Introduce yourself and your son.
A: My name is Alicia, and I live in Starkville, Mississippi, a rural college town. I currently work full time outside of the home, but I’m hopeful in a few months to begin working part time. I have one son, Ennis, who is 17 months old.
Tell us about Ennis.
A: Ennis is very serious but happy. He knows exactly what he wants and is learning to express it better and better each day.
Can you give a mini-version of your birth story?
A: Though we weren’t sure if it were early labor or practice labor, I couldn’t stay asleep. I was ready for my baby to come even though just two days prior an exam revealed I was not dilated at all or showing any other signs of impending birth. A little after daybreak, we called the midwife who we had been in contact with via text and calls throughout the night and my best friend who was coming to help us with the birth. My husband asked the midwife if he should start getting things ready, but she said he could wait until she arrived and checked me.
I walked around the house. I rolled my hips on my birth ball. I doubted this was really labor and felt silly having people come over. I kept walking and rolling and talking to my baby, telling him that it was safe and he could be born now if he were ready. My midwife lives about an hour and a half away. She arrived at 9 and after talking to me briefly, she had my husband and best friend begin preparing. During the most intense part of labor I was in the shower going through transition without realizing it until my midwife suggested I might be getting close to pushing. Shortly thereafter it was 11 a.m. and I had a baby nursing on my chest in my bed.
Do you breastfeed?
A: I do breastfeed, though that he’s a toddler so the frequency and duration is much shorter. I breastfeed because I am a big supporter of natural living in many areas of our life from my hair to my food. We source local grassfed beef from a small farmer. I have a flock of chickens in my backyard to provide us fresh eggs in a clean, cruelty free environment. We’re members of a local CSA that’s beyond organic in terms of using concerning herbicides and pesticides. We limit the amount of processed food in our diet and believe whole, natural food is conducive to health.
I spend a lot of time and money to provide my family clean, safe food that I know and trust the origin. I wanted to be able to provide the same for my child, so I breastfeed. It nurtures an important bond that I find especially important since I work outside the home and am away from him so many hours.
How do you balance breastfeeding and working/managing your household?
A: Right now I’m in the process of weaning off of my pump. I plan to stop pumping by the end of July, at which time I’ll make my last donor milk donation. I’ve been pumping and freezing milk since I returned to work when he was 12 weeks. I have my own office, so pumping with a hands free nursing bra fit easily in to my work day. I just closed my door and continued working. I responded really well to the pump, so I was able to donate excess milk to premature babies through a medical association. I do not pump at home.
When my son was younger and we nursed more often, I wore him a lot in a baby carrier. This freed my hands to cook, eat, and clean. I cannot imagine how I could have survived without a good quality baby carrier like a Boba or an Ergo.
How do you balance work and being a mom?
A: When I’m home, I’m home and my family is my priority. Ennis is only awake a few hours after I pick him up from child care, so I try to make those hours count. I’ve gotten him a summer membership to our gym, so we’ve been going swimming every day after work. We play and sing and splash and try to have a really good time until it’s time for bed.
What is your biggest parenting challenge right now?
A: I never thought I’d want to be a stay-at-home mom, but honestly it breaks my heart every single day to leave him at child care. I struggle knowing I carried him for almost a year. I birthed him. And then I’m away from him for the majority of his happy awake hours. I hate that I pick him up in time for dinner, a bath, and to put him to bed. Right now I’m the breadwinner in our family as my husband completes his PhD, so I volunteer at his school when I can. We cosleep. We’re pretty much together any time I’m not at work.
How do you determine Ennis is thriving?
A: Beyond hitting developmental milestones and gaining weight, I look to his mood to know how he is doing. When he’s happy, curious, and getting into something he probably shouldn’t, I know he’s doing well. If he’s clingy and quiet, I know something is wrong whether it be teething, illness, or stress.
How do you carve out time for yourself?
A: One huge thing I do is I use my lunch break at work to go to exercise whether it be running, hitting the weight room, or attending aerobics. I need the endorphins and the time away from my desk. I don’t like working out after or before work because I feel that takes away even more time with Ennis.
I also use a lot of my personal leave. In the last 12 months, Ennis and I have been to Washington, D.C., Indiana, North Carolina, Rhode Island and some other places closer to home. I love to travel, so I continue to do so with my family. We go to museums and botanical gardens and parks and zoos and I’m introducing him to the things I love, so that I am able to enjoy them as well. Me time doesn’t necessarily have to be me alone, just things I’m doing because I want to do them.
How does your husband contribute to child-rearing?
A: Being married to a PhD student is challenging, much more so than I ever would have imagined. For example, right now it’s Sunday afternoon, and he’s in the lab and has been since early this morning. I don’t know when he’ll come home, but I’m sure he’ll be warming up his food separately later. He’s not always able to be as involved as I know he’d like to be.
Since the beginning, he’s made sure we have a good foundation, so I feel well enough to be the primary caregiver. While I was pregnant, he got up early to bring me scrambled eggs in bed to fight off morning sickness. Each night, he makes our yogurt parfaits for breakfast the next morning at work. He also packs our lunches. For Ennis, he washes and prepares his cups and clothes diapers. He’s also usually the one who gets Ennis dressed and most nights he puts Ennis to bed.
Who is your child-rearing support group?
A: My long-time friends are still my biggest support group. Though they aren’t parents, they’ve been there for us wonderfully. For mother-to-mother support, I’ve met some great moms through La Leche League. I belong to some Facebook groups for natural living, cloth diapering, and/or breastfeeding mothers that have been very beneficial.
What advice would you give to a new mom?
A: Do things that make you feel good even if it’s not the way your family and friends raise their children. If you feel bad making a decision, see you can make a decision that makes you feel better. It’s your life and your child. They grow too fast to do anything else.