Friday, January 17, 2014

Magic Pills

I'm not sure where the past five weeks have gone, but evidently I have a one-month old. Ridiculous!
While I'm still navigating the whole parenting-two thing, I have been able to reflect a bit, inevitably comparing this time to "last time" around, as if 2011 was eons ago or daughter (firstborn) and son (new kid on the block) are different species... one thing I found myself comparing was myself postpartum, which led to an interesting discussion with my better half.

I didn't mention in my birth story, but I had my placenta encapsulated with my second baby. My ever supportive husband served as the "placenta contact" and was in charge of making sure we requested and remembered to bring home my placenta. While the words 'cannibalism' and 'witchcraft' were included in [his end of] our conversation multiple times, he obliged my request. The "placenta lady," came over the next day, steamed my placenta with herbs, diced it up and set it in her dehydrator, and returned the next day to grind it up and put the now innocuous looking powder into vegetarian capsules. She left me a pretty little note with recommended doses for each week after childbirth and went on her way.

I recall feeling a little anxious in my postpartum weeks with my daughter and hoped it would stave off any return of my long history of anxiety. By a little anxious, I mean that I thought I did a decent job of hiding my raging, sleep-stealing, panic inducing anxiety that lurked around me most days of early motherhood. I blamed it on my history of anxiety, my colic-ridden firstborn who screamed like clockwork pretty much from 2 or 3pm until 11pm nightly-- how convenient that daddy worked second shift at the time! My poor husband arrived home after 9-hour shifts to my bleary bloodshot eyes, her bleary bloodshot eyes, and a baby hand-off that was a mix of desperation and exasperation. I thought I was holding my own and eventually the colic faded, as did my memories of how long those crying/screaming spells lasted.

I commented to my husband earlier this week that I was a little disappointed. Everyone I knew who has had placenta encapsulation done just RAVES about it. They said they feel amazing and all the second-time moms who didn't encapsulate the first time around said it was a different world than the first time. I had commented to our encapsulation specialist that I was eager to experience the effects of the capsules because not only have I never heard negative feedback, but nor had I heard neutral stories. No one's experience was, "eh, it was ok..." until mine. I have been feeling a bit disappointed. I don't feel any magical high, I don't feel on top of the world. I'm tired and mothering two kids, one of whom wants to nurse every other hour, for an hour. Meh. How anti-climatic. My husband looked at me like I have two heads, and then gently proceeded to put me in my place. He kindly informed me that he HAS noticed a substantial difference, that I am normal me this time around, that I have been incredibly "together," and "sane," ESPECIALLY compared to last time. Then for the kicker, he told me that I was a hot mess last time around. He went as far as to call it a dark time. So much for a decent cover up on my part.

As I try to be honest with myself and reflect upon the very topic that I love to write about, maternal mental health, I have to say, "Well said." It was a dark time. I wasn't okay. I wasn't coping. I was surviving, but I wasn't doing well. I didn't experience psychosis, I didn't fail to bond with my [screaming] baby, but I cried everyday as my husband left for work, I cried when my mother couldn't come over to hold me up through those 9-hour shifts he was gone, I cried when he got held late, I cried on his last day off from a weekend anticipating him leaving for work the next day. I cried for no good reason. I would lay awake worried about unwanted thoughts or I would consume my night clock-watching the evening away. You know the saying, "a watched pot never boils?"... my life was "a watched driveway remains empty" Those nights were never-ending.

I practiced all those great counseling skills I help clients in the same situation rehearse. I guided my own imagery through postpartum anxiety and postpartum OCD... I could see the colorful leaf floating down a flowing stream... and that's nice but I'm still anxious. I practiced deep breathing and thought-stopping through unwanted, intrusive thoughts that plagued my lonely evenings, they were still lonely and I was still full of panic and angst. I waited for my husband to come home, waited for the baby to pass out for the evening, waited to get through one more day of the madness.

