Normally, prenatal yoga is pretty awesome (insofar that something like prenatal yoga can be awesome; easy poses, lots of props, fancy kegels and the occasional full-on bitchfest ). However, today we had a sub, who had us stand with our arms outstretched and flip our thumbs up and down for a duration of two minutes, while she played Fleet Foxes. The rationale for this exercise (which she called “beyond endurance”, what does that even mean?!) was that a contraction in childbirth lasts for about a minute, and this is something supposedly equally uncomfortable.
When I was at the University of Oregon, even as a harassed assistant professor, it was kind of fun. The students were curious. My colleagues were funny and irreverent. The staff was capable and opinionated. The administrators were down to earth. Nobody took themselves too seriously. We weren’t paid for shit. It was actually humiliating how badly paid we were — from administration on down. But people had their unassuming little houses and sweet gardens, and spent their weekends rafting or hiking or biking or driving about visiting wineries. Nearly everyone had a vibrant life outside of work. Dinner invitations flew back and forth, and when someone was facing a life crisis, people pitched in. We organized dinner brigades for new parents, helped out with yardwork for ailing friends. When I had my kids, delicious home-cooked dinners were delivered to our door every night for three weeks.
I assumed that that’s how campuses are. I thought they were communities. In fact, being young, and ambitious, I spent much more time focusing on what I didn’t have at the UO — a decent salary, adequate research funding, status.
So, when the offer came from the University of Illinois, I jumped at it. I was sure I had made the right decision. Money, status, research funding…all these things beckoned.
And then I found out. Found out what it’s like to be at a place where most everyone is convinced, beyond the shadow of a doubt, that they are very, very important people. Where most everyone is convinced, beyond the shadow of a doubt, that they are doing very, very important work. Where most everyone is convinced, beyond the shadow of a doubt, they are very, very smart. That they are, indeed, the smartest boys and girls in the whole world.
I discovered the unbridgeable, heartbreaking chasm between a place where no one takes themselves very seriously, and a place where pretty much everyone takes themselves very (very) seriously.” —
Reread this twice. Now I can’t help but want to look for low salaries and goofy people in order to find a job that I can stand.
Community is Vital to Breastfeeding. Period.
Although breastfeeding is absolutely natural and “normal”, I have yet to meet a mother who has had a completely uneventful, challenge-free breastfeeding experience – at least the first time around. Many successfully persist through the challenges, others find them too hard to surmount. And, some don’t even try because the obstacles are too great.
What is consistent in all the stories I hear is the one thing that can make or break a breastfeeding relationship. It’s not a product of any kind. It’s support. Finding your tribe. Getting an encouraging word. Receiving information from someone who cares. Sometimes it’s a hug, a casserole, or just empathy. That’s what really matters – and what makes all the difference.
The potential for support is huge. There are non-profit organizations, support groups, consultants, authors, websites, and entire companies whose mission and purpose is dedicated to breastfeeding success. Of course, they each have their own passions, their own visions of what is “right” or “correct”, and they each serve mothers in their own unique ways. And, they don’t all necessarily all agree – or get along. But the potential to find support, to connect, and to gather resources to make your breastfeeding experience more successful for you and your baby is enormous.
To a new mother who is feeling alone and isolated, the breadth and depth of these resources isn’t always so evident. That’s why, in celebration of World Breastfeeding Week, the Holistic Moms Network is inviting everyone who supports breastfeeding to come together to highlight these resources. We want to showcase all the enthusiasm, passion, and resources available for moms – and dads. Support is the foundation for who we are as an organization. It is our mission to connect moms who need support on whatever issue they are facing as a parent, and especially to help them discover natural and holistic options. We believe that community is vital to breastfeeding success, whether your tribe is large or small, and whatever your breastfeeding goal.
Our goal is to host the World’s Largest Breastfeeding Twitter Party during World Breastfeeding Week. Our event is planned for Tuesday, August 2nd, at 10 pm EST at hashtag #BigBFParty or #holisticmoms. Together with our co-hosts Motherlove Herbal Company, The Leaky Boob, Mama Pear Designs, Bamboobies, The Willow Store, Best for Babes, and other breastfeeding support organizations and companies, we invite everyone in the breastfeeding community (past and present) to join us in showing how much support is available.” —
When my friend Elita became active in breastfeeding online communities, I got a peek, via social media, of that world. And obviously I was curious- not just because it represented a sort of women’s culture I hadn’t seen before, but because it also occupied that feminine underbelly of social media- Wired isn’t exactly putting mommy bloggers on its cover, and even in discussions of mommy bloggers and whatnot, no one really says what functions they play in daily domestic life- such as support for breastfeeding.
