Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Reviews from New Moms!

"Jessey Christian was the best person to stumble upon during my pregnancy. The months leading up to my birth she made sure I was fully prepared mentally, physically and emotionally. We met once a week but her phone was always on and ready to receive my questions. When we had those meetings she was not only my doula but a new friend. Her presence is so loving you forget your "doing business" with her and find her sneaking into your most treasured memories. 
She was also there for my fiancĂ© which was the greatest gift for both of us. As he and I dug into the information she gave us we both became overwhelmed with all the knowledge. To go into labor with a friendly confident person by your side makes all the difference. During my 22 hour intense labor she kept both of us strong. I knew I wanted a completely natural birth but without her knowledge and passion that would not have been possible. 

Have a lovely day, (Missy, mom to Miss Arya born December 2015)"

Friday, January 8, 2016

Breastfeeding Friday: Skin-to-Skin

Breastfeeding is a tough gig. Yes, it is natural, but does that mean it's easy? No way! This is a new process for two individuals who are not only trying out a vital life process for the first time, but together while they are just getting to know each other! For that and many other reasons is why I have initiating skin to skin contact as one of my Top 10 Tips for Breastfeeding Mommas. The idea of skin to skin is gaining in popularity for topics that do not necessarily have to do with breastfeeding. Give Kangaroo Care a quick google and you will find articles that speak of the benefits of skin to skin contact for premature infants to support development and assist a baby in regaining equilibrium in the instances of things like infection or respiratory distress.

The truth is, Kangaroo Care is fantastic for any newborn baby for the same reasons, and for a breastfeeding mother it can set a solid foundation of bonding. The Cleveland Clinic states many benefits such as temperature stability, breathing rate stability, O2 rate improvement, increased sleep times, increased weight gain, and... more success in breastfeeding! 

If you think about these benefits, they make sense! As counter intuitive as it is, when a person gets hypothermia it is suggested that they be stripped down and then have contact with another naked person under loose blankets until their body temperature stabilizes (CDC). A newborn baby is not in a hypothermic state, but think about the drop in temperature they experience at birth: From a balmy 98 degrees en utero to a room temperature of around 70 degrees! This may be why a lot of providers move a new baby to a heat lamp incubator immediately, but would that be the same treatment as someone with hypothermia? No, the best option is plopping that baby on his momma and covering them both up together!

Breathing rates stabilize faster with skin to skin as well. I think about the times I was with a woman in labor and she needed an external rhythm to keep her breaths steady. A baby is most in tune with its mother when first born, there is no better person to provide that rhythm than her. The increased sleep and weight gains go along with the fact that once baby is close to Mom, he is comfortable, in as familiar of a place as he can get. How much more difficult is it to fall asleep in a new place as opposed to your own comfy bed?

Then, the reason we are all here- the increased success rates of breastfeeding. Before I go any further I am going to link two videos  of the Newborn Chest Crawl, this one is from BreastCrawl. Org and has a plethora of additional information. This is one that I loved on YouTube that shows how strong both the instinct and the newborn are. What you will see in both of these videos are a couple of common elements (1) Skin to skin contact between mother and baby right after birth (Note the vernix on both babies) (2) a brand new baby wriggling down to its mother's breast, bound and determined to reach it instinctually  and (3) a beautiful wide latch for the baby to begin nursing for the first time.  I love this idea of a baby leading the journey in breastfeeding. I am not saying that every baby that does skin to skin is going to latch perfectly the first time and everything will be peaches for the rest of eternity. What I am saying is that there is trust established by letting a baby crawl and latch on its own! And, don't worry, it can sometimes take an hour. Of course, there are ways to nudge baby along as well, I know you will both be anxious to get started!

Started... That's the key word here because the benefits of skin to skin contact do not just drop off to zero once that first nursing session is over. Quite the contrary, skin to skin is recommended as often as possible for the first few months of life! In this case, the benefits are a two way street. The skin to skin contact, or Kangaroo Care, affects the hormones. It will increase the Oxytocin of all parties. Oxytocin is the "cuddle" or "feel-good" hormone. It allows bonding to occur, so when that mother and baby become closer and establish a loving trust. Skin to skin is also believed decrease Cortisol, the stress hormone. Really, skin to skin is a double whammy in the best way! Another wondrous of this whole thing is that fathers or adoptive parents can participate in skin to skin as a solid way of bonding with their new family member. Despite what society likes to think, yes, men are chalk full of hormones, too!

