Fed is Best!

It’s national breastfeeding week… and I really want to get a few things off my breast, I mean chest. This blog is where I come to work out my issues, my hangups, my shortcomings, my fears and this subject is a sore one. It still hurts to think about it.

When I was pregnant with Lelan, I prepared for his birth like a warrior. I read up on natural birthing techniques, birth stories and attended hypnobabies classes until the very end. My partner and I practiced the scripts every night, even reciting cues on our way to the hospital. When it came to delivering my baby naturally, I was more than ready. If there had been a test, I would’ve aced it because I studied everything. But, I absolutely failed to educate myself on what came immediately after. In hypnobabies, you are actively discouraged from thinking about alternative options… after all, the premise of this practice is to use the power of your mind and deliver your baby naturally without any drugs or intervention. I was over confident in my body’s ability to deliver my baby naturally that I never even thought, for a second, that it would fail me. The idea of a c-section was nowhere near my orbit. The 200+ page course manual provided a 2 page summary on c-section and honestly, I didn’t even read it. So, after 50+ hours of labor and hearing my doctor say it’s time to get the baby out, a certain kind of panic set in. I had no idea what to expect from that point forward. You can read about my birthing story here.

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You see, I had imagined a perfect scenario of the baby being born and placed on my breast only to have him latch on as if we had practiced this ritual for ages. I never thought I would be walking to the NICU merely hours after my gut was split open and stitched back together. I never expected to see my baby in a glass box with an IV running through his delicate arm, surrounded by nurses and other really sick babies. I had no idea that he would be fed through a feeding tube up his nose upon arriving into this world. It all seemed so surreal at that moment. Under those circumstances, beneath the bright lights of the NICU, breastfeeding was the furthest thing from my mind as I struggled to hold my son for the first time.

Later that day, one of the NICU nurses, a kind lady named Denise, paid me a visit and suggested that I start pumping immediately so that I could start feeding him. The sooner he’s eating on his own, the sooner he can go home, she said. So, I asked the hospital staff about seeing a lactation consultant. To my surprise, I was told that they didn’t have one available, but an experienced nurse would be by to help me shortly. An hour later, someone brought over a breast pump and my aunt who happened to be there helped me pump for the first time. A tiny amount of sticky substance came and I saved it for my son. No one told me that I should’ve been pumping every 2 hours. I didn’t bother to educate myself on this subject because again, I was naive about my natural abilities. The nurse who was supposed to stop by never did.

That first day, I pumped a measly 3 times and produced a small amount of colostrum. I was so distracted by everything that was happening around me that it didn’t occur to me to keep pumping every 3 hours. On the second day, I pumped a couple more times and tried to get my son to latch on, with little to no success. All together, I was able to produce 1 ounce of milk the entire day, which my son devoured in minutes. I was sore, swollen and physically and emotionally drained that I let the nurse talk me into feeding my baby formula. I was told that during the first feed, he drank almost an ounce, which considering the size of his stomach, is A LOT! Day three and four (yes, my doctor let me stay an extra day in the hospital so I could be close to my baby) went the same. At this point, I was maybe pumping 3 times a day up to an ounce or two and trying to get my son to latch during every visit. But, nothing was working and he was already up to 3 ounces of formula every 3 hours.

Feeling like a failure, I called my hypnobabies instructor asking for help. She put me in touch with a lactation consultant who assured me that she would help get things back on track once the baby was home. Don’t stress yourself out while your baby is in the NICU, she said to me. Once he’s home, I will get him latched on in no time. Those words were music to my ears. It sounded like great advice so, I began to relax. I don’t think I pumped once during the next few days. Between hospital visits and recovering from my c-section, I had no time or energy to pump. On the evening of the 7th day, we brought our son home and the very next day the lactation consultant came over to assess the situation.

