Sep 21, 2017

Exclusively Pumping: 8 Weeks In

I've been working on a post about some of our favorite baby things, but I just cannot seem to finish it. I will eventually, but right now I just want to talk about breastfeeding and my life as an exclusive pumping mom, because it's something I think about all the time. It's still really hard, you guys.

N's latch has improved over the past few weeks (she's now 8 weeks old - holy cow!), but we still are not in a place where we can exclusively breastfeed. In fact, I don't think it will happen, if I'm being realistic. She's not ready and I'm not ready for that, as much as I'd like to be. Latch issues aside, while N's doctor is not concerned and says she's a perfectly healthy little gal, it is hard for her to gain weight. That means that breastfeeding is a little too risky for me at this point. I need to know that she's getting adequate amounts of milk in order to keep growing. My intuition says that when she breastfeeds, she's not (and I've weighed her before and after feedings to confirm this). I just want to make sure she's properly fed and we can measure it. That's my top priority and now that her bottle latch is improving too (after working with an occupational therapist with daily exercises), feedings are so much easier. She'll take down four ounces (sometimes five now as she gets older) in 10 minutes and that used to take 40 minutes. So we are super happy about this. We bought a scale to measure her weight, because we are anxious parents who cannot wait for doctor's appointments, and she's gaining weight at a great pace. We are hoping to finally see 10 pounds by her 2 month birthday. Fingers crossed! Girl has her dad's fast metabolism!

I'm so so so thankful that she's doing well and I know that's all that matters. I count my blessings every single day and I still don't know how it's possible to love her as much as I do. It's really quite insane. I'm completely obsessed.

But dude. Pumping her milk is a big undertaking. My day is ruled by the pump. Up until recently, I was pumping about four times a day, which I know, is amazing (most exclusive pumpers - EPers -pump 8-10 times, bless their hearts), but my sessions were really long and I never could seem to empty my breasts. I'd pump for 40 minutes and the milk still would flow. It was beyond frustrating because I don't have time to sit for these long sessions when my baby still sometimes naps only 30 minutes. Also, the biggest issue was clogged ducts, due to the fact that I couldn't empty fully. I'm on my second clogged duct and it's so painful. I take hot showers, use heat compresses, massage like crazy, and drink a ton of water.  My lactation consultant wants me to start pumping more often during the day for shorter sessions. So yay. I am adding pump sessions. Sigh.

I do feel like 20 minutes, 6 times a day (my new schedule), feels better physically (engorgement isn't bad) and besides more washing pump parts, feels loads easier than sitting for 40 minutes knowing I couldn't empty and getting frustrated.

On a good day, I'm really quite fine with it all. I'm giving my daughter life with my milk. How cool is that? Those little rolls on her wrists? I made those. My supply is still great (we bought a deep freezer to hold all the extra) and I am beyond thankful that pumping just seems to work for us. She takes the bottle well now and she's getting the immunity and nutritional benefits of breastmilk. Why should I complain? Some days, her schedule coincides perfectly with mine and my pumping doesn't interfere with the time I want to spend with her. I get a boost of confidence and think, "Yeah. We got this!"

On a bad day, I secretly cannot wait until she's old enough to drink cow's milk. I find myself looking forward to the day that I can wean myself off the pump and have my body all to myself again. And then I feel so guilty about thinking this that I could cry. Of course, I don't want time to speed up! I want to enjoy her baby stage. I want to embrace having her fall asleep on my shoulder (oh my gosh, it's my favorite). I don't want to ever forget her gummy smiles when I sing to her and the way she stares at her hands like they are the most fascinating things she's ever seen.

But, sometimes, I just really want to go Office Space on my pump.

And you know what? It's okay for me to think that way. I have to remind myself I don't love my daughter any less because I hate pumping milk for her. In fact, it's because I do love her so much that I continue to do it. And if I decide to stop? It'll be because I love her so much that I don't want to spend x amount of hours each day tied to a pump instead of spending quality time with her. Which is one of the biggest reason why I hate that darn machine. I hate that it takes me away from her at times or I can only be half engaged with her. I hate that I can only half join Brandon while he plays with her because I'm pumping...again. I hate that when he's warming up her bottle and I'm trying to comfort her, she sometimes starts rooting on my chest and screams with anger when I cannot offer it to her (it throws off her bottle latch game).

