It’s Not All Mary Poppins

Five Things about Me

Dani has tagged me for a meme. I’ve done this one before, so decided I’d keep my five things to a theme: pregnancy, labour, delivery. How’s that for specific?

1. I liked being pregnant (except for those last few teeeeeeedious weeks), and – here’s the weird bit – I enjoyed labour. No, it wasn’t fun. It wasn’t “Whee! Lookit me havin’ a baby!” kind of enjoyment. But: did I take pride in my body, and in my response to my three labours? Betcher ass I did.

2. I wanted a home birth, but couldn’t afford it, so each of my three kids were born in birthing centres – a different one in a different city for each. I was back home within six hours of delivery for the second and third babies. (Now home births are covered by provincial health insurance. Then, they weren’t.)

3. I have supported the births of a dozen or so babies. I loved, loved, loved it. Nothing like seeing a baby draw its first breath, and the joy on the faces of everyone in the room. I don’t think that would ever get stale.

4. I taught prenatal classes to several hundred couples over a five-year period. Taking a good class and being prepared makes a HUGE difference to a couple’s satisfaction with the birth, even when it doesn’t go according to “plan”. (Which is good, because it usually doesn’t!!)

5. I get depressed when I hear a mother say, even in this day and age, “I’ll breastfeed IF I have enough milk.” And will your baby breathe IF it’s born with lungs? Some things are almost that much of a given – breastfeeding is one of them. Not 100%, but 99.9. Believe it!

January 28, 2007 - Posted by | memes and quizzes, pregnancy and delivery


  1. I don’t think I could have coped as well with labour without antenatal classes. Even though I was wracked with pain (and woozy on laughing gas *lol*), my brain was strangely rational. As in, “Hmmm, I think I’m in transition now.” Which is why I’m dreading this next birth/s a little more – because I’m going to have less of a say in what goes on.

    Comment by Kat | January 28, 2007 | Reply

  2. I`m not sure about the breastfeeding number.

    Full disclosure: I had no problems, and did it for all three, but one my best friends exclusively breastfed for 3 months, and her son was on the lowest end of weight gain on the charts and cried all the time. She was a wreck, and her baby couldn`t have been a happy camper, either. She tried everything possible to get her supply up, and also cut out all the possibly reactive foods from her own diet. Her first pediatrician said he was just colicky, and told her to stick to just breastmilk, and predicted food allergies if she tried anything else — and perhaps didn`t mean to, but gave my friend a guilt trip for even suggesting that she wanted to stop breastfeeding. I still remember this friend calling me in tears.

    My friend changed pediatricians (for other reasons), and the new one suggested she try formula, and….her son started gaining weight and sleeping, just like that. She continued some breastfeeding for the bonding and the health benefits, but her doctor told her that for whatever reason, perhaps hormones, her body just wasn`t producing enough milk. Whatever caused it wasn`t permanent — she was able to exclusively breasfeed her second baby, a few years later.

    Anyway, I`m not saying that the majority of women who want to breastfeed can`t do it — I`m just saying that I`ve heard enough anecdotal evidence labout women like my friend, to believe the number is somewhat lower than 99.9%.

    Comment by L. | January 28, 2007 | Reply

  3. I always wonder about that – how did women (before there was formula readily available) cope if they had problems breastfeeding? I know there were wet nurses for the upper classes, but did babies just die from dearth of milk? Or were there truly less supply problems back then?

    I’d be interested in reading a sociological history of breastfeeding – anyone know of one? I did read an interesting article that talked a little bit about it:

    (It’s long, and if you’re only interested in the history you have to scroll to about the middle or 2/3 of the way through – there’s also some really interesting bits about the actions of the formula companies and the politics of formula vs. breastfeeding on the corporate/national level.)

    What do you all think about the new legislation in…Maine, I think? Where formula companies aren’t allowed to give free samples out in hospitals any more (as that makes it seem hospital-sanctioned or even encouraged?)

