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Pregnancy and the Early Years of Mothering

Photo by Rachel Aardsma. January, 2010.


Several years ago one of my nieces contacted me, to ask if I would be willing to mentor her through her first pregnancy and beyond. I was thrilled that she would ask and over the next few months an e-mail mentoring relationship developed. Here is the 2009 correspondence. I hope that you will find it helpful--no matter where you are in the mothering journey.


2009 Correspondence

Hi Aunt Helen!

I was wondering if you would be willing to be a "long-distance mentor" regarding mothering. I am obviously going to be receiving counsel from my mother and grandmother, as well as the midwives who will deliver my baby but I'm drawn to the experience you have as well as the education you have actually pursued when it comes to mothering.

Naturally, this is something you should pray about first. I will not be insulted or angry if your response is a "no" of some sort for any reason.

I read your article about Titus, and the fact that God means for the older women to teach the younger women. I don't actually feel confident in any of the older women I know in my church (to be fair though, I don't know MANY) and when it comes to raising my child, I have almost a panic attack at the thought of getting counsel from anyone I don't trust. I realize I should pray about this and ask God to direct me to someone who will provide godly counsel--and no, I didn't actually pray about contacting you and asking you to be involved in my life in this way. But I thought of it a few weeks back when I was reading a book about breastfeeding and I found myself wondering, "I wonder what Aunt Helen would have to say about breastfeeding." I considered contacting you at that point but for some reason, I procrastinated. I asked my mom for your email address and she let me know about your website "The Mothers Companion", which is where I read the article about Titus and THAT propelled me to email you once and for all. So while I didn't specifically pray about asking you, I have felt pulled in your direction for the last couple of weeks.

I know there are a lot of good resources out there and Aubrey [a cousin] passed on a book to me that you had given to her about breastfeeding and that's all well and good and definitely desired. But I am specifically looking to you for personal mentoring, so please don't feel obligated to dig up 101 resources just because you don't feel you can offer mentorship for some reason. :) I know you likely have your hands full with The Mothers Companion, as well as with your daughters and granddaughters so I'm well prepared for the fact that you may not be mentally and/or emotionally and/or spiritually available. But I know there's no harm in asking. :)

Love,
Melissa

Dear Melissa,

I would be happy to mentor you! We could do it by e-mail.

Where would you like to begin?

Blessings,
Aunt Helen

Oh Aunt Helen! Thank you so much! :) I've been anticipating your reply and hoping, hoping that this would work.

Right now, for some reason, my area of curiosity has been breastfeeding--tips for soreness, how long you should do it, whether or not to have the baby in the bed with you...most of this, Matt [Melissa's husband] and I have talked about and I'll tell you what we've pretty much decided but a lot of it is just me going with "instincts" and I'd like to know the pros and cons from someone who has actually done it.

Matt read an article online about something called "the family bed"--basically, allowing the children to sleep with you up to a certain age (I didn't read the article so I'm not sure what the age limit was). It sounds very interesting and I think I'd like to do that but I don't know how long....and how do you plan intimacy around that?

I want to nurse for as long as the child wants to nurse but on the other hand, I feel like age 7 is a little old for nursing...maybe that's just me. So does the child naturally wean off at a certain age (the age varying from child to child, naturally) or is it a process that has to be initiated by the mother?

My midwife has said that cabbage leaves on the breast will soothe engorgement but not to use the leaves for more than 15 minutes three times a day because it can stop your milk production altogether. She advises limiting it to twice a day if you can.

I know I'm a long way off from breastfeeding--the baby isn't due until December 7--but nevertheless, it's the part of mothering that has me most riveted at the moment. :) So I guess we can start with that. And OF COURSE any tips, advice, wisdom, etc. that you have for preparing for labor and for having I healthy pregnancy. I know exercise is key and I'm also drinking red raspberry leaf tea (recommended by my midwife) twice a day--well, let me correct myself. SUPPOSED to be drinking it twice a day. Haven't gotten it into the routine yet though.

Thank you so much for being willing to be my mentor! I am so looking forward to this chapter of my life! (Which is amazing, because two years ago, I was petrified of it and thoroughly dreading it...God's timing is perfect.)

Love,
Melissa

Photo by Joey Contreras Jr.


Hello Melissa,

I am sending you some back issues of "The Mothers Companion" for you to read. Let me know when you have read them and then I will send you some more.

If you like, you can print these off and put them in a binder so you can read them when you are nursing, in bed or you can't get to a computer.

Hugs,
Aunt Helen

p> Dear Aunt Helen,

I've decided that I'm going to tackle this email with a lot of my questions, and if I don't get all the way through it, I'll just send what I have and finish the rest later. :) I'm tired of waiting for "a big chunk of free time". Matt and I are in the process of packing and moving and relaxing in between so I just need to take the chunks of time that I can.

I checked the online database of our library for the book, "The Family Bed" [written by Tine Thevenin] and they don't have it so I'll have to see if they can request it. I'm very interested in reading it. Almost everyone I've talked to--actually, make that everyone I've talked to except my mom--is skeptical when I tell them we're planning on trying the family bed. Right now, the only difficulty I see is that Matt and I have a queen bed and we won't be able to invest in a king size for some time. I think we'll be able to make do just fine though, and I'm a firm believer that God will supply the need *IF* it becomes a true need. He's already provided above and beyond what we truly need.

You said [via a phone conversation] you have written articles about sex after children that I will find helpful. I am definitely interested in reading anything you've written that you think I'll find helpful. :) I've already read two of the MC that you sent me. I especially liked the one where you talked about your homestead--I think you are right that we have an idealized view of what a homestead truly involves. I've mentioned to Matt that some day, I would love to visit you guys for a week and participate FULLY in "homesteading" (if you would have us, of course!) so that we can get an idea of what it's like because it's something we're aiming for. Right now the biggest obstacle is getting out of debt. The next thing after that will be saving a chunk of money. And actually, that reminds me that I'd wanted to ask you how you and Uncle Gerry (does he spell it with a "g" or a "j"?) got your homestead started. Was he just blessed enough to have a job that works around it? Matt and I have visions of being the little house on the prairie someday. We crave the simple life. (Or we think we do anyway...)

Regarding the cabbage leaves for engorgement, this is only done when the milk first comes in and your body is still regulating its flow. I think a friend of mine, Katy, only had to use the cabbage leaves for one day. It's really just to alleviate the pain so if you can stand the pain, they say it's ideal to just let your body regulate. I am planning on nursing on demand. I have a friend that is pumping occasionally so that she can get her baby used to a bottle in order to enable herself to go out from time to time and be able to leave the baby with her mom or something. I don't think that's necessarily WRONG of her but my whole being rebels against the idea. It just doesn't seem right. And Matt had a good point--Eve couldn't pump! :) So I will definitely be nursing "on demand" and for as long as the baby needs to. I'm sure this will require extra selflessness on my part--i hear mothers of six month olds saying they're "looking forward to weaning" and I recognize that as a selfish desire and one that I will more than likely suffer from. :( But Lord willing, I will stay determined to do it the way I firmly believe He intends.

Speaking of Katy, really quick, I am going to share the copies of the MC with her and see if they speak to her like they do me. We are a little different in the way we want to raise our babies. It's hard sometimes because it's something I'm passionate about so when we disagree, it's all I can do to not be "NO! YOU'RE DOING IT ALL WRONG!" *laugh* God is a God of diversity so I know He can work through parents regardless of whether or not they're doing it the "right way" and I'm sure I won't be doing everything the "right way" either (even though I'll think I am...)

We are planning on having the baby at The Birth Cottage. (Go to http://birthcottage.com if you'd like to see pictures of their facilities.) I'm very excited -- they do water births, which has been highly recommended to me by my friends Joelle and Katy. It minimizes the pain and makes an easier transition for the baby. Actually, I'm curious what your thoughts are on water birthing...I don't know how much you know about it. Anyway, our birth will be attended by midwives. They don't do any fetal monitoring or anything -- you're pretty much on your own unless you're having complications. I like that. They treat it as what it is: a natural bodily process that God created, as opposed to how a lot of doctors treat it -- like it's a "medical condition".

I'm taking MORE than 1000mg of calcium a day currently! I think I probably get about 2000mg average a day. Sometimes more, sometimes less. And of course, whatever is in my prenatal vitamin. The brand of vitamin that I'm taking is "Rainbow"...it's supposed to be specially formulated so that more of it is taken in by your body. I went through three different prenatal vitamins prescribed by my ob-gyn before the midwives recommended this one to me. The ones my ob-gyn prescribed all gave me really bad diarrhea. It was VERY unpleasant. I've had NO problems with the vitamin I'm on now. But boy, they taste HORRIBLE and they're HUGE! :)

I definitely need to cut down on how much I eat for dinner and I'm not getting enough fruits and vegetables. :( I need to work on those things. I'm not eating BADLY -- I'm just not eating enough of certain food groups. (Which IS eating badly, I guess. I only meant I'm not existing on macaroni and cheese and ice cream or anything. *smile*)

Matt and I have been walking probably about every other day. Working up to every day. I was not exercising regularly before I got pregnant and actually led a fairly sedentary lifestyle. Katy and I are hoping to "mall walk" together. The local mall opens its doors an hour earlier than all the stores so people can walk around it. It'll be the perfect way to get me walking in the dead of winter. :)

<

It's funny that you said to ask "What would Eve do?" That's a rant I've gone on a couple of times with my mom when it comes to certain mothering practices and what-not. I'm amazed at the things people think they HAVE to do for their child that wouldn't have even been an OPTION back in Eve's day!!! Especially doctors -- i feel like they should know better. They rely entirely too heavily on inducements, c-sections, and "fetal monitoring". I understand the good intentions behind it and I'm not anti-medicine. But like I said, I think some doctors (if not most) rely on all of that a bit too heavily.

