Life After Birth | Liesel + Zeke

Life After Birth | Liesel + Zeke

As told by Liesel: Nursing Zeke was transformational. I found strength in myself and support in others and a bond shared with this wonderful kid. Our journey was amazing and perfect for us. I could take away his sadness, his hurt, his frustration, his hunger, and be his total comfort. I had no idea the impact it would have on me. I am amazed by myself! Before I had a baby, I thought nursing was strictly nutrition for the offspring. I had no concept of the love and bonding that also grows with each session. I was not around any nursing mothers growing up and my first real encounter with a nursing relationship was 8 years ago. That mama made it look easy! It was not easy! Blood and lots and lots of tears were shed from both of us. Did you know that a baby could re-form nipples by nursing? Guess what? They can. Really painful reformation, that’s what it is. From exclusive pumping to an SNS to just the nipple shield to my plain raw nipples we did it and kept on doing it through 22 weeks of pregnancy. Every time I would make a change I would give myself three more weeks. Magically, around the 4th month everything clicked, for both of us. A three-year journey is far more than I ever imagined. I’ll miss his little hands rubbing mine, his milk drunk sleepiness, the nipple filled grin he would flash, and the most adorable way he used to sign and make a funny noise when he asked for milk. I know our nursing journey together is over but we have so many adventures ahead and I can’t wait!


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More weaning stories at the LAST LATCH PROJECT

Images by Bergen Howlett | Photography for Two Rivers Childbirth

Life After Birth | Chelsea + Jocelyn

Life After Birth | Chelsea + Jocelyn

My business was my first baby. I own Anam Cara Apothecary with my mum and over the past 4 years, we cultivated a shop full of herbal remedies, workshops, and holistic treatments. Here I could exercise my creativity and create my own schedule. Some days, I’d lose sleep over work, but only because I was creating new recipes or displays to try out the next day. Being my own boss was the best and I never had a bad day at work. Our clientele was wonderful and took us years to build, and I’d be lying if I didn’t say I was nervous about taking a huge step back as I stepped into the role of motherhood.

My daughter’s due date was November 25th, Black Friday. The irony was not lost on me that I would be laboring and birthing on the busiest sales day of the year. I jokingly said that if she came early, I would just strap her on to me and work the register while sitting on a stool. How hard could it be?

I, of course, did not go to work that weekend or for several weeks after that. Jocelyn became the most important thing in my life, but my first baby – my shop – was never far from my mind. I soaked up the newborn days at home with Joss and my husband, but also felt pangs of guilt for not being at the shop during the holiday season. My mum assured me that even though she missed me, sales were great and the store was running smoothly with her and our employee. She was right, things were going great without me. I had the register app on my phone and could check in on our sales whenever I wanted. The shop thrived in my absence, which made me feel comforted yet confused as to what my new role was.

In the spring, I dealt with Postpartum Anxiety. The baby was going through the 4 month regression, I did not have many local friends who also had kids, I longed to be of use again besides changing diapers, and I wanted some autonomy from the baby. My feelings snowballed into a lot of frustration, especially when I went to the shop. No matter how much I wanted to do just one more thing while I was there, I would end up leaving halfway through bottle inventory because the baby was fussing and refused to nap outside of the house. My shop was once my place of serenity, and now it gave me anxiety because I never knew how long I had until the baby had a meltdown.

With the wise counsel of my husband, mum and sister, I overcame PPA by lowering my expectations in just about every department of my life. I wanted to enjoy Jocelyn’s babyhood, not resent it. My change of outlook has made all the difference, even though I still wrestle with it weekly. If a work related task gets interrupted now, I ask for help to complete my project, or put it off for another day.

Motherhood has taught me patience, to handle situations with grace, and to get creative when attempting to complete my goals for the day. I have nursed the baby on the couch while posting about our arthritis cream on Instagram. I have curated upcoming events and sent out emails while the baby is taking a nap. I distract Jocelyn with blocks while ordering more shopping bags. Even during writing this, I’ve taken breaks to soothe my teething baby who no longer is entertained by her toy.

