Life, Uncategorized

Moms need friends, too.

I’ve always been a pretty open person, and don’t usually shy away from divulging about my personal life with friends. I mean, chances are what I’m going through at any given moment is something that you too have faced, so why not share and at least get some comfort, if not a solution? The human experience is such a fascinating one because literally billions of other people have gone through or are going through the same thing as you, yet our days are punctuated by moments of isolation and our circumstances sometimes really make us feel like nobody else would get it. Throughout the years and the stages – high school, college, whatever the hell comes after that – our circles change, and we start to see the herd of friends thinning out, yet, with the more time that passes, we start to realize that’s actually not a bad thing.

The funny thing about becoming a mom is that you’re thrust into this community of other mommies and – whether it seems like it or not – you suddenly have so much in common with women all over the world. It’s also such a weird time because you’re typically physically isolated with a tiny human staring at you 24/7 waiting for you to do something interesting or give him the boobs, which can really take a toll on your emotional state and ability to string coherent sentences together. By the time the baby is old enough to take out and you have the chance to reunite with your friends, you may find that you don’t have much in common with them anymore, especially if they don’t have kids, and sometimes even if they do. Our families take over our lives and the small differences in philosophies now become more pronounced as you’re juggling the new role of motherhood as you see fit.

So when you do find a mom friend that you share the same philosophy with, it’s really a special moment. But, just like your growing bump opened you up to unsolicited advice from complete strangers, the way you raise your kid will, strangely, always bring out peoples’ very strong reactions. Having mom friends doesn’t always mean having a support system during the times when we need it most; I’ve found that it can often mean judgmental, harsh criticism and advice during the times when we need it the least.

Look, I get that you’re doing the best you can based on what you know and that your way really is the right way. For you. But for me? Well, maybe it is, but it probably isn’t, and that doesn’t make me wrong. I find my self-doubt crippling enough most days without having to hear whether or not I’m turning my son into a spoiled brat by staying home and co-sleeping. If I were going back to work and leaving him with (gasp!) a stranger, I’m sure I would hear how awful that is from other mamas, so it just seems like a lose-lose situation in which everyone wants to flaunt how great they are at motherhood, when I’m sure that we all waver in our confidence (if you have any, to begin with).

I guess I just wish making mom friends was a little less stressful and a bit more inclusive; I breastfeed and co-sleep, so I probably won’t be able to give you advice on formula or sleep training, but that doesn’t mean we can’t grab a cup of coffee and commiserate together about all the extra laundry we have now that our babies want to feed themselves or come up with theories as to why causing us excruciating pain (especially by biting the nipples at 4 am) is the funniest thing in the world to our littles.

doula, Uncategorized

Sisterhood Sunday

Growing up, I was always looking for a fight. In every situation, I always seemed to find the underdog and defend them vigorously. My nana used to tell me I’d make a great lawyer, my mom would tell me I can’t fight for everyone, my dad would tell me some causes and people are better stood for in private. And while each person was attesting to some truth, there’s just something about being able to speak for people who aren’t able to speak for themselves; I’m instantly attracted to the downtrodden, no matter how hard something is to look at, I want to see it for all that it is and I want to know what I can do to fix it.

Things haven’t changed much (especially the looking for a fight part, according to hubby), so it’s no surprise that, as a woman, I feel called to support other women. Or, maybe in today’s highly but secretly competitive society – where perfectly posed shots of handcrafted cupcakes are currency and not liking someone’s picture on Instagram is grounds for excommunication – it is surprising. But that’s a different post for a different day.

If you’ve read my previous posts, you know that delivering my son was no walk in the park, nor was it a picnic (seriously, someone described their labor to me as being like a picnic before I delivered; no wonder my expectations were so unrealistic!). It was traumatic, and it still, to this day, has the power to flip my mood upside down. I’d always thought it was that way because the hospital that I went to wouldn’t give me the epidural, the country that I delivered in didn’t have higher standards of care, the doctor that was on duty at the time wasn’t nice to me and treated me as though I was weak and whiny. And, it may have been in part a combination of those things. But the biggest reason why I had such an awful birth experience was that I wasn’t prepared.

Yes, I Googled everything: pregnancy aches and pains, what was OK and what wasn’t, what to buy for baby, how to handle baby once he’s earthside, but all of that preparation was for before and after the labor. I didn’t research one thing related to the actual part where I was going to push a baby out of my lady parts. Looking back, it’s like, duh how could you be so dumb, but if I actually dissect why I didn’t feel the need to, I feel a little less stupid and a little more angry.