One of the things I wanted to ask you about actually has to do with raising your CHILDREN as opposed to little babies. :) I wanted to know two things. a.) How did you and your husband educate your children on sex and how did you know WHEN? Do you wait for them to ask? b.) How did you guard their purity and help them to understand the sacredness and seriousness of saving oneself until marriage?

This is one area that I think my parents may have failed us children in. I am not AT ALL holding my parents responsible for the choices I've made throughout life BUT I do hold them responsible for not pounding it into my head somehow just how sacred and special sex really is. I did not grow up with a proper respect for it. If anything, I grew up too naive and almost scared of sex (as in, "Ooo, don't talk about sex, that's bad" kind of mentality). Please don't judge my parents for this -- I know that all parents have failings in one area or another. But I do recognize that this is one area they lacked in and because of that, I am completely clueless as to how to teach my children appropriate respect. I have thought that maybe one thing my parents should have done differently was talk about it more. But when I think about it, I don't really know how that could be implemented. I just think there should've been more than just "the talk". I also wonder whether it would be prudent for the children to be aware of a relationship like that between their parents or if it should be kept as private as possible. Anyway, I could go on and on about all of the things I "wonder". I know that you have successfully raised all of your children to stay pure until marriage and it is a very sad but true fact that your family is one of very, very few left in the Christian world today that HAS been successful. So many parents try to teach their children to abstain and SO VERY many Christian kids are getting sexually involved anyway. It's an epidemic of sorts. I can tell you that I know and believe FOR SURE that our society's way of "dating" is NOT conducive to maintaining purity until marriage so if you're going to tell me that I shouldn't let my kids date at all, I won't be surprised. :)

I know this is a multi-faceted issue and it won't be as simple as "just lock your kids in a box until they get married." :) I'm looking forward to anything you have to say on the subject. I don't mind if you refer me to anyone else you know who has also successfully raised their children to maintain purity. Like I said, it's hard to find "survivors" in today's society...

Okay, well, I actually got through all of that and finished it!! I'm going to read the other two MC's and I'll let you know if I have any questions.

Thank you again, so much, for your willingness to mentor me! Your patience with my response time is also GREATLY appreciated. It's nice to not feel pressured to get back right away, especially lately, with all the moving stuff going on. We're actually doing the move this weekend and in my mind, once that is over, we will be on the other side of the hill and it'll be downhill from there. :)

I hope your days are filled with joy and blessings!

Love,
Melissa

Dear Melissa,

I am going to reply to this in bits and pieces.

Don't worry about sending a long e-mail and feeling overwhelmed. Why don't you write your questions down on a list when you think of them. Send me one question at a time. When I answer that, send me another one.

Some folks use a twin bed pulled up beside a queen to make an extension. We always put baby between us, for safety, as in the baby falling off the bed. It is an adjustment using the family bed. Twin matresses and bed can easily be picked up at garage sales. The problem is the master bedroom becomes one big bed. We did just that and didn't have anything else but a small nightstand in the room. It works. Try buying the family bed book on abebooks.com. or ask the library for inter-library loan.

Either way is fine: Gerry or Jerry. Gerald works at home and was able to supervise our then teenage boys. We bought a fixer-upper in C.A. and then renovated it, sold it, and made some money. We moved here where land is cheap and bought this place with cash. Living is fine until the children get to be school age. By then it is nice to get away from the city kids and live outside in the country so that your children have meaningful work and stay away from the negative influences. Start the simple life now. Stay out of the malls, buy everything second hand, no credit cards, get out of debt, absolutely!!! Honor God and He will supply your needs. Think of every way possible to save money. It usually isn't how much you make, but how much you don't spend. Tithe!!!! You will be amazed how God will supply when you put Him first. Think of doing private home day care--a great way to be home and yet bring in money. I did it for many, many years.

Yes, good mothering requires a lot of sacrifice and giving of yourself. It will be the hardest work you will ever do, but the greatest joy you have ever known! If you nurse on demand and let the baby nurse from the time it is born you won't get engorged. Don't let anyone tell you to nurse the baby every 3-4 hours, or you will get full. You are very fair, usually fair and redheads have the worse trouble with sore nipples. It is very painful. Read La Lache League materials on how to prepare your breasts ahead of time.I doubt Eve used cabbage leaves, but maybe she did?!

Did Eve have a water birth? I don't think so. I think God knows what He is doing by letting it happen the way He planned it. No water, etc. That is just my opinion. I don't think it minimizes the pain, other than letting the mother relax more. Nice soothing baths in labor are great though!

Break the vitamin in half! Gerald chews his with bread. I find that gross, but it works for him!

Walking as husband and wife is great. We used to take our strollers and go. It is great talking time and getting exercise at the same time.

Yes, intervention breeds complications. When you need it it is wonderful to have it there, but don't use it unless you need it.

Sex education is a huge topic. I could write a book on it. It all comes naturally. Having farm aniamls helps as they see it happening and naturally ask about it. Kids naturally wonder about it around 5 or 6 and ask questions. Usually parents give more info at that time. Just answer their basic questions without too much detail. When they get older, reading the Bible through gives plenty of opportunity. Just talk about the passages frankly and just be natural about it. A lot of parents fail here by avoiding the topic.

Keep your girls locked up until they are sane enough to know what they are doing, around age 18 or so. I'm more or less serious here. We don't let our kids out of our sight much until they are past the crazy adolescent stage. Keep them home and busy, keep them away from crazy friends. They don't need those influences. The boys we are a little more free with, but we are still pretty strict up until age 18. If they break our trust, lock down for a long time. That has never happened to us yet. I guess they knew we meant it! Keeping kids busy on the farm, reading, having fun together as a family seemed to keep our kids happy. There was always someone to play with right here at home. We have always emphasized the sacredness of sex and that you can only give your virginity away once and that it is a special gift. We also watched our young couples very closely and were very strict about having others with them, etc. Theyt didn't like it, but they are glad now! :) The couples spend most of their time here with us until they were off to colleg and then they were pretty much on their own and we are no longer responsible. We also don't have TV where the kids learn all about sex on the first date, etc. That this is cool and normal. We limit videos and they are all pre-screened by me. Basically you are watching the influences like a hawk! Mothering is a full, full time job as you can see. She is the gatekeeper watching what comes in the house and what and who goes out!

Yes, it is an epidemic in the church as well. I don't blame the kids, I do blame the parents because it is their job to protect the kids. I'm afraid public school is a terrible influence, and so are many youth groups today. There just aren't very many people you can trust. I'd rather not risk it, so I'm very protective. After 16 we lighten up some (not much), after 18 more and then when they leave home, well that is our job done. They are then responsible to God not us. We have our older kids do things together, so they can "tattle" on each other, and/or protect each other. Never let them do anything alone. Hard to make love to a guy when your brother is there! :)

I don't think dating is bad, it is how you date that matters. Dating has worked just fine for many years for us. Dating is serious business and one that is designed to look for a marriage partner; not just a game you play. The reason girls used to be pure was because the father was there with a shotgun! :) No man was taking his daughter until he walked her down the aisle. Want sex? Get married. If the person just wants sex, that is not the man for your daughter. If he really loves her he will want to wait for her. Men have always wanted sex before marriage, but back in the old days, rarely could he get it! Now he gets all he wants, and he could care less to get married! He has no motivation. Once the guys get bored or she gets pregnant he moves on and she is heart-broken and feels like her life is ruined. This is not women's liberation! It is more like a man's world now than ever before. Women are treated as sex objects and then are thrown aside. Hollywood has done lots to hurt women. They make it look like it is all wonderful and beautiful, but the truth is, women want comittment and solid homes, not one man after another.

Since God gave kids parents to care for them, He figures they have the wisdom to protect their immature children from making foolish mistakes. The kids will often say, "Don't you trust me, Mom?" The truth is we wouldn't trust ourselves in the back seat of a car on a dark night with a handsome man! Of course we don't them! Not that teenagers are bad, they are just normal. Sex drive is normal and good, but not in the back seat of a car. God made the sex drive and having the interest and the need is normal and good, but God set rules to the passion. Why play with fire we can't control? This is the kind of teaching we have given our kids.

It is hard to find quality kids for our kids to marry. But God has been faithful. Going to a good conservative college has helped them find mates. Pray hard!!!

This is a huge topic and if you have a close relationship with your kids, and if you are teaching them daily from the the Bible, it will all come up naturally. Take the time to teach them. It isn't unusual for us to have 30-45 minutes of devotions when we get into these topics. The kids don't say much, but they sure are listening! :) The Bible is really all you need to teach and expand on.

All parents make mistakes and you will too. God knows and sees our hearts and He will make up for what we cannot do, if our hearts are completely His and we seek His kingdom. Teach your children to honor and respect you as the Bible commands, so that when they grow up and see your mistakes, they will have learned that if "they want it to be well with them and live long on the earth" they need to honor their parents in words and deeds.

