Where is my period?

Do you ever wonder where your period went while nursing that baby?  

There is such variability out there around when your period returns after having the baby, whether you can get pregnant or not, and actually how much nursing (sucking-stimulation) is actually going on.  What is the frequency? What is the intensity?  I am so curious about how it felt to not have a period for so long and not be pregnant and what nursing may have had to do with it. How did you feel when the bleeding finally returned? Had you actually decreased the amount of time you actually spent nursing your little one? Perhaps it was not a factor at all!

We know so very little about the experience of women and how it feels.  Of course, you can get pregnant without the return of your period, or even having had a “first” period. Ovulation can occur in the absence of menses. Just a single drop of an egg can slip by you and meet up with the sperm; but it is not a likely occurrence if there were few separations between you and your baby. Increased sucking inhibits ovulation but does not prevent it from taking place. There are many other factors at work.

Whether you actually thought to use lactation as a form of contraception is not relevant.  However, to protect the mother from conceiving too soon after the last baby, there is a biological shift that allows for a gentle space between each child over a period of decreased fertility.      

If you are completely focused on your part in the developing relationship of the mother-baby couple, your period is probably the last thing you will see until the slow and steady introduction of solid foods accompanied by regular and lengthy separations from your baby.  Sucking inhibits ovulation indirectly through the release of two hormones prolactin and our old friend oxytocin.

If you have never heard of the term:

“Lactational amenorrhea”  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lactational_amenorrhea as a legitimate form of contraception, it doesn’t surprise me. Today, we expect a much higher rate of certainty these days in our birth control methods.  But we are barely just barely two generations away from widespread use of oral hormonal methods when for centuries all women had were abstinence, barrier methods and nursing babies to stave off the next child wanted or not. Women had to have the permission of their husbands to obtain almost any contraception. Most women historically never have the option to decline sex without serious risks or consequences.

With my two babies, my period returned about nine months and eleven months respectively.  They were six years apart almost to the day, so my frequency of lactation had little to do with my fertility or so I thought. I enjoyed not having my period. No cramps, no heavy bleeding, just diapers for the baby…

The return to bleeding was a powerful sign of a huge shift in my relationship with my little one.   I felt different, I smelled different, I wondered at times if the milk tasted different. For some reason the blood or absence thereof was a sign of connectedness.  I was aware of feeling a bit PMS, anxious and irritable with some bloating, and then I would just sit down or lie down and nurse my baby and we would both feel better.  Was that the signal for the onset of my period?

There came a time when it was over… I didn’t recall that it had anything to do with weaning. It had to do with our comfort and ability to spend time away from each other freed up to be available to others. My periods were “normal” less onerous for a time. And then the bleeding got heavier as I got older, more painful and associated with fibroids and the doctor said, have another baby, or these fibroids must come out… the end of my fertility, the return or the absence of bleeding.

Please tell us your story. What is your recollection of your period?  Do you have stories about your first period? The first period you missed and why? Who could you tell? How did you handle your period?  What was your bleeding like when you nursed your baby? 

References. read on…

The Seven Standards of Ecological Breastfeeding: The Frequency Factor by Sheila Kippley 

https://modernalternativemama.com/2013/05/22/ecological-breastfeeding-and-natural-child-spacing/

https://stevenandersonfamily.blogspot.com/2007/12/natural-child-spacing-through_5731.htm

Palms, Passover, Passion! Breastfeeding365.com

Many traditions celebrate the coming of Spring; but there is nothing like a birth, or the restoration of a life thought dead and dormant to signal Spring.  Breastfeeding365.com is finally here! 

Nursing a baby for a year or more is quite an accomplishment. It is not the same as bottle feeding the baby your breast milk. Making a decision to stay close to your baby and maintain the connection through the fourth “trimester” despite all odds is quite frankly epic! Experiencing long physical separations as a part of the mother-baby couple, no matter how legitimate the reason is traumatic to mothers. Most mothers literally suck it up and move on, but that doesn’t mean there were no consequences.  We are changing the way we treat women first and foremost by listening to what they have to say about what happened to them from their perspective.

A few years ago, I didn’t even know what a blog was. Now I read many blogs and use this personal blog as a way to support the women who want to nurse their babies by sharing our experiences. I discovered a while back that writing daily was an essential spiritual practice for me.  It helped me to focus my ideas, illuminate my passions and I quickly learned it was one of the best ways I knew to connect with women who had a secret so they would no longer feel isolated and alone. We healed by talking to one another.

