot? How many of us have refused induction, surgery, repair, or medication for a repair just so that we could leave the hospital? How many of us have been told that if we leave the hospital because we are sick of being mistreated that it will be written in our charts that we left AMA (Against Medical Advice) and that we will then be saddled with the hospital bills when our HMO/PPO won’t pay? How many of us who have refused/resisted circumcision of our male babies were told that it doesn’t really hurt them and asked to hold our screaming infants still while the procedure is performed? How many of us have felt like no one understood that we were essentially raped and then blamed for our anger, frustration, mistrust, reluctance to seek further medical attention?

Wow. I feel better, and I feel worse. I feel like part of a silent majority that is too apathetic to speak up and too busy to actually do anything to change the system and too scared, too. 

I know there are many of us. I have met you through the ICAN list and meetings and La Leche League meetings and the Nursing Mother’s Circle at Kangaroo Kids in St. Louis and on the MotheringDotCommune message boards and the Modern Moms board, and…

There are so many of us. Each with a story to tell, if anyone is there to listen to us.

For some, that’s all we need: just for someone to listen to us. Just for one other person to acknowledge that what happened to us was wrong, and that it should not have happened.

Some of us still feel like it was our fault, and some of us KNOW it wasn’t our fault and we expect something to be done about it and we can’t understand why no one really cares.

The thing is: the system isn’t going to change. It’s broken, it’s dysfunctional, and it’s looking for a way out without having to say that it’s sorry it did something wrong.

But we are not broken, even though that is exactly what they would like for us to believe. We can *choose*. We have the *power* to choose health and wellness and VBAC and HBAC and UBAC- and, better yet, freebirth in the first place and all-ways unmedicated birth if we are willing to take responsibility for our actions and choices.

As the prosecutor asked Ames, on the stand in ER: “Did you refuse the cure that could have saved you?”

I refused the cure in birth, both times. And that made all the difference.

I could have sued my sOB for a number of things, but I didn’t.

Surviving, thriving, and helping others is the best revenge.

{September 22, 2006}   When Art Imitates Your Sad Life

I just watched last night’s season premiere of ER (thank you, Tivo!)- appropriately titled ‘Bloodline’- and bawled my eyes out during all of the sad scenes with Abby, who had to undergo a “Cesarean Section” (read: major abdominal surgery) for placental abruption.

I thought the conversation between Abby, Abby’s doc, and Kovac were well-written, but I do want to point out that most moms in that situation aren’t MDs, their husbands aren’t MDs, and their OBs do not speak to them as if they are intelligent women capable of making their own decisions. When Abby refused the medication to mature her baby’s lungs, I cheered like some sports fan watching his home team score during the big game. Then, I just about had an anxiety attack when Abby refused general anesthesia and said she wanted to be awake (haven’t all of us so-called “emergency” C/S moms been there? HERE’S A HINT: If they have time to give you an epidural or spinal, it probably wasn’t a true emergency)- and I was relieved when they gave her a spinal instead of putting he under. But when the OB said, “Opening the uterus”…I couldn’t breathe.

The surgery was very realistic. While they didn’t exactly show the exact moment of extraction, they came close. The most real moment for me was after the baby was stabilized and Abby was hemorrhaging, and Kovac wanted to stay with her but she yelled “SHUT UP SHUT SHUT SHUT UP!!!! Go with the baby…I don’t want him to be alone.”

We lay down, perhaps to die, for our babies. Our partners, whose first loyalty to us, do not understand why we always put the baby first. But the simple reason is that we are mothers. If pressed, if we had to choose, most of us would choose our children over our partners. Feel free to comment if you are an exception to this genetic rule- but for me, it is simply a primal thing that I cannot control. Baby/kid first, then me. Husband third (or now, fourth). I am the mom who would die for her kids, and would want DH to remarry.

 But with surgery…I firmly affirm the woman’s right to choose. Period. Pregnancy or not. Mag or not. Cesarean or not. Hysterectomy or not. Life or not. These matters of life or death are far more complicated than TV drama can do justice but I respect the writer of ER for making a valiant attempt. The masses need to see that the Cesarean issue isn’t an easy yes/no button, and that it’s wired into a lot more than “just what’s best for baby”.

Now, why do I keep getting back on this roller coaster of birth trauma whenever I know it is gonna make me sick? It happens every. single. time. that I hear or read about or see a birth- Cesarean or vaginal, complications or not, baby lives or not.

I really need to get a life. 

{September 3, 2006}   Transplanted again!

Well, we’ve driven our wagon train east again, from Utah to Colorado, and settled south of the Denver metro area. Centennial seems just a stones throw from Ogden, and yet worlds apart. I didn’t realize how unhappy I had been in Utah until I got out of that dreaded state. It’s such a huge relief to be back in a state where people have bumperstickers on their cars! Where people express opinions that are not the mainstream! Where people question authority and truly believe in and practice religious freedom! Where the term “ward” refers to a geographical voting region! WOO followed by HOO!!