You both are going to make wonderful parents! Keep learning and asking questions. Pray for wisdom and guidance to make the right choices.

Love,
Aunt Helen

Photo by Joey Contreras Jr.


Dear Aunt Helen,

I like your idea of writing down a list of questions and sending one at a time. :) Easier on both of us!

I'm not at all trying to be argumentative so if there's another way I should've said this, please tell me. You said you don't think Eve had a water birth. I've actually thought about that already and certainly, there's no biblical evidence that I know of (because I didn't exactly do an exhaustive search *smile*) that she had water births, however, they did have hot springs even back then, from out of the earth. I've wondered if she and Adam made use of them the way we make use of jacuzzis and if maybe they also used them for bathing. Unless God said something before her first birth, I would doubt that her VERY first birth was a water birth, but I can't help but wonder if she might have discovered with later births that it was easier in a hot spring. Of course, it's all supposition. but it's fun to wonder! :)

I'm not feeling the Holy Spirit leading me away from a water birth, at this point, but I do think I will do a bit more research on the history and the benefits, as well as possible complications. I'm open to His leading. Because I DO trust that He knows best...

Please pray for Matt and I regarding tithing. It's an area of tension with us -- we don't see eye to eye. I am trying to be submissive in this area (and I think I have been successful so far) but I fear that we are missing out on many blessings.

I hope you have a joy-filled day! :)

Love,
Melissa

Dear Aunt Helen,

I have a few more questions for you! When did you start feeding your little ones real good and what did you start with? I also wanted to ask you about immunizations and whether or not you have any thoughts on those. Right now, I'm kind of leaning AGAINST immunizations...

Thank you so much for the MC's to read! I did finish the other ones you sent a while back so I'm glad i have more to read now.

Thank you for praying for me as my due date gets closer!!! I'm definitely more excited than nervous but when I'm really tired or I'm having trouble sleeping, I get anxious. I really hope I will be well-rested when she decides to come!

Love,
Melissa

Dear Melissa,

I nursed exclusively for about 18 months. No bottles, no pacifiers, no baby foods. Around 18 months they start to want to eat what we eat, and nibble, taste, and mainly spit out! By 2 they are eating some, but still getting 90% of their food from my milk. By 3 they are getting 90% of the their food from the table and nurse usually just a little at night and wean naturally sometime between 3 and 4. I have written about this in my newsletters. Keep reading them and I will send you more to read so you can find these topics.

I immunize after age 2 starting one shot at a time. Typically, they start at 3 months and do 3 at a time. I spaced the shots out about once every 3 months over a period of several years to get all the shots in. I don't do any that aren't mandatory. I have done tons of research on this topic. No time for details here! This is tricky because you can get the social services involved if you don't get immunizations. I always tell the clinic that I delay shots because of a family history of severe reactions to shots. (This scares them because they are worried about being sued!) Which is true in my case. You could say that you have relatives who have had severe reactions to the shots and that you were advised to delay the shots as long as possible and to do only one shot at a time. They want to know that you will eventually do teh shots and then they leave you alone. You always have to balance the social services taking your children away versus complying with the law. The way I did it worked fine for us. I always was pleasant and nice and agreeable, so they don't think it is you agianst them. You want to make friends in the medical community not enemies, so that if trouble comes up they are on your side. They want to know that you are a caring and loving parent and that you aren't some abuser or religious nut, if you know what I mean!

Anxiety is normal. It goes away when you get closer and once you are in labor. You deal with it and do the work required. Have you gone to prenatal classes? Highly recommended!

Once you have the baby and have questions needing help right away, do call me. Breastfeeding is a challenge the first week or so, and then it is clear sailing from there.

Keep me posted and let us know when you are in labor so that we can pray!!!!!

Love,
Aunt Helen

Dear Aunt Helen,

Thank you Aunt Helen! It's funny -- breast feeding will probably be the thing I struggle with the most because it's the thing I'm least worried about! :-D

We DID take birthing classes -- I meant to tell you that and it slipped my mind. They were really good classes! Definitely helped to allay some of my anxiety. (It helped that she showed videos of lots of natural childbirths in homes -- the moms aren't freaking out and screaming like Hollywood likes to portray and I learned that the WHOLE thing is not excruciating pain. Actually, I learned a lot...)

I like what you said about immunizations! Part of me wasn't keen on forgoing them all together but a lot of me was ESPECIALLY not keen on vaccinating a little baby with a myriad of shots. Matt and I will have to look into what's out there, what's required, and figure out a timeline for our baby.

Does the anxiety really go away as I get closer?? I can only imagine it getting worse! As with other things that I have ZERO experience with, I will take your word for it! :)

If babies can go so long without real food, why are people starting them at six months?? (you may have covered that in TMC. if you did, don't worry about answering it. I'll get to it eventually. *smile*)

Love,
Melissa

Dear Melissa,

Good! There is pain, but you can handle it. Take one contraction at a time.

People give "baby food" because:
1. They want to be able to get away from baby, ultimately.
2. They think the baby will sleep better at night.
3. They think the baby isn't getting enough food.
4. They think the baby wants it ("He grabs for my spoon all the time"; yes, he also grabs the dog's tail!)

The mom likes to convince herself of the above things because she wants to give the baby food to break the dependency on herself. Remember that as soon as any other food enters the baby's mouth, the weaning process, technically, has begun.

Remember Eve. Also, real food for babies is breast milk!!! :) Do things God's way and you will reap all the benefits God intended, many of which we know nothing about. Just trust that God knows better than we humans do.

Love,
Aunt Helen

Dear Aunt Helen,

I like what you said about breastfeeding. I didn't know you could go 18 months. Neither did my friend Katy. It's really sad -- apparently, she was recently told by someone that she's starving her baby because she's waiting until she's SIX MONTHS before giving her real food!!!

Melissa

Dear Melissa,

My breastfed babies were so fat and chubby that people said that I needed to put them on a diet! :) We're talking nursing on demand here, of course, day and night, don't forget.

Do let us know about labor. Most first babies are very slow so I think you'll have time....if you don't, consider yourself very blessed. (Most first babies take about 24 hours from start to finish with it being hard about the last 2-3. So prepare yourself.)

Are you birthing at home?

Love,
Aunt Helen

Dear Aunt Helen,

Not birthing at home with this one, although we had considered it and as we get closer, I sort of wish we'd thought about it more but I think ultimately, it just wasn't possible for me to be comfortable with that decision so early in my pregnancy. I'm FAIRLY certain that from here on out, I will be having them at home. Oh, and we're not having the baby in a hospital -- we're having it at The Birth Cottage and it's the next best thing to having her at home. They have a nice bedroom setting and the capabilities to handle the "normal" emergencies and for anything outside of that, they call the ambulance right down the street. :)

After all the reading I've done, I now realize that babies don't just start coming down the birth canal! :-D So if I go into labor while I'm at Wal-Mart, I'm not going to panic.

Love,
Melissa

Photo by Joey Contreras Jr.


Aunt Helen,

Well we are on our way to the birth cottage and we'll update you when we have more to tell!

Love,
Matt

Dear Aunt Helen,

Linda graced the world with her presence at 5:48 on 9 December 2007. She came out at a weight of 8 pounds 11 ounces, a length of 20 inches. 100% natural. No drugs, no doctors, pure will. Mother and child are doing extremely well. It was amazing. Melissa will be emailing and answering questions in a few days.

Matt

Dear Ones,

We are so very excited to hear this wonderful news!

We are so PROUD of you both. You have done very well for a first time birth. God has been gracious to all THREE of you.

Isn't the miracle of birth the most FANTASTIC thing in the world?!!!!

Do call me or e-mail me if you have any questions whatsoever. There is no such thing as a dumb question. I am happy to be available by phone if you want an answer right away. Please do not hesitate.

Again we rejoice with you today. Thanks for the labor e-mail. We were praying our heads off over here!

God is so good.

We love you, all three!

Hugs and kisses,
Aunt Helen and the rest of the gang!

Hi Aunt Helen!

I'm only on for a second to ask you a quick question. I can check my email from my phone but I have to write back from the computer...

Having some problems getting a good latch. Going to put in a call to our local La Leche League consultant today but I wanted to get your input too. Linda is definitely getting enough milk (midwife weighed her yesterday to make sure and she is pooping regularly) but my nipples are very tender and while she has good form (duck lips, no dimpling cheeks, etc.), it appears she's not getting enough of my nipple in her mouth and the suction is creating a burning sensation sometimes and a dull ache other times. She's also making a clicking sound which the midwife said shouldn't be happening. My mom said she always had a clicking sound when she nursed but there's no way of knowing if it was the same thing...when my nipple comes out of Linda's mouth, it's not round -- it's got a slant on one side, and the midwife said it shouldn't be like that. It should be coming out of her mouth round. I have had ONE latch like that the entire time I've been feeding her.

