Ergonomics for New Parents


Ergonomics for New Parents

Staying Healthy for the Holidays includes taking care of your body physically. Our wonderful affiliate and friend, Katie Bayer of Concierge Physical Therapists shared with us ergonomic tips for new parents.

In this video she touches on the safe and proper way to carry and install a car seat, breastfeed, and change your baby. Remember that you can’t pour from an empty cup and it’s very important to spend the time taking care of yourself so that you can care for your baby and your family.


Chicken and Butternut Squash Chowder Recipe


Chicken and Butternut Squash Chowder Recipe

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National Chicken Soup for the Soul Day is observed each year on November 12.  According to the National Day Calendar, this day was created to celebrate who you are, where you have been, where you are going and who you will be thankful for when you get there.

Chicken soup has earned a reputation for being the perfect meal to enjoy when you’re sick, or feeling down, or wanting to warm up on a cold day. We wanted to combine celebrating that feeling and warmth with our Healthy for the Holidays series.

Today we are sharing with you our twist on the traditional chicken soup recipe with Chicken and Butternut Squash Chowder.    

From our team chef and postpartum doula, Vanessa Fowler:

No backstory here. I wanted to create something for this series that is also healing for postpartum mothers. It’s family friendly and warm for the season while still, for the most part, being healthy and giving you the control to make it quick during the week or with slightly more time on the weekend.

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How to Talk to a Mom (About Postpartum Depression or Anxiety)


How to Talk to a Mom (About Postpartum Depression or Anxiety)

In April of 2018 the Association of Certified Nurse Midwives held a symposium at George Washington University Hospital. The event drew a diverse group of professionals, from Certified Nurse Midwives who work labor and delivery, or even in private practice at birth centers or attending homebirths, MD’s, physical therapists, mental health professionals, and a handful of non-medical professionals, including doulas from Doulas of Capitol Hill and our sister agency, Doulas of Prince George’s County.

Of the many topics and guest speakers at the symposium, Dr. Pooja Lakshmin came to speak from her expertise in perinatal mood and anxiety disorders (PMAD’S). Dr. Lakshmin is a board certified psychiatrist specializing in women's mental health and reproductive psychiatry.

Today on the blog we share this list of questions Dr. Lakshmin included in her talk because we feel that one of the most challenging barriers a new mom can have toward getting mental health attention is that those people nearest to her don’t know what to say or how to talk about it. Breaking the stigma around mental health can start by asking any one of these questions.

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For more resources and tips on supporting someone you think may be experiencing a perinatal mood or anxiety disorder, please check out Doulas of Capitol Hill Resource Guide.


PMAD's and the Role of the Doula


PMAD's and the Role of the Doula

Doulas of Capitol Hill was founded on three guiding principles: Support the Family, Build the Community. Grow the Profession. Today on the blog we are sharing this resource from Dr. Emma Basch PsyD, a psychologist in Washington, DC, who specializes in women’s mental health with a focus on perinatal and reproductive concerns.

Dr. Basch was a recent guest speaker to one of our team meetings and she shared her expertise with our birth and postpartum doulas, as well as our lactation consultants, to help our professionals continuing education and growth. She provides this useful guide for doulas to support clients and their families.

Recently the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology (ACOG) updated their recommendations that women see their health care provider sooner than 6 weeks to screen for physical and mental health complications. Having a doula during pregnancy and in the first year after birth is an additional layer of support to see you through this transitional time between leaving the hospital and seeing your health care provider.

Dr. Basch acknowledges that “reaching out to a therapist can feel like a daunting task.” She recognizes the valuable role that doulas can play in screening for PMAD’s, as we often spend many hours with a client over weeks or months, whereas a doctor or nurse may only spend a few minutes.

PMAD’s are common and also treatable. You are not alone.

PMAD’S and the Role of the Doula

by Dr. Emma Basch PsyD

  • PMAD is an umbrella term that refers to the spectrum of emotional challenges that may arise during the perinatal period (from pregnancy through one year postpartum).

  • There are seven different perinatal mood and anxiety disorders including Perinatal Anxiety, Perinatal Depression, Perinatal Panic Disorder, Perinatal Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, Postpartum Posttraumatic Stress Disorder, Perinatal Bipolar Disorder, and Postpartum Psychosis.

  • PMADs are the most common complication of pregnancy with 15-20% of people who have given birth reporting symptoms. While PMADS are most common in people who are pregnant or who have given birth, partners and adoptive parents can also develop symptoms of a PMAD.

  • Risk Factors: A personal or family history of depression or anxiety or other mental health concerns, Medical problems including diabetes, thyroid disorders, or PMDD, Difficult pregnancy, birth complications, Financial stress, Lack of social support, History of Pregnancy Loss, Infertility

  • Typical Symptoms of PPA/PPD: Irritability, Difficulty sleeping, Lack of interest in pregnancy or baby, Sadness, tearfulness, Shame and guilt, Feeling hopeless, Worry or feeling like something bad is going to happen, Racing thoughts, Restlessness, “Scary” or upsetting thoughts which may include thoughts of hurting yourself or your baby

  • VERY Common: Ego dystonic scary, bizarre or violent thoughts, Thoughts are terrifying to sufferer, Person does everything possible to resist the thought or neutralize it, VERY low risk of hurting baby

  • Psychosis/Emergency: Ego Syntonic scary, bizarre or violent thoughts, Thoughts are ego syntonic and connected to delusions. There is a risk of hurting baby or self

  • PP Bipolar/Psychosis:

    A rare illness that occurs in about 1% of women

    Symptoms generally emerge in the first 2-3 weeks postpartum and are thought to have a hormonal link

    Symptoms include: Delusions and hallucinations, Can include violent commands, Hyperactivity and decreased need for sleep, Mood swings, Paranoia

    Risk Factors: Personal or family history of bipolar disorder or psychosis, 5% Suicide Rate and 4% Infanticide Rate so should always be treated as emergency

Role of a Doula


    • Pregnancy- what to ask

      • Ask about mental health history

      • History of pregnancy- infertility, losses?

