Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Baby's First Bath: rethinking a tradition in light of the latest research.

(Ricky Martin gives his baby his first bath)

One hour old. One hour of holding and gazing. One hour of nuzzling, smelling, latching and sucking. One hour of “she has my ears” and “she definitely has your mother’s nose.” One hour of the most precious time in a new family’s life. Time stands still; generations collide; the universe contracts down to be held in the grasp of her impossibly tiny fingers wrapped around your hand and heart.

The pleasant nurse asks, “Would it be alright if I weigh and measure your baby now?” The young mother elated and tired from the birth relinquishes her vulnerable newborn to the waiting nurse’s capable hands. She is as anxious as everyone else to begin these next steps in the rituals of birth.

“Eight pounds 8 ounces,” announces the nurse. “My, she is a big girl!” The doula snaps a photo of the digital reading on the scale for the baby’s memory book. The brand new father excitedly posts the vital statistics on face book for the world to see what he has created.

After measuring her length and head size, the nurse carefully places her feet down on the paper, gently pressing each of her tiny toes to the page to capture her foot prints for the birth records; one set for the birth certificate and another set for the memory book.

Then she turns to the father and says, “Well it is time for her first bath. Would you like to help?” She fills the clear plastic isolette tub with warm water and gets out a bar of hospital antibacterial soap. She makes sure the warmer is heated up just right so the baby will have a warm dry place to go to as soon as the bath is over. She knows it puts a baby at risk to let them get chilled.

“Okay Dad, can you bring your daughter over here?” instructs the nurse. She confidently guides him through the process as he gingerly picks his daughter up for the first time; painfully aware of how fragile her tiny, perfect body feels in his suddenly over large hands. The experienced nurse talks him through what has become an important bonding ritual between fathers and their babies all over the U.S. She encourages him to not be afraid as together they gently scrub the baby all over with soap and water, cleaning away germs and bacteria. She teaches him how to lather her hair with shampoo and rinse it while protecting her face and eyes. When all traces of the birth have been cleaned from her baby soft skin she is laid on the warmer, dried, diapered and carefully dressed in the tiniest white t-shirt the dad has ever seen. Finally the nurse shows him how to swaddle the baby and puts her into his waiting arms.

This washing of the baby bonding ritual is repeated in hospitals everyday all across America. Sometimes siblings or grandparents are included in this sweet experience. But the time has come to take a closer more critical look at this tradition. Numerous studies show us that when it comes to intestinal bacteria babies are a clean slate immediately after birth. Within a very short time their gut has been colonized with the right bacteria for living a healthy life. Where do these bacteria come from? There are two main sources; the mother’s vaginal passage and her skin, especially around her nipples.

As the baby passes through the birth canal she is bathed in her mother’s bacteria. This starts an important process for life-long gut health. If she doesn’t pass through the canal, due to a surgical birth, the bacteria the baby first comes in contact with is from the surrounding environment; the air, other infants, doctors and the nursing staff. Studies show it may take up to 6 months for the cesarean baby to attain the correct balance of flora in her gut.

The next way bacteria are introduced to the baby is by latching onto mother’s breast for her first feeding. The bacteria present on the mother’s skin are swallowed and starts the process which will create vitamin K in the baby’s system. Vitamin K is critical for appropriate blood clotting.

On top of all this there are special properties in the mother’s colostrum which help the good bacteria to thrive in the baby and bad bacteria to suffer.

Although we have been trained to think of bacteria as bad the truth is there are many microbes which are beneficially for our health. We are meant to live in a state of balanced symbiosis with these beneficial bacteria. That process is meant to start during the birth and continue during the hours immediately after birth; just as the squeezing of the birth canal prepares the baby for the adjustment of breathing air into her lungs to oxygenate her own blood. If we think of bacteria as bad and the baby as “dirty” then of course we feel a need to wash her. What happens if we think of the baby as being in an important microbial transition time which may impact her overall future health?

Since I wrote this more research has come out. Click here to read what the latest science says about our relationship with bacteria.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Need a Laugh?

Every mommy needs a good laugh now and then, otherwise we would go absolutely crazy! Here is a list of blogs and books to help you through the stressful days of pregnancy and parenting. All items on this list are parent tested and mommy approved.

Here is a blog that takes a humorous look at pregnancy and mommyhood. This piece is by a guest writer. She talks about some of the things she wished some one had told her before she went into labor about hospital births. Check it out:


Amber Dusick: what it is like to change diapers (illustrated with crappy pictures!)

The new book "Go the f*** to sleep"

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Finding Your Path; two women's stories

A former doula & class client sent me a link to a blog piece by Cherylyn, a doula in Utah. Natalie knew I would be interested in this woman's journey of recovery from her first birth which was traumatic and left her feeling victimized and angry. Each of her next four births led her down a new path toward healing. On her journey she made many different choices for where, with whom and how to birth. Each birth was a necessary step in her process. In my classes and through my doula support I honor each woman's choice because I can't judge where she is on her path. It is my responsibility to give information and it is her responsibility to listen with an open heart for what resonates with her. Only she has the answers. Only she can access her intuition. It is my hope to support her in this process through my own intuitive listening so I can respond to her needs along the way. This is why I support women in all birth settings. This is why my classes are designed to teach couples no matter where, with whom or how they are planning to birth. My hope is to give them the tools to have a positive birth where ever they birth. Please read this article if you are preparing to birth or if you are in the process of physical and emotional recovery from a less than positive birth. Then sit quietly for a moment and take her message into your heart. Let it carry any feelings of guilt, doubt, or mistrust in yourself away.

Now let me tell you about Natalie. I met her and her husband, Tobin, at a Birth & Baby Resource Network event. When it came time in the circle for sharing their tears as they shared spoke volumes to me about the depth of their birth trauma. As the event broke up I approached them and encouraged Natalie to visit our SLO chapter of the International Cesarean Awareness Network, even though hers was not a cesarean birth. I knew that the circle of supportive women at their gatherings could help her heal her wounds. Unfortunately there is no local support group for women with negative birth stories except ICAN which is labeled a cesarean support network. Women with birth experiences like Natalie's aren't sure they would belong at an ICAN meeting. The women of ICAN would want me to stop here and say that these women absolutely are welcome and that supporting them is also part of their mission. Unfortunately the general public doesn't know that.

As Natalie's second pregnancy progressed we came to understand that not only had her birth left her with many emotional scars it had also left her with many physical ones. Like her emotional ones, these scars were hidden deep within her and they had the potential to threaten this new pregnancy. Bottom line; she was no longer the same inside and this pregnancy was therefore risky for Natalie and her baby. She was advised that the least dangerous route for her baby's birth was a cesarean. She listened to this advice. She listened to her intuition. She listened to her husband's fears. She listened to her desires. She listened to her body and she waited.

