Category Archives: The Experience

Changes and Comics and Things

Hi all,

Just mentioning some changes I’ve made to the site recently.

1- Nurshable now has a facebook page. http://www.facebook.com/Nurshable feel free to stop in, post interesting links to the page, chat with others who parent in similar ways, seek support, etc.

2- Nurshable is on twitter. https://twitter.com/Nurshable feel free to follow there.

3- We now have comics. My partner Alex likes to draw and has started turning a lot of the funny things that happen into cartoons and has given me permission to put them up here. http://nurshable.com/comical/ If you like comics and want to see some of the funnier sides of attachment parenting from our house get made into comics.. Comment. Encourage him. Otherwise he’ll get distracted and leave it at the one.

4- Changed the navigation at the top to simplify it a bit.

That’s about it. :)

Carry on!

<3 Sarah

Pulled Under

There is a photograph of me that I absolutely love. It is not a flattering one, but it is from a time when I was under pressure to always look appealing, a task I seldom lived up to.

I’m crouching down on a rock messing with an old digital camera, looking up at my friend M. And making a funny face. For me, it is a picture of me as I am held above the waves by a dear friend who refused to let me be pulled under even as I told her time and time again to let me go.

I am not smiling, but my eyes are alive. Every other photo from that time has a forced grin or a shaky neutral smile that was careful to not go too wide or too big or too happy. (Too me.)

There is a reason that abusers try to cut you off from your family and friends. Those people are the ones that hold your head above the waves and keep you from being pulled under. They lull you back into the pattern of being yourself and jangle with your subconscious in ways that make you question why sometimes you feel so free and others you feel muffled, strangled, suffocated, held down, twisted into something that you have never been. A work of Bonsai, held in place with fear.

Years out now, I marvel at the people who held me in their hearts when I pushed them away and accused them of the things my abuser held true. I’ve said my apologies and have been met with tears and open arms and more love than I could have ever imagined.

I marvel at how I managed to find those moments with my friends where I could come out of hiding, be at ease. I struggle to comprehend how much time I wasted feeling so worthless that I could only be myself alone in front of the mirror in a bathroom behind locked doors. I used to make those me-faces struggling to see them as objectionable so that I could train them away in exchange for the love of someone who could never truly love me.

I love each and every one of you who held my space in the world when I was not allowed to be. Each of you who helped me back to my feet. Who listened to me as I processed what had happened.

You kept me from being pulled under.

And now I have joy.

Wrap Baby (WIO)

I love wraps and babywearing because they put so much sleep related stuff under baby’s control. A baby in a wrap has supported independence. They are able to make choices about their comfort and are actively involved in how and when they fall asleep.

When she is wide awake she pops her head out of the wrap and turns it side to side. She is interested, alert, observing. She makes eye contact with people around her and strikes up her own conversations of smiles and coos. She kicks her feet when she is excited by something that she sees and we move towards it.

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When she is sleepy she pulls her head back in, tucking herself under my chin and letting the wrap cover her mouth while she chews on it calmly.

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And then moments later she closes her eyes and she falls asleep.

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She has control over her stimulation levels, her body position, and she makes the choice to fall asleep when she is ready and be awake when she is not. She is learning how to calm herself, how to sleep, how to relax in a comfortable place.

She is not on her back unable to move to find a comfortable position. She is not on her belly helpless. No one is deciding for her that it is time to sleep or time to wake.

She startles when a loud sound surprises her, bobs her head until she’s comfy, and settles back into sleep.

It is supported independence. Much like holding a baby’s hands for early steps before they have the confidence to do it on their own.

Sure, they could choose to hold your hands a while longer, but human children are driven by the desire to be independent. They cling only when something is wrong.

And when something is wrong, I want to be there for them to cling to.

I am happy with this pace as we wait it out.

How I Wrap

This is how I do a high/neat wrap.

The key elements are:

You want to only keep track of what touches your body- forget about the ends. If you focus on the full 5 or 6 yards of fabric you’ll go nuts.