Sharing that experience with other women and attempting to put those emotions in to words is to preserve the recollection of what is it like to have a profound attachment to your baby. These genetic memories are ancient, and occur on a cellular level. Feminism can be defined in the many diverse ways of a woman’s lived experience.

I was surprised to learn that many women had no experience with even seeing a nursing infant. Nor could they explain the complex tangle of feelings that occurred when pregnancy and lactation quickly and abruptly ended. Child rearing, like child bearing was in danger of being seen only as a medical event with little mention or concern of the lived experience of women and their families. Nursing a baby was primarily looked at as beneficial to the baby with no mention of the mom and heaps of guilt if you decided that you couldn’t or didn’t want to nurse your baby. Pediatric recommendations of nursing your baby for one year took no account of how that might occur for women in their current role and space.

Nature provides many examples of mammals (live birth-warm milk) tending to the needs of children, nursing mothers, and the family. We are the only ones that can express those feelings as a part of our legacy. Have you nursed a baby, yours or someone else’s baby for one year or more? We want to hear from you and hear your story. Sharing across the miles, and generations as part of our human family.

Many women have no mother, grandmother or elder to learn the stories of nursing their babies. We can introduce ourselves to one another and keep those memories alive. What would you like to see happen on our brand-new breastfeeding365.com website?  What questions do you have? How can we help you share your story?

Losing your baby, does the heartache ever end?

I always used to think that there was a special kind of grief reserved just for mothers who lost their little ones in the first year of life.   Whatever you thought those first 365 days would be like, you could not have imagined it ending with death. Now that I am older and way wiser, it doesn’t matter how old you or they are, there is no preparation for the loss of a child. I was invited in to a moment of a dear friend who yesterday wanted to share with me the birth of her now dead daughter who would have if she had lived would have celebrated her 58thbirthday with her mother. The day that the two of them would forever share.

Birth, anniversaries of precious events still ring true and ever present knowing no time or distance between mother and child.  It occurred to me that there are other kinds of loss. Estrangements, separations, consensual or otherwise that activate the grief button. It is not depression, it’s not something you get over. There may be comfort and solace, but it is something we learn to live with as if an essential part of us, a missing limb is now gone.  You live differently, you acknowledge the special place in your heart and your memory and your expectations and desires.

It also occurred to me that even if you didn’t experience such a loss, most mothers live in abject fear that once the love and connection has been made, everything at all cost must happen to prevent anything or anyone from causing or contributing to that loss. The fear of separation, actual or virtual is intolerable. So, we hover, we smother, we meddle, we neglect our own lives in avoidance of feeling even the threat of that potential separation or the belief that we or anyone in any way could cause harm to our baby.

Blessings to you, or to anyone feeling the loss and searching for a way to fill the void. Tears are sweet.  Today, I learned even cows cried tears when they missed their babies.

Please tell us your story. We are listening and standing by.

Is anyone you know seem a bit jealous of the time you spend nursing your baby?

Their comments seemed harmless enough at first, but the feeling of disapproval lingers and stings.

“How many times are you going to feed that baby, he can’t be hungry?”

“They better learn now; someone is not going to pick her up every time she cries.”

“You are spoiling that baby!”  “No one is going to watch her for you, and she won’t ever take a bottle if you keep that up”

You need nerves of steel to keep the milk flowing and not take to heart when the people you know, and love don’t get it. Strangers of course are a different category of misery.

When I think back especially to those times, it was my first time as a woman when I decided to nurse that I stood up for myself and did day in and day out what I thought was best for me.  A classic conflict avoider from birth, I usually remained silent and just did what I wanted to do anyway and hope I didn’t get caught in having to explain.  Nursing my baby just because I wanted to… forced me in some ways to take a very public stand about my own values and beliefs as it related to my own well-being.  I could rationalize from time to time that it was for the baby when in fact it was absolutely for me.

I remember once the little one was crying at a large gathering of extended “family” and friends. Most everyone thought they were being helpful by passing the fussy, cranky smelly one around, asking for a bottle, a pacifier, jiggling and shaking the baby and I heard my mother in a mildly annoyed way.  “Give that baby to his mother please…” They belong together.

My mother’s defense of me caught me off guard, it was my husband who usually stood between me and the crowd of parenting style police. She had taken on a not so new role of advocacy for me that allowed me the courage to step in to my rightful place of connection with my own baby. I lost my fear, and I know longer cared what other people thought about the things that were within my power to do something about. It was my first and best attempts at consistently choosing love.

Being a mother made me fierce and confident and able to stand my ground.  It would be many many years later that I would get my words and my voice on how being a mother made me feel. Until then, just claiming my space and nursing my baby was enough.

