When I was pregnant, people who knew I was a Montessori guide would say: “Wow, you’re going to be such an amazing mom!” My standard, humble reply was: “I’ll be a mom, like any other mom.”
But deep down inside, I had my list of things I was sure I would NEVER do, buy or use as a parent. That list was long and it was judgemental.
My mom and her best friend took me shopping for baby items. “You’ll need bottles,” they said. Of course not, I’ll breastfeed on demand.
Sippy cups? Waste of money, my child will go from breast to glass.
Pacifiers? My child is not a sink that needs plugging. How would YOU like a piece of plastic inserted in your mouth?
Stroller? I’ll babywear, thank you very much. And I’ll make my own wraps while I’m at it.
Co-sleeping? Goes against the child’s need for independence and will interfere with my marriage!
Puffs? Who would feed their child little bits of cardboard?
Disposable diapers? Only cloth for my child!
You get the picture. And, if you are a parent, you can probably tell what happened next. (You can stop laughing now.)
Zach came into our lives, and my “Never” list went out the window.
No disposable diapers? I was on bedrest for two weeks after giving birth, so they were out of the question until I was able to do laundry. And traveling with cloth? You’ve GOT to be kidding me.
No pacifier? After eight weeks of the “nurse baby until he falls asleep, then unlatch and watch in dismay as baby wakes up, rinse and repeat” routine, I bought five different brands of pacifiers. Zach took a pacifier for three merciful nights, and then started sucking his index and middle finger. Hallelujah, praise the Lord.
No stroller? Sure, I made my own slings and wraps, got an Ergo, and wore my baby religiously (front, side, and back carry) – until he got so freaking heavy that my back started giving out. Now I love our BOB almost as much as I love coffee. And that’s a lot.
No bottles? Zach demanded breast milk ferociously every 90 minutes, day and night, for the first three months of life. I still remember the first day I pumped and was able to leave my baby with my husband for more than an hour while I went to get a haircut. The clouds parted, the angels sang, and I bought stock in Tommee Tippee.
No sippy cups? Because taking IKEA glasses to the park makes perfect sense, right?
No puffs? Take a hungry 99 percentile toddler with no capacity for delayed gratification to a restaurant and you’ll be throwing puffs at him faster than you can say “we’ll take our food to-go”.
No co-sleeping? While Zach has been sleeping in his own room since he was about 6 weeks old, there are plenty of nights (especially when he’s teething or sick) where he’ll come into our room at 2:00am. Thank goodness for king-sized beds, is all I can say.
So, after two years of parenthood, is there anything I will absolutely NEVER do? Yes.
Did you know that every year, more than 729,800 unnecessary and elective C-sections are performed in the United States? Watch the video below to find out what this is doing to our infant and maternal mortality rates (hint: it’s not good), and check out the risks of C-sections for mom and baby. Then, DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT!!!
Join the National Rally for Change organized by ImprovingBirth.org!! Visit their website, find your city on their map, and become part of the solution!
September 3rd, Labor Day, fight for the rights of mothers and babies in the United States!!
I knew that home birth was right for me ever since I did my Montessori Children’s House training, learned about Dr. Frederick Leboyer, and read “Birth Without Violence” (click the link to download the free pdf). In the course we discussed the importance of a natural and intervention-free birth, and I knew that in the current obstetrical climate of unnecessary interventions and C-sections my best chance at going natural would be to stay away from hospitals. I got pregnant for the first time at 35 years of age, and knew that if I went with a traditional OB I might be put in the high-risk category simply for being an “elderly primigravida” (what a pathetic and inaccurate term). Then I would be guaranteed a slew of ultrasounds, interventions, and scare tactics that I didn’t need.
I enjoyed a fabulous pregnancy, with perfect blood sugar and blood pressure (thanks to healthy lifestyle choices), and no complaints other than constant peeing. We chose to birth at home and hired an amazing midwife who had caught over 1,200 babies. She and her assistant supported our decision to avoid ultrasounds and doppler, and empowered us to have an intervention-free pregnancy. I used the techniques on Spinning Babiesto ensure Optimal Fetal Positioning, and baby got and stayed head-down from around 5 months of gestation!
