World Breastfeeding Week 2015 featuring Lauren J.

"To me, World Breastfeeding Week is an opportunity to celebrate the importance, joys, and challenges of breastfeeding and to show the world that it is a beautiful, natural, and normal thing to do. We all have to feed our babies, and if World Breastfeeding Week helps a few Moms feel less nervous doing so in public and educates a few people to be kinder and more understanding towards breastfeeding mamas than it will have been a success!"

I would tell a new mom wanting to breastfeed that she can do it! I would encourage her to trust that her body and her baby will work together in the way that is right for them. I would definitely tell her to reach out to community supports - like a local breastfeeding center - where she can meet with lactation consultants and build a network of support from other breastfeeding moms. There is so much conflicting information out there from pediatricians, well-meaning family and friends, and the internet that it can be easy to get overwhelmed and give up. Surround yourself with people who have the same goal as you and professionals who are trained in helping you meet that goal (whatever it may be)!

 When I was pregnant, my goal was to breastfeed until my baby turned one. Once she was born, I was lucky to have a (mostly) easy time learning to breastfeed and getting into a good routine with her. However, there were many times - especially early on - when I felt completely overwhelmed by the pressure to provide for her and not knowing 'if I was doing it right'. Exhaustion and self-doubt are a deadly combination and I definitely had my moments of thinking I couldn't do it any longer. Now that baby is almost 9 months old and the 1 year mark is quickly approaching, I find myself hoping we will surpass that goal. Breastfeeding provides us with a few minutes to really connect and put the rest of the world on hold, and I'll miss those moments with my daughter when they're gone. 

World Breastfeeding Week 2015

What does World Breastfeeding Week mean to you? 

"This World Breastfeeding Week, WABA calls for concerted global action to support women to combine breastfeeding and work. Whether a woman is working in the formal, non-formal or home setting, it is necessary that she is empowered in claiming her and her baby’s right to breastfeed."-worldbreastfeedingweek.org

Over the month of July I photographed several mamas in the South Jersey area and asked them what breastfeeding meant to them. Why is it important to normalize breastfeeding? What does it mean to be able to breastfeed in public? How can we make breastfeeding a better experience for working moms? Each day this week I will feature a mama and her personal experience with breastfeeding because everyone's journey is significantly different. Thank you to all of the mamas who participated.

 

Being on the other side {Homebirth of Indy}

I'll start by saying my birth was fucking awesome. For months I told myself it was going to be extremely difficult and painful, just because I wanted to expect the worst. But, what I experienced was nowhere near as bad as I thought it would be. It was the craziest natural high that I didn't even know was possible. I wish more women could say they enjoyed their births as much as I enjoyed mine. When you're pregnant you hear a million horror stories, and everyone says "get the drugs, don't be a hero". Of course it was painful & intense, but so incredibly worth it. There's seriously nothing like it. Giving birth truly shows you just how strong you are, no matter how you do it, natural, epidural, c-section, home, or hospital.

All images copyright Tammy Bradshaw 2015 and may not be used or reproduced without permission.

All images copyright Tammy Bradshaw 2015 and may not be used or reproduced without permission.

I thought about this day long before I even found out I was pregnant. After having the privilege of attending several births over the past two years, it was finally time for me to attend my own.

Prenatally I followed all of the advice I give my doula clients. I got routine chiropractic adjustment & acupuncture, did squats and kegels, drank raspberry red leaf tea, took evening primrose oil, etc. I'd like to think it all helped me have a smooth pregnancy in labor. Maybe it did, maybe it didn't. But, it certainly didn't hurt.

My due date {April 10th} came and went. Everyone was anxious/excited besides me. "Is the baby here yet?"/"Any signs of labor?" HOLY SHIT did I want to turn my phone off. I was in no hurry for my baby to come, I was enjoying quality time with my dog and sleeping in until 2 in the afternoon. My thoughts were: why should I be so excited about extreme sleep deprivation & being a human cow? From being a doula I knew how stressful the postpartum period could actually be and again I anticipated the worst, just in case.

Saturday, April 18th, I woke up and went to the bathroom several of times like I had been for the past few weeks. Around 5:30am I felt a little crampy, but went back to bed. I remember the sun starting to rise and I couldn't sleep so I just sat in bed uncomfortably and tried to find a comfortable position. Johnny woke up (kind of) and asked if I was okay, I told him I was in early labor, but he could continue to sleep.

7:01am the "cramps" were getting more intense & I had to pee again. I told Johnny to call his boss, today was the day. I texted Morgan (doula) & Tammy (birth photographer) and said,"Morning mamas! In early labor... Having ctx for 2 hours, nothing major. I'll keep you updated when I head to my grandma's house." I went upstairs to pee and GUSH, my water broke all over the floor. It wouldn't stop, it was all over and I had no towels to clean up. I texted Johnny & said "Bring me up towels, my water just broke all over the floor." I texted my midwife and got in the shower. The hot water felt great, the cramps were gone, but I knew I couldn't stay in there too long. I got out of the shower and there were no damn towels. I called Johnny twice, no answer. I ran downstairs only to find him dead asleep still. "Wake up! We need to go!" As soon as I got out of the shower and to my bedroom, I was in labor land. My contractions were strong and close together.