Kind of at a loss as to what to try. We've done all the standard tricks -- rubbing the nipple across her bottom lip to get her to open wide (which she also seems to have a hard time doing -- at least wide enough), stuffing the nipple into her mouth as she sucking, etc. Midwife also checked to make sure her tongue is fine and it is. So....any ideas/suggestions? Please pray for me in this; i don't know why but i've always struggled with high levels of anxiety when something involving my body isn't working right ( i.e. having a bladder infection or something -- if i know that it's not the way it's supposed to be, I get very anxious and concerned. I'm trying VERY hard to surrender it to God -- went so far as to write about it in my prayer journal today).

I've thought about calling you several times and I'm sure I eventually will. I've just been so tired. :) No surprise I'm sure. Going to go rest some more now. Thank you so much for your help and encouragement. :)

Love,
Melissa

Hi Melissa,

I think that as long as the baby is nursing fine and happy, and you aren't in excruciating pain, and don't have cracked and bleeding nipples, I wouldn't worry so much about it. RELAX!!!!!! That is what is really important at this stage.

I wouldn't analyze the shape of the nipple, etc. My always were very flat and squished after nursing. RELAX!!!!

Just keep working at it, but don't be so anxious. Nipples do get VERY tender, usually making one cry the first time around when nursing. Some scream out in pain, etc. You are a redhead, redheads usually have it the worst, but if you say you have tender nipples, then I don't think you have the screaming kind of pain. :) You can be grateful!!!!!

It hurts the worst when they first latch on. Try your best to get the nipple really stuffed in there and then just let her nurse. Once the milk lets down and more milk is released, the engorgement isn't so bad, and then the pain decreases.

Don't get too full, she should be nursing about every hour to 2 hours, usually no longer than that.

Plenty of my babies made the clicking sound and it never hurt either of us! :) I have heard plenty of clicking in my life as other mothers nursed their babies around me. RELAX!!!!!! This is pretty common.

Getting a good latch is the number one problem for new moms. This is normal. You are NORMAL. RELAX!!!!

Here is a wonderful link with video how to's regarding getting a good latch. From what I have seen, I highly recommend this!!! http://www.thebirthden.com/Newman.html

Most of all, just hang in and RELAX, do some nice relaxing breathing when you first start to nurse. Do get help with an extra pair of hands when she is ready to nurse. You really need 4 hands to get started sometimes! :)

Remember also, this too shall pass. In two weeks you will be an old pro. This is the learning that takes place for both mom and baby. It is perfectly normal.

I think you are doing remarkably well for a first time mom. I am so very very proud of you. Keep it up! Try to rest when baby is resting if you are tired. And you should be tired! Mothering is the most exhausting work in the world.....and all for no pay, just for love! :)

I love you!

Do call anytime, day or night! It is hard to me to "see" what is happening over the phone, so I don't know if I can help much with the latching thing, but I can try.

Aunt Helen

Hi Aunt Helen!

Thank you for getting back to me so quickly -- I was anxiously waiting. and you made it pretty clear that I should stop being anxious and RELAX! :-D So I will try to wait for a response a little more relaxed-ly this time. (Yes, I know that's not really a word. I make up words all the time...)

Okay I am going to try to keep this brief.

My nipples are slightly cracked, actually. I noticed some bleeding today and two days ago, I even had a blood blister on one for a little while. I know that this is because she's not pulling in the nipple far enough but I got some good tips from the La Leche lady. There were some things I was doing wrong, such as posture. I'm confident that over the next week, we will improve together. :)

It was incredibly heartening to hear you say that 1.) your babies clicked and 2.) your nipples came out squished. The La Leche lady said that a nipple shaped like "a new lipstick" is indicative of a less-than-ideal latch but it's nice to know that if I can't figure out how to remedy that problem, I can still count on the pain eventually going away. That's really all I care about: the pain going away and Linda getting enough milk.

Right now, she is going anywhere from two hours to three hours between feedings. Yesterday, it was almost two hours exactly between each feeding but I started feeding her on both breasts at each feeding (I didn't know you were supposed to wake them, burp them, and latch them onto the other breast when they finished on one. I thought you were just supposed to leave them sleeping.) and ever since I started doing that, she sleeps longer between feedings. I'm assuming that means she's getting plenty and that the reason she was going two hours between previously is because she was getting less at each feeding than she is now...I feel like, if she's not waking up hungry, then she must be getting enough? Is that faulty thinking? The LLL website does say that if she's not feeding at least 8 to 12 times in 24 hours, she should be woken up. So far, she's eating about 9 to 10 times a day...but you said that usually no more than two hours between feedings so I want to make sure that I shouldn't be waking her up if she's going three hours instead. And my breasts aren't rock hard when I go to nurse her so I don't think I'm getting too full in between feedings...

Okay that was not brief. *laugh*

Thank you for the repetitive "relax!" -- I think it actually started to sink in by the end of the email. :) The biggest discouragement through this whole thing has been that breastfeeding was something I had REALLY been looking forward to when I was pregnant and I was NOT expecting it to be difficult at all. It seems so technical and specific that it's overwhelming and of course, it's painful right now so it's barely enjoyable. Talking to the LLL lady and reading your email has helped considerably though. I think the key is that I need to be patient. I have always had a really hard time with anything involving "process" -- I hate going from A to B to C to D -- I want to go from A to D and I get discouraged when I find myself at B or C instead of D. So that's going to be the toughest part when practicing latches with Linda -- knowing when to settle for a halfway decent latch rather than spend an hour trying to get "the perfect" latch...it's tough.

I love you too! Your encouragement and support is absolutely priceless. I am so very thankful that I have you for an aunt! And praise God that you had so many kids! :)

Love,
Melissa

Photo by Joey Contreras Jr.


Dear Melissa,

This will be the absolute most difficult time with breastfeeding. You will be amazed. Each day gets easier. And in two weeks you will be a pro and you will reap for several years all the tears you have sown.
Nothing comes without sacrifice. Mothering is the hardest work you will ever do! Don't quit now, the worst is almost over. Breastfeeding really is wonderful believe me, but you won't feel that way for a few more days or a week or so. Hang in there.

That is the right attitude! Don't be so worried about perfection. That will come with time. As long as baby is happy, even if you suffer a little pain, that will be ok. It will get better.

You are learning, so be patient with yourself.

Your body will tell you when it is time. I always got nervous if my babies slept more than two hours (except at night, then I didn't notice as much!). My milk would keep letting down and leaking, so I just got the baby to take care of it. I think that is God's plan. Also keep baby nearby and when baby stirs, feed her. This keeps her from getting so upset and hungry that she can't latch on. Having her latch on half asleep helps keep her and you relaxed.

Yes, I find that hard to understand myself, why God made this so hard. You get the feeling that this is natural, no problem! But it is a learning experience like anything else. And even the baby has to learn but it is more the mom that has to learn. Breastfeeding is an art, and one that must be learned through experience.

God is teaching you lessons from real life experience. Don't buckle. Just learn and watch yourself grow and blossom from a little girl to a young woman, one more patient, more lovely, more like Christy.

It is through these experiences in life that we learn and grow. Suffering is what spurs us on to greater growth.

Yes, and I see you growing by leaps and bounds already as you serve and minister and give to helpless little baby. Jesus is well pleased, dear niece! I knew that you were going to be a wonderful mother because your desire is to be the best you can be for your baby. Keep it up!

Thank you. Nice to be appreciated! My jow and passion is to minister to young women just like yourself. (Titus 2 says the older women are to teach the younger, not be out on the golf course or taking ceramics classes!)

I am just the clay pot, God is the potter.

No need to respond unless you need me. I'm responding quickly because I want to be there for you in your point of need, not be a pest to you.

Make sure you keep taking your prenatal vitamins for a while. I find extra (b's complex) help with stress. I find if I take two, I can feel the difference in a few minutes. And sleep when baby sleeps if you are tired. You can cope so much better if you are rested.

Those who sow in tears shall reap with joy.

Lovingly,
Aunt Helen

Hi Aunt Helen!

You were right! No that I doubted you would be, but it's nice to be told you were right, isn't it? :) It's two weeks today and breastfeeding is going MUCH better! My nipples are no longer sore. She still needs a better latch on my right breast but we're pros at my left! :) I just got done treating a yeast infection on Friday--it's gone now, as far as I can tell, but my breasts are itchy. I'm wondering if itchy breasts are a normal part of getting used to breastfeeding or if I might have spread the yeast to my breasts. Has that ever happened to you? What did you do? So far, Linda has no sign of yeast in her mouth...for the time being. Starting tomorrow, I'm going to eat yogurt with every meal so that if the yeast did spread to my breasts, I can hopefully put everything back in balance without having to see a doctor. But I was curious what your thougts/experience might be...thank you for listening! :) Er, reading, I mean. :)

Love,
Melissa

P.S. Something I hadn't considered that Matt pointed out is that the itchiness could be due to dry skin! I didn't even think of that. So I tried lotion on my breasts and lanolin on my nipples and I'm waiting to see if there's improvement...

Dear Melissa,

Yes, I do remember the itching breasts. Part of healing. I swear by A & D ointment. I use it for everything from dry lips to dry breasts. It is mainly lanolin but has the healing of the A & D vitamins. You can find it in the diaper ointment sections of any store. It is the only thing that works for diaper rash in my humble opinion. Yes, eating yogurt daily is a wonderful idea.