She was a wiry lady with thick glasses and a booming voice. She came barreling into our little nest like a rooster, crowing orders at both my partner and I. Bewildered, we followed her lead. The entire experience was jarring and not at all what I had expected, for a hefty price tag of $150. At one point during her visit she jumped up on our bed on all fours and started hissing near my son’s ear trying to mimic the sound of the womb to get him to relax. When he wouldn’t latch properly, she examined him and pronounced that he was tongue tied and might need surgery later in life. Having just been through a harrowing NICU experience, this news was not at all comforting. She instructed me to power pump twice a day for as long as I could… and for those of you who are wondering what that is, it’s hell pump for 20 minutes, rest 10, pump another 10; rest for another 10. This was in addition to my normal pumping every 3 hours. She had me order a serum which was supposed to increase my supply and when I tell you it was horrible, it is definitely an understatement of the century. Yet, I drank it twice a day diligently. I tried EVERYTHING.

I ate the cookies, drank Maltas, forced down bowls of oatmeal and drank so much water that I thought I was going to explode. Nothing worked. I was barely producing an ounce maybe two at each pump and my son was drinking up to 4 . This went on for weeks… I cried to my partner, who looked at me helplessly because NOTHING WORKED. My milk never came in. I never felt that engorged feeling that many people experience. My son never latched on. I was a slave to my breast pump and I hated every minute of it. After a month of this insanity, I finally threw in the towel and started feeding my son formula exclusively. It was the best decision for our family and one that we needed to accept.

To all those people who say breast is best, or brag about how easy or how enjoyable the breastfeeding experience was, let me just say you have no idea how hard it is for some of us or how insane it makes us feel when we can’t do the simple act of feeding our baby. I will never know the reasons why my body refused to produce milk or why something that is touted to be natural and easy was so darn difficult for me, but I will tell you that my baby was fed and nourished on schedule. Looking at him now you will never know that he wasn’t breastfed.

As I prepare for another baby’s arrival, I’m scared, yet determined to try again. I have no idea how everything will turn out this time around, but I will be better prepared. The hospital where I’ll be delivering does not have a lactation consultant, I’ve already asked, so I’m researching the ones in our area, preferably those who don’t hiss. I have been reading about what to do in the immediate aftermath of a c-section and talking to friends who have gone through this experience, as it relates to breastfeeding. I plan on pumping regularly from the start to maintain my supply and I’m going to ask for help every step along the way. But, if for whatever reason it doesn’t work out, I won’t beat myself up about it. I will accept whatever outcome and I won’t feel obligated to answer to anyone. Because, I know from experience that in the end fed is best for my baby and my family.

33 weeks and counting

Dear Ravina,

We’re really in the home stretch now, girl… Every day I feel a little bigger, a little more heavy and round. You must be running out of room because I can feel you trying to expand…. stretch… I can feel your little jabs in the worst places but instead of wincing, I find myself smiling. Our doctor says that there is no such thing as feeling too much movement, so every time you flex your muscle, you flood me with relief. You erase my fears and bring me back to the present. You are a precious gift that I look forward to treasuring for the rest of my life.

Tomorrow morning your dad and I are going to the hospital for an ultrasound. I can’t believe this will be the first time he will see you in person. With our busy schedules it has been hard to coordinate doctor’s visits, but after every visit I show him your photo and watch him study it for several minutes. He is so excited to meet you, my love. I think by now you know his voice better than anyone else’s because whenever he leans in to speak to you, you get very excited and start kicking me furiously. A couple of days ago, you were very restless and wouldn’t stop moving until your dad spoke to you. Suddenly, you stopped kicking and settled down for the night. It was the sweetest thing ever.

Almost everything about this pregnancy has been routine. We have had our moments of worry, but just like the wave it crashes and retreats leaving us renewed. I’ve gained around 25lbs give or take a few and our doctor assures me that you’re growing on target in every way. I have constant heartburn and lower back pain, but, it’s all worth it to me as long as you’re thriving. As far as cravings go, all I want are sweets all day and night. Luckily, I passed my glucose test so I don’t have to worry too much. I haven’t exactly been eating the healthiest lately, but you seem to be doing okay. We have another 6 weeks to go… and I’m savoring every day with you inside me. You are my tough little girl and I know you will get here strong and healthy.