Growing up in a Western culture, we are often taught to see drugs as a blessing, a technological advance that we are lucky enough to have access to. It wasn’t until recently that the resistance and skepticism of such “advances” became mainstream and people started questioning our dependence on Big Pharma. What’s even worse is that the healthcare community and Big Pharma are in on it together. So it’s no wonder that one of the most natural things in the history of the universe – childbirth – has also become heavily medicalized, with all interested parties making a pretty penny off of every birth they highjack.

I’m not saying there haven’t been leaps and bounds made in terms of maternal morbidity and mortality due to technological advances, but I am pointing out that a majority of mamas don’t need any of that stuff because our bodies know what to do. (And, I would also like to point out that as far as developed nations go, the US is failing mamas and babies BIG TIME; two of the biggest reasons? The rise in C-sections and a greater focus on fetal and infant health over that of the mama.)

Y’all – we have been making and having and raising babies for as long as time has existed. We do not need a trained Obstetric surgeon to attend every birth. 

Naturally, when it came time for me to have a baby, not getting an epidural didn’t even cross my mind. Um, yes I will take the drug that makes me feel nothing so I can smile pretty for pictures when the baby is placed in my arms. So when the doctor told me I couldn’t have one, I really – for the first time in my life – was woefully helpless. I hadn’t studied even one technique to get through the pains of labor naturally, and at that moment, I was sure there weren’t any. My husband was at a loss, my doctor and nurse were overrun with patients, my closest female family members were 7,000 miles away, and I thought I was going to die from the pain. I didn’t have any other options because I hadn’t given myself any other options.

In retrospect, I know that beyond the other responsibilities that come along with mamahood, figuring out how and on which terms you want to labor is a huge one. It goes beyond whether you want drugs, episiotomies, or to breastfeed, and some may even say that it’s a political issue, the subjugation of women how it’s in the patriarchy’s best interest to make sure we’re not empowered (again, another post for another day)…

At your most vulnerable moment, when you’ve reached the lowest of lows, you’re lucky to have someone to be able to pull you out, or at the very least to chill in the darkness with you. This togetherness – this sisterhood, if you will – is something we all crave, but not many of us have the skills or resources to seek out. Yet, this village plays such an integral role in whether we’re successful in life, whether it’s in business ventures, creative adventures, or – yup, you guessed it – child rearing.

So, to do my part in empowering women with education and knowledge, I’ve become a doula and childbirth educator, as well as began my formal training to become an IBCLC.

No matter what you want your birth experience to be like, you deserve to be informed and supported completely. If more women empowered and supported other women, there’s no telling the things we could accomplish. If more women enjoyed their birth experiences and came together to help others enjoy theirs, who knows how our communities would change.

 

breastfeeding, Uncategorized

Ya, I think I am

Here is part 2 of my breastfeeding chronicles.


Being stuck in the house with the baby attached to my boob was not how I envisioned spending my first 6 weeks postpartum, which led to another slew of emotions that I wasn’t prepared for – and I will discuss in another post 🙂 – but eventually (like after a long, hard time) I managed to find ways to enjoy the time that I wasn’t feeding Adam and still feel human. Downloading books on my phone helped, as did my subscription to Netflix and moving the TV to the room where I nursed the most. Letting go of the idea that I would still get to hang out with my husband all the time also helped a lot, as did asking him to just sit with me a couple of feeds a day and have an adult conversation not about poop, gas, or nipples. Also, making time to take a shower changed my attitude instantly.

And then there were the infections. I had mastitis three times in my son’s first 3 months of life, not to mention I dealt with thrush from day 1. I could barely even lift the baby to feed him, but I did, because that’s what I had to do to keep everything running normally while the antibiotics did their thing. It sucked. I was in excruciating, toe-curling pain, and barely had enough energy to keep my eyes open. The first two times I took antibiotics (which you don’t always need, mamas; check with your doctors and doulas to see what is best for you) it really messed with the baby’s stomach, so I requested a different antibiotic the third time, which seemed to be a lot easier for him to handle. And take a probiotic. I was actually on antibiotics during labor and should have been on a probiotic as soon as I left the hospital, but I didn’t know any better and trust me – once the yeast gets in, it goes EVERYWHERE, hence the never-ending thrush and yeast infections.

By this point I was in touch with Karen AKA the angel from LLL Dhahran and had joined The Cleavage Club. I learned that I had an oversupply caused by a combination of pumping too early and the baby’s ever-changing feeding schedule. Karen sent me all I needed to know about something called block feeding and asked me to get back to her in a week to let me know how it was working. I had finally gotten on track with breastfeeding and was starting to get the hang of it. Without her support, and the support of my husband and mom and in-laws and friends, I would not have survived. It really does take a village, and you have to surround yourself with people who will step up to the plate when you need them to. If that isn’t your partner, find someone else in your family, group of friends, or even an online community who can cheer you on and give you good advice. You are tough, mama, but you aren’t meant to carry everything on your own.

