Life After Birth | Caitlin + Andy

Life After Birth | Caitlin + Andy

As told by Caitlin:

The birth of my son isn’t a story that would be helpful for anyone to read. The long story short is my beautiful rainbow baby boy was born on September 9, 2014.

So we will skip to a half hour after his birth. I finally get to hold my son after what feels like an eternity. The nurse laid him on chest and I guided him to my breast. It didn’t take him long to latch and he laid contently with me for hours. The first few hours were precious and I’ll never forget how it felt to finally have my son in my arms.

Against nurses orders, I kept my son in bed with me for pretty much the entire time we were admitted. On day 4 we headed home, he had only lost 5 ounces since birth. By his one week appointment he was 3oz over birth weight! We were so excited! Breastfeeding was working! Our son was thriving! We at least had that, even if we lost the birth experience we wanted.

At 8 weeks postpartum I had to return to work. I had 100oz in the freezer and I was terrified I’d run out. The first day the sitter went through 30oz of milk and I had only pumped 12oz in the 11 hours we were apart. So I started to wake up half hour earlier each day to pump. And an extra session at work. And an extra at night. Because he was blowing through 20-30oz a day on average at daycare. We didn’t know about paced feeding, and he seemed to only be content with a bottle in his mouth. We moved houses when he was 7 months old, and I had over 1,000 ounces of milk in the freezer. I contacted a human milk bank who after some screening accepted my donation. By his first birthday I had another 1,000 ounces to donate. We had made it to one year of breastfeeding and I felt so accomplished! We made it!

Well, my milkiedoodle didn’t get the memo that we were only aiming for a year. I started to wean off the pump but a Mom nearby needed milk for her baby, so I kept pumping for her little one, donating around 2,000oz over three months. In addition to the donor baby, I was sending 10-12oz a day with my son to daycare. I had to get several forms signed that he was to have my milk and not cow milk at school. I never thought it would be such a hassle to give my son what was best for him.

Well, his second birthday rolls around and I’m thinking that I should stop pumping finally! Weaning off the pump was proving difficult, but by 34 months I was finally done pumping!! Maybe I’m crazy for all that time pumping, but I kept thinking I had to do what was best for my son. And I had this obsession that if I couldn’t be with him, at least my milk could be.

Preschooler breastfeeding, Life After Birth Project

His third birthday comes to pass and we’re still breastfeeding on demand. I made the decision that I needed to start weaning him because he would never initiate weaning himself. We first dropped the on demand nursing and went to three sessions a day – morning, after work, and bedtime. Next to go was after work, and at 3 years 3 months we cut out the morning session. He asks frequently about having milk, and even though I explain it’s for bedtime only, he seems to understand but shows disappointment. On March 9 he will be 3.5 years old and that will be our last nursing session, unless he stops somewhere between then and now.

preschooler breastfeeding, Life After Birth Project

I feel so sad to think that this time is coming to an end. I felt like nursing my son was the first and only thing to go right in my motherhood experience. We made it to our goal of a year and kept exceeding the goal, so I’m not disappointed with that. It just seems so sad that one day soon I’ll put him to bed without that tender moment, and he may cry and fuss until he settles without his milk. I know that he will be ok, but after all we’ve been through, it’s hard to let this last bit of babyhood go.



More weaning stories at the LAST LATCH PROJECT

Photos: Bergen Howlett

A Story About Breastfeeding

A Story About Breastfeeding

It must have been fall because I remember that it was getting cold. There had been a sudden rash of stories about mothers being made to leave a location because they were breastfeeding in public without enough cover; because someone saw something, or thought they saw something or could, maybe see something if they looked really closely. Something like a nipple. Like a breast. Like a baby eating. Something shameful, dirty.

In the recent months families had been removed from stores, museums and airplanes for nursing. Aided by social media breastfeeders across the country were up in arms, staging nurse-ins, great gatherings of nursing families in peaceful, milky protest. Inspired, friends told horror stories about the uneducated, rude and sometimes just plain mean things that friends, family and even perfect strangers said. All this, even though most states hold laws protecting a breastfeeder’s right to feed their baby anywhere they themselves have a right to be.

We are so conflicted about breastfeeding in this country. We beat breastfeeders black and blue with the “Breast is Best” mantra without providing anywhere enough support for the complicated dance between parent, child and the rest of their family that is any breastfeeding relationship. Nurse your baby, we say. But not for too long. And not where anyone can see (there are children watching, you know). We frighten parents into believing our bodies are inadequate. We trick mothers into believing that our bodies are inconvenient. We shame women into believing that our bodies are unwholesome.