My daughter is now 8 months old. My role has changed at Anam since Jocelyn was born, and I’m no longer there every day that we’re open or have the mental energy for all of the business tasks I once was in charge of. I hate this yet love the fact that I’m the one primarily raising our daughter. On the rare days I am at the shop without the baby, my husband asks if going to work is a break for me. “It is,” I tell him. Going to the shop and interacting with our customers without interruption is a little vacation for me. And I’m that much happier to return home after having some time to be creative at the shop.

All of my work is done remotely from my computer when I’m home with the Jocelyn. I’m in charge of some of the less glamorous yet still important things such as inventory, ordering supplies, advertising, label design and website maintenance. When I go into the shop with the baby, she is always strapped in her carrier as I attempt to redesign a display or mix together oils. There are constant interruptions and half done projects. The simplest tasks take me so long now, and my mum and I find it very difficult to have a productive workday when Jocelyn is present. We are either trying to soothe her, feed her, or resist being distracted by her cuteness. Our customers love her, and she smiles at everyone she sees.

Being a small business owner and the mother of a baby has taught me to simplify and prioritize things. There isn’t always time to do the grand product display you imagined, and sometimes you only get to check one or two things off of your to-do list that day.

Because of this new normal, I’ve learned to let go a lot. Let go of wearing a dress that aren’t breastfeeding friendly, let go of being on time anywhere, and let go of how the shop runs or looks. I remind myself that this is just a season, and Jocelyn won’t be a baby forever.

Motherhood is all about ebbing and flowing with this new state of normal. We’re balancing the baby becoming part of our world, us becoming part of hers, and creating a new world that makes sense to everyone.

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Images by Bergen Howlett | Photography for Two Rivers Childbirth

Community Birth Story | Jocelyn

Community Birth Story | Jocelyn

As told by Chelsea:

I was eating dessert at Thanksgiving when my water broke. I was eating coconut cream pie to be specific. Just like I heard in the stories about when the water breaks, I felt the sensation of peeing my pants. I was at my husband’s aunt’s Thanksgiving get together. My sister-in-law is a doctor so after several minutes of wondering to myself did I or didn’t I, I pulled her aside and told her that I think my water broke. It was the day before my due date. Over the next two hours, we waited for contractions, for more amniotic fluid, or for any other labor signs. I remember thinking that the movies really made it seem more obvious and dramatic than this when you have your first baby.

I was in touch with my midwife, April, throughout the evening. I had two mildly uncomfortable contractions on the way home from dinner, but nothing else, so we were advised to get a good night sleep and meet at the hospital early the next morning. There, a test would be conducted to determine if the waters had broken.

Surprisingly, I slept great that night. I calmly showered the following morning, fed our cats, and we loaded our suitcase in the car. Because contractions still really hadn’t begun, I was hoping the staff at the hospital wouldn’t turn us away due to a false alarm.

At the hospital, I took a test that resembled a pregnancy test where I had to pee on a stick. April met us in triage and came back with positive results from the test. The good news was: my water had broken and we were gonna have a baby! but labor had not begun so we had to use a artificial oxytocin to induce labor and contractions, get a 10 cm dilation, and birth the baby.

As much as I was a little disappointed my birth plan already was going down the drain, I was excited that today would be the day. We were leaving the hospital with the baby.

The mind of a new mother is quite foggy, so here are the highlights from the day, presented very likely out of order.

1. Labor felt like a combination of severe menstrual cramps and the sensation I believe a vegetarian would have if they ate at Fogo de Chao for the very first time.

2. My birthing team was my husband Jake and my friend Kirsten, who was an off duty Certified Nurse Midwife at Johns Hopkins in Baltimore. My mother also visited the hospital, but she stayed for only about an hour in order to set up a crystal grid on my bedside table, and give me words of encouragement and support.

3. I threw up 3 times during labor and delivery from pain. Jake said it was much more than 3 times.

4. My pain relief techniques included a hot shower, a hot bath, distraction via Fixer Upper on the laptop, bouncing on a exercise ball, rocking in a rocking chair, and humor. During a contraction, I would ask Jake or Kirsten for a joke, knowing that the serotonin from laughing would help offset the cortisol from the stress.

