importance of support

Everyone’s parenthood journey is different. It’s my belief that no matter what the path to get there, a basic support system is needed to survive, let alone thrive.

When I had my first child, I was naïve. I did little research on anything. I owned two “baby” books. I thought about reading them AFTER the baby was here (when, we all know there isn’t much time or patience for reading). The transition to motherhood was hard for me on many levels; physically, emotionally, spiritually. I navigated through simply by mustering on. I just put on my “big girl panties” and just did what I needed to to each day to survive.

My second child was an easier transition for me. But only being 19 months after the first, I didn’t leave myself much time to analyze or process the emotions I was experiencing.

I “waited” to get pregnant with my third until my youngest was almost two. I recognized pretty soon after he was born that I needed a breather. I needed to take care of myself and my family before I brought another child into it.

My third pregnancy went well, it was exhausting and small ailments (hemorrhoids!). My third birth went well (or, so I thought).

I had made the decision to exclusively breastfeed for longer than I did my first two (I had started supplementing them around 6 weeks and stopped nursing all together around 3 months). I had friends who were successfully breastfeeding, or had recently breastfed, so I knew I had a great support network.

I set myself up for success.

I was breastfeeding exclusively, and at her two week (and one month) check ups she hadn’t reached her birth weight yet. But, was otherwise thriving. At the two week mark we started feeding every two hours around the clock. At the one month mark I made an appointment with a lactation consultant for around the 6 week mark. At my 6 week postpartum check up I was diagnosed with a retained placenta.

Fun fact: A retained placenta impacts your milk production greatly. Your body thinks it’s still pregnant, so it doesn’t produce the amount of milk it should.

My baby wasn’t getting enough milk.

I had to supplement with formula.

I was devastated.

I tried my hardest to get my supply up. I took fenugreek (all 9 tablets a day!), made lactation cookies, pumped after every feed, drank tons of water, continued to feed every two hours. I also had limitations on how much effort I could put into increasing my supply: a four year old, a 2.5 year old, full time working husband, little outside help during the day (everyone had day jobs), and I had gone back to work (with my baby) because I felt I needed (in hindsight, I was being so stubborn) to contribute to our finances.

Thankfully, being an “experienced” mom (even though I’m always still learning) I knew something had to give. I couldn’t be or do everything for everyone. So, I cut out pumping after feeds and supplemented after each feed. I was never able to get my supply up, but she successfully nursed at every feed until she self-weaned at 10 months old.

My third birth and postpartum experience taught me that with support, you can tackle anything. It also taught me that to surround yourself with people to remind you that you are exactly what your baby needs (even if you have moments you don’t think so).

I began my postpartum doula training after my third babe. I feel so strongly that my support network I had built over the years saved me. I’m confident that if I had more information and support my first time around, the transition would have been less of a personal upheaval.

I think it’s high time that all parents know that there are people to support you through your journey. Whether it’s someone to bring you food, someone to hold your baby while you shower, someone to walk your dog, or someone to help you through your fears of birth.

There’s a beautiful community of people who are willing (and knowledgeable) to help us all navigate these rocky roads of pregnancy & beyond.

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