Loss of an unknown loved one…

October is Pregnancy & Infant Loss Awareness Month. Anyone who has lost a pregnancy or infant knows how incredibly hard it is. My first pregnancy was lost at the 12 week mark. Please know that no matter how early you lose your baby, whether they’re 6 weeks old or 60 years old, the loss is heartbreaking. I’m sharing my story so other women who are experiencing or have experienced this kind of loss know they are not alone (as I thought I was).

We started trying for a baby in the fall of 2015. And we very quickly became pregnant. My husband and I were so excited. Unknown Baby 2We already started talking about baby names. What if it’s a boy – what if it’s a girl. We talked about what we were most excited about. My husband wanted another girl – “Little girls are cute” he’d say. I wanted a boy, “Boys are so much easier as they get older,” I would say back.

I was 33 years old. I was overweight and had high blood pressure, so our doctor recommended we visit more often (about every 2-4 weeks). We wanted to be able to surprise our parents with the sex of the baby for Christmas. The doctor said they probably won’t know for sure by then through an ultrasound and recommended a genetic test that uses my blood. We asked about costs, she explained how the process worked and we signed up! They took my blood that visit and we scheduled my next visit for the 12 week ultrasound and more blood tests.

All was great, the pregnancy was going well. I wasn’t having very much morning sickness. I could feel my tummy starting to bulge, just a little. Mainly my jeans weren’t fitting as well as they used to, kind of like being permanently bloated. I had let my students know I was pregnant at this point and had showed them the picture my husband had posted on Facebook. They thought it was funny and cute. They were all so excited for me.

We had decided a boy name. It was easy with our family names. But we hadn’t landed on a girl name yet. We narrowed it down to three names, but we just weren’t sure yet. We hadn’t done a lot of shopping yet, just started planning.

As the 12 week mark got closer and closer, I was surprised I hadn’t heard anything back about the DNA screening. The screening checks for abnormal genetic factors, like different trisomies and can also determine the sex of the baby genetically. It’s crazy how mom’s blood and baby’s blood is shared. That as a mother carrying an unborn baby, a little bit of their blood is literally running in your veins. It just blows my mind! I was expecting to hear the Friday before my appointment the following Monday at the latest, but nothing.

When I got in to the doctors office, I was brought back for the 12 week ultrasound. I was sitting there watching her take pictures of my little one on the screen, but something was wrong with the tech. She seemed very quiet. At the end of the screening, I asked her if everything was okay, and she replied, “You’ll need to speak with Dr. [name] about the ultrasound.” She took me immediately to a room.

I tried to stay upbeat about it. I was naive. I had some papers I was trying to grade before going in to teach, so I just pulled out the answer key and started grading while waiting for the doc. I got through about 1 paper and the doctor came in. This is when I knew something was off. I loved my OB/GYN, but her office was never this quick about anything. Typically, you’d get an ultrasound, wait about another 15-20 mins before you even went back to an exam room. They’d usually weigh you, have you disrobe some portion of your clothes and do general well-checks like blood pressure. This didn’t happen. Then even with all that, the doctor would still take another 10 mins or so to get to your door. She has a lot of patients and we all have questions. She was very great about taking the time to answer every one, no matter how silly they seemed.

She came in, sat the file down on the table and just looked me straight in the eye. She said, “Rachel, we can’t find any heartbeat. Your baby has passed away.” It took me about 5 seconds for that to register. I just stared at her for what seemed like an hour. I could just feel it happening in slow motion: my heart… shattering. I started balling in the next second. That gut wrenching balling where you just curl up on the floor and hope the pain will end but it doesn’t. I asked her if I could call my husband (he was already at work). She said of course.

I dialed his number. He answered on the second ring. “Hey honey, you already done at the doctor?” Was the first thing he said when he picked up. I couldn’t even say the first word without sobbing again. Finally, I said, “I lost the baby, it’s gone. I have to go home now and I don’t want to be alone. Can you please come home?” I don’t know why I specifically asked him to come home. Of course he would, he lost a baby too! But for some reason, I just thought if I didn’t ask him, he may not come home. I was not myself at this point.

I had to make one more call. I had to pull myself together to call my sister-in-law (my husband’s sister) and boss to tell her I couldn’t make it in today and she’d need to find a sub for me. I got through about one sentence before I started crying again. The teacher in me actually felt guilty for calling in. But I knew there was absolutely no way I could keep it together that day.

After that, the sobbing lessened. I was still crying uncontrollably, but I could at least ask some questions and hear my doctor talking to me. She had told me the test did come in Friday, as we thought, but the results came back that the baby was positive for Down Syndrome (Trisomy 21). She also asked me if I wanted to know the sex of the baby – I automatically said yes. It was a girl. A precious little girl! That, of course, brought on a whole new wave of tears.

The doctor reassured me that there was nothing did to cause this. She explained that it is a lot more common than we realize. She shared her personal experience with it as well. This is how I knew she’d be my OB/GYN for all my babies. She was willing to be a little personal with her patients. She shared some more important pieces of information about the rest of the process (I’ll spare you the details on that).

On Saturday, December 12th, our little baby girl left us forever. She had passed away a few weeks prior to this, but this is when she was truly gone. The process was physically difficult, but even more emotionally draining. I ended up going to the ER, since it was a weekend.

By this point, we had let people know we lost the baby. I couldn’t believe how many women then told me their stories. Before this, I had only known one person in my life who had a miscarriage. But now, there was this whole community of women. This is not a topic that we can easily talk about. Just writing this, I’ve gone through a half a box of facial tissues. So when I ended up in the ER, I called one of those women for support. She was the absolute best thing for me at that point in my life (she had three miscarriages in all). She talked me through the process, told me what I could possibly expect and that I basically needed to prepare myself emotionally for the next few days.  She was right!