"Water broke half hour ago, ctx are close together. Heading to my grandmas now, I'll let you know when I'm there." -8:15am

"There like super close, every 2 mins, maybe closer." -8:25am. I put on a robe & slippers. Told Johnny to get my hard boiled eggs out of the fridge and went to the car. I was totally dreading the drive to my grandma's house in Philly, but I was so excited to get there. He quickly packed up the car with clothes and stuff for the week, our dog (Roofus) & beer. The car ride was hell, I could not wait to get into the birth tub. I sat in the car in hands and knees and I just remember Roofus' hot nasty dog breath in my face the whole time, EW.

I quickly got out of the car and waddled my ass upstairs to that tub. Tammy & Morgan were already there and the midwives assistant (Wendy) was on her way. I got in the tub, which wasn't even done filling up and sat inside. FINALLY! I was in my beautiful birth space, this was really happening.

All images copyright Tammy Bradshaw 2015 and may not be used or reproduced without permission

All images copyright Tammy Bradshaw 2015 and may not be used or reproduced without permission

Several of people were coming in and filling the tub with boiling water from downstairs and Morgan sat with me as Johnny brought in all of our stuff from the car. He set up our record player and all I wanted to hear was Dark Side of the Moon. My contractions were coming strong and consistent. I couldn't believe I was in labor, it still didn't feel real. When Wendy arrived she checked the heartbeat, which was perfect & mentioned that the tub had to be hotter, so I got out and went into the shower as I waited for the birth tub to fill up with the hot water.

All images copyright Tammy Bradshaw 2015 and may not be used or reproduced without permission

All images copyright Tammy Bradshaw 2015 and may not be used or reproduced without permission

All images copyright Tammy Bradshaw 2015 and may not be used or reproduced without permission

All images copyright Tammy Bradshaw 2015 and may not be used or reproduced without permission

 

Once I got out of the shower, I came back into the bedroom and threw up all over the bed. ALL OVER. Usually I'm not grossed out by throw up, but it smelt disgusting, like no other throw up I've ever smelt. I knew this was a sign things were progressing though, so I remained optimistic. After I labored for a little longer, Wendy asked if she could check me. "Watch me be 1 cm dilated", I thought to myself as she checked me (which wasn't nearly as bad as I thought it'd be). I was 5cm, and baby was doing good with a strong heartbeat. It felt good knowing I was 5cm and this was the real deal. I continued to labor on the bed for a little where Morgan did the hip squeeze on me and it felt AH-MAZING. Then I got back into the tub, which was SUPER hot after it was all filled with the boiling water. Johnny got in with me and I would not let him take his hands off of my hips.  It was hard to get comfortable at this point, no position felt good. But, that hip squeeze was EVERYTHING.

All images copyright Tammy Bradshaw 2015 and may not be used or reproduced without permission

All images copyright Tammy Bradshaw 2015 and may not be used or reproduced without permission

All images copyright Tammy Bradshaw 2015 and may not be used or reproduced without permission  All images copyright Tammy Bradshaw 2015 and may not be used or reproduced without permission

All images copyright Tammy Bradshaw 2015 and may not be used or reproduced without permissionAll images copyright Tammy Bradshaw 2015 and may not be used or reproduced without permission

In between contractions I felt great. I could hold conversations and was fully aware of what was going on around me. I told Johnny to put on our Ravi Shankar vinyl which was incredibly relaxing. Although, as soon as a contraction would come on, I would moan & grunt "Fuuuuuccckkkkkkkk this" & "Nooooooo". Morgan encouraged me to say "Yes" instead of no, and at first it felt really ridiculous and strange. But, it did make a little difference. I remember Johnny putting on the Rolling Stones vinyl we had, and every song made sense to me. Especially 'I Can't Get No Satisfaction'. After Karen (midwife) arrived and monitored me for a little, she suggested I get up and go to the bathroom.

All images copyright Tammy Bradshaw 2015 and may not be used or reproduced without permission

All images copyright Tammy Bradshaw 2015 and may not be used or reproduced without permission

All images copyright Tammy Bradshaw 2015 and may not be used or reproduced without permission

All images copyright Tammy Bradshaw 2015 and may not be used or reproduced without permission

I LOVED the bathroom. I didn't leave it for the next 4 1/2 hours. The toilet felt amazing. Never would have thought that the toilet would be my favorite place to labor. Johnny massaged the back of my neck and I relaxed as much as I could in between contractions. As one would come on I would stand up and moan REALLY, REALLY loud. It's true, your body knows exactly what to do. I thought that I for sure had to be in transition. I could not fight the urge to push. As much pain as I was in, I never once thought "I can't do this." I just let my body take over and exactly what it was meant to do. I kept thinking about how smoothly everything was going.

Wendy suggested the birth stool, which I hated at first and immediately got off and went right back to the toilet, but it eventually grew on me.

All images copyright Tammy Bradshaw 2015 and may not be used or reproduced without permission

All images copyright Tammy Bradshaw 2015 and may not be used or reproduced without permission

I asked Karen if I was close and she said to check myself. I stuck my fingers up there and didn't feel anything. OH MY GOD this is going to take forever I thought.

 A little later, I asked what time it was because I was now really feeling the urge to push. This baby was bearing down. It was around 2pm, when Wendy checked me again. 10cm!  I was ready to officially push! My contractions came and went and I pushed with them & the breaks in between were like ecstasy. I pushed and pushed and pushed.

