Thursday, February 28, 2013

Taking Charge of Your Fertility

Natural Family Planning. What is the first image that pops into your head when you hear this phrase? A family with TONS of kids, right? Me too! My parents always used the natural family planning (NFP) route- and they had 5 kids. Two of which are only 14 months apart, and not by choice!

I am writing this to tell you that there is a method of NFP that actually works. GASP! I know this because I did it successfully for almost 3 years, and then conceived our daughter on the first try! It’s called the Fertility Awareness Method, or FAM.

When Daniel and I got married, we were so young. He was 21 and I was 20. We knew we wanted children, but not yet. About 3 months before our wedding, I started a birth control pill. That started over a year’s worth of extra spotting, migraines, unsure periods, and forgetting pills. I hated taking the Pill. I changed my Pill 3 times within that year, and never found one that worked with my body and my budget well. One day, I went to my husband and said “I’m done. I’m going off the Pill and I’m going to do this naturally”. He did not agree with my decision. He was scared and said “Ok, as long as you’re ready to get pregnant”. Everyone that we knew who had done it “naturally” became pregnant quickly. Like, within the first month. Now I was DETERMINED to prove to Daniel that I could do it and NOT get pregnant yet.

When I was browsing the books at Goodwill one day before our wedding, I had picked up a book called "The Fertility Awareness Method"  by Toni Weschler. I thought, "hey, maybe I can use this sometime". It was only $2.50 and I love books, so I bought it. And it sat on my bookshelf. After that conversation, I found the book and began to devour the pages. I am a very hands-on learner and I like to ask lots of questions, so it was difficult not having someone to call and ask questions or explain something in layman’s terms. I spent many nights buried in this book learning how to read my own body signs.

And let me tell you, YOU CAN DO IT TOO! Not only has it taught me to know my body extremely well, but it has also saved us money, time, and lots of contraceptives and pregnancy tests! It takes a little while to get in the groove and feel confident, but you will get it. Here is the gist of what this method includes:

- Taking your temperature daily (orally)
- writing down every time you have intercourse
- writing down every detail of your day that applies, including workout, illness, travel, etc.
- inspecting what is in your panties (sorry!)
- writing down all symptoms such as headache, cramping, crankiness, etc.
- abstaining during your “fertile” days (or using contraceptives)

                   Here is what my digital thermometer looks like. It was about $3 at Target (surprised?)

This method will help you to explore what is “normal” for your body. Is your cycle 28 days? Mine is approximately 32. Do you have tell-tale symptoms? I can feel which side I am ovulating from because it is achy. When will your period come? Mine is almost always 13 days after my ovulation.

It can also help to determine if you may have a medical condition, like a yeast infection, UTI, cysts, and even if you are or are not ovulating. I feel like this method takes all the question out of wondering whether or not you are even fertile and can get pregnant! 


      Here is my chart the day that I found out I was pregnant!

Now, if you want to practice this method, I want to warn you now. It is effective and can work, but I always tell people to leave about 20% up to God. There is ALWAYS a possibility of birth control failing and getting that two-line surprise. But for me, this is what I wanted. I wanted control over my body, but not to the point where I was “playing God”. Simply my own conviction, that’s all. I always tell women to use this method only if a surprise pregnancy would not be completely awful.

Because of this method, I knew the exact days that I was fertile, and when we decided to risk it the first time, we got pregnant. I even knew (and this may freak you out) that our baby would most likely be a girl because of the time in my ovulation that we were “intimate”. Yes, this method can help you to “choose” the sex of your baby, if you will. Again, I still leave it all up to God because he can change anything, but it was correct in our case. This is possible because ‘boy’ sperm swim quickly and only live about 24 hours, and ‘girl’ sperm are heartier, swim slower, and live 48 hours. If you have sex a day or two BEFORE an egg is released (and you ovulate), it is more likely to be a girl. If you have sex DURING your ovulation, it is very possible that you will conceive a boy. Make sense? The book explains it in more depth.

It is not hard to get into the routine of taking your temperature as soon as you wake up and writing everything down. I kept my thermometer on my headboard and would grab it as soon as my eyes popped open. At the end of the day, I would mentally list everything I did including workouts, how I felt, symptoms, etc. and write it down. It become second nature. The book will tell you that when starting this, write down everything as it happens, even if you have to carry your chart around! Otherwise you will forget!

It is important to write all of this down because our cycles can fluctuate according to what is happening in our lives. Have you been traveling? Ovulation tends to hold off longer when you travel, almost as if it’s WAITING for things to calm down. Did you just start or stop working out? This can also affect when you ovulate. Have you been sick or stressed? Another delay. The neat thing is that these things NEVER DELAY YOUR PERIOD, JUST YOUR OVULATION. You period is ALWAYS, I repeat, ALWAYS 12-16 days after ovulation.

For example, my cycles are consistently 32 days long. One cycle went 42 days. SCARY! I thought I was pregnant! But during that time, we were traveling and I was stressed, and my body kept trying to ovulate but did not succeed. I can see that from my chart. And then my period started in the airport bathroom. Awesome.