On January 18, I was 6 days “overdue” (nothing to stress out about in my book, since Mother Nature has her own plans, but I sure was uncomfortable). Every day since my due date, my mom, an acupuncturist, would stimulate points that encouraged labor, but nothing seemed to be working. I would get a few gentle contractions but they would soon fizzle out.
I tried everything except cod liver oil to get labor going. My belly was HUGE, I had gained 60 lbs., my knees, hips, and back were killing me, and I was just done with being pregnant. I seriously had to pee every 10 minutes (do you KNOW what hell that is???), and to make matters worse, several times a day the baby’s head would land on a nerve and I would get shooting pains down one leg. I was pretty miserable.
My first labor pains started on the night of the 18th, after I almost choked on an orange. I started coughing and when I caught my breath, I felt a true contraction. They continued over dinner and throughout the night. I was able to sleep through some of them and breathe through the ones that woke me up, so I didn’t bother timing them or calling my midwife.
The next morning they were still there, 5 minutes apart. My mom and I went for a walk at noon and although I could still talk through the contractions, they were definitely picking up strength and were very regular. After our walk, I texted the midwife and then I started nesting hard-core, preparing the birthing room and making the bed. While doing this, I got one very strong contraction that took my breath away. From then on they started coming at 2-minute intervals, and I couldn’t talk through them anymore. I really felt the need to stay active, and I kept thinking how at the hospital they would’ve strapped me down to a bed by that point!
My midwife called and asked if I wanted her to come over. Since it was my first labor and I had no idea what to expect, I told her I would be more comfortable having her around. (I had taken natural birthing classes and read a million birthing stories and books, but when it’s the real thing you have no clue how far along you are, or how much or how little it’s supposed to hurt!).
When my midwife arrived an hour later (this was probably around 4pm), I asked her to check me (one of only two times I was checked during the entire labor). She told me I was at 4 cm and pointed out that the previous night’s contractions were probably effacing. She sent me to take a nap, but I could only try to relax through the contractions – there was no way I could sleep!! She told me not to moan through them yet because I would exert too much energy (great suggestion, by the way!). She recommended I make soft “ahhhh” noises (like you would do after a refreshing drink of water), which I did for the remainder of the labor until I hit transition.
When I got up some time later (I had lost track of time by then but it was dark so I figure it was around 7pm), she asked me if I wanted her to stay or if she should go for a while and come back later (I think she wanted to check how far along I was, but didn’t want to ask flat out, and I appreciate her approach.) I asked her to check me… I was at 7+ cm!! She made sure I had eaten and suggested I take a walk with my husband, whom I hadn’t seen the entire day (he came back from work while I was in bed, and they thought I was sleeping so he didn’t want to disturb me).
As soon as we started our walk to the park (which is only two blocks from our house), contractions started coming strong and fast, about every minute or so and lasting longer and longer. My husband gave me the most helpful suggestion of the entire labor: “They are just sensations, don’t put an emotion on them”. That became my mantra: “It’s just a sensation, it’s just a sensation”. I had to hold on to him every time a contraction hit – I barely had time to say: “Another one” and hold on for dear life, swaying my hips from side to side… But eventually we made it to the park and back.
I remember feeling pretty miserable in the park; it was very overwhelming to give up complete control of my body every couple of minutes!! I was also very gassy at that point and I since I was trying to relax my birth canal, I couldn’t very well squeeze my bottom to hold in the gas!! Let me tell you something, I am not a sexy birther!! It was the least enjoyable part of my labor…
When we made it home, I felt a little feverish. My midwife suggested I take a shower, and told my mom that the hot water would send me into transition (she didn’t tell me this, though!). She knew her stuff, because as soon as I came out of the shower the contractions began coming one after another and were SUPER long. I lost all control and just lay in bed on my side, moaning through them and rubbing my hands on the bed sheet (for some reason this helped). I found that if I could get my moan to vibrate at the same frequency as the contraction, it became a lot more manageable (I don’t know if that makes any sense, but it was SO instinctual to moan that way!).
At one point, I started shaking uncontrollably and ripped off my shirt, getting totally naked in front of my mom, husband, and both midwives (I barely noticed that the second midwife had arrived at this point, and they were quietly laying out their equipment near the bed).
