doula, Uncategorized

Sisterhood Sunday

Growing up, I was always looking for a fight. In every situation, I always seemed to find the underdog and defend them vigorously. My nana used to tell me I’d make a great lawyer, my mom would tell me I can’t fight for everyone, my dad would tell me some causes and people are better stood for in private. And while each person was attesting to some truth, there’s just something about being able to speak for people who aren’t able to speak for themselves; I’m instantly attracted to the downtrodden, no matter how hard something is to look at, I want to see it for all that it is and I want to know what I can do to fix it.

Things haven’t changed much (especially the looking for a fight part, according to hubby), so it’s no surprise that, as a woman, I feel called to support other women. Or, maybe in today’s highly but secretly competitive society – where perfectly posed shots of handcrafted cupcakes are currency and not liking someone’s picture on Instagram is grounds for excommunication – it is surprising. But that’s a different post for a different day.

If you’ve read my previous posts, you know that delivering my son was no walk in the park, nor was it a picnic (seriously, someone described their labor to me as being like a picnic before I delivered; no wonder my expectations were so unrealistic!). It was traumatic, and it still, to this day, has the power to flip my mood upside down. I’d always thought it was that way because the hospital that I went to wouldn’t give me the epidural, the country that I delivered in didn’t have higher standards of care, the doctor that was on duty at the time wasn’t nice to me and treated me as though I was weak and whiny. And, it may have been in part a combination of those things. But the biggest reason why I had such an awful birth experience was that I wasn’t prepared.

Yes, I Googled everything: pregnancy aches and pains, what was OK and what wasn’t, what to buy for baby, how to handle baby once he’s earthside, but all of that preparation was for before and after the labor. I didn’t research one thing related to the actual part where I was going to push a baby out of my lady parts. Looking back, it’s like, duh how could you be so dumb, but if I actually dissect why I didn’t feel the need to, I feel a little less stupid and a little more angry.

Growing up in a Western culture, we are often taught to see drugs as a blessing, a technological advance that we are lucky enough to have access to. It wasn’t until recently that the resistance and skepticism of such “advances” became mainstream and people started questioning our dependence on Big Pharma. What’s even worse is that the healthcare community and Big Pharma are in on it together. So it’s no wonder that one of the most natural things in the history of the universe – childbirth – has also become heavily medicalized, with all interested parties making a pretty penny off of every birth they highjack.

I’m not saying there haven’t been leaps and bounds made in terms of maternal morbidity and mortality due to technological advances, but I am pointing out that a majority of mamas don’t need any of that stuff because our bodies know what to do. (And, I would also like to point out that as far as developed nations go, the US is failing mamas and babies BIG TIME; two of the biggest reasons? The rise in C-sections and a greater focus on fetal and infant health over that of the mama.)

Y’all – we have been making and having and raising babies for as long as time has existed. We do not need a trained Obstetric surgeon to attend every birth. 

Naturally, when it came time for me to have a baby, not getting an epidural didn’t even cross my mind. Um, yes I will take the drug that makes me feel nothing so I can smile pretty for pictures when the baby is placed in my arms. So when the doctor told me I couldn’t have one, I really – for the first time in my life – was woefully helpless. I hadn’t studied even one technique to get through the pains of labor naturally, and at that moment, I was sure there weren’t any. My husband was at a loss, my doctor and nurse were overrun with patients, my closest female family members were 7,000 miles away, and I thought I was going to die from the pain. I didn’t have any other options because I hadn’t given myself any other options.

In retrospect, I know that beyond the other responsibilities that come along with mamahood, figuring out how and on which terms you want to labor is a huge one. It goes beyond whether you want drugs, episiotomies, or to breastfeed, and some may even say that it’s a political issue, the subjugation of women how it’s in the patriarchy’s best interest to make sure we’re not empowered (again, another post for another day)…

At your most vulnerable moment, when you’ve reached the lowest of lows, you’re lucky to have someone to be able to pull you out, or at the very least to chill in the darkness with you. This togetherness – this sisterhood, if you will – is something we all crave, but not many of us have the skills or resources to seek out. Yet, this village plays such an integral role in whether we’re successful in life, whether it’s in business ventures, creative adventures, or – yup, you guessed it – child rearing.

