Postpartum

Birth trauma survey

Punk Mama Jennifer Lynn Frye is a student midwife finishing her didactic work at WomanCraft Midwifery. As part of her advanced course, she is studying various forms of trauma in birthing persons during the childbearing year (pregnancy, birth, and three months postpartum). She has created a survey that will help her learn more. The survey is open to the public to participate, as long as you are over the age of 18 and have given birth; in or out of facility (birth center or home), with midwives, obstetricians, or unassisted, etc. Jennifer is looking to better understand how women are treated during pregnancy and childbirth by care providers – so whether it was how you were spoken to, made to feel, or treated at any time, your feedback can help her better serve families in the future. The survey is totally anonymous and voluntary and you may cancel participation at any time. She is not asking for any identifying information and these answers will only be used for school related research.
To participate in the survey, please visit: https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSdfKgQLebjh5dDPPfkekEVBzP81_0nYwnk5sDTdCnuJVCeJCw/viewform?embedded=true 

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It’s Your Heart, Don’t Let It Die

Today I was looking out the window with my son, watching the orb lights come on across the street thinking about how lucky we are to live where we do. We just moved out of the country and into a town where there are infinitely more activities and everything is within walking distance. It really builds a sense of community. When I was 25, I wouldn’t have dreamed of moving to such a tourist trap because I was busy romanticizing the dirty streets of the adjacent town, hoping we’d be able to start a collective house and spend our time with like-minded, enjoyable people. All efforts fell on deaf ears or failed right out of the gate because in reality, the town we romanticized so much had nothing to do but drink and eat, otherwise not exactly a place to grow community. So we retreated to the country, to grow vegetables and have loud parties.

The idea of being a parent occurred to me off and on, but when I found out I was pregnant, I hadn’t been trying to conceive. The bundle of cells rolling around inside of me suddenly made the drunken nights and careless attitudes seem trivial and pointless. Now it was important to have a safe place to live with engaging activities, playgrounds, sidewalks, and opportunities to grow. That last bit really got to me because I realized after spending many years neglecting my own need for progression, it never occurred to me to keep fighting that fight. Now I wanted more for my child and more for myself as a person, for both of us, as individuals; it was a weird lightbulb moment.

As parents, our role is to act as an advocate for our child as well as ourselves because while we are a parent, we are still our own person (even if it doesn’t feel like it sometimes). Self-care is hard to prioritize and maybe I’m “privileged” for mentioning it, but damn, the past few weeks I have taken time to read books written by other “punk” or “alternative” parents and I have to say, what a breath of fresh air!

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3-4 weeks of reading and inspiration

Who needs another book of parenting advice that just makes you feel like an impossibly shitty parent? Not me. I want a book that’s going to remind me that I’m fucking alive, that honors my role as a mother but reminds me that I am a fierce, creative, breathing creature that has existed prior to life birthing from my womb. I want to read the stories of other people who don’t get invited to be part of parenting groups because they don’t fit the soccer mom build. I want to know that there are people out there who are still activists and artists, musicians and zinesters, holding true to our roots, belting lyrics with their arms wrapped around their friends and their children. Those people exist right? I know I am one of them, sometimes I just have to reach out and grab that part of myself.

I have compiled a list of books that have been written by and for parents who lead alternative lifestyles, punkers, artists, musicians, activists, and everything in between. I hope there are more out there, I truly do, and if there aren’t, I hope you’ll work with me to expand the resources available. This list is in no particular order and my descriptions only serve to give you an idea of what is behind the cover, not rate/review the work or give you a play by play of each page. Seriously, DIVE IN:

Future Generation

The Future Generation by China Martens

I bought this radical parenting anthology several years ago at Atomic Books and instantly fell in love. China talks about being a single mother in the 90’s and how welfare reform affected the lives of single mothers, herself included. She talks about parenting, politics, and survival in a world that sometimes seems like it would sooner see parents drown than extend a hand. This book’s theme is always going to be relevant; we need China’s ideas on community now more than ever. Oh, and she’s reissuing the book, so be on the lookout!

 

mamaphonic

Mamaphonic edited by Bee Lavender and Maia Rossini

A compilation of experiences from parents who know the importance of maintaining that artistic, creative identity and a great book for anyone who is tired of being told that to become a parent is to lose your creative self. The light is never out, it just might take the flipping of a few switches to figure out what works for you.

 

mymotherwearscombatboots

My Mother Wears Combat Boots by Jessica Mills

This was the first “punk parenting” book I had ever read and it was one of those moments that punches your heart into oblivion. PUNK PARENTING: you do not have to give up your love of music and anti-establishment views upon becoming a parent. In fact, how highly hypocritical and sad would it be if you did? This book doesn’t just talk about punk and anarchy though, Jessica drops a lot of legitimate facts regarding pregnancy, birth, breastfeeding, and other postpartum issues.

 

breeder

Breeder edited by Ariel Gore and Bee Lavender

A collection of stories of unapologetically “real” parents touching on the good, the bad, and the ugly sides of parenting. I need to take a moment to shout this out: this book was one of the first “punk/alternative parenting” books I had ever read and ultimately what made me know that I’d eventually be a parent. It also made me realize how shitty it is when friends and peers act like shitheads about parents, which is something I had done for so long. We get it, you’re soo cool and free because you don’t have children “ruining your life.” Go on, remind us of our life failures while we “build a new foundation from the bricks you threw [our] way.” We are humans facing struggles and carrying the next generation of the world on our shoulders. You will not take that power from us.