Suddenly, around 9pm, the contractions stopped for a few minutes (thank you God!!) and I lay in bed catching my breath. Then my body was raised up by a different type of contraction, as if someone had pumped me full of adrenaline and picked me up by the shoulders, and I had to get on my knees and start grunting. The midwives watched me without saying a word. After a couple of these grunty contractions, I asked if I could start pushing and got the green light (by the way, I LOVED how my midwives guided me but never told me what to do, they just allowed me to follow my body).
I can’t say pushing felt good, but I couldn’t NOT push. I wasn’t making much progress, and it was hurting a lot, so my midwife checked me and moved the lip of my cervix out of the way. This hurt like the dickens, but then I felt instantly better. At this point I knew I had to get totally vertical so I hopped on the birthing stool the midwives had set out, and began pushing with all my heart and soul with each contraction.
I had a hard time grounding myself emotionally at this point; I was exhausted and kept yelling alternately, “Make it stop!!!” and “Get it out of me!!!”. I find it funny now, because neither one of my requests could be granted!! I looked at my midwives between contractions and told then, “I’m having a hard time staying grounded.” My midwife looked straight at me and said: “You are going to get your baby out”, and that’s the moment I realized it was just me and my baby. My mom says that I smiled, raised my head proudly, and started talking with my baby, telling him we were doing this together.
I pushed for almost three hours (which, looking back, feels like only about 30 minutes). My legs got numb on the birthing stool so I tried switching to a kneeling position leaning on the ball but I couldn’t get comfortable. I went back to the stool.
During one particularly hard push, I felt my water break. My brain turned off at that point – I wasn’t thinking that I was birthing a baby; I just knew I had to push and so I rode the waves of each contraction. A few pushes later, my son’s head started crowning and I felt the infamous ring of fire (hello, fire indeed!!!). I screamed in pain!!
My midwife asked if I wanted to touch the baby’s head but it took all the focus I had to keep pushing, so I shook my head no. (Later my midwife told me that a lot of women react the same way. I seriously wasn’t connecting what I was doing to the human being that was emerging from me; there was no goal, there was only the moment.)
Then I heard: “The head is out, now the nose, and the chin!” Then they started yelling at me to breathe, BREATHE!!!, so I stopped and panted while the baby rotated his shoulders out. With the next heave, I lifted my head, gave a mighty roar, and felt my baby slip out of me.
I sat on the stool with my eyes closed, and time stood still. At that moment, I died and was reborn a mother…
Then I heard my midwife say: “Hold you baby!!”
I opened my eyes in time to see and hear a huge bright-pink baby screaming his guts out. I held him under his arms and pulled him up towards me. The cord was very short so I barely got him onto my pubic bone. I held him there, rubbed his body, and talked to him while he continued to cry, and we discovered he was a boy!!! It was 12:07am on January 20; I had been in serious, active labor for 12 hours, had pushed for almost 3 hours, and gave birth to a beautiful 10 lb., 21.5 inch baby boy at home.
His cord was incredibly short (even the midwives were surprised, and they’ve seen it all!). It was stretched taut so the midwife told me we had to cut it so I could hold him. My husband cut the cord and I was able to bring my little boy towards me.
A few minutes later, I sat up to deliver the placenta and out wooshed a ton of blood!!! I was hemorrhaging because my uterus wasn’t contracting. I put my baby to my breast and he began to nurse like a champ, but my uterus didn’t respond. The midwives sprang into action and injected me with Pitocin, gave me Cytotec, and one more drug whose name I can’t remember, as well as several herbal remedies, acupuncture, and a chunk of raw placenta to eat (yum…not!), but the bleeding continued.
My midwife massaged my uterus non-stop and they worked on me for a long time. I kept praying that the bleeding would stop. I wasn’t in pain and my vitals were perfect (bp 120/80 the whole time!!), but I could see that everyone around me was scared.
My midwives told me they would do everything possible to keep me from going to the hospital. They worked tirelessly, with the intensity and skill of two highly trained medical professionals. They kept checking my vitals every 15 minutes, and I was doing amazingly well despite the bleeding. I was riding a wave of oxytocin and felt no fear. While they worked on me, my husband put our son to his chest and sang to him softly.