      • Prior births- listen for trauma

      • Worries/mood (frequency, intensity, duration, distress)

      • Sleep

      • support system

    • Postpartum

      • Sleep (#1) question- if birthing person is not sleeping, not tired, racing thoughts, this is an emergency

      • May look “well” but not be coping well

      • Watching baby breath

      • Feeling disconnected from baby

      • Not caring for self

      • Tearful and overwhelmed

      • Feeding challenges

    • Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale (EDPS)- you can administer and score

    • Birth trauma


  Dr. Basch has advanced training in the treatment of postpartum depression and other perinatal mood and anxiety disorders (PMADS), infertility, perinatal loss, and birth trauma

Dr. Basch has advanced training in the treatment of postpartum depression and other perinatal mood and anxiety disorders (PMADS), infertility, perinatal loss, and birth trauma


Resources For Postpartum Depression, Anxiety, and PMAD's


Resources For Postpartum Depression, Anxiety, and PMAD's

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According to the research, between 15 and 20% of new moms will experience some sort of perinatal mood and anxiety disorder (PMADs) after giving birth.  PMADs are the most common pregnancy complication. Having a baby can be very isolating and suffering from a mental health problem on top of that can cause even more problems. PMADs might affect a woman’s ability to care for herself and her children.  These illnesses are common and treatable.

Signs and Symptoms

Healthy New

Crisis/ Suicide Hotline

Suicide accounts for 5.3% of perinatal deaths, or approximately 1 out of every 19 deaths in pregnant or postpartum women during that time period.
Suicide Prevention Lifeline

Crisis Text Line

Screening Tools

Mental Health Online screening for depression, anxiety, psychosis, and other mental health disorders

Maternal Mental Health Now- Self-screen toolkit

Edinburgh Scale for Postnatal Depression Easy to use screening tool for postpartum depression used by doctors, nurses, and health professionals

How to Set Up a Postpartum Depression / Anxiety Plan

How to talk to a Mom, by Pooja Lakshmin, MD at the American College of Nurse Midwives DC Affiliate Conference on Women's Health and Wellness in April 2018, Doulas of Capitol Hill blog (coming soon!)

Mother Mag blog post How to Prepare for Postpartum Depression

National Institute of Health Mom’s Mental Health Matters (website down)

Postpartum Support Virginia PDF The Postpartum Plan

Postpartum Mood and Anxiety Disorders; Healing Outcomes, by Laura Macone, MSW, LCSW, Doulas of Capitol Hill Client Portal, resource accessible for Doulas of Capitol Hill families (requires password).

PMAD and the Role of the Doula, by Dr. Emma Basch PsyD,  Doulas of Capitol Hill blog (coming soon!)

Talking with Women about Postpartum Depression and Anxiety,  by Laura Macone, MSW, LCSW, Doulas of Capitol Hill Client Portal, resource accessible for Doulas of Capitol Hill families (requires password)

Local Resources

Healthy New Moms- Maryland’s Maternal Mental Health Campaign

Postpartum Support DC

Postpartum Support Maryland

Postpartum Support Virginia

Local Mental Health Professionals

Catalyst Counseling, Laura Macone LCSW, Alexandria, VA

Center for Maternal Wellness NW DC

DC/MD/ VA Guide find a specialist in perinatal mental health

Dr. Emma Basch, PsyD NW DC

George Washington University Five Trimester’s Clinic- low fee medication evaluation and management

Mary’s Center- lower fee therapy and medication

The Spring Project low fee psychotherapy

Washington Anxiety Center SE DC

Local Support Groups

Dr. Emma Basch PsyD NW DC

P.A.C.E Moms groups many small groups throughout the DMV

Postpartum Support Virginia Fairfax and Alexandria

Emily Griffin LCSW NW DC

Online Resources

Center for Disease Control

Climb Out of Darkness  The world’s largest event raising awareness of maternal mental illnesses like postpartum depression, postpartum anxiety and OCD, postpartum post-traumatic stress, postpartum psychosis, perinatal bipolar mood disorders, and pregnancy depression and anxiety.

National Institute of Mental Health

Postpartum Tips for partners, Take a quiz

Postpartum Progress The world’s most widely-read blog dedicated to maternal mental illness.

Postpartum Support International

TED Talk on one woman’s experience and her TED Talk to bring awareness and reduce the stigma of postpartum depression

Medication During Pregnancy and Breastfeeding/ Chestfeeding

LactMed online catalog of medicine and it’s safety rating for breastfeeding/ chestfeeding parents

Reducing stress and anxiety while breastfeeding, by Kim Hawkins Birth Doula, Postpartum Doula, Certified Lactation Counselor, Doulas of Capitol Hill blog
SSRI’s, Pregnancy, and Motherhood, by Katie B, Doulas of Capitol Hill blog

For Partners

The Postpartum Husband: Practical Solutions for Living with Postpartum Depression

Postpartum for Fathers from Postpartum Support International

Postpartum Men for fathers who have postpartum depression

Trainings for Doulas/ Birth Attendants

Mary’s Center DC based trainings

Maternal Mental Health Now “Community Provider Toolkit” pdf download

Maternal Mental Health Now “Online Training”

Postpartum Support International webinars for families and community

Postpartum Support International Perinatal Mental Health Alliance for Women of Color created to fill a gap in support services for professionals and communities of color around perinatal mood and anxiety disorders

Seleni Includes a free 30 minute training and course bundles

Supplementary Methods

Acupuncture Lavender Retreat SE DC

Fertile Living Alexandria, VA

EFT tapping/ Hypnosis

Flower essence (Bach Rescue Remedy ™) study on use of flower essence to assist in depression treatment

Yoga- published study on the use of yoga for treatment of depression


Sleep and Perinatal Mood Disorders: A critical review

Recent Advances in Understanding Maternal Perinatal Mood Disorders

Racial and Ethnic Disparities in Postpartum Depression treatment for Low-income Women of Color

Information on this web site is for educational purposes only. It may provide some self-help relief. However, it should not substitute for a comprehensive evaluation by a licensed mental health professional.


Physical Therapy for the Pregnant Person


Physical Therapy for the Pregnant Person

Our "Healthy for the Holidays" campaign doesn't just include delicious recipes. It also means taking care of your body with small exercises and taking moments for yourself to breath and pause. Today we are linking you to a #youtube video with Katie Bayer from Concierge Physical Therapists. In todays video Katie will be talking about #physicaltherapy during pregnancy. She touches on easy exercises for your transverse abdominis and your #pelvicfloor These exercises will help with pain and stress on the body during pregnancy and can also help proactively strengthen your core for your #postpartum period.