So, why do I write this? Why do I share my sad experience on a blog, no less? Because there is a woman out there right now experiencing what I experienced. Whether she just had her doctor’s visit where they gave her the devastating news or is in the ER. Women need to share their stories more. It’s not just that we’re “struggling with infertility”, but many times it is so much more emotionally. It’s not just a “miscarriage”, but a life of “what ifs” lost too soon.

I will always wonder if I would have been a good mom for her. She would have had Down Syndrome, but I feel as though I would have been such a loving mom. I feel as though she would have taught me so much about how to love. My faith allows me to step out of the grief knowing I will see her in her perfect glory again. I’m thankful for that. It helps me reconcile my feelings. It helps me move forward and not dwell on the “what ifs”.

Friends and family also help. Do not push them away because you feel as though you are a burden or just don’t want people around. You need them and honestly, they need you. My mother and brother’s wife had never experienced miscarriage. I remember telling my mom and how heartbroken she sounded. However, she said to me, “Honey, I’ve never experienced this, so I don’t know what to do to help. What do you need from me?” She was honest with me, but still wanted to be there for me.

I am a mom of three, one is just not with me. I was blessed with two more children after this sad day. They are some of my purest joys and I am so grateful for them. They would not exist without having this sad event come first. Though that gives me little comfort, I do appreciate the two little individuals I have. The pain lessens over time, but it is always there. You will and can get through it even though your world feels like dark, bleak nothingness.

Leaving my career to stay at home

When a lot of people hear that I am a stay-at-home-mom (SAHM), they usually respond with, “Oh, you’re so lucky you can be at home with your kids,” or “What a blessing that must be.” And they are right. We are blessed that I can stay home with my kids. But that blessing does not come without sacrifice. Not just the obvious monetary sacrifice, but there is so much more that we as moms and dads sacrifice to be home with our kids.

When your kids are little, one has to work hard to keep adult relationships. In many cases, the friends you once had before kids slowly fade away. A small core group may stay, but most do not. There are so many memes out there about it. I believe it has a lot more to do with the new parents than the old friends. As new parents, you’re overwhelmed: sleep schedules, feeding schedules, your lack of sleep, and ultimately your lack of time. My husband was blessed to work at a company that gave him ample time off for paternity leave. However, even with his time off, it was hard for us to get out with friends. We both worked after my first, so weekdays were typically out of the picture. Weekends were filled with soccer games and church.sub-buzz-24195-1535483888-7

This meant for me that my adult relationships became my coworker relationships. That at least provided me with adult conversation throughout the day. Then with having my second, we decided it was best for me to stay home. I was only working part time already and my full time income would not come close to my husband’s. It was the logical choice. Before we even knew the medical complications my son would have, I made the decision and told my boss. I cried, blubbered and stammered my way through my conversation with her. I was more visibly upset about leaving than she was, but she was still sad to see me go.

The end of the school year came and my time teaching came to an end as well. It was very sad for me, but it didn’t hit me so hard at this point. When the next school year started up and our teen was going in to the eighth grade at the same school, that is when it hit me: I love teaching. It is my passion! It was so hard to see her go off to school and not be going with her.

I immediately started up a tutoring page, and offered my services to tutor. Of course, no one reached out over the summer or early in the school year, but as school started to wind up, I was able to attain some clients. Some of these students were at the school where I taught. Tutoring these kids bubbled up feelings of nostalgia and wishing I could still be there. math20tutorI would remind myself that I’m doing this for our kids. I would remind myself that even before we truly knew my son’s medical needs, we knew this was the best choice for our family. We now have weekly visits with some doctor, therapist, etc., so there’s just no way I could work without taking a lot of time off. I would remind myself…

It was hard to give up my career. As with anything in life, change is not easy. This change was especially challenging, because I was heading into the unknown. I have switched careers a few times in my life. I started at 19 years old as a data entry clerk at a third party drug test reporting (MRO) company. I worked there for almost 5 years. Started substitute teaching at the high school I graduated from so I could finish college and get my teaching degree. Moved to Arizona (with a small detour), and taught for 2 years. It was miserable! Left teaching to go to private sector again where I worked as a project manager. Finally, my sister in law called me out of the blue and asked if I wanted to teach at the school where she worked. I wasn’t 100% on board right away, but after talking to my husband, we jumped back in. I LOVED IT.Excited Teaching Post

This love didn’t change 5 years in to teaching. I was so happy to be back in the classroom. So as this new change approached, I met it with trepidation. It has not been an easy transition for me. I’m growing and learning every day and hopefully becoming a better person because of this new phase of life. The “bad” feelings still pop up from time to time, but I do my best to remind myself of the good things too. Most importantly, my kids. They’re really great kids. I see how they interact with other kids their age, and I’m truly proud of how loving and open they are to others.

Also, I know that although this is the season we’re in now, it’s not permanent. I will be able to go back to teaching when my kids are a bit older and in school themselves. I may even go back to the same school. That’s my hope at least. Thankfully, this day and age, teachers are in demand. STEM teachers are in even a higher demand than others. With my degree (Math education) cover that M really well.

I know that in this stage of life, I made the right decision for our family. Every family is different and has different needs. We, as a family, have sacrificed for me to stay home with our kids. We know there will be other sacrifices along the way. Choosing what I know is the best decision for my family has made this choice something to live for. It’s not easier, and by no means easy, but I see the good as a result every day with my kids.

