Monday, December 30, 2013


Owen had his two month appointment today. He is literally thriving. He gained FOUR pounds in one month! 13 lbs, 3 oz. That is one fat, thriving baby. I take pride in each of his delicious, silky-smooth rolls of fat. Because he and I did that together.

As I watched my son smile and flirt with his all-too-gorgeous doctor and then impress her with his amazing muscle tone while raising his head during tummy time to flirt with himself in the mirror, I realized…we have made it. We have reached the point where I have slid on the mantle of motherhood and wear it gently and calmly. We have a rhythm, a dance, and an ease to the way we interact. He knows me and I know him and we both give to each other. Remember how overwhelmed I was by the symbiosis of breastfeeding? Well, here I am, at my knees with awe at the symbiosis of our relationship.

My little fat, happy, squirmy, man is an integral part of me now. I could list his accomplishments for you – cuddling with his monkey, amazing neck control, turning to make eye contact with us, smiling, smiling, smiling, blowing bubbles, etc, etc, etc – but they would bore you into a glazed over look as you realize that my son is developing right on track. But in my eyes? He is a superstar. I build dreams for what he will do and then quickly tell myself that he can do whatever he wants and doesn’t have to follow any prescribed path I may construct for him.

And me? I am a superstar too. I can stroke his ever-so-soft hair and make his eyes droop and his lips smile. I can get the perfect combo of jiggle-rocking that will put him to sleep even when he’s screaming in protest. I can babywear my baby while housecleaning and feeling oh-so-productive. I can take him on outings and breastfeed in public like it’s no big thing. Basically, I’m a mom.

I realized something about being a parent. I have always loved looking forward to the future, but have never been very good at being in the moment. Parenthood is the best of both worlds. Not only do I get to spend my days looking forward to each new milestone - when will he start grasping? When will he give the first real laugh? I can’t wait until he can sit up! - but I also have learned, for the first time in my life without the assistance of alcohol, to just sit and be in the moment. When Owen was first born, I would need an iPhone, a kindle, or Netflix to entertain me during the endless bouts of breastfeeding. Now, hours will go by where I realize I have just been staring at my son’s eyelashes, petting the cat, complaining over dirt in Owen’s neck folds, and talking to him about nothing at all. This may sound like I have degraded my mental capacity (and I may have), but I like to look at it as if I have become more zen. I am not worrying about paperwork, laundry or other unimportant stuff (like hospital bills??), I am just enjoying my time in the moment. So thank you, Owen, for teaching me that simple yet oh so difficult skill. I may never be so good at it again.

Because I have become so good at being mindful and being in the moment, I haven’t been so skilled at actually documenting the moment, aka blogging! There are so many things I want to blog about – relationships, postpartum sex (!!), mommy friends, maternity leave/going back to work, identity shifts, and all of the goddamn company we have had (no one ever told me that having a baby meant opening a Bed&Breakfast in your house!), but instead of writing these entries, I just stroke my baby’s hair and rock away in the rocking chair. Oh well.


Before I leave you with a photo montage (because I can’t help myself), I need to acknowledge one thing that happened that really deserves a post of its own, but if I wait around to write it it may never get written and that would just not be fair. Awhile back I shared that our dog Monte was diagnosed with cancer. We had been fighting it for almost a year and he had been doing really well. But in the past few months he began to deteriorate and the cancer came back. At the end of the pregnancy we were just hoping he could make it to meet Owen. Then we were hoping to get him through the holidays. We got one wish. We got to see him with our baby. Giving him kisses. Dropping toys on his lap when the baby cried. Greeting him at the door with huge licks on the head. Nuzzling his hands. But we didn’t get him through the holidays. The day before Christmas Eve, we had to put Monte down. It was very peaceful, poignant, and tragic. He was my first “baby” and I feel so lucky he was able to stick around to meet Owen. I feel like he knew we were moving from one stage of life to the next and he stayed around long enough to witness it and pass the torch. We will always miss him.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Breastfeeding: Making it Work

Breastfeeding. This will (hopefully) be the last post I spend on this subject. But I decided, before I move on, that I would like to write more about my experiences with breastfeeding, in the hopes that maybe it will help someone else who reads this.

First of all, as I said before, I never anticipated that I would have a hard time with breastfeeding. Even though I read many accounts about how difficult breastfeeding can be...I never took it to heart. I took a breastfeeding class and was so excited to do it myself. In the hospital, breastfeeding started out just as I imagined. When my baby first latched on, I was amazed and shocked and so proud of my little baby. For those first few days I remember my nipples feeling kind of tender while he nursed, but that tenderness was overshadowed by the uterine cramping and blood pouring out of me every time I nursed.

