Thursday, July 25, 2013

Why are we hiding?!

Last week my husband, Charlotte and I spent a week in Michigan to visit grandparents and great grandparents and relax on the many lakes that dot the state. We were fortunate that two of our good friends were also going to be at one of the lakes there so we went one day to see them and hang out as well. We brought Charlotte with us to their lake of course and our friends sister in-law was there as well with her almost one year old baby. One of the great things about being in a bathing suit all day is that it made it much easier to nurse Charlotte when I needed to. The temperature was in the upper 90s and humid so whenever Charlotte wanted to eat I’d just pull aside my bathing suit top and feed her and since we were among friends and it was so hot I didn’t feel compelled to need a cover up. While sitting in a chair outside the other new mom looked at me and remarked, “So you just feed her like THAT? Without a cover up or anything?”
“Around friends I do,” I replied. “Or whenever I feel comfortable. It’s too hot out to cover her up.” I had witnessed earlier her trying to feed her baby under a towel.
“And people don’t look at you strange?” she asked. “I feel like people would say things.”
“What can they say?” I asked. “I’m feeding my baby. If anyone feels uncomfortable then they are staring too long.”

probably can't even tell I'm breast feeding here can you?!
My 18 year old self was not as brave as I am today. I remember specifically saying at one time that I did not understand why women breast fed in public. “Why don’t they just pump a bottle?” I thought. “That’s how I would do it. No one needs to see your breasts in public.” I am embarrassed myself to say I thought this way for many years, especially when I saw women on the airplane while working.
“Doesn’t that women feel uncomfortable?” I would think. “She’s sitting next to a GUY she doesn’t even know. I would never do that.”

Then I had a baby and got over myself.

I have to say my doula was a key component in this change of heart as well. Upon coming home from the hospital and having my milk come in I was in a lot of pain. I couldn’t get Charlotte to latch and I had a house full of people and I was trying to hide in the nursery every time I had to feed her which was about every hour. Here I wanted to spend time with my family and I felt alone and isolated with a crying baby and sore breasts. Thankfully my doula did not care about or respect my privacy. After all she had just witnessed me give birth naked on a table so what hadn’t she seen?! Watching me struggle she finally said, “Here let me help you” grabbing my boob and helping coax the baby to latch. She showed me how to massage them because they hurt and, with the help of my husband, gave me the courage to do it in front of people. I didn’t want to hide and miss out on my family time I wanted to enjoy it while they were here so I would feed Charlotte whenever needed.

The thing I never understood about breast feeding is that pumping a bottle and taking it with you isn’t always practical. You can forget bottles but you can never forget your breasts. In the cases where I would bring a bottle sometimes we would have overstayed at that friends house or out to dinner and Charlotte would need to be fed again. So it was either deny my child food and rush home or feed here right where we were. The thing I never understood about nursing covers is that while useful they are also hot. You can’t clearly see what you are doing. You have to put the screaming baby down, dig out the cover, put it over your head, unclasp your bra, lift up your shirt and finally latch the baby on. I equate it to trying to dress a cat in a dark room. That’s about how frustrating and difficult it can be for an already frustrating and difficult process. All to feed your baby.

So somewhere along the line between giving birth, flying on airplanes with Charlotte, having to pump at the galley at work, locking myself in the family bathroom at Wanderlust to pump 3 times a day, having a busy lifestyle where I wanted to take Charlotte out and about with us and being at the lake in practically nothing all day, I stopped caring. I stopped caring what people thought and did what I thought was right. We went to Ikea when Charlotte was about 8 weeks and she had a meltdown so I put on the cover and walked around nursing her. Grown women would walk by and remark, “Oh my goodness is that lady BREAST FEEDING?” I went to the zoo with my friend Jessica and even with Charlotte covered under a blanket people said things as I walked by nursing her. I started to realize with a cover or not, if you are in public doing something as normal as feeding your child than people make remarks so what did it matter either way? Why should I be the one to care what others thought about me?