There are times that I get so so frustrated that breastfeeding didn't work out for us and we quit trying so soon. But then I know that's not fair. We tried. We tried for every two hours, on the hour, during ever single day and night in the hospital. We tried through raw, blistered nipples. We've tried through tears and extreme sleep deprivation during 3am feedings. I've seen her choke on my letdown, gag, and be so frustrated that her face turns red and my heart breaks in two.We've seen lactation consultants who, with a huge sigh, give me a sad look and say, "Go home and look up exclusive pumping". No, I cannot say that we gave up. This is the hand we've been dealt, so getting frustrated about it does us no good. But man do I get jealous when I see breastfeeding work out for others. I'm trying to work on that jealousy because I don't want to feel that way. I'm sure those breastfeeding moms are fighting their own battles with motherhood that I know nothing about.

I don't really have a point to this post. Just wanted get my thoughts on the topic out of my head. As with all aspects of motherhood, there are really good days and really good moments and there are also hard days. Not bad days, necessarily, just challenging ones. And that's my relationship with the pump. There are pump sessions that fly by while she naps and I read a few chapters in my parenting book. Then there are sessions involved spilled milk, chapped nipples, and tubing that falls off every 10 seconds. It's life. It's being a parent and it's sometimes really messy. Until we reach my goals with pumping (realistic goal of 6 months and reach goal of a year), I'm going to take it day by day and session by session. We are going to celebrate the little victories and milestones, for which there are many. And I'm going to continue to soak in those gummy smiles, naps on my shoulder, and those lint-filled (oh my gosh, how does this happen?) tiny hands.

I'm not including photos in this post, because eww.

Aug 31, 2017

It Gets Easier

Baby Shower Advice

My office threw me a baby shower a few months ago (which oddly feels like eons ago) and they all wrote a piece of advice on cards for me. Some were very practical (use paper plates!), some were well meaning, but hard to implement (sleep when the baby sleeps - who actually does this?), and some were simply words of encouragement that I recite to myself when things get hard.

My favorite: it gets easier. 

Now, I don't think it does get easier, not necessarily. One issue gets resolved and suddenly you are faced when a new one. One day naps are great and the next she won't sleep despite the things I bribe her with (come on N, what baby doesn't want a pair of Toms?). So while you are constantly facing new challenges and things may not be getting easier, you do become more confident. Things that were terrifying in the beginning (diaper blowouts, using saline drops, feeding schedules, etc.) are now dealt with a bit more know-how, even here at five weeks postpartum. When we are faced with something new and challenging, I recite this mantra and it certainly helps, even if sometimes it's a lie I tell myself.

More thoughts on 5 weeks of Motherhood:

  • I have no distinction between the clothes I wear around my house all day long and the clothes I sleep in. The are one and the same. And most of the time, they are kind of gross. 
  • Showers feel amazing. Then you have spit up all over you 30 minutes later and wonder if showering really is even necessary at this point. 
  • Despite wanting her to nap during the day, I miss her if she sleeps too much and wonder if it's bad parenting to poke her and wake her up just so we can snuggle. 
  • Everything she does is cute. Everything. 
  • I simultaneously long for her to hit new milestones while wanting time to stop in its tracks. 
  • Added to all my new fears about her, are my washing machine breaking and power going out and ruining my frozen milk supply. 
  • Whenever I make dinner, I pat myself on the back. Whenever I accomplish so much as brushing my teeth, I pat myself on the back. 
  • Why is there a lawnmower/leaf blower going at all times of the day, every day? 
  • My "free time" is spent looking up breast shield sizes and diaper reviews and I don't mind it. 
  • I'm no longer picky about the food I eat. Calories = more milk production. Just give me calories. All the calories. Preferably in the form of sugar. 
  • One night I ran out of baby appropriate songs to sing her, so I found myself singing the Preamble of the Constitution. You know, from School House Rock? Brandon was impressed. N was not. 
  • Whenever I hear a baby cry, mine or someone else's, I find myself shh'ing and rocking. Automatically. Even when I'm in a different room. I am a Pavlov dog. 