I kept this secret hidden in our home. I kept my distance from almost everyone, probably anyone who might be onto me. I posted photos on Facebook, though not nearly as often as I used to or do now. I made polite (and not so polite) excuses as to why we couldn't go to gatherings; how we weren't ready for people to meet the baby; why today wasn't a good day to come over, and how maybe another day would be better.

I nonchalantly joked when I returned to work that 14 of my 16 weeks of maternity leave were spent listening to screaming, I told no one about the darkness I was slowly crawling out of four months later. I thought I had done a decent job minimizing this from my husband, but this week he called me out. One of the reasons I married him is because he knows me better than anyone else [and loves me in spite of this]... the other reason might be that he cared for me as best he could in this difficult time rather than dismissing my experience or leaving me out in the cold. This is why he stayed up with our daughter for two or three or even four hours after an exhausting shift, this is why he turned down overtime even when I was on unpaid leave and we needed the money. He knew, and he knew I wasn't ready to talk about it, either. He rocks.

So this time around, when I suggested something off the beaten path, that involved cooking bodily tissue that I birthed, he went along with it. While the past few weeks may have been anti-climactic, they've also been non-catastrophic. We took the baby out much earlier. We've invited people over sooner. The only sleep disruptions I've had are for brief nursing sessions and a diaper change. No bad thoughts. Far fewer tears, not even what we'd consider the baby blues, more toddler-induced terrible-two-tastic frustration, and I feel human again much sooner. I guess the placenta pills are as magic as others have said. I'm thankful that I ventured out to try something new, and even more grateful that it has had a positive impact on my recovery.

This blog post has been floating in my mind for a few days now. I feel vulnerable just typing these thoughts out, being honest with myself about the anxiety struggles I've lived with and conquered over the years. Here I am about to send them on a slingshot into cyberspace for all to read. Look at me, internet! Here's my vulnerable secret! I may be a counselor but I have struggled, too! Self-disclosure is frowned upon in the world of counseling, but I write this as a mom today, not a counselor, and hope that my raw honesty hits home for someone.

There are a few resources I found priceless in helping me climb out of my darkness and rebuild my emotional strength, in case any of this rings true for anyone else or is of interest to you or a friend you know yada yada, here are some favorites of mine:

Dropping the Baby and Other Scary Thoughts by Karen Kleiman 

The Pregnancy and Postpartum Anxiety Workbook 

Postpartum Support International

and a great organization I have befriended in my research on maternal mental health, MotherWoman

Lastly, here are the HuffPost blogs I had published in 2013 on the topic of maternal mental health:

Perinatal OCD and Intrusive Thoughts

But At Least You have a Healthy Baby: Traumatic Birth and Maternal Mental Health 

Nowhere to Turn: Perinatal Mental Health Resources can be Difficult to Find

Thursday, January 9, 2014

A Pretty Quick Crunchy Birth Story

This [surprise] pregnancy has been worlds different than my first. Last time around we tried to have a baby for over a year before getting pregnant, this time around we found ourselves expecting months before we thought we would be- funny how things work out!
This time around while I felt more prepared for pregnancy itself, I didn’t realize how quickly it would fly by while chasing a toddler around!  Before we knew it, we were decorating a nursery and laundering baby boy clothes.  The stress of working long hours in the crisis department took its toll and I thankfully stopped working at 36 weeks [also avoiding the flu shot mandate along the way!]. For weeks my midwives had commented on how low baby boy’s head was already. I felt as though I had a bowling ball weighing on my hips, and boy oh boy was I nesting! Every night we had to try a new Pinterest recipe, usually Mexican (which Daddy didn’t complain about at all!) and I baked up a storm in between cleaning, alphabetizing, and organizing anything and everything. At 37 ½ weeks I thought, “This is it!” I had several hours of contractions 7 minutes apart, I even called John home early from work… I called the midwives to let them know I might be in early labor, 5 hours later- NOTHING! Every night the next week and a half, I had contractions so strong throughout the night that they woke me from a sound sleep. I kept timing them in the middle of the night with no baby—this kid was driving me nutty!
39 weeks
 I went to the midwife Thursday evening (don't forget they're an hour drive way!) for my 39 week visit—we were literally there until 7pm, after a lovely dinner at Whole Foods in Danbury and a late drive home (for a toddler and a very pregnant mama, 8pm was late!). We've had some tough bedtimes in our home as of late and things went relatively smoothly, then just about 1am I had a contraction that woke me up, but at this point was nothing new. I went to the bathroom and 7 minutes later had another and was thought, "No... this can't be..." I've had WEEKS of hours of regular contractions that just fizzle away at this point.
By 2:00am I was doubled over the bench in my kitchen waiting for my sister to arrive to watch Addison. I was delighted that my favorite midwife, Katie was on call but felt panicked—something told me that we needed to hurry. We left home just before 3am; John literally drove over 100mph because by 3 o’clock I was two minutes apart. We arrived at 3:35 and I was 9cm!

I felt a desperate urge to get into the tub and climbed into a mere four inches of water as the tub filled around me. John climbed in [with his swim trunks on] and held me, hugged me, and put pressure on my belly and back as I groaned through each powerful contraction. I felt a new confidence that I didn’t have last time around- I was able to laugh and talk in between contractions, making jokes and even cracking a few smiles. I c an do this! Been there, done that!

  I tried to remember techniques from last time that were helpful—lower my voice through contractions, don’t hold my breath, flex and move to help the baby down. All of these were helpful, but having John there was really what got me through the intensity of the pain. My love for him grew immensely after he supported me through our first birth, and I couldn’t have gotten through this labor without him, either.

These contractions were ridiculous! It felt like I wasn’t in the water but four or five minutes before I felt an urgent need to push… Katie asked me if I wanted to move or shift at all to get ready to push and I thought, “I must be close, I must be… it can’t get much worse than this, right?!”


I was at the birth center a total of 50 minutes before Declan Edward McDonald arrived at 4:21am, in the water. He didn’t make a peep when he came out and was placed on my chest; he just stared at John and me quietly.

THIS is what natural birth is all about!


It wasn’t until Katie lifted him so I could get out of the tub that he let out a cry. He measured in at 20 inches long, 7lbs and 15oz and practically perfect in every way J. As soon as he was back in my arms in bed, he was peaceful and alert, taking it all in. 


 We snuggled up in bed with John to rest up before coming home later that day to meet big sister, Addison.

Images beautifully captured by Victoria Gloria Photography

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

I think I need to become a midwife.

Wow! How has it been over a year since I last blogged!? Oh wait, I have an 18-month old now :-) While I'd love to promise retroactive posts and reflections, we all know how likely that is to happen so here's where I am... I think I need to become a midwife.

I had an interesting class in college titled "Reproductive Technology and the Future of  Motherhood, it was a women's studies course and met my liberal arts requirement for technology class... you'd think that would have been a clue to my calling, but no! In this course the extreme-feminist instructor had us write a reflective paper describing whether or not we wanted to be mothers, if and how and when we knew this, and why. I naively thought she was open-minded and had no idea until she reamed my paper with angry red ink that her hidden agenda was her personal opinion that society forces young women to decide they need to become mothers to be complete/effective/accomplished whathaveyou. NONSENSE! I knew few things at 20, but I knew for damn sure I had always wanted to be a mother. As a child I always played with dolls, treated them as my own, and nurtured them in every way I knew how. I used to tell my mother I wanted to be a nurse practitioner who delivered babies... I didn't know at the time what a midwife was or how fabulous the profession is, but I created in my mind what I thought I wanted to be. I have always had a fascination with medicine and planned to become a nurse practitioner and help mommies have babies. Fast forward to high school where I breezed through Honors Biology, only to have my confidence in my science abilities crushed by a socially inept, smelly (literally), mean chemistry teacher who fostered my text anxiety, failed to ever answer a single question I had, and successfully deterred me from pursuing a nursing career in my [first] college career.