After a couple of hours, their entire supply of gauze and a whole roll of paper towels, the bleeding finally stopped, just as they were getting ready to make the decision to transfer me to the hospital. Then they were able to stitch up a jagged tear and do the newborn exam.
They asked me to sit up to pee (you have to be able to pee before they can leave), but when I tried to get up my blood pressure dropped and I almost fainted. I had to have a catheter to drain my bladder, and the first whole day after the birth I had to pee into a pot while sitting on the birthing stool that I had birthed on, because I was too weak to make it to the bathroom. Let’s just say this took my marriage to a whole new level of intimacy!
My midwives left around 7am, after working through the night without a break (you can see my midwive’s watch says 5:00am in the picture where she’s measuring our son). I was blown away by their dedication, professionalism, and unwavering trust in the female body. They came to check on me a day later and four days later, and gave me great nursing advice.
I was anemic and confined to quarters for 30 days. This suited me just fine, since it gave me time to bond with my baby without the pressure of incorporating myself back into the real world. With some natural treatments and a healthy diet, the anemia was gone within 4 months.
Having our baby at home was the most beautiful gift I have ever received. I know I made the best decision for my son, my husband and myself.
I’m aware that what I’m posting here might not be viewed favorably by everyone, and that’s OK. I just ask that if you have negative comments, please keep them to yourself or write them on your own blog (I won’t approve negative comments for this post, so don’t bother writing them). This is a very sensitive topic for me, but I chose to write about it both for future personal reference, and to provide an alternative to mothers out there who might find themselves in my shoes. Thank you!
“The fact that an opinion has been widely held is no evidence whatever that it is not utterly absurd.” -Bertrand Russell
I nursed Zach exclusively from the day he was born, but because he gained a lot of weight and grew well, I soon realized that breast milk wouldn’t be enough for him (he was 10 lbs. at birth and has been in the 98 percentile for size, weight, and head circumference since his first check-up). At 2.5 months of age he weighed and measured more than most 6-month olds; he was constantly crying, nursing non-stop during the day, and waking up to nurse desperately several times a night. Imagine a growth spurt that never stops… He and I were both exhausted!
My mother, a doctor of Traditional Chinese Medicine, had become familiar with a doctor in Colombia who had developed a special soup for newborns that had wiped out malnutrition in several rural areas of his country, and which has been used by millions of families around the world for almost 50 years. She had recommended the soup to several of her patients, and their babies were thriving!
I began making this soup for Zach the day he turned 3 months, giving him a few ounces and following up with my milk. The first day, with much hesitation, I gave him two ounces in the morning, two at lunchtime, and two in the evening. That night he slept from 8pm to 4am. Not only did his body readily assimilate this food, but his entire personality changed. He immediately stopped crying, became more engaged and focused, napped more consistently, and started regularly sleeping 6-8 hours in a row at night (when before he would sleep 3 hours if I was lucky!).
I was both sad and happy; sad because my baby had been HUNGRY for weeks and I had done nothing to help him, and happy because I had finally found the solution to what was ailing him. Every few weeks, he demanded an increase in the amount of soup I was feeding him and was angry when he emptied the bottle… It was like he was telling me that this is what he needed to thrive!
Just like we tailor education to fit the needs of each child, we must tailor nutrition to satisfy each child’s requirements as well. Expecting all 3-month olds to have the same nutritional needs is as crazy as expecting all 6-year olds to have the same cognitive abilities and interests.
I weaned him from breast milk by the time he turned 5 months because he is lactose-intolerant, but thankfully the soup provides the nutrients, vitamins and minerals he needs to continue to grow strong. I am approaching the weaning process considering the soup to be “breast milk” and all other foods to be “solids”; as he becomes more adept at eating with a spoon at the table I will slowly reduce the amount and frequency of the soup until he’s obtaining all his nutrition from solids, ideally sometime between 9 and 12 months of age as recommended by Dr. Montanaro.
A Mission of Nutrition
The soup was developed by a Colombian doctor, Hernan Jaramillo, who worked with malnourished children in a rural area of the country. Before he initiated his nutrition program, malnutrition was rampant at the hospital where he worked and babies were dropping like flies. Mothers who didn’t have enough breast milk were told by doctors to put their babies on formula, causing the parents to go into debt and making already weak children sick (because formula is full of chemicals, processed cow or soy milk, and sugars).