I had been pushing for at least 1 hour at this point and it was just Morgan and I in the bathroom. Johnny was napping on a chair outside the room with Roofus. I looked at Morgan and said, "I would never want to be numb for this. I can't imagine having an epidural." I was in the most intense part of labor & couldn't imagine how I would push if I were numb. Although it was painful, it was nothing that my body couldn't handle.

 

B-130.jpg
All images copyright Tammy Bradshaw 2015 and may not be used or reproduced without permission

All images copyright Tammy Bradshaw 2015 and may not be used or reproduced without permission

I pushed and pushed and pushed. It was now almost 5pm, I checked myself again and I felt the head! I wasn't crowning, but I knew I had finally made noticeable progress. YES! Finally! The end was near. Karen and Wendy came back into the room soon after and everything got real. This baby would actually be here soon. I kept grabbing the hand held mirror to see where the head was at and boy was it close. As the head came closer to crowning my vagina felt dry like a freaking desert. I wanted a constant flow of olive oil squirted on it. At this point they woke up Johnny and told him to come back into the bathroom.

I tried hands and knees, the birth stool & finally side-lying position.  Side-lying seemed to be the most effective position so Karen had me stay like that. As the head started to crown I so badly just wanted to push the whole damn thing out, but I knew I couldn't so I continued to ease it out and push only with contractions. What an incredible feeling! The ring of fire was INTENSE, but also really awesome.

All images copyright Tammy Bradshaw 2015 and may not be used or reproduced without permission

All images copyright Tammy Bradshaw 2015 and may not be used or reproduced without permission

All images copyright Tammy Bradshaw 2015 and may not be used or reproduced without permission

All images copyright Tammy Bradshaw 2015 and may not be used or reproduced without permission

All images copyright Tammy Bradshaw 2015 and may not be used or reproduced without permission

All images copyright Tammy Bradshaw 2015 and may not be used or reproduced without permission

I was pushing with every ounce of energy I had left in me. My ass! HOLY SHIT, MY ASS! I remember saying, "Jesus f***** christ my asshole feels like it's going to rip open!" just before the head came out. As the head came out it was such a huge relief. I felt another gush of whatever amniotic fluid was left and Karen kept saying, "Mama you gotta push, you gotta push this baby out. You've been doing such a great job!" But, I was literally giving it my everything and all of a sudden she had me turn over and into hands and knees. What a crazy feeling, switching positions with the entire head hanging out of me.

The shoulders were stuck & the body wasn't coming out with my pushes alone, so she manually had to stick her entire forearm into me and pull him out.  Another crazy feeling! Having the entire body plus my midwifes arm up my vagina... As I felt the shoulders and body and then legs come out of me I knew it was all finally over. I FUCKING DID IT!!! Immediately I felt a insane rush of emotions. I looked at Johnny and asked him if it was a boy or girl and Johnny said, "It's a boy!" I instantly started crying and he did too. Another magical moment!

All images copyright Tammy Bradshaw 2015 and may not be used or reproduced without permission

All images copyright Tammy Bradshaw 2015 and may not be used or reproduced without permission

All images copyright Tammy Bradshaw 2015 and may not be used or reproduced without permission

All images copyright Tammy Bradshaw 2015 and may not be used or reproduced without permission

He needed to be resuscitated and his shoulder was a little banged up since he did have a pretty severe shoulder dystocia. But, I knew everything was going to be okay. Karen just kept calm & said, "Talk to your baby mama." It took a bit, but then he finally let out a cry and I held him in my arms, skin-to-skin.

All images copyright Tammy Bradshaw 2015 and may not be used or reproduced without permission

All images copyright Tammy Bradshaw 2015 and may not be used or reproduced without permission

All images copyright Tammy Bradshaw 2015 and may not be used or reproduced without permission

All images copyright Tammy Bradshaw 2015 and may not be used or reproduced without permission

After the birth, I felt complete euphoria. I had blood ALL OVER me, my ass felt like I shit out a bowling ball, but NOTHING could bring me down from this high. It was such a surreal moment in time. During the "golden hour" everyone had left the room (besides Tammy because we have these beautiful photos, but I really had no idea she was even in there with us), Johnny & Roofus had joined the baby and I in the bed. Everything was perfect. I immediately started sobbing because I was so beyond happy. This was our family. This was love.

Roofus wasn't originally in the plan to attend the birth. But, just a few days before my due date I saw photographs from a home birth and a german shepherd just sitting next to the mama in the birth tub and it was beautiful! Roofus was my baby, I couldn't NOT have him there and I'm so happy I changed my mind. He stayed by my side the entire time and was even in the room as the baby was born. Roofus was an important part of my birth team.

My birth was the perfect example of how a birth team works together. Everyone did their thing and together they created an incredible experience for both me and Johnny. An experience I will definitely never forget. I have a whole new level respect for birth work and cannot wait to attend my next birth as a doula!

All images copyright Tammy Bradshaw 2015 and may not be used or reproduced without permission

All images copyright Tammy Bradshaw 2015 and may not be used or reproduced without permission

All images copyright Tammy Bradshaw 2015 and may not be used or reproduced without permission

All images copyright Tammy Bradshaw 2015 and may not be used or reproduced without permission

Anyways, Karen called Justin (my chiropractor) to come out and check/adjust the baby. So he came out and offered the birth team adjustments, it almost felt like a party at this point. Everyone started cleaning everything up, Johnny gave everyone beer, we had the record player playing good music. This was a real birth day party.

