Monthly Archives: January 2013

Sam’s first month scrapbook page

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Gah, I can’t believe it has taken me so long to make Sam his 1 month scrapbook page – in just 2 weeks it will be time for his 3 month page. Oh well, little ‘uns (and work, and scrap-booking, and Christmas) keep you busy.

It’s funny to look back at this day… Of course I loved Sam, but he was still a little stranger in our home. A little, beautiful, alien. Sam was everything, and yet, we were still making an effort to fit him in to our routine. We were still in throws of “I need to do X… how do I do it with Sam?”. Still figuring out this little person who had come into our lives.

We only had one ‘routine’ down. Every day, at about 4 am, Sam would get horrible gas and grunt and cry. I was so sleepy that the best thing seemed to be to climb into bed in the nursery and bring him with me. It was amazing, he would melt into my arms, relax, stop his grunting and look utterly at peace. It started out as an anxious time: me watching him, so sad he was in physical pain. Then, quickly, Sam adjusted, as did I, and it became a very special time. Time we would snuggle just the two of us. Time, that even now as Sam gets glorious independence, he is utterly dependent on me, his Mama. It’s almost like we are as close as when he was inside me.

We wake up together, and I love I am one of the first things he sees when he opens his eyes. His biggest smiles are always when he opens his eyes to greet the day, and greet his Mum. I pray he retains that joy in life.

Back at one month, he didn’t smile, but I did. We would sit and read books, look at toys, sing songs. He was floppy then, and so skinny, I can remember how passive he was in my arms. How I taught him even to have his body in a comfortable position.

Wes would come in when he woke. He snapped this shot of us – one of my favorites – and I snapped one of him, realizing that Sam was a whole month old.

A beautiful page for a beautiful boy. Quite different from the one before – his birth page.

I am super excited, some friends bought a very special gift for his 3 month picture:

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His hospital outfit, one size up 🙂 I think he will look quite different to this:

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I made a blind!

Roman blind of sadness

Roman blind of sadness

A terrible.. terrible blind.

Well, the blind structure is good. The fabric is, as I suspected all along, terrible. Note to self: vintage and old fashioned are very different.

Sigh. Here is how I made the blind…

(1) Cut your fabric & lining 1″ wider than the window, and 4″ longer.

(2) Sew together, with 1/2 ” seams around 3 of the sides (leave the top open), with the outside sides (the sides you want to see) facing together.

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(3) Turn right way out and insert a metal pole (I got mine from Home Depot) into the little bag you have created.

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(4) Sew three sets of brass rings up from the base. I started 5″ from the bottom, then went at 7″, 6″, 5″, 4″, & 3″, intervals.

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(5) Staple gun the open top around some wood, the length of your window frame (I used 1/2″ thick wood) and screw in little hooks for the threads.

(6) Run threads through the brass rings and through the hooks,

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Et voila.

Hang.

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I hate my blind.

I am quite pleased with my valance – this was easy peasy.

(1) Construct a valance out of insulation foam (I glued it with my hot glue gun)

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(2) Cover with fabric and pin into place:

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Et voila a deux:

Blind of sadness

Blind of sadness

Now I have to remake the dratted blind with decent fabric.

200 posts

Happy [200th post]  Birthday blog.

My 24th Birthday - 7 1/2 years ago!!

My 24th Birthday – 7 1/2 years ago!!

I love my little blog. I love writing it, and it satisfies my strange need to record things in my life (a little obsessively? Let’s see, I scrapbook, log my running, track my eating, keep hundreds of ‘memory boxes’. Maybe a little obsessively). I love being part of the ‘blogging community’ (and yes, there is one) and I also love being able to go and look back at photos and words from years ago. I periodically kept journals from childhood right through to adolescence and I guess this is a natural progression.

My 28th birthday.

My 28th birthday.

But, I also love how my blog has grown in the last 2 years. It used to be me, my Mum and Clio who read it. Now I have email 91 followers (not ALL immediate family 😉 ) and am referenced on several external websites. For example, The University of Illinois recommend my posts on writing grants, and New Mum recommended my posts on Polyhdramnios.