Dr. Jaramillo understood that although breast milk is essential, it does not measure up to the complete nutrition that the child was receiving in utero. As any true scientist would do, Dr. Jaramillo studied the composition of breast milk and conducted HIS OWN tests on the digestive systems of newborn corpses. His experiments led him to conclude that babies are perfectly capable of digesting and using the nutrients from whole foods when prepared in certain ways (in stark contrast to the campaigns of “only milk for the first 6 months” promoted by medical associations, who are financed by the pharmaceutical companies that make infant formula).
A few years after Dr. Jaramillo introduced the soup in the pediatrics ward of his hospital, the level of infant malnutrition in his town plummeted to – and stayed at – 0.05%, while in other comparable regions it’s anywhere between 50-100%!!! He implemented the policy of feeding all the children in the hospital this soup as a complement to breast milk (or in the place of formula) from the day they were born, and soon the hospital pediatrics ward emptied out because the children weren’t getting sick anymore!! He also noticed that their cognitive development had increased dramatically; even children with mental retardation were benefitting, in many cases improving enough to go to normal schools!
The beauty of this soup is that it is made with the foods that families already have in their homes. Even the poorest family in the countryside has the ability to make it, saving THOUSANDS of dollars (a study calculated that the Jaramillo diet is 10 times more affordable than purchasing formula) and providing their child with appropriate nutrition and a dietary education that lasts a lifetime.
My mother’s Mexican housekeeper, whose 6-month old granddaughter has benefited tremendously from the Jaramillo soup, recalls that when she and her siblings were babies, their mom would breast feed them but would also give them atole (a porridge made from corn) and mashed fruits and vegetables from their small plot of land. “We ate what we had, from the time we were babies, and we all grew up strong and healthy, with none of these allergies that kids have now,” she told me.
I decided to go back to the basics and chose to listen to my maternal instincts, the wisdom of my cultural heritage, and especially to my son. As Montessorians, we dedicate our lives to supporting each child’s right to develop to his full potential. This support must include the area of nutrition, for what is our body and brain but the product of what we consume? Without appropriate nutrition, the brain and body cannot function correctly. An incomplete nutrition is as much an obstacle to development as a crib or a walker. Isn’t it time we did something about it?
There are two Facebook groups where parents share their experiences and provide advice to others interested in making the soup. They are both in Spanish but worth visiting if you can understand the language. The soup gets nothing but rave reviews from parents; many admit to being hesitant at first, but all are thrilled by how happy, strong, and healthy their children have become:
I am writing this post at the request of a very dear friend and fellow Montessorian who is expecting her first child. This was our personal experience with our child, but every parent has to choose what works best for them and their child. As with everything in a child’s life, it’s important to make decisions based on THE CHILD’S development, and not on the adult’s needs or emotional attachments. Just sayin’…
During the first four weeks of his life, Zachary slept in a travel bassinet on the floor next to our bed (our bed is very low to the ground so this worked well for us). It was comfortable for him to have his own space in which to move and stretch out (yes, newborns move) and yet it was next to our bed so I could nurse him as soon as he requested it and he could hear our breathing. Our mattress is a “full”, we’re tall people, and we’re on a budget, so bed-sharing was out of the question.
I would bring him into our bed around 5am and he’d nurse and doze, but he was never really comfortable there and would not sleep for long periods of time. I think it just felt too big for him, since he couldn’t touch the perimeter! He was always in my arms or in the Moby wrap when he was awake, and as a newborn I would wait until he fell asleep before transferring him to the bassinet.
I made a special pad for the bassinet (a lot thicker than the one with which it came) and also used the topponcino on top of that mattress, so Zach was pretty high up and could get a good view of his surroundings. The sides of the bassinet were mesh, so it helped him to not feel caged in. In “Understanding the Human Being”, Dr. Montanaro notes that it’s important for babies to have “sufficient space for unhindered vision and movement”, so our bassinet fit the bill.
Zach had a strong startle reflex, and he would wake himself up often. I don’t believe in traditional tight swaddling, so what I did was use a blanket to wrap Zach and the topponcino into a loose “burrito”, tucking the blanket under the bassinet pad. He had freedom to move arms and legs, but he felt snuggly and secure and would sleep well like this.