After the baby was adjusted, it was time to take his measurements. Justin bet that the baby was 9lbs 4oz, and I thought he was joking. NO WAY IN HELL did I have a 9lb 4oz baby... I thought at MOST I would have a 7 1/2 lb baby. They put him in the sling and said he was 9lbs exactly. HOLY FUCK! My jaw dropped, I was in serious disbelief. How did 5'0', 100lb (pre-pregnancy) me have a 9lb baby? If I would have known he was going to be that big I would have said see you at the hospital after I get my epidural! (Kidding) But, now I was even more in shock that I did it! I could NOT believe it... (Still can't and it's been 6 weeks)

All images copyright Tammy Bradshaw 2015 and may not be used or reproduced without permission

All images copyright Tammy Bradshaw 2015 and may not be used or reproduced without permission

All images copyright Tammy Bradshaw 2015 and may not be used or reproduced without permission

All images copyright Tammy Bradshaw 2015 and may not be used or reproduced without permission

All things considered, my birth was pretty "easy". Actually, let me rephrase that! Giving birth is not easy in any way shape or form. It was both physically and emotionally challenging. It was a trip, that's for sure! But, for giving birth naturally to a 9lb baby with a severe shoulder dystocia as a first time mama, I'd say it went extremely smoothly. I wouldn't have changed a damn thing.

This is oxytocin. This is home birth.

All images copyright Tammy Bradshaw 2015 and may not be used or reproduced without permission

All images copyright Tammy Bradshaw 2015 and may not be used or reproduced without permission

Credit to Tammy Bradshaw Photography for all of these beautiful pictures. I've found these photos so inspiring that I am seriously considering becoming a surrogate. If you are considering a birth photographer for your birth, do it! I will forever treasure these photos, they are absolutely priceless to me.

The pain free birth of Aubrie Jean 12/30/14

This is the last birth story of 2014. I'll start by saying it has been an incredible year, filled with incredible births and families, including the Michelet family. 

Late in October, I received a Facebook message on my business page from Brian, this was the first time ever that a dad was reaching out to me. We met that night at a nearby Starbucks and we immediately connected. Needless to say, they hired me on the spot. We quickly booked our prenatal appointments and maternity photo session since we didn't have much time to work with. Sheree was determined to have a completely natural childbirth, but also knew to keep an open mind. I was informed by both Brian and Sheree that she had an extremely low pain tolerance, like she could barely handle a headache. "She's a wimp." Brian told me & Sheree agreed, "I am a wimp." Still she wanted to try and have an intervention & drug free birth. She had been extremely active her entire pregnancy and ate a healthy diet. Her doctor was supportive of her desire to have a natural birth and encouraged her to wait at home as long as possible. 

Sheree was due on Christmas eve and Christmas eve came and went. I patiently waited for my the "I think I'm in labor" text, but I didn't get one until 5 days later. It was the day before New Years Eve and Sheree had called me and said she started having contractions earlier in the morning. I told her to get her rest and keep me updated. We stayed in touch throughout the day and things picked up in the early evening. Around 7:00 pm Brian asked me to head over, her contractions were lasting more than a minute and happening frequently. 

I got to their house at around 8:00 pm and I entered their amazing & calm birth space. Brian had gone above and beyond setting up their "birth room", he painted birth mantras on the wall, bought a 6 person indoor hot tub, set up candles and had a relaxing Pandora station playing in the background. Sheree was relaxed and in hands and knees over her birth ball. I just sat down and watched her breathe calmly through contractions and focus on her labor. Shortly after my arrival she got into the tub and labored in there for about thirty minutes. Sheree had been using the tub throughout the entire day and said it helped her relax. 

At 9:00 pm, she got out of the tub to go to the bathroom and her contractions were really starting to become more intense. She labored a little longer and then at 9:30 pm decided it was time to go to the hospital. Right after she got dressed and was getting ready to leave, her water broke. Brian ran upstairs, got her a change of clothes, they said goodbye to their fur babies and we left. 

At 10:00 pm they checked into triage at Virtua Hospital in Voorhees. She was still remaining calm and breathing through her contractions beautifully. An hour later, 11:00 pm, we were checked into labor & delivery suite #2, with a labor tub. Dr. Godorecci came in and checked Sheree, she was 5 cm dilated , baby was at -1 and in perfect position for delivery. As Sheree was hooked up to the monitor, the nurse prepared the labor tub for her. She got in as soon as she was done being monitored and stayed in their for as long as she could. 

An hour after arriving in her room, at 12:15 am, Sheree stared to sound like she was bearing down. Her doctor came in and asked what her pain was on a scale of 1-10, Sheree responded with, "I'm not in pain, it's just pressure." Yes! Sheree, who could barely handle a headache, was in active labor and said she was not in pain. She got out of the tub and was put back on the monitor as she waited for Dr. Godorecci, who was delivering another baby. She held onto Brian and they swayed back and forth together. It's truly a gift to witness two people, who are so incredibly and undoubtedly in love, getting ready to welcome their first baby to the world. She held tightly onto Brian and would squat up and down in between her contractions. She listened to her body and moaned as her baby made its way down. I was in awe of how beautifully she was handling transition phase, when I looked at Sheree I didn't see pain, I saw trust and love & it was truly inspiring. 

