07 March, 2011

on parenting choices, by our friend, tovah

Tovah has been one of your favorites since you met her, mason. mine, too. she is open, honest, brilliant, loving and compassionate. her words here ring very true for me. you and judah entered the world via cesarean and had very different experiences. yet, both of your moms have come out of our birthing experiences to bring change to the world, even if it's just for one mom or one baby. here is her story.

In the past few months, I have garnered a lot of attention and criticism from some of my posts and Facebook status'. Not including Santa, they are mostly about breastfeeding, co-sleeping, gentle parenting methods, and babywearing.

Let me give you a quick background about myself and my relationship with my son, Judah. Judah was born 6 weeks early. I was 34 weeks and 2 days, and admitted to the hospital for preeclampsia. After 24 hours of deliberation, the decision was made to deliver Judah via "emergency" c-section at 3:30PM on Christmas Eve.

Judah was born a healthy but small 4lbs 14oz, I kissed him on the nose, and he was quickly carted off to the NICU. I was pumped full of magnesium sulfate, and wheeled into a room far away from Judah, where I was completely drugged for the next 25 hours. They put a breastpump in the room with no instructions. When the magnesium was finished, my spinal block worn off, and my catheter pulled, I was finally allowed to see my baby. It was 6PM on Christmas Day.

Rafi wheeled me down the hallway and into the double secure doors to the NICU. I asked to hold my baby, and I was told that he'd been given 5cc of formula, and that he'd thrown up. Would I be gentle? I couldn't believe a nurse asked me if I was going to be gentle with my own baby. My own little being that I'd grown and had extracted from my belly 25 hours previous. Was I going to be gentle? Are you kidding me?

I finally held Judah. I asked if I could nurse him. I was not allowed to.

I was allowed to put him to the breast on Saturday, 48 hours after he'd been born. He didn't know what to do, and neither did I. I had NICU nurses who knew very little about breastfeeding, attempting to squish and shove my nipple into his mouth. I went back to my room, disappointed and tired. And in pain. I skipped the next feed, as instructed. I was only to put him to the breast every 6 hours, and in between, he'd have formula through the tube in his nose. Otherwise, he'd burn the calories he consumed by just trying to nurse.

That afternoon, a lactation consultant came to help me nurse Judah. She became my best friend. I had her come down every time I went to feed Judah. Sometimes we got him to consume 8ccs, sometimes nothing. It was always followed by either formula or breastmilk (fortified by formula) through the nose tube. I'd started pumping every 3 hours. It was a bitch.

Saturday night, I was so tired. I didn't want to see Judah. I had no connection to him. They could bottle feed him, why did I need to nurse him? My mom said to me, "Get out of that bed and go feed your baby. Now." And I did.

I was discharged 5 days after Judah was born. He stayed.

To come home, he'd have to consume, by mouth: 8 feeds in a row, in a 24 hour period, through the mouth. Between 50 and 70ccs each time. (Full term babies do not do this, mind you)

For the next 4 weeks, my life consisted of pumping every 3 hours around the clock (I slept on the couch so I could achieve this), labeling little containers of my milk, driving to the hospital at 9am and staying until 3, being only allowed to hold Judah when he was hungry and eating, driving home, eating, napping, and driving back to the hospital in the evening with Rafi. Don't forget, I was still pumping like a madman...at home and at the hospital. The next day, I'd wake up and do it again. And again. And again. I encountered the sweetest nurses, nurses I wanted to kill, and nurses who had no business working with humans.

While in the hospital, Judah consumed (in no order of important): formula through the nose tube, breastmilk fortified with formula through the nose tube, breastmilk through the nose tube. Formula in a bottle. Breastmilk with fortifier from a bottle. Breastmilk from a bottle. And milk from the breast.

Judah was finally discharged on January 19. We drove away from the hospital, and I was relieved. My life was finally going to be normal. No more hospitals. No more weighing before and after feeds. No more nurses watching me mother. No more doctors declaring he could not come home. He was home. He was mine. And that was it.

That first night, I put Judah next to my bed in the bassinet, and Rafi and I crawled into our beds and went to sleep. I woke up every 3 hours or so, schelpped the baby and the Boppy out to the living room, and nursed. After each nursing, I fed Judah a bottle of breastmilk, as per the hospitals instructions.