Winters Granola Recipe


Winters Granola Recipe

The holiday season is filled with so much joy and celebration. But we know that it can also bring on a lot of stress and heavy comfort foods. For the months of November and December Doulas of Capitol Hill is celebrating how to have a healthy holiday season. One of the ways we want to encourage you to participate in the holidays, while minding your health, is by providing some easy and delicious recipes. Our team chef and postpartum doula, Vanessa Fowler is sharing one of those recipes with you today.

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By Vanessa Fowler

I decided to come up with different kinds of granola, mainly for my husband, and I love this one in particular. He is not a big breakfast person but I am. I think it makes for a better day because it makes for a better you. He does eat cereal so I wanted to make it a bit healthier. Plus, I always find him getting frustrated down the cereal aisle because it’s often all sugar or healthy but no flavor. Winters Granola came about with the thought of just wanting to bring warmth and flavor of the season to my husband during the winter while he is at work. It’s brought us so much joy!

Now I am able to share my Winters Granola with all of you. May it bring you warmth and flavor of the season and as much joy to your family as it has to mine.

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One of our wonderful Instagram followers suggested adding some dates if you're towards the end of your pregnancy, and we love that idea!

There have been numerous studies that show the positive effects of dates on the outcome of labor.

According to Mama Natural A study published in 2017: Date fruit consumption at term: Effect on length of gestation, labour and delivery.

Published in the Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, this study supported all the initial findings. The authors concluded that:

“Dates fruit consumption during late pregnancy has been shown to positively affect the outcome of labour and delivery without adverse effect on the mother and child.”

So go ahead and get the go ahead from your provider and then pile on those dates!

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Resources for Miscarriage, Stillbirth, and Infant Loss


Resources for Miscarriage, Stillbirth, and Infant Loss

We started out the month of October sharing the personal thoughts and experiences of people who have been through a miscarriage or infant loss. Today on the blog we are sharing resources for individuals, partners, friends, and support people if they or their loved one has experienced such a devastating loss.

Our culture often tries to put a bandage on grief and offers to “fix it.” Author Megan Devine says in her book It’s Ok That You’re Not Ok, “Grief no more needs a solution than love needs a solution.” It’s with this in mind that we share this list of resources, acknowledging that the loss of a baby is not one that can ever be “fixed,” “gotten over” or “moved on from” but that the experience can be witnessed and supported by loved ones and community as people grieve.

Online/In-person Support Groups

Compassionate Friends online and in-person support for loss of a child, at any time, for any reason

Embracing Grace: Coping with the loss of an infant Northern Virginia Christian resource

L.A.M.P.S- Life After Miscarriage, Perinatal loss, and Stillbirth Fairfax, VA support group

MIS Share (Miscarriage, Infant Loss, and Stillbirth) Falls Church, VA support group

MISS Foundation Counseling, Advocacy, Research, and Education for families experiencing the death of a child

Postpartum Support Virginia grief and loss resources

Postpartum Support International postpartum depression, anxiety, PTSD, grief, and trauma resources

Star Legacy Foundation HIPPA (privacy compliant) video support groups

Local Therapists

Dr. Emma Basch has advanced training in infertility, perinatal loss, and birth trauma, Washington, DC

Greater Washington Therapy Julie Bindeman, Psy-D, Bethesda, MD

Heather McMillian, LPC- Telemental Health for Virginians, specializing in infertility, perinatal loss, postpartum depression and anxiety, and trauma

Stillbirth/ Infant Loss Photography

Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep free gift of professional portraiture

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Meeting the Needs of Parents Pregnant and Parenting After Perinatal Loss by Joann M O’Leary and Jane Warland, “develops a helpful framework, which integrates continuing bonds and attachment theories, to support prenatal parenting at each stage of pregnancy. Giving insight into how a parent’s world view of a pregnancy may have changed following a loss, readers are provided with tools to assist parents on their journey.”

Coping with Infertility, Miscarriage, and Neonatal Loss: Finding Perspective and Meaning by Amy Wenzel “Here, well-known psychologist Amy Wenzel applies the principles of cognitive behavioral therapy a thoroughly-researched approach for treating mood disorders, anxiety disorders, and stress-related disorders to the experience of reproductive loss. She offers strategies for coping with loss and provides a step-by-step guide to reengaging in life. With warmth and compassion, she helps readers journey toward healing.”

Sunshine After the Storm: A Survival Guide for Grieving Mothers by Alexa Bigwarfe “book of hope, love, and support for other parents suffering pregnancy and infant loss, or even the death of an older child. She contacted other writers known in the grief and loss community, and invited them to participate.”

Trainings for Doulas and Birth Attendants

Amy Wright Glenn’s Holding Space for Pregnancy Loss online and in-person trainings

To Labor Perinatal Loss & Traumatic Grief: The Gift of Full Presence for Birth Attendants

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Health Care Quality Week: Interview with Dr. Nicole V. Lang MD


Health Care Quality Week: Interview with Dr. Nicole V. Lang MD

October 21-27 is Health Care Quality Week and Doulas of Capitol Hill is honored to feature one of Washington, DC’s most loved pediatricians, Dr. Nicole V. Lang, MD, and her practice at Washington Pediatric for this month’s Local Business Spotlight.

Dr. Lang is a board certified pediatrician with over 22 years experience in caring for children in the Washington metropolitan area.  She is the Founder, President and CEO of both Washington Pediatric Associates and the specialized extension of her practice called, Premier Pediatric Concierge Care.  The Concierge Service provides an even more personalized convenient and comprehensive approach to health, education and wellness. 

She is recognized locally as one of Washington DC’s Top Pediatric Doctors according to Washingtonian, Washingtonian Mom, Washington Parent and the Washington Post

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What led you to this career?

My life’s calling, since the age of 7, was to be a pediatrician. I am the first doctor in my family and greatly value taking care of “my children.”  I am truly living my dream. 

What do you enjoy most about work?

I absolutely enjoy helping new parents navigate parenthood and watching the evolution of growth and development of my children over 21 years.  I also love being able to positively influence children during their formative years. My motto is to help children make “Smart, Healthy, Safe Choices in Life” and encourage them to reach their full potential. 

If you are a parent, how was your birth and postpartum?

I am the proud mother of my daughter, Nia. I had a wonderful natural child birth experience in a hospital setting. I needed a lot of support with breastfeeding during the postpartum period and ultimately did find balance with supplementing with formula. I always say that my baby had the best of both worlds and is thriving today. 

