Gordito’s Birth Story

It’s been so long since I’ve written one of these, I don’t even know where to start. If you followed my posts during pregnancy, you may recall my struggle with SPD. Around 36 weeks, I used my walker to get to the laundry room, and I tripped over a shoe. My right foot went forward about 3 feet and I landed hard on it, with my legs apart. SNAP! That’s literally all it took to tear my SP joint (symphysis pubis). I screamed so loudly that Milkman and all 3 kids came running in. Milkman had to help drag me to the couch where I sat wailing with an ice pack. I was so angry at my body, that had been so much stronger this time, and so well supported by the HG harness (of course, I wasn’t wearing it when I tripped ::face palm::), that it just seemed cruel to make it so far and then have such a catastrophic injury at the end.

I went to the perinatologist a few days later who confirmed the tear, and later that day a wheelchair was delivered to my front door step. I was both relieved to have a means to get around, and then discouraged to know I was ending another pregnancy in a wheelchair.

The last few weeks of my pregnancy were spent sitting in the nursing chair in the corner of my livingroom, relying on my children to keep themselves fed with easy meals, and folding laundry and baby clothes while I cried missing our foster baby who had left unexpectedly the previous month. The pain I was in was unbelievable. Even readjusting myself in the recliner was scream-worthy. The last 2 weeks of my pregnancy, my mom and sisters took turns showing up most days of the week. My oldest sister swept and mopped my floors, my middle sister tended to kids, and my mother kept us all fed. This was the most help I had ever received during a pregnancy, and it was humbling, difficult, and one of the biggest blessings I’ve ever encountered. (They kept this up for a good 2 weeks after Milkman went back to work after I had the baby. I owe them a very great debt!) My beloved neighbor and dear friend would pop in on the days my family wasn’t here, and she would give me back rubs, and take my kids to water plants and feed chickens to give me little breaks. As someone who is used to being on the go, being a helper, being a host, and taking care of other people, it was totally foreign to be cared for like this, but it was good for me.

One of the big concerns I had after the tear was my ability to deliver this baby vaginally. The pain that I was in had me longing for a C-Section, but! There was an issue that would make a C-Section very undesirable for me. After 7 failed epidurals from my previous labors, and a consult with the head of anesthesia at my hospital, we determined that due to my scoliosis and arthritis, epidurals were never able to be properly placed and take effect. This being the case, it was suggested I try for an epidural at the very beginning of labor (something I’ve never considered), and then if it didn’t take, we would progress to a spinal. If that didn’t work, we would know that if I was in need of a C-section, I would have to go under general anesthesia. The thought of not being the first one to see my baby felt unbearable. Without the ability to move on my own or go anywhere without assistance, I had a lot of time to sit, stew, worry, and cry. And boy, did I cry a LOT!

While some people can fully cook a baby in 37 weeks, I am a slow cooker, and I knew I wouldn’t deliver this baby boy early, let alone “on time”. I normally have weeks upon weeks of prodromal labor, but this time, all prodromal labor stopped at 38 weeks and my uterus was calm and totally disinterested in ejecting a baby. My midwives and my perinatologist knew me well enough to not bother offering an early induction, and we didn’t even try for membrane stripping this time since it had never worked before. We knew the name of the game was “wait”, and so we did.

My sister brought oils, both to diffuse and to slather on me. My neighbor and sister tried pressure points, and Milkman tried making me meals loaded with balsamic and oregano, but nothing could cause my body to kick into gear. This was not surprising given my history, but it was discouraging. From feeling around, one midwife said the baby was really big, and another said the baby was right on track. One ultrasound showed a beast, the other a totally normal sized baby. I felt confident that I could deliver a baby at any size— if only my pelvis weren’t split! But it was split, and I was getting nervous. This was also the first pregnancy where I became terrified of labor. After my last (and very traumatic) birth, I became consumed with terror at the thought of delivering another baby. There were so many moments of Milkman holding me while I gripped his hands to death whispering over and over “I don’t want to do this, I don’t want to do this, I can’t do this, I don’t want to do this…” and him whispering back “you can do this, your body was made to do this, you will do this…” over and over.

I felt like I practically lived at the hospital the last 3 weeks of my pregnancy. Between midwife, perinatologist, and iron infusion appointments to help get my iron up to a safe level for delivery, even the parking garage attendants got to know me. By week 40, the valet was saying “today?” Every time he parked my car and I would say “nope. Not yet.”

At that 40 week appointment, the perinatologist set my induction for 41 weeks, and said hopefully I would go before then. It was at that point that I felt the clock ticking. I was absolutely not interested in an induction, so I figured I would try everything I could at home. We kept up with oils, and I began pumping and nursing around the clock. Sex wasn’t an option because my pelvis was split, but we tried massaging pressure points, and more oregano oil than you can shake a stick at. I went from crying about not wanting to be in labor, to crying and needing to be in labor— but still not wanting to be! That last week of my pregnancy was brutal, and not one I would like to re-live ever again. The pain, the emotional turmoil, the hormones! Just a big mess.

The day before my scheduled induction, I put makeup on, had Milkman push me over to the barn, put heels on me, and shoved my cane under me to prop me up for pictures of my week past date belly pictures. Looking back, I’m so glad we did that! I’m really bad at taking belly pictures when I’m pregnant, so it’s something I’m grateful for!

Sunday morning dawned. The day of my induction was here. Not a contraction or sign of impending labor to be seen. We went to church, and when I came home, we all piled on our bed, while I nursed Peachy, and cuddled my family of 5 for the last time. After lots of tears on my part and the kids’, we loaded them up and took them to my mom’s house. We headed to the hospital, and I told Milkman over and over “I don’t have to stay after they check me, if I don’t want to, right?” And he would say “we can leave any time you want.”

We got to the hospital and got checked into a wheelchair accessible room. I made it clear I wanted to be checked and told if I was favorable for an induction, and if I wasn’t that I would be going home. I was hoping to do a foley and cervadil only to find out that my hospital doesn’t even have cervadil, and I was a 2.5 which meant they wouldn’t do the foley. They said we would go right to Pitocin and because of this, I would not be able to be in the shower (my favorite place to labor) because with pitocin you need constant monitoring. I began crying. How would I make it through a marathon Rachel labor with no shower? I explained how an epidural was not likely to work, and that I wanted to go home and wait for natural labor to start. One nurse was annoyed and said I should just stay, and another nurse went to talk to someone in anesthesia.

I told Milkman to pack my things and though he was supportive, I think he also wanted to just get it over with and begin the induction. At this point I asked a nurse “if I leave now, and come back when I’m in labor, will I be charged twice for being admitted?” She told me I would be charged twice, and being the cheapskate I am, I said “well, I guess I’m staying then”. Soon after then, the nurse came in with a young, female anesthesiologist. She told me that she was looking at my pelvic MRI and x-rays, and she understood why my previous epidurals hadn’t worked, but that after studying them, she was 90% sure she could place a working epidural. Though I had sworn I wouldn’t go through the hassle of getting one that wouldn’t work anyway, I felt really confident in her confidence.

One hour later, I had a working epidural and pitocin running through my veins. 8th time’s the charm apparently!

Because of my disability we had to take several things into consideration and care. One was that I couldn’t open my legs more than about a foot to 18 inches at the knee. Another was that I needed to be moved frequently, but the epidural posed a special threat because I couldn’t feel pain in the same way to trigger me to not move into unsafe positions. I also would not be able to deliver on my back, as it would require my legs to open to far. Because my labors are often very long (34, 23, and 56 hours respectively), being unable to be mobile was a particular concern for extending the length of my induction.

Every 90 minutes, Milkman had an alarm that would go off. He would stabilize my legs with 2 pillows between, tie a sheet around my knees and pillow to keep them closed, and I would move from my right side to my center. 90 Minutes later, we would do the same thing and move from the center to my left side.

9 hours after my induction began, the midwife who delivered Mamitas walked in the room and was officially on duty. We had gotten the schedule a few days before and this was one of the few reasons I decided to stay. Linda is an exceptional midwife. She is the calm to my crazy, she is down to earth, and she can deliver a baby in any position. She is one of those people who radiates warmth, without being syrupy. Real salt of the earth. The team said they were going to check me, and since I had so many contractions they were sure I was close. I told them “pretty sure I’m not.” Guess what? No change. They said maybe a tight 3, but true to my normal, that cervix wasn’t budging. I had a good cry, snuck some food, sipped some of Milkman’s coffee, and told him I wanted to go home. Obviously, it was too late to go home, but this was for the birds. Not used to contracting and not feeling it was totally foreign, so I tried to watch TV, but that made me even more annoyed. I got moved onto my side, Milkman slipped in the bed behind me, and I put in my headphones, turned on my labor mix, pulled my sleep mask over my face, and fell asleep crying silently.

Around 5pm, the Midwife came in and I was about a 5, and the baby was still way up high in my ribs. I told her I was discouraged and she said “I know exactly how this is going to happen. You’re gonna have some crazy contractions and he’s gonna drop, you’re gonna feel pressure and he’s going to engage and be born right after that. This part is taking a while, but once he drops, it’s going to go fast.” I gave a pursed lipped smile and rolled my eyes a little. Nothing ever goes fast for me! We talked about labor positions, and though we had planned on hands and knees, she said “We could tie your legs shut, and if a baby wants to come out, it’ll come out. When the time comes, we’ll get you on your side, nice and comfortable and he’ll make his way out.”