Keep track of the “top” and “bottom” of the wrap so that you can keep it straight.

Cross the back high up between your shoulderblades.

And cross the front where you want baby’s butt to be. If you’re using a stretchy wrap you want to take into consideration the stretchiness of the fabric and make the front “x” higher for a stretchy and exactly where you want baby’s bum for a non-stretchy wrap.

When You Were New

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Just after birth, they were constantly monitoring my blood pressure and pumping me full of pitocin after she was born, for fear of my losing more blood that I had already lost during the fourteen hours of labor which started off with a partial placental abruption and a gush of blood. My daughter, though, was placed on my belly and we stayed together. She nursed and everyone respected our space, just flittering around like anxious bumble bees to watch my numbers. Her birth was observed, not managed, monitored not forced. The monitor belts which I had hated with my first two were not an issue with her, because they were a part of keeping us safe. Necessity, not needless paranoia. K. Came into the world through the most complicated birth, the only dangerous birth, the birth where I was open to any and all interventions and where I handed my care over to my doctor in trust. K. Was the one born with the fewest interventions, the most respect, and in the most hands-off way. Our providers make a world of difference. With my first two births I felt that I had few choices, none of which I liked. With K. I stumbled upon my doctor and he gave me the autonomy that I had craved in the births of each of her brothers. In turn I gave him my trust. He did not betray it. Interventions and monitoring are sometimes necessary, I have never objected to the necessary, only to the routine.

Baby Zombie at the Breast (My Third Breastfeeding Story)

My third child was quite clearly a zombie baby. Born thickly covered in vernix and blood-splattered from the partial placental abruption that she caused by scraping past her low-laying anterior placenta as she prepared herself to be born. She came after fourteen hours of labor that started itself with unimpressive contractions followed by the sudden passage of so much blood that I thought my water had broken.

I was expecting to be sent home, as I had just been checked for progress and I was “three centimeters and mushy” and my contractions had spaced themselves out into almost nothing. We had just decided to go to the hospital because we were expecting another precip birth after her brother took only three hours to show up.

Instead I was signing consent forms for a c-section and we were watching the baby’s heartrate and seeing of the bleeding would come down. Things stabilized and my doctor arrived and told me that as long as the baby was doing well and the bleeding didn’t increase the goal was still to avoid a c-section.

Initially I was told that I would have to stay in bed, but I was given permission to move around as long as the baby was doing well. Delighted I stood up slowly and immediately lay back down. Dizziness from blood loss made the choice for me, and I spent my labor on my right side by choice and my daughter moved herself slowly down my tailbone as though she was trying to avoid agitating the placenta any further.

Little girl was born after the fewest interventions and the the biggest medical emergency of all my children. She was placed in my arms and her cord stopped pulsing within minutes. She was covered with vernix and the newborn baby fuzz, born more because the placenta was ready than because she was. She was active and alert and her desire to latch on severely impeded her ability to do so. Little feet kicked, little arms pumped, a little head bobbed, and her mouth opened wide and refused to close down on the breast.

My third child took the most effort to get latched, despite my 55 months of prior breastfeeding experience. Her brother took longer to get latched due to inexperience, but dear sweet little K. has been the most difficult baby to breastfeed.

She would gag if the nipple was too far into her mouth. She would push the nipple out with her tongue. She would latch on and click her tongue in front of the nipple rather than putting it underneath. This third nursling of mine gave me giant clear blisters on the tips of my nipples that hardened into scabs that I had to soften with a washcloth before feeding to keep them from ripping off in a bloody mess.  I saw an IBCLC in the hospital who told me nothing that I didn’t already know, and who left with the advice of “Just keep on trying”. And so we did.

She had a sneaky tongue tie, short, loose and at the back of her tongue. A loose non-blanching lip tie. Nothing that should cause any problems at all. We got her ties clipped at 3 months and things improved slightly.

K. has taught me more about breastfeeding than any other baby. In order to get her to latch on I have to flip my nipple up and point it at her palate just behind her top gums. I have to stroke her cheek with my finger to get her to close her mouth onto the breast. I have to guide her with her reflexes so that she will do everything that she needs to do to latch without gagging.