Listen to your gut, explore your options, and get a variety of advice from people who you trust and who have your best interest in mind. Remember that what worked for one family may not work for yours. There are so many things to consider while breastfeeding, and the things I discussed in this post were just a few of the major ones. Sleeping arrangements, childcare, and returning to work are some other things that impact the decision you make when choosing how to feed your baby.

As long as this post was, this is still only a condensed version of my breastfeeding journey – which has led to a beautiful relationship with my son – and I know yours is or will be just as unique and complicated. Above all, the closeness I feel and the strength I draw from being able to nourish my son with my body is indescribable. I also know that nursing is about so much more than just being fed, and I relish in the fact that my closeness can bring comfort to my son when nothing else can. I would recommend trying to nurse based on these two things alone, let alone all of the benefits to your baby’s health, and yours! Again, I know it isn’t an option for every woman, and I’m sorry for that, and want to say one more time that it doesn’t make you any less of a loving mama if you can’t or choose not to breastfeed. But if you do, and if you can overcome the inevitable challenges that such a task presents, I can promise that it will be one of the most rewarding experiences of your life.

If you want to reach out, or you have any questions, drop me a line below or send me an email. I am happy to help/support/listen/whatever you need 🙂

breastfeeding, Life

Am I Doing This Right?

This is part 1 of 2 of my breastfeeding journey. Yes, it’s going to take two whole posts to cover all that happened, and yes I will probably leave some things out – either because I forgot in order to actually be able to go through this whole process again with the next baby, or because I just really don’t want to scare you. I added a ton of links throughout the post that can help if you’re interested, so click away!

On September 5, 2016 I thought I was giving birth to a healthy baby boy. It turns out, I was bringing into the world yet another boobie barnacle.

This is not a list of dos and don’ts. I can’t provide that because your experience will be totally different than mine because you gave birth to an entirely different human than me. But I do want to share the details of my experience in hopes that if my story is anything like yours, you can see something that will help.

Now, before I go any further I want to make something clear: there is no disagreement that breast is best. It is. That’s just the fact. But that doesn’t mean that breastfeeding is going to work out for everyone – for whatever reason – and that doesn’t mean that formula is bad. Formula has kept millions of babies healthy, well-fed, and ALIVE for years. I don’t care how you feed your baby, and I am not here to shame you. Frankly, I think it’s sad and a huge testament to the state of the mommy community that I even have to preface my post with this. Feed your baby. Be proud of the choices you make. You are a warrior, mama, and nobody is here to make you question yourself. Breastfeeding is what I know because that’s what I did, and so that’s what I can talk about. I am passionate about breastfeeding because I had a really difficult time getting to the point where I loved it, and I want to share my experience with the hope that it can help other women love it too.

If you can’t breastfeed, but want to, and this information helps you, that’s great. If you can’t breastfeed, or you don’t want to, that’s great too. Regardless of how you feed your baby I would love to be able to meet up for a cup of coffee one day and laugh about how, even though we totally adore our kids, they can be super assholes sometimes.

Breastfeeding does not come naturally, contrary to what we are led to believe. Breastfeeding is something that most women are able to do, but it is not something that we immediately know how to do. And that’s the part that a lot of us can’t understand. If our bodies are able to create milk and our babies are able to suck as soon as they’re earthside, why doesn’t it always work?

I read everything there was to read about having the baby and virtually nothing about breastfeeding. Why? Because I didn’t think it would be that hard. In reality, it’s been the hardest part about motherhood so far. Why? Because I didn’t think it would be this hard.

I was absolutely shocked how much my son wanted to nurse. Boobie barnacle is not hyperbole. This kid did not leave the boob for 6 weeks. He would suck a little, sleep a little, suck a little, sleep a little, and if I tried to actually remove him from my breast, he would cry. A lot. The inner dialogue in my head was on a loop – Was my milk enough? Was he still hungry? Should I give him a bottle of formula just in case? Maybe I should go buy a scale so that I could weigh him before and after each feed. Am I doing this right? These thoughts that flooded my brain are the same thoughts that every new mom whose boobs are suddenly responsible for sustaining life has.

Now, I am not a doctor or a lactation consultant, but I am a mom who has talked to lots of other moms and the one thing they all said: this is normal behavior for newborns. It’s also normal behavior for new moms to call the doctor and ask a million questions and want to make sure their baby isn’t starving. My only advice when you’re worried if your baby isn’t getting enough to eat would be this: ask, check, consult, but make sure you’re asking the right person. Just because there’s an MD after their name doesn’t make them an expert on or an advocate for breastfeeding. My right person happened to be a local La Leche League leader and a Facebook group dedicated to helping mamas breastfeed, led by an amazing IBCLC/Doula, Cass Romero-Schroeder. These websites also helped – and still do! – a lot.

