The Breastfeeding Chronicles

I know this is one of the most widely controversial topics among moms, health experts and even people who never want kids. I had my own experience with breastfeeding and this post is meant more for personally therapeutic reasons than anything else.

When I was pregnant, I never thought twice about how we would feed our baby—I was planning on breastfeeding. I know the health benefits to both mom and baby and I was going to breastfeed. That was that. However, like I mentioned a couple of weeks ago, breastfeeding is hard. It takes/took a lot of work and that was something that I was absolutely not prepared for.

When Graham was born via C-section, I didn’t get to hold him for about an hour after he came into this world. Even then in the hospital I was wondering if not being able to have immediate skin-to-skin with him would affect our ability to breastfeed. Despite Graham losing weight in the hospital, our breastfeeding journey was going relatively well. When they told us that we needed to supplement because he lost too much weight, I didn’t think twice about giving him formula—he needed to eat and get the proper nutrition and that was my highest priority. I have never been anti-formula and I don’t think anything is wrong with formula; I just never pictured it being a regular part of our lives (just like I never imagined that c-section—ha!).

So we supplemented. Graham was very tired the first several days of his life namely due to the very long labor which was hard on him too and the fact that we could not get him circumcised in the hospital—we had to have it done as an outpatient procedure our first day home from the hospital which left him very sleepy. All of these added together made for a rough first 5 days of life one very tired baby. He was not interested in eating and when I would put him to my boob he would get tired and fall asleep.

We HAD to supplement to get him to grow. We met with the lactation consultant several times while in the hospital because I really wanted this [breastfeeding] to work for us. In the hospital our schedule looked like this—breastfeed for 15-20 minutes, supplement, then pump for 15 minutes. Every three hours. Our lactation consultant highly recommended that we rent a hospital grade pump to have at home because that was going to be key in pulling out more milk, thus signaling my body to make more. My husband didn’t rent, he purchased us a hospital grade electric pump which run anywhere from $600-$1000 used but this is how determined we were to make breastfeeding work for us.

One week postpartum we met with our lactation consultant again because I wanted to try and get Graham to be able to latch so we could eventually phase out the bottles. This was problematic and our lactation consultant gave us two plans to choose from—continue like we did in the hospital and breastfeed, supplement then pump. Our other option was for me to pump every 2-3 hours and exclusively bottle-feed Graham. Being a first time mom, one-week postpartum and trying to recover from a c-section, we chose for me to exclusively pump and bottle-feed Graham. That’s what we (this was a family decision) decided that I could manage without going completely insane and getting even more exhausted.

By one week postpartum, I still hadn’t experienced my ‘milk coming in,’ like I was warned of by many of my mommy friends. Even now, I can attest that my milk never actually came in. I was taking everything they say to take to boost milk supply—Fenugreek, Mother’s Milk Tea, I even made lactation bars with brewer’s yeast, oats and flax meal which are all foods said to help boost milk supply. At my peak, I was pumping 80mls (almost 3oz) in one session…this was from both boobs. I maxed out one day at 9oz total pumping for the whole day, which I was really proud of. I did a lot of Googling and when I would see some moms write that they were pumping 3oz PER BOOB, AFTER feeding their baby, I wanted to roll over and die [because I was comparing myself to them which is a big no-no].

A couple of weeks ago I wasn’t doing well—I was really struggling with postpartum hormones and was feeling very depressed. The feeling would get worse when I pumped but I chalked it up to hormones. I would sit in our bedroom and cry while pumping. I started to hate pumping but was continuing for the sake of our kiddo.

Last week, I got to my very wit’s end. Mood-wise I was feeling so much better except for when I would pump. I would get depressed and anxious, before, during and after pumping. Since I was pumping every few hours, these feelings that I couldn’t shake were taking over. Some women have a more drastic hormone change when their milk ‘lets down’ which can cause anxiety and depression among other negative feelings—this is exactly what I was experiencing.

Thursday was when Graham turned 4-weeks old and that is also the day that was my last day pumping. I could not keep it up. My husband was ready to support whatever decision I made. I talked with my mom and our pediatrician and collectively we came to the decision that our family deserves a happy, psychologically sound mother more than Graham needs 2 bottles worth of breast milk (if that) per day.

It was such a relief yet such a difficult decision for me to come to. Breastfeeding did not turn out how I hoped or planned for it to and I am still mourning the loss of a dream, as my MIL appropriately termed it. Although it has only been a few days, the amount of relief and peace I have is really indescribable. I am no longer spending hours each day pumping and more hours each day being sad and upset with myself for breastfeeding ‘not working’.