As she’s gotten older she’s getting better at latching herself on, but she’s a struggle. Her arms and legs get in the way, her head bobs in the wrong direction, she tries to talk instead of nursing, and often when I have JUST gotten her latched on she will pop off to smile at me. She nurses very well and very frequently and is a little chubbalubb for her efforts, but getting that girl to latch on is no end of amusement and frustration.

Bottles are not even an option because she gags on the flow, gags on the nipple, and will scream herself purple and rigid rather than eating. We continue to try, but I suspect that she will learn to drink from a cup before she will ever take a bottle or a pacifier.

Every experience is different. Every child has their hurdles. Every child has their ways of challenging even an experienced mother.

My little zombie girl is no different. She is who she is. And this is how we nurse.

And Then There was My Army Grunt (Second of Three Breastfeeding Stories)

My second child came the night that I decided that I was probably never going to go into labor and that I was going to reabsorb the baby. He was two days overdue and instead of feeling “close” to giving birth I felt that we would go another couple of weeks easily. Something that I didn’t relish the prospect of, as my care provider was zealous about inducing at 41 weeks.

Three hours after the first contractions he was born into the hands of the flustered resident that leaped over the birthing bed, briefly considered breaking the bed down as she had been trained to do, and reconsidered as this second child of mine had his own timeline firmly established. The doctor that they had paged was never able to make it.

His older brother had looked like a baby dragon, but A. looked like an army grunt. Close cropped hair with a widow’s peak that looked like someone had given him a buzz cut. He was minutes old and had an air about him that radiated a mellow oomph.

This child of mine settled down to nurse immediately as though he had gone through basic training. He had the rhythm, the confidence, the latch, the persistence. I used lanolin once to help the chapping that came from his frequent nursing.

He gained rapidly for the first three months, and then his weight gain tanked. Slowly he sunk through the percentiles. I was caught between opposing camps. The camp that believed that there was some deficiency with my breastmilk, a school of thought that confused me because the milk that I pumped was mostly fat. My son made around 20 diapers a day and we had recently switched to cloth because the disposables would have easily bankrupted us. And the other school of thought that said he was perfectly fine because his diaper count was good and he was meeting milestones.

Caught in the middle I didn’t feel that either answer was right. There was something that was off. I couldn’t put my finger on it.

As it turned out, this little guy was severely tongue tied. Diagnosing a tongue tie has become a bit of a lost art and it is not widely understood that the tongue has many types of movement necessary for a baby to nurse effectively. The “one step” test of “can the tip of the tongue extend over the lower lip” is a terrible test.

Once the tongue tie was clipped, all of the little issues disappeared and my little army grunt rose back to where he was supposed to be in the percentiles.

Ironically, of my three children the one with a severe tongue tie was the “best” nurser from the start.

Breastfeeding him was easy from the beginning. He had clear cues. He’d nurse until he was done and then he’d want a pacifier despite not having been given one before six weeks. He liked to be rocked, to be held,  to be worn. He liked to sleep in his own bed and didn’t wake often in the night in those first few months although as his weight gain dropped he would wake more and more frequently and developed issues that mirrored reflux.

Despite the easiness of breastfeeding it always felt different from nursing my first. There was something missing. Nursing was simply feeding with none of the hormone rushes that I had come to associate with breastfeeding. I dismissed it as “every child is different”. I had never been big on the idea that breastfeeding was bonding anyway.

As it turned out these things were all caused by the tongue tie. A simple snip and fifteen seconds of crying at eight months old fixed everything that was “broken”, and a few minutes later we were nursing for what felt like the first time.

A. went on to wean himself at eighteen months old, four months before his sister was born. He remains delighted to get mommy milk in a cup, although he’s still a grazer and will drink an ounce or so before he pours the rest onto the floor. Kid’s got his own ideas about how things are done.