The benefit of Oxytocin goes beyond its excellence in creating love and happiness (and causing an amnesia like affect regarding childbirth for mommas!), but it is also is responsible for that let-down reflex that is experienced when a baby cries, or really any time. So, the more oxytocin a mom has the easier her milk will let down. Then, since breastfeeding is based on the law of supply and demand, the more milk that is released the more will be produced!

This blog just scratches the surface of why skin to skin is so great. I encourage my readers to do their own research and share with me what they found most interesting! As I said, there are many benefits, maybe even enumerable. I personally think that one of the best is that you get a front row seat to sniff that perfect newborn baby head smell!

Joyfully, Jess

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Due Dates are Irrelephant!

Before I dive in to this blog head first, I am going to dip my toe in timidly by saying that I am not innocent in recognizing just how flexible a "due date" is. With my second daughter (eight days past her EDD in August thankyouverymuch) I sat on my labor ball twenty-four-seven agonizing over the idea that my child would never come out naturally. That being said, I squeaked in at 41 weeks and 1 day with a totally natural 4 hour birth. I focused so much on those numbers, 40 weeks, 41 weeks. My due date was July 31st, so whatever day it was in August was how many days I was overdue. Here is where I want to ask- who in the world came up with these numbers and why do we obsess over them?

Photo Credit: Pius Mahimbi
Forty weeks is the estimated gestation of a sweet human baby. That is 280 days. However, conception doesn't occur until 14 days in, so really a woman is pregnant when she is on her period according to this system. In almost every single situation there is no way of really knowing when conception occurs, doctors estimate based on the average women's cycle and then based on an average pregnancy a magical date is generated. Except, it's not magic. The growing baby doesn't have a calendar or smart phone to remind them to get going. A women's uterus does not suddenly snap when that time comes. There is no physiological eviction notice that is served when the clock strikes midnight. For many women, a due date comes and goes like any other day. In fact, only about 5% of babies (a generous estimate) are born on their due date. To put it in perspective, there are 21 days that a baby is considered "term": 39 - 42 weeks (according to ACOG), and mere probability with no other factors would give a 4.76% chance of a baby being born on any of those days.

All of this is not undermining the fact that going past a due date isn't fun. There is merit to the due date: the estimation allows a care provider to monitor uterine growth, assist in diagnoses and treatment of certain conditions, and of course give a mother an idea of when is probably not the best time for a romantic Parisian vacation or something. My point in all of this is you (or I) might pass a due date and that's okay! What is more important than popping a baby out on that arbitrary date circled on your calendar is allowing your body and baby to prepare for the labor and delivery process. There are so many things working together right at the end for a perfect harmony of labor and by allowing it to happen despite frustration or anticipation you are doing your mind and body a world of good.

Joyfully, Jess

Note: Photo credit to Pius Mahimbi. To view more of this artists work please view the Flickr account on this link

Friday, December 4, 2015

Breastfeeding Friday - Opening the Door

Phot by Viktor Mogilat
At the top of my list of tips for new breastfeeding mommas is to take a breastfeeding class. As full disclosure, I took one and it was immensely helpful for what I needed it to be. I am very much a learn-as-I-go type person. My best example of this is whenever we get a new board game, my husband reads the entire set of directions thoroughly: the alternate playing options, full moon on a Wednesday, and extended play rules. He reads the booklet from cover to cover and then  wants to explain them to me. I try to be a trooper, but 2-3 minutes in I throw my hands in the air and say "just explain as we go!" I just wanted to put it out there that I did not take an exhaustive course covering the ins and outs of nursing, those are fine (great!), but they would not have worked for me. What I needed was a class to open the door.

I grew up in a family where breastfeeding was kind of, well, weird. My mom didn't nurse my sister or me. My cousins weren't nursed, in fact, I don't think I was ever even in the same room as a baby being breastfed until my sister-in-law had our nephew Noah... I was 21. Other than that single outlier my only experience with breastfeeding was what I saw in the movies and television. In other words,my only exposure was through our Western media that pretty much makes it a joke. When I first found out I was pregnant with #1 my husband expressed that he wanted me to nurse our child because of all the benefits it provided. I was pretty much disgusted at the thought, but reluctantly agreed to try it until our child cut teeth. With that decision made I went to a class at the local WIC clinic. I view that single encounter as one of the biggest blessings that I have ever been granted.

My WIC representative had her small (and adorable!) baby in the office and he was happily nursing. I told her of my weaning plans and she assured me that teeth would not be a problem. She did it so warmly and confidently, yet I recoiled, because when a baby gets teeth aren't they getting a little old for breastfeeding? Ahhh... There we go, the real source of my hesitation. The answer there, by the way, is no. Even after hearing that, and hearing that WIC recommends a baby breastfeed for a minimum of one year* I held on to my insistence of weaning early.