Natalie experienced an incredibly healthy pregnancy. She worked and mommied right through it. She blossomed and so did her baby; growing right on schedule, moving vigorously and letting her mom know she was doing fine. Natalie did a lot of talking, to Tobin, to me and to her doctor. She weighed all the different risks of having or not having a surgical birth; risks to her and risks to her baby. She knew what she wanted but was also willing to make needed changes or compromises. We brainstormed all kinds of possible scenarios for her birth. Then she wrote her birth plan. This plan was unique to her; not something you can download from the Internet with check off boxes. It encompassed many possible avenues for her birth to go. It was detailed. It was flexible. It was respectful and grateful to the people she knew she was going to need to rely on to see her safely through. Then she listened to her body and she waited.

When her water broke I believe all three of us held our breath and made a silent prayer that all would be well. Then Natalie and I released our breath and went to work creating as much normalcy to this labor as possible. But I don't believe Tobin let go of his breath until both mom and baby had come safely through. Natalie carried herself in labor as she does in life, with quiet unassuming strength and graciousness. You would never guess at the depth of her determination, or physical and emotional strength. Tobin told me she can be stubborn but he forgot to also tell me how courageous she is. Immediately after the vaginal birth of her beautiful baby girl she began to have an issue which required her doctor to step in and Tobin, the baby and I to step out. Natalie kept her composure throughout while Tobin died a thousand deaths holding his baby and waiting for news about his wife. For him life stood still and minutes felt like an eternity. All I could do was reassure him that she was in good hands. Dr. Yin and the French hospital staff knew how to take care of her; that's why she had chosen to birth here. In what was actually a very short time he received the news he was longing for; Natalie was fine and would be reunited with him soon. But I don't think Tobin breathed until he saw Natalie's pretty face again; all smiles and wanting to put her new baby girl to breast.

So why did I decide to tell you about Natalie? Because she knows a thing or two about healing, about listening to your intuition, about creating the birth that is just right for you and your baby. Your choices may be different than hers. You may listen to her story and think, "I would never put my baby at risk like that." That's fine. You are entitled to your feelings and if your heart had told you to make a different choice than Natalie's I would support you in that choice. But this was Natalie's choice and it brought her very far along her path as she journey's toward complete healing. So I understand why Cherylyn's story resonated with Natalie. I get it. Do you?

           Thank you to Natalie and Tobin for inviting me to accompany them on their journey!

To Read Cherylyn's piece about her choices as she journeyed toward healing visit her blog:
Mamas and Babies

"To Clamp or Not to Clamp? That is the Question"

I've been explaining about delayed cord clamping and cutting in my classes for years. Leave it to master birth educator Penny Simkin to come up with a great visual demonstration to explain why this is so important. This isn't just a fad or a wild idea. There is basic physiologic science saying that it is healthier for your baby if no one cuts the cord until it has stopped pulsing. Listen as Penny explains.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Your Baby's First Latch: breast crawl video

This is a must see by all pregnant moms, their partners and anyone who will be helping them at their birth. Of course we can crawl to the nipple, latch on and nurse! It only makes sense. All mammals can do this with minimal guidance or help by mom. Why would we be the only mammal unable to do this? It only makes sense. If we birthed in a squatting position we would naturally reach down, put our hands under their little armpits, and bring them up to our breasts keeping their spine parallel to our own. Without towels or blankets they are much too wet and slippery to consider doing anything else.

How did mothers lose this knowledge of what to do immediately after birth to correctly begin the bonding and breastfeeding process? Drugs, doctors, fear of germs, bright lights, cold hospital rooms and schedules all played a role. You have the power to reclaim this piece of your birth and be amazed at the miraculous abilities of your newborn. Put your baby's spine in line with your own. It is as simple as that. Don't forget to cover, not swaddle, your baby with a warm blanket!

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Why Should I Bother with Birth Classes?

Recently I have been asked this question by two very different women. Both are intelligent first time pregnant moms who desire natural non-interventive labor for themselves and gentle births for their babies. One has already done a considerable amount of reading, hired a midwife and has made the choice to birth at home. What more could she get out of classes, she wonders? The other has a belief in herself and birth which is rooted in her family history, her agricultural history and in her personality. She also witnessed a birth which went so differently than the Bradley birth her relative had planned that she feels her money is better spent on a doula.

I don't remember what I said to these women but here is what I wish I had the presence of mind to say in the moment. Yes, you should take classes! Classes serve many purposes. It is more than just learning the stages of labor. It is more than learning the normal psychological markers, the comfort measures or tools to help you flow with the intensity of the birth process. A good class should give you much, much more.

First as new parents it is vital to create community. Bringing forth a new life isn't just about the baby's life. You are literally bringing forth your own new lives. A new life means transition and transition is stressful. You will need to surround yourself with other new moms and dads. Now you're thinking, "But I have lots of friends who have already had babies." Great! Lots of wisdom can be drawn from friends and relatives who have kids, but talking with others who are just as confused and unsure at times as you creates a shared experience. This is support of a different kind. When you talk with them about lack of sleep, sore nipples, or the color of your baby's poop you'll be thinking, "Oh, you get what I am talking about because you are going through it too. I'm not alone. I'm not crazy." Every support group is founded on this principle.

A good childbirth class is a great place to start building community. It needs to be an environment that goes beyond simply giving you facts, advice & techniques. A good class fosters friendships through the sharing of thoughts & feelings, doing class activities or projects and breaking bread together. The class should bring both humor and intimacy to the subject of birth while always honoring each participant's unique journey toward the arrival of their child. This is an environment where friendships can blossom. After the babies arrive getting together for walks, talks, beach time or play time friendships can deepen. They show up at Andrea Heron's class or La Leche League. You walk into a SLO Parent Participation class or library story time and there they are. Your world suddenly seems smaller in a safe and secure way. This is building community within our larger community. New parents, new families need community.

Now what about the fact that many women who have decided they want a "natural" childbirth have already done a ton of reading? They have read great books, watched movies like The Business of Being Born, researched things on line and even watched You Tube videos of births. What more education could they need? All that is great but let's face it very few dads are motivated to share that particular journey with you. Sure you can corral them and ask them to watch this amazing You Tube birth or read them passages out of a book you are devouring from cover to cover but very few men are going to feel as compelled as their partner to steep themselves in birth, birth & more birth. As a matter of fact, the more she does, the more he may feel he doesn't have to because she is the one who is having the baby, right? She is doing such a bang up job getting educated so he can just relax. On top of that, if you are making decisions about the birth based on things you alone are reading and then telling him what you want, he may feel there is no point to reading or expressing his opinion; you've already made up your mind. These may be wonderfully supportive partners but they are hovering outside of the picture.

