How Birth Effects Breastfeeding – July 16th

This post was written as part of The Breastfeeding Cafe’s Blog Carnival for 2012. For more information on the Breastfeeding Cafe, check out this site. If you would like to participate in this year’s carnival, just post on your personal blog and put a link in the comment section below.  To receive email updates for next year, contact Timbra landslidephotography {at} hotmail {dot} com. Today’s post is about how birth effects breastfeeding. Please read the other posts in today’s carnival listed in the comments section of this post. The Carnival runs July 16th through the 31st!

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Timbra Wiist is a wife & mother to two little girls (ages 6 and nearly 3), one foreign born and one water born.  She is a La Leche League leader of 4 years, working with LLL in Murray, UT.  Timbra is a photographer who specializes in Breastfeeding Portraits and “the Journey of Motherhood.”  When she blogs about breastfeeding she does so at www.bosoms-and-babes.blogspot.com, you can read her other posts during the Carnival, there.  


Today’s Prompt:  Share your birth experience and how you feel it shaped your first breastfeeding experience, or experiences with each child. Talk with your mother or grandmother, and hear other birth stories (share them too).

I’ve decided not to rewrite, this is the post I’ve put up in the past two years, because my birth story has not changed and it continues to be the birth of me:

The birth of a first child is in essence, the birth of a mother. We have hopes and dreams for our babies, we think we know exactly what kind of mothers we will be and what kind of birth we will have. . . . but until you have experienced birth, until you have been BORN as a mother, it is almost impossible to envision the birth experience you really desire. Second babies have it easy 🙂

Bare with me as I share some of the details of the birth of my first daughter. They are so important to me and to the prompt because as is mentioned in my “bio,” my first daughter was not born in the US. My experience, therefore, with regards to labor, birth and breastfeeding are vastly different from the stories of sterile hospital births I hear about in the US.

Before I was ever pregnant with her, I had intention to birth in a birth center 40 minutes away from my home. I wanted a water birth. However, just weeks prior to becoming pregnant, my husband and I made a decision to move out of the country and gave ourselves a “pregnancy deadline” which would eventually determine her country of birth. Things didn’t go as planned, and in the end, we landed in this new country only FIVE WEEKS before our little girl was “due.” (we should have been there five MONTHS before).

By the time we arrived we’d seen 7 female doctors/midwifes for prenatal care due to our moving around while waiting on visas. Five weeks gave us very little time to interview doctors and research birth options once we finally arrived. In fact, I’d lived in this country once before and was close friends with a Doula (when I was 19 and husbandless and had NO idea what a doula was, what she did or why she might EVER be important or necessary). And from that experience I knew that an out of hospital birth (though it likely happened all the time among the local people) was not a viable option unless I knew someone who knew someone who was either in the country visiting at the time (a doula, a midwife, etc) or had a relative who happened to have a birth pool and attended births. Unfortunately, I didn’t have the kind of time on my side to be able to figure all of that out. The best I had worked out was that a mutual friend put me in contact with another American woman who had given birth to 3 of her 4 children in this country and through her I was able to find someone who fit my ONLY requirement. . . a female doctor! Not a female doctor she’d had experience with, as her own ob/gyn had since retired, but a female ob/gyn nonetheless.

I am SO thankful that the individual who attended to me when I gave birth to my first daughter, was a woman and a MOTHER herself! It’s not common, even in the US, let alone a developing country to have a female ob/gyn attending a birth, but I was fortunate that this one request was filled. My beautiful Dr. Litiana Browne, was a confident 60-something year old Fijian woman.

My husband and I had agreed (ahead of time)to some medications during my labor, as well as requesting an induction so that my family, who had traveled 3000 miles to be there for the birth of this first grandchild/niece, would not have to leave without having met our little girl. Had I known what I now know, I would have made different choices. . . but when you know better, you do better and it was, in essence, the birth we chose and planned with the knowledge and information we had (or chose to have) at the time. Fortunately, none of this seemed to have had adverse affect on the outcome of her birth or our first nursing experience. My birth as a mother was NOTHING like the stories I hear of here in the States. . . .I was induced by a doctor who did not endorse epidurals and actually said to me “How can you be in control of your labor if everyone is standing over you looking down at you?,” (to be clear, I was NEVER interested in one) a woman who (in her 60s) had very few times found need to perform a cesarean. She slept at the hospital all night, waiting on me to have my baby (I was the only woman giving birth in that hospital that night), she wasn’t “on call” at home.  There was no other doctor who might end up attending my birth.  I was induced at 8am, sent home to be return and be checked in the afternoon, returned to the hospital at 2pm, was sent home again and returned at 6pm at my husband’s request, though I would have preferred to have labored at home for longer, as first timers, we just didn’t know what to expect (during labor with my second daughter, I would learn that my labor patterns easily fooled us, and that I tend to have close and short contractions, so we thought we were much further along in labor than we actually were).  A night of medication, some rest, laboring on the ball, having my water broken and finally around 3:30 am, the urge to push. . .

When I said I needed to push, the nurse did not ask me to wait, she asked to check how far dialated I was, and allowed me to begin pushing (never telling me my “number”). . .while squatting. . . before the Doctor ever arrived. When the Doctor arrived she checked my progress (while I was squatting) then stood in another part of the room speaking in their native language and laughing quietly (not about me. . . just talking, because birth was NORMAL) while my husband sat in a chair behind me, being my rock, and I stood and squatted, and pushed and felt my baby’s head crown before anyone else knew her head was coming. A few details are hazy, after I climbed onto the bed and pushed her out with 2 final pushes. . .a head and her body. . .while on “all fours” and I shouted “Do we have a baby?”  It was 4:16am!