I always nursed better on one side than the other. That is very common if not the norm. And I always favored that one side and so had a rather lopsided look at times, :) as I would produce more milk on that side. No worries, just do what works at this stage. When you become a professional in a few weeks, you can balance things out if you want too, but if you don't want to, then don't. :)

Must run. Merry Christmas! The only thing I want or need for Christmas if JESUS!

Hugs and much love,
Helen

P.S. You've got a great man there....yes, that is probably the case. A & D!!!!

Dear Aunt Helen,

Yes, he IS a great man. :) We had one question about the A&D ointment -- is there a specific kind you get? The stuff Matt found at the grocery store had a warning label on it about not swallowing it or ingesting it. He's concerned that if I'm putting it on my breasts, it could be harmful to the baby...in the meantime, I'm just putting olive oil on my breasts. It's helped some. I think some of the itching is from healing, like you said. Thank you again for your help! :) I hope you had a lovely Christmas!

Love,
Melissa

Dear Melissa,

I use the real brand A & D by Schering-Plough HealthCare Products Inc. White plastic tube with brown and yellow on it. No substitutes. Olive oil works too and is cheaper but harder to carry around in your purse! :)

We had a grand Christmas. Best ever!

Hugs,
Aunt Helen

Hi Melissa,

Regarding your question over the phone about car seats and baby crying: Gerald said to be sure to point out that it is the law that baby stays in car seat. I don't want to encourage you to break any laws. I have taken baby out from time to time myself, but tried not to do it unless I absolutely had to.

Love,
Aunt Helen

Dear Aunt Helen,

Okay, thanks for letting me know. I'm fairly certain that Matt wouldn't let me take baby out of car seat anyway, considering he wouldn't let me take my seat belt off yesterday. :)

Love,
Melissa

Dear Aunt Helen,

Baby is having problems staying asleep. She sleeps solid for one three hour chunk at night and one three hour chunk during the day and then the rest of the day (if she's not nursing) she's restless and fussy, sleeping five minutes at a time. No matter what I do, she won't stay asleep. I've tried nursing her to sleep, (sitting in the rocking chair and in bed) and as soon as she comes off the breast and I put her down, or move away in bed, within five minutes she's stirring and fussing again. If I let her go, she doesn't wind down. She ramps up gradually until I finally nurse her again. And the cycle repeats. I've even tried keeping my breast near her face (when I'm side nursing) and she might sleep a bit longer but inevitably, she still wakes up. I've also tried rocking her, singing and rocking her, and patting her on the back -- she will fall asleep but when any of those activities stop, she is stirring within a few minutes. I've even rocked her and patted her for twenty straight minutes, thinking that maybe I wasn't giving her enough time to get into a deep sleep. No difference.

Sunday, we'll be at the three week mark -- is this normal behavior in a baby who's going through or about to go through a growth spurt?

Matt suggested that she's overstimulated. His parents have been visiting this week and naturally, they're holding her every chance they get. (Which I certainly haven't minded!) When she's awake, they talk to her. Matt's dad gets a bit loud when he's "playing" with her which has kind of bothered me -- I think he's being too loud with her. At any rate, before they came to visit, she was sleeping in sets of three to four hours at night (from about 10pm to 7am) and then two to three hour chunks during the day. *IF* she was awake and alert during the day at all, she was quite content (and yes, without a pacifier). Since his parents have come to visit, in the last three days, she's only sleeping the two solid chunks and then the rest of her sleep in between nursings is restless and fitful. Her alert time is generally fussy, although she does have some bouts of contentedness when she's being held. But it's way less frequent.

I wasn't sure if this is normal for a growth spurt or if it's overstimulation because of the timing -- it could really be either. or maybe both?

Anyway, curious on your thoughts and also wondering if you have any tips for helping her stay asleep. I'm ragged by the time morning gets here. :( If this keeps up next week, I don't know WHAT I'm going to do, being home by myself all day, because right now, the only way I'm getting any sleep is because when everyone else is awake, they all take turns with her so I can get some sleep. (Bringing her in to me if she needs to eat or be pacified.) But even for them, holding her has become a full-time job because she's no longer sleeping well in between feedings. I really hope this is just a phase and she'll come out of it soon...anyway, I'll wait to see what you have to say. (And since you and I talked, no pacifiers -- could that be it, too? She's "weaning" off the pacifiers? We only used them for about four days...)

Love,
Melissa.

Photo by Joey Contreras Jr.


Dear Melissa,

It sounds to me that she is reacting to your stress of having company; that you are feeling overloaded and she picks up on it. Also, couple this with alot of strange noises, faces, smells with strangers. It is over stimulation and she is feeling it. I remember that my babies were very tuned into my level of stress. If I had company or was out of my normal routine in any way, they would sense it and become very fussy, not sleep much etc. This is perfectly normal and this too shall pass. Try to relax more if you can. Go lay down with the baby and have a nap. Try to not have so many people handling her. Do you have a sling? Keep her in it all day, even when she is sleeping until the company leaves and you feel things are settling down. You should be taking care of her primarily until this phase passes probably in a few days. It won't last.

I don't think the pacifier has anything to do with it. She just didn't have it that much to make a difference. She isn't addicted to it yet! :)

Yes, she could be going through the 3 week growth spurt and building up your milk supply to meet her growth needs. The more she nurses the more milk you make, so give it 24 - 36 hours and you will probably notice her settle considerably.

Sounds like a combination of factors. I know what you mean by the exhaustion factor. I always took naps as long as I had a nursing baby; so for almost 28 years I took a daily nap. It was the only way I could survive. Enjoy having one baby; you can nap whenever you want! :)

Take one day at a time; each day has enough trouble of its own. :)

Love you!

Aunt Helen

Dear Aunt Helen,

Linda has been awake for six hours. She only got five hours of sleep last night. I've nursed her several times and if she falls asleep, she wakes back up in just a few minutes even if she's swaddled. I put her in the sling and she slept for half an hour. Is this normal, if it's a growth spurt? We have a pediatrician appointment on Wednesday and if she's still doing this by then, I can ask them as well...

Love,
Melissa

Dear Melissa,

My babies slept a whole lot less that what most people think babies should sleep. You are still in a learning phase and so is baby. It usually takes about 6-8 weeks for everyone to adjust.

Sleep when she sleeps. I usually did not disturb my husband to help with the baby. It never worked and we would both lose sleep. Make sure Matt gets the sleep he needs so he can function at work. Do whatever works to get the sleep you all need. If that means moving someone to the couch temporarily, so be it. This too shall pass.

Most pediatricians won't be sympathetic and will suggest a bottle, pacifier, etc. or baby food to help the baby sleep. They are wrong. If you "complain" or appear to be at wit's end, they will strongly suggest you give her a bottle, she isn't getting enough, etc. so prepare yourself for their "advice" if you ask. If you can take their advice with a grain of salt, then why bother asking? They do not understand nor support attachment parenting.

If she crying as if in pain, or is she just not sleeping? Does she seem very unhappy when she is awake? Or is the whole problem that you are not getting the sleep you need because she is awake alot?

If she seems to be in pain, and crying all the time, does she seem to have a cold, stuffy nose, can't breath while nursing? If she seems to have a cold, this makes them very cranky and keeps them awake.

Are you on medicine of any kind? Did you say something about antibiotics for something? This can upset baby and keep them awake.

Do you drink coffee, coke or anything with caffeine? This acts as a stimulant to the baby as well. STAY AWAY from anything with caffeine, tea, chocolate, soda, etc. I can't stress this enough.

Do you still have company? Have you been staying home more? etc.

Love,
Aunt Helen

P. S. One other thing I thought of: I never changed my babies at night when they woke up. It made them wake up too much. I would put alot of a & D ointment, several diapers (I used cloth so would double or triple up). When they woke up, I tried to nurse them right away, they wouldn't be crying or anything hardly yet just starting to barely wake up. They would quickly go back to sleep nursing contently and when they were done I could easily keep cuddling them and go back to sleep myself. I would never leave the bed.

Dear Aunt Helen,

I rocked her to sleep in the rocking chair and she is sleeping now. However, if I put her down she wakes up. So I'm not getting any sleep even though she's sleeping. I want to make sure you know that I was not exaggerating -- she was literally awake for a straight six hours. I didn't mean she was awake for six hours with an occasional cat nap. I'm actually wondering if she's waking up every time I put her down because I haven't held her enough the last couple of days or something...

I don't bother Matt to help with the baby when he has to go to work the next morning. He helps on Saturdays and Sundays though. (Willingly --I don't push him to.)

If my pediatrician doesn't respect my methods of parenting, I'm going to switch pediatricians. (I won't be rude about it though.) And I won't be swayed by a pediatrician who is telling me to use a bottle or a pacifier...

I wouldn't say she's crying as though in pain. Just crying because she's unhappy. If I nurse her, she's fine. If I take her off the breast, she's fine for a little bit but then she starts crying again. It doesn't sound like the hurt cry though -- it really just sounds like, "hey I don't like this and I want something different."

I will have to check her nose. It doesn't seem stuffy...I need to get one of those things that sucks out the boogies too, because I don't have one. Unless there's another way to clear their noses...

I'm not on any medication and I definitely stay away from caffeine. :) I didn't have any caffeine my whole pregnancy either. and probably I won't for the rest of my life. The only thing I ever liked that has caffeine is Dr. Pepper. I love chai tea but it comes in decaf.

