Tag Archives: breastfeeding

Happy 3rd Birthday Samuel!

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Everyone – and I mean everyone – got sick this week (including poor Caroline, which was heartbreaking). So we postponed Sam’s birthday until he was at school, and well enough to enjoy it (although we did give him his present from us – a massive box of Geotrax – so that he had something to play with while home from school during Caroline’s massive feed-a-thons), and at school so that he could give out his muffins and party bags (why muffins? Because when we asked is we could send in cakes, the teacher said “we prefer something healthy’ [oh good, I’m on board] “like muffins” [Aaaargh, tears hear out].

So now, 2 days late, I get to say:

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Happy 3rd Birthday Sam.

Sam, you have made me understand the phrase “the light of my life”. When you are around, things seem brighter. You make me smile more broadly, laugh louder and hug harder than anyone else (sorry about the endless hugs… I know you have stuff to do and they get in the way). Every day, your crazy energy reminds me how much joy there is to be had in life. Your unconditional love teaches me about loyalty and trust. And eating your grow up is one of the greatest pleasures, and greatest achievements, I have in my life.

I am so proud of of what an empathetic boy you have become. Yesterday, we were all sick, Caroline had cried for over an hour, and then you had a meltdown because I put water in your cup when you had asked for juice (sorry about that). So, helpfully I started bawling my eyes out (I might be where you get your fair for the dramatic… sorry about that too). You tired to ‘kiss it better’ and when I was still crying you said “I think we need to call Daddy to make it better… I think Daddy has your medicine… I took medicine in my mouth and it made me better..” Then you proceeded to look for my shoes and socks so we could get your sister to the doctor. I was awestruck by how mature you could be, and touched by such sweetness. I hope that concern for others, and that need to make those you love happy (which comes from your Dad) never leaves you. It will make you a wonderful son, friend, partner and human.

Sibling love, or at least, sibling curiosity

Sibling love, or at least, sibling curiosity

I am watching you grow into your role as big brother too – again, I am so proud of how you have adapted to no longer being the center of attention, and to the care you show your sister. I know it was tough when she came home, and when things changed, but you have bounced back and are our cheerful, happy boy again. I admire your resilience, and wish I had it too.

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You’re crazy – definitely a little wild. You quite proudly announced you had a time out at school you because you “broke Scott’s tower”. You looked me dead in the eyes and said “I broke it so hard”. You poured pretzels all over the floor today so your dump truck could scoop them up. We frequently find you have locked yourself in Ellie’s dog crate. You are crazy and loving and curious and wild and smart and demanding and just you. I am so grateful you are you. Every bit of you I love and I can’t wait to see what this next year brings out of you.

Love

Mummy

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Dear Breastfeeding Mother

It's a boob. Get over it.

It’s a boob. Get over it.

Dear Breastfeeding mother:

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Happy World Breastfeeding Awareness Week! Breastfeeding can be tough emotionally, physically and practically – if you decided that this was best for your child and have been able to do it: awesome. I am pleased you are parenting as you want to.

In honor of this week please:

Keep up the good work! It is so important that parents get to raise their child as they wish to!

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Help to normalize breastfeeding. It is a great choice for many, and it is a shame that many people feel too inhibited. Please feed in public (covered up or not), or in your car, or in your home, or wherever you want.

Share your opinion on the benefits of breastfeeding. How have you found it? What did you enjoy about it?

Milk coma

Milk coma

Enjoy this unique time with your LO. I remember breastfeeding so fondly. In fact, curled up on the couch, nestled up to Sam, gazing into each other’s eyes – it is probably my favorite early motherhood memory.

Enjoy it. Revel in it. Be proud of it.

But

Please do not:

Have the arrogance to judge a formula feeding mother. Do not, DO NOT, assume you know the cost of breastfeeding to her. You know HER pain? You know HER emotional state? You know HER struggles? Like hell you do. Do not write some condescending ‘I understand those with a medical necessity to formula feed, but not those who are just embarrassed’. Have you felt HER embarrassment? Have you been in her shoes? No. Her shoes are not yours. So don’t judge them.

This took me over an hour to pump

This took me over an hour to pump

Do’t ever think a formula feeding mother is not doing her best. You are just not doing your best at stepping outside your own skin.

Ever forget that a formula feeding mother may feel tremendous pain / guilt / regret that she has ended up formula feeding (or she may be totally awesome and feel relaxed in her choice). Support her. Make her feel welcome. Make her feel normal. Make her feel the success she is, if she is doing the job of raising a loved child.

Misconstrue Science. Science has shown that breastfeeding is associated with lower rates of mild infections. It has failed to show that breastfeeding is associated with an increase in IQ, when the correlation between IQ and breastfeeding itself is controlled for. It has failed to show that breastfeeding is consistently associated with lower BMIs, or that it is associated with lower BMIs at all beyond childhood. It has never shown that if you force someone to breastfeed who did not want to, that there are any benefits.