You can guess this one...

You can guess this one…

More than that, I love all the comments on my blog – I am far from my homes, and many friends, and I love sitting in Texas and chatting to y’all. Seriously, ask any blogger (no matter how small): comments for the win.

31st - Sam is technically in this one too :)

31st – Sam is technically in this one too 🙂

WordPress sent me this neat little summary of my 2012 blogging stats

http://lekkiwood.wordpress.com/2012/annual-report/

Thanks everyone who reads – you keep me very happy x

Scrapbook page – Sam’s birth

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I didn’t know how to blog about scrapbooking, and I have realised after all the comments on my last post that what people want to read about is the stories behind the photos. Well, maybe that was obvious, but somehow it did not occur to me.

I wanted to make a page for Sam’s birth. I had hundreds of pictures to choose from, given that we documented all of the 2 days I spent in labor, and 5 days in hospital postpartum. But already, when I think back, I don’t remember any of that. I have to really think to recall labor – all I know is that the pain really wasn’t that bad for me, even on pitocin. My time in hospital doesn’t seem more than 24 hours, again, unless I really make an effort to recall it. All the nitty gritty, from foley balloons to IV drips, to transfusions and so on just never comes to mind.

What I do remember, and what I relive time and time and time again, and what is reflected in the pictures I chose are those 5-10 minutes when Sam actually came into our world.

Sam descended really quickly and he was crowning in minutes. I could never feel Sam descend – I could feel the contraction, but only by looking in the mirror did I see if I was making progress. I didn’t want to use a mirror – I thought it would be gross, but the nurses kept asking and asking, so I gave in for an easy life. I was glad I did, it blew me away when I saw Sam’s head crowning. It was all blue and red and white and icky, but absolutely amazing to me to see an actual part my son for the first time. It made me cry and I remember thinking ‘I am going to have a baby!’, it is one of the first times I thought of Sam as a baby, really. That realization, and that excitement, is one of my favorite memories. I pushed and pushed for another 2 and a bit hours, and began to worry whether I could get him out or not.

Sam was transverse (just a bit I think, the OB said ‘transverse’ but I guess that has a lot of definitions). My OB for the day, Dr. Dryden, put her hands in and manually turned him each time I pushed. He made fairly good progress when she did that, I think it was just 3 more pushes, but I didn’t know that. By the time the final push came, I had stopped looking in the mirror – it was all hurting so much and I was pushing so hard I was cursing and yelling and trying desperately to focus on all the instructions (don’t hold your breath, don’t push before the contraction has built, legs up, elbows out, think ‘down’). I do remember having a panic and asking if Dr. Dryden needed to use forceps or do a C-section. Her calm words rang very clear to me “No, I don’t need to see him now. I do need to see him soon, but not right now’.

I had had so many unsuccessful attempts to get him out, my head was over to my right side and I shut my eyes and literally put everything I had into a push. I had had hours of pushing and nothing, and this didn’t feel any different, so I was shocked when Dr Dryden announced his arrival and I saw him being lifted up! He had been stuck in pelvis for a while, so he had a few more checks than was originally planned and my view was obscured.

Sam seemed to take ages to cry – I kept asking over and over again if he was OK, but then he did and but he was wrapped up super quickly and handed to me. I have heard people describe this immense love they felt… Elena at the The Art of Making a Baby describes seeing her daughter Lexie for the first time as realizing she had always loved her. I felt none of that. Honestly, my first thought was ‘Oh my God! I did it! I did it!’, just huge, euphoric disbelief. Then I instantly thought ‘He is safe! Sam made it here safely!’. Wes was crying and saying over and over again how proud he was of me, and I just thought ‘this is immense! It’s a baby! I have a son! Oh my God, I have a son for the rest of my life’.