The somber emotions that come from good choices

Being a mother is learning about strengths you didn’t know you had, and dealing with fears you didn’t know existed. ~Linda Wooten

Have you ever made a decision about a major life altering event that you had doubts about? Not necessarily that it was the wrong decision, but along the lines that you were not in the right place for this to be happening? This has happened a few times in my life. Some were major bloopers that I should have put more thought in to (thanks California). Or moving out of your parent’s home because of an argument with your mother. Some may not be so major, like choosing to not have my “low tire pressure” checked until I had a bulge that popped at work! Or traveling to work in a snow storm – white knuckle driving – only to find out they closed for the day (before cell phones were a commonplace item)!

Sometimes, you make what you think are great choices in life and still have those moments when you almost wish you hadn’t made that choice. Staying at home was a choice I made for the benefit of our family. It was a sacrificial choice. I had logically built up the case that this is where I needed to be. I knew from my faith that this is where I was meant to be. I would tell myself this over and over.

Unfortunately, it was not working. Staying at home allowed for my kids to stay with me. Staying at home allowed for my husband to work and not worry about who was going to take a kid to the appointment. Staying at home allowed for us to keep a house maintained (for the most part) and a home-made dinner at least 3-4 nights a week. There were many benefits. But still gnawing at the back of my skull was this little desire. This desire was to be doing what I love, my passion: Teaching.

This desire turned in to resentment. I couldn’t get past it. The logical side of me kept telling myself I was crazy to resent this. I chose this. I did. josh-sundquist-fighting-emotion-with-logic-is-like-bringing-quote-on-storemypic-a6fcbMy husband supported my decision, but ultimately, I needed to choose to work or stay at home. I chose to stay at home. The logical side of me would say that I need to be here, my family needs me to be home. The logical side reminded me that this was my purpose right now and it was temporary, I should enjoy this time with my kids. Soon they would be in school and I could go back to teaching, but for now, this was where I needed to be. But every time one of those logical thoughts came to mind, the resentment came right behind it.

I started asking my husband to take more time off work. I asked him to work from home if he could. I started putting my insecurity about being at home with little kids on him. I forced him to carry my burden. The worst part is that I didn’t even realize I was doing it. So when he’d say he couldn’t take time off or work from home, I would get upset with him. I couldn’t understand why he wouldn’t want to help me. Of course he wanted to help me, but he also had to work. He has meetings, deadlines, etc. that he has to be at work for. I was making it harder on him. My insecurity was putting a wedge in our relationship.

After a while, and a couple of fights, I realized I was doing this to him. I was putting him in a lose-lose position. He takes time off for me, then he has a massive amount of work when he gets back. He doesn’t take off time, then I give him a hard time about not caring about my needs.

It goes back to my resentment. I resented that he could go to work and get to talk to adults, while I was stuck home with little mini-me’s discussing things like Paw Patrol, pooping on the potty, not eating lunch because it’s icky, and so on. I resented when he came home to discuss his day with me (his way to vent). I missed that part of my life.

Even though I had made the choice to stay at home, I realized that I never had accepted what that meant. I did it for the logical side of my brain that said I need to be home with my babies. I was happy to see them grow and mature. I was grateful that I could be the one to foster their early education. I never accepted the darker emotional side of that choice: the guilt, the loneliness, feeling like a constant failure, and the frustrations.

The Guilt: I had a lot of guilt leaving my school. I taught at a small private school, so I knew the students, even if I never had them in class. This meant that students who were looking forward to having me, and me them, would never get to have that experience. They would never get to see my crazy antics in class. They would never get to see my excitement over the most mundane things – I get quite giddy when talking about anything math related! I would never get to see their “light-bulb” moments. I would never see their struggle and surmounting that struggle. I would never get to see the pride on their face when they realized they understood something the previously struggled to understand. I had to deal with the fact that I was losing this part of my life, even if it was temporary. It took me a long time to accept this truth.

The Loneliness: I think this is the one I was logically ready for in my mind. I knew that I would not get that adult human interaction that I once had. I knew that I would have to work hard to maintain any kind of personal relationship with anyone. Because let’s face it, having 2 little kids with all sorts of schedules and appointments means life becomes about them. But then it really hit me about 6 months in. I was truly lonely. Lonely MomI love my husband, but I needed more interaction than just him. Thankfully, about the same time, I started going to a local bible study my mother-in-law signed me up for early in the summer. I still struggled to open up, but it has helped getting out of the house and having real conversations with other women. It’s also not something I can easily flake on because there is accountability: they have day care and the women genuinely care if I’m not there and didn’t give a reason.

The Failures: This one is hard for me. I’m a perfectionist. I like things being a certain way. I have in my mind how I want to raise my kids, then I get out of bed and it all goes to hell. I want to talk gently with my children, have structured play time where we explore our world, teach my daughter to read letters and numbers, and many other items. That usually ends within the first 30 minutes of the kids being up. Part of it is that I’m tired, still waking up, but it’s mostly that I pick what’s easy. It’s easier for me to have the kids watch a little TV while I make their breakfast than to keep the TV off and interact with them while trying to make it. I could pack them in the car at 8 am and take them to a park to play and explore, but instead I open the back door and let them play on our back porch. I could research different structured play activities for them (mainly my older one) and have her do these while my son takes his morning nap, but I’m already tired and need a break myself, so I give her a coloring book and let her have at it!

Because I am not living up to my expectations of what I should be as a mother, I see myself as a failure. I see posts from my friends on social media doing all these fun things with their kids and think, “I can’t even measure up to these moms.” Though I love social media, I have had to really work at not comparing myself to anyone on there.