This is both a terrible misunderstanding of Science, and an example of the cruel things formula feeding mothers have to deal with:

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I am aware that breastfeeding mothers complain about stares, and rude comments: I would take that over being told I was choosing to willfully endanger the life of my child any damn day,

Make judgments about how worse off her child is. Or I’ll show you my formula fed son, who slept through the night at 4 months, crawled at 5.5 months, stood unassisted at 6, spoke at 8, and (because I have a developmental Psychology PhD and F*&^ING know the original attachment theory, and actually know what it is, rather than guesswork) who I know is extremely well, and securely, attached to me.

Yeah, I am doin' OK thank you Mum.

Yeah, I am doin’ OK thank you Mum.

More than any judgement on me, or my decisions, it hurts me to the core when you think my child is not everything wonderful that he could possibly be.

Assume formula feeding is some grand statement about a woman’s parenting (or life) philosophy. She may formula feed and co-sleep, cloth diaper, home school or she may formula feed and use cry-it-out, Pampers and day care from 2 weeks. You do not know.

I formula feed and baby wear. Suck on that Judgmental Judy.

I formula feed and baby wear. Suck on that Judgmental Judy.

Assume that because you breastfed, you are a better parent. I know the Scientific literature pretty inside out. Whether it is your sleeping decisions, your weight, your eating habits, you daycare decision, your discipline method, your screen time (your lack of Seasame Street screen time), the family you have or do not have and how often you see them, the role model you are as a woman for your child, your body image, you decision to live in the city or rurally; – I promise that at least some of these are not optimized for your child. Do not think that breastfeeding is some magic panacea that wipes the slate clean and makes up for everything.

He's awesome.

He’s awesome.

Think that your judgmental words don’t make some formula feeders cry. I know, because I just today cried for an hour over this post.

So please, if breastfeeding is important to you: fight for it! I did. Be a brave, fearless, passionate, pro-active, advocating breast-feeder. If it is not: be a brave, fearless, happy, secure, comfortable formula feeder. But whatever your choice, be supportive, understanding, kind and realistic.

Perhaps this puts it more humorously.

And this page from a pro-breastfeeder has the best ending: “As Jill Churchill so wonderfully put it; “There is no way to be a perfect mother, and a million ways to be a good one.” So if you see a baby glugging a bottle or suckling a nipple, perhaps instead of smug judgement or tittering at her mother’s exposure, you might just smile and think what a lucky baby and what a great mom. ”

Dear Samuel… 265 days

530 days together

530 days together

Dear Samuel,

265 days. 265 days in, and here you are now: 265 days out.

265 days today

265 days today

I am so proud of you.

I took you to ‘The Little Gym’ playgroup today. The group was for 10 months plus, but the younger groups do not meet at the weekend. We decided to see how you would do in a group for older children. You tried everything. With only one other crawler (a strapping 13 month old), you still kept pace with the big kids. As the group was reaching the end of their semester, they were far into the moves; today was ‘finishing off’ tumbling. You have never tumbled, but you tried. You rolled over the blocks on your tummy, stretching your hands out for the ground. You were not so impressed at the idea of ‘tucking your head under’, but you let us flip your legs over your head. You looked confused – why were we doing this? Wasn’t just crawling sufficient? But, OK, you were game – and you even let us do it backwards. You let Miss Nicky use you as a demonstration baby for the class, although you kept casting glances at me to make sure it was OK. You sat in a large foam donut while we span you round and around on a parachute singing our ‘A, B, Cs’. Again, you looked confused [why do adults do such weird things?], but after a moment you looked resigned, and despite the crying toddlers around you, you smiled and clapped along. Thank you for humoring us. You were adventurous, you were fun, you were brave and you were sweet-natured.

I am so proud of you.

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When I think about what this day means to me, I think about independence. I think about 265 days you were in me. For 257 I knew about you. For another 5 I suspected you were there. I spent 262 days working so hard to keep you safe inside me. I fretted over every can of mini Diet Coke, I worried about your stress when I had dental surgery, I choked down vegetables when I could. Then you came into thid world and you were even more vulnerable. Tiny, so tiny. You couldn’t even control your eyes. As parents our job was clear: to love you and nurture you so that you felt safe enough to leave us and gain independence. As much as we wanted to hold you close to us endlessly, we saw our job, very clearly, as being to give you the skills you needed to function in this world on your own, although we are always behind you. And you have! You go to bed on your own, in your own room, with ‘Mr Wolf’ to keep you company. You play in your room by yourself, pushing your cars along and shaking your tambourine, for ages at a time.

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You feed yourself, and you talk: you tell us when you want breakfast, or your bottle, and when you need your Mama.

Mmmmm... sushi

Mmmmm… sushi

I see in you the ability to take the world on, to meet challenges head on, and step outside of your comfort zone and rise up a level when things are difficult.

Learning how to play

Learning how to play

I got this!

I got this!

I am so proud of you.