Classes help dads! I can't say that enough. Classes help dads. They invite them into the process. Men naturally come late to thinking about the birth. Actually they often come late to connecting with the baby in any concrete way. This is normal because they aren't the ones feeling it grow and move inside them. Believe it or not when they witness their baby being born it almost seems to take them by surprise that there really is a baby. A good class allows dads to connect with their own journey towards birth and parenthood. They gain the education they need through active participation instead of reading & research which suits many fathers better. There is time, space & support given for dads to express their feelings, beliefs, fears and desires surrounding the process and what lies ahead. They are honored as fathers, lovers and humans.

Classes most especially help dads who have witnessed past births that traveled down traumatic paths, such as c-sections or home birth transports. These dads need special care as they struggle to support a woman who is determined to have an un-medicated vaginal birth while carrying the fears left over from the past birth. It is vitally important that the couple has come together as much as possible before the birth and good classes help.

Good classes help you analyze and express your beliefs about the choices surrounding birth. They put you in touch with the values & fears that are informing your personal choices. Having to verbally express our values & fears can bring up buried thoughts, crystallize our perceptions and distill our feelings. Hearing what others value or fear is a powerful tool in learning about ourselves. Clarity of these issues on both sides can lead to respectful communication if your partner is of a different opinion. Clarity of values & fears can lead to a more open and empowering dialogue with your care provider.

Being pregnant is a process that unfolds over time. The way you feel about something at 12 weeks may be vastly different than the way you feel at 30 weeks or 38 weeks. The best time to take classes is the last 2 months of the pregnancy. The series needs to be 7 to 8 weeks long so that friendships have time to grow and so do the couples. Good classes encourage the couple to get in touch with where they are in the process now and where they would like to be eventually. They practice. They prepare. They rehearse. They live in the moment and open themselves to the possibilities of the future. Yes, you should take birth preparation classes. You will come away more confident in birth, more sure of yourselves and your abilities, more connected to your partner, more aware of your choices, more able to dialogue with your support team and just plain more ready.

These two expectant moms were right though. Many classes aren't worth taking. Classes that only focus on the physical biological aspects of birth are a waste of time. Classes that focus only on one tool or technique for labor are hopelessly incomplete. Classes that are only 4 weeks long give the couple no opportunity to grow or change. Classes that are taken the last month of pregnancy give the couple no opportunity to change course if they come to the realization through their class work that they want to go down a different path. Classes that honor only one vision of what birth should be like are disrespectful to the amazing complexity of the human race. Classes that only impart the guidelines and routines of the place of birth & care provider disrespect pregnant couples' abilities to make wise choices for themselves and their babies. These classes are an obvious attempt to dis-empower women and their partners. By all means take classes but choose wisely who you ask to "educate" you.

For more information about my classes. Also there are many excellent independent birth educators in SLO County. We each have a slightly different focus. It is important to find an educator you feel comfortable with. Most of them can be reached through the Birth & Baby Resource Network's on line Resource Guide.

Here is another birth educator/blogger's take on this same issue.

From Mama Birth:
If You Are Asking My Opinion- Yes, You Need A Birth Class

In full disclosure, before I get started I should probably own the fact that I do teach natural childbirth classes for money. (I don't make much money at it, but you deserve to know that.) So you can take what I am about to say as just shameless self promotion and fear mongering.

I often hear this sentiment :

"Women have been giving birth for 1000's of years. You don't need a class to give birth."

What is interesting about this quote is that I hear it both from medical doctors who are very intervention happy or dislike natural birth and from people planning to home birth.

At the risk of offending everybody who reads this, I have got to address this idea. Because frankly, this just usually is not the case. Let me tell you why.

Women HAVE been giving birth for 1000's of years-

Yes, women have been giving birth for a long long time. The mechanisms of birth worked the same with the first birth as they do today in the modern woman- contractions, dilation, pushing, baby, placenta. But the CULTURE of birth is constantly changing.
How many of you have attended a live birth? How many of you have attended multiple births in person? How many of your husbands have?

A woman a thousand years ago most likely was around birth. She was at the births of her siblings or cousins or nieces and nephews. She learned to help the mother after the labor. She saw women breastfeeding. A 1000 years ago women were actually AROUND birth. Birth was something that really only women understood.

They didn't hide it in hospitals and close it behind a door and a cloak of mystery and fear. It was a normal part of life.

Not only did they see it, they talked about it, supported each other in it, and had traditions surrounding it. We have traditions surrounding birth too, but they don't do much to teach women about the actual mechanics and how to cope with birth and labor naturally. Today when women talk about birth they talk about epidurals and pain and what they were allowed to do. This can be wonderfully helpful in preparing you for the typical hospital induction birth. It does not however do much to prepare you if you are planning on birthing naturally.

Women being surrounded by other women who had birthed naturally also creates a very different birth culture. Being in a weekly class with others in your same situation and with the same goals can re-create that "birth culture" for you today. Having a teacher who has done what you are planning a few times herself also gives you somebody to ask questions and proof that natural birth is possible, even if you don't know many people who have done it.

A 1000 years ago women didn't birth in the hospital-

A large part of the classes I teach focuses on preparing women to navigate the hospital system. The truth is, if you are planning on birth in the hospital and going natural, you need to really know what you are doing. You need to know how to relax well without medications in a place where they are readily available. You also need to be aware of the purpose and ways to avoid common interventions, drugs, and procedures in the hospital.
Women didn't have to do this 1000 years ago. There are huge advantages to hospital birthing- but combining it with a natural approach is often tricky. Thus the class.

And your partner? What was he doing a 1000 years ago?

The modern woman almost always wants her husband at the birth with her. Not only that she wants him to be involved, helpful, loving, and basically fantastic.

I don't know how to say this nice, but....good luck with that if he doesn't know a thing about birth and is scared crapless of the entire idea of something huge coming out of your vagina.

Many women are self motivated enough to learn about birth and study and practice relaxation on their own. After all, they realize that THEY are the ones who have to give birth. Women are often very invested in baby and the experience long before it happens.

Men a 1000 years ago were probably not part of the birth process. But today, women expect them to be there. If you want him to be helpful, to understand what is normal, to know what a crowning baby looks like, and to know how to do a double hip squeeze, he needs a class.

My classes focus on the partner a LOT. If I can get dad comfortable, excited, and confident in your ability as a couple to have a natural birth, then I feel much better about the couples ability to do this. If mom is looking forward to this and knows her stuff, but dad is scared, doesn't know why you sound like a ghost, and just wants you to get an epidural because he wants you to be helped but he doesn't know how to help you, then we have another beast altogether.