Within an hour, my epidural ran out. I could feel the contractions ramping up, and it felt good to breathe through them. With previous labors, I was so exhausted by the time I hit transition that I would go wild. This time, I moaned low and slow, I breathed deeply, and held onto Milkman like he was a life raft and I was in the middle of a stormy ocean. The pain was satisfying, and because I was well rested, I felt strong enough to handle them. The first song on my labor mix played over and over. A love song…

In April, our foster son left us unexpectedly after just about a year. We were destroyed, and Milkman and I went away on a baby moon. We spent 3 days eating and sleeping (LOTS of sleeping. I took multiple naps a day!) One of the days, Milkman convinced me out of bed long enough to go to the movies and took me to see the movie “A Quiet Place.” If you aren’t familiar with it, the movie is mostly silent. It’s a suspenseful, well acted, beautifully shot thriller, and after watching it, it fast became one of my favorite movies of all time. There was once scene that had me bawling in the theater, and in this scene, John Krasinski And Emily Blunt slow dance with headphones in to the song Harvest Moon by Neil Young. The last 2 months of my pregnancy I would listen to that song, and cry, and hold onto Milkman, feeling a multitude of emotions. Missing our foster baby, being excited to meet our new baby, fearing labor, loving Milkman so much it hurt, ready for the next chapter, but so terribly sad the last chapter had ended. This song became the theme for my unborn baby, and as it played during labor, I would picture being able to stand, and not being so crippled, and swaying with my husband to that dreamy song.

Around 8, my contractions were right on top of each other, I felt a huge turn, and yelped, and boom, he moved down. As it turns out, Midwife Linda knows what she’s talking about. Who’d a thunk? I told Milkman between contractions “Tell… Linda… he’s engaged… coming soon”.

She came in a while later, checked me, and said “well, honey, you’re complete. You start pushing when you want to.” The nurse and Milkman moved me on to my right side, and I felt the urge to push. Linda half laid on the bed, and told me to rest my left knee on her head. My legs were only open that much! I was pushing with all my might, and at one point the baby’s heart rate decelerated, so they threw an oxygen mask on my face. Between pushes, he was going back up. His heart rate went down again, and finally she said “you just gotta push with all your might, and don’t stop” I delivered his head, and I knew he was bigger than my other babies. One contraction later and he was out. It felt longer, but I pushed for less than 10 minutes.

They put him in my arms while he screamed and I opened my eyes wide and said “uh… he’s big, right??” And she replied “oh, he’s BIG!” I nicknamed him Gordito right then and there.

A while later I delivered the placenta. I remember holding the baby and watching Linda look at it curiously. She said it was a huge placenta, she also said it was very mushy, and deteriorating. Praise God I’m such a cheapskate and didn’t want to pay two admitting fees, this baby NEEDED to come out when he did. I have this clear memory of her pushing her finger into it and her finger went clear through the placenta. She called in 2 people to look at it, and she didn’t seem convinced it had all come out. However the doctor inspected it and said it was all there and not to worry.

Milkman and I marveled at our baby. He was so chubby! I checked his lip and tongue almost immediately and saw he was lip and tongue tied, and told Milkman to call the ENT first thing to make an appointment to get it lasered. I was not interested in months of ductal thrush and mastitis like I had with Mamitas, and 24 clogged ducts in 3 months after Peachy! Milkman took a million pictures, I nursed my baby for the first time, which is always super magical, and ate some gluten free graham crackers with peanut butter and drank a pitcher of apple juice (this is what I eat after every single delivery!)

They measured Gordito and he came in at a whopping TEN POUNDS! He was 22 inches long, and a beast. My other babies had been in the 7-8lb range, so giving birth to such a large baby was a shock.

Once everything was removed and I was cleaned up, we were taken to the postpartum wing, and this is where my evening went from a sweet dream to a total nightmare. I began nursing the baby and I felt a very, very large clot pass. The nurses had been “massaging” my uterus post delivery and kept saying it wasn’t feeling right. I hit the call button, my nurse came in and I told her I needed assistance getting to the bathroom as I had passed a large clot. She pulled open my postpartum mesh hospital underwear and her face alarmed me. She said we wouldn’t be going to the bathroom, and that she needed to get the doctor. The charge nurse came in, and within seconds the tiny little room was filled. My midwife was there too. They pulled back the sheet and there was blood everywhere. I was passing massive clots, and I had multiple people pushing on my abdomen while I nursed and switched back to labor breathing. The charge nurse explained the doctor was in a C-section, and they were going to wake the on-call doctor to come in. She was a young, very tall OB, with magnificently long fingers and narrow hands. It was actually one of the first things I noticed about her, which was interesting considering that very soon, I would be introduced to them in a horrifying way. She explained that my uterus wasn’t contracting properly and that I was hemorrhaging. She was going to attempt to sweep my uterus with her hands and pull anything out she could find. She had the nurse crank up some pitocin, and they gave me a shot of morphine. She said “ready?”

I had just delivered a 10lb baby. I could not have understood before that moment how anything could have felt worse than transition and pushing out a 10lb baby, but lo and behold, there is something worse, and it was this. I had a nurse on each side to stabilize my legs and keep them from opening too far and worsening my SP injury, and those long slender fingers, and that thin slender hand went all the way up inside me and she began to scrape and claw at the inside of my raw uterus. It was late, and being in a small postpartum room, I was determined to be quiet so I wouldn’t disturb the sleep of my fellow postpartum mothers and their sweet newborns in the wing, so I contorted and twisted and did Lamaze breathing and moaned as quietly as I could. She pulled out masses of clots and tissue and while I regained my composure she said “there’s more. I’m so sorry, I know this hurts, but I have to try again. You can scream.”

I fought back tears and said “I can’t scream, I don’t want to wake anyone up!” And everyone said “no one would expect anyone to be quiet through this. Just scream.” I handed my newborn to Milkman, and noticed the look of white terror on his face. “Ready?” The OB said. And I yelled out guttural yells and screams while she pulled out yet more tissue and clots. At this point, there was blood dripping off my bed and onto the floor. It was everywhere. I was soaked in it, all the way up my back and down my legs. My husband fought back tears, one of his hands in mine as I squeezed it as hard as I could and the other cradling our newborn baby.

“I can’t get it all out. She has to go in for a D and C.” My heart sank. The one thing I wanted to avoid in this entire birth was going under general anesthesia, and it was going to happen. I nursed the baby while they waited for the other doc to get out of the C-Section. I remember looking at the floor as I handed the baby off to Milkman and kissed them both, and being shocked at the amount of blood in the room. If it hadn’t been for those iron infusions leading up to the birth, I may not have survived.

The team that took over in Pre-Op was a nightmare. While I was somewhat comfortable with the OB in charge, as he had delivered my oldest, the nurses and the anesthesiologist were like vinegar to the teeth. I was tired, it was the middle of the night, I had delivered a baby, and experienced some of the worst pain in my life. The nurses were mouthy and the anesthesiologist was cocky. I had the OB who was going to do the surgery do an internal ultrasound before I went under to confirm that the procedure was necessary. I remember looking at the screen on the machine and it looked like my uterus was full of cotton. He confirmed we had to do it, and we had to do it now. I cried and the nurse said “you don’t want to do this? You could lose your uterus, or you can lose your life! Is that what you want? You literally could die right now.”

I said “I know I need it, but I’m sad because my brand new baby is down the hall and I’m going into surgery!” She said I needed to calm down. I wanted to drop kick her, but I held my tears back. The last thing I remember is the doctor telling me “how far can we open your legs?” I showed him, he measured, and he had every person in the room look and said “don’t open her legs past this point. We don’t need her in a wheelchair for life.” Then the anesthesiologist strapped my arms down, and they said “see you in 45 minutes”, and I was out.

I woke up crying, which is typical for me coming out of general. I asked what time it was, and they told me it was 3 hours later. Apparently they still couldn’t stop the bleeding, so they tried putting a foley inside my uterus and inflating it to put pressure to assist in stopping the hemorrhage. Unfortunately, they couldn’t keep the foley in because my cervix also wasn’t going back down. To this day, I’m not totally sure what went down in that operating room, but all I remember is the doctor telling me “it didn’t go according to plan, but we saved your uterus.” I asked the nurse to take me to my baby, and she refused. I told her I needed to breastfeed my baby and she said “you need to rest!” I said I could nurse and then rest, but I needed to see my baby. She threatened me again with losing my uterus or my life, so I asked to talk to my husband. Later he told me that she told him “you need to be on my side, don’t tell her she needs to come back.”

I told him they weren’t letting me come back to the room and that he needed to call my sister, it was now 5am, and tell her to come to the hospital and nurse the baby. He spoke to the nurse and said “I know it isn’t visiting hours, but I’m going to have my sister in law come nurse the baby since they aren’t releasing Rachel.” The nurse looked shocked at the thought of someone else coming in to nurse the baby and then made a call or two, and magically I was released back to my room!

Milkman looked totally wiped by the time I came back. He was holding out sweet little fatlng and got choked up when he saw me. He kissed me over and over and said he was terrified that he was going to lose me forever that night. I latched my sweet newborn on, and nursed him, Milkman crawled into the bed next to me, and we slept, very much alive, and very blessed to be together.

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I never know where to stop these birth stories. There was a lot more that happened before, during, and after, but this was so long as it was. I was encouraged by my besties not to worry about the length of the story, because at the end of the day, I’m writing this story for Gordito and for me. I want to remember these things, and I want him to know how he entered this world.