Just a quick rundown- you can tell when you’re ovulating depending on the vaginal discharge. This is the mucus in your panties. Sorry ladies, but we’re all adults here! You can actually see the discharge change and build up as you approach ovulation, and when it peaks it is so thick and stretchy (up to 4 inches!), and that is when you are at your peak of ovulating. After ovulation, you become relatively dry and mucus-free. It’s weird, I know, but it’s true! Start watching yours.

It can also tell you pretty much as soon as you are pregnant. You use your temperature to gauge when you are FINISHED ovulating, and it jumps higher and stays higher until you start your period. If your temperature continues to rise, sometimes higher than it has ever been, that can be an indicator. IF YOUR TEMPERATURE IS UP LONGER THAN 18 DAYS, YOU ARE PREGNANT. I knew my body so well and knew that I never got to 15 days after ovulation, so I took my test on day 15 and got two lines!
    An example from the book of temperature rising after ovulation, and dropping when bleeding starts.

                  A picture of my own chart- I think it's a pretty good example of the rise and fall also.

Because of this, it can also help you to discover if you are not ovulating, conceiving and miscarrying, having any reproduction issues, etc. It can even help to reveal other things, such as thyroid issues! How cool is that?

There is an entire section on using FAM after birth and while breastfeeding, but I am still getting the hang of it. Because we don’t really want an “oopsie” baby, we are still using other contraceptives until I am comfortable charting this new territory. If you are a breastfeeding mom, I urge you to read through the book and become comfortable with the method before relying on it completely for your birth control.

Don’t be afraid when your friends tell you that it doesn’t work or that it’s the “have lots of babies” method, because it’s not true. It does not work for everyone, but it’s worth a shot if you're interested. You need to feel prepared to learn and research, and be confident that you can do it!

I LOVE knowing my body so well and seeing that our bodies were discovered to show specific signs correlating with our fertility. God is awesome.

If you are interested in using this method, please go get the book first. Read through it and see if it’s something that could fit into your life. There are even online forums and discussion groups and entire websites dedicated to women using FAM that may help you. Check them out.

 I am always willing and able to meet with anyone interested in seeing my charts, hearing my experience, or asking me any questions. I LOVE this method!


Here is what my binder looks like: blank charts on the left and "finished" charts clipped in. I use clear sheet protectors to slide the charts in and out easily, and I always put the most recent one at the back. The book teaches you to put the most recent on top, but that was too complicated for me :)
       Some of my charts. Since they are in sheet protectors, they are front and back as I go through
     the months. You will use a new chart for each cycle. It's neat to look back on these to see what
      is "normal" for you, see what side you ovulated from (if you know) and anything else you
                                                                     are wondering!
Here is my "cheat sheet". Like I said, I had no one to answer my questions, and I got tired of constantly tearing through the book to find something I remembered reading once. I created this sheet to calm my fears and confirm that I was doing it correctly. Do what works for you!

Cheers to knowing your body and knowing it well!


Tuesday, February 26, 2013

The Birth of Logan Emerson- by Kandice Moore

This blog post is special, because this woman is special to my heart. We met at BabyMoon Inn birth center when we were both big and pregnant. Her husband, Matt, is in the military and was deployed two weeks before her due date. For weeks prior to his deployment, everyone we knew had been praying for this baby to come early so his daddy could be there. But little Logan had different plans. This is Kandice’s story.

So as I sit here in my living room with Logan taking a nap, I’ve decided to write my birth story. I think this is like the beginning of most birth stories, where mine did not go as planned; not medically speaking but one of the most important people wasn’t there.

Wednesday evening/ Thursday morning at 12am 41 ½ weeks pregnant I had my first contraction. Nothing horrendously painful, but it was a weird feeling. Hmm, I thought to myself, this might be happening. I continued to feel them for about an hour and decided to go to sleep. I woke up around 3am and was still feeling them, so I decided to go to my gym at the apartment complex and walk on the treadmill. Nothing really changed, still not so painful contractions. So at around 7:30am I sent a text to Dianne (my birth doula) and told her I was having normal contractions. I also called my mother, because who wants to go through labor alone? My mother came over and we just hung out.

At 5 pm Thursday, I went to the Birthing Center to get checked and I was only 3cm. Ugh, I said to myself, this is going to be fun. My mother and I went back home and that night I got a call from my husband, Matt. I got to tell him his son was on the way. You see, my husband is in the Military, he left 2 weeks before my due date. I cried the entire time I talked to him- I was happy our son was on the way but sad I was experiencing this amazing thing without the most important person in my life. After that phone call I was kinda in the dumps, and realized if I was going to make it through this without him I had to pretty much block him from my mind. I went to sleep and woke up to these really intense contractions, but they were still only 4-6 minutes apart. I went through the night sleeping between contractions.