What resources would you want parents to have?

I want all parents to have the book Touchpoints, written by my mentor and world renowned pediatrician, Dr T Berry Brazelton. This book focuses on a child’s social and emotional health, which is just as important as a child’s physical and cognitive well being.  He stresses the importance of having a holistic look at a child and supporting the family in any way possible. 

What's one thing you think the world needs to do to improve the lives of new parents (or people living in our service area)?

New parents need longer maternity and paternity leave to be with their newborns. We need to be a family centered society to help foster the love and support a new family needs in order to thrive. 

What do you think is the hardest part of expecting baby or becoming a parent?

The hardest part of becoming a parent is the amount of pressure parents (especially mothers) put on themselves to be the perfect parent. There is not just one way of parenting. It is a process of trial and error. It is important to trust your gut intuition because it will always lead you in the right direction.  Trust the process and remember Self-Care along the way. (Remember the airplane rule: parent put your oxygen mask on first then help your child).

What products or services do you personally love?

I am a wellness advocate for the company, Doterra.  I utilize a wide variety of their products personally and in my practice- from essential oils, soaps/lotions to vitamin supplements.  There is a new baby/kid product line now available too, that I love. This company also has a wonderful humanitarian mission that helps support poor communities around the world. 

How do you start each day?

My mother always taught me to count my blessings. I start each day with a prayer of gratitude for the gift of life, family, friends and nature.  I ask God to guide me and give me strength for the day.  I also tell my husband and daughter that I love them dearly. 

What's your favorite thing to do in DC?

My favorite thing to do in DC is to spend time with my family and friends—i.e. hiking in Rock Creek Park, visiting the Smithsonian museums or trying different ethnic restaurants (Cher Cher Ethiopian restaurant is our favorite)—as long as I am with my loved ones, I am filled with JOY!



October is Miscarriage, Stillbirth, and Infant Loss Awareness month


October is Miscarriage, Stillbirth, and Infant Loss Awareness month

For the 1 in 4 women to experience such a loss, it can be a difficult time.  The people in our lives try to be there for us, but often times the results are less than helpful.

After reaching out to a number of women who have been open about their experiences with loss, many of them had similar unhelpful things said to them during a time they are grieving.  

For those of you who wish to avoid such awkward or potentially hurtful statements, have a listen to those who have lived through it.

On this loss in relation to other children-

"At least it wasn't your first child"  - after confiding about miscarriage, a baby we had tried 1.5 years to conceive.

"At least you know you can get pregnant." - said after same miscarriage. Currently been unable to conceive for over 6 years now. (secondary infertility)

“You have two healthy kids, be GRATEFUL for what you have.”  - I can be grateful AND sad, you can have both emotions BRENDA.

“You’ll have another one.”

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Platitudes.  Avoid them like the plague.-

“It will happen when it’s right”- what does that mean?

"It wasn't meant to be” and that “we could just try again." It's not like I fell off a bike or ruined supper. Please don't imply I'm wrong for grieving by saying just make another one.

Comparisons Syndrome-

“It happens to everyone.”

“It’s more common than you think.”  

“It’s not that bad.”

Never say any sentence that begins with, "at least". -

“At least you lost the baby early. At least you have other children. At least you'll have more. At least you got to see the baby once before saying goodbye. Etc.

On this loss and the timing of it-
“It wasn't a real baby yet.” -18 days there's a heartbeat. That's pretty real.

“See the silver lining that you didn’t go full term.”  

‘So you weren't that far along, you were only 8 wks.’- I cannot say whether this particular woman was trying to console me or marginalize my loss but in the moment where the pain is constantly in your throat and the idea of loss is besieging your heart; it felt like a dismissal....The thing is we don’t lose a pregnancy.. it’s not a matter of getting to 40weeks gestation, it’s a matter of having a family member, it’s a matter of an entire life, with ideas, hair color and temperament joining your world; the world. Loss can be difficult for people to sympathize with; even people who have experienced loss and all the more when the loss is only physically felt by one person (mom). Loss is loss, and losing your unborn child is complicated because their body is part of your body; and you essentially lose a part of yourself no matter how many or few weeks they were there.

Anything religious.  Especially if you don’t know their faith or religious beliefs-

“The baby is in heaven now” or variation “the baby is in a better place.”

“God needed her to be with him.”  

“She is an angel now.”

“You will have another one.”

“It was Gods will and he knows what’s best.”

“You will be with her again someday (in heaven).”  - So many of these are related to religious faith and unless you’re talking to a deeply religious person it’s terrible.  And we don’t usually know how religious a person really is.

“It’s a blessing in disguise.”

Unhelpful advice-

“Give it some time and you’ll feel better.”  

“Just relax.”  -are you f*@#ing kidding me?!


I think mostly for me it was the silence that hurt the most… when people didn’t know what to say or do, so they pretended nothing happened or that I’m not really a mother.

What was helpful-

“I’m sorry for your loss” -The only thing to say.

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The most helpful, honestly came in the form of someone being there to listen, or just to be present with me in silence and support, the general act of gently moving forward in the present even if it's to visit them for three weeks and just being loved and needed. But what also helped was that someone just admitted, "I don't know what to say, but I am here to listen if you want to talk to me.


NICU Awareness Month part IV- Let's Tell Your Story!


NICU Awareness Month part IV- Let's Tell Your Story!

By Summer Mobley

In the Social Media world, Tuesday’s are known as Transformation Tuesday’s. So, in honor of #transformationtuesday, here are some pictures to show how much the triplets have changed since they were born and in the NICU.

They have come so far and grown so much!

 Birth Pictures. (Left) Xander @ 4lbs, 6oz; (Middle) Isabella @ 3lbs, 13oz; (Right) Elly @2lbs, 15oz

Birth Pictures. (Left) Xander @ 4lbs, 6oz; (Middle) Isabella @ 3lbs, 13oz; (Right) Elly @2lbs, 15oz

 8 days old. (Top Left) Elly; (Top Right) Izzy; (Bottom) Xander.

8 days old. (Top Left) Elly; (Top Right) Izzy; (Bottom) Xander.

