Wednesday, September 29, 2010

A Letter to the World about Public Breastfeeding.

Dear World,

I'll keep this short and sweet.

Please stop sending mixed signals. We tell women that "breastfeeding is best", we tell them to do it but then we ask them to hide like it is shameful, kick them out of places for breastfeeding and say stupid things like "I don't want to see THAT" or "plan ahead and pump." Cut it out.  Stop the double speak. Get over your fear/sexual obsession with breasts and let a mother care for her child as nature intended because, I've got to break it to you, feeding babies is what boobs are for and everything else is just a nice bonus. Just think about it, if you wouldn't think it inappropriate for a woman to give a bottle then it isn't inappropriate for her to be breastfeeding with or without a cover. Mothering is hard enough without you projecting your issues onto moms and their babies. 

Get over yourselves please.

Even Sesame Street gets that breastfeeding a baby isn't a big deal, sometimes I feel like a lot of you need to go back to preschool.

Again, get over yourselves please and let a woman take care of her baby giving that "best" you're so into.

That's all I have to say about this. Today anyway.  I just had to get that off my chest.   Now I'm going to go whip my boob out and feed my baby.


The Leaky B@@b

P.S. Breastfeeding moms will not be bullied. We're educated, fierce women that WILL protect our children and meet their needs. Thank you.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Breaking up

Dear Vintage Style Beautiful Green Tweed Pumps,

I'm afraid this is good bye. I never intended to part like this, if ever at all but sadly, I suppose all good things must come to an end and seeing as my toes now press uncomfortably against you, this is the end. A sad and tragic parting of what was once a beautiful relationship.

It's not you, it's me. Things change, people change, feet change. Particularly after pregnancy. I was warned but I didn't heed the advice of all those naysayers telling me it wouldn't work, that my feet would probably get bigger and be too much for you to handle. My feet are now bigger than you and I know you don't mean to but you're hurting me, stifling me and crowding my freedom to run and dance. You can't help it, it's just the way you are. So it's over, we're done. I'm so sorry, you just can't stop change. And I've changed but you haven't.

We had 7 good years, the first 4 were really great and you and I went through a lot together: office drama, fundraising dinners, date nights at cute little bistros, so many memories. I will never forget spotting you in that chic little boutique consignment shop in Montrose. Love at first sight. Adorable and vintage, you seduced me with a great price and classic style. I pictured myself the crisp librarian type, coquette and studiously fun. Flirting with you for a while I knew almost instantly you'd be coming home with me. Even though it was obvious that you had a few flaws and would be inflexible to a fault perhaps in your structure, it all just added to your charm. So I brought you home and our love affair began. How I loved you. It became clear over time that we couldn't shop together, that always ended in disaster and dancing was such drama from you that I always made sure to choose a different partner. But we made it work. Compromise was the name of the game, I knew your strengths and weaknesses and you knew mine. Eventually though, specially after baby #4, we just started growing apart. I admit it, I used you only for work, to get something done. If I wanted fun I reached for another pair, never you. I'm sorry, it was just that I couldn't enjoy myself with you like I once could. Flip flops understand casual, sneakers know what I need for support, and strappy sandals totally get being cool and having a good time.

I tried to make it work even when we both had to admit things were awkward and uncomfortable when we were together. Really, I tried. It just didn't work. Then came totally sexy, amazing killer heels and I just stopped trying. I know that is what killed us. But I couldn't help it, they are a full size bigger and were $2 at a yard sale and made my heart go pitter-patter. How can you compete with those curves? That height? The alluring toe cleavage? That bling? Call me a cheap hussy, fine, but I have to be true to myself. I'm in love even if I know they aren't good for me. Today I went out with you for nostalgia's sake but it was then that I realized we really are over. I'm sorry.

You'll get over it, you'll move on, I know you'll be fine. There happens to be an 11 year old I know that I think could be ready for her first real relationship with an amazing pair of shoes. We'll get to see each other once in a while, I hope we can still be friends. You will always hold a special place in my heart.



Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Lactivism: What's the Fuss?

In my post Oh My Gosh... I'm a LACTIVIST! I took a humorous look at my discovery that I am, in fact, a lactivist. Today I share a more serious look at lactivism in a guest post from Krista, lactivist, mom to 4, photographer, WAHM behind Katie's Closet, a bouncer (moderator) on TLB forums and so much more. Normalizing breastfeeding is worth the fuss.

These days I find myself scoring magazines for formula ads and grocery isles for pictures of babies on formula cans. I have vowed not to renew a subscription to a favored magazine , sent emails and written letters. I have reported violators of the WHO Code of Marketing of Breast Milk Substitutes to Infact, a company that lobbies for change. I know I have friends and family who think I take the whole topic too seriously, but I can't help it.