This blog was largely created as a result (and a component of) my journey to motherhood, my excursions in becoming more crunchy, and pursuing the birth I knew I wanted. After my daughter was born, I was on a birth high. Midwifery is amazing! Natural birth is out of this world!! Every baby should have such a peaceful welcoming Earthside! Everyone needs to know how crummy American obstetrics care has become! I shared my wonderful birth story several [dozen] times, basically to anyone who would listen, I published our PG-rated birth photos in a Snapfish book with our birth story for our daughter, I kept reading articles and blogs on natural birth, and I assumed eventually this excitement would settle.

It hasn't.

As our daughter's first birthday came and went I found myself thinking more and more about the logistics of becoming a midwife. I travel an hour (one-way) for my quality well-woman care, another hour and I'm in New York City for goodness sakes! Skilled, attentive practitioners shouldn't be that far away, period. Not in modern times, not in developed (or overdeveloped) New England! I continued to hear crummy birth stories from friends, tales of trauma, disrespect, and bullying at a woman's most vulnerable time--things like this make my blood boil. I started googling around which  is never a cheap, quick, or easy answer, to anything. In my undergraduate career I attended seven different schools, graduated in four years with a double major, and then went straight into an intensive and rigorous two-year Master's program. I don't want to go back to school for my RN, work for a few more years, then go back to school yet again for an MSN--- I'm young but not that young, and I'm not that redheaded but I am certainly auburn- I can't be a labor and delivery nurse and listen to providers push women into unnecessary interventions! I wouldn't last too long as a nurse, not with my fiesty fiery personality. I need to do this right, I need to become a midwife. 

I learned that one school in my state (and really New England) offers an accelerated, second-career MSN. Students have an intensive 15-month RN program and then jump right into the MSN-component, graduating in three years as advanced practicing nurses, either APRNs or CNMs. This program also happens to be the only Midwifery program north of New York City... somewhat of a one-shot deal. No big deal, just get into an ivy league school's graduate program, pursue another graduate degree and take some licensing/certification exams. Easy peasy. 

Holy crap, are you kidding me!? Am I crazy? Can I do this? I have to, I finally understand what my career counseling instructor meant when he discussed being called to a career. I feel called, I have heard said calling. Ok, calling... I'm on my way!! 

Right now I work part-time, I am a crisis clinician two twelve-hour days per week. I can't quite afford yet to stop working altogether, but we were able to gather enough pennies to pay for my first pre-requisite, Intro to Nutrition. Next semester I plan to take Anatomy and Physiology I, then A&P II, andddd... something else that fits into my odd work schedule. I hope to have four BIO classes under my belt before I apply and I'll figure the rest out later. I was a little intimidated to go back to school, especially with a toddler, but thanks to my supportive husband I've been allotted plenty of study time thus far and feel confident that I'm off to a good start. 

Proteins, carbs, lipids, watch out! I'm a midwife-to-be, on a mission!!

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Minor Setbacks...

I apologize that it's been two weeks since my post, a colicky baby is not conducive to blogging in a timely manner!!

Monday at noon came quickly, the rest of the week has felt like an eternity. I couldn't hold Addison Sunday night or Monday morning without breaking down in tears, fearful that I was terribly ill and had no idea, or that our beautiful breastfeeding relationship would be taken from us... I love nursing her, I love the way she eagerly seeks me out and the sighs of relief when she fills up her little tummy. I love that she can fall asleep on my breast ANYWHERE [and we've had it happen in a few exciting places thanks to the ERGO and MobyWrap... Whole Foods, Target, the doctor's office, you name it!]. I felt a strong mix of fear and irritation this week, the latter of which I did not anticipate. I'm not sure if it was my hormones and fear or just the nonsense I encountered...