I have read countless stories about women being shamed into hiding in the bathroom to breast feed. It is a federal law that it is a woman’s right to breast feed not a privilege and yet so many of us are still in hiding by our own choosing. When I am on the plane flying with another flight attendant I straight up tell them that I will be pumping in the galley. I sit down, cover up with my apron and pump to keep my supply up while I am away. You would not believe how many conversations this has started about babies, breast feeding, and struggles from women 25 to 65. I make it normal and so it becomes normal for them too and by the end of our time flying together most women remark, “I forgot what you were even doing under there!” When I went to Wanderlust with my friends from my gym Qi I would sit in a room with my friends talking while pumping. I put the milk in the freezer and made jokes about how you could use it if you ran out of creamer. Pumping and feeding are just a part of the new Natalie and I have embraced the task.

While at my in-laws house I knew that my mother in-law had very much enjoyed breast feeding so I didn’t feel the need to cover up. After a morning walk I sat down on the couch to feed Charlotte and my mother in-law, who still had my phone from taking pictures of us that I’d asked her to just snapped one of me feeding Charlotte. When she pointed the camera at me my reflex was to say, “Oh no don’t take a picture of me now.” Instead I smiled thinking I could always delete it later if I chose to. 

the original

Yesterday on my overnight I was looking for photos I could upload on instagram and came across the picture and decided to share. I feel like instagram is a little more anonymous than facebook so I uploaded it and hash tagged birth without fear. was a site my doula referred me to when I was pregnant. The website not only has stories of natural child birth shared by real women but also stories of c-sections, loss, and other stories supporting women. The moderator of the site is on facebook and has had a very hard time maintaining the site because facebook will frequently block their account when they post pictures of breastfeeding or even babies in the bath tub. So the woman running the site moved to instagram where she could share more photos without being blocked (facebook deems some of their photos inappropriate if you can believe that). The next hour when I logged on to instagram as I scrolled down there I saw my face staring back at me. My photo that I had uploaded of a candid moment breast feeding Charlotte with my caption, “Never be embarrassed to breast feed your baby!” Underneath were comments cheering me on and at last count the photo had almost 700 likes. That means 700 women (and I’m sure some men to) support the photo and me and every other woman out there who is taking a stand for herself and normalizing breast feeding. I was so proud to be featured on a site that had helped me so much that I decided to share the photo on facebook as well. 

you can follow them on instagram, twitter or facebook or their blog for more amazing stuff!
I hesitated to do this at first. I thought about my brother being on facebook and my husband and his friends and my friends and wondering if the photo would disappoint or upset anyone. The moment was so raw and real it was almost too personal to share. Then I realized that this photo could be a voice to all the other moms out there who are afraid to breast feed in public. This could give hope to everyone who was ever shamed and made to feel bad about breast feeding when they had kids. Most of all I did it for Charlotte. I want her to grow to be the type of woman who is fearless. Who embraces herself and loves her body. I have a greater appreciation now for my body than I ever did even when I was in the best shape of my life. I can sustain life and feed my child and that’s amazing because some women can’t breast feed or have children at all. I want Charlotte to know I did the best I could for her and that I didn’t want to hide her or myself from the world. If you have ever breast feed you know it can be a lonely activity. If you feel you have to go into the next room every time you feed your baby then you are missing out on half of your day. Now if I go in the nursery or another room to feed Charlotte it is because I choose to take that time out for us and myself not because I’m ashamed.

I hope by me putting myself out there I encourage other women to do the same. I have several friends who are pregnant now, some who just had babies and some who plan to in the future and I want to let you all know that it’s ok. Relax and enjoy the bonding time you have with your child and don’t take those moments for granted. If you want to breast feed in public than go for it and embrace it and the more women who do this the easier you make it for our future generations. You can pave the way. Lead by example.

If you are a husband, friend or family to a woman who is breast feeding my advice to you is be as normal as you can. Support that woman and tell her she’s doing an amazing thing for her baby and her self. Don’t make it awkward.

If nothing else be flattered that you get to witness such an amazing part of life.