In Grade 11 economics class my teacher explained that social change is brought about through a pendulum of ideals. You have the people on one side who are opposed to change, those in the middle who would like to see some change, agree with it in theory, but don't want to rock the boat and the people on the far side who are passionate about bringing forth change at whatever cost. These are the women who burned their bras, lobbied government for the right to vote and refused to take the backseat on the bus. The status quo in such an issue has the pendulum to the far right, where it has always been. An object at rest stays at rest. It takes the force of those who are passionate to swing that pendulum as far left as they can so that eventually it will land in the middle.

Do I believe that formula should be by prescription only? Not really. I think formula serves a roll and there are babies who have benefited from it. But I don't mind hearing the idea tossed around. It gets people thinking. The same with the celebrity who was quoted as saying breastfeeding should be law. Such a law isn't practical and it certainly isn't desirable, but go ahead and make the statement. It might start a discussion. Nursing in public? Oh yeah. Let's get women out there flashing so much booby that eventually no one blinks an eye.

So I stand up and I make a fuss. If everyone were to stand by silently and hope that one day all babies will have the opportunity to be breastfed, then we would be standing for a long time. I want to be one of the people who helps pull, push and drag that pendulum to the middle. Where breastfeeding is normal, acceptable and no one ever, ever considers it gross.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Because it could be my baby

Certain things are supposed to happen a certain way. We can accept, if begrudgingly, that sometimes things don't go as they are "supposed" to, we can make allowances for the times when a curve ball is thrown and we swing hard only to strike. For many of us, when it comes to breastfeeding, that's what formula is for. When what is supposed to work doesn't.

But did you know that formula is the 4th and last option the World Health Organization recommends as a substitute for a mother breastfeeding? The WHO ranks infant nutrition in this order: 1) direct breastfeeding; 2) the mother’s pumped or expressed milk in a bottle; 3) another mother’s donated human milk, and 4) artificial breastmilk substitute.

Look a little further into breastmilk it's not difficult to see why. From lower infant mortality rates to a marked reduction in SIDS, from lower childhood obesity to disease fighting antibodies, from optimal nutrition to increase protection against allergies, and new studies showing that stem cells are present in breastmilk as well. And then there are the risks associated with formula feeding. With all this and then some, it is no wonder that donated breastmilk ranks higher in priority for infant nutrition than artificial breastmilk substitutes, AKA formula. So when things don't work how they are supposed to, for whatever reason, and pumping isn't a viable option, again for whatever reason, then before reaching for formula the World Health Organization recommends families find donated breastmilk.

The problem is how difficult it can be to get donated breastmilk as Karen shared in a guest post not too long ago. Whether it be via milk banks through such organizations as The Human Milk Banking Association of America or informal direct donation as found through places like MilkShare, there simply isn't enough donated milk available. And the price can be prohibitive even through direct donation if shipping is involved. This further complicates the problems of what was supposed to work, not working.

I am a milk donor. I have 4 milk babies and all of them came to their families through adoption and though their mommies tried, they were unable to induce lactation or relactate to a point to fully meet their babies needs. It has been an honor to assist these families and something I am proud of. All of my milk donation has been through informal, direct donation. Sometimes the need is because of adoption and sometimes it is for physical reasons where the mother is unable to breastfeed or has insufficient milk production. This past week I read several stories from families needing milk but one in particular stood out: a father looking for donated breastmilk for his newborn baby boy. This mother had planned to breastfeed when her son was born at the end of August and she did, for 6 days until she died unexpectedly in her sleep. Now, to honor his wife's wishes and to do the best he can for his son this father is looking for donated breastmilk. MckMama blogs about the situation, her emotional response to it and drives this father's plea further in her blog piece "The Post In Which I Ask For Your Breastmilk" asking for more lactating women to step up and help this family get the milk this little boy so needs. When I read this story and others, my mind jumps to the bags of frozen milk in my freezer and I wonder if I could increase my supply to meet these needs. Somehow, some way I want to personally provide every baby in need of breastmilk with enough milk to meet their needs. Even as I write this my eyes fill with tears again because of this tragic situation and as I fight the sting I realize something.

I donate because it could be my baby.

Because it could be my breasts that didn't produce enough or even any milk.

Because it could be my baby born in my heart but came from the body of another woman.

Because it could be my breast surgery done when I didn't think about breastfeeding my future babies.

Because it could be my baby born too early or with other complications and it could be my breasts don't produce enough through expressing and pumping.

Because it could be my health failing, it could be my heart surgery, my cancer, my complications.

