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.

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.

Childbirth, Life

And then there were three – my birth story

Delivering a baby is messy, however the little peanut comes out of your body. It’s hard, it’s painful, for first-time moms it’s scarier than anything we’ve ever experienced, (yes, even more than graduating college) and yet, to the doctors and nurses, it’s a standard procedure; there’s a checklist, protocol, things you should say and a timeframe things should follow. All things considered, though, the ladies laying on that hospital bed are human, and deserve to be shown kindness and comfort during labor and delivery, something I can’t say I saw until the last of 3 doctors arrived during my labor.  While I’d planned to have everything done a certain way, I had very little say in the matter once push came to shove (no pun intended). There is one thing, however, I dis have control over and really dropped the ball on; I didn’t get a doula for my delivery, and I regret it every single day. 

Maybe that’s why I’m now pursuing to become one myself, because one of the reasons why I didn’t have one was because there were only two available, and one was off having her own baby, while the other was on vacation and could only guarantee to be back in time for the delivery if I was sure I wanted her to be there. And I wasn’t. The cost was higher than I had anticipated, I was understandably overly emotional and thought my husband should be the one in the delivery room with me (I was under the impression I could only have one or the other, not both), and I just couldn’t commit because I wasn’t sure I wanted or needed one. I mean, I had written my birth plan, which, at its essence revolved around me getting an epidural, so what would I need a doula to support me with then? 

My birth story isn’t one that will make you sob (unless you went through the same thing, too, and thought nobody else had experienced it), but it is one that will hopefully teach you a couple of important lessons: that your experiences are your own, and that it is so important to understand that as much as you prepare yourself for everything when it comes to having a baby, you will never be prepared for what’s to come, and that’s OK. 

First let me preface this whole story by saying that I read everything. I had a birth plan, a hospital checklist, I knew what to bring and what I wouldn’t need, I read the gory birth stories, and the beautiful ones. When I learned that I would have to be induced (which I would not agree to again unless it was a medical emergency; our bodies know what they’re doing, mamas!), I knew what that meant, and I figured that while we were waiting for the induction to do it’s thing – and even when the epidural was in and we were then waiting for the baby to make his appearance – my husband and I would just chill. So, I packed like I was going on a staycation. Seriously, people, I had face creams and spritzes in case I felt flushed, hair ties and headbands that wouldn’t mess up my hair so I could take flawless pics once the little one was earthside, books, movies downloaded, my iPod, I think I even threw in a pack of cards because, hey, why not? If you’re wondering if I got around to using any of those things: I did not. At all. Ever. I could barely unpack my bag once we arrived home from the hospital out of sheer humiliation and seething anger that nothing had gone how I thought it would.

I also want to say that I think the strength of women is incredible. Like I said before, our bodies know what to do, and the transformative experience of childbirth is just such an incredible journey to be able to take and I am blessed and truly grateful that I was able to carry my son for 9 months and then deliver him. This story I’m about to share doesn’t serve to diminish that in any way.

There have been plenty of times in my life when I’ve felt alone; when I left for college, and when I moved to Saudi, just to name a few. But the only time that the full autonomy and separateness of my body, mind, and spirit from any other living being on this planet really hit me was when I was in the throes of labor. I was forced to have an unmedicated, vaginal delivery. (I don’t say natural here because I don’t want to diminish what c-section mamas go through, because they, too, are rockstars!) When I say forced, I mean that I didn’t want either of those things.