Putting your aquarium on for bedtime

Putting your aquarium on for bedtime

But more than we have given to you, you have given to us. You love us unconditionally, and despite all our mistakes, you have turned out pretty damn brilliantly. You bought out Daddy’s best side: he looks after us so well. You have made him build us a home, and fiercely protect us, but with gentleness. You have taught me to trust myself and to trust my decisions. You have taught me flexibility and not to judge others. You taught me not to sweat the small stuff – what was stopping breastfeeding early, in return for all the hours we got together? And from the unconditional love you have given me, from your first word being a very clear “Mama” said with outstretched arms when I was off to work, you have taught me that I am worthy of love and that I earn it: I have the love I earned well. You, in learning to be independent from me, gave me independence from my insecurities.

I am so grateful to you.

You made us, us!

You made us, us!

I am, and always will be, so proud of you.

May this journey be long, and may we always be hand in hand, even as we forge our own paths.

First playground trip

First playground trip

Happy 265 days Little One.

Mama.

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What I was up to while M.I.A.

This has helped my recovery

This has helped my mental recovery

I’m back. You may not have noticed that I had gone… but it has been a relatively long time since I posted. I blame busy-ness. I would like to blame time business (too much stuff to do), but I know me, if I want to do something, I make time for it. Really, I have not been in a good emotional place for a while and that lead to a combination of (1) needing to sit on the sofa watching mind numbing TV at night and (2) feeling too raw to write my thoughts down. It is all past (passed? I never know which one to use) me now, so I feel OK to write about it. In a nutshell:

First, I did not cope very well with my MRSA surgery

Actually, that is an understatement. I turned into a giant baby about it. I still don’t know why, but I utterly fell apart over the surgery. It wasn’t even that painful. I will say that it was deeply shocking to me to go to the Doctor’s for some anti biotics, and to leave being told I needed surgery under a general anesthetic. It bought back a lot of the feelings I had going to the OR after birth, and the thoughts I had when I came around in ICU and was told I was not out of the woods, but they were doing their best. Of laying there, with my son watching me, discussing with Wes about who we would call to warn about possible impending bad news, rather than the great news of Sam. About lying there thinking of the people he was telling while he made the ‘phone calls, feeling bad I was wrecking their night (I remember telling Wes not to call Clio becaue it was 4 am in England, and him saying ‘she will want to be woken up Lekki!’) and all the time wondering how the hell we had gotten to this place so quickly.

Anyhoo, the surgery went fine, was a piece of cake, and I came around only slightly sore (I mean geez, a med student with a fish knife could have done it). So, really I should have been fine. I should have bounced back. Bouncing back is what I do. It’s my thing. Like when I weightlifted with a fractured elbow. Or negotiated the gym on crutches. Or finished my training plan with stress fractures. Or fell down a waterfall and climbed back up. Instead I let Wes do Sam’s night feed that night, and on Saturday took Sam to bed with me and refused to move, for the whole day. Wes was pleased, I think, but very shocked. He came and bought me lunch in bed, and seeing all my stuff around me said “Wow, you really are planning to stay here then?”.

Recovery Day!

Recovery Day!

Yes. Yes I was.

That was only the beginning of me starting to lose it. I went to the surgeon two days later to have my dressings changed. I expected to see a cut. A skin wound. I did not expect to see an inch long, and 3/4 in deep hole into my flesh. I did not expect to stare down into my flesh and see all the white and yellow and red and so on. In fact, I was so shocked I handed Sam to the surgeon and promptly lost my lunch.

The surgeon told me I had to pack the hole with gauze twice a day. I had to pull the old stuffing out, and stuff it with new stuff. I had hydrocodone to deal with the physical pain, but mentally, I couldn’t hack having a hole in body. I cried for 40 minutes when Wes told me that I absolutely had to change my dressing. I hid from him. I sobbed. I begged him to leave it. I ranted that no one should have to deal with this (while fully aware that people deal with far worse every day). I shrieked at him “You don’t get it! No one should have a hole in their abdomen! Not an every day person! I know you were an EMT and saw car crashes and dead children and far worse, but that is a whole different spectrum. That is a different scale! On the everyday scale no one should have to deal with seeing their flesh! It’s not at the acceptable part of the everyday scale! This shouldn’t have happened to me!”

A somewhat confused Wes dryly remarked “At least I didn’t marry someone really dramatic or anything”.

To this day, I have no idea why I flipped my lid so utterly. Wes thinks I have not processed everything from Sam’s birth, and that this was a reminder. That burying all my emotions about the hemorrage caused them to surface with this little surgery.

I don’t know… there may be some truth in that… I don’t know. I do know that having hardly spoken about it (heck, I didn’t even really blog about it), I have the urge to grab people by the lapels and go “Do you know what I went through? Do you know they told my husband that they didn’t think I would make it? Do you know they told me that? Do you know what it is like to lie in bed, with your baby watching you from a friggin plastic box, while doctors just look sorry and worried, and use vague phrases like ‘you are not out of the woods’ and lie there dealing with the guilt that your nearest and dearest are hearing about this because you can’t make yourself better? What it is like to hear about a difficult birth and want to be sympathetic, but want also want to yell “you were carrying your sweet kid home, in your arms, with your partner so proud, before I was allowed to be in a room alone with my son, and while my body had failed and I had let everyone down and was just lying there in that stupid state?”. But then I remember that from everyone’s super kind emails to me.. yeah… they do know that, and it is only me who doesn’t 🙂

All that is left from surgery

All that is left from surgery – super recoverer!