 

revolutionary_mothering

Revolutionary Mothering edited by Alexis Pauline Gumbs, China Martens, and Mai’a Williams

This book is fierce and raw but full of hope! Revolutionary Mothering does an AMAZING job of giving a voice to marginalized groups: people of color and individuals in poverty. Both are such underrepresented groups of people and need to be heard and given power.

 

hip mama

The Hip Mama Survival Guide by Ariel Gore

If you’re looking for “real talk” this is it. This was a book I had read prior to that bundle of cells taking up residence in my uterus. While this book is from 1998, it serves as a judgment-free parenting resource, which is incredibly refreshing. Ariel touches on a lot of different topics, so the segments are brief but well worth the read!

 

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The Essential Hip Mama: Writing from the Cutting Edge of Parenting by Ariel Gore

This is another collection of works from various parents who provide the honesty and vulnerability that we all feel as parents. I hate to sound redundant, but it is something we all need to read because the solidarity you feel from it will break your chains of self-doubt, I promise.

 

mother trip

The Mother Trip: Hip Mama’s Guide to Staying Sane in the Chaos of Motherhood by Ariel Gore

I’ve included so many of Ariel’s books because they are such a joy to read and we all need that healthy dose of reality and feminism. A must read for those of us who broke the “mother mold” years ago.

 

whatever mom

Whatever, Mom: Hip Mama’s Guide to Raising a Teenager by Ariel Gore

This reads less like a guide and more like an empathetic, humorous approach to parenting a teenager. We all talk about new babies, but when the novelty of diapers and night time feeding wears off, what do we have to represent the parents of young adults? Growing children are a hard pill to swallow. AUTONOMY?! What do you mean you don’t need me anymore? I’m glad to see someone is talking about these things.

 

dont leave your friends behind

Don’t Leave Your Friends Behind edited by Victoria Law and China Martens

This book talks about the important fact that parenting does not automatically equate to abandoning your beliefs and interests. It also serves as a resource for those who are not parents, but have friends/acquaintances who are. Additionally, it even includes those who are not parents, but are full-time caregivers for parents or other non-children. Think about it, how can we expect children to care about our community if the community spaces make parents and their children feel unwelcome and burdensome? We need to hear the voices of the parents in our communities. Amariah Love wrote my favorite quote in this book, “Children need to have an established sense of community so that they carry those values throughout their lives.”

 

my baby rides the short bus

My Baby Rides the Short Bus: The Unabashedly Human Experience of Raising Kids With Disabilities edited by Yantra Bertelli, Jennifer Silverman, & Sarah Talbot

This book addresses the isolation, invisibility, frustration, and fears of parents who find themselves in a realm of parenting that is widely misrepresented and unsupported by their peers, families, and the media. One of my favorite lines from the book was from Maria June, who says, “Motherhood meets us where we lack imagination.”

 

rad dad 1-10

Rad Dad Zine Compilation Issues 1-10 edited by Tomas Moniz

So I know this is a Punk Mamas blog, but I couldn’t leave Tomas Moniz out of this list because he acknowledges that we are ALL on this parenting journey in one form or another. This particular book is a compilation of the first 10 issues of Rad Dad zine.

 

rad dad

 

Rad Dad: Dispatches From the Frontiers of Fatherhood edited by Tomas Moniz & Jeremy Adam Smith

Again with Rad Dad, another collection of stories. It is refreshing to see written proof that there are a multitude of fathers out there who are questioning the mainstream role of “dad” and parenting with intention, emotion, radical mindsets, and above all, a sense of humor.

 

rad families

Rad Families: A Celebration edited by Tomas Moniz

Family means something different to everyone because the ways in which we begin as parents or start families are all so different. This book is as the title suggests: a celebration of the diversity of families.

 

A few topics I found to be lacking, maybe not totally missing, but not largely represented: maternity activism, schooling, immigration, adoption, and child-loss. By sharing our stories and frustrations, we open doors to support, advocacy, and friendship. If you are ever feeling invisible, I encourage you to make your voice heard and scream until you shatter that barrier that makes you feel separate. We cannot become advocates for one another if we do not listen and offer our support to all punk parents and everything they face: the good, the bad, and the argyle.

 

Shawna’s birth story

Punk Mama Shawna S. has shared her birth story with us.  While she had a traumatic birth, she went on to have a successful breastfeeding journey with her son.  We hope that by sharing her story, a mother out there reading this will be better equipped to navigate maternity healthcare options, find support for their traumatic birth, and/or  feel less alone in motherhood.

Sharing this kind of makes me want to puke.  You are going to read information that will probably make you say, “WHOA, TMI.”  But here’s a “motherhood dare” for you: be raw, be fucking real.  If you feel cheated, say so.  Don’t let the bastards get you down just because your truth hurts their ears or because people don’t get what the big deal is.  To start, during my pregnancy, I felt like a powerful goddess.  As a parent, I feel that way too.  My birth experience was not as empowering.

Punk mama Shawna pregnant with Zephyr in a blue gown in the snow

Whimsy Wishes Photography

 

“Tomorrow is Earth Day, so I kind of hope the baby arrives tomorrow.”  The midwife smiled.  “You are 1cm dilated.  Want me to sweep your membranes?”  I felt a pinch and said so – she just said things are “sensitive.”  I confidently answered that, no, I didn’t want my membranes swept, that I wanted labor to start on its own.  The midwife smiled again and said, “Okay, well let’s see how this goes.”