The next morning I got a call from Connie, the midwife on-call, and she wanted to come over and check where I was. At 10am Friday she checked and I was still only 3cm! GRRR, I was like, really? It had been over 24 hours of contractions. She told me I needed to go to the hospital to get stress tests done and make sure Logan was doing ok with the contractions. At the hospital it was not so fun- uncomfortable bed, beeping machines, having to stay put, worrying Logan might not be ok with the contractions. My mother was not a huge fan of me having Logan at the Birth Center and was severely trying to sway me to stay at the hospital and have him there. After a few hours of monitoring, they told me I could leave- we were both fine and I was 4-5cm at 2pm. We drove back home, I was not a fan of all the driving by this time.
At around 6:30 pm I decided to call the midwife on-call and it happened to be Wendi; I told her I was done, I didn’t want to be in pain anymore and if I hadn’t progressed anymore I was going to the hospital and getting induced. (I figured out later this was my transition). I got to the Birthing Center and Wendi met me at the door, we went in, I got onto the bed and she checks me and says “oh, ok”. I’m laying there like “WHAT, WHAT DOES THAT MEAN?” She tells me I’m 8-9cm apart. I was so relieved at this point; I told myself “ok, I can do this I can finish this out.”  Wendi then asked me if I wanted her to break my water, I decided to wait and let it continue on its own.

Slowly people started trickling in, Dianne, Amey, Micah, I can’t for the life of me remember right now but a practicing midwife who was at Babymoon came, then my good friend Micki who is a labor and delivery nurse. I got in the tub to take a short break. I decided to get out after awhile and walk around. After a few hours I had Wendi break my water- I just wanted to be done. Logan didn’t like that at all; I had to lie down because his heartbeat went a little haywire. They finally let me up, I continued to walk around then decided to see what all the hype was for the never ending hot water shower was, AMAZING, haha. After a few minutes I bared down and pushed with a contraction. I didn’t even realize I had done it until I was already mid-contraction. I looked at Amey and asked if that was ok. She laughed and said “yes lets go to the tub”.


I got in the tub and started pushing. After a few pushes Wendi told me to feel my sons head, I reached down felt his nose and FREAKED, and told them I needed a minute, I don’t know why, but I did. Wendi had me switch positions. I don’t know if it was actual shoulder dysplasia or a tub position issue, but Wendi literally dove into the tub and twisted him out and unwrapped the cord from his neck (my biggest birth fear). All I remember hearing was Wendi saying “ he’s going to need help girls” over and over. I was so worried.

She put him onto my chest and he didn’t make any noise, so Dianne told me to talk to him as they put the oxygen over his mouth. After what seemed like forever, he screamed, and loud. I was so happy, I had brought our son into this world, and it was one of the happiest moments of my life. But immense sadness followed right after. Our son was here, he was ok, but his dad wasn’t- my husband wasn’t here to share this amazing experience. It straight up sucked.


 It was 46 hours from 1st contraction to holding my son, without Matt by my side. They told me to hold on to Logan and they literally lifted me out of the tub and onto the bed. Logan was fine, breathing fast, but ok. He latched on just fine. And then the phone call to Red Cross. Time to let daddy know his beautiful son was here.  
Talking to the Red Cross liaison was well …interesting after just giving birth. But it was done, message relayed. “Specialist Moore’s wife Kandice Moore requests notification due to birth of Specialist Moore’s child. Verified by RN Clark. On behalf of Wendi with BabyMoon birthing center. States Baby boy Moore was born 9 November. Time 2228 hrs(10:28pm) 8lbs 10 ½oz Length 21 ½ inches. Mother and baby are doing fine. Specialist Moore is unaware and requested to contact wife upon receipt of this message”. That’s how Matt found out he was a daddy.



Everyone started trickling out to go home. They made me pizza, and it was the best pizza I had ever had! Haha. On Saturday, Matt took his phone to call me, although he didn’t get his official phone call until Sunday.

This is my story. I love it because it brought me my family. There’s always something someone wants to change about their story, but it makes us who we are and God never gives us anything we can’t handle.

                        This is Daddy meeting Logan for the first time when he was 6 weeks old.


I heard a quote today that I think describes this experience well:
“You never know how strong you are until being strong is the only choice you have”-Anonymous

Monday, February 25, 2013

Divorce

Divorce. What an ugly word. It is a word that, when spoken, conveys images of broken hearts and broken homes. Memories perhaps. It is a word that is used far too commonly in this lifetime. Television flaunts it, tabloids dissect it, couples threaten it, and children dread it.

When Daniel and I married, about 3 other couples also wed within weeks of our wedding day. While sitting at one of these weddings, my husband (then fiance), leaned over and whispered to me “you know, out of these 4 couples, two of them will get divorced”. WHAT!?! What an awful thing to say at a wedding! As steamed up as that comment got me, he was right. Too right.

I am not even 25 years old yet, and I have many friends and acquaintances who have already endured divorce. Although it has yet to be any of those 4 couples, it has been others who have become casualties of this harsh reality. It breaks my heart to see a friend or hear of one who is signing those papers and moving on. Although they seem strong and happy to finally “be rid” of him, I know that inside they must be hurting, broken and lost.

This is a hard post to write. Not because divorce it difficult to talk about or because I don’t know anything about it, but because it is so close to some people’s hearts, and I have no desire to offend or accuse anyone who has gone through divorce. Please know that. It does not matter why the divorce happened, whose fault it was, or if the marriage could have been saved. I am not here to judge those factors. I am here to reveal how truly difficult it is for those who have gone through it or are currently wading those waves.