On the upside though, (1) I am processing all that as best I can; (2) all the self pity has ended, and (3) the MRSA is totally gone and I am all healed. My surgeon (who is 75! – 75 – !) was so shocked at how quickly I healed, he did a double take. I have no pain, and just a little scabby scab. Sure, my lucrative bikini modelling career is prematurely halted, but I can deal with that.

Me before my MRSA surgery. No, really.

Me before my MRSA surgery. No, really. It was that bad.

So, I dealt with it by sitting on the sofa watching Grey’s Anatomy.

Second, work has been stressing me out. I set myself a number of goals for my first year as faculty: submit an NIH grant every cycle, and apply for one other grant each cycle. There have been 2 cycles, I have submitted 5 grants – boom. I also wanted to submit three first-author papers – done, collaborate with the ARIC group – done and get my student through her exams – done. So I did everything in 9 months not 12, but instead of making me feel good, it made me freak out.

I had my annual review. I understand that when you go for these things, you are supposed to pain a picture of ‘yes, I am awesome. See? I am a wonderful member of your community, worth far more than you ever have realized, and I have identified this tiny, surmountable weakness which when I conquer will make me even more invaluable to you’. Me? When my Chair said “So – how do you think you are doing?’ I had a meltdown and said that I had lost all my time management skills, that I was not only not working to full capacity but barely putting in 9-5, that my motivation had changed and I no longer cared about papers and prestige and that nothing I was doing was sustainable long term and I had been busy but not useful. Then I said ‘it is lucky my annual review was not last week, because I was crying about all this back then. Now I am just stressed about it’.

Ha. Luckily for me I have an awesome Chair. He said that my changing priorities (less about papers, more about advancing Science) was just a sign of maturity and made me a more welcome person in his Department. He said that time management after a family was incredibly hard – that he has struggled with it, but solved it. That he could not solve it for me, but was sure I would solve it on my own, if I just gave myself time and space and patience. We talked about ways of making my research more sustainable.

I also received an email from a dear friend / mentor / surrogate sister who pointed out that I had undertaken marriage, new job, new city, new baby, serious health problems.. all within 16 months. It was OK to lose focus a bit at work. To not have the energy to feel passionate about it. To feel like work and success are the not most important things. To feel that Sam, and our home, and my family are more pressing, and need to be clung onto more dearly.

And my mentor at UT put it most succinctly when she said “I told you not to give yourself a hard time until a year after Sam’s birth! In 9 months, you can give yourself a hard time. Until then: NO.”

So, I chilled and yes, I was very busy getting 3 grants in in Feb, but I was also very busy drinking Chocolate Stout on the sofa. Good times.

(3) I was not quite as chilled about giving up breastfeeding as I had thought. In fact, I didn’t want to give up, so I have kept on pumping, only to the following rules: no more than 3.5 hours a day & no stressing when my supply is weirdly low (think 1.5 oz after 45 mins). I just focus on getting Sam some of the antibodies and microbiota and stick at what I can give. However, it was a hard adjustment. And when I had to go from pumping 8-10 and feeding at night to 100% pumping & dumping and 100% bottle feeds, Sam decided he was not going to take the breast at all anymore. He still prefers the taste of breastmilk to formula, but even when he is super sleepy at night, he won’t drink from me, or even suckle. Little rat (lovable rat). It broke my heart.

But… it is all good now. I pump a reasonable amount and just supplement. I offer Sam my breast, he spits it out. I hug him a little tighter while I bottle feed him. It’s all good, but that also contributed to me need to sit on the sofa and eat Whole Food’s Pear and Almond Dark Chocolate. Yum.

Why wouldn't you do this anymore Sammy-Sam? Rat bag.

Why wouldn’t you do this anymore Sammy-Sam? Rat bag.

So, sofa + Grey’s Anatomy + Chocolate Stout + Pear and Almond Dark chocolate, with my puppy, has been pretty sweet. And very restorative. But, I have not done nothing…

I finalized and submitted a paper, which is now under review at Atherosclerosis. I got 3 grants in, and made a clear plan to my R01 submission (in 1.5 – TWO years – long term). I got my student a good plan to make sure she is productive and successful (that worries me a lot) and I wriggled in some quality time with my son – even bringing him into work if I had been working late and so missing his playtime all week.

Sam with Shine Chang - a very eminent Professor at MD Anderson. He doesn't know how lucky he is!

Sam at work with me, with Shine Chang – a very eminent Professor at MD Anderson. He doesn’t know how lucky he is!

I have also been doing paper crafting (fancy word for making cards!):

Birthday card for Wes

Birthday card for Wes

Baby shower card

Baby shower card for Bing

Good bye card for my OB practice

Good bye card for my OB practice

Thank you card for me WONDERFUL OB who is sadly moving :(

Thank you card for me WONDERFUL OB who is sadly moving 😦

(including some not pictured things on their way to friends in the UK – yes!)