EVERYONE at the Breast Intervention center was excessively perky [and adorned with pink ribbon flair] and kept asking how I was doing today and how I was feeling- I'm talking Disney World perky... don't bring your scalpel and hollow needles around my magic milk makers and act like we're about to go on the tea cups. The nurse who confirmed my appointment Friday left me less than confident in her abilities when she couldn't tell me how long I would have to interrupt nursing on my left side, after putting me on hold twice. The radiologist who I met for my ultrasound furthered my terror in her small talk... she applauded me for breastfeeding and said, "Two kids... never had it in me, couldn't do it." ... a) Yes, you COULD HAVE and b)Why must you tell me this?!   I likened this to the thought of leaving one's child with a stranger who hates kids... in any other situation [or if my bra was nearby rather than down the hallway, surely not an accident] I would have thought, RUN! But alas, I was topless so there I lay. She turned the ultrasound on and started looking puzzled and clicking around... my lump was measuring a full centimeter smaller than on Thursday. Cancer doesn't shrink! Let's call this party off! The radiologist said this drastic change assured her it was a galactocele and after a brief pause said that we should proceed anyway. Ugh! Are you sure? Wouldn't you prefer an early lunch? No such  luck. Halfway through the procedure, the doctor drew milk into the lidocaine syringe, further assurance that this was a milk duct, that was being numbed and chopped up...ugh again! I should note that one of the highlights of having this procedure while lactating is that under my little half-gown, I had to hold my breast pads in place while tilted on my side on the table with a wedge under my shoulder... talk about awkward and uncomfortable!  The entire procedure took less than half an hour, I was taped up with steri-strips, told to not shower for 24 hours but resume normal activities immediately and promised I'd hear results by Wednesday evening.

All I could think about was getting home to Addison, I just needed to hold her and I was sure she needed me.  This confidence was half correct... she needed me, but I couldn't hold her, for two days. The discharge directions should have read, "resume normal activities with the other side of your body, and good luck where we sliced and diced you."  I suppose that doesn't sound as friendly. My poor 7-week old baby hadn't a clue why a)I left her for two hours, again and b) why I wouldn't just hold her in my left arm and bounce her as we have been for the past month and a half. She had this painful upset look in her eyes that tore me apart, as if to say, "Mommy, don't you love me? I need to snuggle in that arm... please bounce me." My sister came to stay with me once we discovered that I couldn't hold Addison at all in my left arm and holding her in my right was awkward with the swelling. We were both miserable, and I was anxious. She sensed my anxiety this week and so did my healing breasts. We both cried as I pumped and dumped a precious 9 ounces from my left breast in the 24 hours after the procedure. We both cried when she was gassy because my already overactive letdown was confused by the extra 9 ounces I had to waste as I fed her only on one side. Talk about confusing new milk makers! Five days later, I had to get up at 4am because I was leaking all over and somewhat engorged.

The nurse had placed a band-aid over the steri-strip 'X' across my breast... When it came off after my shower on Tuesday, I had a lovely horseshoe-shaped red area on each side of the 'X'. It was also so puffy that if my arm was by my side, I was pressing into the incision site, ouch. I have always been sensitive to band-aids and the cheap hospital-issued band-aid was no exception, awesome.

Wednesday came and went, I stared at my cell phone all afternoon and into the evening. Addison sensed my anxiety and stress and was equally stressed... we collectively slept almost three hours that night. I felt as though my incision site was puffy, which didn't help when no call came from the radiologist. Thursday morning I had an early dermatologist appointment, I figured she could tell me if my incision looked okay, she looks at skin all day. Her assessment was that it might be infected, or it might be irritated by the steri-strips and that I should have the radiologist look at it- just who I wanted to see again, Miss Formulafeeder Idontreturncalls. The radiologist who conducted my biopsy wasn't in that office so I had an awkward male doctor poke around at my little puffy wound site... he decided it was the allergic reaction and sent me home after taking off the steri-strips.Within a matter of hours the puffiness went down but I still had a giant itchy circle around the biopsy.