My husband is a victim of divorced parents. He had one parent who fought extremely hard, and another who felt the marriage had run it’s course. He was only 11 when it happened. Because of the hurt and neglect during this time, he brought into our marriage many things that we have had to work hard to get through. Divorce does not just affect the husband and wife, but it affects the children, parents, the friends, the future spouses, and anyone else who may come into their lives. It affects my marriage and also the way that my husband chooses to father our daughter. Now, he is an extremely loving husband and father, but it hasn’t always been easy for us. In fact, early last year we had a big fight, and in the heat of them moment I said some mean things, including thoughts about divorce. The next morning, I found out I was pregnant. If God had never given me a reason before to work on myself and my marriage, the moment was now. It was no longer about me.

Many people, Christians especially, go into marriage saying “divorce is not an option”. Well let me tell you something- divorce IS an option. Wait, hear me out! Divorce has to be an option in order to choose NOT to do it. Get it? Lots of people will even ignore divorce, thinking it will never happen to them, and that’s when it sneaks up. God has not called us to be lazy or fearful, but to find the evil and face it in His name. If we know that divorce is thriving and more prevalent than anything, we can equip ourselves with the knowledge to fight it and hang on tight to our marriages. According to a recent interview of Billy Graham, marriage is not the union of two compatible people, but a union of two INcompatible people. He says of his 56 year marriage, “we are happily incompatible”. God created us to complement each other with our differences, not compare them, and lay our selfishness aside as we seek Christ together.

Marriage is not about the two people involved, it is suppose to reflect the relationship that God desires to have with each one of us. Deep, long-lasting, and intimate. My father-in-law has always used the phrase “any two people can get married”. What he means is that it does not matter what we have in common or if we both love cats, because God can make anything work. But through Him is the only way ANYTHING can work. Can you see why I don’t like the phrase “soul mates”? I am married to Daniel, and every day we are working harder towards becoming soul mates.

If you are entering into a marriage, struggling in a marriage, or happily married, I BEG YOU, pay attention to your marriage. My mother has always said “Ignore your teeth and they’ll go away”. Obviously she is referring to brushing your teeth, but I think this phrase applies to marriage! Ignore your marriage and it will go away. I know there are jobs, kids, events, illnesses, and many other things to make you drift apart and distract you, so we need to work harder to stay together.

And If you are going through a divorce, have come out on the other side, or are a victim of divorce in any way, I AM TRULY SORRY.  My heart breaks for you and the heartache that you have endured. No one should have to feel the pain of a broken marriage and a broken family. But let me give you hope: there is restoration and you can be “whole” again. I have seen it with my own eyes. You are not ruined, you are not worthless.

In the name of Jesus, divorce will never own you.

“I will restore to you the years that the swarming locust has eaten, the hopper, the destroyer, and the cutter, my great army, which I sent among you. “You shall eat in plenty and be satisfied, and praise the name of the Lord your God, who has dealt wondrously with you. And my people shall never again be put to shame.” - Joel 2:25-26

“Instead of your shame there shall be a double portion; instead of dishonor they shall rejoice in their lot; therefore in their land they shall possess a double portion; they shall have everlasting joy.    “ - Isaiah 61:7                    

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Mom Brain

Today my sister Hahna and I decided to go to the mall for a little bit. I put on my Moby, wrapped up my baby, and off we went! We had a great time, the baby was relatively happy, and I had it going on. GO ME. Then, as we left and were pulling out of the parking lot, a tall man stopped next to my car and knocked on the roof. I rolled down the window and he handed me my bottle saying “This was on top of your car”. How embarrassing! And we were wondering while all the people walking by were looking at us strangely.

This was a good example of MOM BRAIN. Have you experienced it yet? I constantly find myself wondering what I’m doing, why I walked into the room, and whether or not I added detergent to the load of laundry. Or where I put my car keys. Or my phone. Or the baby. Just kidding.

I have always had a fantastic memory, and suddenly it seems as if my infant has sucked every brain cell from my being. I answer texts in my head, or sometimes out loud, but forget to actually write them! I know, some of this sounds like it could be EXCUSES, but some of it is for real!

What is the reason for this? While we have all blamed it on making a baby and having so much to remember, that is only half of the battle. I did some research on this subject, and I discovered an article about this “momnesia” and Dr. Altmann, a pediatrician and mother, explains her thoughts.

“Dr. Altmann, who believes the part of the brain that makes labor memories fade may also be responsible for memory lapses after birth, attributes the forgetfulness to hormones, sleep deprivation, and agrees that nursing can also have an impact. She readily admits that becoming a mother impacted her perspective. “Moms in my practice talked about the mommy brain. I didn’t realize the magnitude of it until I had children myself,” she explains.”

So it’s not just me! It is definitely something that becomes amusing through the years, from pregnant brain to mommy brain, and eventually to amnesia, right? Dr. Altmann also stated that “We never forget the child or forget to feed the child, even though I might forget to eat breakfast”. How true is this for you? It’s spot on for me.