AND, because the other thing making me sit on the sofa and sniggle Walter is my OB leaving (yes, the lovely Dr. Boswell – of to do community work! Sob), I mad some cookie monster cupcakes to say goodbye to her:

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I also hung out with friends, and ate excellent Dim Sum (which I have not found since I left the UK!):

Mmmmm.... Dim Sum...

Mmmmm…. Dim Sum…

So… it has been a time of just processing and chilling, and looking after my son and myself. In that time, little Samuel has turned 4 months! So, I will write a post on that next.

Sorry for the brain dump. Feels good though.

The end of my breastfeeding journey

photo (9)It is with some sadness, but some peace that I write this.

I struggled a lot with milk supply. Not with breastfeeding – I was one of the lucky few to whom the act came fairly easily. Or, I should say that I am one of the lucky few who had great lactation consultants straight away, a great baby with a natural latch, and an iPad with Netflix to make the whole thing more enjoyable 🙂 But, my body did not have a great supply. Why? In my sadder moments I have blamed the separation after birth, the nights in ICU, the severe postpartum anemia, the extensive surgery on my breast (left side) at 22. In my guiltier moments I have blamed returning to work so quickly, going to a conference at ~5 weeks postpartum, and not eating enough. I hope, deep down, it wasn’t ultimately any of these things, and just one of those things that was not meant to be.

I have accepted now that I really didn’t go down without a fight. In fact: I didn’t so much go down, as willingly jump off the ship in the end. When I last wrote about this,  I was in the throes of upping my supply with various tricks. Since that post, many internet surges, many forum chats and many lactation consultant visits actually got me to match my son’s needs. It required two things:

*A large bottle of V8 fusion a day

*Power pumping.

Power pumping, to the blissfully unenlightened, is pumping for 20 minutes  then having 10 minutes on, and 10 minutes off for a full hour. The idea is to teach your body to produce more. You do it for a couple of times a day, for a period of time, and then you wean yourself off it. Hopefully your body will have learned to produce more. Unfortunately, my body never ‘learned’. It would respond to power pumping with increased production (I got to, and beyond, my hallowed 30 oz a day), but as soon as I stopped, my supply would sink again. Ultimately, power pumping for each and every pump, 7 times a day, plus the shorter pump at night, meant I was pumping for a whopping 6-6.5 hours a day.

I did it for 3 weeks.

Seriously.

And it was every day – weekends included. Sam got so used to the speed of a bottle, he would not take the breast.

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I told myself that breastfeeding takes at least that long per day, so I had to suck it up. There was no way I was not doing something for my son, which other mothers were doing all the time. Even if I worked, which some people see as a free pass out of such things  I was not letting my son miss out because I had to work. I couldn’t go less, because if I dropped one session (even the night session) I lost not only the oz from that session, but all the others went down dramatically.

Then I had surgery (another blow to supply, by the way). I still fought to keep it up. I think the ultimate symbol of my dedication to me will always be coming around from the general anesthetic in the recovery room, and noticing the time on my monitor. The operation had been supposed to take under an hour, but the infection was deep, and it took over an hour. Upon realizing this, 3 minutes out of general anesthesia  all I could say was “Please get me a breast pump. Please find me a breast pump, I have to express milk”. My body was so broken at this stage (from the op, not the pumping), that nothing came out. But I lay and did it for 20 minutes, and then asked the pump to be brought to my second recovery room.

The next day, I was feeling uber sorry for myself, and put myself on strict bed rest. I took Sam, and told Wes to have a day for himself. I couldn’t give Sam my milk due to the effects of the surgery drugs, so I just didn’t pump as much. In fact, I ended up only pumping three times that day: morning, lunch and night.

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Dear God, it opened a world to me. A world in which my contribution to mothering did not consist of just sitting in another room, either earning money or producing milk (or, frequently, both) but actually looking after my son’s mental, and other physical needs. I cannot hold Sam close when I am pumping; in fact, I can barely hold him at all. I can barely play with him – just sit him on a mat and sing to him, or wave things at him. I spent a whole day with Sam in and out of my arms freely. It was the best day ever. I went to bed elated and happy. I thought it was just because I finally had time for Sam, but as I was giving him him Dream Feed, I realized it was because I didn’t have 6 1/2 hours that day where I could not be with him. And then just short 1 hour bursts of a day where yes, I could be with him, but it was also my only other chance to get other things done, like showering, cooking, shopping.

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With that realization I wept. I cried harder than I have cried in a very, very long time. I cried for everything I have missed out on. For every bedtime since he was 6 weeks where I have sat across the hall watching him refuse to settle with his Dad, while I pumped. For every breakfast I have missed out on. For every play session where when he has cried, I have had to call Wes until I had finished pumping. I cried for all the smiles I had missed, all the hugs I had given up.

Then I went to bed and cried some more.

Eventually I emailed two dear friends and asked what to do.

They helped me a lot. Through tender exchanges with them I realized several things:

*Making it to 3.5 month breastfeeding, with just a few bottles of formula, was not a ‘failure’. It was still a gift to my son, and an achievement.

*Stopping breastfeeding was not done for selfish reasons. Yes, there are advantages to me, but I am doing it to be there for my son. They made me see that Sam needs me physically, as well as more materially. That cuddles and kisses may be more valuable to him than anything else.