I have come to accept that this is our life. I may not have the perfect structured day, but the kids are dressed, fed and generally happy. They enjoy doing things with me, but they also enjoy doing things on their own. I do my best to have things we do out of the house, but most days we just stay in and enjoy doing stuff together.

The Frustrations: Kids are frustrating. Raising a little human that says, “Mommy” over and over again gets very frustrating. They have minds of their own and like to exercise that little mind. They are very oblivious to anything around them. They are honestly selfish. I like saying “honestly selfish” because they are very vocal about their selfishness. We as adults have learned social cues and ways to hide our selfishness, but they aren’t there yet. It’s frustrating when I’m trying to make lunch and my son just screams and cries because I’m in the kitchen and he’s blocked from going in. It’s frustrating when my daughter takes the bin of toys I just cleaned up and dumps them out all over the floor to find the one toy she wanted.istock-108269746_0

When I get frustrated, I usually start yelling. I hate that about myself, but it’s so involuntary. I’m still learning how to not yell, but there are times my nerve just got punched. Then I get frustrated with myself for yelling at the kids. Sometimes a louder, more stern tone is required because they’re getting into something that could hurt them. But there are other times I yell just because one of them frustrated me. It’s an area that I work on daily. Some days are better than others.

I’ve come to a better awareness of these things about myself, which has helped many aspects of my life. My husband and I talk more. He’s aware that I need (not want) that interaction daily, so he sets aside time for us to just talk. I’ve made strides to get connected to friends and families so I can have a human connection outside of my little ones. I get outside, even if it’s just our backyard, daily. This helps tremendously. I forgive myself when I don’t meet my expectations. I also ask for forgiveness from my children when I’ve let my frustrations out on them – this one is big for me.

This is a process. It won’t happen overnight and I doubt I’ll ever be truly good at it. I will be always changing, learning and growing. Recognizing these emotions when they arise is key. Then by acknowledging why I feel this way and accepting my circumstances in the midst of these emotions allows me to deal with my thoughts in a calm way. I will continue loving my kids as I know best. I will let them play, get in to messes, watch TV, fight with each other, and all other sorts of kid things. I will let them grow knowing their mommy loves them so much and wants to be the best she can be for them.

 

Listening to the baby monitor for signs of life

When you have babies, there’s so many essential items you need as a parent. One of these incredibly important items is a baby monitor. With our first, we didn’t have a baby monitor right away, because she slept in our room and we were typically close by. That all changed during a family event a couple months after she was born. We were all downstairs, talking, lots of noise, and we couldn’t hear her crying. She could have only been crying for a few minutes, but also for much longer. I had a lot of guilt!

20190519_111621So, what’s a mom to do? Well, I went out and bought 3 different sound monitors. Maybe a bit overboard, but I didn’t care. I wanted to be able to know the second my baby was unhappy. I did end up returning one, but I kept the other two. I used a monitor called Summer Infant Babble Band. I loved that you could wear it like a watch and still hear everything going on. It also had a feature that only turned the sound on when there was noise in the room. It stayed charged for the time I needed it to. And overall it was a decent monitor. We use sound machines (ocean sounds) with our kids to help them sleep. Sound monitors pick up every bit of those sound machines, so even though it was only supposed to kick on if it heard sounds from the baby, it would pretty much be on all the time because of the sound machine.

We also got a VTech Baby Monitor as a back-up, in case the batteries on the band went down. This became my go-to for my son. It’s super simple, can be really quiet or loud, and has a battery option for the parent piece. We still currently use this at night for him. He’s good at sleeping through the night, but he usually wakes up pretty early, so it works like an alarm for me.

As our girl got bigger, we decided to get a camera for her room. We wanted something that could be viewed from a phone or device and could view in the dark as well as with light. We landed on a Netvue Orb Cam. Netvue is a foreign company (Chinese I believe); however, their cameras were relatively inexpensive and had all the functions I wanted. It also has a speaker and through the app you can speak directly in to the camera. My daughter loves this! 51fqbzdz3vl._ac_It also has storage and streaming capabilities, if needed. It was also one of the few cameras that could communicate with our Amazon Echo Show (1st Gen).

It was all-around great and we love it’s functionality. There are probably some better items on the market now, but at the time it was just what we needed.

Our kids usually go to bed 2-3 hours before my husband and I. When we’re just getting ready to go to sleep, I always turn the sound monitor up for a few minutes. I just listen, mainly to the hum of the ocean waves though a garbled sounding monitor, but there’s something calming in that moment. Listening to hear a baby stir, listening for a little fuss or cry, hoping only to continue to hear the soft ocean waves. It’s like they’re telling me, “It’s okay to fall asleep. All is well in the world and your baby is dreaming happy dreams.”

Camera - BouncerNow with the cameras (yes, we got a second camera for my son’s room), it’s even more addictive to watch them before I go to bed. I will usually watch my daughter first. I’ll look to see if her eyes are open, if her hand or feet twitch or if she’s just rolled over. I watch for those little signs that tell me if she’s sleeping or not. 95% of the time, she’s sleeping.

I will then switch over to my son’s monitor and repeat the process. Watching a little bit longer since he’s in a crib and it’s hard to see between the bars. Sometimes he’s awake, just laying there quiet and drifting back off to sleep. Other times he’s out. He goes down easy, but has a tendency to wake up more often than his sister ever did.

I watch until I can tell I’m ready to sleep. It’s like my “binky”. Many times now I have tried to sleep without checking, but my mind races. I need to just see. I want to watch, even for just a little bit. Once I’ve taken a look, I can ease off in to sleep.