Then the real class came.

We started by picking objects out of a box. I won't spoil the game by divulging all of the objects, but mine was a tampon. Our instructor had us go around and share what we thought our object had to do with breastfeeding. A lot of women were just as clueless as I was, some not so much. I was amazed, though at all of the benefits and facts that were shared.  Yes its good for baby, but its also good for Momma, for finances, and its more convenient than I thought. Yes, convenience! That was not a word I had ever heard associated with breastfeeding.  After going around the circle, we watched a video. Again, it wasn't exhaustive or a complete manual, but for basically the first time in my life I was seeing infants nurse and it wasn't being made fun of! I do not remember much else about that class, except for this: I looked around the room and realized that breastfeeding a child is not a strange thing to do. I was in a room with a dozen other women who wanted to (or their well-meaning spouses wanted them to) nurse their children.

The class that I took opened the door for me, and maybe even closed another. Ahead of me I had a world of positivity and support for nursing my child. Behind me was a world where I felt mortified at the thought.

So, not everyone is like me. We are at this pretty cool phase in our society where breastfeeding is being normalized. We aren't where we would like to be, but we're on our way, and because of that more and more women aren't starting out where I was- they may be familiar with breastfeeding from an outsider's perspective, they may have already had that "icky" feeling taken away by an interaction with a loved one. Hey, maybe they never had that feeling in the first place! If anyone is in this category than this blog post is still meant for you! First of all, you may still need a door opened that you don't even know is closed. Are you nervous about supply? Or latch? Medication interactions? Laws? None of those? Well, there may be something that comes up that you hadn't even thought about.

I am so thankful for a class that I never wanted to take. It changed so much in a short period that is having everlasting effects on my family, don't cheat yourself of these perks! Go!

For more information on the WIC breastfeeding support program visit: WIC Breastfeeding Support

Joyfully, Jess

*American Academy of Pediatrics recommends a minimum of 6 months of exclusive breastfeeding and 12 months total
The World Health Organization recommends a minimum of 6 months of exclusive breastfeeding and 2 years total

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Pumpkin Spice & Fuzzy Boots

All month long I have been blessed with a newsfeed on Facebook full of people displaying gratitude for things in their life: their families, their homes, their friends, even circumstances that may not have once seemed like the greatest thing. I opted out of the "30 Days of Thankful" this year, not because I am not thankful, but simply because I have been focusing on so many other things that I did not want to commit to another daily task, although I am sure it would have been uplifting during these busy times to do so! I look forward to a long weekend ahead of me, today I have spent a lot of time in reflection of all the ways that God has blessed me, some of His ways have been mysterious and confusing, while others were direct and explicit. I am thankful for both categories.

In category 1: I have dealt with some setbacks. A personal lawsuit. A busy schedule so I rarely see my husband. An hour cut at my nine-to-five. However, all of those things intertwined together and I saw that it was finally time to work on answering that call God has been trying to put through for years. Thus, I got serious about doula-ing.

In category 2: I have a beautiful family. A loving church. A warm home. Friends, so many loving and dear friends. Most recently, a new job that is going to change a lot in our life in a great way. 

Sometimes I think that we go through those things in category 1 to appreciate category 2, sometimes I think its to make room for category 2, a means to an end. Then, sometimes I realize I do not understand God's ways and I shouldn't! He has a plan in store for me far greater than I could plan, so I try to sit back and go with it, listening to Him intently.

Anyway, on a sillier note, here are some concrete things on my thankful list. No, I don't have my own Doula, but I really hope that I can make other women's list in that spot! Through joy and support I hope to be a Doula that families are thankful for.

If that doesn't work, here is a fabulous Pumpkin Spice Overnight Oats recipe that is a favorite of mine in this fall weather!

You Need:
  • 1/4 C. Oats (I prefer steel-cut)
  • 1/4 C.Pumpkin Puree
  • 1/2 C. Almond Milk 
  • 1 tsp. Honey (or to taste)
  • Pinch of Cinnamon, Ginger, and Nutmeg
  • Pecans or Walnuts (optional)
You Do:
  • Whisk together the pumpkin puree and almond milk
  • Slowly add in honey
  • Pinch in spices (now is a good time to test taste your ratios!)
  • Fold in oats and stir until fully coated
  • Cover bowl and leave in fridge overnight
  • Enjoy with nut topping!

Kindly, Jess

Friday, November 20, 2015

Breastfeeding Friday Begins!