Pippa was my second nursling and the dance was easy. With my eldest, Belle, we stumbled constantly — I was always fumbling with one of the three nipple shields I carried with me everywhere, repeatedly latching and unlatching trying to outsmart the insidious tongue tie, lip tie and inverted nipples that defined our nursing relationship and plagued my dear but angry infant daughter. Covers and blankets became nothing more than a waving banner, a sure way to draw even more attention to us with Belle’s thrashing and shrieks of protest. No, covers were not for us. Despite our elaborate mealtime rituals and alfresco dining preferences, for 25 months of nursing Belle we never once had a negative comment. Sometimes we would get a smile or a “good for you, Dear” from a Granny at the grocery store. But I was influenced by my friends’ stories of public backlash so by the time Pippa approached the 9 month mark I thought I was overdue.

Papa became Catholic halfway through college. With all the fervor of a convert he cherishes Eucharistic adoration. One evening he talked me into bringing the girls with us to the chapel for the utterly silent meditation. After dinner time. He is a brave soul.

We tried to slip in quietly. Three-year-old Belle was a flurry of questions in the loudest, but still-technically-whispers, she could manage. I’d much rather our children be engaged with Faith and asking questions and seeking answers, and this night was as good as any to tackle the existential questions, but I was worried about disturbing the other worshipers. Papa took Belle up front. I wanted to sit closer to the door just in case, but those rows were full. I settled for the middle.

Pippa quickly tired of sitting still so I offered her a snack. At 9 months old she was not a polite nurser, turning, kicking, chattering, popping on and off again. My sweater was pulled up high with too much bare skin exposed through the open-back folding chairs. We resembled something more akin to an angular, juttering Picasso painting with too many elbows and feet than the serene Madonna and Child hanging above the alter. I heard whispering in the rows behind me.

Pippa unlatched again, squirming and whimpering. Belle sounded disturbingly loud to my mama-ears. I tried to get Pippa situated on the other breast when I coughed. Then I coughed again. Once I started I couldn’t seem to stop. We were a hot mess. I heard a woman in the row behind us get up and leave.

Great. Someone has left. We offended someone so much that they actually left. With waves of shame radiating from my whole body I gathered my things, unlatched the baby and motioned to Papa that I was leaving — coughing the whole time.

After closing the door to the chapel behind me a middle-aged woman with beautiful long gray hair rushed up. I recognized her, one of the cantors who sang at early Mass. She was the one who had left. That’s it, my good luck had finally run out. I was about to be initiated into the club of hurtful comments. I couldn’t even meet her eyes.

She held out her arm. “I miss that.” she said. I just stared at her, confused.

“Here.” She said and I realized that she was handing me a paper cup of water. Oh, right, for my cough.

“I miss nursing my babies. It’s such a sweet time of connection. Keep it up.” And then she went back into the chapel.

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This story has been republished under the Life After Birth Project. More about the project HERE

Community building one bite at a time

One of the very best ways to support a new family is to bring them a meal. The families who fed me and my mine after each baby arrived will always hold a very dear place in my heart.

A new family is generally glad to know that they are being thought of and pleased to receive any meal, but the best ones are easy to reheat, easy to eat, nourishing and warming. Bonus points for something that freezes well in case the family gets swamped with several meals at once. Sending food recyclable containers that don’t need to be returned with clearly labeled with the contents and date is a true boon for new, sleep deprived parents. Along with a simple side dish or two, toss in a few paper plates, maybe a family desert like fresh fruit and chocolate bar designated ONLY for MAMA, and it’s perfect. and have made the process so easy with directions to the family’s home, dietary limitations and preferences all in one place.

My favorite recipe is a lentil and sausage stew from my childhood. I often have requests for the recipe. It’s not complicated but it sure is tasty. If you ever see my name on a meal log, you can almost bet this is what I’ll be bringing!

Two Rivers Lentil and Sausage Stew:

Chop then saute in a large stock pot 1 med onion, 3 med carrots, 3 celery ribs in olive oil until tender. Add a few tsps of minced garlic when veggies are tender. Add 4 cups water/stock/broth, or more as needed, and 1 cup dry brown or green lentils, bring to a boil then simmer. Add a handful of chopped potatoes after about 15 minutes. When the lentils begin to soften add 2 peeled and chopped med sweet potatoes. When the lentils are tender add 2 cups of chopped sausages or kielbasi. At the very end add a few splashes Tamari/Braggs/Worcestershire sauce (I like all three) to taste and bring out that savory, satisfying umami. Serve with bread, or over rice or quinoa. This soup freezes well. Omit use water instead of broth, omit Worcestershire and replace sausages with meat-less options for a vegan soup.