 4 months old. (Top Left & Bottom Right) Isabella @ 11lbs, 9oz;(Middle) Xander @ 12lbs, 1oz (Top Right & Bottom Left) Elly @ 8lbs, 10oz

4 months old. (Top Left & Bottom Right) Isabella @ 11lbs, 9oz;(Middle) Xander @ 12lbs, 1oz (Top Right & Bottom Left) Elly @ 8lbs, 10oz

 2.5 yrs old at their Early Intervention Graduation. (Left) Xander @ 34lbs; (Middle) Elly @ 22lbs; (Right) Izzy @ 35lbs.

2.5 yrs old at their Early Intervention Graduation. (Left) Xander @ 34lbs; (Middle) Elly @ 22lbs; (Right) Izzy @ 35lbs.

I talked about how life in the NICU and life outside the NICU can go at different speeds. As parents to NICU babies, we tried to pause one (life outside) and speed up the other (life inside). It didn’t work.

What did work, was the astronomical amount of support we received from family, friends and even strangers before and after the triplets were born.

When I was 24 weeks pregnant, (TMI WARNING) I lost my mucous plug. I will spare everyone the details of this, but the after affect meant that I was put on home bed rest for the remainder of my pregnancy. I wasn’t allowed to walk or stand for periods longer than 3-5 minutes. I wasn’t allowed to sit for longer than 10 minutes. Basically, I had to lay down all day long. The amount of reading I did…who am I kidding?! The only thing I read in the 6 weeks I was on bedrest were emails and FB posts. The amount of Netflix I watched, on the other hand, was a lot.

Anyways, Ray took the brunt of the keep life moving and care for the outside of the womb child responsibilities. But when I say we had an ASTRONOMICAL amount of support pour in, I’m not kidding. My MOPS group scheduled visits and meals while I was on bedrest. The staff at our church brought us meals every other night for almost three months after the triplets were born. We had friends cook for us, clean our house and do our laundry; while others did our grocery shopping. My mom flew in to help us with Braelynn, my in-laws came to help us celebrate Christmas, my grandparents ordered our Christmas dinner and other family came to help once the girls came home, so I could still go see Xander in the NICU. Others took Braelynn for playdates and sleepovers while others helped pick her up from school. My triplet moms group sent us cards and words of encouragement. We met strangers who became friends. And so many people prayed for our kids to grow and thrive and come home.

NICU life, especially when it’s an extended stay, can be lonely and isolating. And at times it was just that, at least for me. But, it was so amazing to know that so many people were supporting us in a variety of ways. We had a tribe (we still do). Our tribe pulled through in so many ways.

Saying thank you 6,398,120,093 times would never even chip away at the mountain of gratitude we have for

 Isabella on CPAP, 5 days old

Isabella on CPAP, 5 days old


NICU Awareness Month part III- Let's Tell Your Story!


NICU Awareness Month part III- Let's Tell Your Story!

By Summer Mobley

There are a few days which really stand out in my memory from our time in the NICU. One of those days was December 11, 2015. The triplets were seven days old. It was the day that we got to hold the triplets for the very first time. Every day up to that point, we were more of an occasional participant. We could take their temperature, change their diapers, swap colostrum or breastmilk inside their mouths, or do hand-hugs (gently cupping the baby’s head and feet, while they slept in the isolette).

They triplets were all on CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure), which is a machine that sends air and oxygen to the baby’s lungs through small tubes in his nose or windpipe. It looked like they were wearing a mask & cap over their heads. They also had UVC (umbilical vessel catheter) lines, whichisa thin tube that goes into the arteries
in their umbilical cord after the cord is cut after birth. It allows for fluids, medicine & nutrients to be given, blood to be drawn & blood pressure to be taken.

On day seven, each of them had their UVC lines removed & IVs put in. Which meant we could hold them! Getting to hold them for the very first time was exactly all the crazy emotions you are thinking in your head right now. It was a combination of “YAY! Finally!” to “Holy Sh**! They are so small. DON’T.DROP.THE.BABY!” Add that to the combination of making sure you held them the right way, so their CPAP wouldn’t be blocked & not knowing what to do if your baby began to spell (Apnea – breathing stops or Bradycardia -  heart rhythm slows).

Praise God for our amazing nurses who taught us (seriously, PARENTAL COACH or CHEERLEADER should be in their job descriptions) what to do & what to expect.

Y’all, getting to hold our kids for the first time…It seriously rocked.

 R-Elly for the first time; L-Xander

R-Elly for the first time; L-Xander

It made all the crazy of the last seven days, the endless pumping and driving back & forth from home to the hospital, worth it. The crazy disappeared, for just a little bit. Instead it was replaced with the awe that my teeny tiny little humans where alive & fighting & that they fit INSIDE MY BRA. Now they are huge & barely fit in my lap. But that day (those days), it was so incredible to see and hold a baby so small.

When we were in the NICU, I wish there could have been a “pause on life” button so that...

...bills didn’t have to be paid.

...household responsibilities didn’t have to be done.

...other kids at home didn’t have to be cared for, fed or taken to school

...professional careers could be picked back up in a few months when things weren’t so crazy.

...grad classes didn’t have to be finished.

 Ray w/Izzy

Ray w/Izzy

...holidays split between home and hospital didn’t have to happen.

The day I went into labor for the second time, Ray was at GMU sitting in class. He was getting ready to stand up to give a presentation for his FINAL in one of his graduate degree classes. He quickly delivered his presentation and promptly left for the hospital.

The week following the triplets birth, Ray finished out the Fall semester of school. He also went to work. He had a limited amount of leave time and although this company

was very understanding, we knew we’d need him home for a little bit after everyone was out of the NICU. So, he’d wake up, get B to school, go to work, come home, do school work and go to the NICU. And repeat.

Braelynn was 5 years old when the triplets were born. She was in kindergarten. We had school drop offs and pickups, events and reading.

 All Elly at 5 days old

All Elly at 5 days old

We split Christmas of 2015

- 1/2 the day at home with Braelynn and our parents, the other 1/2 at the NICU with the triplets.

We missed out on a lot of important birthdays and special occasions. And all for good reason. And all without guilt. Yet I still wish I could’ve paused it all.

 Ray hand-hugging X & X w/CPAP

Ray hand-hugging X & X w/CPAP

But, we know, pause buttons on life don’t exist (otherwise we might all be stuck at whatever random age our parents liked us most at). Despite what is going on in the NICU, life outside it, goes forward, no matter what.


NICU Awareness Month part II- Let's Tell Your Story!