Finally , Thursday afternoon I heard from the radiologist that the lump that changed in size in a matter of four days was in fact a galactocele and was neither cancerous or precancerous. Her recommendation was to follow up with the midwife who would decide if I should leave it alone, have a needle aspiration, or have it surgically removed- talk about a spectrum of possibilities! Thankfully, my fabulous midwives value breastfeeding and avoiding interfering with the breastfeeding relationship and happily offered to leave it alone unless it becomes uncomfortable. No more needles, no more tests, no more radiologists!

Pumping for an entire week my supply was substantially more than Addison needed and I nearly drowned my already gassy, colicky baby- poor sweet girl... this week we are finally back to where we were in our progress in dealing with my oversupply. I try not to complain about my oversupply because I worry about having enough milk for Addison when I return to work in *gulp* seven weeks. I pump a little each day so John can give her a bottle with her probiotic mixed in, and some days I freeze what I pump, our goal is no formula when I go back to work, hopefully we can make it happen!

Thank you blog readers for your prayers, thoughts, support and love. Thank you for the private messages and emails, it's pretty awesome to know people are thinking of you in such a scary, tough situation. <3

Sunday, September 11, 2011

That's Not What Those are For...

Breasts are for breastfeeding, not for biopsies!

I have been breastfeeding for six weeks and four days. I have never thought about my breasts so much in my life. I am constantly thinking about them. Which one did Addison nurse from last? How many ounces do I need to pump today? Which one feels more firm? How many hours since our last nursing? Am I leaking (again!)? Do I have extra nursing pads? Am I running out of nursing pads? Can I easily nurse in this t-shirt? Did I leak on this shirt (... I'm not even out of the house yet!)? It's all about the breasts... Ten days after Addison was born, the boob-question of the day was, "Is this a plugged duct?" it certainly seemed as though overnight I acquired a large almond-shaped lump in the side of my left breast. I consulted my friend and LLL Leader, and made my husband palpate this lump roughly 5 dozen times over the weekend . With hot compresses I was more comfortable, but it was definitely the super hot shower and massaging showerhead that helped! It was nearly gone and I was relieved. Over the next few days it seemed smaller but was definitely still there... I could express milk in the shower and Addison was eating happily so in my sleepless, colicky stupor, I did what any new mom would do and ignored myself and focused on my baby. At my six-week postpartum follow-up I made sure to show my midwife. She said it felt like a plugged duct but the responsible thing to do would be to send me for an ultrasound to confirm. Ultrasound? Ack.  Ok... I can do that.

John and I left Addison with my sister the next day so he could take me for my ultrasound. Those of you who have had ultrasounds know it's a little awkward to have body parts exposed for a stranger to massage with a wand, but add lactating, leaky boobs to the mix and you have an awkward-convention! The tech only took images for a quick minute or two and then left me in the darkened room to get the radiologist to review what she had taken... for nearly half an hour. There are never clocks in these darkened rooms so you can't complain about how "she left me there for 30 minutes!" however I beat the system and had a view of the ultrasound screen timestamp in my peripheral vision... In this half-hour I wondered... did she only take a few images because it's small? because she knows what breast cancer looks like and didn't need anymore? because that's what they do? What was going on? Were they deciding who was to tell me I was sick? Was I not sick at all and they were taking their time because I wasn't urgent, I was just leaking precious milk into my silly little half-robe? What the heck was it?!

Finally the radiologist and technician came into the room... the radiologist said that it "doesn't look like cancer but." ALL YOU NEED IS A BUT to send a woman's mind spinning down a pessimistic dismal spiral of terrible possibilities. Her guess was it is a fibroid adenoma which is a fancy term for benign tumor, or a galactocele which is the snooty medical term for "plugged duct". But (there it is again!!) just to be sure, I should have a needle biopsy... soon. I guess they have to add the "soon" because who wouldn't put off a biopsy if given the chance... I'd love to schedule it for the Tuesday after never. Ugh!