So, to do my part in empowering women with education and knowledge, I’ve become a doula and childbirth educator, as well as began my formal training to become an IBCLC.

No matter what you want your birth experience to be like, you deserve to be informed and supported completely. If more women empowered and supported other women, there’s no telling the things we could accomplish. If more women enjoyed their birth experiences and came together to help others enjoy theirs, who knows how our communities would change.

 

breastfeeding, Uncategorized

Ya, I think I am

Here is part 2 of my breastfeeding chronicles.


Being stuck in the house with the baby attached to my boob was not how I envisioned spending my first 6 weeks postpartum, which led to another slew of emotions that I wasn’t prepared for – and I will discuss in another post 🙂 – but eventually (like after a long, hard time) I managed to find ways to enjoy the time that I wasn’t feeding Adam and still feel human. Downloading books on my phone helped, as did my subscription to Netflix and moving the TV to the room where I nursed the most. Letting go of the idea that I would still get to hang out with my husband all the time also helped a lot, as did asking him to just sit with me a couple of feeds a day and have an adult conversation not about poop, gas, or nipples. Also, making time to take a shower changed my attitude instantly.

And then there were the infections. I had mastitis three times in my son’s first 3 months of life, not to mention I dealt with thrush from day 1. I could barely even lift the baby to feed him, but I did, because that’s what I had to do to keep everything running normally while the antibiotics did their thing. It sucked. I was in excruciating, toe-curling pain, and barely had enough energy to keep my eyes open. The first two times I took antibiotics (which you don’t always need, mamas; check with your doctors and doulas to see what is best for you) it really messed with the baby’s stomach, so I requested a different antibiotic the third time, which seemed to be a lot easier for him to handle. And take a probiotic. I was actually on antibiotics during labor and should have been on a probiotic as soon as I left the hospital, but I didn’t know any better and trust me – once the yeast gets in, it goes EVERYWHERE, hence the never-ending thrush and yeast infections.

By this point I was in touch with Karen AKA the angel from LLL Dhahran and had joined The Cleavage Club. I learned that I had an oversupply caused by a combination of pumping too early and the baby’s ever-changing feeding schedule. Karen sent me all I needed to know about something called block feeding and asked me to get back to her in a week to let me know how it was working. I had finally gotten on track with breastfeeding and was starting to get the hang of it. Without her support, and the support of my husband and mom and in-laws and friends, I would not have survived. It really does take a village, and you have to surround yourself with people who will step up to the plate when you need them to. If that isn’t your partner, find someone else in your family, group of friends, or even an online community who can cheer you on and give you good advice. You are tough, mama, but you aren’t meant to carry everything on your own.

Listen to your gut, explore your options, and get a variety of advice from people who you trust and who have your best interest in mind. Remember that what worked for one family may not work for yours. There are so many things to consider while breastfeeding, and the things I discussed in this post were just a few of the major ones. Sleeping arrangements, childcare, and returning to work are some other things that impact the decision you make when choosing how to feed your baby.

As long as this post was, this is still only a condensed version of my breastfeeding journey – which has led to a beautiful relationship with my son – and I know yours is or will be just as unique and complicated. Above all, the closeness I feel and the strength I draw from being able to nourish my son with my body is indescribable. I also know that nursing is about so much more than just being fed, and I relish in the fact that my closeness can bring comfort to my son when nothing else can. I would recommend trying to nurse based on these two things alone, let alone all of the benefits to your baby’s health, and yours! Again, I know it isn’t an option for every woman, and I’m sorry for that, and want to say one more time that it doesn’t make you any less of a loving mama if you can’t or choose not to breastfeed. But if you do, and if you can overcome the inevitable challenges that such a task presents, I can promise that it will be one of the most rewarding experiences of your life.