When I got home, I had a lactation consultant from the birthing center come over to help out, but just because I thought it would be "nice." Not because it would be necessary. She showed us different positions to use in different places around my house and when she left I felt happy and confident.

I'm not sure what went wrong from there. I think that slowly the initial tenderness just became more and more painful until each feeding felt like shards of glass were ripping my breasts apart from the inside. Seriously. Especially the first minute of feeding. I would bite my tongue, curl my toes, and count down inside my head to get through the pain. I know this sounds dramatic, but this is how it was. It got so bad that I would dread having to feed my baby. I'm not going to go into details, because I explained it in another post, but basically the pain of feeding led me to question whether I could continue each time I fed. The first few weeks were interspersed with periods of me sobbing to my mother or husband about how I felt like such a failure. It was only sheer determination that kept me going. Pure and utter stubbornness because I didn't want to give up.

So. The purpose of this post is to talk about what worked and didn't work for me. It is not by any means a prescription for what will work for other women. It's just what worked for me. And if there is a take home message here, I think it should be that breastfeeding can be extremely hard work and you need to find what works for you.

Latching. This really is as important as they say. At first, I was convinced that my latch was okay. Why did I think this? Well, every time someone checked me (nurses, lactation consultants, La Leche League leaders, etc), they told me I had a great latch. So I would read materials that stressed the importance of a latch and I would roll my eyes in frustration. But, looking back, I believe this really was the key to my problems. I knew how to latch and was capable of helping Owen latch, but I wasn't consistently getting it right. The more painful the feedings, the more avoidant I was, which created a worse latch, which made me more fearful...enter vicious cycle. This was only worsened by nighttime feedings when I was extra-tired or cluster feedings on the hour. Finally, after another consultation with the LC, I remembered her saying "Just get him on there." From then on, that became my mantra. Stop playing around and just get him on the nipple. I also made sure to focus on scooping him up from below the nipple and really aiming below the nipple, instead of above. I think that this was the primary change that helped me.

Nipple Creams. I tried all of them. Medela Lanolin. Lanisoh Lanolin. Hydrogel Pads. Breast milk baths. Boob-Ease Cream. APNO Prescription Ointment. It started to drive me crazy when people would say, "Have you tried...." The answer was always yes. In the end, I think it was a combination of the APNO (1-2x/day) and the BoobEase (similar to MotherLove, natural with olive oil, calendula, etc). However, I can't really say if either cream made a difference because those also happened to be the last ones I used. Everyone swears by some type of cream. I guess my advice here is TRY THEM ALL and find out what works for you. Even now, I still put the BoobEase (seriously, what a name) on my nipples after a particularly voracious feeding session.

Latch Assist - I wish I had found this earlier. I have flat nipples. That is not something I was ever aware of before. I though all nipples looked like mine? Now 7 weeks in, they aren't as flat as they used to be. But, initially, I think part of the pain during initial latch was him literally sucking my nipples out. POP. The latch assist does this painfully in two seconds. I highly recommend.

Milk Saver This didn't necessarily help me with the pain of breast feeding, but again, I highly recommend this. The point here is to put the Milk Saver on whatever breast you are not feeding on, and it will catch the extra milk. In the beginning, before I regulated, this was a huge deal. It made the difference between being drenched in milk by the end of a 15 minute feeding session. By putting the Milk Saver on, not only did it prep my nipple a little, but I was able to get 3-4 oz per feeding out of just one breast. Amazing! Now that I'm more regulated, I don't need to use it any more. I checked today just to see, and I was only getting about half an oz.

Position This is also highly important. Have you noticed how obsessed the lactation consultants are with positioning? Every time I would have the LC come over, she would show me ways to put arms, footstools to use, and origami designs of pillows. Eventually I learned that not only was it important to be ergonomically correct, but it was much more important to just be comfortable and relaxed. My favorite position started to be Laid Back Breast Feeding. Google it. It's awesome. But basically, I would lie back with the baby on my stomach and let him latch on from below the breast. This seemed to be a good position for latching, but also just emotionally because I felt relaxed. So, what am I saying here? I guess just find a position that you would like to be relaxing in if you didn't happen to be breastfeeding. Get comfy and cozy. Make the best of it!

Getting Comfy. Related to getting comfy in positioning, you also need to have all of your "extras" with you. For me, that was a soft pillow, a bottle of water (it makes me SO thirsty!), the Milk Saver, my cell phone, and TV. Yes, TV. TV was pretty much the most important thing for me because it distracted me and allowed me to enjoy the breastfeeding when it wasn't initially so enjoyable. I know it sounds silly, but I'm pretty sure when I started inviting Netflix to the breastfeeding relationship, it all got way better.