We joke that our kids take a part of our brain and never return it, and with 5 kids in my family we had our jokes too. We always said that My mom’s “smartest” brain cells went to the first born and slowly diminished with each child. This was mean, and just a way to make fun of the little kids! But I did find one other interesting article while researching this subject, and it may surprise you...

“Motherhood may actually cause the brain to grow, not turn it into mush, as some have claimed. Exploratory research published by the American Psychological Association found that the brains of new mothers bulked up in areas linked to motivation and behavior, and that mothers who gushed the most about their babies showed the greatest growth in key parts of the mid-brain.” -American Psychological Association

How cool is that? The article goes on to explain the increases in estrogen, oxytocin, and prolactin and their effect on mom’s brain. But this was my favorite part:

“In particular, the mothers who most enthusiastically rated their babies as special, beautiful, ideal, perfect and so on were significantly more likely to develop bigger mid-brains than the less awestruck mothers in key areas linked to maternal motivation, rewards and the regulation of emotions.”- American Psychological Association

So we can get bigger brain! I knew we were always smarter :). If you’re interested in reading this article, it’s here:

http://www.apa.org/news/press/releases/2010/10/mommy-brain.aspx

So although you can continue to blame your mom brain for forgotten keys, missed appointments and phone calls, you are actually actively exercising your brain as you learn to multi task, problem-solve and are motivated to care for your child. And most importantly, praise your baby and showing how “awestruck” you are by them- it seems to benefit both parties!

Friday, February 22, 2013

The Trouble With Nursing Is...

For those of you who know me well, you know that I have a strong conviction to breastfeed my baby(s). There are so many benefits for both baby and mama through breastfeeding, and I have always known that I wanted to breastfeed for as long as possible. My mom and sister both had difficulty with milk supply, and had to switch their babies to formula early. But I would try harder and I would breastfeed longer! And then Piper was born...

I did well nursing for the first month. While we were still in the hospital, she had trouble latching and cried a ton, making it hard to nurse, but I kept trying. They nurses brought in bottles of formula and left them for me. I stared them down while my baby screamed and wriggled in my arms. I almost broke down and did a tube across my chest and down my nipple with formula- only to get her to latch. One more failed attempt, and I would have done it. I was desperate, exhausted and discouraged from my long labor. The lactation consultants would help often, and we both eventually got the hang of it. 

When Piper was 4 weeks old, I got a nasty stomach flu. My in-laws had just arrived in town for the weekend, and for a full 24 hours they (and Daniel) took care of Piper completely. I tried to nurse her twice, but I was so dehydrated. She was also so fussy and wouldn't nurse laying down, and if I sat up I would vomit...it was a bad combination so we just kept her away. Luckily, I had pumped enough breastmilk for this time and a friend of mine had also given me a few bags of her frozen breastmilk “just in case”. Thank goodness, that got us through (thanks Abbey!). When I felt better, I had to rebuild my milk supply from being dehydrated. I nursed her all day long, and she still didn’t seem satisfied. What was going on? I tried to express some milk and...nothing! I was completely dry. After lots of frustrated tears, I left my husband at home with her and went to Walmart at 11pm to buy formula. I stood in the formula aisle completely overwhelmed by the different brands, types, and prices. I felt like I was slipping- losing my grip on control! I prayed that someone would answer their phone to help me sort through this sea of formula!

It was that night that I started to supplement with formula. Although I was embarrassed by this and felt like a failure, Piper did fantastic on it. She spit up less and seemed to love it (go figure). I used it as little as possible, hoping to go back to exclusively breastfeeding, but it never happened.I could usually give her only one bottle a day- I did my best to exclusively breastfeed, but I was never fortunate to get back to that place.

Now, I have spent months talking with people, getting advice, and hearing everything I needed to do in order to nurse exclusively again. And let me assure you, I did try EVERYTHING. I’ve done the nursing vacations, the recipes, the supplements, different bras, different rooms, positions, pumping...you name it. I met with lactation consultants and took every bit of advice. I even considered a prescription for increasing my supply, but we decided that we weren’t comfortable with it. When it came down to it, regardless of how I felt and how upset I was, I knew that just feeding my baby was much more important than anything else. I finally realized this one day when my nurse said “You know Aubrey, do what works for you. If giving her formula works and makes you less stressed, just do it”. I finally felt some support and relief from my “breastfeeding only” community. I am still able to nurse her, but only about half of her meals a day. That day, I also felt freed from my guilt. I instantly felt calmer, more in control and actually RELAXED about feeding my baby however I need to. This gave me the to calm down!

Why am I writing this? Because this has broken my heart. My baby is now 5 months old, and she is on half formula most of the time. Recently, I expressed my desire to keep her on breast milk to the mommies at my group at BabyMoon Inn, and they offered to bring in some frozen milk that they wouldn’t be using. This is what I got...


Over 300 ounces of breastmilk!!!! This was so exciting and relieving for me, to know that I could still give her breast milk even if it wasn’t from me.