Because it could be my family grieving my death and my husband looking for milk for my baby.

Because it could be my baby that needed the milk of another woman and I hope it would be there.

A few months ago a friend was very close to having her little boy and she sent me an e-mail asking me a favor: should she die would I please help her husband find breastmilk for their new baby? I wanted to tell her not to think like that, only positive thoughts going into birth but something held me back. The pure honesty in admitting a fear that I have pressed down in myself demanded an honest answer. Yes, I would do it. I also told her that I understood her fear. Because I do. In that moment all the statistics in the world don't matter, what matters are the ones that will become the reality for you family, for your baby. And you need to know there are provisions should you need them. Because it could be your baby.

In the case of my friend, she and her little guy are doing well and I am grateful I did not need to help her husband find donor milk for their son. This other family was not so fortunate and they do need donor milk. As do many others. There are far more babies who do not need donated breastmilk than do but for those that are in need the difficulty and expense in finding human milk can be too much. For these families to follow the recommendation of The World Health Organization and get donated breastmilk for their babies we need more donating moms. Have you ever wondered for even the briefest moment if your baby was getting enough milk from your breast? Have you ever been concerned that your health or medications you require could prohibit you from breastfeeding? Or have you ever let your mind wander to the fear of you not being able to get to your baby in the case of some kind of disaster or emergency? Then you can understand a fraction of the worry a mother or father with a baby in need of donated breastmilk. If you are one of those mothers or fathers please know that my heart, and my milk, goes out to you. To any woman currently lactating or will be some day, would you consider adding even just one pumping session a day into your schedule to help out these families? If you respond well to expressing your milk, please consider becoming a milk donor either through safe direct donation or by becoming a screened milk donor with a milk bank in your area. Anyone with milk already stashed in your freezer but more than you require, please explore the possibility of sharing that milk if it isn't more than 6 months old, passing it on to another family in need. If you are interested in helping the family whose story I shared briefly here please follow the hyperlink to MckMama's blog for more information and check out this information on shipping frozen breastmilk if you are not local to that family or have found another family in need of milk but not in your area. Because it could be your baby.

Every human baby deserves to have the normal nutrition for a human infant: human breastmilk. To every lactating woman, past, present and future that has ever shared or will ever share even a drop of her milk with another woman's baby I thank you. From the bottom of my heart, thank you. Whether you give through safe direct donation or through an established Milk Bank such as one approved by the Human Milk Banking Association of America, I thank you.

Because it could be my baby.

Please note:
For families looking for milk, it is important that you be informed on the potential risks of receiving breastmilk through informal donation vs. a recognized milk bank when making your decision.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Save My Nipples!

Krista, talented and super sweet WAHM behind Katie's Closet, sent me one of her Nipple Savers to help a distracted Smunchie on the b@@b and hopefully spare me some rubber-band-nipple experiences. Fun, bright and simple, we love our nipple saver and it quickly became more than just a nursing tool. Three bright ribbons attached to a little clip turn out to be one of Smunchie's favorite toys. I try not to use it too often because I don't want her to get bored with it but I clip it onto our carrier if she's going to be in it for a long time to give her something to play with, I've clipped it to her little activity bar, and of course, my shirt when she's eating. She loves it!

Ok, she really does love it but the only shots I got of her smiling and playing with it were blurry. I'm not so good at the one handed photography.

Now for the really cool news: Krista is offering a weekend blitz sale just for members of The Leaky B@@b. She's not going to be at her computer this weekend and is offering a 10% discount for any orders that come in between now and when she turns on her computer Monday morning. Great time to pick up a new Nipple Saver and don't forget they make excellent inexpensive and fun but practical baby gift too. To get the discount, when you order be sure to say you're from The Leaky B@@b. Happy shopping!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

The Best Laid Plans

Today I'm so pleased to get to share this guest post from Maureen Alley, a regular on TLB Facebook page and forums. A real life story of making plans, seeing them change and learning to adapt. Struggle, hope, reality, and support all play important roles in her tale. We need to hear more stories like this, I hope you love it as much as I did! Maureen originally wrote this for a blog contest on Mommypotamus and I appreciate the opportunity to share it here and as always, if you have something you'd like to submit for a guest post just e-mail me at

I had a plan. I had a couple different plans, actually. There was one for the year leading up to getting pregnant—switch to organic foods and all natural soaps and lotions—and there was a plan for during the pregnancy, which was all about glowing, gentle yoga, and cute maternity clothes. I had a birth plan too, of course, which involved no drugs, perhaps a water tub, and a general celebration of birth and my body’s abilities. I also had a plan for after the birth day, which was a bit vague. (I knew it involved breastfeeding, but I didn’t think much beyond that.)
Everything was going according to plan, right up until about the tenth week of pregnancy. I had a blood test that showed elevated levels of hormones, which hit my internal panic button. In an effort to allay my fears, my OB sent me in for an ultrasound. My husband and I were waiting anxiously to hear the confirmation that our baby was ok, and there was nothing to worry about.