I am having a dream about my dead friend and he just keeps repeating, “I just want you to know that everything is going to be okay.”  I keep questioning him, he avoids answering.  I wake up.

It’s 3:30am and I think I may have actually just wet my pants.  I walk over to the bathroom and I realize that the wetness is not urine.  I call for Ryan who springs out of bed wondering exactly what we need to do next.  Oh god, the bags are already packed, but is the dog ready?  Is she going to be okay while I’m gone?  She needs to go to the bathroom.  Let’s try to get her to go twice before we leave.

I have slept maybe three hours.  I make the call to the midwife and tell her the situation; I’m pretty sure my water broke.  She was sleeping, I can tell.  She says that I’m probably wrong, to wait for two hours and see if I soak through enough pads and then call her back.  So I soak through one pad in 15 minutes and tell her that I know what is going on.  She says she wants me to come into the hospital because my water broke and now I’m more prone to infection.  I trust her, so I reluctantly accept coming into the hospital, even though hospitals scare me and I had planned to labor at home for a while.  I kiss my dog about a thousand times and promise her someone will be back for her.

As we walk out to the car, there are coyotes howling and owls hooting.  It is the most beautiful, fierce calling I have ever heard.  I text everyone to tell them what was going on.  We are driving through a dense fog; the contractions are getting stronger.  Is it going to be an Earth Day Birthday?  We arrive and I start furiously sneaking granola bars because they keep telling me I’m not allowed to eat solids, although I was told I could eat during labor.  I am tired and hungry.  I’m starting to get really agitated because the nurse who I despise is here and she won’t stop talking to me, and I just want her to shut the fuck up.  My mom is here and so is my best friend.  We are all sitting and talking – making jokes.  They are buffering that nurse and her stupid questions and I appreciate it more than I can express.  I walk around for a bit, but it is overwhelming for me to walk through the hospital corridors.  This place is so cold.

The midwife convinces me to go through with getting the IV, even though I didn’t want one.  I can’t really process anything right now.  The annoying nurse tries four times to get an IV in my wrist and finally the midwife just does it because she can tell I’m about to lose my cool.  My midwife finally gets another nurse to take the place of the one who is pissing me off.  Her name is Helen and she talks very softly and she looks like my friend Zayne’s mom; I like her instantly.  I sit on the ball for a little while.  People are piling in the waiting room to support me and everyone tells me so.  I hang out in the shower for a while, but the nurses and midwife want me to get back on the bed and be monitored.  This was not how it was supposed to be.  I want to stay in the shower because the water relaxes me and I feel better in there.  Every time they monitor the baby, nothing is wrong.  “Why can’t I stay in the shower?”  No answer.  My sister is in the room intermittently; I like having her there.  She makes me feel stronger.

Every time the midwife checks me, she tells me she isn’t “impressed,” that things are not progressing.  I start to feel nervous.  We have talked about all of my fears regarding hospitals and unnecessary medical interventions – she told me that she would never intervene in the birth process unless totally necessary.  She had told me that I would not need a doula because she would be with me the entire time.  I trust her.  I trust her, right?

“Still not impressed.”  She comes back and tells me that she thinks I should take Stadol so that I can relax.  I start to cry.  I don’t want medication.  She asks me why I’m crying and what I think I know about Stadol that would make me not want to take it.  I can’t remember, but I know I don’t want it.  She looks me straight in the face and says, “If you don’t take this Stadol to relax, I’m afraid you’re going to end up with a C-section.” I trust her.  She knows my fears and promised me safety, so why would she pressure me?  I ask what is going to happen with this medication, and they tell me it will help me sleep.  I trust them.  They give me the Stadol and my vision starts to change.  My eyes feel like they are darting back and forth.  I am managing contractions from outerspace.  I cannot relax.  I am trapped in my own brain.  Ryan is sitting beside me.  I tell him I have to close my eyes because something isn’t right.

They have started Pitocin because the baby hasn’t progressed enough for their liking and they want to get things moving.  The contractions are getting harsh and I am still not progressing to where they want me to be.  I keep hearing “C-section,” “C-section” instead of what they are really saying.  I tell them that if they want me to relax, I think I am going to need an epidural because the Pitocin contractions are the worst thing I have ever felt.  I am crying hysterically because I don’t want this medication, but I also don’t want to end up with a C-section and I’m scared.  At this point, I’m having tremors and no one tells me it is normal.  No one.  I am scared to death.  “What are these tremors?”  Why is everyone ignoring me when I ask that?

I did all of this research about the birth process and I am scared because no one knows what I want and I feel like I don’t know how to ask for it anymore.  Everyone is looking at me to make a decision.  The anesthesiologist comes in and he is the kindest person I have ever met in a hospital setting.  He explains the whole process to me, treats Ryan with respect, and says he will be back to check on me.  After the epidural, Ryan goes to get food and my best friend, Anderson, sits with me while I sleep.  I wake up and they check me again.  I have progressed much more.  10cm dilated!  This time the midwife is impressed.  Maybe the epidural was appropriate for this situation.  I feel a little more positive with them not bothering me about my lack of progression.  They increase the Pitocin even though I tell them that I am starting to be able to feel again.  Anesthetic never works long for me.  I have told her this before.