It’s somewhat similar to my c-section—it’s not how I planned or expected, but it is my reality and it’s something that I have peace with. One thing I am learning is that there can be no blanket expectation as for how anything will go in parenting or motherhood.

No, I’m not able to breastfeed Graham like I dreamt, but I am happy and I am happy to do the absolute best for my wonderful, healthy, squishy, adorable, formula fed baby boy.

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Being a Mom is Hard

Today was a rough day.
Being a mom is hard.

Not in the ‘I don’t remember the last time I slept longer than 3 hours at a time, I wipe spit up with my shirt, I can’t tell you the last time these pants were washed, I have vomit in my hair and maybe poop too, happy we didn’t have a diaper blow-out today’ hard.

These things pale in comparison to the kind of ‘hard’ I am talking about.

Being a mom is hard in that a piece of your heart is always wherever your baby is. Even if he is just in the other room, a part of you is in that other room. Even if he is safe and snuggled at Grandma and Grandpa’s house, a part of you is still away from you.

I was warned about the sleepless nights, the poop, the crying, but not this part. I guess that’s because this is something you can’t really understand until you gain the title of ‘mom’.

I love this little person more than I knew it was possible to love someone. I still make mistakes. I get frustrated. I was getting impatient with my baby this morning and I apologized to him. Me, a grown woman, apologized to a 4-week old baby. Because I love him, I care about him. I had to humble myself and he deserves the best mom.

I find comfort in being ‘okay’ with the sleepless nights, the sore boobs, forgetting to eat, because I know this is all fleeting. I will only be able to snuggle my baby without him minding for maybe a few years. Then he will grow big, he will go to school, he will make friends, he will be exposed to the world. A piece of my heart will always be wherever he is.

I treasure his little yawns, his baby toots, his hiccups and the noises he makes when he eats.

Because being a mom is hard, but he makes it all worth it.

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Mom Life: Two Weeks In

I really can’t believe that it has been two weeks since our little guy joined our family! I am sure I will be saying this for the rest of my life but it is true. He has already grown and changed so much since he was born 18 days ago. I thought about writing a 1-week post-partum update but between Christmas, not sleeping and other mom-things time wasn’t exactly available.

Every day I look at this little man and can’t believe that he grew in my body. Every little bone, fingernail, hair follicle, his pretty eyeballs, his cute ears, his little chin–were developed inside of me. For that alone I am still absolutely astonished. Being a mom really does change you in a million ways and I am just starting to learn that. Also, my world is contained within three people—Jesus, my husband, and our sweet baby boy. In reflection, the time we were in the hospital (5 days) nothing else was on my mind except our little family. It was so odd driving home because I had forgotten that other things existed besides my baby. For someone who is constantly on the go and has a million things on her mind, it is a pretty amazing thing to have just ONE focus.

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Now to how we have been surviving the past two plus weeks. My husband had all of Christmas week off of work, which was a blessing and lifesaver. Having him here with me made all the difference in the world. We were working as a team and working on adjusting as our new unit. Since Graham was born right before Christmas and we just celebrated New Years, things kind of swirled together.

Things more difficult than I imagined AKA Things I Wish Someone Had Told Me About Before I Had a Kid—

Getting our baby to gain weight. He lost over a pound his first 5 days of life. Between a very long and tough labor and delivery for him and having to get circumcised the day AFTER we got home from the hospital left him incredibly sleepy and uninterested in eating. We had to supplement with formula and basically force-feed him his first few days so he would start gaining. In a week he went from eating not even a full ounce per feeding to downing 2-3oz per feeding. He’s well over his birth weight and was over 9lbs at his 2-week pediatrician appointment.

Breastfeeding. I was in no way prepared to face the amount of work that this requires. Since Graham was so sleepy the first several days of life, it made taking to the boob more difficult for him and my milk took its sweet time to come in. It was frustrating for my husband and I because we were trying to simultaneously supplement and breastfeed (quite the circus to be honest) and we would both have to get up every 2-3 hours at night to feed Graham. We spent several hours with our lactation consultant and ultimately decided that the best option for us right now was for me to exclusively pump and feed baby from a bottle. This was a big relief for all of us—G is really great at taking a bottle, he is still getting my milk, and I wasn’t the only one who was able to feed him. I am on a pumping schedule of every 2-3 hours, which does get tiring mentally and physically (who knew pumping makes you literally tired) but it is worth the work. We still have to use some formula because my supply isn’t as high as it needs to be (despite taking Fenugreek, Mother’s Milk Tea, etc.) but I am happy to the fact that our baby is now getting about 50% of his milk from me. My first priority is that Graham is getting the proper nutrition be it from me or from formula. Our lactation consultant said that it is absolutely great that I am open to trying all that we can for him to get breast milk. This wasn’t something that I was going to let devastate me and we are making so much progress, which makes me very happy.