*There are other benefits that Sam will get, if I stop. My marriage will be a lot better when I can give Wes some breaks, when I can spend an evening with him without the pump, when I am just up for 30 mins feeding Sam at night, not 30 mins feeding + 40 mins pumping (I always kept the 3 am pump short).

*That, life is beautiful.

 Philippians 4:4-7:
 Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God,which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
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So. With some peace, but a heavy heart I decided to give up breastfeeding. I don’t think it is an understatement to say that mourn its loss. I do grieve for losing that experience for Sam. But, already, I was able to take Sam for a whole day: no relief needed. I have put him to bed every night. And I got off what a friend who went though a similar thing memorably described as ‘the rollercoaster’. The high of pumping enough, the fear when you don’t. That up and down every day.

When I had made that decision, I realized I could pump some without too much disruption. I could get up with Sam, spend time with him, and pump on the way to work. I could pump at lunch, and once, for 20 minutes, when Sam went to bed. My goal is 5 oz a day – which Sam can have split into two portions and mixed with his morning and evening feed (yup, my average on this schedule Will probably be a little over 1 oz / pump). I suspect my supply will quickly dwindle to zero, and Sam will get zilch. But, that is better than a Mum who doesn’t really see her son in a meaningful way.

I am appreciating the benefits: the extra time with Sam, the extra energy for him, the extra ways to express our bond. My head appreciates this as the best solution, but my heart is still heavy

photo (7)

Btw – this was also a total pic spam post. Sorry ’bout that.

A little bit o’ surgery to brighten my day…

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Beh. That’s for when ‘meh’ doesn’t quite cut it. Like for the following story.

About 2 weeks ago I made my nightly 3 am trip to the kitchen to drop off some post-feed expressed milk (<—- pumping at 3 am after being up for breast feeding is the definition of a labor of love I think). I am, as you may expect, not at my sharpest at this particular point of the day. So, when I looked down and saw a little whitehead on my hip, and thought it was an ingrowing hair, when I popped it and it didn’t seem quite ‘right’ you’ll understand why I promptly forgot about it and moved on.

The pesky thing formed a lump. A fairly painful lump, tiz true, but I paid scant more attention to it. Until at a point this week, when I noticed the lump was about the size of a lemon. ‘Hmmmm’, I thought, ‘that’s not good’ and made an appointment with the doctor.

That was Tuesday and the first appointment they could give me was Thursday afternoon, which seemed fine to me.

On Wednesday, I started antibiotics and noticed that the lump had cellulitis (hot, inflamed skin) for a handspan’s width around it, and the pain was enough to bring me to tears. It was also making me limp as the little act of stepping caused vibrations that added to the pain. ‘Hmmmmm’ I thought, ‘very not good’. I called the doctor and asked for an appointment that day, but it wasn’t possible. So, I carried on my work day and tried my best to ignore it. The drive home was horrendous. The seatbelt was placed right on the lump and I entered the house crying my eyes out. Wes looked after me that night, and 1/3 a bottle of wine later I managed to get some sleep (I pumped FIRST, people).

Now that I write it out, it seems crazy-bad. But at the time of going to doctors on Thursday, I was still concerned they would think I was being a hypocondriac, roll their eyes and reluctantly write me a prescription for antibiotics (I think this is a hangover from my days in the hands of the skeptical NHS). It was not the case. As soon as the nurse saw it she said “Oh, that is bad, bad, bad” and went and got Dr. Goodpastor.

I actually had several things to tell Dr. Goodpastor about, but as soon as she saw the lump, any mention of my sciatica and potential yeast (er… sorry…) went out of her head. She gently looked at it, while I yelled in agony. She was super concerned with how deep into my flesh it was, and how close to my hip bone. She was pretty sure it was MRSA and although she mentioned antibiotics, she felt it needed to be opened to drain. The problem was that it was so deep that she couldn’t get the local anesthetic in to really numb it. She was reluctant, but to mess with it, but with my encouragment (I REALLY wanted relief) a very sympathetic Dr. Goodpastor got lidocaine into the top layer (no stranger to pain, I swear that was as painful as anything that happened with the birth of Sam), while I yelled and sweated so much the bed was drenched. But, it didn’t numb the darn thing. As she lightly cut the top with a scalpel, all the inflamed bottom layers felt like someone was holding a burning cigarette relentlessly to my skin.

I figured she would send me home with anti biotics and try again later, but as she looked at it closely she noticed grey, purple and black patches and said ‘I am sending you to a surgeon’.

I was dumbfounded. I needed several rounds of ‘really?’ and ‘yes’ before it sunk in. The surgeon was closed right then (more rounds of ‘really? It is that urgent?’ and ‘yes’) and Dr Goodpastor was tempted to send me to ER. I persuaded her to give me one more night to see if the super antibiotics and anti inflammatories would work, so she booked me in for 10 the next day.