This happened on Thursday and the "biopsy coordinator" (can we just say, secretary?!) was to call me Friday to schedule me for Monday... I called her because I need to get this nonsense over with. So there we have it, noon on Monday I am scheduled for a needle biopsy of my lump. I have a lump. It's not a lovely lady lump, it's an annoying female interrupting my breastfeeding lump. I haven't slept well even when Addison is quiet the past few days because my mind is absolutely racing... I can't counsel myself out of a million worries and I'm finding blogging to be cathartic so I'm going to unload a few of them onto my blogging world, irrational or not, here they are:

*I'm going to have cancer and I'm going to die. Addison will grow up with a single parent and I'll leave John to raise her. While he would do an AMAZING job, I get choked up at the thought of missing a day of her life. She is my world and I don't want to leave her, ever.

*I'll be okay but this biopsy (or the doctor) will damage something important and disrupt breastfeeding. Breastfeeding means so much to me and there is a risk that this biopsy will damage a duct therefore impacting my still-new supply.

*There is a risk that I will leak milk into my breast as a result of this biopsy- not only does that sound like gross sci-fi craziness, but that would REALLY disrupt things and be horrible if I had to have my breast sliced open to drain the milk from the biopsy gone wrong that's just floating around in my breast.

*I'll have to have this lump removed which would really disrupt Addison's breastfeeding... these are her leaky boobs. They're only big and leaky for her.

*The concept of a long hollow needle going into my breast is appalling, disgusting, scary, and gross all at the same time- eww, ouch, ick.

*Silly but: Addison will be upset tomorrow because she'll have to nurse on our less-coordinated side all night... I have to pump and toss my milk for 24-hours... those of you who breastfeed know how painful the thought of that is in itself. Ugh! All that lost milk that I don't get to give her now or save for later!

I don't know if it's growth spurt or just her sensing that I'm upset/distressed but Addison has been nursing every 30-45 minutes for the past several days... the thought of having to leave her for a few hours to have someone biopsy her milk makers makes me feel guilty. While I know the important thing is praying it isn't cancer, being a new mom who values breastfeeding as much as I do makes it that much worse.

So today, my blog readers, I selfishly ask for your prayers... and if God happens to be keeping up with the Crunchy Mama blog... Please Lord, let this procedure go well and let the results be benign. 

Friday, August 19, 2011

The Secret Reason...

...why breast is best.

I'm a fan of breastfeeding. I'm somewhat of a lactivist even. I started reading about breastfeeding benefits before I was pregnant and started attending La Leche League around 4 months into my pregnancy. Much like my desire to be a mother, I have always known I will breastfeed my children. We took a private class, read books together, and my husband has been completely supportive from the get go. I am often overly eager to share my knowledge of breastfeeding benefits with pregnant (or not-yet pregnant) friends and people I meet, and am always extending the invitation to attend my [amazing] La Leche League group- what incredible support and friendship Addison and I have found. :-)

A few of my favorite benefits of breastfeeding...
*Sets the foundation for the baby's immune system, lines the gut with beneficial cultures
*It matches the needs of the baby as they change- amazing!
*Lowers the child's risk of obesity, certain cancers, asthma, diabetes and possibly childhood leukemia
*breastfed babies don't get sick as often as formula-fed babies... they have less respiratory infections and ear infections, and many illnesses are less severe in breastfed babies
*It's never recalled for contamination or manufacturing errors
*You don't run out- you can breastfeed when the power is out, when there's terrible weather and you don't want to go to the store, when you're not near a store, wherever, whenever!
*Breastfeeding helps moms heal from childbirth, contracting the uterus in early days/weeks and lowering likelihood of postpartum depression
*Mom's risk of breast cancer, and ovarian cancer are greatly reduced
*Baby weight melts off- breastfeeding burns tons of calories!