I think it is evening at this point, I have not been counting the hours and my room has no windows.  I don’t know if the sun is shining or the sky is dark.  Pitocin contractions are the worst thing in the world.  I feel like my hips crack open every time the contractions surge in.  I have a fever at this point and after drawing my blood for what seems like the 50th time, they tell me I have an infection.  I beg them to let me dose myself with another epidural because something feels stuck and that I am having a lot of pain just in one area.  The midwife looks at me in a concerned way but doesn’t say whether or not I can.  She just kind of ignores the question.  I don’t want to do it if it is going to cause me problems, so I stop asking because no one is actually giving me an answer.

I am writhing.  I keep feeling like I need to push, but although I am 10cm dilated, the baby has not moved down.  The next time I ask to dose myself again, she tells me I can and it anesthetizes everything but the one area that feels like my hip bone is breaking.  I am pushing and nothing is happening.  The midwife has her hands inside of me, pushing her full weight down on my vagina to try to “help it along” and it feels like she is tearing me in half.  The baby still hasn’t moved down, so I’m not sure why her doing this is helping me.  It hurts so much.  This is not the birth experience I wanted.  I know that, in this moment when she keeps telling me not to make noise through my contractions.  I feel silenced.  The baby is stuck, I think.

Finally, exasperated and exhausted with hardly any sleep and no nourishment, I give up.  I cry and apologize to everyone that will listen, that this is not what I want, but I think I am going to have to have a C-section.  Everyone looks at me like I am giving up, that I can keep doing this, but my mom gets down right to my face and looks me in the eye.  She explains again what this would mean and I do my best to sound as rational as possible in making this decision so that people will know that I mean what I am saying.  My mom advocates for me by turning to them to confirm that I am done.  The mood in the room gets quiet.  I feel so sad, but I am ready to meet my baby.

The surgeon who is to do my c-section has a cold expression and explains things to me between contractions.  I sign whatever waiver and they take me to surgery.  The nursing team is kind, although they all seem to be annoyed with one another.  The anesthesiologist is back and he’s talking me through everything.  The surgeon starts cutting before she asks if I can feel the area she’s about to slice.  The anesthesiologist quickly asks me if I have any feeling.  His eyes look concerned.  I tell him that I don’t.  They realize they left Ryan out of the room after the anesthesiologist asks the surgeon and staff why he isn’t there.  Ryan walks in to see them already cutting into me and makes his way over to me.  As he is sitting next to me, he sees blood splashing off of the table onto the floor.  I have oxygen tubes in my nose and I’m focusing on that and the kind eyes of the anesthesiologist.  “What will his name be?”  “Zephyr.”  Zephyr Ronan.

The cry that shoots through that room as Zephyr comes earth side is a sound I know will ring in my ears forever.  His strawberry blonde hair, his poor bruised head from being stuck against my pelvis, his puffy little baby body.  The most beautiful thing I have ever seen in my life is right here, lying across my chest and I grew him inside of me.  They take him for evaluation and I love the pediatrician who is there to evaluate him.  He asks me if I want him circumcised, I say no, and he says, “Good, it’s just cosmetic anyway.”

They take me for evaluation because I have some extra blood loss, but fortunately, it is nothing to be alarmed about.  The midwife jokes with me, “You redheads just bleed extra.”  Hilarious.  Thanks for the joke.  I want to see my baby.  I keep smiling as the nurse is wheeling me down the hall, “I want to try breastfeeding him right away so we can establish a good relationship.”  The nurse just nods her head, “Well, we’ll see after the doctor finishes looking him over.”  I am puzzled by the statement, but I am so excited to see him.

They bring him in, swaddled in a blanket and I can’t stop staring at him.  The pediatrician comes down and looks very sorry.  Because of some of the things Zephyr is doing with his face, they are concerned about him having a stroke while he was stuck against my pelvis while I was pushing for so many hours.  My heart is sinking.  My baby may have had a stroke?  What will that mean?  A million questions are on my mind and I can’t find the words to ask any of them.  “When you take him up to York Hospital, can he be brought back to Gettysburg?”  The doctor hangs his head a little and says, “No, unfortunately he would have to stay up at the NICU.”  I start crying again.  Zephyr should be evaluated if they think this happened but I don’t want him to go alone.  I reluctantly agree, but I tell Ryan he has to go to York with our baby.  He is nodding the entire time.  He calls his brother to take him to York because the staff informs us that Ryan cannot ride with the baby, that it is a liability.  I beg to be taken to York Hospital with my baby and they decline, over and over again.  I am trying to hold onto this precious baby before they take him away from me.  He opens his eyes just a bit to look at me and then falls asleep.

I don’t get a chance to nurse my baby for the first time because the NICU transport team storms in.  The lady who is the one in charge, or so it seems, is pushy and rude.  She hands me this tote bag with a onesie in it that nearly sends me into a rage when I read it.  It is a plain white onesie with the words, “My First Ride” and a helicopter on it.  I instantly want to punch her teeth out of her head.  What kind of fucking stupid onesie is this to give a new mother with a baby heading to the NICU?  She tells me they are going to give the baby formula.  I tell them I would prefer to pump colostrum, that the baby’s blood sugar was fine, that his belly doesn’t even hold that much liquid yet.  She then looks at me strangely and says, “If his sugar drops, we will have to hook him up to an IV with sugar water, you don’t want us to have to hurt him more, do you?”  Of course not.  But what kind of mindfuck is that?  HURT HIM MORE?!?!  I tell them I am going to pump and send milk to the NICU.  She blows off everything I am saying.