This has been a HUGE learning experience for me, and very humbling. I am constantly struggling with the feeling that I am not enough for my daughter and that I cannot give her what she needs the most. But I also have come to the realization that I have done everything possible to “fix” this, and I cannot. And I am tired of trying and failing. I see other moms nursing easily and for months (and years!) on end. I hear them talk about how much their little one eats and how much they can pump, and my heart just aches. I wish that was me, and I wish I could give that to Piper.

So, I have decided to just do what I can and continue to nurse her as often as possible, and hopefully for as long as possible. I WILL NOT beat myself up for what I cannot do, but instead focus on what I can do. Last night I was browsing Facebook and saw this little picture on a friend’s page.

                        

Immediately, I felt my anxiety melt away. I even spoke with her later about this picture, and even more ideas and options for continued breastfeeding. While she had ideas, she also said “Remember that what counts is how you love your baby when you feed her, not the container the milk comes in!”. The one and only, Connie Garcia...so encouraging.

I am writing this to encourage all mamas, whether you are breastfeeding or formula, that loving your baby is the most important thing. Piper will grow up to know that I love her so fiercely that I tried everything to continue doing what I think is best for her- and I ALWAYS will. Please, don’t hold judgement towards anyone else or yourself for how you choose to feed your baby (or the many other things that come with motherhood!), because you may not know what struggles they have had. Now I think I will go cuddle my child and tell her how much I love her :).

                                                       Asleep after breastfeeding...
                                                           Asleep after a bottle...
                                                        Bonding while bottle feeding :)

UPDATE: Piper is now 10 1/2 months old. She is a busy, happy and thriving little girl. I was able to continue breastfeeding until she was 6 months old, and then I went completely dry and she weaned fully. It was soooo hard for me. I cried for weeks about it, and my heart still aches a bit. The donor milk that was provided enabled me to keep her on breast milk until she was 8 months old- that's two extra months! I am forever indebted to these women. We also recently discovered that Piper has both a lip tie and a tongue tie- I'm not sure of the severity since she doesn't nurse any longer. When we discovered this, it was as if a scab had been torn off my heart and I wondered if this knowledge could have saved our breastfeeding relationship. Maybe- I will never know! If you are struggling to nurse, please make sure it is not a lip/tongue tie issue. Remember to feed your baby however seems fit for you. YOU ARE NOT A FAILURE.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Well, Amen

I didn’t really feel like being a Mom today. It could have been the fact that I took a Benadryl at 3am to help me sleep- bad idea when you have an infant to take care of a few hours later! Learned that one the hard way. It could have been that I don’t feel 100% after my stomach flu. And it could have been the fact that I woke up with that feeling again... the one that knots my stomach when I think that she is my child FOREVER, and what a huge responsibility it is.
   
Don’t get me wrong, I love being Piper’s mommy. But thinking about the fact that she is all mine and it is my responsibility to raise her well... that can feel incredibly overwhelming if I dwell on it for too long!

During her nap today, I indulged and watched a little bit of Grey’s Anatomy (yes!). Right before my little one awoke, the episode ended with Meredith Grey saying something that hit me right between my eyes...

“You think that true love is the only thing that can crush your heart...the thing that will take your life and light it up...or destroy it. Then you become a mother.”

Wow. This was exactly how I had felt. Already, motherhood had felt both empowering and painful all at the same time. People had quoted Elizabeth Stone to me before when she said “Making the decision to have a child is momentous. It is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body”- but I didn’t experience this until today. I realized that this is how I felt on Sunday when my husband (for the first time!) took our 5 month old to the park for a few hours so I could rest (and kick the stomach flu). She was away from me, from our home, and I had no idea what she was doing at that exact moment! Strange huh?

I had been away from her before, but always to run errands or go on a date- accomplishing something or focusing on other things. But she had never left ME home alone. My heart was walking around outside of my body for the first time.

And this is what it means to be a Mother. But that’s okay. I will take that excitement and heartache because I know that she was created for and is living for a bigger purpose. I simply get to love her and guide her on her own journey. Well, Amen.

“And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work”- 2 Corinthians 9:8


                                   Spending some quality time with her Daddy this past weekend.
 

Saturday, February 16, 2013

What to Expect After Childbirth

YOU DID IT. You were pregnant for 9+ months, labored, delivered, and have finally become a Mommy! Good job and congrats. That was the easy part :).

Now begin the days, months, years (hopefully not!) of crying, diaper blowouts, night wakes, upset tummies, spit up, teething, more blowouts, and very little sleep for Mom and Dad. Sounds super exciting, right!? We didn’t prepare much for after birth, so a few things came as a little surprise. I also had a VERY difficult baby who was constantly screaming, and I mean SCREAMING. She did not have cute little puppy whimpers or fusses. She screamed for 3 days straight after birth. From this difficult experience, I have compiled a few things that may help to prepare you for these first few weeks and maybe even comfort you that baby is normal.

Pain and soreness: You just gave birth, so of course things are sore and tender “down there”. Just rest, take it easy, and slide onto every seat. Don’t be afraid to go “number 2” because it has to be done! It’s worse if you hold it in, so take a stool softener and take your time. Don’t sit on the toilet for too long though, because the pressure may make your stitches ache. They will heal quickly and feel better soon. What really came as a surprise to me was how sore my arms and back were! This was probably because I had been holding my legs up for 3 ½ hours straight the day before as I pushed. I could barely straighten out my arm because my biceps were so sore! Another new mom recently told me that she experienced the same thing. There is nothing to really treat or prevent this, just expect it and stretch out your arms after!