Monday, July 1, 2013

A weekend of Firsts -First Night away, First 14er of the season and First class 4

Friday was a special night in the Magee household – it was our first night away from Charlotte. My mom had expressed that she wanted to come out and visit us so I told her the last weekend of June was convenient. When you do not have family that lives in town and have to rely on babysitters if you want to leave the house alone it is a pretty big deal to have free help fly in. Chad and I have been on a few dates by ourselves without Charlotte but nothing like a whole night away. I am an avid hiker of 14ers and was dying to get out into the wilderness with Chad. While there is no shortage of friends who want to hike with me, there is a lack of people qualified enough to hike most of the harder mountains that I have remaining on my list (I had hiked 27 of the 54 official 14ers before this weekend). So I asked my mom if she wouldn’t mind watching Charlotte while Chad and I went out to camp and hike a 14er and she was thrilled. For her, it was uninterrupted time alone with her granddaughter and for us it was a chance to get away while leaving her with someone we knew could handle the job 110%. Once my mom text me that she was on the flight Friday I called Chad and let him know we would be good to go!

The mountain I picked for us to hike, Mt. Lindsey is in the Sangre de Cristo Wilderness which is in southern Colorado. You drive so far south you are almost to New Mexico. After picking my mom up for the airport I kissed Charlotte good-bye and we were off. Leaving your child alone when she is three months old and breastfeeding takes careful planning. I had to pump enough milk during the week to get my supply up so my mom could feed her. Unfortunately, due to working out and being dehydrated a lot I am not one of those women who produce gallons of milk for their child. I calculated that at 4oz a meal with about 8 meals a day I had to leave at least 32oz for my mom so she could feed Charlotte. I also had to take my breast pump with me so I could pump while I was away to keep my supply up and my breasts from becoming too engorged. My fellow moms, this is perhaps the second worst part of leaving your baby – the constant pumping! We had to stop and get extra ice for the cooler and a water bottle so I could store the milk as I was not about to throw this liquid gold away. We left Denver at 6:30 and arrived to the trailhead close to 11pm. Due to the windy and chilly air we decided not to set up the tent but to sleep in the car and set the alarm for 3:30am.

Our first night alone may not have been luxurious but it was wonderful enjoying each other’s company uninterrupted once again.

At 4:30am we set off for Mt. Linsdey. Aside from just the sheer love of hiking 14ers I truly enjoy being out in nature. When Chad and I are home together we don’t have a lot of deep intense in-depth conversations. One of us is either taking care of Charlotte or cleaning the house or doing yard work. When we do have time alone we tend to be on our separate phone devices playing words with friends (against each other no less) and surfing facebook. Out in the wilderness though it’s just Bebe, Chad and me and our hiking poles. As we set off on our 4 mile journey it was quiet save for the birds beginning to wake up and the water crossings along the trail. There was no wind and the temperature was perfect even for our early start so I knew we were going to have a wonderful day.

We saw no one else on the trail in front of us and it wasn’t until we almost broke treeline that anyone caught up with us. The beauty of not hiking front range 14ers is that you usually have the trail and mountain to yourselves. A guy named Tim was hiking with only his dog Barney and he tagged along with us for the next 1,000 or so feet. Tim had hiked quite a few 14ers himself so Chad was left to marvel as Tim and I geeked out on 14er mountain hiking talk. It turned out Tim was from Ohio and was married with an 11 month baby girl at home and he lived in Denver as well. Amazing how much you can learn about a person at high altitude. I know I am guilty of spending so much time glued to technology that I do not open my mouth and mind to others as much as I should. Yet in the open air as we hiked along there was nothing to pass the time but to talk to one another so that’s exactly what we did.

Tim did not think his dog could handle the Northwest Ridge route so when we reached the junction between that and the gully Chad and I split off. Honestly I didn’t know if Bebe or I could make the Northwest Ridge class 4 ascent ourselves but I had promised Chad a hard mountain and difficult route in exchange for his accompanying me on the hike. We decided that we would just continue up to the crux and see how difficult it looked and if it was horrible we would turn around. There was truly only about 30 feet of class 4 climbing but this was complicated by the fact we had a dog with us. I scouted the route up the wall and stayed left of the giant crack but then couldn’t see a good line to go once we topped out. I began to panic a little not knowing what to do. Chad looked at me and said, “Well we are committed now, we can’t turn around and we can’t go back down.” Those words gave me the confidence I needed to keep climbing. We kept Bebe our dog in-between us and there were several spots where we had to hand her to one another. The scrambling and route finding was challenging but fun and I think we would have had an easier time staying on track if we could have stayed on the ridge line directly instead of traversing lower  to find a better route for Bebe.

