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No More Babies: How I Really Feel (Last Child Grief)

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Thoughts at 4 Months Postpartum

I only have two children, and two will be my only. We always planned to have two kids for the usual reasons: financial resources, practicality, health reasons, familiarity, and so on.

This pregnancy and postpartum were much different than the first. I suspect it has much to do with knowing they’ll be my last.

I feel the postpartum slipping away. My youngest is now four months old, which means a little more than a trimester ago he was playing, breathing, wriggling, and listening in my womb.

For these past months I’ve watched my body turn into something blooming and abundant to swollen and rumpling to deflated and limp, stressed from constant demands upon it and weak from the the endless drill of late nights and early mornings. I’ve felt unmotivated to move into a new chapter, for I know once that happens, I won’t get to call myself ‘newly postpartum.’ In my case, not ever again.

This is now the body I’m left with. Rather, this is the body I get to keep. I’ve got more skin than I had before, a herniated navel, and my hair seems to be grieving with me as it sheds like a willow in the fall.

I think I’ll say I’m no longer ‘postpartum’ when my linea nigra disappears. The first time it took a year. I think that’s when I’ll stop telling people “I just had a baby…”

Right now my body is a signpost of declarations that say this shop is closed, be back soon. I know better because my intentions are steps ahead; I know the shop is closed indefinitely. Continue reading

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22 Tips For Breastfeeding In Public With Confidence

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Self-conscious much?

A recent Centers for Disease Control public opinion study found “only 43 percent of U.S. adults believed that women should have the right to breastfeed in public places.” Theoretically, every time I go out with my baby, I can count every two people we pass and justifiably assume the next three people do not approve of my child breastfeeding there.

With this in mind, in my early public nursing days I felt too embarrassed to be seen struggling to breastfeed my little baby, especially with postpartum depression at a high, an anxiety disorder, and being the first among all my friends to become a mother.

I wanted so badly to live in a part of the world that was acclimated to the sight of normal infant feeding.

The sprawling, diverse metropolitan area where I live isn’t even a major hotspot for public breastfeeding oppression. That’s the frightening part. A quick Google search will guide you through countless stories of mothers across the nation being harassed, shamed, bullied, and discriminated against by strangers, coworkers, relatives, acquaintances, anyone with an opinion… because they breastfed their children in public.

With my first baby I started out nursing in my car. At the time, to me it felt pretty ‘public.’ I quickly realized this could only be a temporary solution to calm my nerves. Not only was it terribly inconvenient to retreat to my car for privacy multiple times per excursion, but it was also completely unnecessary. (And far from foolproof! Do you know where we were the first time I was harassed for nursing? Sitting in the front seat of my parked car minding our own business).

Out of the car and into actual buildings I emerged. I only felt at ease enough in low-crowd places and often found the corner of rooms to nurse so I could have privacy. Then I felt like a professional NIPer after working my way up to nursing on-the-go while babywearing.

Things became easier when I expanded my potential nursing spots to, well, anywhere we happened to be. I wore covers at first (I ditched them for good after that car harassment incident, and life got less complicated when I put those annoying things in storage).

It didn’t take long before I wasn’t giving a second thought to when and where I’d nurse my child because it was not an isolated event — it was just part of the flow of life, which doesn’t stop when you become a mother.

Four and a half years later, through babyhood, toddlerhood, another pregnancy, and tandeming, I don’t think a week has gone by that I haven’t nursed in public, and it’s been nearly that long that I’ve done so confidently.

Twenty helpful tips I learned along the way, in no particular order:

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If I Could Give Only 5 Pieces of Breastfeeding Advice To a New Mom

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If you could give only five pieces of breastfeeding advice to a new mother, what would you say? Here’s what I’d tell her.

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Is Infant Circumcision Incompatible With Breastfeeding?

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Is circumcision the ‘Voldemort’ in a conversation about early breastfeeding difficulties? Though it’s a studied certainty that infant circumcision can have ruinous effects upon breastfeeding, it seems only the rare or high-profile breastfeeding expert dares to mention this risk by name, much less maintain an official protocol for assistance if challenges arise.

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4 Reasons Why You Should Get Photos of Your Birth

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Wondering whether you should take photos of your birth? The short answer is… yes, you should! If you’re against the idea or on the fence, you might think you’ll be too bashful, grossed out, or nonchalant to ever want to look at them. But wouldn’t it be nice to know you have the option, just in case you have a change of heart?

If photography is in your birth plan, make a point to designate someone responsible for charging the camera ahead of time and setting the time stamps correctly. They should know how to operate the camera (especially in low-lighted settings because flash might disturb your labor). They should be prepared with a list of moments you don’t want them to miss (whatever you think will be meaningful to you — the birth altar you spent an hour setting up, crowning, first latch, separation of the cord, any surprise events, get creative!).

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What It’s Like Having An Overactive Letdown

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Thinking maybe it’s time to switch sides…

Breast pads? Ha. What a joke.

I hate wearing bras, but in public they’re my only hope for a solid enough barrier between my trigger-happy nipples and my shirt. I don’t know why I bother because I still get soaked. Maybe it just makes me feel proactive?

I don’t stand with my arms tightly crossed in public because I’m a haughty snob. It’s just because I’ve got to muzzle the mammaries somehow, and pressure works well. More subtle and civilized than cupping them with my hands, anyway.

I don’t wear thick tops in the Texas summer heat because I want to live in a microwave. Milk leaking? Can’t disrobe? Layers, friend.

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Julep’s First Latches

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Julep latched for the first time twenty-four minutes after he was born on April 28th. I remember the feeling was… beautiful. It felt right.

Memories of MaiTai’s first latch attempts in the hospital three and a half years ago came flooding back. Was I really doing this again? How lucky am I! And what work we have ahead of us…

Other details of the moment are all a blur now. I nursed this bright-eyed, alert baby on and off during my time on the bed right after birthing him in a pool several feet away.

*All photos credited to Stephanie Shirley Photography.*

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