Taking a Break This was the hardest thing I did. When my left nipple got so bad (literally - NO skin) that I couldn't handle it anymore. I ended up giving my left side a break. This was really, really hard to do because it meant that every time I fed the baby I also had to pump. So picture this - middle of the night feeding on the right side, then rock the baby to sleep, then I'd still have to pump. The other really hard thing about this is I never knew if he was getting enough milk from just one side and so we also were supplementing with bottles of breast milk (thank you Milk Saver!). So, then there was the added stress of bottle feeding and guilt of giving my little baby bottles at 2-3 weeks of age. But, in the long run, this was SO worth it. Watching the skin grow back on my nipple was amazing.

Mindset. This is important too. I got stuck in a mindset that it would always be this way. Then, I read something on Esperanza's blog about approaching each session as it's own session. Even if the last session was terrible, that doesn't mean the current one will be bad. And vice versa. It also doesn't mean the pain will go on forever. As a therapist, I had to remind myself to stay away from words like forever, always, worst, unbearable... You get the idea.

Time. Everyone says, It gets better with time. The problem with this is, every one has an answer to a question of how much time. At first, everything I read said two weeks. After two weeks it will be better. I remember in the beginning the pain was so bad that I couldn't imagine it going on for two whole weeks. HA. In the end, it took me five weeks. The thing is, the amount of time is different for everyone. But it won't go on forever. The question just is, can you outlast the pain?

I'm sure there is more I could say about this, but I started writing this post almost two weeks ago and I just want to get it published. I will do my best to respond to comments on this post though, so maybe we can get a conversation going. So feel free to ask questions about anything I didn't mention. For example, nipple shields? Yep, tried them. Didn't work. Ouch. Or to leave suggestions on what worked for you.

Before I post this, let me leave you with a Where I Am Now Picture. At 7 weeks, I am in SUCH a different place that even finishing this post - something that seemed so important to me two weeks ago - was hard work for me. Breastfeeding is so easy for me now. I love that I have exactly what my baby needs and it will always calm him when all else fails. I love that I can seduce him into a breastmilk coma in a way that a bottle never can. I love stroking his hair and watching his eyes slowly close as he swallows. It has become so connected, so intimate easy. Thank god. It is also convenient. No more cleaning bottles, pumps, etc. Nothing to bring with us when we go out. I just have everything he needs. And feeding him in the middle of the night? So easy. I just pull him into bed, feed him, and put him back in his bassinet. This is how I hoped it would be.

In sum, I hope that people reading this can see two things. One, if you are having a hard time, you are NOT alone. And two, there is hope at the end of the tunnel. If I can go from crying, sobbing, and feeling like a failure, to feeling like a pro, then there is hope. If you want to make breastfeeding work, the best thing you can do is keep trying to find the unique combination of things that work best for you and your baby and then just give it time. But, if you feel that isn't bearable and you cannot wait it out. Then I totally understand. Every single day I walked the line between quitting and continuing. Whatever each woman decides should be her own choice and she should be respected for that choice.

Wow. This post is disjointed. I wrote it over three periods of time in between baby naps. But you know what? I'm going to post it anyhow. Maybe it will help someone. And I hope it starts a conversation. Please leave comments with what worked for you or what didn't work for you. OR why you decided to keep going or decided to switch to a different method of feeding. And if you have any questions, I will do my best to answer.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Six Weeks: Emerging Out of Post-Partum

40 days post partum is a significant number. Many different cultures have special customs for this 40 day time period. If you don’t believe me, just ask Wikipedia. 40 days is approximately equal to the six-week-period recognized by US disability. AND my 40 days ended on my 32nd birthday this weekend. It’s odd, because I feel like this weekend I crossed over some sort of hurdle into feeling like myself again.

Things I did this weekend that made me feel human:

-Took a long, hot bath.
-Went out for an expensive birthday dinner with my husband while my sister watched Owen.
-Split an expensive bottle of wine with my husband during said dinner. This bottle of wine was the first really expensive bottle of wine we ever splurged on and when we bought it (a few years ago) we said we would drink it after I had our first baby. It was definitely worth the wait. It was also worth pumping and dumping the milk.
-Went grocery shopping by myself while Daddy watched the baby.
-Took a nap with Owen and B, snuggled in bed together.
-Took Owen to a baby shower and showed him off to friends.
-Visited friends who just had a baby and felt like I actually had good advice and wisdom to share.
-Was surprised by a small family birthday party.

Overall, I began to feel like there were other things in my life besides baby. Now, don't take this the wrong way. I’m not saying “everything is better because of the non-baby stuff.” It was a combination of being able to have some time for myself as well as continuing to feel more and more confident and happy in my role as mother. I’m also really enjoying my days home alone with Owen. We have a nice rhythm and I love being able to easily give him what he needs and keep him happy. All of this is tied up with feeling better physically in terms of recovery from labor and breastfeeding, such that I just feel so much more normal.