NICU Awareness Month part II- Let's Tell Your Story!

By Summer Mobley

The hospital the triplets were born at didn’t have private rooms in the NICU when we were there. Instead, they had multiple bays or pods.

 Pictured here is Isabella at 2 days old, weighing approximately 3.5 pounds. She’s inside an isolette. She was hooked up to a pulse oximeter, a heart rate monitor & an apnea monitor. She was also on CPAP & had an umbilical catheter. I promise I’ll explain all of these in another post

Pictured here is Isabella at 2 days old, weighing approximately 3.5 pounds. She’s inside an isolette. She was hooked up to a pulse oximeter, a heart rate monitor & an apnea monitor. She was also on CPAP & had an umbilical catheter. I promise I’ll explain all of these in another post

Imagine a rectangle & around the edges of the rectangle were isolettes (or bassinets or cribs depending on the baby in each station). There were approximately 10-15 babies in each pod. Down the center of the rectangle were sinks for handwashing & computer stations for the nurses. I’m sure there were other things down the center, but frankly, I wasn’t paying attention to those details.

When a baby is admitted to the NICU, it was protocol that only one baby could be admitted to a specific pod at a time. Which meant the triplets were each taken by their respective receiving teams to three different pods.

What this meant for us, was that each time we visited the kids, we’d have three stops to make. Or when we called from home to check on them, we’d have to make separate calls to each pod & each nurse.

It wasn’t like there was a mile in between them - they were essentially 50 feet from each other an&d through another set of double doors, but they were still separated. And thank God for my husband, because I was in such a fog the first few days, I couldn’t remember who was where or how to get there.

After I was discharged, & we would go to the NICU, we’d have to pick who to see first – Baby A (Xander), Baby B (Ellyse) or Baby C (Isabella). We’d arrive to the NICU, wash our hands & arms, put our cell phones in plastic bags & call their nurse to make sure it was ok for us to come back. Because they weren’t in private rooms & we shared a large space with many other babies & their families, if one baby in our pod was going through a sterile procedure at the time, we would be told “No, I’m sorry, you cannot see your baby at this time.” And so we’d wait. Or we’d move down the list to the next baby & pray that we could see one of them. Sometimes, it made me so mad knowing I had to ask for permission to visit my kids & mad that someone else was essentially in charge of the well-being of my children. Most of the time, this wasn’t an issue. And even in my anger, I was and still am SOOOOOO grateful that our kids were under such great, safe care.

The triplets were born at 1:27am and 1:30am. Xander was born 1st, Ellyse 2nd and Isabella 3rd. Izzy and Elly were born in the same minute, practically together, but Elly’s feet came out just before Isabella, so she is considered 2nd born of the trio.

It was so hard to follow anything that was happening in the Delivery Room that night.

 Pictured is just a sliver of the people present in the Delivery Room the night of the triplet’s birth.

Pictured is just a sliver of the people present in the Delivery Room the night of the triplet’s birth.

Ray counted 22 people in the room with us. Each baby had a team of 4 or 5 people with them (their receiving team). The team consisted of a NICU doctor, a nurse, a respiratory specialist and a neonatal specialist. There were two anesthesiologists for me, my two doctors, a slew of other nurses and I’m sure I’m missing someone of importance.

After they were born, their respective teams did the norm – weighed them, took measurements, took that “first” picture, the nurses held the girls next to me, so I could see them and then whisked them away. Ray followed the girls down to the NICU because he had a bunch of paperwork to sign.

Xander stayed in the OR for a long time after the girls left and I realized the next day that I never got to see him before he went to the NICU. You see, Xander was born not breathing and it took his team an extended amount of time to stabilize him enough to go to the NICU. Ray and I recall knowing this, but we were told so much information those first few days, it was impossible to keep any of it straight.

Xander was in the NICU for 2.5 months. After discharge, I read his paperwork over and over and over again and it wasn’t until right after he turned two years old, that I noticed something. Xander had been intubated while in the Delivery Room. So, I dug further into his charts and discovered that he had been resuscitated three times while in the delivery room. To tell you how shocked I was when reading that is an understatement. I still get emotional thinking about how close we were to losing him and we didn’t even know it.

Xander had a much harder NICU Journey than my girls did. But if you saw him (or heard him) now, you’d never know it. He has an ear-piercing scream that is a constant reminder that his lungs work and work well. 😊

After the triplets were born, I wasn’t able to go see them right away.

I spent a few hours I recovery, then back to my L&D room, before I was transferred back to the High-Risk floor. It was at least 16 hours after delivery before Ray could wheel me to the NICU. he had already been a few times and was well versed at the routine and protocol.

We planned to see Xander first, so when we arrived at the NICU, we checked in at the desk, put our cell phones in plastic Ziploc bags, washed our hands and arms up to our elbows, called our nurse and headed back. When I got to Xander’s isolette, I was so taken back by his size, by the wires connected to him, by the CPAP mask on his face, by the noises the monitors made as his heart rate rose or dropped or his respiratory rate went crazy. It was so overwhelming.

Somehow, I was keeping it together. Until a woman walked by. Her name was Tara Irvine. We had never met before, but we knew each other’s names because we were part of a Mom’s of Multiples (MOM) group where we lived. MOM’s are band together in a way that I cannot explain.

Tara walked by and recognized my name. She introduced herself and gave me a hug. When I saw the badge she was wearing, I instantly knew who she was. It was at that moment that melted from the emotion of what was going on. Being known by someone who had walked thru what we were walking through meant so much to me that day. I don't recall seeing Tara again after that day and our triplets were transferred to a different hospital 10 days later.

Tara was a NICU Volunteer and it was my first time encountering someone who did this. But it wasn’t my last.

There were volunteers throughout our journey who held our babies when we couldn’t be there; who brought me water while I was doing skin to skin; who sat and talked to me like we were old friends; who sang to my son in the evenings when he was most uncomfortable. I am not sure the volunteers we encountered will ever know how much the giving of their time meant to our family.

Because of the impact the NICU (our nurses, admin staff, doctors, specialists, volunteers, lactation consultants) had on my family's life, I now volunteer at our local NICU.

If you are a volunteer, or have ever volunteered, anywhere for any reason...Thank You. Thank you for loving on others.

You are appreciated more than you know.


NICU Awareness Month part I - Let's Tell Your Story!