Camera - CribIsn’t that crazy!? I used to be able to sleep without a care in the world. Just lay down, run through the day’s events in my head and off I go into another world of relaxation. Now, I can’t sleep. I lie there and obsess over my kids. What if they’re crying and I can’t hear them? What if they’re awake and just need me to comfort them? What if…

I would have to look. Even if I just looked for a second, it was like my sleepy drugs. It relaxed my “what ifs” and allowed me to go to sleep more quickly. Everyone has a night-time routine, mine just involves spying in on my babes while they sleep. I wouldn’t have it any other way.

10 Pumping Tips from an Exclusively Pumping Mom

As an exclusively pumping mom for 2 kiddos, I learned a lot in my 2 years of pumping. Yes, 2 years (not consecutive) of pumping. Below are just some tips and tricks I’ve learned from other blogging pumpers, like myself, and from my own personal experience.

I’m so thankful I could pump. I personally knew a few mamas that were not so lucky in their journey and couldn’t produce milk when pumping. Everyone’s body responds differently to the process. Some, like mine, respond tremendously well. I was blessed to be able to pump not only for my little ones, but for another baby each time as well. I was happy to bless that mother with my extra milk supply so she could feed her babies human breast milk. Whether you can produce milk or cannot, look up Human Milk for Human Babies on Facebook. See if they have a chapter in your area.  This is a way to give and receive donated milk from other mothers. It’s purely donation based, women are not allowed to charge for their milk. If you want something a little more vetted, you can look for local milk banks.

dairy-cow-milking-agrilandPumping is hard work. You feel like a cow in a dairy farm. People think you just sit there, maybe watch some TV, scroll through some social media, and let your breasts do what they were made to do. Us pumpers know it’s not that easy. You have to prep your mind and your breasts. I usually would video my kids and then replay those videos in the few minutes before I started pumping. I would also use warm washcloths on my breasts to help increase milkflow and loosen any possible clogs.

Pumping is not for those that want sleep. You pump when the baby eats. Sometimes you pump while the baby drinks from a bottle you’re feeding it. This is if you’re lucky. Most times, baby eats, then you pump or vise versa.

Next, if you’re an over-producer like me, you can’t walk around with a battery operated pump, because your bottles weigh so much from the milk they lose suction (even with the pumping bra). The equipment sticks out a good 3 inches beyond your breasts, so it’s not easy to do anything directly in front of you anyway. There’s tubes that dangle everywhere and get caught on every knob known to man.

Last, you have to make sure you’re working your breast, massaging it, keeping it warm, and adjusting your pump speeds/suction as needed. You DO NOT want a clogged duct. That can lead to mastitis. As someone who had mastitis 3 times in 5 months, you DO NOT want it!

So, are you ready for this pumping journey?