She takes my baby and holds him out to me like she is holding a pretend doll and says, “Kiss your baby, it’s time to go.”  They put him in a clear, plastic box and I just stare.  When he is finally out of the room, I begin sobbing about wanting to be with my baby.  Ryan holds me and tells me how much he loves me, about how awesome I did, and all I can think is how badly I failed.  That I should have pushed harder to be taken with him.

My friend Anna is there and she talks me through everything.  We talk about the entire situation, and she makes me feel better.  I refuse to sleep.  I get the phone call that my child did not have a stroke and that he seems perfectly fine, but he is a lazy eater, so they want to keep him until he will eat at least 1oz in a sitting.  I become furious, he does not need to consume that much in a sitting.  I tell Ryan to advocate for our son and he does the best he can.

I ask the nurses at Gettysburg for help because I need to start pumping.  The nurse comes in and tosses the items on the bed and says, “It isn’t difficult to figure out.”  She mentions a breastfeeding app.  I want to mention that she’s an idiot.  But I figure it out because I am determined that they will not take this away from me.  And I pump.  Ryan takes the milk to the baby.  I am determined to get out tomorrow because now I am watching my infant child lay in a box via laptop.  I am crying and hardly eating this shitty hospital meal.  We have been separated by a hospital that goes out of its way to promote kangaroo care and I think about how horrible it is that they would separate a mother and child if the child is not ill.  I am obsessed with this laptop.  My baby is so beautiful and perfect.

I walk and walk and walk so that I can show them I am better.  They are shocked because I just had major abdominal surgery and I am walking like I have no pain at all.  I do not want to be here.  When I am finally discharged less than 24 hours after my C-section, I have to have a leg bag because I still cannot urinate on my own.  The surgeon who is discharging me doesn’t seem concerned about risks and she signs off on my paperwork without mentioning much of anything.  My husband drives me to York where my mom and stepdad meet us.  They wheel me into the NICU and in that plastic container is my sweet baby.  I can’t stop crying when I see him.  He’s swaddled in the blanket and I can’t believe that we are here.

I feel like I abandoned him to this place and now he is a prisoner until they say he can go home.  My stepdad tries to take a family picture and I’m crying so I say no.  There really isn’t a happy “coming home” picture of us.  I never knew it was possible to love someone so much.  We go home at midnight and come back at 6am.  I am there all day and he is finally nursing.  I don’t have any support with it because the nurses are busy – I’m just doing it.  I’m determined.  I’m still pumping so that they will stop feeding him formula during the times that I am away.  This child is so beautiful.  The rest of the time is a blur because all I am focused on is establishing our breastfeeding relationship.

The doctor who evaluates him on the day he gets to go home is matter-of-fact and personable.  I like him immediately.  He tells us we get to go home and I want to hug him. My baby is fine, there was never anything wrong with him, just some bruising and swelling.  We go home and jump into a routine of naps, snuggles, and nursing.  I am so, so in love.

Side note, it turns out that the reason I felt like I couldn’t urinate while I was at the hospital was because I had a UTI from them catheterizing me so many times during labor.  Awesome, thanks for all of the fond memories.

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It makes me sad to say that we were failed by the medical system, as so many women are.  Especially when my particular experience involves a medical group that I am employed by.  To say that I am thankful for my child’s health and my own healthy outcome is an understatement, but that shouldn’t even need to be mentioned.  I am writing about my birth experience because it was real and it happened.  It happens regularly where providers neglect to treat the patient like they are worthy of an explanation, like the process isn’t just as important as the outcome, or like the clock always has a significant place in the birthing experience. Additionally, the lack of education in terms of establishing a breastfeeding relationship is astounding and we owe more to our mothers who want to have successful breastfeeding relationships with their children.

As a result of this failure, I have met some amazing women who have been through similar circumstances and who have filled an immense gap in my life with empowerment and love.  I am part of a small family of women who meet monthly to support each other and the resounding effects of traumatic birth experiences.  If you have experienced birth trauma, I highly suggest finding a support group of some kind and go tell your story.  It has been the biggest blessing, especially on those days where I find images coming to me and the rage I feel is almost uncontrollable.  I try not to focus on this, but I feel like if I wouldn’t have gotten back in the bed each time they asked me, it is possible that Zephyr wouldn’t have stayed stuck. But it is all maybes and what-ifs now.  He’s here and we have such a strong bond.

Shawna breastfeeding Zephyr near a creek in the woods

Blooming Wild Photography

This experience has helped me grow as a parent, believe it or not. I am now also a very conscientious parent – constantly checking myself to make sure that I don’t let the shadow of my birth experience overthrow my belief in giving my child the freedom and autonomy to explore this world without a helicopter parent.  The most important thing is finding a way to bring light into a world with so much darkness.  My son is going to be two on April 23rd this year and he is a constant reminder of what beautiful things can grow from chaos.

Punk Mamas had a few follow up questions for Shawna – we wanted to know what she would have done differently, how to find support after a traumatic birth, and how to navigate breastfeeding when healthcare providers aren’t offering the support you need.  Here are her responses:

What would you do differently if you have the opportunity?

I would absolutely hire a doula.  My family and husband were wonderful, but they don’t understand unnecessary interventions and ultimately could not help me advocate for myself adequately.  If I would have had a doula, I would have felt more comfortable laboring at home a bit longer, which would have allowed me to relax.  I never actually wanted a hospital birth because hospitals give me anxiety, but Zephyr was an unplanned pregnancy and we did not have the money to have a homebirth at that time.