5. My labor kept starting and stopping. April asked late in the afternoon if I wanted her to strip the membranes, which should help move labor along. I said yes, and that procedure was probably the most painful part of the labor thus far. After they were stripped, labor contractions came on full tilt and hit me, wave after wave. I felt like I only just come up, gasping for air, when another one would come on and the undertow of pain would take me under again.

6. I sat in the shower amongst strong contractions, Jake shirtless and sitting on the edge by my side. I had some flameless candles in there to keep a calm energy flowing. If the circumstances were different, it’d be pretty romantic. And in a way, it was, but not in a sexual way. I sat on a chair in there, naked with my swollen belly, tears turning into water by the time they hit the drain. I would squeeze Jakes hand tight when a contraction would come and I go, vulnerable in front of him, willing this baby to come soon but also asking myself to be patient and trust the process no matter how painful. I was in so much pain, and remembered the dumb quote in the movie Major Pain “you want me to take your mind off that pain?” It was so dumb yet funny, and at this point I was becoming slap happy, so I tried my best to tell Jake the plot of the movie. I probably looked nuts while I cried and laughed sitting in the shower.

7. I sat on the edge of the bed, writhing and trying to get away from the pain when they came only 60 seconds apart. Jake was on his knees in front of me so I could lean against him. He kissed my neck and told me to breathe. Kirsten sat behind me on the bed giving my lower back counter pressure.

It was as I labored in the tub, with Kirsten pouring warm water over my belly and April coaching my breathing, that I asked for the epidural. It had been 10 hours of laboring on pitocin, which apparently can be more painful than naturally occurring contractions. I felt like my body had been through battle, and I needed reinforcements so I could keep going.

My body was shaking and I was in tears when I asked Jake what I should. He knew I wanted to attempt a drug free birth, but he knew that my body was slowing down after the beating it had taken all day. He told me to make it through one more contraction, and then decided. I did, it came and went, and I yes, yes, a thousand times yes… I need help. April suggested another pelvic exam to see how far I was dilated if that would help cement my decision. The exam, more painful each time it was conducted, revealed that I was only 4.5 cm dilated, a whopping 1 centimeter more than I was at the beginning of the day. I felt so defeated that we had only made it that far.

I sat shaking on the bed as the needle was administered into my spine. Staying as still as possible while receiving the epidural may have been the hardest thing asked of me yet. Everyone but Jake, one nurse and the anthestisiologist left the room to reduce risk of exposure to infection. Jake couldn’t hold my hand, only the experienced nurse could. I was introduced to her only moments before I clung to her for dear life. The doctor was calm and collected; a woman crying and exhausted from pain did not phase him due to his profession.

Within a few minutes after he left, my body started to relax. The shakes subsided as well as the pain. I felt like the edge was taken off and my body could finally get some rest. And rest, we did. The staff dimmed the lights and Jake, Kirsten and I all took a nap. When April came back in an hour and a half later, she conducted another exam to check my dilation. It was 10 centimeters. Everyone was shocked, especially April. The rest and pain relief were what my body needed to become ready to push the baby out, and I was so glad I opted for the epidural, birth plan be damned.

As the medical team prepared for the pushing stage, so did we. It was 10:30 pm and we were all in high spirits as I asked Kirsten to braid my hair to get it out of my way. We were having a baby! But the hard part was only just beginning.

In labor, you are supposed to breathe during the contractions. In delivery, you are supposed to hold your breath as you bear down and push. There was a learning curve in regards to learning how to control my breath yet push with all of my might, and just when I finally gotthe hang of it, all the tension I put in my chest and lungs built up into terrible reflux- like burning, resulting in vomiting about an hour into pushing.

They say you use every muscle in your body to push the baby out, including your eye lids. This is fact.

Time began to lose all meaning and get fuzzy during the 5 hours I pushed. After getting sick once again, I developed a terrible, excruciating headache. It was 2am and I needed a break. Everyone in the room became frustrated at one point or another, whether at me or the situation, I’m not sure, but no one would dare tell me. I was frustrated myself. I sat on the bed with my eyes closed and I think I even fell asleep for a few seconds while everyone took a break of their own.