It’s strange to me that his labor was my shortest at just 18 hours, and that while he was my biggest, he was my easiest delivery. The aftermath was terrible, his size likely played a part in my hemorrhage, but I am so glad that things ended as favorable as they could have!

This was also the first time postpartum that I felt the docs realized the severity of my disability. The day after delivery, they had a pelvic floor therapist in my room assessing me, and put in a referral for me to receive pelvic floor therapy when I got home. It took 9 months of weekly appointments to get me out of the chair, off the walker, and only needing my cane for flare ups or long walks. I’m so grateful for the care I received postpartum. I also had a bunch of iron infusions after delivering, and was well cared for in that respect.

A year out and Milkman still gets choked up thinking about the hemorrhage. In some ways, I feel like that wasn’t even me, but I am grateful to be alive!

My baby is one today. He is the love of my mama life, he’s my little (BIG) best friend. At a year, he loves to babble, laugh, be tickled, and make funny noises. He’s a very anti-social baby and only has eyes for mama and papa— but especially mama. We never get to be alone or go on a date because he can’t handle being apart from me, but I’ll tell you, it’s worth him tagging along, because even when I’m most burnt out, I look at his chubby face, ridiculous toothy grin, and he snuggles into the crook of my neck, signs to nurse, and I’m smitten all over again.

Happy 1st Birthday, my sweet baby boy.

Teething Blues

Sweet Little Gordito,

Today you are teething and it must be very painful. You are normally such a happy baby, but today, nothing is working. You scream and arch your back, you nurse constantly, and won’t let me put you down. Your feelings are so big, but you are so small, and it must be really hard to process that.

My feelings are big, too. I’m touched out, my ears are ringing from the constant switch between screaming and white noise, and sometimes both combined. I’m trying to get my kitchen organized and there are piles of dirty dishes and pantry items strewn about. Every time I make progress in one cabinet or on one shelf you awake or begin to fuss, and I have to stop what I’m doing, leave a half done job, and pick you up and nurse. My breasts are sore from the constant popping off and latching on, back and forth to either side, and gnawing as you teethe.

I remember it was about 6.5 years ago when your oldest brother Captain was a baby. He had lots of big feelings, too. Especially at night. I remember these endless nights where we would be up constantly. And I was so tired. One night he was up 23 times and I thought he was broken and I was broken, and we took him to doctors and chiropractors, tried medicines and tinctures, tried routines and methods, and nothing worked, and we were exhausted. Everyone had an opinion, so we tried them all.

One time we decided to let him cry. He cried and cried and cried. The books said he would stop, but he didn’t stop. He cried so hard it hurt, and each night we tried it got worse, and we set timers and sat outside the door waiting for that break, but it never came. A few days of that and your daddy and I decided we would never do that to one of our babies again. We remembered how as Christian parents it was particularly important for us to remember that we were called to treat our children how God treats us. We remembered that we were ambassadors for Him, and that every time we were tired and weary God always listened to us and responded. We remembered that when we cry out to God, he is gracious and loving. We remembered that even when we are being irrational in our adult tantrums, the Lord is patient with us.

And when we remembered this, our mindset shifted. We learned to accept the long nights, to realize that our baby was just pushing us closer to Jesus, and that he wasn’t broken. I went to bed every night knowing I would be awake in 30 minutes, to nurse, and every 30 minutes for the whole night. And I changed. I literally changed. Yes, I still had nights where I felt like I was losing my mind and I was so exhausted I googled “can you die from sleep deprivation?” But overall, I was less angry, less anxious, less depressed, and less frustrated and daddy was, too.

Since Captain, each of your older siblings have slept better than the sibling before them. Most nights, I’m only up 4-6 times with you, which is a delightful change from Captain’s usual 10-12 a night. You meld so well into our routine and are so low maintenance that I’m not used to fussiness in a baby, so when you are, it comes as a shock. A reminder to switch off the part in my brain that grows weary and frustrated, angry and upset and fights, and turn on the part of my brain that remembers that you are only small once. That you aren’t trying to ruin my day or my night. That accepting these interruptions are for growing me and also slowing me so I can spend more time kissing your pudgy cheeks and soaking in your delicious scent.

My feelings are big, your feelings are big, but I am bigger than you. So it’s my job to hold yours and my own, to breathe and remember that soon— too soon— you’ll be reading books and riding bikes, and I’ll be missing your teething snuggles.

I love you, little fatling.

Love,

Mama

Nursing to Sleep is Not a Bad Habit (or What Do YOUR Instincts Say?)

Hey Y’all!

Today’s post is written by one of my favorite writers, the woman who taught me to write– my middle sister, Beky. Beky is my senior by 4 years, but became a mother 4 years after my first child was born. My two sisters are my dearest and closest friends, each of us parents a little differently, but I respect each of them immensely. Yesterday my sister Beky was sharing how glad she was that she relished the long periods of holding her first for naps as she nursed, and said she wished she could reassure other first time mothers that it’s okay to hold and nurse their babies for sleep. I told her I had the perfect place for her to share that reassurance, right here on She Rocks the Cradle! So without further ado, here is a guest post from my big sis, Beky.

–Rachel

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As I nursed and rocked my little one (we’ll call him Small Fry) down for his morning nap, watching carefully for that magical moment when I was sure he was OUT, so that I could successfully transfer him to his crib, so that I could get back to momming my 3-year-old (we’ll call him Nugget), it hit me. This is why I did it.

This is why I held Nugget for almost every nap when he was a baby. This is why I allowed him to nurse sometimes for entire naps. This is why I stayed firmly planted on my rocking chair, hardly daring to move a muscle for fear of waking him. This is why I never bothered to “train” him to nap in his crib, independently of me. This is why, in my first-time-mom uncertainty, I posted on a local mom group on Facebook to ask if it was ok to nurse my baby to sleep, to let him nurse in his sleep, to hold him in my arms until he was ready to wake up.

Among the many responses, one stood out. “What do YOUR instincts say?”

I responded, “My instincts tell me that this is a unique experience, having only one baby right now, and I should relish the freedom to be as responsive to him as I can right now because I know it will be harder when the next one comes.”

“There’s your answer!” came the sweet and reassuring reply.

Nearly three years later, that post came to my mind as I gently laid Small Fry in his crib this morning. I took a few seconds to gaze at his pursed, pink lips, his curled up fingers, and the rise and fall of his chest. “Mamaaaa!” came blaring from the living room as Nugget pulled me back to the reality that my days of long, sleepy cuddles on the rocker are no more. Those days of an hour or more of side-lying-nursing in bed while lazily scrolling Facebook, watching a show on Netflix with my headphones on, or just simply closing my eyes and embracing the forced rest. Nope, those days are gone. Naps are business with Small Fry. Get him to sleep as quickly as possible, keeping an attentive ear pealed for Nugget in the other room, transfer him to the crib, and pray for a decent nap so I can catch up on laundry, dishes, and maybe a few moments of quality, one-on-one time with Nugget before Small Fry awakes.

I knew back then that I was right to embrace the once-in-a-lifetime flexibility that came with being a stay at home mom to my first baby. So I followed my gut without apology. But the epiphany I experienced this morning gave me such a surge of confidence in my choices as a new mama, that I wanted to shout it from the rooftops to all new mamas out there: “YES! It’s ok! It’s ok to rock and shush and nurse and hold your sweet baby until they drift off to sleep! It’s ok to continue that *while* they sleep if that’s what keeps them asleep! Don’t feel guilty for breathing in the fragrance of your precious baby’s fuzzy head, for staring at them the whole time they sleep (while you ‘should’ be sleeping according to many) because you still just can’t believe they’re yours, so perfectly and beautifully yours. It’s ok, mama. It’s ok.”

What practice or habit are you second-guessing yourself on today? What piece of advice have you received recently that has you wondering if you’re doing it all wrong? The answer is the question: What do YOUR instincts say?

[Fun fact: That response “What do YOUR instincts say?” came from none other than our favorite mom-blogger, SheRocksTheCradle. Thanks, SRTC!]

So You Wanna Nurse in Church?

In the last five and a half years since becoming a mother, one of the topics that comes up regularly in the mom groups I am in, is the topic of nursing in church. Invariably, there will be a mother who posts that she nursed in church and was told not to and is (understandably!) upset. I have seen many comments of people religious or otherwise who try to offer their advice in the comment section. Some will say “I always nursed in the bathroom at church, and I was okay with it, so you should be, too!” Whereas others will say, “TIME TO FIND A NEW CHURCH! You can take legal action for that! Alert your local news station!”

I tend to get frustrated with both of those extremes, and having gone through this myself, I feel there is such a much better and healthier option!

A little background: When I began nursing five and a half years ago, I originally felt most comfortable nursing in the designated nursing room of our church. After some time, I felt segregated and alone and missed worshiping with my husband. My husband and I agreed it was time for me to come out of the back room so we could be together during worship. By the time we had our second child, it came to our attention that there was an older woman who was offended by my nursing in church, though I was always covered (I have a personal preference of nursing while covered in church. I don’t cover elsewhere, this is just what’s in my comfort zone.) After two years of prayer, meetings with the elders, letters back and forth with the leadership, support from my husband, and patience, we were able to make a policy change in our church so that nursing mothers would be welcome, whether in the nursery, sanctuary, or lobby! And about a year and a half after that, we successfully pioneered the way for a family room. 

WAIT! DID SHE JUST SAY *TWO* YEARS??

