Uncategorized

Saudi is many things…

There aren’t many moments that I can look back on in life and say, “that was huge,” because most things build up over time. Sure I can map things out in a nice straight line – high school, my first job, college, my favorite classes, my first PR internship, the client that hated us (this actually needs its own blog post), converting to Islam, graduation – but the fact is that it wasn’t neat or linear. It was messy and chaotic and beautiful. 

Some moments, of course will stick out in mt mind no many how many years pass. Meeting my husband and falling in love – although it was pretty instantaneous – and building our life together was obviously one of the highs. The birth of my son was bittersweet, but let to something amazing, as did moving to Saudi. I can unequivocally say that making the choice to move to Saudi was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.

There were a ton of things that went into it when I decided to come, but ultimately it was just about stepping out of my comfort zone and taking a chance; I got on the bus.  Living here has allowed me to experience sunsets under the Bosphorus, sway along with flamenco dancers in Barcelona, and savor dim sum in Hong Kong. I’ve found love as a wife, fulfillment as a mom, chased my passion into birth work and breastfeeding support, and still manage to make some killer banana bread sometimes. Above all else, I’ve grown up; I’m not the same 23-year-old girl who left home in search of something bigger.

Saudi is many things, but for now, it’s home. There are things I would change, sure, and the list is probably almost as long as the one I have for my home country. I wish people respected personal space, I wish the concept of a line was a bit more common, I wish customer service existed, and I wish our attire (and lifestyle in general) was a bit more colorful and free. But, it’s here that I learned how to take care of myself. It’s here that I learned how a strong and supportive a community of friends could turn into family. It’s here I learned that life is challenging anywhere you go, and it really is just what you make of it. I learned that if you put yourself out there openly and unapologetically, the universe will respond in kind and the right people will find their way to you; your vibe will attract your tribe. And that tribe may come and go, but the lessons they shared, the love they showed, the insight into who you are they reflected, these things will be a part of you forever.

I look forward to many more milestones reached, for me and my family, for Saudi and its people, and to all those who call a home-away-from-home home (say that 5 times fast), take a second to appreciate the life you’ve made, the chances you’ve been offered, and the adventure that awaits you.

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.

 

Uncategorized

Guest Post – Feelin’ All the Feels

So, I’m a day late on the Word Tribe’s Festival of Words (what’s new, really?) but I’m not letting it discourage me from posting because this, this, is a really special one.

While I haven’t delved much into my family life outside of hubby and baby, I do in fact have the whole shebang, including parents and siblings – one badass brother whose current pursuits include a degree in Criminal Justice and powerlifting, and the sweetest, most artistic sister who’s about to make you feel allllllll the feels.

Today’s prompt was to have a guest post or interview, and – as always – my sis was the first one to pop into my mind. She’s been tirelessly working on an ebook of poetry that’s set to release on Amazon later this month and it. is. beautiful.

I chose only one piece to include here, though you can see another sneak peak on my Instagram. Get in touch and let me know what you think; and I will keep you posted on release date and details.

Into the moonlight

Lightning, thunder and rain.

The one that brings you pain.

The two that bring you blues.

The three together are just beauty into the moonlight as the rain fills your shoes.

-KNA

Uncategorized

Treasure yo’self

So I signed up for this awesome writing challenge, and totally got behind yesterday, as usual when hubby’s home and we fill our day with billions of things before the weekend is over. Anyway, here’s the first post, and lucky you! You’ll be getting another one in just a bit 🙂

Write Tribe Festival of Words #6, Day One: Write about a treasure you have

Treasure: noun, a very valuable object.

Anyone who knows me knows that I love to shop. Online, in-store, catalogue, outlets, malls, boutiques, you name it. If there’s an establishment that sells items, I’m there. And – like most people pre-marriage and pre-kids – I’ve spent an (un)fair share of my time shopping til I drop.

Those who know me also know that I love to travel. Making up my mind to spend the weekend in Istanbul or Amsterdam on a Thursday used to be normal for me. The places I’ve been able to see, the adventures I’ve had, the people I’ve met are all memories that will last a lifetime.

Knowing these two things, many people would guess that the treasure I would write about would be a killer purse, or my favorite shoes, or the passport that’s gotten me into so many countries, While I treasure all of those things, there is something far more valuable to me than anything I could ever own. It’s something I lived a long time without, something I didn’t think existed for many people, and something I had resigned myself to not having, yet still chased relentlessly.

That something is happiness. I know, I know, how cliche. But, it cliches did become so for a reason, and that reason is usually because they stand as true.