“Do twins run in your family?”

I didn’t think much of the technician’s first question. I figured it was routine, something she asked everyone. So I answered, “No, why?”

“Because I see two babies in there!”

At first, I thought that exhilarating news meant the end of my best-laid plans. My OB began tossing around words like “elevated risk”, “c-section”, and “prematurity”. I realized that I had two choices: I could acquiesce to her plan for me, or I could find a way to create a better reality for myself and my babies. So, I signed up for a natural-childbirth class, fired my old OB and found a new one, one who had conversations with me instead of talking at me.

I attended my childbirth classes, Le Leche League meetings and kept practicing yoga. I befriended a midwife, and collected positive twin stories. I got acupuncture, prenatal massage, and super-fruit smoothies. I visualized the birth I wanted, I talked and sang to the babies who were stretching my womb and my imagination. I woke up every day of my second trimester smiling and rubbing my burgeoning belly. My original plan was altered but still basically intact.

Because my husband and I decided to stay within the medical establishment, I also saw a perinatologist. He was a specialist in caring for mothers of multiples, and he won my trust with honest answers to my copious questions. So when Dr. M dropped the “b word”, I listened. Bed rest?! Bed rest would ruin my hope for an active pregnancy, but I decided to plan for it accordingly. I squared away everything at work, found a substitute for my class, and checked up on my short-term disability policy. I honestly thought that if I worked so hard at preparing for bed rest it would never happen. However, right before I hit 24 weeks, I was put on modified bed rest due to a structurally unsound cervix.

I was devastated at first, but I decided to roll with the punches and enjoy the quiet weeks I had before my babies arrived. I had a lot of weeks to go, but I truly enjoyed my first Friday of bed rest. I rested, reflected, and fidgeted. I was feeling “off”, but attributed that to the fact my professional life had just ended for awhile and I was anticipating being bored. I spent that Saturday turning and readjusting myself on the couch. I was irritable and short with my husband. When, around seven pm, I started cramping in my low back and getting a feeling of heaviness in my uterus, I called my midwife friend. I explained how I was feeling and she told me to go the hospital. Really? Well, if the midwife-who-hates-hospitals tells you to go, you go.

Once at the hospital, getting hooked up to a contraction monitor was the first step in a nightmarish journey through pre-term labor. I learned all about—and experienced—terb, mag, and the chilling dread brought about by a visit from the neonatologist who told us what to expect if our boys should be born so devastatingly early. At this stage, all my energy and focus went inward, to convince my body to keep those precious baby boys on the inside. They were not done cooking, and I was determined to let them finish.

For the next ten weeks I stayed still, literally and figuratively. I prayed and bargained and hoped against hope that we would make it to 38 weeks. I kept up the visualization, but after every subsequent visit to the labor and delivery floor, every new plunge of the needle, every time I hooked myself up to the home contraction monitor, I grieved for what I was losing. I knew I would not have a peaceful drug free birth. I had lost the pregnancy I wanted, but I still had my babies, and for that I was grateful with every fiber of my being. I clung so hard to that fact that I didn’t allow myself to feel much else.

Just before I hit 34 weeks gestation, I had to go back to the hospital. Never in my wildest dreams did the drugs not work. All of my imagined scenarios told me that if I had to be readmitted, the magnesium sulfate would work and the contractions would stop. This time, they did not. I was delivered of my babies on February 9, 2010 at 2:07 and 2:08 pm via c-section. It was everything I did not want. The next three weeks were a blur of pain, hormone-driven despair, leaving my babies in the hospital NICU when I was discharged, endless visits to that very same NICU to see my babies, and pumping.

My mother—my angel, my guide, my support, how many names do we have for mother?—made me pump my breast milk for my babies every two hours, day and night. My supply soared, and I delivered the “liquid love” faithfully to the nurses to give my boys. I latched on to breastfeeding as eagerly as a baby to a breast. It was the one thing I had left, the last shred of my plans that I could accomplish. I was grieving the loss of the pregnancy and the birth I had so desperately hoped for. I realize that this may sound selfish or petty. My babies had been born successfully, and barring some serious reflux issues, were healthy. I had everything to be joyous about, but try telling a post-partum mom how to feel! It would have been easier to scale a mountain than regulate my feelings at that point.