NICU Awareness Month part I - Let's Tell Your Story!

By Summer Mobley

September is NICU Awareness Month.

 This picture is of Elly’s, our Baby B, as she was being admitted to the NICU following birth.

This picture is of Elly’s, our Baby B, as she was being admitted to the NICU following birth.

Our triplets were born at 30 weeks gestation and spent 37, 37, and 70 days in the NICU. In honor of this month, I will share bits and pieces about our NICU journey - including our ups and downs, how we balanced time at how with our, then, five-year-old and how that time has eternally impacted our family.

Two is the number of times I went into labor with the triplets.

The first time was the day after Thanksgiving in 2015. My husband’s brothers and sisters and their kids were all visiting because I was on bedrest. That morning, the boys had taken all he kids to go hunt for a Christmas tree (the story of the tree deserves its own post). When they came back, we decorated the tree. That’s when the contractions started. I sat, quietly, timing them. After an hour I texted Ray, who sat across the room from me and confessed I’d had seven contractions in the last hour. He immediately stood up and told me to get my bag, call my doctor and load up in the car to head to the hospital. Fast forward, we were lucky enough that my doctors were able to stop my labor. I was 29 weeks pregnant at the time.

I went into labor, for the second time, a week later. This time, there was no stopping it. The babies were coming. (To this day, I blame Xander. I think he was tired of getting kicked by his feisty sisters.) I was 30 weeks pregnant.

 This picture is of me with three Doppler’s, monitoring the babies heart rates before being taken to the operating room.

This picture is of me with three Doppler’s, monitoring the babies heart rates before being taken to the operating room.

A few hours before the babies were born, one of the neonatologist who worked at the NICU came to speak with me and Ray. This had happened the week prior when I went into labor, so we knew what to expect from him, yet even so, his words were so hard to hear.

He spoke of what we could expect to find after the babies were born. Things like brain bleeds or holes in their hearts to respiratory distress and the need to be intubated. What it really boiled down to, is that the doctors really had no idea what shape our 30-week gestation triplets would be in upon birth. He promised that the team caring for our kids would do everything they could to make sure things were ok. It was so scary, yet so peaceful at the time. And not peaceful in the sense that I’m sure your brain jumped to, but peaceful in that we knew beyond a shadow of doubt, that no matter what, God was good, and God was in control.

Approximately 12 hours after my labor started the second time, the triplets were born at 30.4 weeks. They weighed 4lbs, 6oz; 2lbs, 15oz and 3lbs, 13oz.

Three is such a crazy number when I think back to our time in the NICU.

Of course, the obvious is that we had triplets. And yes, for the crazies that look at me like “Huh!? WTF?! Did you really just say tri…??” Yes, I said it and meant it. And yes, that means three babies. Thank.You.Very.Much.

But three had so many meanings, as a result for us.

Three times the amount of people in the operating room (Ray counted 22 people).

Three receiving teams (which I will get into on a future post).

Three Pods that the triplets were divided into.

Three phone calls we had to make to three different nurses every time we called the NICU for an update.

Three hands-on times, each spaced 30 minutes apart, and repeated every three hours.

Three also signifies the number of days post-birth that I got to go home. Except, I went home without the three children who occupied my body for 30 weeks. The three children who sent me into labor twice. The three children who I’m positive learned to fight each other in utero (and one who proved her karate skills by dislocating THREE of my ribs while I was pregnant). Three days after giving birth, I had to leave three HUGE chunks of my heart inside a hospital and we had no idea how long it would be until they’d be able to come home.

Three of us at home, waiting for the other ½ of family to grow big enough and well enough to join us.


Three months before our whole family would be home, together, for the first time.

And in three months, from this moment, the three teeny tiny humans that I get to call my kiddos, will turn three years old. The time has gone so fast.


Let's Tell Your Story- Fed Well


Let's Tell Your Story- Fed Well

Sitara and Artemus (and David)

Today starts month 38 of breastfeeding my nursling. The journey has been unexpected in every way imaginable and I’ve been feeling a need to write it all out. Much like our changing bodies, the trimesters of pregnancies, and our ever so capriciously growing babes; breastfeeding for me has comprised of many stages, and I will present them as such.


Everyone has some idea, or is made to think about how they would like to feed their baby when they are pregnant.  Artemus was a total surprise, and I spent most of my pregnancy just trying to come to terms with the fact that I would be a mom, and have to be in graduate school full time. I spent most of my pregnancy working long hours and getting as many experiments done before the baby was born. I also spent a lot of time worrying about how having a baby would change me, and I was really terrified of suddenly being bogged down by an infant. My pre-natal yoga teacher was also a doula and explained that if you were planning on breastfeeding your newborn, you just need to get used to the idea of being a happy cow for a while. This “happy cow” image in my head included sitting on a chair with a boppy and snacks and drinks by your side, in an old lady nightgown, rocking a nursing a baby.  Stuck in a room, all alone. What should have evoked happiness and joy, only made me feel isolated. It reinforced the idea of me losing myself to the baby. How would I ever be spontaneous again? How would I be a part of the world, if I were busy being a cow? I figured, my mother was coming to help for the first two months, and would help me learn to breastfeed, because I knew she had breastfed both, my brother and me. I tried to not think about it much. Maybe because I knew it would be hard, and I was already having a hard time. I spent an afternoon reading the breastfeeding chapter from the “What to expect when you’re expecting” book. Worst. Mistake. Ever. It was organized as a set of questions; sort of like an FAQ section if a website. What is mastitis? Is it normal for nipples to hurt? The book served as a great tool for making me sob in bed for 4 hours straight, thinking about all the things that were bound to go wrong with breastfeeding, David, (my husband now, then boyfriend), spent an entire trimester trying to placate me, while I rested my hopes on my mother’s nursing experience to aid in the success of mine.

Months 0-2

20161112_063303 (1).jpg

My newborn baby was here! He was latching well, but had lost about a pound since birth (a lot of that was fluid retention from my long induction, but that’s a story for another blog). I was trying to get used to literally every person just seeing my boobs out. I was so terrified of so many things all the time! Would my big breasts suffocate my tiny baby? Was my body producing enough milk? Why was he not nursing for only 30 mins each session, like my pediatricians lactation consultants said was normal? Why was I crying and singing songs from “Tarzan” on repeat all day?  Why did I not care about being fun anymore?!!