Now, I believe that some women have fantastic experiences with unmedicated vaginal deliveries, and I think their stories are beautiful and empowering and a true testament to the aforementioned strength of a woman. But I also believe in a woman’s right to make her own choices and me? I wanted drugs. And it wasn’t until I was in the height of pain that I was told I wouldn’t be able to have an epidural. I was in tears from the contractions, out of my mind with what I thought was the worst pain (it got worse…), and holding out because I wanted to show my husband how tough I could be. Even in this moment that he would never be able to experience because his body wasn’t created in the same awesome way as mine, I wanted him to be proud. The doctor’s words weren’t registering with me. I couldn’t have an epidural? Something about my platelets. The pitocin hadn’t even been administered yet, so I knew that the pain I was feeling was about to get 30 times worse. It just didn’t make sense. What did she want to give me then? They had gas, an injection they would be able to give me every 6 hours, my husband could massage me. But I didn’t understand how I would deal with the pain. So, in a moment of clarity, I did what any sane, rational-thinking woman with my expectations going into labor would do: I told her I would just have a c-section. I think she actually laughed a little. I couldn’t have a c-section because I didn’t need one. Yes, yes I did because I couldn’t deliver this baby with nothing. Again with the gas, the injection, the massage. And then it hit me: I wasn’t going to have an epidural, and I wasn’t going to have a c-section. Adam was on his way and I had to deal with it all by myself.

This is the point where, to put it bluntly, I lost my shit, and where a doula really would have been able to step up to the plate and do her thing. I was in hysterics; screaming and crying and yelling at the doctor and telling my husband to call my other doctor (who was on vacation in Italy and worked for an entirely different hospital). I was in so much pain and so determined to put myself into a medical emergency just so they would have to give me the c-section that I started saying no to everything. No, they couldn’t monitor me or the baby; no, I did not authorize them to start the pitocin; you are absolutely not going to strip my membranes or break my water. After two hours of refusing everything my husband finally snapped and said, “fine, let’s go home.” I looked at him, shocked that his usually calm demeanor was so harsh, and realized the ridiculousness of what I was doing.

Once the pitocin was started and whatever shred of dignity I had left had exited the building, it took another 16 hours for the baby to come out and, in all honesty, pushing him out was the least painful and the most relieving part of the whole ordeal. The injections they gave me only served to make me so high that I would pass out in between contractions – which were less than 2 minutes apart the. whole. fricken. time. – and the gas they gave me did absolutely nothing but annoy me that it was even a suggested.

I was euphoric once Adam came, of course, but I was traumatized, too. The first two times I tried to fall asleep that night I was jolted awake in panic, because that’s all I knew the last 16 hours – dozing off only to be awakened by excruciating pain. In those moments, I had become pain. No prayer or saying or comforting look from my husband could remove what I was feeling during those nearly minute-long contractions, and the way the doctors made me feel about the whole thing – that it was completely normal and that I was somehow supposed to just suck it up and deal with it – only added to the isolation, and later, to the anger. I felt that way for a long time. It didn’t help to hear people telling me that I would forget about it (I didn’t), or that I should be grateful that I didn’t have a c-section (I am and I’m not). I didn’t begin to come to terms with what had happened until I had joined an online breastfeeding support group called The Cleavage Club (if you’re breastfeeding or wanting to in the future, go join now!!! They’re on Facebook, based in Southern California, but have ladies from all over the US and the world) and was told by ICBLC and Doula extraordinaire Cass that it was OK to feel what I was feeling because that birth experience was mine, and I didn’t have to adjust it for anyone. Nobody else could have known what I felt, even if they were right next to me for the entire 16-hour experience (God bless my husband!), and it was OK to hate what happened. It doesn’t make me a bad person, or ungrateful, it just makes me a human that went through something quite traumatic and who has actual feelings about it.

Everything about my labor and delivery taught me that nothing is what it seems when it comes to childbirth and being a mom, and everything since Adam was born has only served to confirm that notion. Breastfeeding was incredibly hard – I will post more about this in the future – and I stuck with it only because my mom encouraged me not to quit on my hardest day, and because I had the support of groups like La Leche League and The Cleavage Club (on Facebook) to work things out with me. The first few weeks felt like 50 years. Adjusting to the overwhelming responsibility of taking care of a tiny human every second was beyond difficult, and it’s still a learning process every single day. Being a mom isn’t easy or cheap – it comes with a hefty price tag financially and emotionally. But I can’t think of anything else that I would rather be doing with my time, energy, or love.

Please leave a comment below to let me know what your birth experience was like, or if you would like any information about delivering a baby in Saudi.