I vacillated between asking my baby girl to please come out – come on sweet baby, we’re all waiting for you – to  down right demanding for her to vacate my uterus – child, don’t make me come in there and get you!

After more pushing without success, April came to my head and told me that she was starting to get uncomfortable with how long this was taking. She was a patient person who never rushed me, so when she said this, I knew it must be serious and that the baby was starting to show signs of distress. Her heart rate was high and I had developed a fever and was put on oxygen. I was so tired, hadn’t eaten for 12 hours, and for the first time in this whole ordeal, I became scared. I told April that I consented to anything that would help get the baby out. She calmly but quickly left to get the doctor who would perform a vacuum. Jake and I knew that we were now headed towards a c-section. At this point, I didn’t care how she left my body, I just wanted my baby and for her to be okay.

While April was gone, I watched the monitor and saw contractions come and go without doing anything but laying there. For the millionth time that day, I cried. I thought the baby was in danger and I couldn’t do anything to help her. I was trying my best and even asked April if I was pushing correctly, to which she told me that I was.

When April returned with the doctor and a new O.R. nurse, the 15 minute break from pushing proved to give my body a renewed strength. The doctor waited to see me push before jumping into action. I pushed with all my might, and we finally turned a corner. Everyone in the room audibly gasped their excitement: they could now see the baby’s head.

“You don’t need me. You’re going to push this baby out.”

The doctors presence was the motivation I needed to make progress in pushing. It still took another hour, and another visit from the doctor, to fully push her out.

When the baby’s head was breaching, Jake told me that there was so much hair. I wanted to see! The nurse rolled in a large mirror and I could see the hair as well as how effectively I was pushing. It was one more hit of motivation I needed.

The biggest thing I remembered that helped me was a particular nurse. She was young and of mixed race. She appeared out of nowhere, and it was only later that I learned she was the nurse that accompanied the doctor in case I needed a vacuum or c-section. I focused in on her, especially because she was quiet until I pushed some really hard pushes and made another leap. At the time, she felt like a good gauge to measure my progress.

Finally, after several more encouragements involving “yes, that’s the one!”, I felt a gush of fluid.

“The head is out!” 

“Okay, that’s the biggest part of the baby,” I told myself. I knew I just had to push once more to get her shoulders out and then the rest of her body would slide out with considerable ease.

And true enough, I pushed one last time, and at 4:22 am, Jocelyn Luna was born. It was finally over.

The labor had lasted about 15 hours and the pushing went on for 5 hours. Joss was quickly placed on my belly and was toweled off and was encouraged to cough or cry to get her lungs to open. I don’t remember crying happy tears or saying anything, but all I wanted to know was if she was okay, and she was.

Her eyes were big and open almost immediately. Jake stood over my shoulder, kissing my head and laugh-cried as he welcome our baby. Joss used all of her tiny little strength to lookat him as she laid on my chest. I found her tiny hand with my finger, placed it in her palm, and she closed her hand around my finger.

I heard April ask Jake if he wanted to cut the umbilical cord before they took her to the nearby warmer to check her vitals and towel her off some more.

Much later that morning, we were settled into our new post-delivery recovery room. Jake was in the shower and it was my first time alone with Jocelyn. Phone calls had been made and photos were snapped. Family would be arriving soon.

I hugged her tightly and simply stared at her.

So this is you, huh? You’re my baby I asked aloud.

I had gotten to know the little baby that grew inside of my belly for the past 9 months, but now I could finally see what she looked like. I already knew that she had a funny sense of humor and kicked me in the ribs when I started talking about her. But now I knew that she had dark hair in the shape of a perfectly coiffed pixie cut, her skin was bright pink, flowing with new blood, her eyes were blue and her face looked exhausted, eyebrows furrowed at me. It took us both a lot of energy to get here. She looked at me, looked away and then darted her eyes back to mine, staring sleepily at me.

I think I could see her beautiful deep blue, piercing eyes say to me:

So this is you, huh? You’re my mom

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