Matt's parents left Saturday morning and we have been staying home a lot more. I didn't even go to church yesterday. We were invited to a friend's house for New Year's Eve along with my parents tonight but I'm thinking we'll probably just stay home. I'm pretty wiped.

It's fine if this is all normal. I was/am concerned because I didn't think a newborn ever stayed awake for so long...as it is, she's been asleep for an hour on my chest and she's waking up again...I was used to her sleeping for two hours in between every feeding so this seems very out of the blue for her.

Like Matt said, no season lasts forever. Eventually she'll be sixteen and then I can get some sleep. ;)

Love,
Melissa

Dear Melissa,

I understand.

Sleep when she is sleeping. Do you have a lazy boy chair that you can lean back in and sleep while she sleeps, after you have nursed her and she is sleeping? Can you not just keep her in the sling and lay down and sleep with her there?

I'd be careful about saying much to others (like your mom or grandma, etc.) as they may not understand about this attachment parenting thing and think you are spoiling the baby and that it is your own fault that you aren't getting any sleep. So be wise about who you whine to! :)

You may have a hard time finding a pediatrician whom you can agree with. I use them for what I need and I figure what they don't know won't hurt them. You have to be pretty confident to go to one that will give you advice you don't agree with. I never brought my kids to the doctor unless they were sick and that was practically never! I took them for their shots (when they were older) to the local clinic that just gives shots. It is cheaper and quicker and you don't have to see a doctor at the same time. They love to get you to keep coming back to the doctor. They make good money that way. All those well baby visits, etc. I would recommend staying away from them unless you need them when baby is sick, for medicine, etc. Weighing baby and all that, who needs it and who needs the hassle of going all the time?

Good. That means she isn't sick with an ear infection or anything. She has a need and you must meet it by holding her.

You won't have to check to see if she is stuffed up. You will know because she can't breath and nurse at the same time. You want to try to avoid being around sick people this time of year, because colds can really make nursing difficult and that is not what you need right now. Another reason to stay away from the doctors! I never used those things on their noses. They can take care of it themselves and usually you can use your little finger to clean their noses out. But usually the body can take care of it. Remember Eve.

Good idea! Get the sleep you need. The last thing you need right now is more stress and a fussier baby to boot. People understand, and if they don't, who cares anyway! You'll never please everybody anyhow so learn to deal with it. It is all part of the sacrifice when you have a baby. This will pass and once things settle down more you can pick up your life a little bit but it will never be the same again!

There is no such thing as routine or normal with a baby! Each day is a new ride! :) Just enjoy the ride. She will let yo know what she needs.

Just remember that things will calm down and what is happening is perfectly normal for you and Linda.

Love,
Aunt Helen.

Photo by Joey Contreras Jr.


Hi Aunt Helen!

:) I had a quick question about co-sleeping because I think I might be doing it 'wrong'. Were your babies merely in the bed with you or did you snuggle up to them? She seems to sleep better snuggled up to my chest when I'm on my side but I don't sleep very well because I'm terrified I'll elbow her in the face or roll over on her as I move in my sleep! (I keep remembering the story of King Solomon and the two women, one of whom rolled over on her baby.) So I'm curious how close you slept to yours--and if you ever elbowed them in the face! :) Love, Melissa.

Hi,

I didn't necessarily snuggle up to them all the time, but I think early on I did. I had them in the crutch my arm and lay down on my side. They could definitely tell that I was there, by smells, etc. When they were ill or very fussy, they slept on my chest when I was kind of half rolled on my side. I'm not a back sleeper. I slept better if I could hear them breathing in my face!

I never suffocated my babies, or they never woke up screaming because they were being suffocated or elbowed. I did have one baby crawl forward and slip down between the wall and the bed. They woke up screaming and I couldn't find them! I had to drag them out by the feet! That was a harrowing experience, but didn't traumatize the child for life or anything. It may have for me though! :)

As they got older they slept beside me, with enough space for me to relax and sleep heavily. The first 3 months are the hardest in adjustment. Give yourself time. After three months you will all sleep better and be used to the baby in your bed.

Don't worry about rolling over on her. Trust your instincts. Believe me if you roll on her she will let you know. I believe I wrote on this in an article. The one woman in the OT who rolled on her baby was a prostitute, so she probably was drunk, on drugs, or whatever when she rolled on her baby so didn't react with normal instincts.

Dad's are different. They don't have the same instincts. I put a pillow between new baby and Dad, but once the child got older (after 6-9 months) we didn't need it there anymore. Baby always slept in the middle, to keep them from falling off the bed.

Hugs,
Helen

Dear Aunt Helen,

Thank you so much! That helped a lot. And so did the reminder that adjustment takes time. For some stupid reason, I keep forgetting that. :) Knowing about the old testament lady helps a lot too because part of me felt like surely God would give a mother those kind of instincts but then I remembered the OT woman. So that's good to know as well. And so is your story about baby falling!! :) That one made me chuckle.

Love,
Melissa

Dear Melissa,

Another point to consider is that in the OT example: the baby probably died of SIDS, and since all babies slept with their mothers back then, they didn't know what else to call it but death by "baby rolling". :)

You are loved! And you are a great mother and I'm so very proud of you!

Love,
Aunt Helen

Hi!

You are a good encourager, Aunt Helen. :)

What do you know about SIDS? I worry about that too, so every night before I fall asleep, I ask God to give Linda breath. It's the only way I can comfort myself and remind myself that He is the Giver of life.

Also, Matt wants me to ask you about keeping baby awake during the day to help her sleep longer at night. I told him I'm pretty sure I know what you'll say but he said it wouldn't hurt to ask. :) I think he's struggling a bit with this baby thing. I think he's also a little frustrated for my sake because he knows how I get if I'm too tired. Anyway, speaking of sleep, I'm going to lie down with baby for a bit. :)

Love you!
Melissa

Dear Melissa,

More babies die of SIDS that are not breastfed then those that are. Keeping baby close is the best thing to do. You will know right away if she has trouble breathing, and then picking her up and nursing her will help her. You must trust the Lord with Linda. This was hard for me as well. This is a perfectly normal fear. Jennifer and I have talked about this and so it refreshed my mind of my fears when I had babies. It is all part of your spiritual growth.

Yes, keep praying and asking and trusting.

Smart guy that Matt. Yes, there is something to what he says. I do remember Mark having his nights and days mixed up and sleeping all day and awake all night. Bathing her in the early evening, and waking her to nurse more frequently in the early evening, and not letting her sleep alot in the early evening. If she can be wakened, (changing diapers is good for this) and not let to sleep for the night to early on, and goes to sleep when you do, you have a better chance of a better nights sleep. This must be done carefully, so as not to overtire the baby and make her crankier. Do this in stages, a little more each evening. Believe me, before too long she will be awake all the time during the day, and you will wish she slept more! :)

All men struggle with this baby thing. It is hard for them to see their wives so tired and then cranky! :) They want to protect you, and feel like the baby is the enemy. That is why men think the "let them cry it out all night long" is a good thing because then their wives can get some sleep.

This grows with time, as he and you all mature together. Try not to whine too much even to Mike. Try to keep coping as best you can. Sleep when baby sleeps is the rule of thumb every day until things settle down. Do take care of Mike's needs (esp. sexual) as a man can cope with alot if his physical needs are met. A nice meal of his favorite foods can do wonders too! They usually don't care too much if the house is a mess but they do care about food and sex. I know it is hard when you are tired, but sex is more mental than physical. Three nights a week should be about normal for you young folks! :) When you get up in the morning the first thing you should think about is what is for dinner so that Mike can come home to a nice hot meal. That way he doesn't feel every single thing you do is just for the baby. So there is a balance here between "totally attachment parenting" and neglecting husband. I have known some that use it as an excuse to do anything for their husbands and this is wrong.

You are growing by leaps and bounds. Asking for help is the first step towards getting the answers! There is no such thing as a dumb question. Ask away.

I love you, sweetie!

Aunt Helen

Dear Aunt Helen,

Wow! I've been totally dying to get an update out to you and everyone!!! I've been dying to do a lot of things actually. Let's see, here's the list:
1. Fold laundry 2. DO laundry 3. Organize baby clothes 4. Return phone calls 5. Create and organize a "household binder" ( 6. Write back to friends and family 7. Resume Sible study 8. Put away Christmas decorations 9. Clean out fridge 10. Write back to my snail mail pen pals

I'm sure I could think of other things too, but those are the ones that keep nagging at me. The major hindrance has been difficulty "babywearing" -- the sling really hurts the left side of my back (and it's a pouch so I can't adjust it). Because of that, I spend a lot of time holding Linda which doesn't leave my hands free at all. So I'm only getting things done for the few times a day that Linda is happy on her own. My friend Katy is going to loan me her wrap -- I'm not sure what its official name is but it is MUCH better for back support. She's HOPEfully going to remember to drop it by tomorrow. With any luck, my List Of Ten will be completed this week! :) SOME of the items have nothing to do with babywearing -- just a matter of setting aside some time to accomplish them. Okay, that's enough of the capitalized words. I got awfully emphatic for a minute there...