Pride was one positive emotion that permeated the cloud. I was so proud of being able to pump 6 ounces per session! My husband and I learned how to feed premature babies from slow flow bottles, and we brought each of them home in due time. My babies were getting optimum nutrition, but I still felt something was missing. That something was undoubtedly sleep, but it was also a stronger bond with my babies that I was craving. Finally, one day my mom told me, in essence, to “Sit down and nurse your babies.” Their mouths were big enough at this point, and they were more than eager. By some miracle of chance, there was no nipple confusion at all. Both of my squally squirmy squeaky baby boys took to the breast like pros. Because they were! They wanted the comfort and fullness of mama’s breasts. And it gave me unspeakable joy to give it to them.

Maureen's little guys at 7 weeks, already defending their b@@b and nursing like pros!

I nursed my babies when they were hungry, when they were sleepy, and when they were hurting from the reflux. Nursing became the only thing that soothed my fussier twin, so we had marathon nursing sessions, the longest of which was four hours straight. I was a zombie shell of a woman, but my children were thriving and growing. I was a mama.

Now, seven months into this crazy adventure, I am still nursing my boys, day and night, although we are all sleeping more. My confidence grows with each day, as do my boys. I have become very adept at juggling two wiggling bodies when it’s time to nurse, and I’ve managed to accomplish tandem feeding just about everywhere we’ve been, including in the (non-moving) car and on the beach. But my favorite nursing sessions are the quiet ones at home, with both boys snuggled around me like commas. Their sighs and hums are my favorite music, and my heart melts every time one of them stirs to check and make sure I’m still there before drifting off again. The miracle of hormones, those that I cursed just a few short months ago, is that nursing makes me feel so good. The love-chemicals get released each time one of my boys latches on and they go to work, easing the tension of the day and softening the ragged, visceral edges of my memories of the early days.

I didn’t get the pregnancy I wanted, and I certainly didn’t get the birth I wanted, but I got the children I dreamed of. I got two healthy, happy boys, and I get to nurse them every day. Breastfeeding has eased my heart while providing for my children. I am lucky, I know I am. It couldn’t have worked out better if I had planned it…
Still going strong!

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

By any other name

My family today.

You may notice that I use nicknames for my family or perhaps that we don't actually call our eldest "Earth Baby" and my husband's name isn't "The Piano Man" comes as a shock to you. In your head I'm actually chasing after Squiggle Bug all day calling "Squiggle Bug!" Though I hate to disappoint you, the truth is we all have recognizable legitimate names that would actually flow a little better in real life. It's not that we're trying to keep our identity a secret, obviously, you can fairly easily find our real names and our photos are all over the blog. I just wanted to keep some amount of distance between this online world and the world we, particularly our children, interact in on a regular basis.

My family before there was a Smunchie.

So how did I come up with these names, these terms of endearment for my family in the blogsphere? Allow me to share how I named my family.

The Piano Man. Sexy, right? He is, totally. But that's not why I picked it for him. I've called him "The Piano Man" for a long time though previously only in jest. The night we met he was tearing up Rachmaninoff in the practice room on one of the grands reserved for piano majors on the 4th floor of the Donne Music Building. He was casually pounding out such a bombastic rendition of the genuis' composition that my poor little Bach piece didn't stand a chance. I could barely hear what I was practicing due to the sound bleeding through the thin walls of the old building. So I got up to see who was making the ruckus. The rest, as they say, is history. One that includes me changing my major to vocal performance and him being my accompanist. I used to sing the song to him... play us a song, you're the piano man... Then I married him and he was my piano man. Today he teaches piano and plays for several groups and churches and occasionally he'll play for me to sing. I still like that Billy Joel song.

Can you say: awkward wedding picture? Yikes. Big yikes.
But he's always been my piano man.

Earth Baby. Our eldest daughter is 11 years old and bears a very serious and mature sounding name filled with romance. It fits her well. But so does Earth Baby. She loves the earth, far more aware of nature and being in harmony with the earth's rhythms and creatures far more than I did at her age and sometimes even more than now. Insects, gardening and caring for the environment have interested her since she was very small. I will never forget how when she was 4 she was playing during a rain shower in the courtyard of the house we lived in at the time and had collected worms and snails and had them all over her, climbing her arms and holding them like pets and proudly came in to show me. *shudder* She is my Earth Baby.

Earth Baby and Smunchie.