The reason I chose Gettysburg hospital was because I thought those midwives had my back.  What it turned out to be was that all but one of them were entirely misleading in how they would assist and support me through the birthing process.  Next time, I do not have a choice but to go to a hospital that is VBAC-friendly, but I will be much more prone to questioning my provider and ensuring that we have a good, understanding relationship surrounding what I would like to aim for in terms of a birth process.  I didn’t feel like I needed to do that the first time around because I was assured that they wanted the same things for me.  I would also choose a hospital that offers a NICU because the pain of knowing that you are in a place 30 miles away, crying for your child while he is in another place crying for you is just too much.

Where did you find a support group for your traumatic birth experience?

The group that I am a part of requires attendance to an in-person meeting before joining the Facebook group.  I discovered them through a local resource for parents and children called Om Baby Center in Camp Hill, which is where I took my cloth diaper and breastfeeding education classes.  If you live in the south central Pennsylvania area and struggle with birth trauma, I would be happy to support you in finding an outlet and circle of women to help you navigate your feelings.  I would say the internet is the best place to search to find what is right for you.  If you don’t see something in your area, look into starting your own group.  It is a lot of work, but we need educated, compassionate individuals to help support families through these distressing experiences.

Punk Mamas has selected a few online resources regarding traumatic birth as a research starting point:

Improving Birth‘s mission is to Inform, Support, Engage and Empower Consumers, Community Leaders and Providers with Tools to Improve Birth.

Prevention and Treatment of Traumatic Childbirth (PATTCh) is a collective of birth and mental health experts dedicated to the prevention and treatment of traumatic childbirth.

Solace for Mothers is an organization designed for the sole purpose of providing and creating support for women who have experienced childbirth as traumatic.

What about navigating breastfeeding on your own, were there any books, groups, websites, or apps that you would recommend to anyone not receiving the support they need from healthcare providers?

I was the first person in my family to breastfeed their child successfully, so my family really had no clue how to encourage or support me.  I was so thankful that I had taken a breastfeeding education class through Om Baby Center because it gave me the confidence to call the nurses out on their misinformation.  I felt equipped with knowledge to start out strong, which was so imperative to my success.

After Zephyr was born, I found myself reading Ina May’s Guide to Breastfeeding, which just continued to help me feel empowered.  With random moments of panic or concern, I found myself online with the (local) Harrisburg/Mechanicsburg Breastfeeding Support Group on Facebook, which is a large group of mamas in the Harrisburg area who have been or are all on their own breastfeeding journey.  That group was an invaluable resource for me when parental anxieties started to knock me down and I am so grateful to have found them.  Another great resource that I recommend to all breastfeeding mothers is Kelly Mom because it provides answers and reassurance to just about every wall you could possibly meet in your breastfeeding journey.

Shawna S. can be reached via e-mail at ssheely113@gmail.com

Sarah’s birth story

Reading birth stories was a big part of preparing myself for the birth of my son.  The openness and honesty in each one helped me understand the process, let go of expectations, and boost my confidence.  I hope sharing my own experience will help others in the same way.

My son was due on November 21st, but I was convinced throughout the pregnancy that he would arrive early.  I believed this because I had originally been given a due date of two weeks earlier, so I figured he’d be born somewhere between the original due date and the “new” due date.  On November 20th I found myself at a doctor’s appointment, still pregnant.  At this 40 week appointment, the OBGYN started discussing plans for the following week which would involve an ultrasound and a potential induction.  I let her know that I wanted to wait as long as possible before inducing, because I was set on having the most natural labor possible, and she said we could discuss further next week.  My due date came and went.

I went to bed around 10pm on the 22nd, and a little after midnight I woke for one of my many nightly potty breaks and noticed I had lost my mucus plug in the toilet.  I insisted my husband look at it to confirm it was a mucus plug and he suggested I call my doula.  She told me on the phone, “losing a mucus plug means the baby is coming soon!  It could be hours or it could be days.  Just rest up and be patient!”  I went back to bed, with my husband, and we began talking about how exciting it was that we were that much closer to meeting our baby.  About 15 minutes after losing my mucus plug, and while lying in bed with my husband, I sneezed the biggest sneeze and felt a rush of fluid shoot out of me!  I yelled in surprise that my water broke and ran to the bathroom to clean up as my husband cleaned the bed.  We were both laughing hysterically at the fact that a sneeze broke my water (and drenched the bed)!  I immediately started getting contractions that were about 5-6 minutes apart so I called my doula back to let her know.  She suggested I rest and follow up with her when the contractions got closer and harder.  My husband and I decided to sleep downstairs on the (dry!) couches and he held my hand through each contraction that night.  Our doula came over in the morning and assisted with labor with the help of a birthing ball and warm baths.  It was 1pm on the 23rd when we decided it was time to go to the hospital.

The nurse pushing me from the emergency room entrance to the maternity ward likely set a record for speed; my hair was blowing in the wind and my husband and our doula were barely keeping up.  The hospital staff was not happy that I waited so long to come in – they had wanted me in immediately after my water broke.  I was 6cm dilated, so after being monitored I labored in the tub, shower (my favorite!), standing up, sitting on a birthing ball, lying on my side with a peanut, etc.  I eventually had to labor hooked up to the monitor because my son was having an irregular heartbeat.  When I hit around 30 hours of laboring the midwife on duty began asking me if I had the urge to push, which I kept replying, “no, but I feel a lot of pressure.”  After the same question a few more times, they decided to have me start pushing anyway since I was 10cm dilated.  I pushed for two hours and NOTHING happened.  I also suffered from horrible indigestion.  My husband ate Chipotle and one of the nurses told him he should brush his teeth because the smell of a burrito may make me sick, but the first moment I caught a whiff of his hot, minty toothpaste breath, I got sick and everyone scrambled to get me one of those blue hospital puke bags!  After that, most pushes were followed up with me losing more of the honey sticks, crackers, apple juice, and peanut butter that I had in my stomach from all of my snacking during labor.  They gave me oral medicine to help with it, but it didn’t work.  My doula and midwife would later tell me they never saw anything like it!  The midwife, who seemed very impatient, told me that the baby was stuck in my pelvic bone and that I would need a C-section, so she called in the on-call doctor.