Please tell us your story and recollections.  How did you handle harsh criticism of your desire to nurse and stay close to your baby? Especially when it seemed like the baby was seen as competition for your love and respect and you weren’t seen at all.

How old were you the first time you saw someone breastfeed their baby?

What did you think? How did you feel?

If you were very very young; before you could talk, or it was your mother, or your sister, or an auntie or family member and you nor they felt no shame; imagine how normal you would think nursing a baby would be. What if you never saw a bottle, or saw someone give a baby a bottle?

On the I Love Lucy Show, Ricky and Lucy, husband and wife slept in separate twin beds.  That was normal. On television, babies slept in cribs in separate rooms in another part of the house, they cried a lot, you  or someone (other than the mother) had to pick them up and give them a bottle so “it” and you could go back to bed presumably to sleep or back to sex with your spouse.

This wasn’t how it was at my house. But normal, or middle class, or appropriate was most often defined by someone else in the visual media.  What was the social or familial critique on child rearing and child bearing? What were you taught?

What if the first naked breast you saw was not your mothers and you were hiding or peeping or did not have permission to view an uncovered body part.  What if modesty was valued above all else and even viewing the breast or touching the breast or any body part even your own was suspect, and wrong, or sexual or all three.  It would make breastfeeding counter-intuitive, just plain odd, or novel and a curiosity of monumental proportions.

If the human breast has never been seen as a functional organ, how did you make the switch? If nursing was for puppies or kittens, but not human babies, then where does that leave you!

 If the breast is primarily a sexual fetish commodity, associated with mystery, illicit pleasure and indeed the property of someone else for whom sexual favors are exchanged; then nursing a child for one to two years would be virtually impossible.

What if you never saw a mother and baby couple? Mother and baby attached and not separated from one another until they were good and ready.

Please tell us your story of your first encounter with the breast yours or someone else’s?

Who really listens to you when you speak your truth?

Several years ago, in early 2012, I wrote a book called “Little Black Breastfeeding Book”.  The book was conceived as a letter to my daughter in honor of my mother. Somehow, some way I was called to honor and listen to the voices of women who wanted to mother their children in a very specific way.

My goal then and now is to be a supportive voice for women who want to breastfeed their children. I am listening.  As a woman, as a mother, as a daughter, and a grandmother and a midwife, I am listening. The book was designed in three parts. The first was a series of five questions that I knew as a mom and a midwife were very important in determining how women really felt about nursing their babies. I was so curious to hear what women thought and felt.

Part 2 was my attempt at least at that point in time to carefully answer those five questions for myself. I was surprised as to how hard it was to put those experiences and feelings in to words.  Part 3 was the section where I was able to share what I learned from sitting still and listening to women. Somehow, some way, someone actually thought we could promote breastfeeding and health on the planet without listening and honoring the women who would mother our children. We were an essential part of the earth. As a healer and a writer, I was fascinated with the answers and the women who were talking and learning and sharing and so successfully navigating their worlds at work, in the home and with their families.

I first thought my audience was all the new mothers out there and pregnant women who may be contemplating nursing their children for any length of time. Now I realize that my task was to reach a much broader audience by honoring and sharing the legions of women who have successfully nursed their babies for generations with little fanfare or support. They represented our true success stories! Who thrived, who flourished and who would easily be able to support women who grew as mothers through their connection with their children. In nature, the separation of mother and baby mammals means certain death. We learn to breastfeed at the breast. We now ask questions of people who have never successfully nursed a child for at least one year. We must not lose these stories and the treasures that are often unspoken and secret.

We can create a forum together that allows and encourages women to discuss the maternal experience and benefits of nursing our children! 

So often we are not listened to, treated like milk machines or the needs of our children are seen as separate and apart from the needs of their parents. Women especially their mothers are inconsequential or denigrated as temporary holding tanks. So often we suffer in silence or unaware that another woman has successfully navigated this space and feels like we do.  While we listen and hope for experts to research and save us; dare we not lose our ability to save ourselves with careful attention to our own ability to heal and do what’s best.

So… another question, and know I am really listening not just because I care and I love you, but because we matter, and our very lives depend on it. Who listens to you? Where and how do you know your voice is being heard? What does that look like and how does that help you to enjoy your experience as a nursing mother?

References

I wore my bra when we made love

In my last blog entry, I wrote about my recollection as a nursing mother experiencing pleasure. I was curious about how other mothers felt about their own sexuality during lactation. Frankly, this was an area we chatted little about.  Privacy and confidentiality notwithstanding, this was protected information for those mothers who felt that if anyone knew that the baby was not the only one getting their needs met; there would be a lot of explaining to do.