One of the preliminary cases I’d used in my dissertation proposal was the use of hashtags like #bfchat and #babywearing. I argued that these tactics not only created instant interactions among mothers of young children (who are almost chronically isolated), but also served to generate a lexical archive, a way to click on a hashtag and say “this is something that other people talk about”. Because these things aren’t given a lot of discursive creedence. I think there’s a reason why the breastfeeding organizations listed seem to have such silly names. There’s no getting around that uncomfortableness.
while all of that may be true, i think it elides the way in which these technologies facilitate actual human connections between actual human people. i’ve been having an especially rough week or two with some especially scary and unsettling health issues and have really needed some help. i have truly been astonished and overwhelmed by the depth of support and love i’ve gotten from people i “only” know from the internet. these are people i trust, who i rely on, who consistently go way past what’s required of them. some of them i have met in person since knowing them on the internet, some i’ve not and probably never will.
the idea that these people are any less my friends, any less a part of my support network, than the people who live in my city, is increasingly absurd to me. these people are my friends - not my internet friends, not my online friends, not my lesser or substitute friends - they are my friends, full stop.” —
So obviously, I have some ambivalence about this kid thing. Then I start reading BABY NAME BLOGS (this is a thing! I mean, kind of an obvious thing), and come across something like this, and then I’m so happy to have entree into a new weirdo universe:
For a girl, it had to have a Stevie Nicks reference in there somewhere. She is one of my all time favourite artists. My initial choice was Stevie Rhiannon but my husband vetoed that one (ix-nay on Rhiannon and no daughter of HIS was going to be named Stevie). So, went back to the drawing board and decided that since we met through a medieval re-enactment society and had a French last name that we wanted our future daughter’s name to be bilingual English/French. At that point, he asked me what Stevie was short for. I answered Stephanie and he said “I can live with Stephanie”.
I cannot wait to make “mom friends” who can bond over shared love of Belladonna and will show me their old medieval reenactment photos after a bottle of wine.
One of the most frustrating things about telling people that you are really depressed and out of sorts and pregnant is the almost universal “duh” that everyone gives you. Not so much the people who have children or have been pregnant, but childless friends, colleagues, people in Seattle who usually DO NOT TALK ABOUT FEELINGS AT ALL. Like it’s just so well known that pregnant women are useless members of society who probably shouldn’t be allowed to operate machinery or handle sharp objects, yet somehow I was never aware of this. Feeling like I’m part of that is the worst.
I’d cut this expectation of myself as a bike riding, bikini wearing, over-achieving pregnant lady, one of those ladies who goes on about their business with a baby in a sling, breastfeeding in meetings. Not a weepy, lazy, hateful slob in elastic waisted pants. My dissertation is at a standstill, I have to take the fall quarter off from teaching, and I’m just not getting anything done. But now it seems more important than ever to get things done, to get my shit together, to not live in a basement apartment, and to not be a lazy grad student. I know I’m not supposed to hate myself, but I think things would be worse if I didn’t.
I don’t like to talk about depression or being depressed as a concept because I’m a lifelong veteran and most of the time it’s just not a big deal in the scheme of things. It’s a point of pride that I’ve been able to ward off scarier diagnoses, take drugs that are fairly low-risk and hold myself accountable for my actions without falling on miserable sad girl cliches. While I appreciate openness, shared process, and you know, talking about feelings, I just don’t find it useful to talk about myself in those terms. To a fault, I lean towards impulsiveness over caution. I tend to just do things instead of talking about them at length, and I think the thing that’s most frustrating right now is that there is nothing to be done to combat the havoc these hormones are wreaking on my brain. There’s no bad job to quit, boyfriend to break up with, or rut to get out of that can change the situation. While not properly anticipated, or even well thought out, this thing was for the most part, planned. I’m 30 years old and married to a dude- this is, for the most part, what is expected. My shrink is cautious, my therapist is sympathetic. The only thing to do is to wait and see if it gets worse after the baby comes.
Postpartum depression gets a lot of play, because it’s when women who have successfully held it together and not shown outward signs of mental illness before all the sudden have them. Brooke Shields! Marie Osmond! Half of all initial diagnoses of bipolar disorder for women are incurred during the postpartum period. But the limited studies that have been done pretty much say that for women who have histories of depression and other mental ish, it’s the rule, not the exception, that things will get complicated when you get pregnant. A friend who’s recently gotten pregnant had her shrink refuse her refills (on an SSRI which is generally considered the gold standard of perinatal safety), because he was wary of lawsuit risk in the case of birth defects, but apparently not on the risk of taking an established patient off an effective medication regimen with no alternative. In what other situation would such a cavalier attitude occur, much less be thought of as responsible?
A midwife I saw told me that there is very little comprehensive study done on the effect that pregnancy hormones have on the brain, and that none have demonstrated what can be termed as “proof” that hormones have any effect of mood. She added that this was an example of the folly of academic medicine.
The one thing I have read that made sense of things to me was Lauren Slater’s Love Works Like This, which prevails over such a goopy title and a pink dust jacket with a baby on it, and makes a strong argument for aggressive medication during pregnancy. Slater notes that despite the prevalent notion of “pregnancy brain” and the perceived uselessness of pregnant women, brain scans show that pregnancy spurs a ton of brain activity. She describes the pregnant brain as a pond with stuff growing under the surface. But lately I’ve been thinking about how things have been for me as as a wild fire, clearing out overgrowth and making new things possible.