The doctor came in and checked me and told me she was going to prep me for the C-section for a multiple reasons: 1) because the baby was stuck due to my body being so tense from a long labor, 2) because the baby’s heartbeat was irregular, 3) because my water had been broken for over 24 hours and the baby was at risk for infection, and 4) because my contractions were slowing down.  I was exhausted at this point and honestly, while a C-section was not what I wanted or planned for, having an end in sight sounded marvelous; I was ready to meet my boy!  Since I had not had any pain medication up until this point, my doula had an idea.  She spoke up and asked the doctor if I could get an epidural, take a nap, and try pushing again rather than jump right in to a C-section.  If our doula hadn’t of been there, my husband and I would have never known to to propose this idea!  The doctor agreed that we could try, so I dropped my plans of going all natural and got an epidural, pitocin, and an intravenous heartburn medication, and took the best two hour nap that I had ever had.  While I was waiting for my epidural, I finally understood what the midwife meant by “pushing contractions,” however, at this point my energy was zapped and I felt so defeated.

During my best nap ever, there was a shift change and the midwife I absolutely loved and wanted for my son’s birth came in with a doctor I hadn’t met before.  When I woke up the doctor checked me and said I could try pushing again, but if there wasn’t progress he wouldn’t be able to use the vacuum on me and would need to do a C-section.  I could tell by his tone he was doubtful I would be successful with a vaginal birth.  Once he left the room, the midwife said “psssh…you got this!” and I was eager to start trying again!  I pushed for the next two hours and watched with a mirror and saw that I was finally progressing!  Using a mirror was SO helpful for me because it allowed me to see what I was actually doing with each push.  Seeing the top of my son’s head was the best encouragement and motivation!  In between pushing, the hospital staff and I discussed the best pizza in the area and it was shocking to me how much more comfortable I was pushing this time around – was it the staff change or the epidural?!  My midwife was also very engaged in delivering this baby – in addition to pulling on the bar while I pushed, I also spent many contractions doing “tug-o-war” with my midwife and a bedsheet.  My doula was great support though all of the pushing and helped remind me which areas I should focus on pushing from, and she would squeeze pressure points in my hands to (I assume) help alleviate pain.  My husband was steady with the ice chips and a cold rag on my head.  While I finally saw my baby’s entire head in the mirror, I was ecstatic, and one push later I delivered his whole body and he was immediately placed on my chest.  He nursed right away and we waited until his cord stopped pulsing and before it was cut by my husband, who was told by the nurse it was “like cutting a piece of chicken.”  We cried together while we looked our screaming boy over and fell in love with him as he held our fingers with his little hands!  After the initial inspection of the “damage” down there, I was told I had a 3rd degree tear and received extensive stitching; however, the doctor later let me know it was actually a 2nd degree tear that was on the cusp of being 3rd degree.  I was also told I had “very bad bruising” since my baby was stuck for such a long time.

Atticus was exactly 8 pounds and 20 inches at birth, and labor lasted a total of 36 hours of labor.  His irregular heartbeat cleared up within two days and we were able to take him home on Thanksgiving day!  My recovery took a little longer, but that is a whole other story!

Books we love

We have put together a list of a few books regarding pregnancy and parenting that we love and recommend to all you mothers or soon-to-be mothers.  We hope they are as helpful to you as they were to us!

Bringing Up Bebe: One American Mother Discovers the Wisdom of French Parenting

51yzwwbhthl-_sx324_bo1204203200_Reading this was like talking to a friend who calmly just shugs and explains things how they are – so simple, so matter-of-fact.  The biggest thing that I got out of this book was that there are two mindsets for raising a baby – your baby can adapt to your lifestyle (French) or you can adapt to baby’s lifestyle (American).  Raising children is TOUGH, and there is no perfect way to raise ALL babies, but some of the ideas in this book worked well for my family, so I recommend it to others, as it may spark some inspiration! – Sarah C.

Cherish the First Six Weeks: A Plan that Creates Calm, Confident Parents and a Happy, Secure Baby

51mxnlqpyyl-_sx325_bo1204203200_I have recommended this book to all my friends who have had babies since me as I credit this book to my son being great with a schedule and being a great sleeper during night hours!  However, few friends have had the same success, so it is important to remember that a baby’s sleep schedule is part nature and part nurture.  After I had my son, I would read one chapter a week, corresponding with my son’s age.  It helped me understand where he was developmentally, how his needs may change from week to week, and also what a “normal” schedule could look like.  If you are driven by schedules and are having a baby soon, check this book out! – Sarah C.

The Continuum Concept: In Search of Happiness Lost

51uww7o098l-_sx318_bo1204203200_[This book] completely changed the way I treated my second baby.  It’s written by an American lady who in the 70s lived with an Indian tribe in South America where babies never cried, toddlers never tantrumed.  My baby never cried, but he has had one or two tantrums as a toddler.  The key is 24/7 contact with another human for the first 6 to 9 months of life.  It’s pretty amazing. – Brooke A.

Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth

unknownLove the positive birth stories mixed with straightforward medical and physiological information.  This book really helped me get into a good mindset for a natural birth.– Leah J.

This book was just what I needed in the months leading up to the birth of my first son as I was very nervous about labor.  Reading this book gave me the BIGGEST boost of confidence.  The first half is solely dedicated to sharing women’s childbirth stories and focuses on all the positive and empowering aspects of childbirth.  I’ll admit, I rolled my eyes at some of the stories because the births were just SO pleasurable, but it was nice to take in birth stores that weren’t just focused on the worst pain of your life (as often seen in movies). – Sarah C.

My Mother Wears Combat Boots

61-nepeynrl-_sx329_bo1204203200_I tried looking to traditional traditional sources for what to expect as I progress but they were all falling flat and just making more more anxious. This book, the authors voice is exactly what I needed.  She’s relatable – she speaks about things almost candidly, and she’s knowledgeable.  I’m not quite finished yet but I already can’t wait to re-read it.  This book also made me feel a lot more comfortable about the life that I live and how I’m expecting to raise my children.  It’s really great to have someone to look up to that I can relate to. – Ashley M.

Sippy Cups are Not for Chardonnay: And Other Things I had to Learn as a New Mom

41wim1bl5gl-_sx313_bo1204203200_This book (written by a comedian) was hilarious, and really helped alleviate some of the anxiety I was experiencing leading up to my due date.  It’s a healthy dose of real-talk and sarcasm, which I thoroughly appreciated, especially when I was eyeballs deep in all the other “what to expect” type books! – Jenn P.

The Year After Childbirth: Surviving and Enjoying the First Year of Motherhood

41wivylcf-l-_sx326_bo1204203200_She’s one of my favorites in the birth world and while the book starts off a little bit early Ina-esque, it becomes more informational.  Overall, I would say it addresses the emotional aspects of the transition to motherhood. – Jennifer D.

 

Mommy MOOCs

Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) are free online courses that are available to anyone, and are taught by top professors at leading universities all over the world.  MOOCs are ideal for anyone who needs to learn on their own schedule; whether one wants to dip your toes into a field of interest, or just wants to learn new things.  The classes often consist of weekly lectures, readings, discussions, and quizzes, but you can complete them as you see fit based on your schedule.  Most MOOCs also offer the opportunity to earn a certificate – but this option usually runs around $50 and means that you MUST keep up with the weekly schedule and submit all assignments and pass all quizzes (again, the certificate cost is optional).  There are a lot of great MOOCs pertaining to pregnancy, childbirth, parenting, child growth and development, etc., and we imagine these MOOCs will be especially useful to anyone who is or is interested in becoming a midwife assistant, doula, lactation consultant, mother, childcare provider, etc.  If anyone takes a course from the list below and would like to share your experience, please leave us a comment below – we would love to hear from you!

MOOCs:

Babies in Mind: Why the Parent’s Mind Matters

Caring for Vulnerable Children

Child Nutrition and Cooking

Childbirth: A Global Perspective 

Childhood in the Digital Age

Children’s Human Rights: An Interdisciplinary Introduction

Education for All: Disability, Diversity, and Inclusion

Exploring Play: The Importance of Play in Everyday Life

First Aid for Babies and Children

Getting Care Right for All Children: Implementing the UN Guidelines for the Alternative Care of Children

Improving the Health of Women, Children and Adolescents: From Evidence to Action

Infant Nutrition: From Breastfeeding to Baby’s First Solids

The Lottery of Birth

Making Babies in the 21st Century

Midwifery

Positive Behavior Support for Young Children

Preventing Childhood Obesity: An Early Start to Healthy Living

MOOC Websites:

Coursera 

edX

FutureLearn

Open 2 Study

If you know of any others that should be included in this list, please leave your suggestion below in a comment!

Hello and welcome


Hello and welcome to Punk Mamas!

Punk Mamas started in early 2016 as “a private Facebook group where punk mamas can openly discuss pregnancy, childbirth, raising children, and motherhood!”  Started as a small group of mothers within the hardcore scene, it has now become a group of 500 punk women in all stages of motherhood sharing encouraging stories and supporting one another.  There are mothers on the west coast, east coast, overseas and everywhere in between; women trying to conceive, pregnant, first-time mothers, step-mothers, adoptive mothers – ALL mothers; those who stay home, those who are lawyers, teachers, librarians, tattoo artists, doulas, and everything in between.  This diverse group has been a blessing for many who needed someone to turn with their pregnancy, parenting, and motherhood questions, a place to share those small parenting victories, or a place to let off a little steam in this crazy world.

With hopes of reaching and helping a larger audience, Punk Mamas will now expand as a collaborative blog.  We are not sure how this will play out yet, but are hopeful Punk Mamas will come forward with their specific stories and their tried-and-true advice to share.  If there is one thing that Punk Mamas have learned from the Facebook group, it is that there are a million different ways to be a good mother, and we hope this blog reflects that.  There will be plenty of conflicting stories, so please keep in mind that we are all doing the best we can with the information and resources that we have as individuals; there is more than one “right” way to raise happy and healthy children!  We hope others can find our stories inspiring, humorous, educational, and thought-provoking, but more than anything, we want you mamas out there to know that you are NOT alone in your journey!

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