Aug 18, 2017

Life with N: One Month


[Okay, it's not quite one month, but for simplicity's sake...]

Oh where to begin? There's no way you can put into words how amazing it is to meet your first child, so I won't even try to describe it. I'm far too tired to make much sense to begin with, but let's just say that our life has been beyond wonderful since N made her appearance last month. Hard? Of course. That comes with the territory, but it's a challenge that I thrive on and love. This little tyke has rocked our world in the best way possible.

I wrote a birth story over the course of three pumping sessions (more on those below) and I'm not sure if I'll share quite yet or ever. It seems so personal, raw, and emotional to me at this point as I would classify my birth as traumatic. Everything was perfectly fine and normal (I even went into labor myself hours before my induction!) until suddenly it wasn't and I'm still trying to process it all. The good news is that I'm fine and most importantly, N is fine and thriving. That's all we can ask for huh?

Some more thoughts.

1. Your baby makes it all worth it. No seriously. You can have poop all over your shirt, running off of 1 hour of broken sleep (gotta keep checking on her to make sure she's breathing, obviously), and your bedroom looks like a bomb went off, but you look at your baby and all of that just does not matter. At all. A newborn rarely gives you much back in the responsiveness department, but I feel like we have this rare gem who, despite the fact that her smiles are reflexes at this point, really looks at you and makes you feel like you'd do it all over again in a heartbeat. She's powerful, that little pint-sized peanut. I just melt looking at her. I've already promised her two American Girl dolls, a car for her 16th birthday, a set of pearls, and various other gifts Brandon doesn't know about.

2. Breastfeeding is hard. Like really really hard. I'm sure it's easy for some, but we've struggled here. Due to circumstances related to her delivery, N has some issues with her latch and I find myself exclusively pumping at this point. I'd say we nurse about 5 - 10% of her feedings, but mostly it's just to comfort her and I don't believe she gets much. We are working with a fantastic lactation consultant and hoping that there's still a chance that we can get it to work. She says there is once N's throat heals up, so we are patiently waiting for that to happen. Who knew something so "natural" would be so difficult? Luckily, my supply is really really good and I have that to be thankful for. I get about 8-10 ounces of milk each time I pump (about 4 times a day at this point, which is also a blessing because most exclusively pumping moms go at least 7 sessions), which is more than what she needs and we are creating a bit of a stockpile here. We may need to buy a deep freezer.

To be honest, I don't know how much longer I'll exclusively pump if breastfeeding doesn't end up working for us, but I am giving myself mini goals. If I look at the big picture and say I'll do this for a year, I might go insane. So I give myself benchmarks: make it to her 1 month appointment (next week!), make it 6 weeks, make it until my birthday, Halloween, to Thanksgiving, to Christmas. If I make it until she's six months and starting solids, I'd be stoked. Anything above and beyond is icing on the cake. If you've ever pumped before, you'll understand why its such an undertaking. The hardest part for me is that I feel trapped by the pump. If I'm in the middle of a session (which are normally 30 minutes long) and she cries, I have to rely on Brandon to comfort her (which he is perfectly capable of), but I want to be able to have the freedom to do that myself. Also, while pumping I miss out on him reading to her, interacting with her, feeding her, etc. It's not easy, but I keep telling myself it's worth it to give her my milk.

Exclusive pumping is totally doable for the time being because Brandon is still home on paternity leave and I pump while he feeds her a bottle. I do a few of the feedings that don't coincide with my pumping schedule because I cannot let him have all the fun. Now that she's surpassed her birth weight, we are adding in small breastfeeding sessions here and there. I'll breastfeed her while he prepares her bottle and warms it up. She'll last about 5 minutes on each side until she stops latching or falls asleep and then he takes over with the bottle while I pump, do laundry, clean, etc. He's never going back to work, folks. Never never.