The saddest part of the whole thing was that I can’t breastfeed for a whole 2 weeks 😦 The drugs are not good for Sam. It’s not so much the formula (although with MRSA around, I really would like Sam to be getting breast milk), but it is that 4-7 am stretch where Sam and I curl up together and he feeds from me on and off, which is so special to me. It is my absolute favorite time, and I know Sam will find it a hard adjustment losing that, and I hate that for him. He always wakes me with the biggest smile and I hate that we’ll miss it for a while. Plus, I HATE that to keep my supply up, I’ll have to pump and dump for a while. Pumping is the worst, but it keeps me going as it allows me to do those night feeds. Boo to all that wasted effort!

So sad to pump and dump this. SO SAD.

So sad to pump and dump this. SO SAD.

Sad to say that one very painful night later, it all looked just the same in the morning. So, off to Dr. Appel, a surgeon, I went. When he saw it, he too pulled a face and said that basically, the infection was drilling down and down (not working its way up and out) and killing tissue on the way, so that no antibiotics could reach it. Gross. He had to remove the infection and the dead fat all around it. Double gross.

On the plus side, he fast tracked me to St. Luke’s Hospital, where I immediately had a minor surgery (just over an hour) that went well. I did have a minor freak out about the procedure – not because I didn’t recognize that this was the most minor of operations, but because everything spiraled so crazily from a routine induction with Sam, the memory still haunts me a bit. I remember wanting to fight the anesthetic because they didn’t know if I would wake up, and that time (a split second really) thinking about Sam being left without a Mum, and how I wouldn’t know he had been, or see him, or be able to help him, and that deep sadness it made me feel remains with me. So, I wasn’t best pleased for a general. But, on the plus side, I think I am now over my fear of hospitals and procedures because this one went so well! I have been reminded that everything can go swimmingly! Although it still hurts, the pain is somehow less upsetting. It’s as if my body knew the last pain was a bad pain, and this is a healing pain, if that makes sense? I don’t fight this pain (although, they did also give me some pretty gnarly drugs, so we’ll see how I feel when those wear off 😉  ).

Workin' that hospital gown

Workin’ that hospital gown

St. Luke’s were super sweet. They let Sam sit on the gurney with me while I was wheeled from the prep room to the OR waiting room 1 floor up. He loved it! Everyone waved at him, and he was looking around, quite fascinated by the experience. It was like taking a little fairground ride with him. And of course, when they wheeled me to the recovery room, Sam was waiting for me with Wes, and both had huge smiles.

Sam loving his gurney ride

Sam loving his gurney ride

It’s all good now. I am in a fair amount of pain, which I guess you would expect when doctors dig out lumps of you for an hour or so, but in good spirits. I go for a check-up on Monday, and am optimistic that that will be the end of this whole sorry tale!

Thanks to everyone for their kind words and wishes 🙂

 

The best of visits… the worst of visits

Sam is back from his 2-month check-up with Dr. Injac. As the title suggests, it was the best and worst of times.

baby being weighed

First up: a weigh and measure. He is 12lbs, dead-on (37th percentile)  and 24.5″ long (44th percentile). Perfect, and right where he was on the curve at birth and 2 weeks.

Next up: Mummy’s question time. This made it the best of visits.

Sleeping baby, Liverpool onesie

Oh, he’s sleeping *now*…

My first question concerned sleeping. He sleeps very well does our Sam (a little too well, you’ll see why later), but going to sleep is not so easy. He’s pretty mellow, he just liked to be rocked and cuddled to sleep. A quick burst in the neglect-o-matic (his electric swing) will often also do the trick. This is OK, but at some point, this has to stop. It is going to seriously cramp his dating if his Mum has to rock him to sleep every night 😉

I raised this with Wes, but he said ‘He’s just being a baby’ and that was kind of that… it is hard to have too much of an impact when I am at work every day 😦 If it was daycare they’d have to do as I say! If it is my husband… doesn’t quite work that way. Anyway, rocking /  cuddling / swinging to sleep it was. I asked the pediatrician if this was OK, and his opinion was that it was time to stop. He said there was zero need to ‘Ferber-ize’ (cry-it-out, leave him alone) Sam yet, but that it was time he was woke up where he went to sleep and so no sleeping in arms, no sleeping in the swing, not downstairs etc. Fine to stay in the room, sit by him, pat him, sing to him. Fine to rock him to ‘really sleepy’, but he should finally go off in his crib / bassinet / co-sleeper / wherever we let him sleep finally.

I realize that there are many, many styles of sleep training, at many, many ages. And probably, no one is better than the other. I think it is very much each to their own and I just didn’t feel ours was right for Sam. I liked our pediatrician’s moderate approach: start the process, but nothing too severe. He thinks 4-6 months is time to get Sam self-soothing completely (or Ferber-ize him as he said), before he starts forming real memories, but for now it is just good to start the process now.

I’ll tell you: I was pleased to hear it, but I am not entirely sure how we are going to do it. Sam doesn’t really understand “hey, I am sitting right by you, and this is all for your benefit so you don’t get some huge shock at some point”. I am not sure he is suddenly, magically, going to sleep in his crib, but hey ho.