When Zach was 4 weeks old, I moved his bassinet to his own bedroom (which is next to ours) and put it on top of his floor bed. This is where he started napping during the day. At night I would move the bassinet back to our bedroom. I did this for about one week to get Zach used to the new noises, smells, and lighting of his own room. Since he was sleeping well, I moved the bassinet there permanently and he started sleeping in his own room at night. Whenever he would wake up (about every 3 hours) I would go to his room, nurse him there, and put him back down in the bassinet. Yes, it was rough at first to be completely awakened, but in the long run it will help him understand that he has his own bedroom, and it will avoid the drama of him wanting to sleep in our bed and us wanting him to go back to his.
After three or so weeks, I took out the pad that I had made for the bassinet and placed it on his floor bed. By this point he had grown almost too big for the bassinet! I started laying him down on the pad (still using the topponcino), wrapping the whole thing in the blanket, burrito-style. This went on for about 4 more weeks. At one point I tried removing the pad and laying him down on the floor bed mattress, but since he sleeps on his side he still needed the additional support of the pad (he would roll over onto his back and wake himself up). After a few weeks he became stronger, was able to remain in a side-lying position at will, and was then able to sleep on his mattress without the pad or the topponcino (good thing, too, since he was getting too big for the pad!!). His startle reflex dissipated around that time, too, so that helped a lot.
The floor bed has been wonderful… He has lots of freedom of movement; sometimes we’ll find him lying sideways on the mattress or he’ll call for us to come help him because he’s rolled himself off the mattress and onto the floor! He NEVER cries when I lay him down in his bed, and I’m sure that when he starts crawling he’ll continue to enjoy the freedom that comes with not being caged up in a crib.
My husband and I enjoy having our bedroom to ourselves, and having separate bedrooms has allowed everyone to sleep better because we don’t wake up with every little peep he makes, and he rests well in his own space. He’s able to sleep through the night now (at almost 5 months of age), but some nights he wakes up either because he’s lost his covers, has a wet or soiled diaper, or wants some help falling back asleep. I take care of whatever is bothering him, pat his bottom a few times, and he drifts off to sleep again.
He no longer needs to be wrapped up like a burrito; now he likes his covers loose so he can wiggle around on his bed. Just when you think you have your baby figured out, he goes and grows on you… 🙂
I have three close friends who have completed the Assistants to Infancy training course (to support the development of children from birth through age 3). When they found out I was pregnant, all three told me to make a topponcino.
A toppon-WHAT?! A topponcino is a thin full-body infant pillow that provides the newborn with a sense of security when being passed from one person to another or when being placed onto his bed when he falls asleep in arms.
Being the crunchy momma that I am, I argued that the topponcino would interfere with the child feeling the mother’s arms around him. All three friends wisely smiled and said: “Well, you don’t HAVE to use it if you don’t want to.”
I went ahead and made it anyways (save your sanity and get yours here*)… But then I put it in the back of the baby’s closet and promptly forgot about it.
The baby was born, and as most parents of newborns will tell you, my life was turned upside-down. I went into survival mode, trying to figure out what my baby needed and how to best satisfy those needs. For four weeks I struggled with his naps; he’d fall asleep without any problems in my arms after breastfeeding, but whenever I placed him in his bassinet he would quickly stir and begin to cry.
One month after his birth, after countless infuriating cycles of “nurse, burp, sleep, put in bassinet, wake up & cry, repeat, tear my hair out”, I remembered the topponcino in the back of the baby’s closet, and my friends’ suggestion to use it when transferring the baby to his bed. I placed my screaming over-tired infant on the topponcino, offered the breast, and watched him soothe and fall asleep. I lowered him down to his bassinet on the topponcino, then very slowly and gently removed my hands from beneath it, and held my breath in anticipation of a meltdown.
Nothing happened. Baby slept. And slept and slept! And guess who’s sleeping as well?! I’ve since used the topponcino with my second child and avoided many of the sleep issues I faced with my first.
My baby needed to feel the consistency and security of a surface that wouldn’t change temperature, firmness, or smell during those fragile moments of first sleep. The topponcino does this beautifully, and as usual I am humbled by the simplicity and elegance that is Montessori.
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