Also related: I'm hungrier than I've ever been in my life. I'm thirstier than I've ever been in my life.

3. Getting out is key. We've been trying to get out as much as we can. Each day, we'll pick an outing, even if its just walking down the block. It keeps us sane. I've even done a few errands solo while Brandon tends to N and he gets out on his own too. My most favorite outing are our family walks. We are super fortunate to live in a neighborhood with great streets for strolling, a trail for a 2 mile "hike", and 15 minutes from Baskin Robbins. N also loves her walks and we've found them to be a great way to calm her down in the evenings during this new phenomenon called the Witching Hour. It's more than an hour, ya'll.

4. I'm learning as I go and letting go of my pre-conceived ideas of how I'll parent. I remember carefully packing her hospital bag, making sure that I had all eco-friendly baby items in there to use at the hospital. Oh my gosh. I'm insane, you guys. Thank you moms for not calling me out on it and letting me live in my naive little pre-baby world. As far as baby items go, you simply go with what works best. I wanted to use all chlorine-free, perfume-free, crunchy mom diapers. When they felt scratchy on her skin, I bought a giant box of Pampers Swaddlers from Amazon and haven't looked back. When I quickly realized that babies will spit up and poop on all those cute clothes you bought them, I bought two packs of Gerber onesies and she wears those 90% of the time because they are comfortable, cheap, and easy to change. Trust me and get the gray ones. So much softer and stretchier. One change I didn't anticipate was making my own cloth wipes. She got diaper rash at about 1.5 weeks old and we've been using warmed cloth wipes ever since, which clear her all up. When we aren't using cloth, I love Water Wipes.

Also, I really didn't want to reveal much about N online or have a lot of her photos available for public consumption. I'm feeling a little less stringent in that area because it's just so fun to share and I know this corner of the Internet gets very little traffic. I keep most of her photos on my private and her private Instagrams and I may squeeze a few into this blog. We had a newborn photoshoot and you can bet that I'm DYING to show her off.

5. Sleep. Everyone wants to know about sleep. Are we getting enough? Are you exhausted? To be quite honest, I'm scared to talk about it in fear that I'll jinx things. Of course we are exhausted, but not to the point where it's hard to function. We have a great little sleeper at night and I am crossing my fingers and toes that it never changes. Right now, she goes down for the night around 9:30/10pm after her last feeding (this is when I go to bed too, after pumping), then we wake her up at 1:30am and 4 or 4:30am for subsequent feedings. She's up for the day around 7:30am - 8:30am. Feeding takes about an hour or hour and a half with the diaper changes, bottle warming, burping, and getting her back into the swaddle. We are hoping to become more efficient and see if we can get it all done in 45 minutes. So we are basically getting sleep in 2-3 hour increments. Not ideal, but doable.

Last night we forgot to set an alarm for the 1:30am and she slept right through it! She woke up at 4:30am and ate like a champ and I haven't felt that rested in weeks. Our doctor said we could stop waking her as long as she continues to gain weight, so I think we'll stop setting the alarm after her one month appointment next week if her weight looks good.

Believe me, I know there will be regressions in the future, but for now, we are savoring what sleep she does give us.

6. Baby gear. The research was futile. As you know, I spent a ton of hours researching all the baby things. But what I quickly learned is that your baby may absolutely hate the one thing that all over babies love. N hates her rock in play sleeper, which was HIGHLY recommended to us by a lot of people. Hates it. She lasts about 5-10 minutes in it and she's screaming. She's not a huge fan of of Leachco Podster, but she's starting to warm up to it more. What she loves is her Dock a Tot. She loves loves loves that thing. She once went from screaming her head off to silent in seconds when we laid her in it. I love knowing she has a comfortable and safe place to nap or hang out when we have things to do. She also loves her bassinet that came with her Uppababy Vista stroller and I love that we can just lay her in that for walks and don't have to fuss with straps or anything. She looks super cozy and comfortable. That stroller was a splurge, but we all have three been a huge fan of it so far. That and the Dock a Tot have been worth every penny. Honorable mention also goes to the Ollie Swaddle, which has to be the world's easiest and softest swaddle.