Alas, Colorado being the leanest state in the nation, my DH and I are probably some of the fatter people in this glorious state (but, but we’re average size in Missouri!). Apparently, Coloradans actually take advantage of the many opportunities for biking and hiking and other outdoor recreation offered in this breathtaking state. There are also indoor Recreation Centers everywhere, I mean everywhere, and there is a really nice one right down the road which we plan to take advantage of this  for a few months Winter when it is too cold to go for bike rides and walks with the kiddoes.

Speaking of the kiddoes, my firstborn son who came into this world via an incision in my abdomen, will be FOUR in nine days. I have no idea-o how in the heck this has happened. His much-anticipated Pirate Party is in less than a week and he has invited four people, only one of whom is a child! So, I’m feeling like it is time for the annual purge-a-thon where I rant and vent all of my issues about how he was plucked too soon from my womb by an ignorant Obstetrician, and I know all too well that it is best to get this stuff out before the festivities! Better to get it out here than when I’m cutting the cake.

Issue 1: I am only just now coming to terms with the fact that I was depressed during my pregnancy, and definitely following the “emergency” (emergent) Cesarean (although I was not encouraged to express my feelings until about 5.5 to 6 months postpartum when I met a fiesty woman who was going by the name of “Ahleemah” on the YAHOO! EC list).

Issue 2: I am REALLY MAD now that I was not allowed to be even a little bit mad then.

Issue 3: I am really, really dissappointed that no one seemed to care how *I* was feeling.

Issue 4: I am so so so so sad for my sweet son who had a sad mother for about a year.

Issue 5: I am upset that no one saw my pain or bothered to ask how *I* was doing.

Issue 6: I shouldn’t have had to start my own support group for my HBAC/VBAC (but I am also glad that I did as the St. Louis ICAN chapter has grown into a really great group that even does Blessingways for all the expectant mommas!).

Issue 7: I am wistful that I didn’t have time to heal more from my Cesarean before getting pregnant again just 13 months later. I still long for more time with only my firstborn.

Issue 8: I feel guilty and horribly regretful for allowing our son to be circumcised, adding injury to injury, merely so that he would have a penis that looked like his father’s penis.

Issue 9: I feel awful, horrible and terrible for allowing my own husband to give our son formula in the hospital. And I feel especially sick and twisted for taking a picture of it.

Issue 10: I feel like a complete idiot for allowing the OB who cut me for no good reason to also give me Depo-Provera for no good reason at my six week follow-up appointment. It wreaked havoc on me emotionally and physically and I discontinued it, but I agreed to it without first researching it myself. I attribute it to the Survivor syndrome, whatever it is called, where a victim begins to identify with the abductor/attacker as a way of coping with the overwhelming abuse.

That’s all I have the time for now, my sweet child is awake and I want to give him all of my attention.

Thanks for listening…

Okay, for those of you who aren’t in the know:

ICAN = International Cesarean Awareness Network  (

VBAC = Vaginal Birth After Cesarean (

First, let me say that the ideal thing to do is to prevent the first Cesarean. But with one out of four women in the USA being cut open in birth (and in some hospitals, one in two!), this obviously ain’t happening. More and more women are being cut for no good reason and then finding they are not allowed to VBAC in the hospital with the very OB that cut them open. So, where do we go from here? Well, some of us go to La Leche League meetings, maybe a Moms Club, or maybe a psychiatrist. Too many of us isolate and think we’re broken and/or crazy. lazy and weak- and, perhaps even worse, alone in thinking we are broken and/or crazy, lazy and weak. Some of us find our way to ICAN, and I was reminded at an ICAN meeting last night how crucial it is that we find those moms so they don’t remain alone in their anger, guilt, regret, remorse and sadness.

I found ICAN when my eldest son was about 5.5 months old. I was on a Yahoo list for Elimination Communication (EC) a.k.a. “diaper free” babies, when I met a goddess named Krista. She was smart and witty and for some reason I trusted her. So it really shivered me timbers when she suggested, ever so gently, that my so-called emergency C-section may not have been a true emergency. She even went as far as to tell me that I may not have even needed a Cesarean. In other words, it might have been avoidable, preventable, unnecessary, or whatever adjective you want to use to describe it. The very suggestion kept me awake for a few nights. I scoured the internet for The Truth, and I found various versions of it. But time and time again, on sites like Birthlove (, and ICAN and Kmom’s Plus-size Pregnancy site (), I read my own very raw story over and over again. It seemed the more I read, the more I realized that my situation wasn’t so unique, that my Cesarean may not have been a life-saving procedure (in fact, it may have been life-threatening), and worse still that I may have consented to it by agreeing to an induction on my due date for no reason other than fear of a large baby.

More to come…

et cetera