If you want to reach out, or you have any questions, drop me a line below or send me an email. I am happy to help/support/listen/whatever you need 🙂

Childbirth, Life

And then there were three – my birth story

Delivering a baby is messy, however the little peanut comes out of your body. It’s hard, it’s painful, for first-time moms it’s scarier than anything we’ve ever experienced, (yes, even more than graduating college) and yet, to the doctors and nurses, it’s a standard procedure; there’s a checklist, protocol, things you should say and a timeframe things should follow. All things considered, though, the ladies laying on that hospital bed are human, and deserve to be shown kindness and comfort during labor and delivery, something I can’t say I saw until the last of 3 doctors arrived during my labor.  While I’d planned to have everything done a certain way, I had very little say in the matter once push came to shove (no pun intended). There is one thing, however, I dis have control over and really dropped the ball on; I didn’t get a doula for my delivery, and I regret it every single day. 

Maybe that’s why I’m now pursuing to become one myself, because one of the reasons why I didn’t have one was because there were only two available, and one was off having her own baby, while the other was on vacation and could only guarantee to be back in time for the delivery if I was sure I wanted her to be there. And I wasn’t. The cost was higher than I had anticipated, I was understandably overly emotional and thought my husband should be the one in the delivery room with me (I was under the impression I could only have one or the other, not both), and I just couldn’t commit because I wasn’t sure I wanted or needed one. I mean, I had written my birth plan, which, at its essence revolved around me getting an epidural, so what would I need a doula to support me with then? 

My birth story isn’t one that will make you sob (unless you went through the same thing, too, and thought nobody else had experienced it), but it is one that will hopefully teach you a couple of important lessons: that your experiences are your own, and that it is so important to understand that as much as you prepare yourself for everything when it comes to having a baby, you will never be prepared for what’s to come, and that’s OK. 

First let me preface this whole story by saying that I read everything. I had a birth plan, a hospital checklist, I knew what to bring and what I wouldn’t need, I read the gory birth stories, and the beautiful ones. When I learned that I would have to be induced (which I would not agree to again unless it was a medical emergency; our bodies know what they’re doing, mamas!), I knew what that meant, and I figured that while we were waiting for the induction to do it’s thing – and even when the epidural was in and we were then waiting for the baby to make his appearance – my husband and I would just chill. So, I packed like I was going on a staycation. Seriously, people, I had face creams and spritzes in case I felt flushed, hair ties and headbands that wouldn’t mess up my hair so I could take flawless pics once the little one was earthside, books, movies downloaded, my iPod, I think I even threw in a pack of cards because, hey, why not? If you’re wondering if I got around to using any of those things: I did not. At all. Ever. I could barely unpack my bag once we arrived home from the hospital out of sheer humiliation and seething anger that nothing had gone how I thought it would.

I also want to say that I think the strength of women is incredible. Like I said before, our bodies know what to do, and the transformative experience of childbirth is just such an incredible journey to be able to take and I am blessed and truly grateful that I was able to carry my son for 9 months and then deliver him. This story I’m about to share doesn’t serve to diminish that in any way.

There have been plenty of times in my life when I’ve felt alone; when I left for college, and when I moved to Saudi, just to name a few. But the only time that the full autonomy and separateness of my body, mind, and spirit from any other living being on this planet really hit me was when I was in the throes of labor. I was forced to have an unmedicated, vaginal delivery. (I don’t say natural here because I don’t want to diminish what c-section mamas go through, because they, too, are rockstars!) When I say forced, I mean that I didn’t want either of those things.