Wow, breastfeeding is just great for everyone! These were my reasons for deciding to breastfeed... but aren't why I fell in love with breastfeeding over the past three weeks. I fell in love with breastfeeding when tiny beautiful perfect little Addison hugged my breast in her little arms and fell asleep with her amazing little hand over my heart... just like that I melted, literally melted. I fell in love with breastfeeding when her little arms wrap around my breast as she feeds, holding on as she knows my breast is hers. I fell in love again when I come into the room or closer to her and her attention stops and focuses on me as if to say, "Oh! You! Come over here! Let me nurse!" The shift of her gaze and the tiny little mouth opening in my direction are her way of saying she needs me, and it takes my breath away. While leaky boobs are funny (especially when you say, "leaky boob"and not "oversupply of the milk ducts," haha) it amazes me how my breasts react to Addison's cry. It's as if my milk has a mind of it's own and says, "I'm coming!" faster than the rest of my body can get to her. There's a sense of accomplishment for a new mother when simply putting baby to breast quiets her cries and see that my milk and my breast meet her hunger and emotional needs is not only flattering but gratifying- I love being able to take away her worries.

We are still feeding every 2-3 hours, I am exhausted... we haven't had a good night's sleep in a while now, but I will never complain when Addison wants to feed because as I have told her, "it's all hers. made just for her, and she can take her time and stay latched as long as she needs to... each time that hand rests upon my breast, my heart melts all over again. That tiny hand  has changed my world.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Let the Debates Begin!

During pregnancy, women are bombarded with advice, much of it conflicting. I was told by several women (who  ironically smoke, by the way) that coffee was terrible for the baby... [it's decaf, b*tches... I'd be in a much better mood if it wasn't, thank you.].  I was told outdated fitness information by a personal trainer about how intense my workout should be, I was told to Eat This,  Not That, and it wasn't by David Zinczenko... I heard about supplements to take, supplements to avoid, you name it. I was also told that I'd need an epidural, that a midwife wouldn't provide me the best care, that being out of a hospital was dangerous- I heard it all.

In having conversations about terrible unsolicited advice, I was told, "just wait until you're a parent, it gets worse."  It does.

We did our research on vaccines, breastfeeding, pacifiers, cosleeping, attachment parenting, baby wearing, all sorts of parent-values that we were sure we had mapped out. I had successfully blocked out anyone who had opinions that conflicted with our strong values, and welcomed feedback on those things for which I did not feel I had enough understanding or knowledge... I was ready to be a parent!

...and then Addison arrived.
...and then Addison cried, and cried and cried, and my books say no pacifiers until 6 weeks.
...and my nipples got sore, and my books say no pumping for 6 weeks.
...and then our pediatrician said "pacifiers are fine!" and told us at 3 weeks that she should be introduced to a bottle before she refuses it.
...and then my LLL leader told me that's not crucial
...and then I thought about how I'd LOVE a short outing to myself but I can't leave her until I'm pumping and she's accepting a bottle.
...and then I worried about messing up my supply in week 3 because this book and that book said 6 weeks.
...and then my head was officially spinning.

Who to listen to? Who to ignore? Who to trust? Who's talking out of their... pacifier?

I have a degree in family studies, another one in psychology, another one in counseling. Addison doesn't need therapy and doesn't care about Erik Erikson or Maslow. She wants... mommy milk, all the time. We have a small library in our sunroom with a wall of bookshelves; my shelves are full of human development texts and parenting books... I went from a certified family life educator and parent education expert to an overtired, flustered, lost mommy, desperately reaching out to anyone who wants to give me a correct answer. I stare at my library wondering "where is the magic answer?! who wrote that article about that thing that makes the kid stop doing the thing with the stuff?" I fold. I surrender. I got nothin'.

and so, we're back where we started... who to listen to? what is the right answer?