  1. Utilize your insurance and invest in quality pumping equipment.  Do your research in to what you’re looking for in a pump. There are so many options these days. There are the standard pumps, like Medela, Spectra, and Ameda. Then there are newer pumps that actually sit on the breast, inside a nursing bra, while pumping like Willow, Freemie, and Elvie. It really depends on your need.
    • Here’s my experience. I like Ameda and Medela the best for full-time pumpers. Their motor lasts and they have good suction. I was also a large producer, so Medela has 8 oz bottles I could hook up to either the Ameda or Medela pumping equipment. Pumps like the Willow pump are great for working moms because you can “hide” your pump under your bra. DO NOT believe it when they say they’re silent. They’re not completely silent. So avoid meetings during a pump-time if possible. They are restrictive in the amount you can pump. So if you’re a heavy producer, this may not be the best choice for you – sadly you won’t know that early on. Also, if you have larger breasts (mine were a 40 I when I was pumping), this is also not an ideal choice as it doesn’t do a great job covering all the parts well.
    • Your place of work must provide you with a quiet, isolated place to pump. Each state is slightly different, so be sure to look up your state’s specific laws on pumping privacy.il_794xn.1452736609_64zpThis place cannot be a closet or a bathroom. It must be a completely separate room that provides you with privacy. The nursing bra pumps are much easier to use all around because you’re not dealing with hoses and wires and a lot of moving parts. Great for an on-the-go mom!
    • Whether you pump at home, in the car (see below) or at work, do not feel guilty about pumping! I think this is mostly true of working moms. They want to be sure they’re giving their employer their all, but when they take a 30 min break to pump every few hours, it can make them feel as though they’re taking advantage. Don’t worry! This is a temporary thing, and most employees don’t even notice the absence. They eventually get used to it and know the schedule.
  2. Get a second hand-held pump or another electric pump for emergencies.
    • This one is a biggy. I would keep a pump in my car for those just-in-case scenarios. There was one time I really, really needed it and was thankful I had one. There was an accident on the freeway and no way for me to get off. I was truly stuck! I was still able to pump to relieve the immediate pain and pressure while waiting for the accident to clear.
    • It can also work if you forgot your pump on your way to work.
    • I rented a hospital grade pump for my home, but used my insurance provided pump at work. I only had to bring fresh bottles each day.
  3. Buy extra equipment.
    • Many of these pumps have so many parts that can break, it is a good idea to buy an extra set of everything!
    • In most pumps, the flanges (the trumpet piece) won’t break, but may be the wrong size. Be sure to follow sizing instructions with these pieces, otherwise you can do some damage to your nipples and your flow could be inhibited.
    • The breastpump_valvesvalves are the most likely piece to go first (these are the duckbill looking pieces). They get soft right at the small opening. Try to avoid washing these too harshly as this will increase their possibility of tearing or weakening. I would keep 8 total and rotate them throughout the day. This allowed me to only have to wash them once a day once I was down to 4 pumps a day.
    • Extra equipment means that you can also leave certain pieces at work, like the tubes and diaphragms. This offers you less items to pack and also less items to forget.
    • Buy extra bottles too! For the same reasons listed above. Most bottles will work on another brand’s equipment. If you’re not sure, just look at other’s posts.
  4. Use a hands-free pumping bra.
    • This is such a huge life-saver! This allows you to do so much, but also just gives you your hands back to do something other than hold pumping equipment to your boobs.
    • There are so many options, but I found I like the Simple Wishes bra best because it suited my size well and had an adjustable Velcro back. Again, I had 2 of these also!
  5. Get a car adapter.
    • This goes to my above story about needing to pump in traffic. If you have a long commute, you could easily get your pumping done while in the car. If you’re a bit squeamish about the idea of pumping while driving, that’s understandable. Use a nursing cover or nursing top to help cover up.
    • This is also great for road trips and camping trips. No need to stop to pump, just pump along the way.
  6. Pump straight into storage bags.
    • This is a life changer! A life changer people! This idea was fantastic and one of the biggest reasons I chose my Ameda through insurance. It came with bag adapter piece and bags with the pump. I also loved that the Ameda Store’N Pour bags had a little pour spout for their milk, so less was spilled when pouring into a bottle!storen-pour-with-2-adapters-1000x1000
    • If you know the milk you are currently pumping will be getting stored anyway, why waste the time of pumping in to a bottle that you will then pour in to a bag and then have to wash the bottle?
  7. Refrigerate your equipment after a pump.
    • Wait, what?! Yes, refrigerate your equipment. This way you do not have to wash your equipment every time you pump. Any small drops of milk left is refrigerated and won’t go sour.
    • I would rinse my equipment, then seal it up in a 2-gallon bag and put it in the fridge. I only washed my equipment with soap and scrubbing brushes once a day.
  8. Take care of your nipples!
    • Pumping is rough on your nipples. It’s not like a little one’s mouth. Your nipples are being pulled and released and pulled and released in plastic vacuum. Ouch! Still, it shouldn’t hurt and if it does, this can affect your ability to produce milk.
    • I used simple coconut oil on my nipples prior to pumping. It would provide a more lubricated conduit for the pumping.
    • If I started to notice little tears in my nipple (yes this does happen), I would immediately ice and put nipple cream on right then and there. I would reapply multiple times a day. I would also use a more gentle speed/suction at my next pump.
  9. Create a pumping station
    • Make sure you have a place in your house you can use as a pumping station.
    • Mine was in our living room on the couch, because it’s comfortable! We set-up a table next to the couch and I kept all of my pumping equipment there.
  10. Set a schedule and be willing to modify it!
    • This one is kind of big. In the beginning (the first three months or so), you will be so out of it from lack of sleep, you may forget to pump! If you’re mixed BF and pumping, this may not be a big deal; however if you’re an EP mama, this is a huge problem.
    • Set a schedule. I put one on my phone to go off every 3 hrs for the first month, then tapered off from there. Which leads me to the second part – modify as your supply demands.
    • I was so so blessed ladies! I know I was. I had the supply of a hormone infused cow. However, if I missed a pump, my next pump was typically affected, negatively! It can happen that quick, so make sure you stick to a schedule until you think you can modify it and adjust pumping.
    • Below is a general pumping schedule, but it’s pretty accurate to how I pumped with my first. My second, I broke a lot of rules that I don’t recommend until you’re comfortable with your milk production. The schedule is not for the faint of heart, because they don’t mention FEEDING a baby on top of this.1d7529a57118f0afd435c7ee02022837
    • You will usually get your best production in the morning, so don’t waste or skip that time.
    • Also, pump until you feel empty. For most women, this is about 20-30 mins. For others it can be shorter or longer. You will be told a lot of things, but I have found that if I pumped until I felt empty, my supply was always great.
    • Do not over pump. This does not have the effect you think it will by producing more. It actually causes your production to decrease and can do some serious damage to your nipples.

So why do all this? There are a lot of people (including doctors) who would discourage you from doing this. A lot would say, “Just go to formula, it’s just as healthy.” Although the idea is true, there’s something about being able to provide my little one with my milk. Also, this is another fact to throw out there. Formula is anywhere between $20-30 per tub. When your kid gets up to consuming 24-32 oz of formula PER DAY, that’s 2 tubs per week. That’s anywhere from $160-240 per month in formula. Pumping, though laborious, provides FREE milk. This was the biggest reason for me pumping. We didn’t want to spend the ridiculous amount of money on formula (our kids required soy formula, since they’re allergic to cow’s milk).

This is a task before you. It is one that you have to decide is right for your and your family. You are not wrong to go to formula. You’re not wrong to breastfeed and pump. You’re not wrong to exclusively pump. You need to keep your sanity so you can be a good mama to your little one. For some, sleep is a major part of your sanity. For others, costs are a major part of that sanity. It truly depends on you and your child’s needs. Do not listen to the naysayers who would discourage you from your intentions. Do your research, make yourself aware of all the pros and cons, and do what you know is best.

I wish you good luck on this journey.Cry Breastmilk Meme

To breastfeed or not to breastfeed? That is a question?

Ok… this one is personal for me. Breastfeeding. I absolutely love the idea of breastfeeding. The actual actions and process is a whole other story. Because of many different issues, I was never able to breastfeed either of my children. It’s one thing I’m still sad about. But why?