    Comment by Heath | January 28, 2007 | Reply

  4. That was the great thing about my O.B. – I don’t think it has ever gotten stale for him either. He always seemed excited about my pregnancy, but I was kind of dismissing that as “bedside manner” until the day I had to wait for him to return from a delivery. He was absolutely glowing: it was a third baby, he said, and it slid right out. Healthy mom, healthy baby, euphoric doctor.

    I was talking to a mom-to-be this week who seemed to consider it to be about even odds that the baby “wouldn’t latch on” and I was biting my tongue to keep from telling her flat-out that she was wrong. I did my best to reassure her that there’s lots of help out there, and that most likely it would work out.

    That said, I think that statistics like these can sometimes feed the tendency to disbelieve women who claim to have low milk supply. The fact that it’s uncommon means that in some quarters any reference to breastfeeding problems are dismissed as excuse-making. And that’s just wrong on so many levels. No woman owes anyone an “excuse” for why she isn’t breastfeeding. Many women go through heroic measures to persist with breastfeeding, only to be judged by women who have not had to endure anything close to what they’ve been through.

    Comment by bubandpie | January 28, 2007 | Reply

  5. 1.Kat: Information is almost always better than ignorance. Do you have a midwife? Are there classes in your area for parents of multiples? Such births are unavoidably that much more complex, but I’d bet there are things you could know to give you that comfort that good information brings.

    You know what, though? My first pregnancy, I watched the videos and I saw the *baby* slipping out of the momma, and felt nothing but warm fuzzies. My second pregnancy, I watched the vidoe and I saw the perineum, and went “eeew”. My second flew out of there in just under ninety minutes, start to finish – and my perineum lived to tell the tale! Phew.

    2. L: When I taught prenatal classes, I saw over 500 couples a year. I was astonished at the number who honestly thought it was touch and go whether a woman would have enough milk. A solid majority believed this – and it just isn’t so. As Heath points out – what happens to babies in countries where there are no alternatives? If the concerns expressed by the women in my classes were accurate, there would be no overcrowding problem in third world countries, because over half the kids would have starved before their first birthdays.

    This in no way belittles the experience of your friend. Such things do happen – but isn’t it strange how much more often they happen in a country which a) had a full generation of women who bottlefed, taking away the next generation’s mentors; b) where formula is routinely sent home with new moms, “just in case”; c) where bottles exist; d) where breastfeeding in public can still cause people to have conniptions, d) where doctors are not educated in the mechanics of breastfeeding, etc., etc.

    Canada is better than the States for this, but neither country is as educated or supportive of breastfeeding as they could be.

    I am no “lactivist”. I believe a woman should always have the choice in her choice of feeding method. If a woman wants to bottle feed her child, I will not be telling her (because I don’t believe it) she is doing that child harm. A woman who chooses to breastfeed is not morally superior to one who doesn’t, nor is she a better mother by virtue of this one choice.

    I feel for your friend. After nursing each of my first two children for over a year, I had a lot of trouble getting my youngest established at nursing. Weeks of pain and anxiety for me, and frustration for her – had I not KNOWN I could do this, I’d have quit. And then, knowing myself at that age, I’d almost certainly have struggled with feelings of failure. It’s a wretched place to be in. My heart goes out to any woman who really wanted to, and couldn’t. I could so easily have been in that position.

    But my heart also goes out to those women who want to breastfeed but who are handicapped long before their child is born by misplaced apprehension, inadequate education, and lack of intelligent support. It was to those women that comment #5 was directed.

    (The stat came from something I heard years ago that true physical incapacity occurs only in about one in a thousand women. Slightly more in N. America, where breast surgeries occur. But I can’t track a source for the figure down, so it may well be inaccurate.)

    — going out for a coffee now. Will respond to the rest of the comments later!! —-

    Comment by MaryP | January 28, 2007 | Reply

  6. 3-Heath: I think I responded to much of your comment in my response to L, above. Thanks for the link. I haven’t read it yet, but I will.

    As to the legislation… I’m of two minds. I like the idea, because I do think that when hospitals do this, the impact of such a donation from the medical authority of a hospital, whether it’s intended or not, is to water the seed of doubt that may be in the mother’s mind. “Well, if even the hospital thinks I might need this…” So, I don’t like the practice. If mom intends to bottle feed, sure, give her a few samples! If not, send her home with a sampler of lanolin cream, or something.