the northwest ridge route on the right with the wall and big crack in the center and the standard route to the left up the gully
Once we reached the actual trail again at the top of the standard route gully we saw Tim coming off the summit. We chatted for awhile about our separate experiences and then he headed down while we continued on to the summit. There was no one else on the summit when we arrived so we were the second people of the day to make it up there. 

with blanca and ellingwood behind me

We could see hikers at the saddle on their way in and decided to make our way back down before there was a big que in the gully.

descending the standard route
Not descending the route you ascended presents its own set of challenges. I believe we could have made it down a lot sooner had our route finding been better. We started to descend down what I believe was the North Couloir on accident thinking it was the North Face until a hiker above us thankfully saw us and told us not to go down that way. At about that time I had stepped on what I thought to be a stable rock that was the size of a microwave and it gave way underneath me. Fortunately I moved off of it before it gave way and took me down the gully with it. The descent was very slow going and we knocked down several rocks that could have easily hurt anyone had they been below us. Chad and I kept our helmets on because at this point other climbers were starting to come up the gully and we were afraid they would rain rocks down on us. I was amazed at the amount of people that were climbing that did not have helmets. All in all I would say we saw maybe ten other climbers on the mountain and we were the only ones to have taken the class 4 route. I only saw one other woman who was waiting at the saddle for her friends after she decided not to summit. While I was never fearful for my life on Lindsey I must say I grossly underestimated the mountain and it was a lot looser and more steep than I had originally thought it to be. I was glad I had not brought up any of my friends who were less experienced in mountaineering!

We made it back to the car around 1:30 putting our total hiking time at about 9 hours for an 8 mile hike. We could have shaved off time had we not had issues route finding. It was just starting to sprinkle on us as we reached the car and I was thankful to have been off the summit by 10:30am. 

After such a long hike I thought my boobs were going to explode and so Chad had to drive while I pumped. I was the only woman to summit the mountain that day and definitely the only person on the mountain with a breast pump. I was reminded once again that I am not the same person as I was last summer and took mental notes that anyone else I hike with will have to deal with me pumping as well! Not an easy task but I am blessed to be able to continue to hike the mountains I love. I never felt winded or out of shape on the mountain which I can attribute to my attendance at bootcamp starting 4 weeks post-partum!

Once the hike was over with we began our journey home to Charlotte and my mom. We arrived around 6pm at our house to my mom hanging out while Charlotte was napping. My mom has raised four children so she had no problem feeding Charlotte, putting her down for naps or taking her for walks around the block. Seeing my mom with Charlotte made me realize how much I miss my mom’s presence and how fortunate I am to have her when she is here! The rest of the weekend we spent time at my friends baby shower and enjoying Jazz in the Park and the farmer’s market. Time went by too quickly and before I knew it I was dropping my mom off at the airport. I was extra sad to see her go this time.

I have returned back to work and have an overnight trip this week so this night away gave me confidence I can leave Charlotte and be alright. Having a child means there is so much more balance that has to occur in your life between what you want to do and what you must do. I know it is good to get away from Charlotte now and again because it makes me a better person when I return to her but I hate leaving. I suppose now is the time to do so though before she gets old enough to actually realize I am gone. While I know I can hike many more 14ers this summer for both Chad and I to be able to go camping together was a special trip. He is not the biggest fan of hiking so I truly appreciate him spending his weekend when he could be resting with me. I feel both him and my mom are the reason I was able to have such a wonderful weekend and summit on an epic peak and for that I am grateful.

After this weekend I realized having a baby doesn’t mean you have to give up doing the things you love but it does take more consideration and shifts to make things happen. I cannot just leave ever weekend to hike anymore and when I do leave I am a slave to the breast pump. I am glad however, that our first night away was a success and I know I can do it again and it will get easier. It will all get easier.
As Chad said on the mountain, I’m committed now…there’s no turning back…so I might as well keep climbing up….