Yes, TWO years. But it was worthwhile, because instead of quietly being bowled over by the naysayers or getting angry and suing the church and leaving, I was able to help make a difference. So how does this work? Here’s how it worked for us:

1. Someone in the church approaches you and tells you that you need to go nurse in another room, that nursing babies are not welcome in your place of worship. Take a deep breath, don’t make a scene, if you are nursing your baby, I would personally let the baby finish nursing, and then step out if you need to calm down.

When you get home, assess the situation. Is the person who confronted you in a place of leadership? Was this person kind in how they approached you? Even though their tactic was wrong, did they perhaps have good intentions? Asking these questions can help you to get some objectivity. In my situation, my husband had been approached rather than me, so we talked through it together. If you have a supportive partner, now is a good time to talk to them about this to bounce some thoughts off each other and pray.

2. Address the situation with your church leaders. Don’t complain to the woman in your small group who can do nothing about this, or to your neighbor, or the hairstylist and expect change. We are Christians, so this was a great time to exercise Matthew 18* principles. Airing the dirty laundry of your church will most likely only work against your cause. If you are already close to one of your elders or to your pastor, you may want to call them to set up a meeting to talk. This isn’t something I would want to bring up to the pastor right after preaching, because I would want to have time set aside for a meaningful conversation. In my case, the written word is always my friend. I find that both my husband and I get our words out clearer when they are in a letter that we can write, mull over, edit, pray over, and edit again before sending. We sent a group email to all of our elders, informing them of the complaint, showing from biblical texts that nursing has historically been a normal thing for the people of God (Joel 2:16 is a beautiful verse!)**, and asked for their counsel on the matter. Ask when they can meet with you to discuss this further.

3. Pray. As a Christian, I believe in the power of prayer. I prayed that God would give the leadership of my church wisdom and flexibility. I asked forgiveness for bitterness in my heart towards those who complained about my nursing baby. My husband and I prayed together about this and individually. This was really important to us, not because nursing is my hobby horse, but because being together as a family to worship is important to us, and making sure that a visitor or new Christian nursing in our church wouldn’t undergo the same situation is important to us.

4. Meet with your leadership. My husband accompanied me to the meetings we had with our elders as a show of support and solidarity. We both had things to say during our meetings. If you don’t have a supportive partner, maybe bring a spiritually mature and wise friend with you. The meetings we had with our church leadership were uncomfortable at times, healing in others, and could also be frustrating. It’s important to try and keep a level head. What kept me grounded was the desire to help normalize nursing in church not just for me, but for mothers who would be nursing in the future. In our situation, this became a marathon, not a sprint.

5. And, finally! Hopefully resolution and restoration after coming to a meeting of the minds with your leadership. It is possible you will find out the person who confronted you had their own preferences in mind and it was not church policy. Hopefully your leadership will say “OF COURSE your baby is welcome! We’ll talk to the person who made this complaint with you to inform them they spoke out of turn.” Or they may say “That was a policy we had, but you’ve raised some good points, and we need to change our policy to make worship inclusive for ALL our attendees!” And I hope that one of those responses will be the case.

But! If it was like ours, maybe you have to go back to step 1! In two years, I think there were probably 5 or so emails back and forth, 4 or 5 meetings with our leadership, and my husband and I prayed specifically for our elders every, single Wednesday about this topic. I cried many tears, felt frustrated, felt lonely, and sad. At one point, we even had to take a break from our congregation and attend another church as it seemed we weren’t going to make any progress on the matter. But we kept praying and kept in contact with our leadership during this time, letting them know we loved them, but that it was so important for our family to worship TOGETHER. Not scattered in different rooms each Sunday. 

When we were finally able to come to an agreement, it turned out there had been some miscommunication between some of the leadership, and when all was said and done, we were told, not only were we all welcome to worship together, nursing babies and crazy toddlers alike– our leadership asked us to help come up with ideas that would help make our church more welcoming to families with babies! We now have a room for families to worship together, that includes a private nursing area within it for those who want privacy. But fathers and mothers, babies and young children have a place to worship TOGETHER if the sanctuary isn’t working out, due to noisy toddlers. No more moms only room apart from my family.  (Take a look at the pictures below to see the family room we designed at our church!)
Because of our unfortunate situation, we were able to help turn the ship around and make our church a better place for nursing mothers and young families who would find themselves in our situation down the road.  

Was it easy? No. Did it take a long time? YES. Was it a good learning experience? You bet. Was it worth all those tears, prayers, and meetings? Undoubtedly, so.

So, the next time Mrs. Jones from the seniors ministry tells you to go nurse in the bathroom, try to remain calm, and remember this is a huge opportunity– the opportunity to normalize breastfeeding, to cling closer to your faith, and to make changes for the next generation.

*Matthew 18:15-17 “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother.16 But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. 17 If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church…

** Joel 2:16 “…gather the people.Consecrate the congregation; assemble the elders; gather the children, even nursing infants. Let the bridegroom leave his room, and the bride her chamber.”

Some inspiration for you! Here is the family room at our church. It has special consideration for nursing mothers who wish to nurse privately, but it is not a “nursing room” because we want our formula feeding mamas to feel welcome here too. It’s not a “cry room” because it’s not a place to be sad. It’s not a “mommy comfort room” because dads need a place to comfort their children, too. 

Can’t You Just Breastfeed Your Foster Baby?

Me formula feeding our foster baby while nursing our bio baby

On a Tuesday afternoon last October we got the call. “Would you take a 5 day old baby boy?” 3 hours later we were pulling into the driveway with a tiny stranger, screaming both from withdrawal and hunger.  

We jumped out of the van, unbuckled everyone, ran into the house and I yelled to Milkman, “Make him a bottle!” He looked at me completely confused. 

“How? Do we use hot water? Cold water? How much do we scoop in? How much does he need?”

I was frustrated– not because of *his* lack of knowledge on the subject, but of our collective ignorance. As I fumbled with the pacifier and white noise, Milkman was googling and so was I. “Okay! Warm water, sanitized bottle, 2 ounces, so that’s one scoop!”

How is it that 2 adults who had been parents for 4.5 years to 3 children not know how to make a bottle and feed a baby?

As a nursing advocate, lactation hobbyist, and exclusive breastfeeder, I was (and am!) steeped in all things human milk related. I can help you latch a newborn, hook you up to a pump, make you lactation cookies, and assure you at 4am that that screaming gassy 3 week old you have is totally normal, and it’ll pass. (No pun intended…) but formula feeding? Totally new. We were lost. 

So, we began to educate ourselves, learned proper handling, preparing, and best practices for formula feeding. I thought time and time again how much easier it would be if I could just give him breastmilk. I did some googling and found that while it was not common to get approval for human milk, it was in the realm of possibility.

Because of the baby’s particular set of health concerns, I presented the idea to his pediatrician. She agreed that human milk would be optimum for him. The next step was to get approval from the social workers, who surprisingly were also in support of the idea. The last (and most important) approval I needed to receive was from the baby’s mother. I was so nervous, it was my first time meeting her, and while all the social workers had told me his case would go to permanence and he would likely end up apart of our forever family (he didn’t by the way, because foster care!), I knew this was still her baby. I told her of his particular struggles and that the pediatrician had recommended human milk. Before I could even finish my question, the response she gave was, “Ew. No.” Of course I was disheartened. It was a long road to get him on the right formula, to help with his various health issues, but thankfully we were able to sort his problems out with Gerber Gentle formula.  

I had been cautiously optimistic about being able to give human milk to our foster baby, but once I talked to other foster parents I began to realize how rare approval was. Since then I’ve been asked dozens of times in breastfeeding groups online, crunchy mom circles, and friends “since you have milk, can’t you just nurse your foster baby?”

So let’s break this down.

Biologically, can I nurse a foster baby while still nursing my bio child? Yes. Absolutely. I’ve spent almost half of my nursing journey tandem nursing– that is, nursing two babies (of different ages) at the same time. Milk production works based on demand. In general, the more you nurse, or the more children you nurse, the more milk you make. So biologically, it would be possible for me to nurse a foster child– or any other child for that matter.

Legally, could I nurse a foster baby? The short answer is no. Of course there are exceptions to every rule, but the general rule is, this isn’t my baby, so I don’t have the authorization to feed this baby whatever I please. In my county, I can’t even switch formula brands without pediatrician approval. The other issue we fall into is the matter of that of physical boundaries. We live in a culture that has re-assigned the human breast to one task: sexual arousal. Of course, we know biologically that the primary purpose of the female breast is to provide nourishment to children, but nonetheless, offering your breast to a child who is not yours, and may have experienced sexual abuse is going to be a logistical nightmare. 

So can you bottle feed pumped human milk to a foster baby? There will be times where a baby is struggling badly with withdrawal, is having serious digestive problems, or is premature, and a doctor will approve human milk, likely from a milk bank. If a biological mother were to refuse this recommendation and it was deemed to be medically necessary for the child to receive human milk, with proper documentation and approval, it could go to court for a judge to overrule the mother’s protest. Again, there could be a biological mother who says yes, and it’s approved that way. On the other hand, some mothers send their own milk with baby, which (if pumped safely and mom is sober and healthy) is a great option. However, the most common answer is going to be no. Of course, this is a hard pill to swallow for me as an advocate for human milk for human children, but it all comes back to this: these foster babies are not my children, so it is not my choice to do something I have been told not to. 

Imagine if you were an exclusive breastfeeder and you found out that your child’s day care provider was feeding them formula every day. You’d probably be pretty floored, right? Well the same goes in this situation. I’m caring for this child, I make decisions to keep this child safe, fed, and loved, but generally it’s not in my jurisdiction to change their food source if I’ve been denied that request. 