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Every time I think of you, I think of the color green, lush and lively. I get an overwhelming sense of peace, like I know you are going to be fine no matter what. I felt the same peace with your brother, though he was a calm baby for the most part. His color was orange. You, I suspect, will be much different. Your energy is strong, determined and purposeful. I can relate to your sense of urgency but I hope you will allow me to soothe you when you are in my arms. I’m so grateful that you have chosen me to be your mother… I suspect we have so much to learn from each other!

Until we meet…

Love,
Mom

Dear Ravina… 

You’ve been on my mind a lot lately. What a journey it has been so far… With less than two months to go, your arrival is starting to come into focus and it is shaping up to be one for the books. Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine a life filled with so many blessings!

I was looking for a new bassinet for you and finally found one that I think you’re really going to like! Your brother outgrew his bassinet in record time, but I hope you will stay close to me for a bit longer. Over the weekend I went through the baby clothes that your cousin Johanna sent over and boy, do you have a lot of clothes! You’re not going to need much once we get your closet organized. There are quite a few adorable dresses in the pile and we’re going to have so much fun playing dress up! I’m not going to put those silly bows on your head, at least that’s what I’m telling myself now. But, I’m not making any promises either.
This week at your 31 week ultrasound, you were measuring almost 4.5lbs, which makes me giddy. I want nothing more than for you to be a healthy, happy and chubby baby. You’re extremely active at all hours of the day and night. Your doctor says your personality will likely not change once you’re born, which means we are going to have some sleepless nights together. Don’t worry, I’m ready for and looking forward to it. Whatever you need, I’m here for you. I’m a little more experienced now than I was with your brother, still I completely expect you to be your own kind of magic. I can’t wait to swaddle you into a little burrito and listen to your tiny breath against my cheek as we both fall asleep. I can’t wait to feel your wrinkly skin against mine as we cuddle together. I can’t wait to study your features searching for the slightest familial resemblances. I’m getting emotional just thinking about it all… You are going to be spoiled rotten, my little one!

The next couple of months are going to be a whirlwind. There is no telling when you will come into this world so that makes our time together even more special. I want you to know that I have cherished every single minute with you, every kick and somersault, every elbow jab, every hiccup… keep ’em coming, my love. I have been playing music through belly buds sporadically and will try to be more consistent. Last night you really let me know that you enjoyed the music. I haven’t had much of an appetite lately, but you respond to food just like your brother did by doing flips in my stomach. Your brother turned out to be an excellent eater so I hope you will follow suit. Lelan has started noticing my big belly and often comes over to say hi to you. He will give you kisses and put his head on my belly as if he’s trying to listen for a sound. I’m more excited to see your relationship grow than anything else…

Whenever I start losing myself in the what ifs in life, you give me a swift kick in the ribs as if to bring me back to reality. I did not feel this much movement with your brother. I started noticing your flutters much earlier at 12 weeks and your constant energy has been a huge dose of reassurance to me throughout this journey. I know you’re okay. I know you’re tough. You’re my little champ and I know you can handle anything, whether it be a kicking, screaming older brother or an overprotective dad or an overzealous mom. We can all be a bit much at times, you’ll see. But, rest assured knowing that we will each find our groove with you and love you fiercely in every way possible. As my mother would often say, we’re a unit now and together we can handle anything! Stay comfortable for a few more weeks, my love. Until we meet…

Love,
Mommy

Rain

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Tiny as the droplet, you are
against the window pane
Standing in the middle of summer
undisturbed by thunder
I am watching you
watching over
everything that rains
Don’t be afraid to grow
against the grain
Don’t stop reaching for the cracks
Don’t settle for the middle
Don’t stop searching for the shadows
In between the light
Go outside and let it rise
Let it wash you over
Let it swallow you
Like a tide

Second time around… 

No two pregnancies are alike. My first time with Lelan was textbook perfect until it was time to give birth. You can read about that experience here. With Ravina, it hasn’t exactly been smooth sailing… Still, this pregnancy has felt effortless. Don’t get me wrong, most days I’m in my sweats with my hair in a bun, but the human body is an astonishing machine. Apart from a few minor aches and pains, I’m having an amazing time being pregnant. Which got me thinking… are second pregnancies actually better than the first? I can’t speak for everyone, but here’s my personal experience on the matter…