Sam’s face, although I thought it was adorable, just struck me as so alien: I had never seen it before. I didn’t think ‘Oh, this is my son whom I love’ I just thought ‘this is the baby I have to love the rest of my life’. Knowing Sam was mine (ours) forever was overwhelming (in a wonderful, wonderful way). I tried to drink in his features, to etch them on my mind forever because he would be with me forever, but I couldn’t. It was like the enormity of becoming a mother couldn’t be encapsulated by learning a face.

They took Sam to be cleaned and weighed and all I knew then was that I really wanted him back. That I really wanted him in my arms.

10 incredible minutes in my life. I don’t ever really look at the pictures of me in labour, although they are cool to have. Everything changed the minute Sam was here: it was all about him then, not me.

Low supply while pumping…

… and how you can come back from it.

So, bit of a specialized post here, but in case in helps someone, here is how I came back from ‘low milk supply’.

[In case it is totally irrelevant to you, here is a picture of Walter wearing a stripper pastie as a hat]:

Poor Walter

Poor Walter

Back to low supply. I will cover:

  1. How it came about (for me)
  2. How I decided to supplement Sam with formula
  3. How to start getting your supply back
  4. Things that did not work for me
  5. Things that did work for me.
  6. A balanced view of it all – some sanity for struggling Mums

How my low supply came about

So, I think my low supply arose out of a number of unhelpful factors.

First, I have one useless boob. Here is some TMI about me you didn’t know: I had a tubular breast, and had a subsequent surgery that fixed it. The former makes breast feeding sufficiently VERY difficult (if not impossible) and the latter can make it harder. So a bad combo.

Second, I could not feed immediately after birth, as after a quick cuddle, I didn’t really have time with Sam for 18 hours. I saw him when I came out of OR, but I was in so much pain he went the nursery pretty quickly. So… no breastfeeding, and no pumping for nearly a whole day did not help.

Poor ol' Sam spent a lot of early days in here.

Poor ol’ Sam spent a lot of early days in here.

Then nights were difficult in ICU. In fact, feeding at all was difficult in ICU. I seemed to be having a transfusion / drug bag changed every 40 mins or so. When that wasn’t happening, I was having check-ups, sponge baths, investigations, fighting sleep from the drugs and what not. I was in pain & stressed (which does NOT help milk supply). I did breastfeed, but it was often interrupted and difficult. A couple of the nights I was knocked out to sleep for the whole night; my body was throwing random fevers with no sign of infection, and I think it was just exhausted. So, they would give me something to sleep and I would wake up better – it seemed the only option for getting out of hospital. So, no feeding at night then.

I came home, and I did exclusively breastfeed for 5 1/2 weeks. But it wasn’t awesome. I was trying to work full time and back in the office part-time (I went to a conference in Houston when Sam was 5 weeks). I pumped while away… but it was difficult. I don’t think I ever really established a good solid supply. But I struggled on.

How I decided to supplement Sam with formula

Breast feeding

Not as easy as it looks for some

I say ‘struggled on’ but I was one of the lucky few who took to breastfeeding, and had a baby who breast fed pretty well. Good latch… good suck… I experienced only the normal nipple pain. I even had some good pumps after feeding. Everything should have been good, except for the pesky start.

But, after about 1 week, Sam was fussy from 3-6pm. It didn’t phase Wes & I, we just assumed that was Sam’s difficult time: when he was  starting to get tired. It got worse and worse and again… we just thought that was Sam. Then his feeding got more and more intense and more and more stressful (he would clamp on my nipple and shake his head like a shark). He also tried to feed constantly – not like a cluster feed, like constant needing the breast. He also went from ‘fussy’ to ‘unhappy’. Now, I did the thing you are really NOT supposed to do: gave him a bottle of formula to see if that was it. I had tried hand expression and seen nothing coming out, so tried some Similac liquid. Sam was 5.5 weeks.

Boom.

Happy baby.

So, I actually struggled on for another 2 weeks trying to get my milk supply up: feeding Sam regularly, trying to pump outside of the difficult time, offering both boobs, upping skin-to-skin – but nothing worked. I hated the idea of formula so much, but I hated the idea of an unhappy baby more. So I figured: one bottle of formula – 2.5 oz – a day… what was the big deal? We’d just use that.