The Storyteller. I'm not very creative with these names. Every night as they are in bed, The Storyteller weaves an elaborate and ongoing tale for Lolie and she tells it with mystery and confidence. Anyone that has heard one of her tales is drawn in. I truly believe she has a talent for storytelling. Interestingly enough, she also makes every little thing she feels she needs to tell you into a story but those are rarely as captivating. She is also a fantastic liar though I would never admit that to her and by now I'm onto her and can spot her lying from a mile away. The Storyteller always has a story tell, whether you want to hear it or not. She will talk your ear off.

The Storyteller. She looks like she's about to get into mischief.
She probably was already into mischief here.

Lolie. When I started thinking about nicknames for my family as I wrote about them in my blogs I got stuck on this one. The others were either obvious or already in use. Everything I came up with was either too close to her real name and was used around home or it just sounded like I was trying too hard. I wanted something whimsical and sweet, fun and dreamy with a bit of spunk. A name that suited her. Nothing worked and I asked for input. She wasn't sure but started throwing out insect names probably because I already had Squiggle Bug. Our nickname for her before she was born didn't seem to fit any more so we pondered one day while outside. She found her favorite critter and called Squiggle Bug to come see the Roly Poly. An excited Squiggle Bug squealed with delight as Lolie let it crawl over her hand and arm (what is with my kids and letting things crawl on them!) and then jabbered "I love lolie-lolie!" We decided that Lolie would be the nickname for her. It fits perfectly, she loves it and even calls herself by that name sometimes.

Awwww! Isn't she sweet? My darling 7 year old dreamer.

And we even have a shot of the inspiration for her nickname.

Squiggle Bug. That was her name before she was born though only in private, I rarely let other people know I have an endearing nickname for my growing babe and we don't share their real name with anyone, ever until they are born. I continued calling her that even after she was born though it started to vanish around a year or so. Though I wasn't using it much the affectionate name still described her well, she moves a lot. As in all the time. We do some partial bed-sharing and sleeping with her can be a sweet cuddly treat but it is always a wild one. She loves to dance and I'm not exactly sure but I suspect that her moves are exactly what a Squiggle Bug looks like when it moves. The nickname returned when Smunchie was born and I used it with the new baby once. Everyone remembered who it had belonged to first and it experienced a revival that continues today.

Squiggle Bug at 2.5 years old.
The only way we could get her to not run screaming from the camera was to give her my mirror compact.

Smunchie. I think I started calling her that to myself during the pregnancy. I had an anterior placenta and it made it difficult for me to palpate her position sometimes further complicated by her stubbornly occiput posterior positioning. As I would trace her outline from her head at my pubic bone up around my belly I would ask her how she was doing, if she was srunched, if she had room to maneuver into a better position. Somehow "smunched" came out one day. I continued to use it, calling her Smunchie. When she was born she was the shortest of all our girls and when she had difficulties growing she really did look, well, smunched. Her difficulty growing led to some interesting breastfeeding experiences and I would ask my sleepy little girl if she was a munchie smunchie. I'm pretty sure I called her Smunchie more often in the first few weeks than I did her actual name. With the exception of The Piano Man and Squiggle Bug, I think everyone else in the family regularly calls her Smunchie too. Though she's grown a lot and isn't that tiny baby any more, the name still seems right for her.

Smunchie at 6 months.

And me? Well, I'm just Jessica. But you can call me The Leaky B@@b.

Me and an 11 month old Squiggle Bug.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Have you laughed today?

A wise friend once told me when I first became a parent to make it a goal to laugh, really laugh like deep belly laughs and unstoppable giggles at least once a day with my children to help me to enjoy them and not get lost in the work of being a parent. This advice has stuck with me for 11 years. Occasionally in the chaotic pace of our lives it gets lost or rather, I lose it. I forget to pay attention and seek out those moments. It never fails though, when I'm trying to get through my checklists and to conquer the dishes and laundry for at least 10 minutes one day I am reminded of this value I hold. Sometimes it is whispered gently into my heart, others it is like a 2x4 up side my head and still others it explodes shredding my lists and destroying my piles.

Have you laughed today?

Today I had planned to get another breastfeeding demonstration video up but didn't have any footage that would work for what I wanted so I grabbed the camera and decided to film me breastfeeding Smunchie in the Mei Tai as I walked with The Storyteller, Lolie, Squiggle Bug and Smunchie home from the ballet studio. The Storyteller was to be my videographer when we stopped at the park and let Lolie push Squiggle Bug in the swing for a while as we filmed. They were all enthusiastic and The Storyteller assured me she was ready to become a film maker.

SteadyCam she is not.

However, she is a cute little ballerina. By the way the video shakes and wiggles, jumping around all over the place one would think she was still in dance class while holding the camera.

Isn't she cute! She and Earth Baby were getting ready to ride their bikes to the ballet studio when I snapped this in a sloppy "Aw! My babies riding off to ballet for the first time this season" moment.