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  1. Sleep is overrated: With Lelan, I slept gloriously every chance I got. Some weekends, I stayed in bed until lunch time or even longer. I gave into pregnancy fatigue without hesitation and milked it to the bone. But, these days with a toddler on the loose, there’s barely any time to rest. Lelan wakes up between 5:30-6:30am every day and for a non-morning person like me, that’s brutal. And, working from home has completely blurred any and all lines of work-life balance that ever existed. I’m easily up until midnight working every night. I’m sleep deprived but, not tired, if that makes any sense at all. I’ve discovered that I can run on fumes for a long time before actually crashing. And, as long as I’m able to steal an hour of sleep here and there, I can almost pass for a fully functioning adult in society.
  2. If tomorrow comes: With my son, every day is an adventure. He is growing up so fast right in front of my eyes and I don’t want to miss a thing. I’m trying to be present with him every day. Which means, I’m not thinking about tomorrow or the next. Which also means, I’m almost 28 weeks pregnant in what seems like a blink of a eye. Every time I check my pregnancy app, I’m surprised at how much my baby girl has grown. And, I’m comforted at each doctor’s appointment at her progress. It’s not like I love her any less because I don’t obsess about her, but she’s teaching me, in her own way, to let go of the things I can’t control and focus on those that I can.
  3. Trust is earned: Pregnancy is a humbling experience. Your body goes through the ringer and comes out fairly intact. With Lelan, I was painfully aware of every little thing that was changing, contorting and growing within and around me. I kept notes and spent hours staring at my growing belly in the mirror wondering how in the heck is it all going to go back to normal. But, somehow everything did. I’ll never be the size that I was pre-pregnancy, but I was still able to find my sexy back! This time around, I’m more trusting of my body. It knows what it’s doing and I’m just along for the ride.
  4. Take it to the bank: I started my baby registry pretty early on with Lelan. I spent hours carefully researching every single product on that list. When I had my baby shower though, no one bought anything of value from my list so I had to buy most of the big ticket items on my own. That quickly added up! This time around, I don’t have to buy a thing… except diapers. This baby is already great on my wallet!
  5. I’m a Pro: I read somewhere that marriage and pregnancy are two things that you can do once and declare yourself a pro. Ain’t that the truth! In the final months leading up to my first delivery, I had no idea what I was in for. I poured over other people’s birth stories hoping to prepare myself, but in the end nothing could prepare me for my own experience. I also had no clue what to do once the baby was born. I watched a lot of online videos on how to do pretty much everything for a newborn and I was still nervous. But, something happened once I held my son. My mama instincts kicked in and suddenly I knew exactly what he needed. In a couple of months, I’ll be holding my baby girl in my arms and I’m beyond excited to meet her. There’s no stress this time around. No one knows her better than me and I’m confident that she and I will fall into a groove in no time.

How did your second pregnancy experience turn out? What did you do differently the second time around?

Love is a verb…

What do you want for Christmas, I asked him while putting away the baby’s clothes… I want to get married, he said without hesitating. We locked eyes and I knew in that moment that this was the man I would spend the rest of my life with.

Marriage was the furthest thing from my mind.. Having been through my share of heartbreaks, I wasn’t exactly jumping at the suggestion either. In many of my previously failed relationships, I had the feeling that I was the one pulling all the weight and when I no longer could, they had ended sadly without a lot of fuss. I wasn’t interested in having a husband, no thank you. I already had a wonderful partner who supported me in every single way. We were a team and everything we had was because of it.

But, when the man you love and the father of your child(ren) tells you he wants something so earnestly, you have to give it some serious thought… So, that’s what I did. While marriage was not important to me, it was to him and I had to know why. What would being married provide that we already didn’t have? His answer was simple… It would make us feel safe, he said. I want Lelan to know that his parents are married and committed. I could’ve argued with him, but for some reason I didn’t. It was the least I could do.

A few days later, on my 40th birthday, we went to the courthouse to apply for a marriage license. The next day I called around to find a local judge who was available to marry us the following week. We found our rings on short notice on Etsy. I ordered a lace blush dress on Rent the Runway and my partner found a blue velvet blazer on Amazon. Everything was falling into place. The only thing left was to decide who would be our witnesses. We could ask your family, I said. It wouldn’t be fair if my family were there and not yours, he said. Deep down I felt the same way. So, we asked a couple of friends instead.