I had completely forgotten a habit of mine to wear a bra when having sex.  I knew nothing about oxytocin then, but I learned the hard way that if I came, milk squirted all over the place and we both got wet. The baby was nowhere around when the mysterious let-down reflex suddenly became Niagara Falls.  Before I had the good sense to wear my bra and to stuff a few of my best cotton nursing pads under my pillow just in case; we would have to rush for towels to keep the bed and pillows from getting wet. We didn’t make love often, and I certainly didn’t experience the Big O orgasm every time; but when it did occur it was quite magical. We would be smiling and laughing and then giggling and as if on cue that would wake the baby with the smell of warm wasting milk and pillow talk.  That would be the end of our brief alone time together and we would transition back to our other roles, or just the return for all of us to blissful sleep.  So that began the practice of putting on my bra if it looked like we might be moving in that direction of making love should the opportunity arise.

We didn’t speak about this ever, but I do believe that it was pretty weird to know that orgasm and the easy flow of my milk was somehow closely related.  Happy, relaxed joyous and free, feeling secure in the arms of my lover and my baby.  

Please share your story. Did you ever experience a let down reflex or the spontaneous flow of milk while making love? Are you just a “flowy” kind of person? Do you even know if you have G spot? Did you notice a difference in your response patterns in the early postpartum period as opposed to nursing an older baby or a toddler? Were you ever shy about talking about this? Did your husband feel curious or even jealous about your time with the baby… do you feel the intimacy of the mother baby couple?

Do you experience pleasure when you nurse your little one?

Nursing your baby is “supposed” to feel really really good.   All the way from pleasantly relaxing to just a tad arousing. There is quite a spectrum. The longer you nurse the more you may note these gradations of sensations and experiences along the spectrum. This is so not just about making milk.

Breastfeeding your baby can be an intensely pleasurable experience designed to make you want to do it often and for there to be tremendous psychic and physical benefits to you, your child, your partner, your family, and the planet. 

 The veritable soup of hormones flooding your body lights up and connects many chemical and neurological receptors. Orgasm, Oxytocin, Prolactin, and Relaxin and the Let Down Reflex are all part of signaling cascading behavioral events that link us as mammals to our unique human experience of sex, childbearing, lactation and enduring positive social relationships.  

How women specifically and mothers in particular experience the impact of the presence of these hormones is not just new ground for research, but new ground for us to give voice to the waves of strong feelings and emotions as we nurse for at least a year after the birth of our babies.

Having someone you love and are attracted to be close to you and to suck on your nipple produces a surge of hormones for both parties especially with the mother-baby couple.  Is it sexual, of course it is!  How you feel about that is mediated with how you feel about all things sexual, physical and sensual and how you experience sensations emanating from your own body as you relate to others. Many of us do not associate sexuality and sensual experiences as pleasurable. The very same oxytocin that allows you to nurse your baby, allows for pleasure and orgasm, uterine contractions, the flow of your milk, as well as all sorts of things related to facial recognition and bonding.

While you are able to have sex, and get pregnant without an orgasm, having an orgasm with sex, especially during conception is so much more fun and strengthens those bonds of family and connection.

Nursing your baby comes from love and promotes love.  Pumping the milk from your breast with a noisy machine while sitting in a break room away from your baby does not promote the same experience as having someone you love and nurture suck on your breast.

 Maybe the first time you even heard of oxytocin was during labor when it was proposed to you as a stimulant given intravenously to induce or speed up contractions.  It made mild or so-called ineffective contractions occur more regularly and to function to move the baby out in a hurry because you were taking too long.  This is an abrupt shift in how we feel and it is definitely painful. Many women struggle to keep up with the stimulants given to speed the labor and birth of the child and forever experience a rush of pitocin, the other name for oxytocin as scary and painful.

There is a an incredibly complex tangle of hormones that we are still just learning about.  Oxytocin is still considered a mystery hormone and we are so unclear of what it does and the deep role it plays in reproduction, digestion, pain, and attachment. When women tell us more about what they experience, we can perhaps link those experiences, feelings and behaviors with the endocrine system as it surges through our bodies.  There is a strong mind-body connection that links love, emotions, stress, and a sense of well-being. While we can so easily see breasts as sexual objects of desire; it makes sense that we quickly reject breastfeeding as potentially unnecessary public displays of affection that promote sexual arousal in ways we find inappropriate, threatening and unacceptable.