Sooo long to get this

Sooo long to get this

Finally, when Sam was 7.5 weeks I went back to the office full time. I was pumping every 3 hours, but as I was already struggling to produce enough milk, it was tough. If Sam got hungry when I wasn’t there I couldn’t put him to breast… and I couldn’t really pump in a cluster pump at work… and Sam needed something… and so formula reared its ugly head again.

This was OK, until at about 9 weeks I realised that the formula was going up and up and I was pumping less and less. I cried. A lot. I am writing this post because you CAN come back.  I want to be a voice out there that recognizes that feeding is difficult in some circumstances, but if it is important to you, then you can do something about it.

How to start getting your supply back

OK, personally, I think there are two things everyone has got to do to really up a drastically failing supply:

(1) Get the right attitude.

You have to be positive. My experience of getting supply back is that it is extremely difficult, and takes patience and persistence. So: you have to have the right attitude. You have to decide it is definitely what you want, that you will make some (more) sacrifices to do it, and I think you have to have people around you on board.

Helping me with a PMA (positive mental attitude) was a subtle flip in thinking. I stopped thinking: ‘formula is bad’ and started thinking: ‘breast milk is good’. It kept my spirits up, it kept me at the pump when I knew I was only likely to get .5 oz, and it stopped me thinking ‘Oh God, he is having formula anyway… why am I bothering?’.

And, I think  it is a realistic attitude… all the studies out there looking at formula vs. breast-milk do not show that (modern) formula does any harm…it just doesn’t have ALL the benefits (DHA… antibodies.. whatever) that breast milk has. So I started thinking about getting Sam as many of those benefits  without worrying about the formula side.

Feeding while pumping. Anyone think I could cut out the middle man?

Feeding while pumping. Anyone think I could cut out the middle man?

(2) Start logging your pumps.

Seriously. Log every pump. Log how much comes out of each side. This helped so damn much. It helped me see what was working, what wasn’t, and what was hindering. It helped me be accountable. It helped me see how much I was pumping (i.e. yes, the days where I was only getting 5-10 oz were worth it, because it was 5-10 oz!). It helped me see that Sam is a pig has a large appetite and feel a bit better about the whole thing. It helped me see how supply fluctuates (<— trust me, supply really fluctuates), and so not freak out about the smaller pumps. It was awesome.

I just keep my pump record on a google spreadsheet, so it is always accessible.

So, what didn’t work for me:

These things had no discernible effect, over a couple of days. They may of course had small, incremental effects, or have worked over a longer period. And of course, they may work for you:

*Giving up my evening glass of wine (phew)

*Eating more carbs in the evening

*Eating more

*Eating more protein

Chocolate oatmeal

Eat, eat, eat.

*Eating oatmeal (even steel cut oats TWICE a day).

*Pumping more than once a night (actually resulted in a massive decrease in supply).

*Upping skin-to-skin contact time (but man, was it fun).

Things that worked for me:

Medela pump

My view for literally 35% of my waking hours 😦

*Pumping every 2 hours from 8.30am-6.30 pm. I didn’t get more per pump, but I got more over the whole day. It is a pain in the butt… but it worked for me.

*Fenugreek seed. Thank God for Fenugreek. This made an enormous difference. I went from barely filling 1/2 tube to my tube overflowing the first evening. But I had to take a lot. I have caps of about 500-610mg a day (depending on the brand I get). I started at 9 caps a day (the recommended amount) and moved up to 15 a day (the maximum). It’s a pita to be always be swallowing this stuff, but it really works.

I have to say, it also has a slightly short term effect: the pumps about 2 hours after eating fenugreek are amazing… any longer and there is not much of an effect. So, I try to space mine: 3 caps at 8 am, 12 pm, 6 pm, and 2 am.