Around 1:30 am Dr. Godorecci came back into the room and checked Sheree, she was ready to push. Sheree got onto the bed and immediately started pushing. Not even 30 minutes later, their baby had arrived earth side at 1:56 am. "It's a girl!" their doctor said. Brian and Sheree looked shocked, although they didn't find out the sex of their baby, they were sure it was a boy. 

What an amazing way to end the year. The birth of Aubrie Jean (8lbs 5oz) was incredible to be apart of. Sheree is such an inspiration to me especially as I prepare for my own birth in a few short months. After hearing horror stories from friends & family and "just get the epidural" from nearly everyone, Sheree still chose to have a natural birth and she is certainly glad she did. They've already told me I have to be their doula for baby #2.  During our postpartum visit Sheree said that at NO point did she want drugs or think that she couldn't do it. She felt calm and in control of her body the entire time. Sheree and Brian it was great being apart of your journey and it feels great making new friends along the way!



The birth of Shea 8/13/14

I was excited to work with Lindsay & Matt after they were referred to me by their Bradley method instructor. Although this baby was a bit of a surprise, Lindsay absolutely knew she wanted a natural birth. They were originally planning on delivering at Virtua Hospital, but after telling them about the midwives at Gentle Beginnings & the water birth at Elmer Hospital they began to re-consider their options. At around 32 weeks, Lindsay & Matt met with Karen Shields, a midwife with Gentle Beginnings, & decided they would be changing not only practices, but hospitals as well. Here is their birth story...

At around 10:30, Sunday morning (8/3) Lindsay texted me and said she had began to feel contractions when she woke up, but nothing serious. Around 1, Matt called me and said that they were going to head to the hospital soon as things were starting to get a bit more intense & seemed to be progressing quickly. I told him to call me once they got checked into the hospital and I would head over whenever they needed me. At 2:30 pm Lindsay was checked and 3 cm dilated. I arrived about an hour later and she was handling her contractions beautifully! They were coming strong & consistently, but she was staying calm and let her body do the work. 

Matt was super eager to meet his baby boy! He stood by Lindsay's side the entire time, keeping her comfortable and hydrated. He was definitely a dad-doula, which made my job super easy. Lindsay was getting more back pressure and although she was still able to talk through the contractions, I could tell that they were becoming much more intense. There was no doubt that she was progressing.

Ironically, the position that Lindsay felt least comfortable in during her Bradley classes (side lying) was the position that she stayed in the most during her entire labor. At 4:45, Lindsay started feeling lots of pressure. She said her contractions were getting much more intense and she started to become more vocal. She would moan through them and this was a sign that she was progressing really quickly! We all watched Lindsay in awe of her strength and despite the moaning through contractions, she still remained so calm. 

The midwife on-call, Lindsay (yes her midwifes name was Lindsay as well), asked if she wanted to be checked to see how much progress she had made. At this point it was 5:45 pm, only 4 hours after they arrived at the hospital.  

Lindsay asked not to know how far dilated she was because she did not want to fixate on the number and get discouraged. But, as soon as the midwife checked her, her face lit up with a big smile. She said, "I can't believe this mama, but you are 9 1/2 cm and the baby is -1!" Both Lindsay and Matt looked shocked, they couldn't believe that she was almost fully dilated so quickly. At this point Lindsay was ready to get this baby out! Nothing could comfort her at this point, no position, no massage, nothing. So they suggested getting into the tub. 

Lindsay was planning on a water birth, she had LOVED being in water during her pregnancy. She loved to take baths and she figured it would be the ultimate comfort measure during her labor. But, at this point the water made no difference. She had no urge to push and she just wanted to start pushing. About an hour later, Lindsay sat on the toilet, where her water broke with clear fluid and she began to feel the urge to push. The midwife sat by her side, she gently coached her through pushing and monitored the babies heart rate. 

After a good 45 minutes of pushing on the toilet, the midwife suggested to get back on the bed. Lindsay walked on over and was on all fours. Suddenly the baby was showing signs of distress and the nurse immediately put an oxygen mask on Lindsay.  She was pushing with everything she had in her, but the baby needed assistance. The midwife called for the on-call OB/GYN to come in and he suggested a vacuum assisted delivery. 

Nurses came rushing in and all of a sudden the perfectly calm room was filled with anxiousness. I could tell Matt was worried about Lindsay and the baby, but I assured him that it would all be okay. With a few more pushes, an episiotomy, and assistance from the vacuum, baby Shea was born healthy!

Although this labor took a little bit of an unexpected turn, Lindsay and Matt were just glad that their baby boy arrived healthy (and it didn't hurt that he was super cute also). Shea weighed in at 7 lbs 13 oz. I am so totally still inspired by Lindsay's strength and courage, she did such a beautiful job which makes my job so worth it. Matt & Lindsay congrats on becoming parents, you're going to do a wonderful job!

World Breastfeeding Week 2014

This week, August 1st through 7th, is World Breastfeeding Week. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that babies should be EXCLUSIVELY breastfed for at least the first 6 months, but the CDC reports that the average for the US of babies being exclusively breastfed at 6 months is only 18.8%. The benefits to breastfeeding are endless, so lets get these numbers up!