    But legislation? And, if you’re going to legislate something, surely it would be more effective to legislate for decent, PAID maternity leaves. I can’t think of anything that would help encourage breast-feeding more than knowing you had more than a few short weeks home with your babe.

    4. BubandPie: I confess to being dubious when a woman tells me she doesn’t make enough milk. Not to say such a thing never happens, but it is rare. When I was teaching prenatal classes and working with new moms, I had a sort of heirarchy of responses to this.

    Just as the annoying cough I currently have is much more likely a sign of a cold virus than it is a sign of pneumonia, insufficient supply is much more likely to be caused by poor latch (or some other reparable root cause) than by physical inability. So I’d look to these other things first. It’s nice for the mother who wants to breastfeed to have something she can DO about it, after all.

    If she was still trying to make it work, I’d give her the necessary information, and suggest a lactation consultant and/or a support group.

    If she had already switched to bottle feeding and was happy with her choice, I wasn’t about to make her feel guilty for it! I just coo’d over her beautiful baby. πŸ™‚

    If she’d switched, but was unhappy about it, we’d talk about why she was feeling that way, and (if she intended more children) how to prepare for next time. If she didn’t intend more, I’d try to get her to see all the myriad of ways in which she can and does mother that child. Feeding method is only one facet of parenting.

    If she was pregnant with a subsequent child, and wished to nurse this one, I’d give her the information necessary – and probably point her in the way of support groups, a lactation consultant, and a good, supportive, knowledgeable doctor.

    There is no kindness to mother (or child) in making a mother feel guilty about her decision. However, there is also unkindness in not assisting when it’s desired. It’s a difficult tightrope to walk without making the occasional mis-step.

    Comment by MaryP | January 28, 2007 | Reply

  7. Going to antenatal classes for twins next month. I’m giving birth through the public hospital system, so I’ll be having midwives, doctors and whomever else the hospital deems fit to be present during labour (although I am going to be most emphatic about keeping the number DOWN – I firmly believe I had a relatively good labour experience the first time around because the midwife was incredibly calm and there was no undue fuss except from my husband whom I yelled at to “Please, just shut up!” *lol*).

    My 2c about breastfeeding. I think if I hadn’t made a conscious decision to breastfeed, I would have given up after 5 days. It freaking hurt! Mum bottlefed all of her three kids because at the first onset of sore boobs, that was it for her. It didn’t do any of us harm, but she also doesn’t quite understand why I loved breastfeeding so much. The only thing I regret is not eating a better diet because the baby ended up with rickets and I ended up with osteopenia. But I’m told that’s quite rare and could have been prevented by a calcium-rich diet/going out into the morning sun regularly.

    Comment by Kat | January 28, 2007 | Reply

  8. I gave birth about an hour after earlier nursing shift ended, and the nurses stayed with me instead of passing me off to the next team. I really appreciated the familiar faces and how much a new baby was a miracle, even though they saw it happen every single day.

    Comment by Lady M | January 29, 2007 | Reply

  9. Totally true that we really don’t have any mentors when it comes to breastfeeding. Our mothers just didn’t do it. I’m hopeful that that is changing. Out of me and my three closest friends, all of us gave breastfeeding a try. I don’t think any of our mothers even tried, so that’s an improvement. Two lasted four months with their children, but working full time in retail ended it for both of them, not exactly pumping friendly environments. The other friend works in health insurance and had more access to pleasant places to pump, but then her work started sending her across the US, and lugging a cooler through the airports and finding places to pump during conferences got old quickly. She managed to breastfeed six months with all that going on! She is my hero! And me, well, Laurel’s a little over one year and still nursing. So see, huge improvements over our mothers. And we will obviously be supportive of our daughters and DILs.