Do foster parents breastfeed or bottle feed human milk to their foster children? Yes. I’ve talked to many of them who have. Some in hushed tones, others with boldness. Many social workers will say “don’t ask, don’t tell”, some doctors will say the same, and some bio parents aren’t around to give approval or denial for the request. Most of these foster parents have the best interest of the child in mind, I’ve never met anyone doing it maliciously. Some counties care less than others and leave more decision making up to foster parent, so it’s not as big of a deal.

The important thing is that we feed babies using best practices. Clean hands, sanitized bottles, properly prepared, and portioned. So if you’re a crazy breastfeeder like me who ends up formula feeding, instead of being too crestfallen at your denial for human milk, do all you can to become educated on formula feeding so the baby has their best chance at a healthy start! And if you’re a formula feeder who has been told to feed human milk, do your research for best practices on handling human milk!

Nursing my toddler while she helped feed formula to our current foster baby
Disclaimer: I am not an expert on foster parenting, breastfeeding, or everyone’s experiences ever with feeding every foster child on the planet, these are merely my thoughts, experiences, and observations. If you’re unsure about human milk and your foster baby, contact your social worker!

Want to read more on fostering, infant feeding, and see some stupid memes? Come check out She Rocks the Cradle on Facebook!

A Guide to Surviving Mom Groups; or Don’t Be a Jerk

When you become a new mother, especially if you are a stay at home mom (SAHM), you often find yourself in a lonely place. Whereas you may have had adult interaction at a previous job, or had the freedom to come and go from your home with ease and see other humans larger than 20 inches long, now you feel secluded. In days past, I’m not sure what moms did. I suppose they made friends with their neighbors, had cleaner houses, and drank lots of martinis. But in my generation? We’ve found solace in the internet.

I know for myself, once I became a mom, mom groups on Facebook became my village. My place to escape, and vent, and socialize, and laugh and cry. With a sleeping baby on my breast, a granola bar in my mouth, and a phone charger always close by, I could have company at the tips of my fingers, from the confines of my 4 walls, without ever putting on a stitch of makeup or shoes.

I became obsessed. The first mom group I was really active in was Captain’s birth group, “The Blue Mamas”. These women became my everything. I talked to them about anything and everything, more than I talked to my own husband. I could count on someone being online at 3am when I had milk soaked sheets and a gassy, screaming baby. From there, I was added to a breastfeeding group. And then another one… and another and another (sooooooo many breastfeeding groups!). Baby product co-op groups, cloth diaper groups, local mom groups, local-er mom groups, mom and baby product buy, sell, trade groups, babywearing groups, general parenting advice groups, natural birth groups, natural family planning groups… ALL. THE. GROUPS. In fact I just looked at how many groups I am in, and I counted 204. Most of these groups are some how connected to mothering.  

How wonderful! I would think, as I found another kindred spirit on the other side of the globe. I had friends in every corner of the planet, people I could talk to and trust with my struggles and joys. What a marvelous age to be living in! One where we can communicate and bond with people time zones away! It was marvelous and it is marvelous–but it can also be not so marvelous from time to time.

With awesome people, come jerks. People who call you names, argue and accuse, and belittle the death of your baby (yes, that happened. From a real, live mom you would love to be friends with if you met her at the park during a play date. Religious, pretty, and fit– great hair, too! Beautiful children and a happy marriage. Literally made light of my baby dying.)

Of course, jerks are everywhere. Jerks are the people who leave trash in the shopping cart at target, cut you off on the freeway, and don’t pick up their dog’s fecal matter at the park. But jerks on the internet are much more brutal than the person who leaves droplets of pee on the public restroom toilet you are next in line to use. Jerks on the internet have a screen to hide behind. They type nasty and insensitive things that they would never say in person. They cut down your character, make rude remarks and follow them up with sarcastic tag lines like “enjoy your dead baby, sweetheart” at the end of a debate on co-sleeping. They are the ones who, in person, would throw a lovely dinner party and serve you the best wine while you had some laughs, but in their mommy group they call people the R-word and make threats about stabbing their mothers in law for daring to wash their dishes. The young mom you sit next to in church tells her mom friends on the internet how badly her husband performs in bed, and your sweet neighbor with twins down the street calls anyone who doesn’t fully vaccinate their kids “murderer”, “a-hole”, and “idiots”. You guys. Women call other women the C-word, simply because those women parent differently from themselves. THE C-WORD. Conversations that would never, ever, EVER happen in real life (at least while sober) happen on the internet with such vitriol and spite that you find yourself alternately blushing and raging while scrolling through your newsfeed.


Why does this happen? Well, if I had the gumption I would google some study that talks about normal housewives who become interweb vigilantes and their need for an outlet so they don’t run off with Fabio or start having nervous breakdowns in the dairy room at Costco. But the thing is, who really cares? I don’t care why it happens, I care THAT it happens. It stinks. 
Now you may be thinking, “yeah, this is nothing new, why is this lady on the internet ranting about ranting people on the internet?” Because I have a solution to share with all of my fellow dwellers on this series of tubes we share. Are you ready?

Here it is: don’t be a jerk. Yup. That’s it! Stop being a jerk. 

Need a little more specific help? Try one of the following:

-Scroll past topics that get you heated. You just move your thumb from the bottom of your screen to the top, and it’s like it was never posted.

-Is your thumb broken, and you simply can’t scroll past? Try reading the opposing view from their standpoint. This will teach you how to practice empathy. Empathy is a word that we like to talk about in feel good memes and want our children to practice, but don’t like to practice when the going gets tough. After trying to understand the other point of view, use your other thumb to keep scrolling.

-Oh no!!! Other thumb broken? Okay, here’s an idea. Ask questions if you really, truly can’t understand. And not passive aggressive ones like “wow, I’m not sure how anyone could be such a giant moron and endanger their children like you do by offering them snacks with red dye, could you explain how you are able to sleep at night while your child’s colon is being dyed green from those Cheetos?” Ask real questions that can help you understand where the other person is coming from.

-Can’t help but interject some advice? Re-read the post. Was someone ASKING for advice? Or were they just venting? Or maybe just sharing an article or stating an opinion? Ask yourself, “do I like unsolicited advice?” If the answer is no, use your pointer finger to scroll. 

-Just really, super, can’t help but grace the interwebs with your opinion? We circle back to the first step: Don’t be a jerk. Just don’t. You can still state your opinion without being mean. I’m sure of it. Because you do it every day when you talk to your girl friend over coffee, pillow talk with your husband at night, and sit across the table from relatives at Thanksgiving. Besides, you’ll catch more flies with honey than vinegar. If you really wanted to convince someone of your viewpoint, you’d do it nicely.

And you know? Being nice isn’t all that hard. Saving your sarcasm for super witty blog posts (cough, cough) or open mic night at the local stand up club is okay. Kissing emojis don’t need to be used next to peach emojis, unless you’re sending your husband a suggestive text, and threats of dismemberment, bodily injury, or death… well those are best left unsaid at all.

I’m preaching to myself here, too. We can all stand to be a little nicer. I wiped feces off a few butts today and I bet you have as well. I’ve eaten chocolate in the closet and sobbed with a glass of wine in the bathtub while my kids banged on the door, and I assume that also speaks to your experiences as a mom. I have cried staring at my sleeping babies at night, my heart exploding with love, and you do that, too.

So when next we meet on the internet and the topic of formula vs. breastmilk, MMR, organic food, circumcision, or how much screen time is okay, let’s all not be jerks. It makes the internet a nicer place to hang out while I ignore my kids’ screams for more snacks. 

The Day Mamitas Weaned 

The first time she nursed, she had just been born. The world was a scary, cold, and bright foreign land to her. She screamed with all the gusto her 8lb. 5oz body could muster– which was quite a lot. 

She had an angry (and quite frankly and ugly) scream. The nurse had to move her over under the heat lamp for something, I don’t quite remember what, but Milkman was snapping pictures of her as I heard her scream. I kept saying “okay, just give her to me now, okay, please give me the baby, I just want to nurse her!” You see, that was the one phrase Milkman used to help me get through her 23 hour labor: “Just think about the first latch with your new baby…” So after weeks of prodromal labor, months of painful walking and moving, and a day of no sleep, all I wanted was to nurse that baby. 

Finally, the nurse handed her over to me, and her ugly little scream filled the room ’til she latched on, I sighed with contentment and then– OW! She bit me as hard as she could almost immediately! That was the beginning of our 3 year nursing journey. 

It started with clogged ducts, mastitis, 6 months of undiagnosed ductal thrush, blebs, and lazy latches. Things didn’t get easier til she was almost 9 months old. I got pregnant not much longer after then wth Ezra, and weaned Captain right before I lost Ezra. I told Milkman that she would not nurse as long as her older brother, surely she would wean at 18 months. But she didn’t. Surely at 2! She’s such an awful nurser, and my milk had dried up from Peach’s pregnancy, but she didn’t. Certainly at 2.5, that’s when Captain weaned. But she didn’t. So when she was 2.5 I asked when she would wean and she said “I will wean when I am 3.” And so every night for 6 months we continued to nurse before bed. We have counted down, and talked about it. I have looked towards her 3rd birthday with eagerness to say goodbye to tandem nursing. And as it drew closer, I started to feel a sadness. The end of an era. 

We picked Golden Slumbers by the Beatles as our weaning song. We listen to it, sing it, nurse to it, and cuddle. Every night this week I have asked her if she’s really, truly going to be done nursing and she smiles and laughs and says she will be all done at 3. Tonight, the day I have looked forward to with relief and sadness is here. Time to wean. 