Now, I believe that some women have fantastic experiences with unmedicated vaginal deliveries, and I think their stories are beautiful and empowering and a true testament to the aforementioned strength of a woman. But I also believe in a woman’s right to make her own choices and me? I wanted drugs. And it wasn’t until I was in the height of pain that I was told I wouldn’t be able to have an epidural. I was in tears from the contractions, out of my mind with what I thought was the worst pain (it got worse…), and holding out because I wanted to show my husband how tough I could be. Even in this moment that he would never be able to experience because his body wasn’t created in the same awesome way as mine, I wanted him to be proud. The doctor’s words weren’t registering with me. I couldn’t have an epidural? Something about my platelets. The pitocin hadn’t even been administered yet, so I knew that the pain I was feeling was about to get 30 times worse. It just didn’t make sense. What did she want to give me then? They had gas, an injection they would be able to give me every 6 hours, my husband could massage me. But I didn’t understand how I would deal with the pain. So, in a moment of clarity, I did what any sane, rational-thinking woman with my expectations going into labor would do: I told her I would just have a c-section. I think she actually laughed a little. I couldn’t have a c-section because I didn’t need one. Yes, yes I did because I couldn’t deliver this baby with nothing. Again with the gas, the injection, the massage. And then it hit me: I wasn’t going to have an epidural, and I wasn’t going to have a c-section. Adam was on his way and I had to deal with it all by myself.

This is the point where, to put it bluntly, I lost my shit, and where a doula really would have been able to step up to the plate and do her thing. I was in hysterics; screaming and crying and yelling at the doctor and telling my husband to call my other doctor (who was on vacation in Italy and worked for an entirely different hospital). I was in so much pain and so determined to put myself into a medical emergency just so they would have to give me the c-section that I started saying no to everything. No, they couldn’t monitor me or the baby; no, I did not authorize them to start the pitocin; you are absolutely not going to strip my membranes or break my water. After two hours of refusing everything my husband finally snapped and said, “fine, let’s go home.” I looked at him, shocked that his usually calm demeanor was so harsh, and realized the ridiculousness of what I was doing.

Once the pitocin was started and whatever shred of dignity I had left had exited the building, it took another 16 hours for the baby to come out and, in all honesty, pushing him out was the least painful and the most relieving part of the whole ordeal. The injections they gave me only served to make me so high that I would pass out in between contractions – which were less than 2 minutes apart the. whole. fricken. time. – and the gas they gave me did absolutely nothing but annoy me that it was even a suggested.

I was euphoric once Adam came, of course, but I was traumatized, too. The first two times I tried to fall asleep that night I was jolted awake in panic, because that’s all I knew the last 16 hours – dozing off only to be awakened by excruciating pain. In those moments, I had become pain. No prayer or saying or comforting look from my husband could remove what I was feeling during those nearly minute-long contractions, and the way the doctors made me feel about the whole thing – that it was completely normal and that I was somehow supposed to just suck it up and deal with it – only added to the isolation, and later, to the anger. I felt that way for a long time. It didn’t help to hear people telling me that I would forget about it (I didn’t), or that I should be grateful that I didn’t have a c-section (I am and I’m not). I didn’t begin to come to terms with what had happened until I had joined an online breastfeeding support group called The Cleavage Club (if you’re breastfeeding or wanting to in the future, go join now!!! They’re on Facebook, based in Southern California, but have ladies from all over the US and the world) and was told by ICBLC and Doula extraordinaire Cass that it was OK to feel what I was feeling because that birth experience was mine, and I didn’t have to adjust it for anyone. Nobody else could have known what I felt, even if they were right next to me for the entire 16-hour experience (God bless my husband!), and it was OK to hate what happened. It doesn’t make me a bad person, or ungrateful, it just makes me a human that went through something quite traumatic and who has actual feelings about it.

Everything about my labor and delivery taught me that nothing is what it seems when it comes to childbirth and being a mom, and everything since Adam was born has only served to confirm that notion. Breastfeeding was incredibly hard – I will post more about this in the future – and I stuck with it only because my mom encouraged me not to quit on my hardest day, and because I had the support of groups like La Leche League and The Cleavage Club (on Facebook) to work things out with me. The first few weeks felt like 50 years. Adjusting to the overwhelming responsibility of taking care of a tiny human every second was beyond difficult, and it’s still a learning process every single day. Being a mom isn’t easy or cheap – it comes with a hefty price tag financially and emotionally. But I can’t think of anything else that I would rather be doing with my time, energy, or love.

Please leave a comment below to let me know what your birth experience was like, or if you would like any information about delivering a baby in Saudi.