    Comment by mamacita tina | January 29, 2007 | Reply

  10. First off, thanks for doing the meme!
    I also loved being pregnant. Despite the myriad of problems the pregnancy threw at us, I was so proud of my body.
    My two cents about BF. I BF my son for 10 months and had enough milk frozen for him to make it a full year. I had a lot of supply issues. This was due to the fact that he was a preemie and I didn’t actually get to BF him until he was almost 5 weeks old and even then only sporadically, as he was still in the hospital. Anyway, I think that most women with the help of lactation consultants and the help out on the net shouldn’t have to stuggle with supply. I ended up on meds to help my supply.
    My biggest issue with it was the lack of help from prior generations. My mother and g-mother witnessed me having issues and routinely told me “this is too hard, just give up.” Luckily my husband and friends were very supportive and I learned that having to give him a bottle occasionally didn’t mean I was a bad mom.
    Sorry for rambling on but it was a really important thing to me. I am so proud that I stuck it out and made it as long as I did.

    Comment by Dani | January 29, 2007 | Reply

  11. I just had a baby in California in November at Kaiser Hospital. This is a large HMO out her on the west coast. I had a C-sec and was in the hospital for 2 nights. I had no less than 4 visits from the lactation consultant, the first lasted about 45 min and the others were just ‘checking up’ to make sure feeding was going ok. Two days after being released I was scheduled and went to the Mom/Baby clinic for baby Claire to be weighed to make sure she had started gaining and for the nurse to watch you breast feed and offer suggestions.

    I have to say that all of this support was tremdously helpful, and I am glad Kaiser does this instead of sending formula home with you. My mom breastfed one of my five siblings, but family support has come from my two older sistes who both started out breast feeding their children. I think Kaiser rocks for their dedication to promoting breastfeeding…but of course that is my opinion…

    By the way, I went back to work after 12 weeks and am currently pumping breast milk at work ( as well as going home at lunch – 15 min away and her Dad is caring for Claire until April). My office set up a room for me to have privacy and take as much time as I need to be able to make it work. If more U.S. employers were so supportive (although in CA they have to be by law) more women might continue after going back to work.

    Comment by Homie2 | January 29, 2007 | Reply

  12. Well, I was not one who enjoyed being pregnant or delivering – to me it’s what I need to get through in order to get to the stage where they are kids! And I must admit, in a way I wish I hadn’t gone to prenatal classes because they just freaked me out more and made me even more tense and hysterical about the whole thing. I understand the theory that knowledge makes it more bearable, I just found knowledge made me more nervous instead, and that isn’t helpful!

    I’ve actually begun to wonder if part of my breastfeeding problem wasn’t in fact overly fast flow, because even on the very few occasions when we could get Pumpkinpie on, she’d pull off again in a minute and we’d have to start over. When pumping, then, I found that I had not only abundant milk that could fill bottle after bottle in about 20 minutes, but a spray that was, er, strong, let’s say.

    But you know? Even not being that earth mother-y myself, I think it’s great that there are people who are really into it. Someone’s got to be the cheerleaders, right?

    Comment by kittenpie | February 1, 2007 | Reply

  13. I have never been an athlete.. Labour was the most demanding physical challenge ever set before me. I loved having two non-medicated experiences to test my mettle. I wonder if this is sort of what you mean.

    I agree with you on the breastfeeding perspective, too. Another thing is that no one ever tells people they can reestablish breastfeeding if it goes awry… e.g. with premies… It isn’t the easiest but sometimes in those early weeks it is just not in the cards to get those really little guys latched.

    ps.. I was quoting you again this week.. — thanks so much for telling me that! a thousand times.

    Comment by mo-wo | February 1, 2007 | Reply

  14. Oh Mary, my love for you just tripled with this post. I had a fantastic birth even though she was posterior and I had breast surgery twice on each breast and I was still able to (and still am) breastfeeding. Yay for our wonderful bodies!

    Comment by kate | February 4, 2007 | Reply

  15. […] done this a couple of times before. Last time I focussed in on pregnancy and child-birth. This time, it occurs to me that though many of you say such warm and kindly things about me, in […]

    Pingback by Six Things About Me « It’s Not All Mary Poppins | March 6, 2008 | Reply

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