Sunday, July 17, 2011

Birth Changes Lives

I started my journey into motherhood at a young age. I was only sixteen when a single night resulted in my getting pregnant. I was alone and knew nothing about what was about to happen to me. I went along with everything my obstetrician recommended or told me to do. It was an easy uneventful pregnancy health wise. The big day arrived and I had labor induced on me and my unborn child. I was strapped into bed by monitors and wires, and told that I could not get up. I was treated as less than human, like I did not matter. I am sure that my age had something to do with the treatment that I received that day. 
Towards the end of my labor, I was informed by the doctor that I would need a cesarean section to remove my baby from me. Something deep inside me crawled to the surface and I finally stood up for myself and my unborn child. I refused to consent to the surgery. The doctor begrudgingly gave me another hour. Finally having found my inner strength, my body finished laboring on its own without medication and I birthed my baby. The mother within me was born in the moment my daughter was born. Even at 17, I was a mother, forever changed by what we just experienced together.
It took a few years for me to emotionally process the experience of my daughter’s birth. I was entrenched into life as a teen mother and graduating from school as an honor student. When I did start to process the birth, I realized that something was wrong. That is not what birth should be like. I do not think that God envisioned his prized daughters to be treated like scum while they brought more of his precious spirits into the world. I knew that there had to be a better option out there for childbirth. I am a smart woman. I put my trust into a trained surgeon for a natural process. It was not going to happen to me again.
Using mostly the internet to kick of my search, I started to learn more. Google became my new cyber friend. We spent a lot of time together. I learned about natural childbirth and that it wasn’t what the media had portrayed it as. It is a natural and beautiful process. Instead of watching shows on television, I began to watch internet videos on Youtube and saw women giving birth the way nature intended. I learned that homebirth did still exist. Before my research I thought that it was an extinct practice. I knew of no one who had a homebirth in this half of the century.
Five years after my first child was born, I was pregnant with my second child. I was still young at 22, and still alone, but I was armed with information this time. I hired a homebirth midwife soon after I discovered that I was pregnant. I really hit it off with her. It was a perfect match. The pregnancy was mostly uneventful except for a few obstacles along the way. I was an active participant in my prenatal care this time around. I asked questions and did my own research when things arose. My care was a complete opposite of what I experienced the first time.
Almost three weeks after the estimated due date, I went into labor on my own. It was a long emotionally and physically trying labor. I was surrounded by women who trusted my body to birth this baby. I was free to move around and do what I felt was necessary. I called all of the shots this time. After 48 hours of labor I birthed my second child, a son, in my own home on my own bed. It was awesome, in the true sense of the word. I was truly in awe of what just happened. I did it! I am not some super woman because I was able to give birth naturally. I am just a woman doing women’s work like they’ve been doing for thousands of years.
My experiences have changed me. It took me birthing my son to be able to fully heal from my first experience. However, I do not think that I would want my daughter’s birth to happen any differently than it did. Having that experience is the catalyst for the rest of my story. It triggered me to learn more, and to educate myself. I think without it I would not be where I am today. I am now studying to be a midwife. I am a birth doula, a certified labor coach. I am with women during their pregnancy journey, birth, and postpartum period. I help them to educate themselves. I have seen both the ugly and amazing sides of birth. I feel that this makes me a better advocate for women and my clients. I have more compassion for them, and understanding of the medical field. Birth is amazing. It creates new lives, new little bodies for spirits to live in. It also creates mothers and families.

Human Milk for Human Babies

Breastfeeding and breast milk are the number one choice for feeding human babies. There is no denying that for all babies, except the rare few with metabolic disorders that cause them to not digest human milk, it is the right way to nourish an infant.  For some mothers, either temporarily or long term, additional supplementation is necessary.  Approximately 3% of mothers cannot provide enough breast milk for their infants; in these cases donor breast milk is the optimal choice over formula for supplementation.
Breast milk is sometimes referred to as “liquid gold.” While its colour is generally a lovely yellow, its value is what people are referring to. It has the exact nutrition for the human infant to thrive with perfectly balanced proteins, carbohydrates, fats and other nutrients.  The components of breast milk are easily digested and have a higher bioavailability over those found in other sources. According to Dr. Sears, formula contains a higher level of iron than breast milk, but only 4% of the iron is absorbed by the infant compared to the 50-75% of iron absorbed from breast milk.
Formula is a factory made processed food product. It is made from cow’s milk, soybeans, corn and chemical vitamins and minerals.  The manufacturers are trying to mimic human milk when they make this product, and because it is made in a factory there is always room for human error. There have been many recalls of formula in recent years. Similac was one of these recalls. They had to recall their product because there were bugs and bug parts in the powdered infant formula.  Formula should be used as a last resort for feeding the human infant. According to the World Health Organization the first choice for feeding an infant should be milk from the mother’s breast.  The second choice is expressed milk from the infant’s mother fed another way. The third choice is breast milk from another mother. And finally the fourth choice is artificial baby milk.
Emma Kwasnica, the founder of Human Milk for Human Babies (HM4HB,) has stated that “Breast milk is not a scarce commodity. It's a free-flowing resource, and we were dumping it down the drain.”  She created HM4HB to connect families around the world with excess breast milk to those who had babies in need. Before the creation of formula, if a mother was not able to feed her baby a wet nurse was used.  In absolute dire need the milk of another animal was used. HM4HB is the modern day version of wet nursing. Mothers who milk share are well informed. They know the risks and benefits of sharing breast milk. Babies benefit from the donor milk by receiving the best nutrition they can get from the situation that they have.
I have personal experience on both sides of milk sharing. When my son was a few months old I had some excess milk. I shared this milk with a mother of a newborn who has having some minor difficulties getting started. Later on I developed a hormonal imbalance that affected my milk supply. I was only producing about half of what my son needed. Through the help of two other lactating mothers, I was able to successfully breast milk feed my son. We were donated over 1,200 ounces. My son was able to thrive thanks to these women.
Heavenly Father created a woman’s body with breasts so that she could nourish and nurture her babies. He perfectly designed breast milk to nourish the human infant. For the approximately 3% of mothers who cannot feed their babies their own breast milk, this perfectly designed food should be used when at all possible. He designed human milk for human babies, and cow’s milk for calves.