The last time she nursed she wore a pink pajama shirt and pigtails. She had just finished her cake and ice cream. I asked her if she was ready to nurse for the last time and she happily said yes and giggled nervously as I began crying. She asked for our song and we sang “… Sleep pretty darling, do not cry, and I will sing a lullaby…” And she wiped my tears off my face one by one while she nursed. Her big brown eyes held much more seriousness than her 3 years of age allowed. I didn’t time her or cut her off, and she nursed longer than she has in 6 months. I kept asking if she was done and she kept shaking her head no. And then, she popped off and said “Mama! I unlatched! What’s unlatched mean? Cos I did.” And gave a cheesy grin. And with that, she was done. 

For 3 years I have hated, loved, resented, and appreciated nursing her. And in that one moment, it was over. This chapter of our lives closes, and it isn’t one that gets revisited again. I am so sad. But I know, as I learned from weaning Captain, that our relationship isn’t over. It’s just a new chapter. 

I love you, big girl. Happy 3rd Birthday. 

Happy Birthday, Poochie!

To My First (and only!) Nephew on His First Birthday:

 

Sweet little man, with the big, brown, round eyes and little smirk, you are one today!

 

I was there when you were born!  Witnessing your birth was one of the most special things I will ever experience.  It was such a privilege to be there.

 

Your mama labored a long time, and when I got to the hospital, she was ready to push. I have often referred to your mama as my “little sister” though she is older than me.  I have always thought of her as fragile and in need of my protection. But as I cooled her head off with towels, and held her hand while she roared your little body earthside, I saw a mighty warrior.  Though I had delivered 3 babies before you were born, I was in awe of her strength to go through her labor unmedicated!

 

You were placed in your mama’s arms and you smelled like the earth.  You screamed and fussed your little head off while your mama and papa admired you, and while your little cousin in my tummy kicked away at the early hour of the morning.  You were too fussy to latch to nurse, but your mama kept you warm and safe against her skin,

 

You were so tiny.  I have never held a baby as small as you, and I remember thinking you had the cutest little rump, and you had your mama’s nose.  Your papa snapped away pictures proudly, and after a while I made my exit, and got into my car.  

 

It was very late and dark, there were few cars on the road, and I turned on Pandora to keep me awake on the drive home and blasted Kaskade with the windows down and wept.  You were so precious.  Your papa was so proud.  And your mama?  She was fierce.

 

A year later, I’m watching you grow.  Loving the rare but flirty smiles you flash my way from time to time.  Watching you and your baby cousin Peach play together.  Wearing you close to me when your mama is getting things done.  Seeing so much of my own first, sweet, shy boy in your personality.  You are such a joy to your parents and such a wonderful addition to our growing family.

 

I love you so much Poochie.  Happy birthday.

 

Love,

Taunty Paych

 

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A Peach is Born

A couple of disclaimers:

 

  1. I really recommend avoiding non-positive birth stories when you are pregnant.  I hate setting people up for fear.  If a non-positive birth story will trigger you or cause you to fear birth, please pass on this for now, and instead go pay Birth Without Fear a visit.

 

  1.  I have been avoiding writing this and posting it for several reasons.  One of those reasons has to do with my own trauma surrounding Peach’s birth, I’m actually nervous about re-living it right now to write it.  The other is because the community in which I live has a very tight knit birthing, baby wearing, and breastfeeding circle.  I am thankful for these wonderful women, but many of them have had such different experiences from my own using the same care providers, and I am anxious to post this for fear of extradition from these circles because of their loyalty to the care providers I chose.  

 

 

———-

If you know me, or have read much of my blog, you know this to be true: pregnancy is unkind to me, labor is an enemy most cruel.  In spite of this I am obsessed with babies, and just this week told Milkman how much I miss the feeling of contractions.  I have real issues.

 

 

After losing Ezra, Milkman and I were elated to be pregnant.  The anticipation of our rainbow baby kept my head above water through the insane amount of appointments I had, doctors I visited, specialists I tried out.  It kept me hoping when the pregnancy threw my body in a blender and spit me out, leaving me to hobble with a cane, til I resorted to a walker, and right up until I succumbed to a wheelchair.  Though pregnancy and its disabling effects on me were unescapable, I was determined to have a better birth experience.  I had difficult back labors with Captain and Mamitas.  Captains labor clocking in at 34 hours and Mamitas at 24. I just can’t seem to progress past 5cms and I stay there for hours and hours til my body goes into crazy person exhaustion mode.  Its at that point where I will go for an epidural– only to have them fail.  Every. Time.  This time, I had decided would be different.

 

 

We saved and planned so that I could have a birth center birth this time around, wondering if a different environment would help me to progress better.  I also had some trauma surrounding delivering at the hospital where I delivered Captain and Mamitas… Because the last baby I delivered there was dead. My sweet Ezra.

 

 

We were planning on going with who seemed to be the most respected midwife in the county.  I will refer to her as HMF for Head MidWife.  Turned out we couldn’t afford her.  She recommended a doula that worked with her.  We met with the doula and she informed us she was training to be a midwife (Lets call her DMF for Doula MidWife) and could offer us half off at the birth center as our midwife, with HMF watching over the birth as well.  The price was right.  In fact it was JUST right.  The exact monetary amount we had set aside for a birth center birth.

 

 

Pregnancy progressed, I had some moderate risks due to losing Ezra, my MTHFR, my SPD, and so I saw my medical midwife (I’m gonna give a huge shout out to Margaret “Peggy” Colby at Kaiser!!!! She is one of my favorite care providers ever), an OB, a Perinatologist, and DMW/HMW during my pregnancy. (This does not count the chiropractors, acupuncturist, physical medicine doc, and physical therapist I also saw during my pregnancy!  Can you say APPOINTMENTS??).  Milkman had finally agreed to let the baby’s sex be a surprise after refusing my request for my other kiddos.  I was elated, and this made my pregnancy and its pain seem all the more tolerable.  Everything was seeming awesome, apart from the pain til my 36 week appointment.  My perinatologist, who was very sweet by the way, knew that gender was supposed to be a surprise.  HMW and DMW told me I needed to ask the medical side of things for baby’s measurements.  As it is, I was uncomfortable with even knowing percentiles because of how off they can be.  But as they were insistent I went to the medical Midwife, Peggy, to ask to see what the perinatologist had recorded for baby’s stats. As we scrolled past her notes, she listed the baby’s gender in the chart.  I held it together in the office but when I got to my car I cried.  Hysterically.  And continued to for the remainder of the day.  I knew this didn’t change anything, I was still having a baby, I was still excited, I didn’t really care what was between my baby’s legs, but I was so disappointed for the surprise to be ruined.  We decided not to tell anyone else that we knew, but it was incredibly difficult to have gone that long without knowing only to have it ruined.  This was my first downer leading up to my birth.

 

 

Once I was full term, I was aching to get my little baby born. I am a huge believer in trusting your body to birth when it’s ready. However, when you can’t get yourself out of bed in the morning without help, and need a walker or wheelchair to get around because of the pain you are dealing with from the baby, it’s hard to wait.

 

 

The week before I was due, I checked in with DMW who informed me that she had attended many, many births in a row.  Most midwives and doulas have a cap for how many patients they care for in a period of time, but because she was working as both, she essentially had double the case load.  I told her I was having contractions and after telling me that the babies had tried to kill her (just too many births in too few days) that we should have “none of that”.  After trusting her and liking her during my prenatal care, I all of the sudden felt very nervous.  Why would she say that?  Was I an inconvenience?  Would she collapse from exhaustion at my labor?  Would she be able to hold up her end of the bargain?  I had one of my weird atypical migraines I get with pregnancy the next day.  It acts like a stroke, and I lose the ability to move and feeling in half my body, as well as my vision, hearing in one side and I cannot speak clearly.  I checked in with her and once again she seemed hesitant about my ability to birth at a birthing center, even though the OB on call at the hospital spoke with her and gave her the OK.

 

 

This should have been my sign to back out, but I felt like we had already paid too much money and I was afraid of disappointing people (my own made up fear) by not going through with it, so I shut up that voice in the back of my head and continued on.

 

 

(Here is the log of what I wrote in real time during my labor).

 

October 4th, was here.  My EDD.  Sunday morning.   I woke up to a big contraction at 8:20am. Captain and Mamitas ran into the room to tell me daddy had made apple crisp for breakfast and to get out of bed.  I sat up and felt a small gush.  I went to the bathroom and saw I had some show, and put a pad on. We went to church, and I brought a chux pad to sit on in case of membrane rupture in church.  I had a feeling this was the day I would go into labor.

 

 

I got home and had a surge of energy and stamina.  I scrubbed the bathroom. Nothing worse than laboring in a dirty bathroom.  I even took the shower drain apart and bleached it!  I wanted this labor to be perfect.

 

 

I had Milkman take a full body picture of my, thinking this would be my last day pregnant.  I sent him to the store for gatorade and ice.  I sat down on the couch to watch Call the Midwife, and and eat a snack and I felt another small gush. at 2:15, a HUGE gush.  There went my waters!  I hobbled to the bathroom to get cleaned up and texted Milkman to let him know.  I had never had my membranes rupture spontaneously and never before labor.  No contractions.  I got nervous for a little bit, but I decided to remain positive.  I got on the ball and was hula moving back and forth in hopes to make something happen.  When Mamitas woke up from her nap, I asked if she wanted to nurse, hoping that might get things moving, her response was, “I want to nurse FOREVER mama!”  And so we nursed for what seemed like forever.