The family is slowly adjusting to what I like to call "babyness". I feel like it's only in the last couple of days that I've truly been able to delight in my daughter. Up until that point, I was too frazzled trying to figure out how to take care of her and myself and my husband. The last TWO days, things have come to a bit of a head between Matt and I and things were a little strained. We talked a little bit last night and some more this morning and things should be smoothing out. HAVING A BABY IS HARD!!! :-D But it's definitely worth it. If you can remember to, please keep Matt and I in your prayers for the next few weeks. It's way too easy to slip back into What's Being Done For Me Mode rather than being in What Can I Do For You Mode. The relationship gets very strained when we start focusing on our own wants/needs instead of trying to find ways to serve each other. Thankfully, we're still visiting with our counselor so we have a safe place to take our issues. He's a wonderful listener and facilitator! We were doing SO well before Linda was born so the last two days were a bit of a blow. We're actually meeting with him on Wednesday so hopefully, if things aren't smoothing out like we think they will, we can talk about it a little more in depth with some help.

I feel like my email is a little bit disjointed, so please forgive me if you're feeling confused. :) I'm having a hard time organizing my thoughts and I'm just sort of spitting things out as I think of them. :-P I believe that's referred to as Mommy Brain. ;)

Linda is growing so quickly! She's very long, so we think she'll be tall like her daddy. Her hair was brown when she was born but it has lightened considerably and definitely has some red tones to it. Matt is hoping she has my hair. She smiled at us for the first time about three days ago but it's not a frequent occurrence just yet. We were told that babies mimic so we make sure to smile at her a lot. :)

Our Christmas was absolutely delightful! Matt's parents came to visit for the week of Christmas and it was such a blessing to be around so much family on Christmas Day, especially since my brother Mike and his wife Hope were unable to be here. Matt's parents were also incredibly helpful with the baby -- Matt and I got to spend some time together and I got to SLEEP. Man, I miss sleeping...those of you who know me well, know that sleep has always been HUGE for me. My mom actually suggested yesterday that I pursue the issue of always feeling tired (even before the baby was born) with a doctor. Matt and I are talking about it. In the meantime, I sleep when the baby sleeps as much as I can. And yesterday, Matt and I may have started a weekly ritual of going to my parents' house for Sunday naps. :) My parents have also been very helpful with the baby. It's a blessing that they live so close -- anytime we need a break, we just hop over to their house and we all take turns holding the baby. It's quite nice.

Love to all!
Melissa, for Matt and Linda

Dear Aunt Helen,

First question:
Baby gets fussy at the breast lately -- will pull off and make fussing noises then go for the breast again. Repeats several times. I'm assuming tummy trouble? Wondered what other possibly explanations there were.

Second question:
In an effort to find out why she might be fussy at the breast, I googled it and came up with this website: http://www.kellymom.com/bf/concerns/baby/fussy-while-nursing.html It has an article that says babies aren't bothered by what mom eats (under the caption "determining the problem") -- including cabbage, broccoli, and cauliflower even though a lot of people think otherwise. Is this true? What have you found with food sensitivity with your babies? I've been told by lots of people to stay away from broccoli, cauliflower, etc. because "it will make baby gassy" and so naturally I haven't even tried it. I had an egg roll one night (cabbage) and baby was up a lot of the night (this was the week of Christmas) and I assumed it was the cabbage. Now I'm wondering if it was the growth spurt episode...

Okay, there are my questions. :) I hope you're having a good day. :-D

Love,
Melissa

Hi sweetie!

Might be stuffy nose? Does she seem to be getting a cold, having trouble breathing while nursing, snorts and pulls off to breath? When babies get colds they have a hard time nursing.

Not tummy trouble, I don't think.

I strongly disagree with what kellymom is saying!!! Chocolate and brassica (broccoli family) gave my babies such stomach aches that they would be crying for hours. Watch out for junk stuff on the internet. Just because they have a website doesn't mean they know anything. La Leche League is VERY reliable. Caffeine always bothered my babies. (I'm a chocoholic!)

Hard to believe one egg roll would cause that much discomfort. Babies can be fussy for lots of reasons---hard to know sometimes. Basic questions: hungry? dirty diaper? sore bottom? upset tummy? teething? (that one is coming at around 6 months; diarrhea, fussy, nursing all the time, etc lasts about a week, and then oh...a tooth!) lonely? overtired? scared? cold? hot? etc.

We get fussy sometimes too and we aren't sure why! :)

Great day here in IL!

Hugs,
Aunt Helen

Dear Aunt Helen,

Her nose didn't seem to be stuffy...it was almost like she didn't like the taste of the milk.

NOW she's nursing fine. I'm not sure what it was all about but it stopped so I'm happy. :)

Melissa

Photo by Joey Contreras Jr.


Dear Melissa,

Babies can do weird things from time to time, kind of like adults. :) Not everything has an explanation. I'm so glad things are going fine. You are over the hump now, and you should find things much easier. I'm very proud of you, dear niece. Keep up the good work.

I'm here if you need me!

Hugs,
Aunt Helen

Aunt Helen,

Things just never stop happening in the world of baby!!! :-D

Her right eye is a bit weepy and this yellowish creamish gunk keeps making an appearance and has been for the last day and a half. We wipe it when we see it (to avoid it getting crusty, which it has done once or twice) but it doesn't seem to be going away.

I'm not REAL concerned about it -- Matt and I were mainly just wondering what it is and where it came from. He was thinking conjunctivitis but there's no pink or redness associated with it. If it IS conjunctivitis, we're wondering if we need to be doing anything to help it go away...

Hope you're having a happy sunday!! :)

Love,
Melissa

Hi Melissa,

She almost surely has a plugged tear duct. Almost every one of my babies had this. It is something they outgrow. For the time being, when her eye gets all stuck, wash it gently with sterile water (water that has been boiled and cooled (keep some in a small jar)) to get it unstuck. Gently massage the corner of the eye with a clean finger going up into the corner in the direction of the nose. This will help the plugged tear duct to open up. Usually it is just a matter of time for it to heal itself, (probably a few weeks) though I remember that David had it for several months. It doesn't hurt the baby in anyway even though the eye may be red.

If you take her to the doctor he will give you antibiotics for conjunctivitis (the symptoms not the cause) which will deplete baby of all the good bugs in her colon, etc. You don't want your baby on antibiotics unless it is VERY necessary.

This too shall pass, and is nothing to worry about. It looks a bit yucky, but the body will heal itself. The more her body heals itself the healthier she will be in her life.

Hugs,
Aunt Helen

Hi!

Thank you!! We were pretty sure it wasn't something to go to the doctor for, precisely for the reason you mentioned -- we don't want her on medication for silly little things ESPECIALLY when she's not even experiencing discomfort because of it!!!

So far, her eye hasn't gotten stuck shut but if she sleeps longer than two hours at a time tonight, that will likely happen. So we'll keep in mind what you said about the water -- Matt is boiling some right now. :)

Once again, I am so thankful that God has placed me in the same family as you! :)

Love, Melissa.

Hi Aunt Helen,

Things have been going pretty well! the only major hiccup was apple juice and milk causing such tummy pain for her that she'd cry and arch her back -- I could pacify her on the breast but Matt couldn't pacify her at all. For about two weeks, we didn't even realize it was tummy pain -- thought it was normal baby fussiness and the both of us were growing more and more frustrated by the fact that he couldn't pacify her. One day while visiting my mom, she pointed out that it really seemed like she was in pain and the more we talked about it, the more it seemed like she was right so I started with taking milk out of my diet for a couple days. It actually didn't seem to help that much but when I finally eliminated apple juice, she was a TOTALLY different baby!! (And Matt is a totally different daddy!) Milk makes her squirmy so I don't take in a lot of it. Apple juice is a strict no-no though. I feel bad that I didn't clue in earlier on the fact that she was in pain but I know there's quite a learning curve with the first baby so I'm not beating myself up.

Lately, she has taken to sleeping five and six hours a night before waking up to nurse. Do I need to set an alarm to ensure she's getting up between the three and four hour mark?

During the day, she's still going every two hours. Occasionally I have to watch the clock but for the most part, she tells me on her own. Late evening and early night, she nurses almost every hour to hour and a half and then around ten or ten thirty she nurses for a good half hour to forty-five minutes while I try to put her to sleep. She usually falls asleep all the way around eleven or eleven thirty and then wakes up again around five in the morning. If she falls asleep around midnight, she'll sleep til six and even seven occasionally -- but those nights, she's pretty much up for good and doesn't go back to sleep. I'm wondering if waking her up in four blocks will also mean getting a little bit more sleep...

Matt wanted me to add that she spends most of the night cuddled up with him -- he sleeps on his back with her in the crook of his arm and he's not sure if this would keep her sleeping longer because maybe when she starts to stir, he comforts her back into sleep...

He doesn't start off cuddling with her -- it always happens when he's asleep and near as we can figure out, because he's so big, she rolls toward him and in his sleep, he puts his arm around her. He used to sleep like that with the cats ALL the time so I think his sub-conscious is fairly trained. :) Anyway, this didn't happen ever when we had the old queen mattress but since we've gotten the king, it happens all the time. the king is much softer than the queen so I'm sure that has something to do with it. We both make craters in the bed but of course his is bigger so if she's not already in mine, she gravitates to his. :-D

Love you, Aunt Helen! :)
Melissa

Dear Melissa,

I'm glad you got that figured out. All babies are different so keeping everything in balance regarding foods is a good idea. Don't eat too much of any one thing--that is usually a good idea. Glad she is settling down. Having a fussy baby can really wear you down and is hard on a marriage!