For many years, I believed happiness to be something that was just around the corner, waiting, watching, lurking, dancing around with the word IF. If I just did something that made my dad proud, if I just turned in an awesome assignment that impressed my teacher, if I just made friends with the popular group in school, if I just played it cool and made it seem like I didn’t care too much, if I could just wait a little bit longer so the situation could get better, then I would be happy. I thought it took work, sacrifice, patience, willpower. And I thought that if I could just distract myself from the reality of now – like with shopping and traveling – I would be able to ride the wave of despair until I arrived at the shore of happiness.

Except, the shore never came. I was neck-deep in the water, drowning, looking for a way out, any tiny sliver of land that didn’t seem to exist.

I wasn’t wrong about what it took to achieve happiness, I just wasn’t applying those tools in the right context. I didn’t like my life, I didn’t like the circumstances, and I didn’t want to wait to anymore. I decided that to blow things up by choice would be better than to allow life to pass me by and be unhappy with the outcome. At least if I was making any decision – even the wrong ones – I would have the opportunity to be unhappy by choice, my choice. And so I did. And the weirdest thing happened. The unintended consequence of shaking up my world was that I became happy.

Once I couldn’t blame anyone and anything else for my situation, I had to work that much harder to live with my choices. I chose to wake up in a foreign country, teach, travel, meet new people, and make decisions that I had to live with. Once the reality was my own, something that I had created, I couldn’t escape it anymore, but I didn’t want to either.

As humans we all fall into the trap of letting be what already is; we are naturally disinclined to change, and appreciate the status quo, even when it doesn’t serve us, because it’s comfortable, and who likes to be uncomfortable? Comfort is safe and warm, and can wrap you up in its steadiness, but comfort doesn’t necessary equal happy, and if you’re not making moves to make sure that you’re living a happy life, then what are you doing? We believe ourselves to be stuck in situations because of obligations – financial, familial, career – but often times, if we really sit with ourselves and strip away the excuses, there’s no reason for us to continue down a path that makes us miserable. If you value money, accolades, material things, expensive trips, you will always be stuck in a cycle trying to maintain those things, sometimes even at the expense of your personal relationships, and almost always at the expense of your happiness.

For now happiness is something that I feel every day, even if only in glimpses. In my son’s smile, in the way the cat curls up into my lap and purrs, in my 10th cup of coffee (kiddingggggg) (kind of), in the way my husband relaxes when he walks through the door at night. And, while I don’t carry all the details in my mind of those long days without it, I will always remember what it felt like to yearn for something that seemed to be so abundant in the world, yet so absent in my life. So, with that, I treasure each moment of happiness I feel, no matter how small, and I seek to make choices that lead me down the path of finding more each day.

Do something today that will make happy even tomorrow, something that your future self will be proud of.

Life, Uncategorized

Thursday Thoughts

What a week. It’s Ramadan – for those of you who don’t know what that is, here’s a couple of nice pieces explaining it – so the whole country is operating on an upside down schedule, which is always a great and not-so-great thing. Great because it means that we get to spend a lot more time with friends, eating good food (and let’s not forget the sweets!), and together as a family. Not so great because it means being social every single night, cleaning up and cooking (and eating) a ton more than usual, and sleeping/waking up later than responsible grown ups should. Also, Adam considers his 10 pm sleep a nice little nap that boosts his energy for the rest of the night.

Screenshot 2017-06-15 14.55.17
Ramadan sweets – @mama.fil

Spending so much time in the kitchen and cleaning up around the house can get really dull, so I really try to use it wisely and enrich myself spiritually, you know, filling up the cup so I can give to others, blah blah blah. TED talks to the rescue. If you don’t know what TED talks are, like, what? How? Where have you been? They’re great, short(ish) lectures given by inspiring(ish) people on cool(ish) topics. I add the (ish) because, as with anything, what you get out of them really depends on where you’re at mentally and emotionally and whether or not there’s a screaming baby tugging at your shirt or trying to eat/murder/love the cat. This week’s listens have actually inspired two blog posts, so it’s been really productive(ish).

The first talk was something that really hit home with me, because I have been going back and forth about whether to start a few projects for far too long now, and it really gave me the push I needed to finalllyyyyyyy get started. In a nutshell: Tim Ferriss is prone to depressive episodes that have left him teetering on the edge of suicide too many times, and the one thing that he said scared him the most after the most recent one was how everything just came down to chance. If he hadn’t done xyz, he for sure would have gone through with his plan. So, as a business-savvy man of logic, he decided to kind of study the things that were likely to push him over the edge – which, like most of us revolve mainly around the decisions we face and the likelihood of failure –  and came up with a set of worksheets to analyze each decision not based on what his goals were, but based on the likelihood for failure, and by imagining the worst-case scenarios for each decision. So, instead of defining your goals, he asks you to define your failures and kind of work through those scenarios in your head until you’ve got a grasp on what that reality would look like.