The bizarreness of it all is that it coincided with the 40 days period of post-partum. Almost as if the traditional 40 days really are a magic number for recovery. Because it was a recovery for me. I know that it's not always like that for everyone, but for me it was a major process. As of this week, the first part of my maternity leave (disability) ends and the second stage (family leave) starts. It really feels like the first six weeks were a disability period for me. I was kind of a mess. Now I am really looking forward to the next 12 weeks of just being with my son and enjoying my time. This morning, when Owen woke up, I pulled him into bed with me and fed him in a side-lying position (the best possible way to breast feed), and then we cuddled together in bed, half asleep. A pretty amazing way to start the next stage of maternity leave, if you ask me.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

5 Weeks

Baby - Owen is so solid and heavy now, he feels so much like a real person. I know that sounds weird, but it’s like I can see him transitioning from newborn to baby. He definitely stays awake more now and can entertain himself on his activity mat. Wait – did I say that last week? Well, it’s even more obvious this week. He clearly laughs and smiles now which is SO rewarding and we all love it. He has been clusterfeeding a LOT lately, but then slept for almost five hours last night. Awesome. He did amazingly at Mommy & Me today. I swear he loves it there. He just sleeps, eats, and lays on his blanket. No fussing. So sweet and calm. He has grown out of Newborn clothes and into the Newborn Honest diapers (which didn’t fit him at first). Annnd he is just…doing everything he’s supposed to be doing ☺

Me - I am doing SO much better. First of all, breastfeeding. I am back to feeding him on both sides. Which means no more pumping AND feeding, which is such a relief. While it can still be painful at times and my nipples are not fully healed, I am feeling so much more confident about it. At the Mommy group today I fed him like a champ and felt so proud. Physically, we took a really long walk to the beach this weekend and I felt sore afterwards. Sore in my perineal area – ouch. Sore in all of my other neglected muscles – good. My body originally lost a lot of weight and seems to have plateaued. I attribute that to the Holidays and I’m okay with that. In total, I am still up a little over 10 lbs from my pre-pregnancy weight. Finally, I have started looking forward to things in the future and feeling excited about things again. This weekend is my 32nd birthday and I will be going out to dinner with B whilst my sister watches Owen at home. Big deal!

Other Stuff- We have taken Owen out to restaurants twice now. I realize other families take their babies out before one month, but that is how long it took us, and I’m trying to be ok with doing things on our own timeline. Owen did great at both meals. I’m thinking I will miss this stage when he can sleep through an entire meal. At the Mommy & Me Group today, we had to say what we had to give up to be a mother. I think I answered that in my post about breastfeeding. Being a mother seems to take away a part of my independence and identity. But, I’m realizing it replaces that with something else entirely.

What have you given up to be a mother? This pertains to those of you who are already moms, are currently pregnant, or who are still trying.

Important Parenting Decisions

Last night, Owen's last "nighttime" feeding fell at 6:00am. Which, technically isn't nighttime, but if you live in my world it is. 6:00 is a weird hour when he just might go back to sleep, meaning I could sleep until 9:00. Hooray! So, at the 6:00 feeding all went gloriously. He ate and then went right back to sleep. Perfect! Then 7:00 rolled around and he is fussing. I wait a second and then it turns into crying. Damn. I pull him into bed with me, hoping he just needs a top off and will go back to sleep. He seems sleepy...maybe this will work? But then, as I'm feeding him, I feel a gentle warm trickle of liquid sneaking down my side. Now, you parents of little boys can back me up here, it doesn't seem to matter how well you put on the diaper, what kind of diaper they're wearing, or HOW you point their little penis. Sometimes they just pee on you. In our case, seems to be when he realllly relaxes well being fed. And so? Well that brings us to the present moment. Said child passed right out after his ten minute "top off." He is curled up next to me and I can't seem to locate a major wet spot on him. It's like a secret pee that managed to get all over me whilst just leaving a small spot on the baby. So. The question is - do I do the right thing and get up and change my slightly-urine-tinged child, thereby waking him up and ruining my chances of going back to sleep or do I do the lazy parenting choice and just deposit him back into his crib? I will leave you in suspense....

Update - I changed him. He is now fresh and clean. But, I never had to make the choice because he made it for me by waking up. So I suppose we'll never know how this important parent decision would have ended up? Also, upon re-reading this I had to laugh at the fact that I was completely unconcerned about the urine that was all over me. . That seemed not to be a factor in my decision. Wiping up pee with an extra swaddle blanket is totally acceptable. Right?