I created this mini-project to spread awareness about the importance of breastfeeding. I will be interviewing and photographing several mothers who want to share their experience with others. A big thanks to all of the mamas who participated! For the whole month of August I will be offering Breastfeeding mini sessions for $75.00.  Happy World Breastfeeding Week! Stay tuned... 


Ashley C., first time mom, currently exclusively breastfeeding.

"I wish I knew how demanding breastfeeding was going to be. It requires me to be available 100% of the time. I cannot rely on anyone else to help or assist; it is completely my responsibility. "

"Breastfeeding awareness is not about passing judgement about the way a mother decides to feed her baby. It is simply educating people that they have a choice as to how they chose to feed their baby. "

"My biggest challenge to breastfeeding was acknowledging and accepting that I would the primary caregiver for my baby. I feel as though by chosing to nurse your baby, you are chosing to take a primary role in parenting. Your partner still contributes and has a role in the family, its just a different role. As a nursing mother, you are required to be present 100% of the time, regardless of your desires, feelings, or needs. It was challenging for me to accept that my husband could have "free time" when I didn't have that same opportunity. However, once I embraced my new role, I realized how truely magical and precious it is. When Hendrix looks into my eyes while nursing and smiles, I simply melt. All of the "free time" in the world, is not worth one of those smiles. The nursing years are short and sweet, and I will savior every moment of them."

"The best part of breastfeeding is the unconditional love I feel when nursing. Hendrix always looks into my eyes while cooing. It's like he is saying, "Mom you are so awesome! You are the most awesome person in the whole world." Never in my life will I ever be so loved. In Hendrix's eyes, I am perfect."

"Hendrix was clustering feeding for hours on end. Tired and overwhelmed, I called my cousin and told her that he was eating non stop. Her response was simple, yet profound. I could her the smile in her voice when she said, "That's wonderful!"

"Women and men need to be educated about breastfeeding. Once society understands its importance, we can begin to advocate for better maternity care. It is incredibly too difficult to have a positive breastfeeding relationship if you are required to be back at work 6 weeks after delivering. At 6 weeks, you are still trying to figure out how to find the time to shower. How can you expect women to back to work?"

 

Stefanie H., mom to 4 girls, currently exclusively breastfeeding. 

"The most rewarding part of breastfeeding to me is the snuggles! The constant proximity from breast to face provides the perfectly designed way to get to know that magical new family member. As I nursed my third and fourth, I also value the quiet almost meditative nature of it. When else do we else do we just sit and be for constant time periods through the day. My mind wanders to my baby and elsewhere, it's like a cozy waking nap of sorts. Refreshing us. Ahhhh the love."

"My experiences have all been different, yet in many core ways all the same. I have nursed 4 babies over the last 12 years. For my older two I was tied to the clock and always concerned with how long/much I "should" feed them, as if there was a formula (pun intended) to follow. But, by my third I was lucky to learn a more holistic attachment approach to breastfeeding and realize it's not just about feeding, but so much more. This gave me the freedom to follow my instincts and just follow my daughter's cues. Also, all of my girls have very different temperaments, which affected our breastfeeding relationship. Some were calm at the breast, some were ravenous, some were slower & more distracted nursers. One was ready to wean after age one, another was difficult to wean at three (when I was the ready one!)"

"What I recommend for breastfeeding moms most is to "follow" the baby and not to give up when you face  a nursing challenge (because you will!), such as a nursing strike, illness, teething, etc. Just like everything else with kiddos, just as you seem to get the hang of it, it changes again. That's okay, your body, your milk, your baby, will change together. It's a dance between you two and we are made to dance (plus the soundtrack of the suckling and coos is priceless). Just because feeding seems different than it was last month doesn't mean it needs to end. Nursing a toddler can be great too!"

"The most difficult breastfeeding experience is feeding my current baby who has suffered with severe reflux (GERD). She screamed at the breast, arched her back and was actually in pain in early feedings. With the support of my amazing postpartum doula, I learned to feed a small amount on a very frequent schedule and to pay constant attention to her positioning. We were able to avoid medications for her basically by sticking with breast milk and commitment to round the clock feeding and upright positioning. But, it is exhausting and just beginning to ease up now that she is eight months."

"Breastfeeding awareness month to me means spreading the word that breastfeeding is not only the healthiest start for mom and baby (which is finally being supported by most care providers), but also it's about CELEBRATING this amazing gift of nature. Breastfeeding is emotionally, physically and relationally rewarding and enjoyable. I wish for all women to have the support to overcome breastfeeding challenges so they can experience the benefits and wonder (and oxytocin highs!!)"

 

 

Samantha L., first time mom, currently exclusively breastfeeding. 

"To me, breastfeeding awareness means education and being conscious that breastfeeding is something done in the best interest of the child and mother. In my opinion, mothers are making the best choice by giving their child an amazing and nurtured start to life. I think that a woman's body has been perceived as a sex object by society for so long that breast feeding has unfortunately become a taboo thing... when in all reality, it's just a mother feeding her child."

"Thankfully, I have yet to feel judged while breastfeeding. My family and friends fully support me in my decision to breastfeed my son."

