Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Mom on a Mission

I was recently interviewed by a friend for her blog. She is doing a spotlight on "women on mission".

"Doula Annie Byrd is passionate about missions. She also loves crafting. A mother of two young children, she donates her precious free time to sew treasures for Mama and Baby that she sells to raise money for the Fistula Foundation.

Photo Courtesy of Baby Byrd Doula

"Fistula is a life-altering injury caused by childbirth. Women in third-world countries who lack proper obstetrical care can be particularly vulnerable. Maybe fistula awareness is a cause near-and-dear to your own heart. Or maybe, like me, you’re just learning about it. Annie suggests checking out the Fistula Foundation website for more information. You can also check out posts on her own blog, Baby Byrd Doula.

Annie first became aware of the fistula problem when she read a book called Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide..."

Click here to read the rest of the interview.

Monday, August 10, 2015

Journey in Adoptive Breastfeeding: Part 4

13 months...that's how long I have been pumping. The year really flew by. There were many times I just felt like giving up, mostly on trips when finding time to pump was harder and storing pumped milk was nearly impossible. But I haven't given up yet, in fact it has been so incorporated into my lifestyle that it feels almost like brushing my teeth or eating breakfast. It is just something that I do everyday...6 times a day.

Here is an update on our adoption process...
(Click here to catch up if you don't know what is going on: Part 3)

The summer has been really hard. I felt like I was holding my breath, waiting for Miles' birthmother to call and let us know what was going on. The last time the social worker spoke with her was early April. She hadn't been to the doctor but thought she was 6ish months pregnant. She scheduled her first prenatal appointment shortly after the social worker's visit. Then, well, she fell off the face of the earth. Radio silence. The adoption agency tried to contact her several times with no returned call. Lance and I decided to just wait through July and maybe she would contact us after the baby was born. July has come and gone with no word from her. So, we have moved on (as much as you can) and we are back on the waiting list.

It has been so emotional to go through two missed adoptions. Much harder than I could have imagined. But the pumping must go on...

There have been blessing as I have waited.

I've had to rely on others more emotionally theses past months, which is harder for me. I am usually the one who people can rely on.

I've had to take a break from doula-ing because of the uncertainty of the adoption. This allowed me to enjoy my summer fully with my kids and husband without being distracted.

I was able to donate milk to several mothers who either adopted a baby or didn't produce enough milk on their own. That was really rewarding to know that my milk is helping another baby and momma.

I have been able to normalize pumping/breastfeeding for my children. My hope and prayer for my boys is that for the rest of their lives they view breasts differently than the typical American culture.

So the journey continues...still...

Thursday, May 21, 2015

A Doula: Picture It!

Recently I attended a birth of a client who had a birth photographer.  Many people may ask, "why have a photographer take pictures of you in pain or when you are most vulnerable?" My answer is that the most vulnerable pictures are sometimes the most powerful, capturing the struggle and essence of life. Birth is painful and messy, but it also moving and beautiful.

As a doula, it is my role to be that the person working in the background, so it is not often that my role is captured. A lot of times, I am taking the pictures for the family so that they can focus on their birth and baby. Maybe you've never seen a doula in "action". As a doula I...

Come to your home when your labor starts...even at 3:00 in the morning...

Offer comfort measures like message...

And the TENS unit...

Help you to know when it's time to head to the hospital or birthing center...

Work closely with medical staff, in a non-medical way, to help you have the birth you want...

Bring you anything you need...

Talk and laugh with you in between contractions...

Reach out when you need a hand...

Support your partner and help him support you...

Support your breastfeeding efforts...

And celebrate new life with you!

I am your constant physical, emotional and information support through YOUR birth and it is such a joy! Thank you!

Special thanks to Marcella, Alex and Jade Vinson for allowing me to blog their photos. Also, all photo credit to goes to Lindsay (http://www.labirdiephotography.com/about-contact/). Thanks!

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Journey in Adoptive Breastfeeding: Part 3

It has been almost 10 months of pumping about 10 ounces of milk a day. I was surprised with how fast that can fill up two deep freezers. So in January I started looking for people to donate my milk to.

A friend of a friend recommended a lady to me whose daughter has Spinal Muscular Atrophy. According to this family, SMA is the #1 genetic killer of infants, and 50% of babies do not live past two years of age. The little girl, who is about 9 years old now, (let's call her "E") has weak muscles,which affect her ability to sit up, speak, eat by mouth and breathe completely on her own. Because she cannot swallow, E is fed through a g-tube. Due to SMA, she is prone to respiratory infections that are life threatening. When the family started adding breast milk to her diet at the beginning of 2009, and they saw improvements in her health right away! I'm not surprised--breastmilk is awesome! So I was able to contact this family to donate my milk. I had blood tests done to ensure that I wouldn't pass any diseases to her and had to fill out extensive forms. My hope is that my extra breastmilk will help E live a little longer and a little better.