Growth spurts. Ugh. Apparently between weeks 1-3, babies have their first growth spurt and I think we survived…knock on wood. Graham was inconsolable for a couple of days and was eating and gassy and cranky and my husband and I were kind of like, ‘Whaaaa….?’ These will be interesting.

Diapers. Sometimes I forget to make proper adjustments only needed with a little boy, so he has soaked my husband a few times due to my inability to correctly secure a diaper. Sorry babe. For non-parents—you gotta point the little weiner downwards otherwise you will be soaked in pee.

Things easier than I imagined AKA We Are Kind of Surviving—

Sleep. First of all—2-3 hours of broken sleep while not pregnant is glorious compared to any sleep while 9 months pregnant. Also, my husband is amazing. I have heard from other women how their husbands don’t help at all during the night with the baby which leave for tired and cranky parents but my husband is a total rock star. Since we are able to feed baby from a bottle, my husband readily takes shifts with me at nighttime to feed and change our little guy. Some nights are of course better than others but the bad nights make me appreciate the good nights a LOT.

Showering. That’s a positive, right? Since my husband was home our first week home from the hospital, I took a shower every day. I think. It made me feel more human as did putting on makeup even though I knew I wouldn’t be leaving the house.

Recovery. This is kind of an iffy one. I feel as though my c-section recovery is not near as bad as if our kid had exited the other way because I got nice little stitches with a nice big bandage and pain meds to boot. Basically, I didn’t make it a big deal (GASP! C-Section!) in my mind so it’s not a big deal to me. However the difficult part is that my incision is now infected (gross, I know) and needs to heal properly and what’s hardest for me is that my mind is willing but my body is totally not ready. Like in my mind, I’m totally ready to go outside and go running and go to the gym and do all the things. Except I haven’t run in heaven knows how long and I’m not even allowed to exercise for four more weeks. And I have a giant cut on my stomach that needs to heal.

It is hard because I’m an achiever-type who needs to do things to feel good about myself and about life in general and I like being busy and on the go. Life with a newborn = my old life came to a screeching halt and I alternate between the bed and the couch feeding and diapering a tiny human whilst dealing with post-partum hormones. This one is a work in progress. I know time is going to fly by too fast so I’m really trying to enjoy all the baby cuddles and Netflix that I can.

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At 2 weeks, Graham’s favorite things are—
-Eating before he gets cranky
-Naps on naps on naps
-Being swaddled in his Aiden+Anais blankets
-Making cute faces

Also, he has started to laugh which is the CUTEST THING EVER!

Graham strongly dislikes—
-Being naked
-Getting his diaper changed
-Waiting for food
-Being wiped down with cold wet wipes
-Having really bad gas

Like they say—I didn’t know a love like this existed. I could sit and stare at my sweet boy all day long and never get tired of it.

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Graham’s Birth Story

I will preface this with one thing–I did not have a birth plan whatsoever. I considered making a ‘plan’, talked with my husband, weighed my options and decided against it. My only plan was to get an epidural, everything else I was planning on going with the flow assuming the delivery would be vaginal. I’m also really glad that at about 36 weeks I researched what happens with a c-section because that wasn’t something that crossed my mind.

On Wednesday December 17th I woke up in the wee hours of the morning with regular contractions. The contractions were intense enough that I couldn’t sleep and were coming in regular increments when I timed them. I had a scheduled doctor’s appointment that morning at 9:45am so my husband and I knew we would just talk to her and see what was going on. Of course I needed a final ‘pregnant’ photo–I knew it could have been my last one and I was right!

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At my appointment, my doctor checked me and I was 4cm dilated and 70% effaced and had some pretty strong contractions while in her office so she sent us next door to the hospital. My contractions were getting more intense, strong enough that the lady at the check-in made me sit down while we were doing paperwork because I was hunched over in pain. We got checked in and got to our room where the nurses hooked me up and monitored me, this was around 11am. There was still a chance we may get sent home but we were hoping to be able to stay and have a baby!

After a little over an hour of monitoring, the nurse checked me again and I hadn’t made any progression. My doctor gave us the option of leaving and laboring at home, to come back when I was further into labor, or we could stay and they would give me Pitocin to encourage labor in my body. The contractions I were having were strong enough that I didn’t want to leave because I could barely walk while contracting and my husband and I both wanted to stay so we chose the Pitocin route.