It has been slow progress – with small leaps when I started pumping every 2 hours, and when I added Fenugreek. But slow progress. Over 2 weeks, I have finally gone from pumping 15 oz to up to 21-24 oz a day, which is just enough for Sam while I am at work and just before bed. I can then breastfeed him when I get home, in the night, and at breakfast. So we have had several days without formula, and I am pleased.

A balanced view of it all – some sanity for struggling Mums

So happy to wake up this morning and see this was in the fridge :)

So happy to wake up this morning and see this was in the fridge 🙂

So. Here is the thing. Yes, this post shows that for some, you can get your milk supply back. And I have been through the pain of thinking / knowing you are not producing enough milk. It is awful. It is painful and hurtful in a way that I think only another mother could understand. All logic and rationality goes out of the window and you just feel like a failure, and like you are failing your baby.

But, it has been so difficult building my supply. I have had to pump until dry, which often takes 40 mins – an hour. I seem to spend my life washing pump parts and setting up / dismantling. I have all but given up doing up my shirt in my office (door closed, window blocked, obviously). Looking at a baby on breast milk only vs. mixed feeding (no freakin’ difference), I do think you have to think if it is worth it to you. If exclusive breast milk is really important to you: go for it. Really do.

But if it is not: think about the knock-on effects. Think about the added tiredness, and the added time away from your baby (hard to really interact when pumping). When I was pumping twice a night (as well as feeding three times) and working full-time, after a few days of it, I started to ask Wes to look after Sam in the evening  as I was so tired: what good is breast milk galore, if Sam is not with his Mum? Loving, interactive parents > breast milk IMHO.

Can't believe I passed this up just for a few extra oz of milk...

Can’t believe I passed this up just for a few extra oz of milk…

Look at the research and accept that the ‘good’ effects of breastmilk vs. modern day formula are  tiny, and that there is currently no reason to think the good effects of breast milk can’t also be gained from an enriched environment. Think of all the people who have grown up wonderfully well on formula (myself included 😉 ).

I cannot keep this schedule up much longer. It is killing me. I literally spend 1/3 my working day attached to a pump 😦 It interrupts my evenings and night. So, I am going to keep it up for a week or so, try to get my supply ‘established’. Then something manageable has to be instated. I am also waiting for a galactalogue called domperidone (Motilium in the UK) to arrive by mail. I am hoping that this will help up my supply enough to only have to pump every 3 hours i.e. twice at work. If not, I am working on being at peace with saying ‘I did my best’. Otherwise, I am going to start resenting Sam, which is going to do him far more harm than some formula.

If you are still reading, and issues of milk supply are not that relevant to you (I am the kind of person who reads the most RANDOM stuff on blogs)… here is a picture of Sam being ridiculous, just to make it more worth your while:

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So, in the spirit of honesty, I feel I should share what happened the day after I drafted this post. It got off to a bad start. After feeding Sam, I fell asleep at my desk at 3 am before I had turned the pump on. So no nighttime pump. Then it seemed to go downhill throughout the day. I didn’t log (for the first time EVER) but I seemed to be producing less. For every pump. One pump got delayed an hour.  Then it seemed to be less and less coming out.

“I know what she did” you are all thinking. “She followed her advice and knew that it was hard, and there are natural fluctuations, and just kept on knowing she was doing the best for her son. She reminded herself that if she has to use some formula its not bad, and that plenty of people grow up just fine on it. Formula is not bad! It is just that breast milk is good.”.

Yeah.

Um.

No.

I worried. I fretted. I got stressed. Eventually I cried. I went to a friend’s house and probably bored her stupid wittering about milk and fussing about not doing the best for Sam. I was *this* close to giving up. Really. I looked ahead at a life without this stress, and without the bother and with the ease of mixing up a bottle of perfectly good nutritious formula. It is only the fact that I have $40 of Domperidone (a galactalogue) in the mail, and I don’t want to utterly waste my money, that got me leaving the ball game to pump.