But I am birthing at home-

I know- I still think that a natural birth class can be helpful in preparing a mom to birth at home. There are two reasons for this.

1) A good class won't just cover birth- it will cover preparing for a healthy pregnancy and staying low risk. I have seen more than one home birth mama end up having a baby in the hospital because baby came early because of poor nutrition. Some things just go wrong and can't be prevented. But some things CAN be helped with an awesome diet. You can learn about this on your own, but I notice that people focus more on how they are taking care of themselves when they are asked about it weekly by their friendly birth teacher.

When I ask people to keep track of everything they eat, they really pay more attention than they do just because they read something about the Brewer Diet online. A class helps keep you accountable while surrounding you with a supportive group of women and men.

2) Even if you birth at home, you still need to actually LABOR. Birthing at home might prevent some common interventions, but it doesn't get you out of the work involved in birthing a baby. I have talked to many a midwife who has home birth mamas who have no coping mechanisms in place for their birth.
Losing control is a natural part of birth- but knowing how to relax and do it well can help keep that to the normal, baby is almost here, minimum. A mother who is very stressed out, fearful, and unfamiliar with the birth process, can have difficulty with laboring from the very beginning and throughout the entire process. If you throw in a partner who also is freaking out, you can really change the process in a negative way.

A good birth class doesn't just talk about what happens in a chart- it teaches you how to handle it.

The truth is that not everyone really needs a class. I am not going to tell you that I KNOW that you do. But I do often see people who don't think they needed a class and it turns out they really could have benefited from the knowledge, the confidence, the time to prepare with their partner, the skill it gave their partner, and the nurturing friendships with like minded people.

One of my favorite things to see is how a couple's relationship grows in class. They learn to rely on one another. They learn to trust each other more. They grow together as we discuss relationship issues that arise during the time of pregnancy.

In the end a great childbirth class really just teaches you how to tune in to what you already know how to do innately. Then, you CAN birth more like women did 1000 years ago- naturally and with faith in your body.

For more information about my classes. Also there are many excellent independent birth educators in SLO County. We each have a slightly different focus. It is important to find an educator you feel comfortable with. Most of them can be reached through the Birth & Baby Resource Network's on line Resource Guide.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Ideas for Creating a Healthy Pregnancy

In this series I will be delving into various ways a mother-to-be can promote a beautiful healthy pregnancy; reducing her chances of high blood pressure, pre-eclampsia, gestational diabetes, anemia, sciatica, postpartum hemorrhage, low birth weight baby and poor milk supply.

First we must always remember pregnancy is NOT an illness! It is a state of health. Pregnancy, labor, birth & breastfeeding are all normal physiologic functions for women; no different than breathing, cell renewal or the synapses of our brains firing. All of these happen effortlessly as long as we are in a general state of wellness. The system breaks down when we don't provide what it needs, such as smoke free air, nutritious food, and intellectual stimulation. Although pregnancy is a state of normalcy, it does require more from all of a woman's body systems therefore requiring her to be diligent in providing what those systems need. To keep her body working optimally while growing a healthy baby will take some thought and effort. She will need to become more aware and in tune with her own body's needs and rhythms which will serve her well during the birth process. The things a woman learns about her own health at this time she will carry on into her role as mother; the guardian of family health.

Some of these posts will be written by me. They will be in italics. I am also reaching out into our community to wellness practitioners I know to write posts about their areas of expertise.

Why You Need to Create a Healthy Balanced Pregnancy

Pregnancy the First Step into Motherhood

Massage Therapy-More Than Just Pampering

Prenatal Water Massage

Consider Chiropractic Care

Having a Baby? Read These Books?

Intro to Pregnancy Nutrition
Ancient Nutritional Wisdom from China & India
Whole Foods/Low Sugar Pregnancy Recipes from CookWell
Courtney's Recommended Nutritional Health Reading List

Why Should I Bother Taking Childbirth Classes?

Monday, September 5, 2011

A Quick TV Spot

Recently I had the opportunity as President of the Birth & Baby Resource Network to introduce our  new Nursing Nooks Network to the community. It was wonderful to share one of my passions; supporting breastfeeding mamas on TV.

Monday, August 1, 2011

A Trip to Grandma and Grandpa Stover cont.

My organized husband hadn't factored in all the additional time it would take for baby care. OMG! We hit San Jose on Highway 101 just at Friday rush hour. And there we were at a crawl. I anxiously watched my peacefully sleeping baby snuggled in his car seat.

Meanwhile I replayed in my head the scene at the drive through window in Greenfield; my sleeping angel turning into a wailing banshee the moment the car tires stopped at the speaker box. As my son's wails moved from low rumble to full throttle screams my husband tried valiantly to yell his order into the dumb box and of course they couldn't understand him over the commotion. Finally after several attempts we made the connection and pulled forward and stopped in front of the window. As my husband reached out for his coffee I knew no beverage even if it was the sweet elixir of life could ever be worth this. "Hurry up! Hurry up!" I exhorted snatching the bag from his hand and almost spilling the boiling hot liquid in my haste to get those blessed wheels turning again. We were completely unnerved. It felt like my skin was on fire and my hair standing on end.

"Should we stop?" my husband gasped.

"No! No! Are you crazy? Drive! Drive!" I exclaimed. After perhaps 3 minutes, which seemed like an eternity, silence. He was safely back in dream land. We looked at each other but had no real words to express the awfulness of the experience.

And now this. It felt like being in a scary movie. You can see the ax murder hiding out of sight just around the corner but the innocent actors can't see what waits for them. So you watch them walking ever closer, step by step, toward the corner and their doom. Now we were both the actors and the watchers. Our car creeping slowly forward but thankfully still moving. Then the first brief stop followed by a gentle forward movement as I watched and waited. And then horror of horrors we came to a complete stand still. Mike and I held our breath. I watched as Joe began to register that the movement was gone; little squirmy expressions passing over his sweet face and tiny body. And then it started. He moved from a what's going on here protest to a how dare you wake the king roar.

One minute, two minutes, three minutes. I didn't know how long I could take this. I knew if I could only take him out of his seat and put him to my breast everything would be fine in moments. You have to understand my son was NOT a pacifier man. Only my boob would do. The only way to nurse him in his car seat was for me to get completely unbuckled and do some pretty amazing gymnastics in the back seat. This was our first trip and being newbie parents we hadn't thought to pack a bottle. Why would we need a bottle when I was there?