DISCLAIMER: There are many ways to feed your baby – I completely support all types of feeding! Some are due to medical issues, some are because of personal choice. I am just sharing my personal story. You do you, mama! Your baby is fed, well cared for and growing, so you are doing it right! The type of food that goes in them doesn’t have to come directly from your body and doesn’t necessarily go in to their mouths. I have always supported women’s rights to take care of their child how they see best. So please do not take this as me disavowing anything other than breastfeeding. It is far from it. This is just my personal story and hopes with my children.

So, why did I get sad when I couldn’t breastfeed my children…. Disappointment. In the hospital with my first, the pediatrician made it very clear his stance on breastfeeding to me. We had to formula feed her in the hospital because my supply was being stubborn and she was crying incessantly. He was so adamant that I do not continue bottle feeding my girl or I would never be able to breastfeed. This stuck with me. And in my vulnerable state, it really made me feel like a failure. I remember the second he left just sobbing, full on sobbing because I was failing my child already. Thankfully we had great nurses and they comforted me and let me know I was doing everything right.

My babes both had tongue ties and lip ties. My first wasn’t diagnosed until 6 weeks. It was corrected at 10 weeks and by then she loved her bottle. We tried for four months to breastfeed. By the end of our attempts she had such a strong nipple aversion that anytime she even got close she screamed! I was devastated! I was already suffering from postpartum depression and this just sent me in to a downward spiral of self-loathing and self-hatred. I would regularly think: How could I screw this up? It’s supposed to be completely natural. How am I such a failure at something that’s supposed to be easy? And the even more unreasonable… Why does my baby hate me? She won’t even come near me without screaming.

It was hard! I had started pumping early on and had a decent supply by this point. I decided to pump from then on out. There were early mornings I would be pumping alone in the dark and just crying. Just crying at the connection I was missing out on with my little girl. Eventually, with some time and support from my husband, I was able to accept our circumstances. I wasn’t going to be able to breastfeed her, but I was at least providing her with my breastmilk.

20180916_074331Pumping is hard! I typically had to pump longer since I wasn’t breastfeeding. I would usually pump for about 30 mins. As I wanted more sleep, I cut back how many times I pumped in a day and increased my time to 45 mins per pump. The “let-down” wouldn’t happen until about the 10 min mark (sometimes later) and because of my infrequent pumps, I had to make sure it was all out to avoid blockages. It was an involved process. Don’t think that women who pump just sit there. If this is their only form of extraction, it was a lot of mental preparation, physical massage and warmth. We couldn’t just lay back, because the liquid would be working against gravity to get in the bottles, so we have to lean forward – not comfortable.

The bonus to pumping, especially when I was able to sleep 8 hours between pumps, is that my husband could do night feeds while I slept! Or he could feed her during the day, or whenever I was too tired, or just needed some me-time. It was good for him too. He was able to connect with her while feeding her. I pumped for 11 months and with my oversupply, she was fed breastmilk exclusively for one year. After that she had formula, but was mainly eating solids and other drinks.

Cry Breastmilk Meme

Then my son came. I thought, this is it! This is my chance to finally breastfeed. He latched ok, but after the first feed, he would start unlatching within a minute of latching on. He would not stay on for longer. Noticing this, and with my previous experience, I brought my pump with me to the hospital and started pumping. I still tried to breastfeed him, worked with the specialist at the hospital, and just couldn’t do anything. He lost a lot of weight for a newborn. The pediatrician almost didn’t let us leave the hospital, but since he knew we were going to our provider the next day, he let us go. He had a much more prominent tongue tie and with his major weight loss, we got him in for a revision right away. It didn’t seem to help his latching on and off. We saw a few IBCLCs and they noted that he wasn’t sucking as hard as he should.

20181002_142832If you have read any of my other posts, you would know that we discovered he had hypotonia (low tone). This affects every aspect of his body, including his mouth, jaw and neck muscles. After about 2 months of attempting, and failing for different reasons, we resorted to the bottle and me pumping again. Another disappointment. I wasn’t devastated like the first time, but I was still saddened to know that this wasn’t going to happen. We also knew he was my last (due to my age and health). It was bittersweet. This time around, I didn’t pump nearly as long, stopping at 8 months. After my over supply wore out, we used formula.

When you set it up in your mind how you want something to go and then it doesn’t go that way at all, you can be heart-broken. And I was! This was a personal goal I had and failed. But looking back, I’m so happy I was able to pump. This gave family members and close people in our life a chance to also feed our babes from a young age.

I salute all those mama’s out there who are able to breastfeed. I salute all the mama’s out there are are not breastfeeding, for whatever reason! Having a child and caring for that child is difficult. There’s so much information out there and it contradicts itself over and over again. Us mamas have to do the best we can with the information we’re given. This includes how to handle breastfeeding or not breastfeeding our child. DO NOT let anyone tell you that the way you’re choosing to feed your child is wrong!

Pregnancy after 35…

I had the luxury of getting a lovely little stamp (well typed and printed) on all of my pregnancy records: Advanced Maternal Age. If turning 35 isn’t enough about starting to feel that uphill climb, you are now considered “at risk” just because you hit that 35 mark.

Old PregnantNow, I had other risk factors that were much more serious than just my age. I was considered obese and also have hypertension (high blood pressure). Those items, I would think, should be much more at the forefront of someone’s records than “Advanced Maternal Age”. Perfectly healthy women, with no previous issues, still get this stamp of “disapproval” from our lovely medical community.

Please do not misunderstand my words. I loved my OB/GYN. She supported me through miscarriages, first birth (with HBP) and my second birth (with the AMA). She was amazingly supportive throughout the whole thing and only once mentioned the age thing early during the pregnancy.