7. The newborn stage. I know most people love this stage and I can see why: the snuggles and the fact that every single thing they do is cute. It really is. She'll have a big poop explosion and I'll just look at her face and say "How are you so cute right now?!" I swear I ask her that about 20 times a day. I could just eat her up. But as much as I love her little face and snuggles and all things newborn, this stage is stressful! Now, I understand that you'll always stress and worry about your child - that will never go away - but though she is 100% healthy, we worry about making sure she gets enough food, enough sleep, enough interaction with us. We worry about spit up and if we'e burped her enough. Shoot, I worry that I don't clean her enough because honestly, some days there's no time to give her a proper bath and a wash cloth wipe down is as good as its going to get. I think we both just want to make sure we get through this stage with her continuing to thrive and cannot wait until she's a bit more...sturdy? Obviously, I'm trying to soak up every single moment though and knowing that hopefully soon she'll be big enough for us to take even a small sigh of relief that we made it past certain critical milestones. Does this make sense? Anyone? Bueller?

8. Paternity leave. Bless you sweet corporate-y person who decided to give my husband three months of paternity leave. It should be a law. No really. I honestly do not know how moms do it when their husbands go back to work right away or how single parents manage.

Brandon proved to be not such a great birth doula. Don't worry - we joke about this often. He was terrified of me and had no idea how to help. Fun story: we pulled up to the hospital while I was in labor and we went to valet the car. I was leaning against my car moaning with a contraction and the valet asks Brandon if I'm okay. His response, "Oh she's fine. She's been doing this for hours." So despite his lack of sympathy during my labor (again, kidding), he's proven to be an excellent postpartum doula and this is where it counts, folks.

This guy spoon fed me oatmeal every day in the hospital while we were desperately trying to get nursing to work. He makes sure my water cup is full at all times. He jumps when I ask for the Boppy, a burp cloth, a slice of pizza, you name it. He cleans and cooks, and runs errands and I couldn't ask for any better help. He feeds N most of her feedings, reads her books, plays with her, and while he hates all things dealing with diapers, he does the changer clean up with minimal gagging. My mom was here for a week and between the two of them, N and I had it made. While it really sucked to see her go, I knew I was in great hands.

He'll be going back to work in a month (and plans to take the month of December off too) and as much as that terrifies me, I am nothing but extremely grateful he's been at home with me for all of this time. I'm currently in the process of urging him to quit his job and find something he can work on from home. I'm dead serious.

9. Me. I fortunately have had a really easy recovery even though I ended up with a c-section delivery. I was up and walking just hours after it. I was in minimal pain and didn't even take as much as a Tylenol once I was home from the hospital. My scar is small and already fading. Even the week after, I kept forgetting that I had major surgery.

Psychologically, I'm also doing really well besides one small blip when we came home. The first week was when we were the most stressed and sleep deprived (we had so much trouble feeding and were waking N up every 2.5 hours to eat) and I had some crazy hallucinations from it. I'd wake up in the middle of the night and start digging through my comforter and pillows trying to find the baby. I'd be terrified that she'd be under the covers suffocating when really, she was right beside me in the playard bassinet the whole time. Brandon would have to shake me awake and assure me that she was fine. Once I started getting more sleep, this craziness went away and I've been fine since. I talked to my doctor about it and she said sleep deprivation was totally to blame. Insane huh? But I haven't really had a touch of the baby blues and have been pretty happy to go lucky and feeling so blessed. I do get emotional when I think of her birth, and I mourn parts of that day but it's more grateful tears than anything.

We try to keep some kind of semblance of our old lives and that keeps us sane. Getting out of the house is key as well as keeping some of the same rituals we had before; such as watching Mental Floss videos on Youtube or The Office reruns during dinner; little things that remind of us our old lives while allowing us to get used to the new normal.

I cannot promise when I'll be back to write again, but this does making pumping sessions go by faster, so there is hope my friends!

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