"I think that breastfeeding has taught me to be selfless (and patient). My life isn't about me anymore... It's about him. My life revolves around him. And in the beginning it's all about breastfeeding; every. single. hour. I'd give anything for this little boy. Including sleepless nights, rushed meals, and messy hair."

"My babe had a tongue tie that we didn't know about during the first 8 weeks of his life. We had corrected at 10 weeks. During those first 8 weeks I felt some of the worst pain in my life, as well as frustration and exhaustion. That's when I felt like giving up. 3am feeds while in excruciating pain, with a baby that can't latch (due to tongue tie) was enough to make me feel like giving up. Thankfully, I was able to pump at times and give my body a break. I'm happy to say he's been EBF since birth, even though we hit a little rough patch in the beginning."

"My best words of advice for a new mom would be, DON'T GIVE UP! It's so so hard in the beginning. You're exhausted and always on call to your newborn. Sometimes they want you literally every hour around the clock. You are their life line. They are helpless in this new world. But you are mom and you can give them everything they need. It doesn't necessarily get easier, but YOU GET BETTER. When you find your babe cluster feeding, my advice to you would be find a comfy spot, have the remote near by, grab a bottle of water, your phone, a book, and lots of pillows! Get comfy! You might be there a while... But in those hours spent nurturing that brand new life, enjoy it. Take the time to stare into those big blue eyes and relish the fact that you are giving this baby life. You are providing him with the best start humanly possible. You are mom. You can do this."

Kerstin S., first time single mom, currently exclusively breastfeeding. 

"America is not breastfeeding friendly." Kerstin S.

"People say why don't you just give her formula, tons of babies have formula and they grow up fine. When I put her on and I see her face she becomes completely calm & content. I can't give that up. I see how happy it makes her. She knows me, she knows my smell, she's comforted by being on me. I can tell there is a difference."

"She was really tearing up my nipples when she first started feeding. People were telling me I wasn't doing it right because it shouldn't hurt. But, even when I did do it right, it still hurt. I started using the nipple shield and it didn't hurt anymore and she got a good latch, but then I wasn't able to breastfeed without using it. Now I'm using the nipple shield as a crutch, so breastfeeding has its ups and downs. I was going to give up, I worked through it and now she eats just fine."

"We should make things easier for babies to get breastfed. Many women are forced to go right back to work. Maternity leave exists, but it's not paid and the bills need to be paid. The workplace is not breastfeeding friendly, if they need you, you have to stop pumping and then you become engorged and it's painful. Spilling milk makes me want to cry. It's not friendly at all. By law they have to let you pump, but that's not how it really works. If it wasn't for my determination, she would not be breastfed."

"It's not easy and it won't be easy for a long time. For me, even though it's a pain in the butt and it's time consuming, the actual breastfeeding is the easy part. It doesn't hurt anymore and she enjoys it. Just know that it's not going to be easy and take the time to get accustomed to it. Have all the resources you can, stick with it and just know that it will get better. Also, having a support system is super important. A lot of the time I don't have another set of hands to help me and that makes it even harder. It's nice at night though because I don't have to get up and make a bottle I can just feed her in bed laying down."

Kerstin speaks about her experiences and the sad truth of breastfeeding in public.

"I'm judged all the time for breastfeeding and for several different reasons. I've had people tell me that I should go to jail for pulling my boob out. I've had guys stare at me like they're enjoying it, my delivery guy said "That's hot". I've had women give me dirty looks, especially when they have their husbands around. I don't know what the issue is, but people treat me like I'm dirty and shouldn't be doing that. Or people will talk about me while I just stand there. We need to make breastfeeding okay. You know, there is nothing wrong with breastfeeding in public it's just to feed my baby, there is nothing sexual about it. "

 

Melissa C., first time mom, currently exclusively breastfeeding. 

"Before I became pregnant I didn't give much thought to the subject of breastfeeding. Once I was pregnant I began to research everything about becoming a mother. I read about all of the benefits of breastfeeding for both the baby and the mother. After knowing that it would give my baby the perfect nutrition and protect him from many illnesses while creating an amazing bond between us I was sold, the fact that it would help me lose weight was just a bonus"

"There are so many benefits to breastfeeding, it's hard to choose a best part but nothing beats looking into your baby's eyes while they are nursing. The worst part about breastfeeding is that it can be very challenging at times, however overcoming those challenges is very empowering and rewarding."

"Breastfeeding is very challenging. I wouldn't say it's harder than I expected but I am dealing with things that I did not expect to encounter. For example, my son has been very gassy and seemed to have a lot of belly pain. There were times that I thought my milk was making him sick. I contemplated giving him formula but I had a lot of support to exhaust all other possible solutions before giving him formula. Now that we are on week 3 we think we have figured out he actually has reflux and it's not my milk at all. I'm so glad I didn't give up!"