Because I don't want to subject anyone to video induced motion sickness, I have no video to share with you.

Well, that's not exactly true.

In the video I had hoped to demonstrate how I adjusted my carrier to breastfeed and then could multi-task while babywearing and breastfeeding. Once I had Smunchie latched, I walked over to Squiggle Bug and started pushing her on the swing to let Lolie run off to tackle the bigger playground equipment. The problem was Smunchie much preferred watching Squiggle Bug swing and totally ditched the b@@b. So I gave up and enjoyed the moment and we got this instead. The carrier is too loose and not being worn well at all because it was adjusted for BFing and I relaxed it even further for her to see better.

Turns out, I like the video footage we ended up getting better anyway.

We laughed and laughed and laughed some more. We shot several videos until the camera died. Then we watched her more without the camera. On the way home we laughed some more remembering. After dinner we watched it again with Earth Baby who had missed it and we snorted and hollered through it again. And when I edited it down with Smunchie on my lap, she and I laughed yet again. Oh yeah, we've laughed today. Have you?

Really, Disgusting? I mean REALLY?

Warning: This is the most disgusting post I've ever written. I would not be able to read it while pregnant. If you have a weak stomach, proceed with caution.

Sometimes I hear words like "disgusting," "gross," "yucky," "icky," "repulsive," "turn-off," "sickening," "offensive," “disturbing,” and more when NIP (Nursing In Public) is discussed. Or I should say ranted about since it is rarely a discussion but more like a verbal battle of contention particularly in the comments found on online news reports and blogs and in such internet venues as Facebook and forums.

I'm a mother of 5 children. I've traveled, attend births, been in the hospital, taken mission trips, worked with the homeless, watched TV and movies including the discovery channel, and more. Trust me, I KNOW disgusting. So please, allow me to clarify what is truly "disgusting."

There are grades, levels, if you will, of disgusting, not all things gross are created equal. The mere thought of some icky scenarios are enough to turn your stomach and others just make you grimace when you actually see or experience them. All of us have an internal gross-factor monitor, it alerts us when to look the other way, plug our nose, shout out a warning or triggers our stomach to empty it's contents. Some of these are universally understood, some are more personal and developed by our cultural experiences. A few don't even make sense but most do, as a form of self-preservation to avoid things that could make us sick. When I hear or read someone say that seeing someone breastfeeding is disgusting I want to throw out some really gross ideas and see what they say. Really, Disgusting? I mean REALLY? Gross? Really? Seriously? Oh come on! I can show you disgusting.

Here is my list, it would be longer but I started feeling a little nauseated:

Hmmmm, that's icky, if I think about it too much I could be sick.
Disgusting Level 1
  • Letting your kid spit out the food they've already chewed but don't like into your bare hand.
  • Cleaning up your own child's poop.
  • Public bathrooms.
  • Porn site e-mails.
  • Derogatory terms for female genitalia.
  • Questionable mud puddles.
  • Wiping buggers off your child's face or suctioning them out of their nose.
  • Shoveling manure.
  • Hearing people talk about pus.
  • Hearing your parents talk about their sex life.

Like ewwww! So gross, I think I'm going to be sick.
Disgusting Level 2

  • Cleaning up someone else's poop from the floor or toilet or whatever.
  • Nose picking.
  • Yack floating in the pool you're swimming in.
  • Seeing someone urinate.
  • Finding maggots... anywhere.
  • Puss filled wounds.
  • Ticks- as in the blood sucking insect kind.
  • Seeing someone sneeze into their hands and then touch the spoon in the buffet line.
  • Filthy public bathrooms.
  • The idea of eating fried worms.
  • Finding the shredded remains of the used tampon your dog ate AFTER she gave you hello licks.
  • Stepping on a roach or any other bug so the guts squirt out.
  • Hearing your parents HAVING sex.

Totally, universally disgusting, I am going to be sick.
Disgusting Level 3

  • Roach in your food.
  • Touching someone else's buggers.
  • Finding a random used condom at the park.
  • Taking a swig of milk only to find it is curdled.
  • Being thrown-up on even by your own child.
  • Having to dispose of a dead, maggotty animal found in your yard, worse if in your house.
  • Draining a pus-filled wound.
  • Raw chicken.
  • The drinking water sources in some parts of the world.
  • Discovering wormy dog/cat poop after you stepped in it.
  • Red tide- people living in coastal areas know what I'm talking about here.