"I think I need to take him out of his seat," I said to my husband as he sat behind the steering wheel fixedly staring at the road.

"No. It isn't safe," was his stony faced answer.

"No. You don't understand," I replied. "I need to take  him out of his seat."

"I do understand but it isn't safe." So we sat in traffic on the freeway while my son screamed for FOREVER! We were between exits, trapped in a house of torture for all of us.

It is a trip Mike and I have never forgotten.We were so emotionally and physically exhausted by the time we arrived we barely said two words to Mike's folks before excusing ourselves for bed. Today I read this article, "No Nursing While the Car is Moving", posted on an ER nurses' wall. I'm so thankful my husband had the fortitude to be a good parent in a bad situation. Please read this article and think twice before you make your life easier by nursing your child in his car seat or unbuckling her to nurse. I can't tell  you how many moms have told me they do this. Sometimes being a good parent means putting ourselves and even our kids through hell to keep them safe. 

Want to read more about how a dad fits into parenting? Check out: "Where Does a Dad Fit into the Picture?"    

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Your Baby or Toddler's Exposure to Toxic Flame Retardants by the Numbers

The young mother carefully positions her newborn on the nursing pillow in her lap. Being sure to latch the new baby on correctly, she begins breastfeeding. She is proud of herself for giving her baby the best food on the planet for human babies. She wants only what is best for this new little one. Unknown to her the pillow she has purchased for this most satisfying of mommy moments is covered with a toxic substance.

Far away in another city a mother lays her squirming 6 month old down to change his diaper. He has become adept at wriggling himself away from her at critical moments during the process. When he reaches out and pulls the corner of the changing pad into his mouth she breathes a sigh of relief hoping this will keep her active boy satisfied until she can finish. It never occurs to her he is ingesting a toxic chemical.

In a third town a busy mother of two is happy her toddler is keeping herself occupied scooting around on the floor while she is busy nursing the new baby and trying to get dinner. The little girl lays down on her tummy putting her face close to the rug on the floor so she can reach under a chair and pull out a forgotten toy. Her mother is completely unaware that her daughter is breathing in toxic dust.

These babies are all being exposed to flame retardants every day and so is yours. Flame retardant chemicals are put onto many products in your home; rugs, couches, drapes. They are also put on many baby products to meet fire safety standards. This was done without testing the consequences of long term exposure on humans. Here is the down and dirty info you need to know.

* 90% of Americans have flame retardants in their bodies

* 3 times higher levels of flame retardants are found in toddlers bodies than adults

* 80% of the baby products tested contained toxic or untested chemical flame retardants

* 3 products tested: car seats, changing pads and portable cribs

* 1/3 of products contained a chemical called chlorinated tris

* 40 years ago they stopped using chlorinated tris on kid's pajamas because of cancer concerns

* 1 more item included in the test: nursing pillows!

*10 times more retardant chemicals found in Americans' bodies than people in the European Union, which has banned the most common types of chemical flame retardants

*2 types of flame retardants have stopped being made due to health concerns

*2013 is the year manufacturers pledge to phase out other flame retardants

*Decades is how long these toxins will remain in most people's homes because they have been used on home furnishings. And Tris, the chemical removed from kids' sleepwear, is still commonly used in furniture foam.

For chemical free baby products visit EcoBambino in downtown SLO. Be sure to ask if the product is flame retardant free!

To read the whole story by Liz Szabo in USA Today.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Pregnancy; the first step into Motherhood

This article was written by a much loved and respected resource in our community, Dr. Zoe Wells. Over the years many of my clients and friends have benefited from Dr. Zoe’s help in healing. She brings a unique blend of education, holding a doctorate in Naturopathic Medicine with a certification in Obstetrics as well as a degree in psychology, and a gentle and caring spirit to her work.

Naturopathic Medicine is a holistic approach to healing encompassing all parts of the person; mind, body & spirit. It combines safe and effective traditional therapies with the most current advances in modern medicine. Some of the modalities Dr. Zoe is skilled at include: Herbs, homeopathy, craniosacral therapy, hydrotherapy and nutritional therapy.

Issues she has helped my clients with have included recurring yeast infections, beta strep positive test results, hormone imbalances, postpartum depression, and more. Not only has she helped them with their physical issues but the women feel so respected and cared for. On her web site Dr. Zoe says “many people have stated that this is the first time they have felt heard and have been able to share their full medical history”. I can believe this. Although pregnant women are in and out of a doctor’s office every month they often feel they are part of an assembly line. But with Dr. Zoe they work together to develop an individualized treatment plan. Dr. Zoe says, “We will always be working towards healing and what that uniquely means for you”.

I was so excited when she said she would write an article about pregnancy for my blog. When I read it I thought, “How perfect! Her thoughts on "Creating a Healthy Pregnancy" are just the right blend of mind, body & spirit.” Enjoy!

Pregnancy; the first step into Motherhood
Pregnancy is such a miraculous time for women. It often affords women a chance to hone skills that will assist them in labor and even more importantly throughout motherhood.

Pregnancy is a time of numerous changes – body changes, emotional changes, hormonal changes - all preparation for the giant step of becoming a mother. One of the lessons that pregnancy can teach women is to go beyond themselves, sometimes for the first time considering the well-being of another before their own personal needs. Women find the strength and dedication to achieve their goals in pregnancy that they could not or would not fulfill before their body was filled with another presence. With the knowledge that a woman is carrying another being, literally bringing another person into form, she is motivated to care for her body as a vehicle for miracles beyond herself.

She has more determination to eat well, not only for herself but even more importantly or so it feels, for this new body forming - for this offspring that she alone is growing and raising and that she will eventually bring out into the world. She may dedicate time to exercising and thinking of her body in a new way – as this miraculous process of birth proceeds, a woman comes to understand that her body is amazing, able to bring life, able to create family and a new richness is seen in her ability, the meaning of her life.

Women can also find it easier than ever before to avoid tobacco, alcohol, marijuana and medications during pregnancy as she sees her role as life giver. The habits of her previous life are softened and take on a different meaning when she sees the body as a vehicle for nurturing a new life. Sometimes these habits are difficult to stop and feel too challenging to manage along with the challenges of pregnancy. This is a great time to consider the meaning of these habits and coping mechanisms in contrast with this new life springing forth inside and what it is asking of the mother. Realizing that one is giving life and nurturing life within her own body, can be that extra motivation to reach beyond the “easy answers”, the habitual responses that do not serve our higher good but keep us from caring for ourselves in ways that serve our health and wellness more deeply.