My Polar Bear, Phoebe at 6 weeks gestation
Way back when, when I was a mother of just one beautiful lady and unaware that #2 was on her way, I started a blog. I got really into that blog and thought I was hot stuff for about a month. Then, I saw two pink lines to tell me #2 was on her way, and with those two pink lines came morning sickness, exhaustion, and all of the other first trimester fun that kept me away from that blog that I was so pumped up about.

One of my visions for that blog was to be a source of unofficial, but useful information for breastfeeding. I wanted it to be quirky (because, hi, I'm quirky) and fun, but informative. I want to take a minute to focus on the word "unofficial". In this case I want it to be synonymous with unlicensed and un-certified. Its not that lack confidence in my words that I do believe contain wisdom, but I just want to explicitly say that I am not a doctor, a nurse, a lactation consultant, or counselor. I do not have any legal certifying bodies that back up what I am saying, I have not (yet!) received a formal education or training on this particular topic. I am slightly, but only just so, ashamed to admit that I never really took much of a breastfeeding class.

So what credentials do I have? Well, I am the Momma of two lovely ladies, I nursed one until she weaned at 3.5 years old and the other (2 years old) is currently going strong. I like to brag, or complain depending on the day, that I have been pregnant and/or nursing since December of 2010. Yes, you read that right. There was a time when I was pregnant and nursing, about 41 weeks and 1 day of those shenanigans and then about a year and a half of nursing two little ravenous beasts darlings.

Over the past few years I have been blessed with a smorgasbord of issues. Yes, I see them as blessings because I was able to overcome them and continue to nurse my children and they imbibed me with knowledge, tricks, wisdom to pass on to other nursing mommas.

I had thrush, right out the gate (diagnosed in Labor & Delivery recovery). Supply issues that had me question my value as mother. Post-partum anxiety, because if there is a new way for me to get anxiety its going to happen! I had a bleb once, what's a bleb? My spellcheck doesn't even know what that word is! I had mastitis, latch issues, surgery, and, then, what I call the Peppermint Incident of 2011.

My goal (and fervent prayer) is that the things I experienced and the solutions I implemented through the undying support of so many beautiful women is passed on to any Momma who reads this with questions.

So, back to 2012 when I had that blog. I made this list and going over it three years later I still agree with it.

Over the next few weeks I plan on embellishing on these points. My goal is to have a "Breastfeeding Friday" regular post among my other semi-regular posts. I hope to give you my personal experience with other anecdotes I have heard as well as other harder and more concrete evidence to back up the stuff that I say... er, type. 

So, this was week one. And I will link the other ones probably right here to this post.If you have questions or concerns about what I write leave a comment or email me at fruitfuljoydoula@gmail.com - I look forward to all feedback, positive more-so than negative, but hey, lemonade and all that.

Week Two: Opening the Door

Joyfully, Jess.

My most trusted BFing website

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Oh, Mother Teresa...

I am not sure where or how, but sometime over the past couple of weeks I stumbled across this quote by Mother Teresa: "Joy is a net of love by with you can catch souls". This was so profound to me, it shocked me how well twelve words aligned with my entire (hopeful) life path! I am going to break this down word by beautiful word.

  • Joy: This word is in the my name. The name I hope to officially register and use as a midwife one day. It is something I hope to bring to every delivery room I enter and it is the number one emotion that I want people (mothers, fathers, grandmothers, sisters) to feel when they look back on the birth of a precious family member. 
  • Net of Love: What a visual this subphrase gives me! Beyond just embraces and physical affection or support, I think about a phrase that is popular among doulas  and midwives- holding the space. I am still learning what this means, and how I can accomplish it in a birth, but I imagine holding a space to be like filling a space with confidence, support, and trust. 
  • Catching Souls: What is it about a child's birth that makes it so precious? I don't believe it is the contractions, the discovery of bodily fluids, or the exhaustion. It is because a life, a brand new life is coming into the world! As a doula I won't be "catching" any babies in a physical sense, but I will be playing on the team. My job is to help bring a fresh soul into this world, and its magical.

Needless to say, I am just absolutely giddy about all of this. I found this quote as I am starting a journey that I believe whole heartedly, with fervent prayer, that God wants me on. I believe that He is holding my hand down this path and that He sent me this quote for reassurance and, dare I say, a reward? I keep thinking it about how not only is it a wonderful quote, but it came from a beautiful woman who a blessing to the world. 

Joyfully, Jess 

"I have much to write to you, but I do not want to use paper and ink. Instead, I hope to visit you and talk with you face to face, so that our joy may be complete."2 John 1:12(NIV)