Those situations are gross. Some of them are a reflection of my own personal “ick” factor and I recognize my issues with them. As always, I have a choice when faced with them: push through, look away, get over it or remove myself. As such I let The Piano Man handle any raw poultry while I hide in the bedroom. This is left over from issues in pregnancy and him dealing with the raw meat makes all the difference in the world in my being able to eat later. Once in a while our stomach turning reactions signal that something is wrong or just "off" with us. In fact, it has been nausea to food, to the normal sights and smells that are a part of life that have signaled to me that I am pregnant every single time.

Often on the internet battlefields of blogs and articles, phrases about breastfeeding being the natural and normal way to feed a human baby are met with debate swordplay that urinating/defecating and sex are natural too but nobody wants to see them done in public. In sometimes clumsy, sometimes skilled thrusts of the written word, opponents spare about what is best, disgusting, natural, intimate, and above all, whose rights come first. I have to admit, I don’t always get it. Am I missing something? The act of releasing waste from the body and the experience of sexual pleasure seem to be an obvious far cry from a mother feeding, comforting and nourishing her child. To compare these is an elementary exercise in “one of these things is not like the others.” Human waste elimination carries the risk of bacteria and disease being spread, unlike breastfeeding, there isn’t a sealed suction receptacle to contain any possible threat. Not only is public sex acts prohibited by law but again, the risk of the spread of disease and of harming the psychological development of children by exposing them to the mature nature of indecent exposure before they are mentally capable of understanding and degrading all of society would be of primary concern regarding sex in public. Furthermore, public urination, defecation and sex are illegal. Breastfeeding in public is legal in the United States, in fact, breastfeeding in public is protected in most of the United States making it impossible to charge a woman with indecent exposure and for good reason, it is recognized as the normal, healthy way to feed a human baby. As far as whose rights get to come first, I would hate to see what has become of our society when we're putting the personal tastes of adults in society over the needs of a dependent infant or child. The only disgusting possibility I see would be for a woman to not feed her hungry child when she has the means to do so, that she uses her breast according to the design of her body is no less disgusting than anyone else using their mouth to eat.

Like my red-flag of nausea before I even suspect I am pregnant, perhaps our disgust with breastfeeding in public reveals less about breastfeeding and more about some deeper issues we have has a society. Issues with the objectification of women, issues with a one-dimensional view of breasts, issues with body image and self-esteem, issues with confusing inappropriate public behavior and appropriate public behavior, issues with double of speak of what is “best” yet wanting that very thing to be hidden, issues with the complex nature of women as both sexual beings and nurturing mothers. If the sight of breastfeeding makes you feel sick even though you know it is the normal, healthy or even the “best” way to feed a human baby then it sounds like you need to get yourself checked out because that just doesn’t sound right, something must be “off” with you or maybe, just maybe, our society in general.

Because this is not disgusting.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

The Hard Work of Mothering

Today I am thrilled to bring you a guest post by Kari Swanson, daughter, sister, wife, mother of two, librarian, and member of Generation X who is also known as BookishMama, a moderator on The Leaky B@@b forums. Kari blogs over at Thoughts from BookishMama and I've enjoyed reading some of her recent posts particularly related to breastfeeding.

This photograph was taken in 1936 by Dorothea Lange. Another photo called “Migrant Mother” taken by the same photographer of this same mother is probably one of the most famous photographs in American history, documenting the effects of the Great Depression.

The mother in the photograph was 32 years old when this photograph was taken and she and her husband had 7 children, including this little baby. She was photographed in a camp for migrant pea pickers. According to the photographer’s notes the early pea crop had failed and this family was destitute and had to sell the tires off their car in order to buy food.

Why am I posting this photo? I am posting this photo, because for me it exemplifies a hard working mother and a mother’s hard work at the same time.

Mothering can be hard work. Living at the beck and call of an infant, having no time to take a bathroom break, and getting little to no sleep for months, or even years, on end is hard work. Raising children requires dedication, organization, selflessness, empathy, creativity… the list goes on. All of those traits and skills and more are required of mothers whether they spend 24 hours every day with their children or not.

Kari took this beautiful photo while breastfeeding her daughter.

There is no such thing as a part-time mother. Once you are a mother you are a mother all day, every day for the rest of your life. All mothers, whether they have jobs that take them away from their children for periods of time, operate businesses in their homes, work outside their homes with their children on their backs/hips, or stay home with their children every day, are all full time mothers.

Let’s all be sensitive of what it means to be a hard working mother and to do the hard work of mothering. We are all doing the best we can and what we think is best for our children. Some of us choose to stay home with our children. Some of us choose to work. Some of us do not have choices either way. The grass may seem greener on the other side of the fence, but it’s really pretty much the same grass in different locations.

(PS This photograph is in the public domain. To read more about the photograph go to:
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