Learning to Breastfeed a Baby Dragon (One of three breastfeeding stories)

My first child came after twenty-seven hours of labor and was born a slight shade of purple. My first thought upon seeing him as the doctor  held him up in front of me was that he looked like a freshly hatched baby dragon. The most beautiful freshly hatched baby dragon that I had ever seen. He was a boy with a fuzzy head full of black spikey hair, and the biggest darkest blue eyes that I had ever seen.

I had never held a baby for more than minutes. I had never changed a diaper. I had never soothed a baby. I had never breastfed a baby. I had never even seen a woman breastfeed a baby. Breastfeeding was just something that I had planned on doing since I was very young, and a checkbox on a birth plan that no one had bothered to read.

I discovered that watching videos of women breastfeeding was a sadly inadequate way to learn, that books could not prepare you, and that when you were faced with instructions such as “hold it like a sandwich” and “bring the baby to the breast not the breast to the baby” and told about “cradle”, “football” and “reverse cradle” holds.. It could make a twenty-six year old computer programmer feel like a three year old trying to learn how to tie shoes. But while the shoes screamed at you. And if you didn’t manage to tie them the shoes would somehow declare you to be a Very Bad Mother Who Cannot Feed Her Baby.

I was shown “how to breastfeed” somewhat surly-sweet labor nurse who had annoyed me by offering an epidural a few too many times and then cheerily proclaiming “I’m sorry it’s too late for an epidural now, sweetie. But it’s time to push.” when I expressed that an internal exam was PAINFUL. (After 26 hours of unmedicated labor if something is painful it should be taken into context, I think.) I was told to offer my clean pinky finger to him to suck on first, then she offered him a bottle with formula which I swatted away, and then she jammed my breast into his face to show me how to jam my breast into his face.

(Later I abandoned the “jam breast into face” approach and adopted a much more appealing “Touch nipple to baby’s mouth until he opens to nurse” approach which worked better than trying to force feed a screechy.)

We were rather terrible at the breastfeeding thing- something that I now understand is perfectly okay. I look at early videos of me trying to convince my son to nurse, and I wince at how inexperienced I was and how I was doing Everything Wrong.

The turning point came when I carried my son down to the nursing station, gingerly holding him against the chest of my blood-stained hospital gown, and asked to see the lactation consultant that I had been told about during the hospital tour. Instead, the older nurse chastised me for carrying my baby outside of the plastic box that was his bed, and told me that if I was worried I could just give him formula. I never did end up seeing the lactation consultant and to this day I don’t know if the hospital really even had one.

We figured it out, my little baby dragon and I, in the wee hours of the night in the hospital bed all alone between the incessant blood pressure checks and poking and prodding.  I awkwardly maneuvered my own breast into my mouth and sucked the nipple hard. I know now that a hard nipple isn’t necessary for breastfeeding, but it helped offset my ignorance a bit. He latched on. To the nipple itself, rather than to the areolae, and he chomped away merrily.

The first six weeks were bloody hell. Literally bloody. Cracked and chapped nipples, holding my breath when I latched him on, and a bloody hickey that resembled a second nipple from where he drifted off of my nipple and latched on a good quarter of an inch off target.

My mother who nursed three children back when such things were rare was able to offer two pieces of advice: You can do it. And use lanolin.

These bits of advice got us through the first six weeks of complete and total ouch and slowly my son learned to breastfeed. I learned how to support him in a way that made him not pull his head away. I learned how to hold the nipple so that he could find it. He learned how to latch on.

I struggled with the “normal” things. Mistaking growth spurts and supply stabilization for low supply. Pumping and being confused about the relationship between amount of milk pumped and what my baby must eat. Learning how to breastfeed in public with a cover. Coming to terms with breastfeeding discreetly without a cover. The random dirty look. Sleeplessness. A primary care physician who had weaned her own children and who repeatedly pushed me to wean mine for the oddest of reasons.

I struggled with a lack of support, with doing it all on my own, with trying to put my exhaustion and touched-outness into terms that could explain to someone else why I was not who I was before my child was born. I struggled with balancing computer programming with motherhood, and learned to balance my sleeping son on a boppy pillow while I worked, and to babywear while I did the dishes.