On Friday, December 23rd at 9am we arrived at the local courthouse with our son to become husband and wife. The ceremony was sweet and short as our son watched curiously. He made cooing noises at various points during the vows, making us giggle. Our friends Kevin and Liz took photos and signed their names as our witnesses. It all happened so fast, a fleeting gift, that we barely had any time to register it all. But, it was exactly as it was meant to be.

This is love, pure and simple. This is the eternal test of how much life we can handle. How far we are willing to go for each other and how much we can bend to the evolving needs of our family, without breaking. Some people might think that we didn’t honor the tradition of marriage by eloping, but we are building our lives the old-fashioned way one day at a time, by finding the magic in the most unlikely moments, by being present and listening to each other’s needs. I haven’t lost my partner… I’ve just gained a husband!

It has been 6 months since this day and I still can’t stop smiling. I feel fulfilled in so many ways. My husband, my son and my soon to arrive daughter remind me every single day that love truly is a verb…

100 days of Ravina

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My pregnancy app reminded me that I have less than a 100 days until I meet my daughter. Let that sink in for a minute, because I can’t seem to wrap my head around it. Where did the time go? Much of this pregnancy has been a blur. Am I glowing? I don’t know, you tell me! I’m sleeping less and eating on the go, all while chasing after a toddler but somehow, I have more energy than the first time around. My hair is messy but my sink is clean, I even empty the dishwasher regularly, but don’t even ask me about showering… I’m a full-time mom with a full-time job, growing another human being who is due in less than 100 days!

At work on Monday, a friend asked me how I was feeling. Great, I replied. How’s the little guy? His days are numbered, she joked. For a minute I didn’t understand what she meant. And then I understood… Lelan will no longer be an only child come September. But, the truth is I’ve always known that would be his reality. Ever since I can remember, I’ve wanted to have children closer in age. Honestly, I don’t have any hard feelings about robbing his one on one time with us on this planet. I also don’t think our bond will be jeopardized because of baby #2. Sure, there will be hard days ahead, but our son is a secure little guy and we will help him learn to adjust with change, to cope with disappointments and coexist with another, equally important, human in his life. If I have any guilt at all it is that I haven’t celebrated my second pregnancy enough. With Lelan, I blogged about my progress frequently and obsessed over the tiniest developments. But with Ravina, I’ve barely written a word. I have to look at my app to find out how far along I am. I find myself talking to her constantly, but sitting down to record this experience has been harder than I’d imagined. And now, I’ve barely a 100 days left to soak it all in.

As I write this, she is practicing her somersaults in my belly. She’s an active little thing, more so than I recall of her brother. It’s as if she’s kicking me often to say, hello remember me?! It’s a good quality, I think to myself. She’s strong and capable. She’s tough enough to withstand her brother’s occasional kicks. She won’t go unnoticed. Lelan has already started noticing her. We play a little game where I say, Hi Ravina and he rubs my belly. Mostly, I think he’s just interested in my belly button because of this book called Where’s baby’s belly button? He pokes it in and out and giggles. He has yet to feel her move, and I wonder if he will know what it means. But, I have never worried about him coping after the baby comes. Because, this was always his destiny. He was meant to be a big brother. He will learn to cope, just like the rest of us. He will come to love his little sister and their bond will be that much stronger because neither of them will remember a life without each other.

So, until it’s time to meet our darling little girl, I am going to write whenever the urge strikes, even if it is in the middle of the night. Her side of the nursery (yes, she will be sharing with her brother once she’s ready) is starting to take shape. It has already been vacated with a beautiful peacock mobile hanging above it. I’ve even bought a sweet baby blanket for her. Her closet is filling up with boxes of clothes from her generous cousin Johanna. I have yet to go through them, but it is starting to feel like we are better prepared for her than we were with Lelan. So, here’s to the last 100 days of being more relaxed and engaged than before. Since this will be my last pregnancy, it’s somewhat bittersweet, so here’s to making every single day count!