Baby sleeping in swing

No more of this, young Sam

OK, onto the next question: Feeding. Ugh. This is an emotional one. Actually, this was nearly the subject of a post, but it was too hard to write about. So.. here we go:

As an aside: Do you know, feeding is the only thing that has made me cry about parenting? I cried about it once in the hospital, once at home, once in the office and now once at the pediatrician. That is 4 cries in 9 weeks. I cry every 2.5 weeks because of feeding. It’s HARD! Anyway…

When I was pregnant I wasn’t that wedded to the idea of breastfeeding. I said “Weeelll… I’ll give it a go and see how it goes”. I was lucky – with a lot of support, it went pretty well. And I liked it, and wanted to continue it. It became pretty important to me. I can’t explain why… because of the time with Sam.. because of guilt at no maternity leave… because of feeling I was doing something ‘right’… I am not sure. I just really wanted to give him breast milk for 6 months. It was, for me, instinctual.

Breast feeding

But, I was back in the office, on and off, when Sam was 3.5 weeks. It made feeding on demand very difficult. It also made pumping on a schedule difficult because I didn’t want to pump and then not be able to feed Sam by breast. That made it very difficult to establish a decent supply. Also, as above, Sam is a deep, deep sleeper. He sleeps deep and heavy and although he wakes to eat, since about 3/4 weeks, just has a small snack. If I wake him fully, he still doesn’t eat. He either spits out the nipple, or ‘fake sucks’ so no milk comes out. Again – the 14 hour night gap of not properly feeding made it difficult to establish a supply. I could have fed Sam, then pumped. But at 2 am, when you know you are at work, and you have just been up for 20 mins feeding, a 20 min pump is a hard, hard thing to motivate yourself for. There was always an excise: well, I have an 8 am meeting… well, I have to see my student… well, there is a deadline I am racing for. I just didn’t do it.

It's a love-hate, sometimes hate-hate, mostly hate-cry-hate thing.

It’s a love-hate, sometimes hate-hate, mostly hate-cry-hate thing.

In the end… Sam had to be given a bottle of formula in the afternoon. At first I hated it (I didn’t even tell Wes the first time I gave him one!), but then I thought it was OK, as long as it was one bottle. But… returning to the office full-time (when Sam was 7.5 weeks) co-incided with Sam deciding more and more of his intake should be in the day – he has 5 oz (formula) at lunch and a whopping 8 oz (expressed) at night. Plus regular sized feeds in between. Geeez – meant that not only could I not keep up, but as he drank from me less and less in the evening / at night, I seemed to produce less and less of what he needed.

If you formula feed – that’s cool. I just think, where possible, every Mum & Dad should have the right to bring up their kid in the way they want to. I wanted to bring up Sam mostly on breast milk, keeping supplementing to a minimum, and was upset I couldn’t. Not just upset: guilty. I felt guilty that I was not pumping at night. Very guilty. I even pumped for up to an hour every 2 hours (and that is every 2 hours from start of each session, not finish… sometimes I had only 40 mins between sessions by the time I had set up / dismantled and washed everything). But, I just couldn’t bring myself to do it at 4 am, knowing I was in the office the next day.

Anyway, I mentioned this to the Dr. He was wonderful. He cut me off when I said ‘I could pump at night…” and said “REST.. you are working… REST”. He then said the words I think every new Mum needs to hear. Umprompted, he said:

“You are doing wonderfully. In fact, you are doing more than enough, above and beyond. You’re a great Mom”.

And he didn’t say it because I asked, or because he thought I needed to hear it. he just said it, almost to himself, as he checked Sam’s reflexes.

Cue tears.

However, he did look at my milk output, which dwindles to ~ .5 oz in the afternoon, and said it was lower than expected and prescribed me something to help. Yeah – so some people think you shouldn’t use these drugs. Eh, I am cool with that. I trust my pediatrician. One of the risk factors for not producing enough hormones is bleeding after childbirth, so maybe I just need to recover from that.

Anyway, it was wonderful to know that I was doing all I reasonably could for Sam, and to have support and help. And, I have not met anyone who I felt really understood my desire to breastfeed as much as possible. I actually wanted to kiss him.

Unfortunately, the drug is not covered by my insurance. It is OTC in the UK (why does this happen when my UK friends are RETURNING already), and I am fighting the insurance company, so we’ll see what comes of it. I have asked my Ma to send me out some and perhaps I’ll order online. In the meantime, I am going to take Fenugreek and actually remember my iron.

Then we moved on to the terrible part of the visit: the inoculations.

War wounds on the legs

War wounds on the legs

So many of my friends kindly told me that the vaccinations were actually fine, and their kids were fine, and it was all OK. I felt a million times better when I heard this and feel I should add my voice to this call to help others. But I can’t. It was terrible! Sam screamed at the first injection. A real yell of pain. He took my knuckle and calmed down but when the second and third came, he had no interest in being calmed, and cried his heart out. It probably didn’t help that I was weeping like a baby too.

Ugh. We dressed him, and he quickly calmed down. In fact, while Sam & I were waiting for Wes to bring the car around, Sam was like this:

130109_0002

Of course… I was still crying. Ah well. Must be stronger next time.