While some may want to compare nursing your baby to learning to ride a bike; being scary at first where you learn new skills, fall a lot, and then identify a few things that just need figuring out. It is so much more than a mechanical act of feeding and nutrition. It is hard to put into words an activity that takes practice before you experience ease and mastery. Once you get the hang of it, few things are more exhilarating than riding a bike leisurely down a quiet path or at breakneck speed down a long windy hill; but nursing your baby is different in some important ways about what we learn and experience new things in relationship to others.

Please tell us your story about your experience of pleasure while nursing your baby.

References:

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9071349

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3183515/

Sleep TILL I AM DONE SLEEPING

  I often don’t get enough sleep. I so love sleeping. Babies, old people, and cats love to sleep. I didn’t know how important sleep was for many years.  My mother would tease me as a small child that she promised I wouldn’t miss anything if I just lay down for a minute and take a nap. I thought insomnia, or not being able to go to sleep when I was so very tired was normal! 

I thought that being productive and working was more important and that sleep and napping, and just plain refusing to get dressed and go outside or anywhere were signs of laziness, procrastination and boredom.   The doctor ordered bed rest, but I just couldn’t sleep! I pushed myself to do stuff and “finish stuff” and was just not clear of the toll it took on my body, mind, spirit, and soul.  Sleeping is so good for you and so healing!

I didn’t know how much time I required to be alone, to be sleepy and to sleep and that I required solitude and time alone with my baby. Quiet time was as essential as breathing. The mother baby couple needs to sleep, doze off, sleep, eat some more and sleep…it allows the milk to flow and to build and strengthen relationships.

For many years, much of the work I did as a mom, a nurse-midwife, teacher, counselor and even scheduled shift work as a nurse required long periods of time of broken rest and limited sleep.  It wasn’t till I stopped all of that or got really sick and was forced to sleep for hours and hours and hours unable to do anything else but sleep that I finally got it. I had created a sleep debt that couldn’t be filled.

Now I am the poster child for sleep and anyone who really knows me, especially my grown children know that when I am cranky; whatever ails me can be improved with more sleep or was caused by a lack thereof.

I had developed the habit of avoiding sleep so used to taking the quiet of night and the “excuse” of having to nurse the baby as the only reason for taking time alone with my little one. I am so proud of myself that I have the courage and privilege to SLEEP TILL I AM DONE SLEEPING now. I allow myself to rest and listen, and pray, and drool and not rush all the time somewhere or to do something.  I learned this treasure at the breast with my nursing baby.  I am forever grateful.  How much sleep did you get last night? Was it enough?  

Please tell us your story about sleeping till you’re done sleeping.  What would it take to get enough rest? Do you sleep better with someone or alone? Do you allow yourself the gift of sleeping with your baby…?

The check is in the mail


I often spend an inordinate amount of time worrying about money.  It is my number one stressor. It can without constant vigilance totally take over my life and block out every other emotion.  Working, earning a living, having my “stuff” to maintain the illusion of a middle-class lifestyle usually means a full-time job and more.  Money will have the final say. Having enough, wanting more, how will we pay for this?  Where will the money come for to buy the things we need and want?  How much stress do you have around money?  How much money would be enough for you to feel at peace to allow you to comfortably be with your baby? How does money flow to you now?  Where does the money go?  How do you feel when you’re in debt, when you owe what you can’t pay, and you don’t feel free to do what you would like to do with your own time and your own money?

If you are already living beyond your means, having a baby is an absolute game changer.  It can make a bad financial relationship situation much worst or it can shock you into a deep sense of clarifying every single value you have ever had about what’s really important to you.  If you had a savings account that would cover all of your expenses for one year, would you prefer to be with your baby and nurse that child than be anywhere else?

In the La La  alternative universe world where all pregnancies are planned, healthy moms and pregnancies don’t incur staggering costs. We are all insured with no deductibles. We are prepared and ready to handle every emergency.  Under no circumstances would we separate parents from their young children. There are no financial worries for basic necessities.

 I didn’t know how I would manage financially but I knew that I would be unable to leave my baby with someone I didn’t know until that little one was at least a year old and preferably not until they could tell me the whole story about what happened while I was away.

This is not paranoia, or merely because I wanted to breastfeed, it was what I needed for my own peace of mind. Why have a baby that I couldn’t be with and enjoy whenever I wanted to.

 If there is a limitless supply of love, and you were tapped into that and didn’t even know ABOUT the power of that much love until you became a mother, it might change your relationship with money and how much you would need to have. What if all your baby needed was you?

Please tell us your story! Did having a baby change how you felt about money?  Did having enough money influence your decision to nurse your baby? Was money a factor in determining how long you were able to breastfeed your child? What was your path to financial peace?