"I am very comfortable feeding my baby whenever and wherever. Mostly over the past three weeks of my son's life I have been feeding him in my house around friends and family without a cover. My family is very accepting and supportive of breastfeeding. So far I have nursed in public twice. The first time I did it I did not feed judged. I was offered a nursing room but did not feel the need to use it. I covered my breast as much as possible and fed my baby where I was. The second time I fed my baby in public I did feel sort of judged. I could tell that some of the people around me were very uncomfortable with the fact that I was breastfeeding despite the fact that I was covered up. "

 

Melissa's word of advice to new mothers:

"New mothers, Breastfeeding will be challenging. Your nipples will probably get cracked and sore; it may even hurt. You might get mastitis like I just did! You will watch your baby's diapers and cheer when you finally get the poopy diaper you were waiting for. Breastfeeding might not be easy at first. At times it will be really hard! My breastfeeding experience with my son thus far has been the most rewarding, special experience in my life and I wouldn't trade it for anything in the world. Don't give up, I promise it's all worth it!"

The birth of William Douglas Jr. 7/15/14

I first talked to Melissa when she was around 32 weeks or so and living in Hawaii with her husband, Doug, who was in the military. Doug was starting his residency for anesthesiology at Penn and they would be moving back to Jersey just a few weeks before her due date. She had found my website and was looking for a birth photographer, but also loved the fact that I was a doula. After talking to her on the phone we both agreed that we would be a good match and scheduled our first pre-natal visit for when they would return to Jersey. 

In a short amount of time we developed a great relationship. I was excited to work with Melissa, Doug & her outgoing mother who would also be an active participant in the birth. Melissa, who was once a pageant girl, was planning a natural childbirth, eating her encapsulated placenta, and exclusively breastfeeding. Just goes to show, there is no "type" of person that hires a doula or plans on having a natural childbirth or eats their placenta. She used the Bradley Method classes as a preparation and attended routine chiropractic appointments. As her due date, July 12, came and went she eagerly waited the arrival of her baby boy. Melissa did everything under the sun to start labor.

As midnight hit on July 15, I got the "I think my water just broke" text, followed by, "I just had a contraction". Melissa's mothers water had also broken at midnight and she delivered her just 5 short hours later. I went to bed because I knew I would need my rest. Around 3:30 AM, I got a call from Doug saying that Melissa had thrown up and they were probably going to head to the hospital soon. I got to Elmer at 4:30 AM and walked back to her room. 

Melissa was having contractions back to back, there was no break. At 4:45 AM the midwife came in and checked her. Melissa was 3 cm dilated and 90% effaced. She said she was exhausted and continued to labor on. 

I used the rebozo on her for a little. But, she was finding that nothing was comfortable and was beginning to get tired quickly. She was staying hydrated and as she went to the bathroom she decided that nothing was more comfortable than sitting on the toilet. 

An hour after her first initial exam she looked at Doug & said, "I need the drugs. This is not a test." Doug & I tried everything to comfort her, but not much later she was begging for something, anything. She just needed something to let her rest, at least for a little. I got the midwife and we all told Melissa that she was strong and able to to do this. She assured us that this was what she wanted. At 6:30 AM she was checked again before getting a dose of morphine and was 4 cm dilated. We asked her again if this was definitely what she wanted and told her it was a low dose and wouldn't take away all of the pain. "Doug, this is not a test, this is not a drill. I need it." Fifteen minutes later she was given her first dose and another dose would be given 30 minutes after. 

She immediately felt relief, but it was far from being numb. As Melissa said, "It took the edge off." We let her know that even though she got the pain relief she was still strong and not to feel bad for getting them. If that's what she says she needed, then that's what she needed. She sat on the birth ball and got some rest, but still felt the contractions. At 7:30 AM she got the second dose and took an hour long rest. 

Two hours later the morphine had completely worn off and she was ready for her next dose. The midwife came in and checked her again at 9:30 AM and she was 7 cm dilated. She told her that it was best not to get another dose of morphine at this point and suggested getting into the tub instead for pain relief. While the tub was filling, the nurse rolled in the warmer for the baby and it all became very real. Melissa's eyes filled with tears, she knew the end was near. 

At 9:45 AM she was in the tub and by 10:00 Melissa and Doug were passed out. The water completely relaxed Melissa and she comfortably went through transition with no pain medication. 45 minutes later she was moaning, she felt the urge to push. I forgot to mention that the maternity ward was completely packed. The waiting room was converted into a labor and delivery room & the rooms in a different wing were being used as labor and delivery as well. The midwife was delivering another baby at the time so the nurse told Melissa to get out of the water and she would check her in the meantime. Melissa sat back on the toilet where she felt most comfortable and began moaning louder. She was trying not to push until she got checked, but the feeling was unbearable. 

Her midwife Jane came in and by 11:15 she was in bed pushing. As soon as the midwife gave her the OK to push Melissa's face lit up. She could not wait to finally meet her baby!

Her mom eagerly watched as her only daughter pushed out their first grandson. She had a smile from ear to ear the whole time with the video camera recording. Doug gave Melissa the emotional and physical support to get her through & she pushed with everything left she had in her. 

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Melissa pushed and pushed. Jane told Doug to get ready to catch his baby & he immediately put on gloves and stood next to Jane as Melissa was crowning. 

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After 35 minutes of pushing baby Will was born! Doug & Melissa both hysterically cried as they laid eyes on their precious baby boy. 

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An incredibly rewarding moment! Melissa was in labor for 11 hours and 45 minutes from when her water first broke at midnight. Even though it wasn't the 100% natural water birth that Melissa had planned for it was still absolutely perfect. She worked super hard to get her 8lb 5oz baby boy out. 

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Melissa & Doug, thank you so much for letting me be apart of your magical day.