The fact is that we won’t know how much our baby is getting when they’re breastfeeding and if it’s our first time, we are going to be plagued with worry over the issue. But the number one indication that your baby is getting enough to eat – aside from his growth – is the number of dirty diapers he is having. Other things – like how full your breasts feel, how fussy the baby is, how well (or not) he’s sleeping – don’t necessarily mean you don’t have enough milk

After Adam’s first check up and weigh in, I knew that he was OK, and that my milk was enough. His doctor – who was encouraging and supportive of my decision to exclusively breastfeed – told me the best thing I could do is just keep feeding him whenever he wanted to eat, which was still all the time. She also told me that I needed to eat all the time and drink a ton of water and rest when I could, and that my body would know what to do. Our bodies know what to do. You are enough. 

One thing that I had heard a lot about before having the baby was different supplements and herbs that could help make more milk. They came in all forms – from pills to teas to cookies – and all had roughly the same ingredients. I’m not going to tell you that these don’t work, but I am going to tell you that the evidence that they work is anecdotal at best, and many of the ingredients may do more harm than good by irritating baby’s tummy. The best way to increase your supply – if you even have a low supply to begin with, which you probably don’t! – is to nurse baby all the time and take really good care of yourself. Eat A LOT of good food, and indulge in a little chocolate and ice cream, too. Take vitamins. Drink tea. Eat cookies. Do some yoga poses or take a walk. Do these things because it’s good for your body and soul, not because it will increase your milk. KellyMom has a great overview on how and when to take supplements, but I would really recommend getting in touch with an IBCLC if you’re worried about your supply. There are other issues that could be impacting your nursing relationship that an IBCLC would be able to discuss with you, too, such as lip and tongue ties. 

Overall, the more our milk is removed, the more it’s produced. That’s just how the boobs work. So feeding the baby is the best way to make more milk. Pumping is also a great way to kickstart the remove – produce cycle, but be warned: oversupply is a real thing and it is not fun. You know best what your schedule is going to look like, and if/when you have to return to work before baby is 6 weeks, pumping may be necessary. But inform yourself first and look out for cues of oversupply. Discuss your options with your person, and make a plan from there.

Look out for my next post all about my oversupply issues, the problems I had because of that, and how I was able to correct it, resulting in a happy boobie monster and happy mommy.

Life

The baby is OK. Usually.

Some days I mess up. A is OK by the end of the day, thank God, but I’ve had many of those too-close-for-comfort, wow-what-was-I-thinking moments. The last time was when he decided to flop around like a fish until he was within an inch of falling off the bed. He had just gained the amazing and exhausting (for me, never for him) ability to be able to move around pretty well and I left him on the bed for nap time, thinking that the fortress of pillows on the sides of the bed would somehow deter him from falling down. And they did, kind of. Until they didn’t. In usual psycho-first-time-mommy-style, I ran back to the room as soon as I heard him make a sound and found him flopping around like an oblivious, chubby fish on the nightstand on hubby’s side of the bed. He had traversed the entire bed including one wall of pillows, and somehow managed not to topple over onto the floor. Moments like these make me wonder why the hospital let him come home with me without some kind of test (like, seriously, did you know they just give you the baby once you’re discharged? No strings attached, he’s just yours to keep and take care of, and they don’t even ask you if you know what you’re doing!) and they also make me grateful that we’ve made it this far.

It hasn’t been a perfect 7 months, and I’ve had plenty of self-doubt along the way (read: every. single. day.), but I take comfort in the fact that he will literally not remember any of the stupid things I do. What he will remember, though, or rather what he will carry with him throughout the rest of his life is a sense of confidence, love, independence and the bond that we have and that we’re building every day. So that’s why instead of focusing on the dumb things I do (seriously, Krystle, leaving a crawling, rolling, MOVING baby on the bed by himself?!), I focus on the silly moments we have, singing songs and playing tickle monster, the fun we have at bath time, the way he looks up at me for assurance when he tumbles over as he learns to stand, the way we snuggle close as he nurses or sleeps; these are the moments that leave lasting impressions on the core of who he is and who he will be, the times that matter in the long run.

All too often we put pressure on ourselves to be perfect, to get it right the first time. Instagram, Snapchat, mommy blogs, and any other social media we’re exposed to on a daily basis don’t help the anxiety; the way they all portray curated images that make it seem like perfection is so easy to attain, when in reality, those moms are struggling and learning as they go, just like us.

So take it easy, mama. Slow down, enjoy the moments that matter, and don’t be too hard on yourself for the ones that don’t.