Then I got home to a sweet email from a friend who said “I am not sure I would be as strong as you after going through so much”. And I cut myself some slack. She said: “I think the benefits of breast milk diminish after 4 months so you’ve done brilliantly to have got Sam this far”. And I thought “4 months? That’s just about a month away! I can get to that!”. And she said “Better for Sam to have a Mum who tried hard to do her best in difficult circumstances than wasn’t here at all”. And somehow that made it click. So if it helps: we are all just doing our best under difficult circumstances. We can all cut ourselves some slack.

I hooked myself up to the pump, and lo! 6 oz came out. My biggest pump yet. I went to put it in the fridge and found that by some miracle there is 10 oz in there, just waiting for Sam. I may even be able to replenish my freezer stash.

I am back at it 🙂

Now I am going to hit send before it goes downhill again 😉

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Still reading? Here is Walter wearing pasties as pasties, to reward you for your efforts 🙂

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My first scrapbook page

So, at the princely hour of 1.17 am every day I breast feed Sam. I am all good with that part. I am less good with the following 2 am pump (admittedly it could probably be a 1.30 am pump if I didn’t always fall asleep). At first I thought I would work while pumping… didn’t happen. Then I thought I would email or blog… couldn’t happen. As it turns out, my sleepy and sleep-deprived brain is good for only one thing at that heinous time: looking up pretty things on the internet and obsessively ‘pintresting’ them.

Seriously, my previously neglected boards have exploded. My current pretty-thing-to-pin is scrapbook layouts. After much pinning, and a few trips to Jo Ann / Target where I collected papers and embellishments on clearance, eventually, I had pinned (and spent, goddamit) enough to actually decide to give it a go.

So without further ado, here is my very amateur, first pass at a scrapbook page:

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It’s hard! I think the more you get and collect, the easier it is. I have learned that I will just have collect stuff as I go along, because it helped to cut up a lot of things – way more than I could use on one page – and just play around with layouts.

It’s not quite as creative or cute as the pins on my scrapbooking inspiration page, but there is beauty in simplicity, right? Whatever, it was a lot of fun to do. Which is really the point of it after all. And it goes well with my new Groovebook app.

Oh, and the main photo was taken on 13th February, 2010, which I have just realised is 2 years to the day that Firework was conceived. 🙂

Oh, and to help poor lost souls like me, I have even added a ‘pin it’ button to me blog. Fancy.

Best app ever?

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I don’t generally ‘app’ – although I am impressed at my ability to use that word as a verb. But I am in love with Groovebook. The idea is simple: you pay $2.99 / month (currently only available to US peoples, sorry) and once a month they send you a photobook of your iPhone / iPad pictures – awesome, no? They either pick the first 100 you took, or you can choose 100 of your photos. If you didn’t take 100 you either get fewer photos, or you can just choose some from previous months.

Sounds great, but I skeptical. Well… Wes was. I trust everyone and everything. $2.99 for 100 photos? Delivered? I decided to give it a go… The user interface was dead easy – you just tap the pictures you want printed this month, and they become marked with a green tick. Hit ‘upload’ and boom – job done. I ordered my book on Saturday, and it arrived today, 4 working days later.

My Groovebook

My Groovebook

The book arrived with a grey, plastic cover which is nothing to write home about. The photos inside were of decent quality. I used my Ipad, and the camera is only .7 MP (how cruddy! I wish it wasn’t my main source of Sam pics now). I imagine if you used an iPhone (oh, I wish I had one) the pictures would be a lot better. They also come with a handy perforation for easy tear-out.

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Honestly? I love it! I just wish my iPad had a better camera. Now, I am just left Jonsey-ing an iPhone and deciding if I should leave the book ‘as is’ as get a neat little collection of them, or whether I should rip out some of the photos to use the for frames / scrapbooking / relatives etc, but this will destroy the books.

If you’d like to give it a go, you can have your first book for free (no P&P even). Just use the code: Frazier-Wood1.

I don’t get any royalties / deals / free books, but you do 🙂

Btw – I learned about this app here from the blog Healthy Tipping Point. Thanks Caitlin!