So where are we in the adoptive process?

We were selected by a birth mom who is pregnant with a girl and due in May. Since then, our son Miles' birth mom has contacted the adoption agency, that she is also pregnant. She does not yet know how pregnant she is or the gender of her baby. But, she has asked if we will adopt Miles' birth sibling.

The adoption agency has given us the choice, adopt the baby girl we were originally selected for, or adopt Miles' birth sibling. Adopting both is not allowed by state law. For us, the emotions are hard, but the decision was simple. We have always said we would adopt a birth sibling of our adopted children, if we can. We know its best for Miles, our family, and Miles' birth family, for us to adopt his birth sibling.

So now we just sit back, store breastmilk and wait. More to come...

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Vitamin D

This cold and flu season, vitamin D has become my new obsession. It all started last summer at the Catonsville Birth, Baby and Family expo (check out my blog post). I was minding my own business at my little booth, when I was accosted by an unkempt fellow. He started right in. "What is the leading cause of illness in the United States? Lack of vitamin D" You name it; infertility, autism, cancer, heart disease, allergies, auto-immune disease; was all to blame because of lack of vitamin D. Somehow he hooked me. I had no idea who he was or what his deal was, but something about what he was saying pulled me in. So I, uninformed, got onto the vitamin D train. My hubby was all about it too. I guess I was just as convincing as, what we now affectionately call that random guy, "Vitamin D Man". We ordered supplements, skipped the flu shot and were full into the vitamin D "thing".

Just recently, I decided to look into vitamin D some more. Here is some of what I found.

What is vitamin D?

Vitamin D isn't really a vitamin at all. It is a hormone that plays a central role in healthy bones, muscles, immune system, cardiac system and neurological function. Vitamin D is produced in your skin, triggered by the UVB portion of sunlight and activated by your liver and kidneys. There are vitamin D receptors on almost all of the cells in the human body from the bones to the brain. Many scientist believe that vitamin D controls cell growth. If that is true then you can see why vitamin D plays a huge role in the health and function of the body as a whole.

What is the source of vitamin D?

  1. The biggest source to help your body make vitamin D is the sun. Sun triggers the production of vitamin D in your skin, however, if you apply sunscreen, the UVB (and UVA for that matter) is blocked out and therefore your skin will not make as much vitamin D. Even with a sunscreen as low as SPF 8, the UVB portion of light will be 90% blocked from your body, therefore significantly decreasing the amount of vitamin D your body can make. The amount of sun you need to make enough vitamin D during the summer months depends on your skin tone, latitude where you live, and the month. Vitamin D calculator
  2. You can also get vitamin D through your diet. Oily fish and milk or juice fortified with vitamin D are the main dietary sources of vitamin D.
  3. Supplementing is another way to get vitamin D. When looking for vitamin D supplement, choose one with D-2 or D-3. 
It is also important to make sure you get enough calcium in your diet since vitamin D and calcium work together to make your body healthy. I will leave calcium for another blog post.

Vitamin D made in the skin (triggered by the sun) lasts twice as long in the body as if it were acquired through diet or supplements.

What role does vitamin D play in health?

  • Bone Health: prevents osteoporosis, rickets and fractures
  • Cellular Health: prevents some cancers, some infectious disease, and asthma
  • Organ Health: prevents heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, and tooth loss
  • Muscular Health: supports healthy muscles
  • Autoimmune Health: prevents MS, type 1 diabetes, and Crohn's disease
  • Brain Health: prevents depression, schizophrenia, and dementia 
  • Mood-related Health: prevents seasonal affect disorder, PMS and sleeping disorders

This diagram pretty much sums it up:

Why is vitamin D vital during pregnancy and lactation?

Since growing babies in utero receive their vitamin D from the mother, it is crucial that the mother has enough vitamin D for her and the baby during pregnancy. The same goes for breastfeeding mothers. The mothers themselves make the vitamin D for their babies until they are old enough to make their own. Mothers who are vitamin D deficient will have babies who are vitamin D deficient. To read more about vitamin D and breastfeeding click here.

What are the main take aways about vitamin D?

  • The best source of vitamin D is through sun exposure. About 10-15 minutes of noon-time sun (again depending on latitude and skin type) exposure during the summer months (without sunscreen) is enough for your body to store enough vitamin D for the winter.
  • Vitamin D and calcium are best friends!
  • Vitamin D affects your whole body, not just your bones.
  • It is vitally important for pregnant or lactating mothers to have sufficient vitamin D levels so they can pass that to their babies.
Come on summer!! 

Most of the information in this blog post came from The Vitamin D Solution by Michael F. Holick, Ph.D., M.D.