The first few weeks were the absolute worst (what I really want to use are some pretty crass and terrible adjectives, but I will try to refrain). We had an ER visit for high bilirubin levels, we had several weight checks for the baby, and we had competing advice from different lactation consultants. We also had a false alarm tumor scare, which led to visits to a plastic surgeon and ultrasounds.  I was stressed out about building my supply before I had to return to school at the end of 8 weeks and finding good childcare. What I was proud of though was trying to find solutions. I found a great lactation consultant, who made me realize that my baby needed a nipple shield and also that he was just one of those kids that needed every feeding session to be one hour long. This is what I had been given, and so I just tried my hardest to work around it. David brought the baby over for every feeding and changed all the diapers for weeks and weeks. My mother took care of the house chores and cooking and cleaning. I realize this is a privilege that many do not have. For many weeks it seemed like this was going to be the rest of my life. That my entire life was going to be leaky breasts, a crampy empty womb, and the incessant and urgent search for my transparent nipple shields (those shields need to be glow in the dark and fluorescent orange in color). Then suddenly one day, when I least expected it, my 8 week old baby looked me straight in the eye, snatched the nipple shield, tossed it away and latched all on his own. In that instant I knew that inevitably, this phase was not forever.

2- 12 months

The next phase of our breastfeeding journey was marked by the constant stress of pumping “enough” for Artemus while I went back to graduate school. I was very lucky in that, as a graduate student working in the lab, I had responsibilities only to myself at work, and pumping a few times a day was easy to fit in my schedule. As the months went by, some days I would not pump out as much as others and the constant stress of being away from my baby, but my body being his only source of nourishment, took a toll on me. In addition, my academic advisor judged me for “wasting” my time pumping out milk, and accused me of being a “hippy” and nursing my child past the age of 6 months.

Another aspect of breastfeeding we both had to master was nursing in public. At first I spent a lot of time under a hot cover (he was a peak summer baby) in public, trying to make my breasts into a “hamburger” to shove into his tiny, tiny mouth. Once in a while I even found myself in the ugliest of attire locked up in a trial room at Anthropologie or H&M because my mom wanted to go shopping.  The transition from frenzied feeding under covers to sitting around the national mall on the weekend comfortably nursing my kiddo is somewhat of a blur. I made it though!

Life as a full-time graduate student working in a lab, and trying to finish up a dissertation is not your typical setting for having a baby. I had to decide that raising him would not be typical either. I spent long days nursing my kid, driving to work, working, pumping, nursing the kid, driving back, getting dinner ready, cleaning up, getting my pump ready for the next day, putting the baby to bed and then working on my dissertation till about midnight. I tossed the idea of sleep training, and we learnt how to nurse in bed, and co-slept. This was the only way I got some rest, and I couldn’t fathom a few nights of no sleep and having to use my brain all day in the lab.

One of the most unexpected events in my breastfeeding journey was wet nursing! Our daycare provider had a granddaughter who was about 6 months old when her mother had to have emergency back surgery. She had been exclusively breastfed and had never taken a bottle. Her mom also didn’t have any pumped milk. She refused formula and bottles for a few days and was surviving on fruit and veggie purees. Her grandmother was so worried, and the baby was quite hungry! As I was picking up my kid from daycare, I saw the hungry baby and asked our babysitter if she would like me to try to nurse her granddaughter. She was pretty desperate, so we tried it, and just like that the baby latched on! I nursed her 2-3 times a day for about a week, till her mother was back from the hospital.

Before I knew it (scratch that)-finally, after what seemed like forever, we were approaching the twelve-month mark. I knew at once that I would give up pumping at work, but also knew that weaning Artemus would be difficult. He was not ready, and surprisingly I was not either. Once again, the journey had led me to an unexpected outcome.

12 -24 months


Just before Artemus turned a year old he started having ear infections.  Nursing him was the only thing that seemed to help with the pain and crankiness.  He was by now also reliant on nursing to fall asleep at night and also for naps. Tantrums started early, at about 12 months and nursing helped with that too. I had exactly a year left in my program, and my workload was really ramping up. I was once again sure I was the laziest parent that ever existed because I couldn’t fathom rocking the boat, and taking away the only thing that made me feel sane in this parenting role. A boob in Artemus’ mouth meant he was quiet. It meant he would nap. It meant he would calm down. It meant I could get more work done. We proceeded this way for the whole next year. I actually thought that nursing was finally fun! There was no more pressure on my body to be the primary source of nutrition and I still got all the cuddles and snuggles. My right breast had always produced less than my left breast,  so I decided to retire Ms right boob, so I felt like I had half of my boobs back! This might have been the most ridiculous thing I did to feel pseudo “normal” again.

At eighteen months old, Artemus had tubes put into his ears. The ear infections stopped right as I had some travel for work coming up. I thought 6 days away would mean he would likely forget about nursing. However, the first thing he wanted as I walked into the house was to nurse!!! The same thing repeated itself at about 22 months. At this point I was two months away from defending my thesis, and decided that once again, I would not wean till after I was done with school. To be honest, I was always relieved that Artemus was not ready to wean. By this point I had accepted that I was the parent who had never sleep trained their toddler, that Artemus still very much needed to be nursed to nap on weekends and that at least I still had right boob to myself!

24 months-37 months

The last year has probably been the most interesting year in terms of nursing my once baby.  I had about two weeks between finishing up graduate school and starting my post-doctoral fellowship. I could have weaned, but at this point I just knew that I did not want to. Instead we tackled potty training with success. I knew my toddler was growing up, and someday he may not need my body for comfort the way he still does. As the year progressed, he became more vocal about his preferences breastfeeding. It was a ritualistic practice for him. I would return home from work, and he would ask me to take my shoes off and sit on the couch, then he would climb into my lap for some milk. He eventually started talking about how he feels about my milk, how it is better than ice cream and how it makes him feel better. Never in my wildest dreams did I ever think that my baby would be discussing breastfeeding with me!

Since most people do not breastfeed toddlers in the U.S., I was very happy to have a few friends who had, and also a pediatrician who was very encouraging of extended breastfeeding. We are still nursing but Artemus is slowly self-weaning. I still do not know how or when this journey will end for us. For now I will just be a big cliché and say that I am enjoying (most) of our time together, fully aware that someday soon he will no longer need me to be his human pacifier. I will get full body autonomy back, and then probably screw myself over and get pregnant again!