Despite what I am about to say with regards to how it is taken for granted that a mother WILL breastfeed in this culture, unfortunately, Western birth practices have weaseled their way into all sorts of cultures around the world. My baby’s cord was cut, before I even had a chance to turn over and see her, she was whisked just a few feet away onto a warming table, she was wiped up and checked over and it was an hour before I think I actually held her. . . though, it didn’t feel that long and I don’t remember it being that long, my photos are time stamped so I KNOW it was that long. Part of this was due to my needing stitching. But. . . this was the first time I’d ever had a baby, and I didn’t know anything about delayed clamping, I didn’t take the “immediate skin to skin” stuff I’d read, to heart, and truthfully, I didn’t know if I should be responsible for holding a newborn baby while being stitched up.

I had some tearing, but this culture is not interested in numbers, and so my doctor stitched me without telling me “the degree” of tearing and within the first hour I was able to try to nurse my baby for the first time. After my family came to see her and oogle over her and then left (because they had actually been awake the ENTIRE time I had been awake 8am to 6am at this point) I was able to nurse her again. A nurse-midwife (all the nurses were nurse-midwifes) came to check on us, I said “Am I doing this right?” She said “you have a bit of a flat nipple” perked it up for me (a little odd, but seriously, all pretense is gone after giving birth) and that was that. . . my baby latched and nursed happily. . . for the next few years!!!

In part I believe this is because there is a big push in this particular country to return to breastfeeding. Like many foreign countries, when the US says something is good, others follow. . . . many years later than the US. . . .Formula became the norm for several years, however, in the 10 years prior to the birth of my daughter, education (for nurses) on the importance and superiority of breastfeeding over formula and a push to encourage mothers to breastfeed, had become normal practice (again) in the hospitals. There was no question as to whether I would breastfeed my baby. No one offered me a bottle or pacifier, or was concerned about whether she was eating, no one took her blood sugar levels. . .they didn’t even weigh her for four hours!

They waited 4 hours to weigh her for the first time. I didn’t have to request she not be given a pacifier or formula. I didn’t have to request to room in with her. . . in fact, my husband held our daughter while I was being tended to and when I fell asleep after holding and nursing her for a bit, he held her for two more hours, my husband held my baby because a bassinet just “couldn’t be located” (there were TWO birthing rooms in this hospital, across the hall from one another. . . the “overnight” rooms were not just for moms, they were for people recovering from surgery and illness too. . .AND. . . I was the only person giving birth in the hospital that night. . . there was ONE other baby in the nursery. . .where could all the bassinets have run off to?). So, until my husband was falling asleep, sitting up in a chair, with our newborn infant in his arms, no one helped him, not even a little. 3 hours after her birth, they brought a bassinet and took her to the nursery (one room away) and 15 minutes later I woke up (I guess even after being awake 24 hours straight and giving birth, when a new baby is taken from the presence of a new mom who is dead asleep. . .she knows it!). We immediately went to the nursery, I needed to gawk at that baby some more, and then they bathed and weighed her and she never left my presence again until we checked out (except for 10 minutes for vaccinations). 

When I hear about hospital experiences here in the US, I am actually appalled. The sterility, the push for formula, the worry over glucose levels, the shots, the eye goop. . . . (and that’s just AFTER baby comes. . . I am even MORE appalled at all the “red tape” moms go through while in labor, all the encouragements to USE MORE INTERVENTIONS).  My experience, though removed from the “natural” way of birthing, was still so much closer to biologically normal, than anything I hear about here in the US.

My second daughter was born in the US, in a water birth, in a birth center, without complication. She latched and nursed within the first half hour as we lay in bed together, we never left one another. Her birth story is simple, from day 3-14 it got much more complicated, but that is not for this post. My first daughter took 15 hours to make her way, technically, my second daughter took 5 days 🙂  I believe that the birth I experienced with my first daughter, with the knowledgeable and assuming experience of a nurse, that I would breastfeed her, set the course for my mothering and my passion for breastfeeding. . .it was uncomplicated and NORMAL.

So. . . in a culture that assumes every woman can and will breastfeed. . . there was no question, there was no option. . .there was just me. . . a newly born mother. . . and her. . . a newly born baby. . . and we were breastfeeding. . .and we were at the beginning of a beautiful journey that I never could have imagined. And I was born. . .

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4 Comments

Filed under Birth, Breastfeeding Cafe Carnival, Pregnancy, The Normal Course of Breastfeeding

4 responses to “How Birth Effects Breastfeeding – July 16th

  1. Timbra – I love how you say “I was born” – such a great perspective. Thank you for sharing!

  2. Jeana Jones

    Beautiful story, Timbra! It’s beautiful how when everyone around you assumes that breastfeeding is just the normal thing to do and you just do it, you can tap into your instincts without interference.

  3. Di

    Hearing your story and how you are grateful to a Doctor who helped you in a foreign country in your first birth is extravagant. If only you could tell this story to the whole of Fiji of how much we need experienced and committed Doctors like Dr. Browne.
    Thank You for sharing…

    P.S- this should be shared to the WORLD and all Fijians in Fiji.

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