During pregnancy much time and attention goes towards the event of labor often perceived as an immense obstacle to overcome, but I think it is important to recognize it as just another gateway into becoming a mother, a parent. The decisions one makes around labor and how she handles the stress of pain and an intense situation such as labor is the first of many such decisions that a mother will make as her child grows. Early infancy and childhood ask mothers to make many decisions – how to feed her baby, her philosophy around teaching her child to sleep, how to meet the baby’s and later child’s developmental needs. Parenthood requires both mother and father to constantly assess situations, know themselves, and then implement decisions regarding how best to care for their offspring. Labor is a great first step in dealing with the unexpected if that has not already occurred in pregnancy. Life does provide many opportunities for responding to the unexpected and dealing with change.

Pregnancy Health BasicsThere are choices a woman can make during pregnancy to help herself and nurture her growing baby at the same time. When the body feels like it has its own agenda, it is nice to be able to make choices that support one’s well being and sense of balance.

1. Nutrition is key in pregnancy. I consider nutrition to be #1 in terms of contributing to a healthy pregnancy. For most of pregnancy a woman needs an extra meal per day (not twice her normal meals!) to feed her changing body and the developing baby. During the first trimester when many women feel nauseous, extra whole grain carbohydrates can be beneficial such as brown rice, oatmeal or granola, sweet potatoes and cooked vegetables such as winter squashes. Miso soup also tends to calm the stomach and eggs are an easy and often well tolerated source of protein. As the appetite increases and the stomach calms, an increase in protein rich foods, vegetables and fruit are better tolerated and well needed. During the third trimester when the body feels the weight demands of the larger baby, the high quality fats are important for baby’s brain development such as nuts and seeds, fish, avocado, coconut oil and olive oil. Eating smaller meals are better tolerated with a focus on more protein and vegetables as preparation for labor.

2. Exercise. Exercise is even more important for mom than baby. Body changes during pregnancy are constant and one’s exercise routine should reflect these changes. Early on in pregnancy a woman can feel short of breath and fatigued, a time when less intense exercise is beneficial. Later when the body has adjusted to the hormonal shifts and weight changes, a woman can increase her exercise to pre-pregnancy levels if this is well tolerated. Anemia must always be taken into consideration as there is less oxygen available during anemia and exercise is not as well tolerated or supported. At the end of pregnancy many women enjoy water exercises to have moments of weightlessness where she can stretch her body and enjoy the water supporting her weight. Keeping cardiovascular health up during pregnancy helps with labor both psychologically as well as physically.

3. Avoid alcohol, tobacco, marijuana as well as decrease caffeine and sugar. These will lower incidences of pre-eclampsia, high blood sugar, high blood pressure, yeast infections and decrease the risk of medical intervention during labor, and baby needing medical assistance after labor.

4. Time for quiet and centering. With the birth of a first child life changes in ways previously not fathomed. Pregnancy may be the last time for a while when a woman has time for herself, quiet time, reflective time. I recommend taking time regularly in pregnancy to check in with yourself, see how you feel, journal, meditate, pray, hike, walk… whatever feeds your soul. Life is about to change and the more centered you are, the easier it will be to respond to those changes. You will know yourself better and have a place from which you can make the decisions that will support you and your family.
Best wishes to you in your pregnancy! What an amazing time of life, both for you and your baby – the first of many journeys you will take together.
Visit Dr. Zoe's web site!

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Fresh New Pregnancy & Birth Book for Men

Finally a book by a man, for men about pregnancy and birth! As a birth educator and doula for 20 years I have read many wonderful books about birth, but I felt none of them was the kind of book a man would pick up on his own to read. Instead men have been reading the books their pregnant wives would ask them to read; the books that were full of info the women wanted their husband to know. But "Baby Daddy", by Clayton Connelly, is a book full of information men want to know. It is one dad’s humorous look at his personal journey through his woman’s first pregnancy. Connelly’s approachable writing style mixes laugh-out-loud personal experiences with sage advice from a dad who’s been there; sprinkled with just the right amount of facts and important information to open the eyes of a birth novice and get them thinking. "Baby Daddy" is the perfect gift for that friend who just found out the pitter patter of little feet is soon to be entering his life. Trying to find a way to break the news? Why not wrap it up and give it to your man or casually leave it on top of his fine bathroom literature. Although it is meant to be read in stages to go with each trimester, I guarantee once he starts he won’t want to put it down.

Clayton & his wife Jessica took my classes to prepare for the birth of their first child. Read this book to find out what was going on in Clayton's head during my classes.

Hear what the author has to say about the book:

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Comparing Approaches to Pregnancy & Birth

"The techno-medical model of maternity care, unlike the midwifery model, is comparatively new on the world scene, having existed for barely two centuries. This male-derived framework for care is a product of the industrial revolution. As anthropologist Robbie Davis-Floyd has described in detail, underlying the technocratic mode of care of our own time is an assumption that the human body is a machine and that the female body in particular is a machine full of shortcomings and defects. Pregnancy and labor are seen as illnesses, which, in order not to be harmful to mother or baby, must be treated with drugs and medical equipment. Within the techno-medical model of birth, some medical intervention is considered necessary for every birth, and birth is safe only in retrospect." — Ina May Gaskin (Ina May's Guide to Childbirth)

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Breastfeeding Resources

La Leche League International: For the best breastfeeding resources available on the planet.

Local La Leche League: group and individual support and counseling. 

Local La Leche League: face book page with meeting notices and more.
Local Warm Line: staffed by lactation consultants; telephone help, classes and one-on-one support. Call 541-BABY.

The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding is the easiest to read most comprehensive book available. You can borrow it from La Leche League's library section  at the Santa Lucia Birth Center in SLO 

Andrea Herron's  Growing with Baby  private practice lactation consultant with an office in SLO.

Lindsey Law's Lactation LuLu is a private practice lactation consultant who makes home visits.

Lisa Marasco is a lactation consultant in Santa Maria. Call 937-9717.

Each of our local hospitals have lactation consultants on staff. Call the hospital where you birthed for help. Did you birth at home? Call your midwife. Need more help? All mothers regardless of where or with whom they birthed are welcome at French Hospital's Breastfeeding Clinic. Call 541-BABY.

Look for the San Luis Obispo Breastfeeding Coalition's Breastfeeding Resource Guide at your OB or pediatrician's office.

Low Milk Supply Resource: This is a serious and often complicated problem.

Interview with Lisa Marasco, author of The Breastfeeding Mother's Guide to Making More Milk: Breastfeeding  After Previous Low Milk Supply.

Nursing Nooks: As a first time mother you may be a bit shy about breastfeeding in public. This is normal. What you need is a quiet removed spot in the county to nurse while you are out and about. Find one here.

