The beautiful Jennifer Barrett-Neet with her daughter Josephine Boat (17 months). Jennifer had a rough pregnancy and felt pretty horrible throughout. She struggled with gestational diabetes and went into labor with Josephine at 34 weeks. She had planned to deliver at a local hospital but had to be life flighted to Boise where there was a NICU. They ran into an ice storm on the way and had to deliver instead at a hospital an hour from her home. She was able to have a vaginal delivery after steroid shots and magnesium shortly after her husband arrived. Josephine was taken from her immediately to go to the NICU where they spent the next 10 days. Thankfully, Jennifer was able to stay with Josephine for the duration of her stay. She struggled to nurse but was not supported by the hospital staff so Josephine was tube fed for a week before she learned to drink from a bottle. Just around her due date Jennifer was able to transition her daughter to her breast with the help of a nipple shield and Josephine is still nursing strong. Jennifer is still struggling with the aftermath of such a trying and unexpected birth experience. She still blames herself in part for not being able to keep Josephine in and while she wants to have more children is still very uncertain. Jennifer says that this moment is a step in the direction of healing.
We recently had the honor of working with 9 local women in addition to myself to capture different variations and durations of breastfeeding. There are many issues that we have had the mission of addressing via this project and many more that have come up along the way. The normalization of breastfeeding is something that still has a long way to come. And amongst those who accept it we often find that they do so with conditions. You've heard the statements before- "I'm supportive of breastfeeding but...", "I think Breastfeeding is great if...." And we find all too often that even amongst breastfeeding moms - those who pump exclusively, supplement with formula, or use donor milk don't feel that they count or assume they're "not really" breastfeeding. The United States rates and durations of breastfeeding are so much lower than the rest of the entire world. We hope to see all of this change. We hope that someday none of this matters. That women are able to feed their babies whenever and wherever they may be without shame or stigma. That women can nurse their babies for 3 months or 3 years (or whatever number fits!) with support. That whether you nurse directly, partially, pump exclusively, use donor milk, supplement with formula, use bottles or supplemental nursing systems you can be proud and know with certainty you're doing the very best you can for you and yours. We are so happy to celebrate the fact that all variations and durations of breastfeeding are beautiful!
The wonderful Ashley Woolsey with her daughter Peyton (5) and son Holden (1).
Ashley and her husband conceived her daughter while she was in her junior year of university. She says that everyone told her to take some time off but she knew if she did she would never finish. So, she spent her junior year pregnant, delivered over the summer, and finished her final year before Peyton's first birthday. She had a very healthy pregnancy but shortly before she was due, she started having a low platelet count and had to have weekly blood draws. The levels got so low she wouldn't have been able to have any pain intervention during delivery so when it shot back up they decided to induce. She was induced two days before her due date and had a 21 hour labor. She chose to get an epidural about 4 hours in and it was a very smooth delivery. Peyton had some breathing difficulty due to fluid aspiration and had to be taken to NICU for three days but has been perfectly healthy since. Ashley says she had a great birth experience but that breastfeeding was horrible. They both cried and it just wasn't working, the second she switched to bottles they both felt so much better.
Four years later she got pregnant again and says she knew it was a boy immediately. She was sick her first trimester but the rest was smooth and she very much enjoyed being pregnant. She said she was a lot more educated this time and wanted to attempt a natural delivery without drugs if possible. She was induced at 41 weeks and 4cms but after 8 hours on Pitocin, she hadn't progressed at all. They tried Cytotec and after 5 more hours she was still at 4cms. At hour 35, her water broke on it's own and things took off quickly. She had asked for an epidural at 8cms but realized she needed to push as the anesthesiologist came in. Holden was born just one hour of her water breaking with 2 minutes of pushing. She says all the pain was immediately gone, her recovery was so much easier and he latched on right away. Holden has nursed like a champ and is still going strong.
It took Ashley several years after her daughters birth to feel comfortable in her skin again but after her son, she has felt great much more quickly. She says that things are different then they were before but she's happy to accept it. She wants to celebrate and embrace her body and her journey and hopes that she can continue to inspire women just as she was inspired by hose who bravely stood before her.
The amazing Mandy Allender with her sons Ronan (6) and Ryder (2) and her daughter Ruby (4). She is also 22 weeks pregnant with baby 4, arriving late June 2015. Mandy has changed so much from the mother who she became with Ronan's arrival to the mother she has come into today. Each of her children have taught her something new and she says that when she thinks about raising children it is she that who has grown with their teaching. When she was pregnant with Ronan she was working as a High Risk OB Ultrasound Tech and was therefore worried about everything. She had all of the tests from screens to amniocentesis and very much wanted a typical hospital birth as she thought people who planned to have their babies at home were crazy and putting their lives at risk. Ronan was born after an induction at 39 weeks because she was told by her OB that first time moms could birth big babies. Once earthside, she struggled with feeling like he was actually hers and after researching realized that it likely had a lot to do without experiencing the hormonal shifts that come with the natural progression of labor and birth. Breastfeeding saved them, she says, and allowed her to build the bond she was missing. She knew she wanted something different with Ruby and chose to give birth to her at a free standing birth centre. It was a much better experience and while she had the birth she'd wanted, she was sent home after being allowed to rest for just 4 hours after birth. There was something in having to get in a car and drive an hour home with an hours old baby that led her to know homebirth was for her next time. Mandy's breastfeeding journey with Ruby was surprising. She couldn't get her to latch and nurse properly and when she introduced the bottle at 6 weeks to return to work, Ruby preferred the bottle to breast all together. Ruby was finally diagnosed with a lip and tongue tie at 4 months old, but by then she was done with the breast all together. Mandy pumped exclusively for her but struggled emotionally. Two years later, Ryder was born at home with a team of providers Mandy adored. He arrived in her bathtub just where she felt he should and has breastfed beautifully and is still nursing today. Her current pregnancy has been wonderful as well and she plans to deliver at home with the same midwife and support.
Mandy struggled with disordered eating until her first pregnancy and has always tried to provide an environment for her children where bodies are not talked about with any judgment. They are not good or bad they just are. It has taken her a long time to get rid of the negative self talk and she hopes that her children can avoid ever getting there.
The amazing Danielle Kober with her son Dade (4) and daughter Beatrice (9 mo). Danielle had relatively healthy pregnancies but all in all, her experiences weren't what she'd hoped for. She didn't feel she was properly cared for during her first delivery nor that she was told what was going on or able to be an active part of her care. She was able to deliver Dade vaginally but suffered a third-degree tear that still causes issues with pain and incontinence today. She was advised not to attempt another vaginal delivery with Beatrice's pregnancy and instead chose to have a cesarean. While she sometimes questions that decision, her recovery was so much easier than her first. Danielle had difficulty breastfeeding Dade and he preferred bottles over breast, but she has had a much more successful nursing relationship with Beatrice.