It if were me I would just let the baby sleep that five to six hours and let myself sleep too. If I woke up and felt full then I would wake the baby to feet it. I think this is just a stage. I think that she will begin waking about every four hours again before to long. If she doesn't then do what I said above.

All my babies did this as well! It is called tanking up for the night! :) They are also restless and tired and need the comfort of nursing. This is perfectly normal.

The way to get them to sleep longer at night is not to let them sleep all day, especially later in the bay. Bathing, changing them, playing with them, etc. helps them keep awake, but you have to watch that they don't get too over tired and very cranky, making things worse. Does she have a long after supper nap? If so, cut it down by waking her. She will then probably go to bed earlier, and sleep more at night.

Love,
Aunt Helen

Dear Aunt Helen,

Okay I just want to make sure I understand because I though you'd said they shouldn't be going longer than four hours at night if I wanted natural child spacing to work. Will going for five or six hours interfere with that? Last night she didn't cuddle with Matt and still slept for six hours so I think it is HER and not sleeping with Matt that's doing it...Matt doesn't even wake up when/if she stirs so she can't be stirring THAT much...

Love,
Melissa

Dear Melissa,

It may. Every body is different. If you are really concerned about that, figure out how to wake her up after 4 hours. You won't want to wake everyone else up though! :)

If it were me, I would just let her sleep and figure God can wake her up if He wants to and just trust child spacing to Him.

Love,
Aunt Helen

Aunt Helen,

Oh dear. Okay. I'm really not doing well with trusting Him on this particular issue because I feel so very not ready for another baby...please pray for me.

Love,
Melissa

Dear Melissa,

I don't think it is wicked or sinful to wake the baby up every 4 hours to feed her if you want to do that. God can still overule your efforts and send you another baby whenever He wants to.

Remember babies are gifts and blessings from the Lord. I know how you feel; I've been there many, many times.

You are loved,
Aunt Helen

Dear Aunt Helen,

You say you've been there many, many times...would you mind elaborating some? Like...how you felt and what you did about it. I've been talking to Katy and I've definitely made some progress -- a lot of progress, actually. But I know I'll regress here and there.

I have to say, it's encouraging to hear that you've been there -- I guess I just assumed you were always excited about being pregnant again and it never occurred to me that maybe you wrestled with it like I do sometimes.

Thank you for your empathy! :)

Love,
Melissa

Dear Melissa,

Don't ever assume that because someone doesn't talk about it, that means it has been easy for them. They just don't tell everybody everything. There is a time and place, but usually your own struggles no one is really interested in. They just are stuck in their own troubles! :)

I followed the path of obedience; but that doesn't meant it was easy for fun. I actually hated being pregnant; but I did love the babies! People have said to me, "Oh, you must just spit the babies out like watermelons seeds so that is why you had so many", etc. Not true. After I had Laura, my 4th, it was such a hard birth, I was hoping God wouldn't send me any more. Many of my births and pregnancies have been very hard. But you grow in the Lord through the tough times and I wouldn't be the woman of God I am today if I hadn't had those hard times.

I lived in the Psalms and I prayed and I was so busy serving my family that I didn't have time to think about myself and worry myself sick. And my dear husband has been a wonderful source of inspiration and encouragement.

Has it been worth it? A thousand times yes! It is a wonderful thing to know you have followed the Lord, giving up your own body (to babies and nursing) for His service. the hardest thing you will ever do. A peace knowing you have obeyed, even when it was sooooo hard!

Love,
Aunt Helen

Photo by Joey Contreras Jr.


Hi Aunt Helen,

I'm bleeding today. It's not heavy -- fairly light. Started off brown but is a little brighter now. Is it normal for this to happen three months after having a baby? Nursing has been on demand and if she sleeps through the night, I don't wake her up. I find it hard to believe my cycle would be resuming already...kind of freaking out. :(

Love,
Melissa

Dear "Freakin' Out!",

Well, what can I say? This does happen to some. But you still can have anovulatory cycles, meaning you can cycle regularly but not ovulate at all for some time, even a year or two. But, I would say that starting this early is not the best news for you in regards to return of fertility. :(

You have several options. Trust God and be "prepared" (worst case scenario (I hate to use those words, but I know how you feel; this does contradict God's words that children are a gift and blessing from him.) to have a baby in another year or so.... :) best case scenario (again, I'm using vobac. that you are feeling) you may not conceive for a whole year yet.

If you are willing to just Trust God as your birth control, you had better prepare yourself for having a large family, and quite a few little ones under your feet for many many years. Can you trust God with that? He wants to bless you. Do you want to be THAT blessed? We didn't know when we were your age, but we let God figure it out. He made no mistakes. He gave us 10, took 3. His will is always perfect. How can you know God's will if you take it in your own hands? If you go this route it will be the hardest thing you ever did. But you will come out as gold in the fire. I have no regrets accept that I regret using birth control during the first four years of our marriage.

Another option is to use some type of birth control and plan you next conception. Many do it, I don't believe it is a moral sin, but I think in our own case, we felt that it was a lack of faith. If God can take care of us as missionaries on a below poverty line income, can we trust Him to take care of our family planning? Many folks says, well God told me in a vision that He didn't want us to have another baby for 2 more years, and therefore He wants me to use birth control.... I always reply, well you don't have a thing to worry about then. If God told you that, birth control won't be necessary! :) Always takes their breath away because they know that I know that they know....that if God REALLY said that, all this talk about whether or not to use birth control is just plain silly.

Faith. Trust. Hard to do it when it affects your pocket book and your fertility.

This is a tough, tough, tough issue and I can only say, get your Bible's out, read and study, pray like the dickens, and ask God for wisdom. I don't know what God's plan is for your life anymore than you know it for mine.

You are loved and now you are an official Aunt I hear! Congrats. I expect that you will be a big help to Hope during the next couple of months! Pass it on!

Love,
Aunt Helen

Dear Aunt Helen,

Thank you for your email, Aunt Helen. It was encouraging. :)

I have definitely gone back and forth -- WILDLY so in the past 24 hours -- regarding birth control. I know that God's way is best but it's so very difficult to be surrendered to it -- especially when it means more pain, less sleep, and even less time to myself...

I am right with you on the subject of birth control -- I don't believe it's a sin, but I believe it would be BETTER if we could trust God. Best, actually.

I called my midwife last night to check with her and she said, "A lucky 10% of women are fertile 7 to 8 weeks post-partum!" my jaw dropped when she told me. Statistics are supposed to happen to other people!

Oh well. They are a blessing. I'm trying, trying to be surrendered. I can't give a status report just yet -- I'm still flip-flopping. and who knows, God may have already made the decision for me.

Love you dearly. :) Thank you for your empathy, as well. That's especially valuable.

Love,
Melissa

Hi Aunt Helen!

I just thought I'd say hi because it's been forever since I emailed you!

Things are going pretty well. We had some ups and downs with colic but for the most part, things are routine. (You know, as routine as they can be with a BABY!)

I had the opportunity to pass on some of your wisdom to my sister-in-law, Hope! That was super neat! And of course, Katy and I are constantly discussing things that you've told me. You'd probably laugh at the number of times we say, "Maybe we should ask Aunt Helen..."

So I just wanted to write and say hi and I also wanted to say another THANK YOU for all your help in those first few months. I'm sure I'm not "done" asking for advice, but it'll be further spaced out I guess, now that I'm sort of in the groove of things.

I love you very much!!!!

Melissa

Hello to you too!

Glad things are going well. Amazing what an adjustment motherhood is! I'm so glad that you have been able to pass on your wisdom to Hope. It is an amazing system of woman-to-woman that God has designed! It really works!

Enjoy this lovely spring day!

I love you too, bunches!
Aunt Helen

Hi Aunt Helen!

I just have a question for curiosity's sake: I've noticed Linda seems to prefer my left breast for nighttime nursing - can babies sense a difference between the breasts? When she was younger, we had our bed in a different place in the room and I slept on the right side and nursed her with my left breast all night. Now our bed is in a different place and Matt and I traded sides so I nurse on my right breast now. But she always stops after a few minutes, sits herself up and starts going for my left breast! It just hit me tonight that it's a fairly regular occurrence. I used to think it was just because there wasn't enough milk in my right breast but now I'm wondering if it's a preference thing. What do you know about that? Thanks for satiating my curiosity! ;) Certainly, it's not urgent so please write back only when it's convenient. :)

Love to you and yours!
Melissa

Dear Melissa,

YUP, all my babies preferred my left breast. I used to trick them and put them on the other side of me in the bed and then switch them later.

Perfectly normal.

Bye,
Aunt Helen

Dear Aunt Helen,

I can't remember if we've talked about this before. What do you recommend for teething? We've tried Children's Tylenol which only works occasionally and someone recommended Humphrey's Teething Pellets, which is a homeopathic remedy and I'm not sure it's working. Nighttime is the hardest! Thanks for your help! :)

--Melissa

Dear Melissa,

It is just something you have to get through. Lots of nursing seemed to work the best. I just rocked them and comforted them the best I could. Usually meant a couple nights without much sleep for me.

I rarely if ever use medicine.

Love,
Aunt Helen

Photo by Joey Contreras Jr.





            

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