Our Local Baby Friendly Certified Hospital: Where you choose to birth impacts your chances for breastfeeding success.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

A Birth I Almost Had to Miss

You never know what life is going to through your way. As a doula I know to plan ahead but plan to be flexible. A few years ago I was planning to be at Meredith and Derek's second birth. Everything was going smoothly forward with her pregnancy when we hit our first major road bump. As happens unfortunately way to often, Meredith went to a prenatal and came home with her confidence completely shook. We spent a long time talking it over on the phone. The problem appeared to be me. Her provider had indicated not being comfortable working with me. I gave her some ideas on how to dialogue with her care provider the next time she went. So she tried but felt she had hit a communication wall of bad feelings. So I asked her if it would be okay for me to meet with her provider. After sitting down and clearing the air around intentions we were all able to move forward again as a team.

Second bigger bump; shingles! As her due date approached I became extremely ill with a shingles outbreak. It took a long time and several emergency room visits for them to diagnose me. Then the treatment began. Neither Meredith or I was comfortable having me come to a birth with open shingles sores. I called up my back up doula and filled her in and told Meredith to wait for me while I threw myself into getting well ASAP. Two days before she went into labor the last of my sores healed over. 

Here is the sweet hand made card she sent me after the birth.

I can't thank you enough for all you have taught us! You gave me so much knowledge and strength. You made me realize I had an opinion and a voice and that gave me so much confidence!

Even though we had our ups and downs with your health and H., I am so blessed and couldn't be happier with how everything turned out! I don't know if that was your easiest birth but it sure was mine!! Than k you, thank you, thank you!!!

Meredith & Derek
& Silas & Brynlee Soliel


Throughout the ages mamas have been
"There is no finer investment for any community than putting milk into babies." 
Winston Churchill

As a La Leche League leader I encourage women to breastfeed for as long as it is mutually satisfying for them and their babies. Breastfeeding is natural but not always easy. As a matter of fact for many women it is down right difficult at times. Whether you have a premature baby, physical issues, thrush, a low or over abundant milk supply, had a breast reduction, a baby with food sensitivities, returned to work, or simply have a new born at home; breastfeeding is often challenging but oh so rewarding!

Remember breastfeeding help is close at hand.

You can always email me or if you need to hear a warm supportive voice call me at 473-3746. As a League leader I have experience counseling moms with breastfeeding issues. Unfortunately as a doula I am sometimes unavailable. If you can't reach me.

Need to connect with  a lactation consultant?

Deciding about Breastfeeding or Formula Feeding? Important things to think about when choosing.

Protecting the Critical Bonding Period Immediately after Birth. 
Why? Because it affects your chances of breastfeeding success.
Amazing Breast Crawl Video: See what an unmedicated, undisturbed baby can spontaneously do! 
Babies First Bath: rethinking this tradition in light of new research.

What My Husband Didn't Do: How your partner impacts your breastfeeding success.

Breastfeeding and Working: I did it and you can too!

La Leche League's Roots: My inspiration.

Dealing with Common Challenges: Listen in as I discuss breastfeeding issues with another La Leche League leader on the radio.

Mothers around the world do it.
You can too!
Parenting Support: As a new parent you may feel at a loss about many possible decisions beyond the initial decision to breastfeed; such as, cloth vs. disposables, choosing a health professional for your baby, where should your baby sleep, schedules and more. My "Whole"istic Mamas Support Group is here for you!

Lactivism: photo essay

Breastfeeding Resources: in our community, on-line, by phone, in a book.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Mothers' Day; Thinking Globally

As Mother's Day has come and gone for another year I am confronted with the cold reality that most mothers around the world don't have what we take for granted; good quality prenatal care, access to high quality nutrition, and well trained birth attendants. These simple things hold the key between life or death for women of the developing world. The gulf between the developed world and the emerging nations is wide and deep.

Surviving Motherhood
by Ban Ki-moon, UN Secretary General

Reprint from UNICEF Philippines
UNICEF Philippines celebrates Mother's Day with the rest of the nation with a message to nurture and protect all mothers. Mothers’ Day is upon us in many countries around the world. Children of all ages will give flowers, make breakfast, call home.This is as it should be. On my travels around the world, particularly to its poorest and most troubled places, I have learned that it is mothers who keep families together -- indeed, who keep entire societies intact. Mothers are society’s weavers. They make the world go round. Yet too often, the world is letting mothers down.In the rich world, when a mother dies giving birth, we assume that something went wrong. For women in the developing world, by contrast, dying in childbirth is simply a fact of life. In some countries, one woman in eight will die giving birth. Complications from pregnancy and childbirth are the leading cause of death among girls aged 15 to 19 worldwide.Becoming a mother -- the rite of passage that Mothers’ Day celebrates -- can carry a terrible burden of fear, anxiety and loss for many women and their families.We know how to save mothers’ lives. Simple blood tests, a doctor’s consultation and someone qualified to help with the birth can make a huge difference. Add some basic antibiotics, blood transfusions and a safe operating room, and the risk of death can almost be eliminated.Recent figures show that we are making progress in helping women throughout the world. Yet we still have very far to go. Every year, hundreds of thousands of women die in childbirth, 99 percent of them in developing countries. That is why, as secretary-general, I have spoken out for the needs of mothers and pregnant women at every opportunity. I am counting on people around the world to back us in ending this silent scandal. No woman should have to pay with her life for giving life. On Mothers’ Day, let us honor mothers around the world by pledging to do everything we can to make motherhood safer for all.

Feeling inspired to do something to help our world wide community of mothers but you don't know how? Some of the members of Birth & Baby Resource Network are doing just that. These doulas have been called to work not only with birthing women here at home but they have a global commitment as well. Heather Larson went to study midwifery in Senegal and was so impacted by her experience she came home and founded Tree of Light. This non-profit is working to build a Birth House in Senegal. Terri Woods is part of a family inspired to help women have access to quality maternity care. She lives in the North County but also spends time each year working with her sister and daughter building, managing and staffing birth centers in remote areas of the Philippines. On September 22, 2010, the United Nations launched "The Global Strategy for Women’s and Children’s Health". They understand that to lift women and children out of sickness, poverty and death creates a more peaceful world for all. We all need to invest in the world's future.

Thank you to Terri Woods of Mercy in Action who posted this to her face book page.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

What’s a Parent to Do?