36 hours later, I had his first pediatricians appointment. He'd gained 10 oz in 36 hours. The doctor said I could curb the bottles, and that formula would not be nescesccary from a medical standpoint, only if I wanted to for convienience. (a few months later, I took all my formula to the Doctor's office and donated my special preemie formula to babies who truly needed it).

The weeks continued. I'd crawl into bed, anxious as to when Judah would wake up and want to eat. I hated waking up, Not because I didn't want to feed him, but because the physical act of waking up was very painful and jarring.

One night, I fed him in my bed, sitting up. We fell asleep. When I woke up, he was there and I was scared to death I did something wrong. But he was fine. And I was fine.

So we did it again. Except this time, I slunk down a little bit so I could sleep better. And I positioned him safely. And I was hyper aware that he was there. It was the craziest thing.

Eventually, we just started going to bed together, Judah nursing at my side. I slept. He slept. Rafi slept. Everyone was happy. We all fell in love.

And then I discovered the Moby wrap. It was cool. It was easy. It was hip. And Judah loved it.

It all made sense. Nurse your baby when he wants it. Keep him close. Bed in a way that lets everyone sleep. It felt good. It felt normal. It felt right.

This is what I was going to do. It wasn't popular. I read horror stories about co-sleeping, stories of babies dying in slings. Was I a terrible mother?

But then I discovered that parenting this way had a name. Attachment parenting. There were other people like me. A whole community, books, t-shirts, supportive doctors. Interesting. I didn't know doing what makes sense and is logical, had a name. Bizarre.

It is now roughly a year later and I am parenting the same way. I am passionate about this type of parenting, and I wish it was more mainstream. I wish people would realize that following your parenting instincts is normal and welcome. And that nobody should have guilt over loving thier baby, and that love does not spoil.

In the past year, I've learned a lot. And through that learning, I've formed opinions. I've posted articles, and statements, and links.

After a particularly heated recent post, 68 comments to be exact, someone said "Be an insensitive human if you want. At least you breastfeed."

This is not who I am, and this is not who I strive to be. Of all the comments, this hurt the most.

I do not think I am better than you because I breastfeed. I am not superior because I bedshare. I have never let my child cry-it-out, but that doesn't make me part of the parenting elite. I am not insensitive because I believe these things to be optimal.

I am lucky and grateful and priveleged to be a stay at home mom, who has never had to consider bottles for my absence. I've never had to think about sleep training to ensure restful solo sleep so I can attend to a roster of patients, a boss, or a classroom of children.

Would I parent differently if I were faced with these challenges? Perhaps. Is co-sleeping harder for the working mother? Maybe. Is co-sleeping easier for me? Yes. Is breastfeeding challenging for a mother with multiples, with a career, with no sleep? Certainly. Is it challenging for me? It was at first, and now it's a breeze.

I did a lot of thinking in the past few days, and I do realize that there are many factors that contribute to parent's choices. There are factors that I am not aware of, and perhaps even the parent isn't aware of deep psychological issues.

There are things in the world that I never knew until someone told me about them. And so too, I wish to teach people things as well. I'm sorry if my method of delivery isn't pluralistic and all lovey-happy-hippie, but the world isn't that way either.

I do not believe that "whatever a mother chooses for her child is the right thing". That just makes no sense. However, I won't tell you that you are wrong. I will just continue to provide articles and statements in a public forum. I have never and will never personally attack or judge. My job is Judah. And in parenting Judah, should I learn interesting things, I will share them.

I will continue to rail against formula companies. I will continue to boycott Nestle. I still maintain that breast isn't best, but normal, and that we're far away from where we should be in terms of natural parenting. I believe in human milk for human babies. I'm not out to get anyone. What you do is your business, what I do is mine, and the information I provide is optional.


1. I am human. I make mistakes.

2. I do not think formula is evil.

3. I think there is a lot of information about nursing and breastmilk that is not shared with the mainstream general public.

4. Facebooks status' are not an attack on "you" personally, but the collective "you", the system.

5. Judah's entry into the world has changed my life and my opinions of the world.

6. If you're angry about my posts, that is your issue and not mine.

7. Life is about dialogue and learning. I am always open to both.

8. There is a fine line between doing what is best for yourself, and being selfish. I am not the one who draws that line.

9. I do not think I can change the world. But I might be able to make one person look at something a little bit differently. And if I do that, I've achieved my goal.

10. Unless you beat your kid, belittle them, or leave them crying in the corner for hours, I will always be your friend.


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