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This part of labor kind of made me feel like a baby–by 3pm I was getting my epidural because the pain was getting worse. However, I told myself I would rather have the pain relief sooner than later. I had really wanted to go into labor naturally and experience some of it, which I did. My doctor came in and broke my water at 6pm and that’s when we were hoping labor would really progress, but it still hadn’t. At this point I really couldn’t get impatient because all we could do was wait and wait and wait. I tried to get some rest since I had the epidural but you can only get so much rest with hospital staff checking in on you every hour (or more).

My night nurse I had the first night was amazing. Since I really couldn’t sleep, we got to have lots of conversation and my husband even told people she was my new best friend! Her shift ended at 6am and I think we were both secretly hoping I would have this baby before her shift was over. While that didn’t happen, I was (finally) fully dilated and effaced by about 5:30am.

The doctor who had been on the night shift had to go deliver twins at another hospital and my doctor wasn’t coming in from surgery until about 8am so we had to wait a bit longer before I could start pushing. Finally, finally at 9:45am (mind you I had been in labor for over 30 hours at this point) we got the go ahead to start pushing! My husband and I were both surprised by how calm I stayed through the whole process.

The first hour of pushing went really well–I was feeling very relaxed yet focused. It was taking a lot of energy and Graham was not making much progress down the birth canal. I was feeling very empowered and strong–after having been in labor so long, I was getting a final kick. The second hour of pushing it got harder. I was expending so much energy and still not progressing. At the 1 hour and 45 minute mark of pushing, the nurse asked me if I could make it 15 more minutes. I told her I could, but when the next contraction came up I asked if we could skip it because I was so physically and mentally drained.

At that point, I couldn’t do it any more. I told the nurse that I didn’t have any more in me. I wanted to be done. Then I cried my eyes out. I knew this meant I was going to have to get a c-section. I cried because I was completely spent, I felt as though my body had failed me by not being able to get this baby out by itself. I asked for my mom and family to come in and they all prayed with me and my husband. It was scary because my knowledge of c-sections was pretty limited. I wasn’t near as comfortable with the idea of a c-section versus a vaginal delivery. My baby was about to quite literally be cut out of me. Finding out you’re about to have major abdominal surgery in less than an hour was a big pill to swallow.

After praying and relaxing and getting to ask the nurses and my doctor questions, I was able to calm down. In an hour we were finally going to be able to meet our baby! The unhooked me from the Pitocin and one thing I noticed is that by contractions stopped almost immediately. It made me wonder if my body wouldn’t have been able to fully deliver the baby vaginally anyways. This was my reality–I was having a c-section.

Nurses and doctors came in to explain to my husband and I what was going to happen and gave my husband his scrubs to put on and they wheeled me into the OR for prep. I was numbed from the belly down and was given heated blankets for my legs and arms. One thing I never expected–my arms were on boards perpendicular to my body, crucifixion style. It was just odd as I’m laying there being prepped. Also–the shakes from the medication they gave me were awful. I couldn’t control them and it was just the weirdest feeling. After I was fully prepped, my husband got to come in and it was time to have this baby.

The doctors and nurses (all like, 13 of them, no joke) were so awesome in the OR. There was a doctor that stayed by my head to keep me calm and not two minutes into the surgery, he turned Christmas music on Pandora for us to listen to. My husband told me the nurses were dancing and everyone else was talking and joking which helped me to stay more relaxed than if it was dead quiet in there. It was really odd being fully awake for the procedure but it went really well. All I could honestly feel was pulling and tugging and I was eagerly awaiting that first squeal from our baby boy.

After a few minutes, I heard my doctor say, ‘We have a cute baby!!!’ and I immediately felt a relief of pressure from my belly and I knew that he was out. They showed him to us and the 36 hours of labor were immediately erased from my mind-that was MY baby! He was so perfect. He was more perfect and better than I could have ever imagined.

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They started to sew me back up and got our little Graham all cleaned up and immediately gave him to my husband. He got to hold Graham for a good 45 minutes while they were finishing the procedure on me. My husband made sure Graham stayed close to me and I will never forget those first kisses I placed on his cheek–his skin was so perfectly soft and sweet. We are in heaven. Our little Graham was born at 1:20pm, weighed 8lbs 12oz, was 21.5 inches long and his head was 15.5 inches. No wonder he couldn’t get out!

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This is our story and I’m proud of it–it didn’t go how we ever imagined it would but the end result is 100x worth it. My heart has never been more full.

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