First, why do we get this tag anyway? This is not a science article, so do not expect a lot of references to specific studies; however, here’s what I’ve learned when trying to find out how my age could affect my pregnancy.

We get this tag because there are certain risk factors that increase as we age. This is generally true, but when pregnant, more so. Ladies, if you’ve been pregnant, you know. If you haven’t been pregnant, you understand. Pregnancy is HARD. It’s truly the most physically challenging thing I’ve ever endured in my life. (No, I haven’t climbed Mt. Everest.) Then add to that our naturally aging bodies. It’s a lot for our system to handle. Sometimes, it’s too much.

Some of the most common complications with AMA pregnancies are (you may have guessed from the above):

  • High Blood Pressure. This can be a result of preeclamsia – a form of high blood pressure only found during pregnancy.
  • Gestational Diabetes. I had this with my second (after I turned 35).
  • Genetic abnormalities. This can include Trisomy 21 (Down Syndrome).

There are other factors, but when my OB talked to me about it, these were the three big ones she brought up – maybe because they were the ones to most likely affect me, but ultimately they did in one pregnancy or another. Due to my other conditions (HBP and Gestational Diabetes), I also saw a perinatal doctor. These are the docs who deal with the realities of high risk pregnancies on a daily basis. Either the baby has high risk factors or the mother, as in my case. When I worked with my perinatal doc, he explained more to me about the AMA risk factors. However, his big three were the above mentioned.

Because of my early miscarriage, we did the early genetic screening on all my pregnancies (including the miscarriage – before knowing). My first screening came back that the baby had Down Syndrome. We found this out the day we also found out she passed. (A whole other blog on that…) It was most likely the heart not developing properly, which is common with babies who have Down Syndrome. However, with that we knew every time after that we would be getting the genetic testing.

This is something that is recommended for women over the age of 35. I highly recommend it for everyone woman! There are many reasons, but for me the research in early genetic testing is critical. It can help doctors determine possible reasons for miscarriages (much like my first) that they may otherwise not know. This testing is not free, but it is affordable. The testing is also very general. It is not like a micro array test where they look through each gene. This is just a general overview making sure there’s no missing or too many genes. They can also let you know the sex of the baby (if you wish to know early).  Best part, they only take blood from the mother! No invasive needle poking in to the womb.

Having HBP and Gestational Diabetes with my second pregnancy forced me to eat very specific foods and be aware what I was eating and when. I learned that pregnant women release a hormone that is part of the cause for the Gestational Diabetes (it inhibits insulin production, increasing glucose levels in the body). This hormone is released in a way that your body has had the hardest time to lower your insulin levels while you’re sleeping. This is part of the reason they give you those icky sugar drinks in the morning. Bleh!

While the process of pricking myself four times a day and taking my blood pressure twice a day was not what I would call fun, I did enjoy the science of it. I enjoyed seeing my numbers come through and thinking about what it was that I ate to cause that number. I enjoyed recording the data and then discussing it in my meetings with the docs. I really learned a lot when I asked questions related to my specific eating habits and how they affected my pregnant body.

I have had HBP since my mid 20’s.

Swollen Pregnancy Feet

A side effect of HBP & Pregnancy – Swollen Feet. Only flip-flops fit them.

So I knew going in with all my pregnancies I would be “at risk” from the start. This, for me, meant more, like a lot more, doctor’s visits. In the end, I went to the doctor’s office twice a week for the last 6 weeks of my pregnancies. And I visited the perinatal doc every two weeks. This is tough to do when you’re working on top of that! You also get more ultrasounds – this is a nice thought. Where Gestational Diabetes can cause the baby to get extremely large in the womb, the opposite happens with HBP. The babies are undersized and underweight. This is why I got more ultrasounds. They wanted to track baby’s progress to make sure she (and then he) were developing within the norm.

My first baby, no problem. She was developing perfectly. I also did a lot during pregnancy on my own to eat right and exercise when I could. I didn’t gain weight until the very end and only gained 15 lbs total. I brag, because that didn’t happen with my second!

20180527_185249

36 Weeks Pregnant with #2

With my second, he was a monster baby. I gained almost 30 lbs total and that was still with me eating well. The scans always said his stomach size was over the 99% percentile… how can one be OVER the 99% percentile? His head size was also quite large. Don’t worry though, it ended up that he was just super crammed in my little belly. He came out 8 lbs 7 oz and 21.5″ long. So sometimes those ultrasounds are not as accurate as we’d like to think. Just know they’re a gauge, not a deciding piece of data.

So, why do I discuss all these things? Mainly to say that pregnancy, no matter what age, is a risk. It is putting a woman’s body through extreme circumstances. As we naturally age, our body doesn’t rebound and recover the way it once did. This means we naturally take on more risks. So add to that a pregnancy, one of the most extreme things a human body can do – MAKE ANOTHER HUMAN – and it’s understandable why this stamp goes on all of those medical forms. I was the walking, breathing, living embodiment of 3 of those risk factors. Some were not the direct cause of my age, but they certainly never got better either.

So, although the thought of seeing that on a form can sting, know that it’s for the best. It means your doctors want to take special care of you and your little human(s). They want you to get the absolute best care you can receive and want to make sure that the life growing inside you is healthy and safe.

It also means you need to be ready. You need to be aware that you may inherit these risk factors, for a time, so you can bring a life into this world. Do what you can ahead of time: get regular check-ups, manage your diet and exercise when possible. And do what you can early on: don’t eat for two, do continue to work-out lightly and see your doctor regularly. This can help make those risks minor. And if you do happen to get the AMA-related diagnosis, you can always make the best of it by learning how you can be the healthiest person for your baby.