 

 

I kept in touch with DMW via text and Milkman installed the carseat while the babies and I paced the backyard and then came in to make some chocolate chip cookies!  It started to rain.  Odd for October in California.

 

 

We fed the kiddos dinner and cuddled a lot.  My mom came to get the kids in case I went into labor.  (I wish I hadn’t done this.  It caused a huge upset in my mood, I missed them so badly I couldn’t keep it together emotionally).

 

 

Milkman took me out to dinner and we came home to get some sleep.  STILL no regular contractions.  DMW told me that contractions would likely pick up in the night.  But they didn’t.  They stayed erratic.

 

 

Monday morning I woke up and cried.  Where were my contractions?  Why did I let my babies go last night when I needed them close?  DMW told us to meet her and HMW at the birth center to test to make sure it was amniotic fluid I was leaking and to talk about a course of action.  The test was positive for amniotic fluid.  They sent Milkman to the store for sprite and castor oil, and set me up with an IV of antibiotics.  Unfortunately, DMW couldn’t get a good vein anywhere except antecubital, and that’s a crappy place for an IV.  The antibiotics burned, as she had the drip too high.  HMW seemed peeved with DMW and I felt even more nervous about birthing with this team, but I was determined to take it back to a positive.  The castor oil began working its effects.  I threw up most of my pregnancy and had nausea throughout.  Nothing like how awful castor oil makes you feel.  I would ask for pitocin a hundredfold over castor oil if I were to do it over.  It was awful.  HMW told us to go walk, but I was terrified to get too far from a restroom.  We attempted to walk the mall, and my memories of walking the mall are like a cloudy nightmare.  Intense nausea, intense contractions, aching back, aching and tired body.  We went back to the birth center.

 

 

Contractions stayed steady, but I wasn’t progressing.  At one point I was crying for my babies and DMW came in and said in a strangely unfamiliar tone “You need to get that out of your system, crying like this is going to stall your labor.  Stop focussing on your older two children and focus on getting this one out of you.”  At this point I was shattered.  Had I been allowed to display my emotions, I would have felt better about progressing, but because I had been shut up, my walls came up, and I felt like I had made the wrong choice to birth with this woman.  Even still, I refused to vocalize these feelings to Milkman or to myself, because I wanted to remain positive.  I dried my tears and tried to lay aside my mistrust for my care providers.  Hours passed.  Contractions became erratic.  I walked as much as my aching, hobbling body would let me, willing my body to progress.  Reciting scripture, praying, singing hymns.  

 

 

I was checked so many times.  I was under the impression that you should not be checked often with ruptured membranes for fear of introducing bacteria.  Every time I hesitated at a check I felt like I had to.

 

 

After a very long time, I asked why I wasn’t allowed to go into the birthing tub to labor since my back labor had kicked in. With hesitation I was allowed to labor in the water (this was the number one reason I picked this birth center, so I could labor in the bath).  The water was warming and comforting, but I could hear HMW and DMW talking about me in the other room in hushed tones, and I couldn’t block it out.  I felt so awful.  They were tired and not offering the support I had hoped for.  At 2am I told Milkman I was scared.  HMW came in and said very forcefully during a back contraction “If you are scared you should not birth here, you should transfer.”  I wanted to scream.  I was scared because I was scared of having to transfer and lose out on alllllll the money we paid out.  

 

 

At this point I faced the women who were supposed to be supporting and comforting me and asked for them to be realistic with me.  I had been ruptured a long time.  36 hours.  I was stuck at 5cms and had been for a very long time.  How realistic was it that I would deliver at the birth center?  HMW was honest with me at this point (for which I was very grateful).  She told me that likely I needed pitocin to progress as well as a pain reliever so I could sleep.  I had been awake too long, my body was too tired.  It was time to transfer.  They checked me for the umpteenth time.  Still a 5.

 

 

We got to the hospital just a block down the street.  DMW said she would meet us there, and though I didn’t want her to, she had agreed to taking the role of a doula in the event of a transfer and I needed someone to help Milkman help me through contractions.  She got there and her demeanor seemed one of someone who is apathetic.  The nurses insisted I have yet ANOTHER check.  I refused.  I was told I would not be given pitocin or meds until I was checked.  I looked at my DMW hoping for some support, she gave me a “Well, what are you gonna do?” look and began scrolling through her phone.  I wanted to scream “HELP ME.” but I was too busy breathing through contractions. I finally agreed to a check.  Epidural was placed.  Epidural failed. Second was placed.  Second failed.  Pitocin was kicking my uterus into high gear and there was no relief.  Though the epidural was placed, it was leaking into another part of my back, so no pain relief was brought but it was still being pumped into my body. I have very low blood pressure normally, so at one point the nurses came in and told me I needed ephedrine for low blood pressure.  Through a contraction I tried to inform them that my BP is always low.  I looked at DMW for her to speak up and let them know that my whole pregnancy she would joke with me about this very fact.  I said “No… ephedrine.  Please.  Its… normal.  Low blood pressure.  NO. NO.  NO!!!!” and it was shot into my IV.  Here I was.  I was becoming one of those stories where the interventions keep piling on top of the other.  I looked at my DMW and she gave me a look again, unsympathetic and went back to her phone.  Hot tears seared my cheeks.  I was so angry.  I told DMW she was free to leave.  She kept refusing to.  I asked her to get food or go take a break, and though she seemed like she would rather be getting a root canal than stay with me, she kept saying, “No, it’s okay, I’ll stay.”

 

 

Finally another anesthesiologist decided to give the epi a try.  He told me my scoliosis curved right where the epi was supposed to fit, so he eyeballed it to the right and got it in.  It offered temporary relief and I was able to sleep for a while.  Milkman passed out, DMW passed out at my feet.  I woke up once the epi stopped working to breathe through my contractions.  I stared at sleeping DMW with tears in my eyes.  I wanted her gone so badly, but I didn’t want to be rude.  I could slap myself now for caring about that in the moment.  

 

 

I woke her and Milkman up to help me through contractions.  Milkman went to the restroom at one point and I looked up at DMW during a very hard contraction and reached my hand out to hers for her to hold mine.  I swear to you, the look that returned to me scared me.  It was almost sinister?  She refused to hold my hand and stared at me with a grimace on her face while I went limp and breathed.  This happened several other times.  Once again I told her she could leave, once again she refused.  I still don’t know why she stayed other than maybe she wouldn’t have gotten paid if she left?

 

 

After a few rude nurses, it was time, I was a 10.  New doctor on call came in and I told her due to my SPD I could not push on my back and would need to be on my side.  The doctor said she hadn’t delivered with a mother on her side, I said that was nice, and I would be her first.  If DMW would not advocate for me, I would advocate for myself.  DMW offered to take pictures, I got in place.  3 contractions, Peach was born. Relief.  Tears.  She was here.

 

 

I looked at her warm wriggly body and I cried out “She’s alive! This one breathes.  She’s not still like Ezra was.  This is my baby and SHE IS ALIVE.  Thank you, Lord, she’s perfect!”  I cried for a long time.  It was quiet in the room, and the air felt thick and awkward, but the only thing I cared about in that moment was gratitude for this gorgeous little creature I held in my arms.

 

shes here
She’s alive!

 

 

After a while the room cleared out and DMW finally announced she would be leaving and a great wave of relief washed over me.  She assured me she would send the photos and when the door shut and it was just Milkman, Peach, and I, I breathed easy for the first time in 48 hours.  Peach latched on and looked up at me with one eye open, and I marveled at her perfect skin and face.  

 

 

 


 

Once we got into our recovery room in postpartum, my mom brought Captain and Mamitas to come meet their little sister.  It was so wonderful to have my little family all together, if only for a short period of time.  Captain was feeling homesick and it made it hard for me to say goodbye when they left.

 

 

That night, I sat in the hospital bed, nursing the baby and eating dinner and I looked over at Milkman and asked, “What did you think about DMW?” He pursed his lips and (wisely) asked me, “What did YOU think about her?  Did you find her helpful?”  I started crying.  I told him how unsupported I felt, how I felt like a burden to her.  How I didn’t want to talk with her or have anything to do with her.  How she made labor that much harder.  How when I reached out for her she ignored me.  He nodded his head as I talked and came over to hold my hand.  I asked him again and he said he felt very much the same as I did but didn’t want to bring it up in case I hadn’t caught on to it because he didn’t want to put a damper on the experience.  I wept and he held Peach and I while I shook with angry tears. He agreed that any contact with the birth center and either of its Midwives would go through him, so I wouldn’t have to deal with it.

 

 

We picked up my placenta from her a couple days after delivering, all the correspondence though Milkman still.  She never did send my birth photos.  I wept much in the weeks following my birth.  None surrounding my baby, or the usual baby blues, all in relation to my awful birth experience and the care I was promised and paid for but was not given.

 

 

6 weeks later we finally heard from HMW and she asked why she hadn’t heard from us to schedule my follow-up appointments.  We hadn’t been contacted til that point.  Milkman was a saint and explained that I was dealing with birth trauma and I couldn’t bear to go to the birth center.  Right after he sent that we heard from DMW for the first time in those 6 weeks saying she was concerned she hadn’t heard from us.  It felt awful, all over again.  Like it was my fault she hadn’t done her follow-up.  And it confirmed all the more that she didn’t care enough to contact us sooner.  Milkman went to the birth center to pick up my records and asked if someone would please send the pictures from my birth.  