Bleeding: You can bleed anywhere for 2-6 weeks (or more) after birth. The first few are the heaviest, and then you can usually switch to a heavy pad and your underwear. When Piper was about two weeks old, I went to the bathroom normally and came back into the room where she was with my husband. My bleeding had really slowed, and I thought I would be done soon. Suddenly, I felt like something squishy was against my pad. I went back into the bathroom and passed what appeared to be a HUGE blood clot. I was so shocked that I called my husband in to look at it (they become numb to these things after awhile). We were concerned and called our nurse immediately. I didn’t want to risk hemorrhaging- if that’s what this was! Our nurse quickly informed that that it was probably just the “scab” from where the placenta was attached to my uterus- who knew! Apparently, it is common to pass this as sort of a large clot 10-14 days after delivery. Since I had no other bleeding and no pain, this is exactly what it was. I had never heard this before, so I will remember for next time!
Also, your bleeding changing throughout the weeks. Once you move to pads, it will continue to slow down and even change color from red to yellow. The yellow stuff doesn’t smell so good either. You will probably have that for a couple weeks, and can switch to a smaller pad and sometimes even a pantyliner. Just don’t expect it to stop suddenly and get caught without any sort of pad!

Losing Weight: I couldn’t wait to get on the scale when I got home from the hospital. It had been 3 days since I had delivered, and although I feel a little puffy and swollen soon, I wanted to see my results! Bad idea. I had birthed a 7.9 lb baby, a 2-3 lb placenta, and what did I get? An 8 pound weight loss. UGH. I was discouraged! But I tried to remember that I was pumped full of liquids and medicine, and it would just take time. Less than two weeks later, I was down 25 lbs! It will come off because your body no longer needs it, and breastfeeding helps. Don’t try to lose weight right away, just focus on baby and a healthy diet. You may lose it right away like those lucky moms, and it may take a little work later on. I’m still working on about 10 lbs myself, but I refuse to stress over it!

Sweating: This came as a surprise: I woke up in the middle of the night in the hospital pouring sweat and completely soaked through my clothes! Our room was about 65 degrees. CRAZY! I am the coldest person I know, and here I am sweating like a pig. My husband, on the other hand, was so cold he could hardly sleep. This is caused by your body releasing hormones and toxins after birth. It is uncomfortable, but natural. It also doesn’t help to have a little 8lb heater on your chest at all times. This will decrease, but it may not go away. Still, at 5 months old and in the dead of winter, sometimes I wake up sweating. I hear this is pretty common from other moms though!

Nipple soreness: If you are a first-time mother, this may be your biggest hurdle (besides pregnancy, delivery, crying baby... ok, just add it to the list). That beautiful baby comes out, and then it latches to your nipple, sucking and pulling like there is no tomorrow! OUCH! It will get better. They get sore and sometimes even crack and bleed, but again, this is normal! Just keep pushing through and apply nipple cream liberally in between feedings. I love Earth Mama, Angel Baby brand that you can find at Sprouts. It was so soft and relieving, and I could leave it on to nurse. I applied it after every feeding and whenever they felt sore for the first few weeks. You cannot overuse, since it is safe for baby. Sometimes the Lansinoh creams are so thick, that it hurts just trying to apply it and spread it! Not worth it. And they also had these neat rubber patches at the hospital that were cold and felt good, but I found out later that I needed to rinse myself off before each feeding! Again, not worth it. It’s only a few weeks before your soreness will go away, and you should continue to nurse as often as possible!

Nursing: It’s hard. Let me repeat, IT IS HARD. But so worth it for both you and baby. There are so many benefits for both of you, but we’ll discuss that later. If you plan on nursing, make sure to commit and not give up when it is difficult. In the beginning, baby does not have great mouth muscles to suckle effectively, and it takes them awhile to figure it out and strengthen their suck. Be sure to nurse ON DEMAND in the beginning to ensure a good milk supply. I think I failed at this, because I didn’t think my newborn could eat every hour! Daniel kept saying “do you think she’s hungry?” and I thought, no way! I think I was wrong. This helps baby to grow and your milk to increase. Pump any excess to help. For the first few days, you will only make colostrum- a thick, yellow fluid that is very high calorie and fatty for baby. You don’t make a lot, but baby’s tummy is only the size of a cherry! It can be a rough couple of days, but your milk will come in soon and then baby will be fully satisfied. Just stick with it as long as possible!

Eating and Drinking: When you are bleary-eyed, tired and busy with a new baby, you often forget to eat. It is important to eat though, so stock your fridge and pantry with one-handed foods that you can grab and go with. After I delivered, my friend Abbey brought me a bag full of blueberries, strawberries, muffins, pineapple, and a few other one-handed goodies. This was awesome! I could hold baby in one hand but grab a quick snack. Make healthy muffins ahead of time and freeze them. Have fruits and bags of nuts. You won’t be sorry!