I conquered mastitis, stubbornly avoiding antibiotics and learning how to dangle nurse, how to use a soapy comb, and how to use hot water to get my milk flowing. Only the first of which I recommend now due to finding out years later that ice is a better solution (except for just before nursing when a hot compress is a good idea.)

When he was nearly five months old my back gave out and I parented through the rest of his first year in constant pain because the doctors that I spoke to said that a cortisone shot could impact my milk. (This was incorrect and unnecessary, I later found out.) I took ibuprofen, tylenol, and staggered through it, getting the cortisone shot for my back a month or two after we celebrated our first of three breastfeeding anniversaries before he self-weaned.

At eighteen months my son shared some of his milk with three different women who were not able to breastfeed exclusively. I was a “micro donor” and the small amounts of about 100oz helped those moms tide over until they found someone with a more prolific output than I was able to manage.

He and I reinvented the art of breastfeeding in some ways. We did not learn from others, we struggled along and managed to thrive and grow without needing to supplement. My experience taught me the value of being  a part of a larger community of moms, and from learning through the experiences of others.  To question the advice given by anyone, and to verify it and seek out all of the different opinions and facts so that I understood my decisions and my reasons for having made them.

With my little baby dragon, I learned to find and provide comfort amidst chaos and uncertainty.

 

 

Attachment Parenting is Not

Attachment Parenting is not Indulgent Parenting. Attachment parents do not “spoil” their children. Spoiling is done when a child is given everything that they want regardless of what they need and regardless of what is practical. Indulgent parents give toys for tantrums, ice cream for breakfast, allow their infants to forward face before they’re physically safe doing so. Attachment parents don’t give their children everything that they want, they give their children everything that they need. Attachment parents believe that love and comfort are free and necessary. Not sweets or toys.

Attachment Parenting is not “Afraid of tears” parenting. Our kids cry. The difference is that we understand that tantrums and tears come from emotions and not manipulation. And our children understand this too. They cry and tantrum sometimes, of course. But they do this because their emotions are so overwhelming that they need to get it out. They do not expect to be “rewarded” for their strong negative emotions, they simply expect that we will listen. I don’t remember the last time my partner was feeling so frustrated about something and needed to vent, and I told him to go sit alone in a corner and come talk to me when everything was hunky dory dandy. We pick up our babies when they cry, and we respond to the tears of our older children because we believe firmly that comfort is free, love is free, and that when a child has need for comfort and love, it is our job to provide those things. We are not afraid of tears. We don’t avoid them. We hold our children through them and teach them that when they hurt or are frustrated we are here to comfort them and help them work through their emotions.

Attachment Parenting is not Clingy Parenting. I do not cling to my children. In fact, I’m pretty free-range. As soon as they can move they usually move away from me and let me set up a chase as they crawl, run, skip and hop on their merry way to explore the world. Sure, I carry them and hug them and chase them and kiss them and rock them and sometimes sleep with them. But this is not me following them everywhere and pulling them back to me. This is me being a home base. The “attachment” comes from their being allowed to attach to us, not from us attaching to them like parental leeches.

Attachment Parenting is not Selfish Parenting. It is also not selfless parenting. We are not doing it for us, and we are not doing it to torment ourselves.

Attachment parenting is not Helicopter Parenting. I don’t hover. I supervise. I follow, I teach, I demonstrate, I explain. I don’t slap curious hands away. I show how to do things safely. I let my child do the things that my child wishes to do, first with help and then with supervision and finally with trust. I don’t insist that my 23 month old hold my hand when we walk on the sidewalk because I know that I can recall him with my voice because he trusts me to allow him to explore and he trusts me to explain when something is dangerous and to help him satiate his curiosities safely.

Most of the negative things that I hear about “attachment parents” are completely off-base and describe something that is entirely unlike AP. AP is child-centric and focuses on the needs of the child. Children need structure, rules, and boundaries. Attachment Parents simply believe that the child and the parent are allies not adversaries. And that children are taught, not trained.