 

 

A while later we received an email with the photos, all thumbnail sized and poor quality.  I asked for her to re-send them at a higher quality, as these were the only pictures I had of the birth, and were intimate and meaningful to me.  She never replied and I haven’t heard from her since.

 


 

 

 

Since all this happened, I attended a birth trauma session at MommyCon and spoke with the ladies at Integrated Birth.  At the end of the session where they offered advice for avoiding birth trauma (like hiring a doula, birthing at a birth center, using people who came highly recommended, etc). I began crying very hard (thankful my sister was there with me to hold my hand and cry with me).  There was a Q&A time so I asked “What happens if you did all those things, you did everything right, all your research, picked the best people, and it still went horribly?”  I was told that most likely DMW had taken off more than she could chew and was in birth burnout mode, and most likely shouldn’t have taken me on as a client.  I was told that I was supported and to not be afraid to write my story, whether or not I ever shared it with anyone.  The compassion I received from the fellow attendees and from the presenter and the Integrated birth team was AMAZING and empowering.  We all cried together.  At once point Laney from the Mommycon team came over to me and hugged me and she said she understood how I was feeling.  For the first time I felt like people other than my sister and my husband understood me, and actually cared.  That my concerns were valid and real.

 

 

I still occasionally break down thinking about Peach’s birth because it brings up a lot of angry and hurt feelings, but I am on the road to emotional recovery, thanks MOSTLY to Milkman and his love and patience and understanding.  He’s heard me hash it out so many times, cry over it so many times, and never once has he dismissed those feelings.  Peach is the happiest baby I have had and this has also helped tremendously.  Had she been as high needs as her big brother and sister, the physical and emotional healing would undoubtedly have taken much longer.  Every smile reminds me just how worth all the pain really was.  She is magic.

 

 

If you’ve made it thus far, you are dedicated!  Thanks for reading.  If you are dealing with birth trauma and want someone to talk to, feel free to reach out and contact me,  I’m here to support you!

 

 

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It’s Not a Season, It’s a Baby.

“It’s just not your time.”

 

“It’s only for a season.”

 

“It doesn’t last forever, this is just how it is for all of us.”

 

“You can get spiritual feeding in AFTER your kids are older.”

 

These are just some of the responses I have received many times when I have lamented that I am struggling with my place in the church since having children. But guess what? I got sick of it.  I’ve talked to my spiritual advisors, to my elders, to my husband, I’ve cried out to the Lord about it, and here’s what I came up with in response to those statements:

 

This is absolute crap.

 

Okay, okay, so maybe that’s not the nicest way to put it, but that’s what I’ve wanted to say.

 

When I had Captain in 2012, I spent an entire year worshipping apart from my husband.  I use the term “worshipping” very loosely.  I spent a year in a room either alone, or with 2 other wonderful nursing women and their babies that had a TV with the sermon being piped in, while my husband sat in the service and got to listen to the sermon like the rest of the church, because he wasn’t lactating and I was.

 

At the year mark, after countless Sundays and Thursdays being stuck in a room apart from my husband where the audio or the visual wasn’t working at times, I had had it.  I went to my wonderful husband, my sweet spiritual head and with tears pouring down my face I said, “I can’t do this anymore. I haven’t heard a whole sermon, let alone a quarter of a sermon in a year.  My daily devotional time suffers, I never get to fellowship with the body anymore, I am sick of being in a room apart from you and not hearing the word preached.  I need help because I feel like I am drowning.”

 

My husband held me while I cried and we decided it was high time I made my way back into at least the lobby, if not the sanctuary of our church.  Thankfully, the lobby of our church at the time has two large glass windows and the sermon audio piped in, so we were able to take Captain into the lobby from the sanctuary if he got too loud, without me being segregated from my husband, and without feeling shut up in a dark room by myself.

 

Once we had Mamitas, we were told by a well meaning woman that there were people uncomfortable with me nursing in the lobby– even with a cover.  Back to the nursing room I went– feeling alone, defeated, and an outcast.

 

Even for women’s functions, I was told were for adult women, and to leave my nursing child home with daddy.  Women’s teas, retreats, and social events weren’t the place for my nursing baby.

 

I began to see a common trend.  The people who were the most unsupportive of me in my young motherhood were not some chauvinistic, patriarchal men– it was women.  Every time. And not just women who didn’t have husbands or kids, no!  It was always middle-aged to older women, who had children at one point in their lives too.  These same women had probably sat in the same dark rooms, nursing under blankets in bathrooms or lobbies or hallways, not hearing the Word preached, longing to be fed, and they were probably placed there by other older women themselves.

 

I’ve talked to many young mothers about this in the church, and we all seem to be frustrated with it, but for some reason, the squeakiest wheels seem to be the older women, and so, we young moms end up in a dark back room because we have noisy babies and milk in our breasts.

 

I can’t help but think this has only become an issue in the last 100-150 years in the westernized world, due to two things:

 

  1. The change from biological feeding with breasts to bottles and thereby making breasts single (and sexually) purposed in our societies.
  2. The popularity of segregating children from adults into their very specific age groups– namely because of the public school system and the rise of Sunday School and mandatory nursery care in churches.

 

Tell me that Ma Ingalls had to nurse her baby in a cry room, or that Mary had to take Jesus to the nursery each Sabbath.  That just wasn’t a thing.  This has not been the norm for thousands of years, and because of tradition and popular culture, the church now has no place for young mothers and babies.  How is a church to grow and sustain itself without young families?  It can’t.  It will die out without children.

 

What other sector of the body of Christ do we tell, “It’s not your season to listen to the preaching of the Word of God”?  What if we told teenage boys that they were excluded for this season, or old women, or elementary aged children?  We would all be in an uproar.  The gospel message and preaching of the Bible is for ALL Christians.  Its commanded that we be in fellowship and following good, solid teaching and doctrine, and yet, I hear it constantly. “It’s just not your time– we all go through this.”

 

As for the claim that I have heard the most: “It’s just a season in your life”: I hear the “season” comment mostly from women who have chosen to have 1 or 2 babies.  Most of these women either didn’t breastfeed at all, or they did for a very short period of time. That was the perfect amount of babies for them.  That was the perfect amount of time for them to nurse.  Milkman and I desire a large family.  Thus far, I’ve been nursing 2 days short of 48 months straight.  We choose to let our kiddos wean sometime after 2.5.  What if my “season” is 10 years?  Is it okay for any Christian to miss out on preaching for 10 years?  My grandmother had 15 pregnancies, and raised 13 children over a course of 21 years.  TWENTY-ONE YEARS.  By the season argument, if my grandmother had been in a modern Evangelical church, her season would have been about 23 years.  

 

23 years of no women’s retreats.  23 years of not sitting with my grandfather in church.  23 years of audio/visual mishaps on the CCTV in the nursing room.  23 years of not getting spiritual feeding with the rest of the congregation.  Many years of also not sitting with her older children in church, leaving my grandfather with 4, 5, 6, 10, 12, kids to manage on his own. Many years of being alone and lonely and told by her older sisters, “Sorry, Panchita, it’s just not your season.”

 

Let’s be real, sitting in a sermon with young children and babies is still going to have you struggling to get the full message uninterrupted each week.  I’m not ignorant of the fact that children distract us in church and need parenting 24 hours a day, 7 days a week– meaning I’m not off duty for 2 hours each Sunday, and my kids are still going to need my attention.  But if my husband and I are tackling the parenting in church together as a team, we can support each other, be encouraged that we aren’t alone, be with the rest of the congregation on a Sunday (what a concept!), and most importantly, we can worship together, teaching our children of the importance their parents place on the preaching of God’s Word, and honoring the Lord’s day.

 

I don’t think we should do away with nursing rooms, I appreciated ours when I was in the early stages of nursing and needed 17 hands and a boppy to get a good latch.  I don’t think we should do away with nurseries.  I think they are excellent options for parents of children who are happy to go into childcare.  I don’t think we should do away with Sunday School, I loved Sunday School as a kid, and it serves a wonderful purpose for families who would like their child in a more kid-friendly environment.

 

In fact, this isn’t even so much about where to nurse as it is about women tearing down other women.  I see it constantly, not just in the church, but I see it there a lot.  I am incredibly thankful for a husband who advocates for me, for elders who have listened to me while I weep, and for the few, very special older women in my church who have been there to encourage me and help me through this sometimes lonely journey of being a nursing mother.  But the naysayers are always the ones whose comments seem to be what sticks with you.

 

To those older sisters, I just want to say, I know kids can be a distraction.  I know they can be annoying, believe me I have personal experience in dealing with their frustrating behaviors!  I know it is easy to forget that you were once in my shoes, but dear older sister, would you show me some compassion?  If not on me, then on my helpless infant. She needs love from her church, to hear as a baby what the Word says.  She needs to hear her pastor praying and she needs to see her parents lifting their hands to the Lord in worship.  She needs to hear the Psalms read, so that one day she can say, “There was never a day I could remember that I didn’t know the love of Jesus.”

 

Gather the people, Sanctify the congregation, Assemble the elders, Gather the children and nursing babes; Let the bridegroom go out from his chamber, And the bride from her dressing room.

 

–Joel 2:16

 

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**as an addendum, I would like to share that after meeting with our elders and lots of prayer, we are happily worshiping with the congregation each Sunday, and it feels so good to be with my brothers and sisters while still nourishing my youngest, tending to my olders, and standing next to my husband.**

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