Sleeping: Ahh, here is the big one... you get very little sleep! Before Piper was born, Daniel said to me “she’s a newborn, they sleep like 22 hours a day, right? What’s the big deal?” He was wrong. A friend recently sent me a study that states that parents lose between 450-700 hours of sleep within a baby’s first year! That’s a lot! They get up often to eat and newborn DO NOT usually fall back to sleep on their own (unless you won the lottery and got a good one). They tend to need to be bounced, rocked, or shushed back to sleep. Piper would wake up every 2 hours or so, and we would spend 1-2 hours eating, diaper changing, and getting her back to sleep. Around the clock. It’s a true saying to SLEEP WHEN THEY SLEEP. For just a few weeks, your house can be a little dirty. Maybe your Mom can do the dishes. If you are not rested, you will find it difficult to meet the needs of your baby. Expect them to wake often, and the first time they sleep 5 or 6 hours, you will be thrilled! From what I hear, lots of babies will start to sleep in longer stretches around 2 months (not all). You’ll get to a point where baby sleeps better and you also get used to night wakes (and don’t mind them!), and you will feel human again soon.

Upset tummy: Piper was the queen of the upset tummy. Because they can’t talk to you, it’s a guessing game as to why they are screaming! We finally figured out it was her tummy. This is very common because babies are brand new to the world and their bodies have never digested before! Their shiny new equipment is being broken in! A few good things to always have on hand is Mylicon and Gripe Water. You can get these two things pretty much everywhere (Target for me...surprised?). They are just a little medicine to help break down gas bubbles in baby’s tummy. Piper didn’t love Mylicon, but she took Gripe Water just fine. Gripe Water is all-natural and usually is a mix of ginger, chamomile, and a few other things. If neither of these work (which they didn’t for Piper most of the time), try jumping to a homeopathic remedy called Cocyntal. I swear by this stuff! For a couple of weeks, Piper had to have this either during or after every feeding. It comes in little tubes and you just twist off the top and squirt in their mouths. Since it is such a thin liquid, it absorbs before they can really choke on it.  These remedies can also work on Colic!

Baby peeing and pooping: Baby will poop more than pee in the beginning, and then it will switch. The first couple poops are the thick stuff, Meconium. I was fortunate and never had to change one of these because my husband changed diapers for the whole first week! Awesome. Baby should have 1 dirty diaper every 24 hours and a wet diaper for how manys old they are (1 diaper on day 1, 2 on day 2, etc.). Baby’s poop will go from black and gradually lighten to green and then to yellow in about 4-7 days. Yay! This is when midwives advise that it is safe to take baby out. They suggest waiting until then so your baby’s immune system can build a bit, you can establish good breastfeeding, and allow your body to heal for a few days. FOR BABY GIRLS: It is also possible for baby girls to have a mini period- that’s right! They can, but don’t always, have a little bit of blood in their diapers once or twice in the first week. This is from the surge of hormones from birth. Don’t freak out! I also know a couple newborn girls that lactated a bit, again from the hormones.

Bathing: Baby does not need to be bathed often. Their little skin is still new and sensitive, and bathing too much can dry it out. Try bird baths for a while- wetting a cloth and washing their head (while their body is swaddled), and then each little body part quickly. You also want to be careful of the umbilical cord as it heals. Once it falls off, you can bathe baby regularly. Piper didn’t like the bath, so we took her into the shower with us! She loved it.

Umbilical Cord: It usually does not hurt them, it can just look yucky. If you think it needs to be clean, use warm water on a cloth and gently pull the skin away around it to clean. It may bleed and get on their clothes. If they don’t seem in pain, it is fine. Let it air out a bit to help it dry. If needed, you can also use a q-tip and rubbing alcohol to clean it. It will usually fall off within the first two weeks or so. Then baby’s belly button will be so beautiful!

Pacifiers and Bottles: All of the experts say to wait at least 4 weeks to introduce a pacifier or bottle to baby so that you can establish good breastfeeding habits. Piper was so fussy, that we introduced a pacifier while still in the hospital to help calm her. She still breastfed well. We introduced the bottle at about 4 weeks with pumped breast milk. She did great! Don’t wait for too much longer after 4 weeks because baby can get too used to nursing and look at you like a crazy person if you try to feed her with a bottle. Piper now takes both easily- it doesn’t matter how you want to feed her, she just wants food! I don’t ever think it’s a bad idea to use a bottle, because it gives you more flexibility to be away a longer period of time, and allows Dad or someone else some bonding time. Also, in case of emergency, they can still be fed! When Piper was 4 weeks old I got extremely sick with the flu and couldn’t be near her for 24 hours. I also wasn’t producing well because I was so dehydrated. I am so thankful that I had pumped milk and that she was comfortable with a bottle, because my husband was on baby duty the entire time!

And lastly, please do whatever you feel comfortable doing. This is YOUR baby, and you are now a mommy. Always take what everyone else says with a grain of salt, and feel confident in making the best decisions for you and your family. After all, this is your job from now on! Good luck, and welcome to Mommyhood.

                                    This is my girl on my first day alone on the job! 1 week old :)