The American Academy of Pediatrics latest guidelines on car seat safety recently hit the news. Are you confused about which seat in your car to use, which direction to have it face and when your child can safely come out of a car seat? What about air bags? When should you move your child from full on car seat to booster seat? What about safely using seat belts with older kids and a host of other questions? The San Luis Obispo County Child Injury Prevention Coalition will be teaming up with the Birth & Baby Fair this year to answer all your questions about the new guidelines and state laws regarding car seat safety. There will be 10 certified car seat technicians on hand to check car seats for proper installation, broken parts and recalls in the parking lot next to the Historical Museum on Broad St. in SLO. The Coalition is happy to provide this service free to the community. San Luis Obispo Police Officer John Caudill, a member of the Coalition, says much of what he does is education because car seats constantly change, as well as the laws about them. This is an important year to get your questions answered Caudill clarifies because, “although these new guidelines are only recommendations they are very significant and we support the changes. They go over and above current laws in California. They aren’t the law yet but we will be lobbying the state to change California law.”

Vehicle accidents are the leading cause of death and injuries for children because they aren’t properly restrained in car seats. This led to a nation wide campaign to educate parents. Officer Caudill who attended a week long series of classes to become certified said, “The guidelines are rigid because of the little ones we are keeping safe.” Typically eighty to ninety percent of the seats checked have some sort of problem, usually misuse by parents; anywhere from just installing it too loosely to actual broken parts. Caudill explained, “We’re not going to be writing tickets. We don’t want to cite parents. We want to help fix things so they leave safer than they came.”

Bring your car and seat on Saturday May 7 from 10 to 3 or make an appointment during the Fair for a check to be done at a later date.

Birth & Baby Resource Network Celebrates!

From a booth at Earth Day to a school hallway to Garden Street to Mission Plaza; this year marks a milestone in the history of this local all women non-profit organization as we host our fifteenth annual Birth & Baby Fair. In presenting this year’s Fair BBRN is excited to be partnering with Santa Lucia Birth Center andCommunity Health Centers. We are a very small organization of dedicated volunteers and putting on the Birth Fair is a huge task each year. To have Santa Lucia Birth Center and Community Health Centers come in as co-sponsors of the Fair this year helped make our fifteenth annual a reality. Since our founding nearly 20 years ago our mission hasn't changed. It is to connect families to information and resources that help empower them to make safe decisions. The Fair is our premier community outreach event creating a network of resources for families across the spectrum of health care.

The Fair is looked forward to each year by pregnant couples and new parents all over the county as the best place to connect to health practitioners, photographers, and local craft people with ties to pregnancy, birth and babies, as well as, gathering health and safety information. There will be raffles, freebies, food and fun. The
Silent Auction will have many wonderful items including a car seat donated by San Luis Obispo County Child Injury Prevention Coalition. It is BBRN’s tradition to hold the Fair the day before Mother’s Day as part of our way of celebrating motherhood and honoring the work mothers do. What started as a few booths in a school hallway has blossomed into spilling out onto the streets surrounding Mission Plaza. Come join the excitement as we celebrate from 10 to 3.

BBRN is also proud to announce the reopening of our Lending Library which had been put in storage due to earthquake retrofitting. The Library is an important part of fulfilling our mission of providing families access to information empowering them to make their own decisions surrounding pregnancy, birth & parenting. The Library is located in the Santa Lucia Birth Center on South Higuera across from Los Osos Valley Road.

Another way the Resource Network has been busy this year with community outreach is hosting
monthly events on such varied topics as; “Birth from a Multicultural Perspective”, “Talking with Your Child about Sex”, “Postpartum Depression”, and “How Birth is Portrayed in the Media”. Coming in May is “Birthing an Earth Friendly Family” and June we will hold another "Meet the Midwives" night. In order to provide a wide range of topics BBRN networks with many local non-profits and individuals to present up to date information on what is currently available in our community. The environmentally friendly baby store, EcoBambino in downtown SLO graciously provides a location.

For information on events, Library hours, membership, or to access our on-line
Resource Guide visit their web site at

Thank you to Marilyn Rivas Tate who took beautiful photographs of the 2010 Birth Fair !

Breastfeeding & Working: I did it and you can too!

Are you breastfeeding and working? Whether you are leaving your baby and stepping back into a suit or juggling working from home it is challenging continuing to breastfeed. I applaud you for wanting to give your baby the very best! You probably already know breast milk is nutritionally far superior to formula with long and short term health, emotional and intellectual benefits for you both. My guess is that is why you have taken on the many challenges which come with this territory.

I have first hand experience at being a working breastfeeding mom. When my son was born I was a professional horse trainer. I had continued to ride until I was almost 7 months pregnant. When I was told it was time to get off my feet I took a chaise lounge to the arena's edge and instructed students from my throne. The day I went into labor I had been helping the vet do lameness exams. In the throes of labor it floated into my consciousness that it was Sunday; I was missing the local horse show. Clutching my husband's hand I whispered I would rather be at the show. After about 2 weeks off I packed my baby up and headed back to the barn. By 5 weeks I was pumping and leaving him home with his dad one day a week having compresssed all my students' riding lessons into one day. That first day I don't know which ached more when I got home to our little Shell Beach home, my arms from longing to hold him, my heart from the separation or my boobs!

My son went to the barn with me 5 days a week until he was about 11 years old. Through teething, weaning, learning to walk, ride a bike, skate board and scooter, homeschooling and more I mothered him in the midst of my professional life. It required patience, flexibility, daring and determination on my part. I guess it required that from Joe as well. It was a conscious choice on both our parts that we wanted to be together. Somehow we made it work for both of us. Every day was different because he was growing and changing, so I was constantly having to shift gears and learn something new; step into unknown mommy territory.

During our breastfeeding stage I didn't know anyone else who was doing what I was doing. I'm sure they were out there but I didn't know them. If I had gone to a La Leche League meeting I could have connected to women who were also blending their career and mommyhood. I sure could have used the ideas and encouragement. Unfortunately I didn't know League existed so I blazed my own trail with my son riding double behind.

Now there is an evening La Leche League meeting which speaks to the specific issues of breastfeeding while working. On the 4th Monday women and their babies are gathering at Santa Lucia Birth Center to share, laugh, decompress and advise one another. In a warm friendly atmosphere important bits of information are passed from woman to woman, such as, which breast pump worked the best for you, how did you work that through with your boss, how has your husband been able to help, or how do you get enough sleep at night to go to work the next day. The conversation is different every time. Although there is a general discussion topic, questions or concerns about anything are always welcome. Of course once you get home from work it may feel insurmountable to go out of the house again. But if you can get yourself to come to just one meeting I think you will find yourself re-energized with good mommy feelings and recommitted to giving your baby the best. Don't forget if you bring the baby Dad gets a night to re-energize too!

Newest Addition to the Labor of Love Family

What a difference an hour and a half can make in one family's life!

"This little piggy went to market"... Big brother says hello.

Baby bliss!

Photos courtesy of Cindy Franklin Photography