Wow. Now, I’ve heard of such an activity before, especially while researching activities in controlling my anxiety, but this is different for a couple of reasons. First, because he actually set out a plan of how to consider these scenarios and gives you something tangible to write down, a guide to think it through. This is important because a lot of times people make abstract comments like, “change the way you think,” or, “refocus your attention on the positive outcomes,” and it’s like, if I could do that so easily, don’t you think I would have? Tim actually coaches you through it, so it makes it a little more manageable.

And that brings me to the second reason why I think this is different: because while you’re going through these worksheets – asking yourself to fully explore not only the absolute worst consequences if you take action, but also if you don’t take action – it gives you a little space to kind of feel yourself out. Through all of this, you remove the pressure of having to listen to yourself, which gives you the distance you need to hear yourself and feel out your intuition, which usually provides all the insight you need to make a choice (under normal, mentally-stable circumstances, of course, which are not always what we’re working with). Sometimes trying to listen to your gut can give you even more anxiety because you’re so close to the situation that you can’t get a real idea of what you’re feeling, or because there are so many emotions mixed up that it can be really difficult to get a straight answer from yourself.

Check it out and let me know what you think.

Also don’t forget to follow me on Instagram @mama.fil, and Snapchat @kelisep

Uncategorized

I did it for the ‘gram

Instagram is weird. You post snapshots of your life, and people like them, follow you, and have this idea of who you may be, but most likely aren’t. And we love it. Any glimpse into someone else’s life somehow becomes so much more interesting than ours, even if it’s pretty much the same thing. People have made their entire careers from being Instagram famous, and some don’t even venture outside of that; they’re just “social media influencers” because they get a lot of likes and I find myself asking often, “but, like, what do they do for a living?”

That being said, I love Instagram, and it’s obviously a huge component of my blog because, well, people like to look at cool shit, so I try to take pictures of cool shit. But there are a few things that really bother me about the world of social media, and the main one is how easy it is to pretend to be genuine. Look, you’re not gonna see any pictures of my messy house or the cake I burnt the crap out of because I don’t want you to. But I won’t shy away from discussing the anxiety that rears its ugly head quite often, the hard parts of motherhood and marriage, and the typical mundane days I have living 7,000 miles away from my family. And I get that people buy into the social media influencers’ lives because we wish our lives were that perfect, but the fact is that nobody’s life is that perfect.

I have a lot of respect for the bloggers who create content based on what their fans want, and who are so incredibly real and down to earth. I think there is enough pressure on women to be perfect without adding the unrealistic expectations of comparing ourselves to the people we look up to. Remember, comparison is the thief of joy, and the world needs all the joy it can get right now.

I don’t have a lot of respect for the people on Instagram who hire companies to post on their behalf (come on, one misplaced heart emoji can make you look really dumb), or the ones who sign up with apps to follow then unfollow accounts that will likely get them more followers. The whole point – the real point – of Instagram is engagement, to connect with people. Why would someone want to cheapen the little bit of social interaction we have left by automating it?

Anyway, that’s just my two cents. I’d love your feedback if there’s something I’m missing!

baby-proofing, Life, teething, Uncategorized

No sharp edges or pretty things

When A was born, I was so scared to hold him. Newborns are really floppy, and I was always scared that I would bend him the wrong way and he would just snap in half and, well… they were never good thoughts. I loved how tiny and cute he was, but also kind of wished he’d grow up a bit. Then when he did, I couldn’t wait for him to be able to roll over. Then sit up on his own. Then crawl. And now, we’re in the he-can-walk-holding-things-but-not-quite-by-himself stage. And now I can’t wait to have a house NOT decorated by brightly-colored alphabet mats and floors slick with drool.

You know that really classy, chic coffee table you found while vacationing in Morocco that you just HAD to have, no matter how much of a small fortune it cost to ship home? The one with all the abstract and cool sharp edges that jut out this way and that? Ya, that’s gotta go. Along with any low-hanging shelves, decor within 2 feet of the ground, those Bath and Body plug-ins that make your house smell less like dust and milk, all of it. Gone. Stuffed away into the closet (which also, by the way, needs to be dealt with because baby can reach all those dresses that you never wear anymore because they don’t have quick boob-access, which is pretty much what determines your outfits these days). Bye, bye.

Not to make it sound so negative, because I’m sure there is a lot to look forward to once baby starts crawling, then walking, then I can never sit down again because he doesn’t even sit still now and he can’t really move that much so what will it be like once he can move BY HIMSELF. Where was I? Right, baby-proofing. So ya, that’s where we are. Packing up anything cool and hip and trading it in for soft, squishy, and drool-proof.

What about you, mamas? Was it hard to transition your house to be baby-friendly or did you find it totally easy?

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.