Oct 28, 2015

The sixth month

*In one month has gone from having zero teeth to four. Holy moley.
*Has a new favorite game: we have our back to him and then turn around real quick and say "hi!" It cracks him up every time!
*Is a little obsessed with whatever people are drinking. It's gotten to the point where anytime we pick up a glass I take a sip and then just automatically put it up to his face. He likes to feel the outside of the cup/can/bottle on his mouth - I think most times just because it's cold. 
Exhibit A
*Is still struggling a bit with sleep - he was at the point where he'd only make noise once a night, Ben would go in and give him a bottle, and that would be the end of it. However, teeth threw everything off, so we're trying to work our way back to that.
*Has started to slooooooowly get better in the car. After the little fender-bender, we got a new carseat - it's a newer model of the one we had but it's a lot cushier. Between that and Parks realizing he can look out the window, car rides are not quite the scream fest they used to be. (Praise Jesus!)

*Holds hands with me a lot and it melts my heart! By holding hands I mean he holds a finger or two of mine, but he does it while he's taking a bottle, and a lot of times when I'm wearing him in the carrier. It's like "hey I'm all snuggled up to you Mom, but I need to just be a little bit closer." Well okay baby boy, not a problem!
*Has a ridiculously cute Halloween costume - have no fear, a picture will be shared!
*Will be trying foods soon - I can't wait to see the faces that will be made during this process!
*Has made it past six months of exclusively pumping! My long-term goal is still a year, but right now I'm just taking it one month a time; I have a countdown app on my phone, and I create a new one each month so getting to the next month is more of a celebration than a chore.
*Is trying to savor the season, even as it gets chillier. Parks LOVES being outside, so we bundle him up and push him in the stroller or I strap him into the carrier. I'm going to try and keep doing this for as long as we can - maybe not in craaazy cold weather, but a little bit of fresh air each day does him so much good!
*Pretty much doesn't talk about P's sleep struggles except with close friends and family, because I'm tired of hearing about "cry it out." If it worked for you, great, but it's just not for us, and while that might change later on, right now every time I hear it, it makes me cringe, or feel really defensive.
*Is a little flabbergasted realizing we are into P's first holiday season - Halloween, Thanksgiving in a few weeks, and Christmas right around the corner. Holy crap!
*Loves how he greets me when I pick him up at the end of the day.
*Has realized you never stop being a mom. That sounds like a no-brainer but it's really been emphasized to me by my mom and mother-in-love. They've done SO much for us the past six months and while I'm not wishing time away, it's fun to think of how I'll be able to help Parker when he's becoming a parent as well. Their example is amazing. (Talk about the circle of life!)
*Celebrated our eight-year wedding anniversary - whaaaat?
*Are practicing being more considerate of each other - marriage can be work on a good day, but add crappy sleep and a clingy baby, and it's a whole new ballgame!
*Have an upcoming out-of-town wedding and Parks won't be doing with us. (He'll stay with my parents). It won't be our first night away from him, but it will be the first night in a different state than him which I know might be hard, but I'm focusing on how Ben and I will have a whole car ride to just talk and laugh and be. I'm looking forward to that re-connecting time!

Oct 27, 2015

Half a year

Dear Parker,

You are six months old today - wow, wow, wow! There were moments during my pregnancy where time seemed to stand still, so it seems a little unfair that once you're here it's flying by.

I remember so much about the night you were born, and while you are still little, compared to those first days you seem so big now!
This was the morning after you were born - you weren't even 12 hours old!
This past month has been hard for us - teething has wiped out you, me, and your Dad on a daily basis! There have been many tears - some on your part and some on ours. The good news is you won't remember the pain that teething is bringing you - and you won't remember how we've gotten frustrated either.

Your parents are not perfect people, buddy. We're going to make mistakes, but I promise we'll learn from them (and you will too!) and we'll keep going. This is what we do as a family - when things get hard we come together, support each other, and push through. And we always, always, take the time to laugh. (You're already mastering this skill quite nicely!)

Despite the hard moments, your Dad and I have been filled with so much joy since you came into our lives - sometimes I feel like my heart might burst from it!

Lately, when I pick you up from your grandparents' house, you've started greeting me in the best way. You see me, you blink a couple of times, then you start a slow smile that lights up your entire face. When I pick you up, you do one of two things - you snuggle in for a hug, or you grab my face and give me a look like "I can't believe it's really you!" You melt my heart, and I hope I never forget this feeling.

You are silly and hilarious and we love you so so much. I'm not sure I can explain how much I love you - how protective I feel over you, how I would do whatever I had to to make sure you're safe and feel loved; I'm sure I'll spend your lifetime attempting to put that into words.

You've been in this world for six months - and you've made our world complete.

Happy half birthday, Bubba - we can't wait to see what the next six months bring.

All my love,

Oct 15, 2015

Never forgotten

There are days that will stay with you forever - big, life changing moments where all you have to do is think of it and your emotions come flooding back to you.

After our second IUI, the phone call when the nurse told me I was pregnant. The over the top giddiness when telling our families. The awe of seeing her heartbeat for the first time.

The sheer terror when I started bleeding. The anxiety as I rested on the couch, not knowing what would happen. The clench in my gut as a doctor in a Santa hat told us there was a good chance the baby's heartbeat would stop altogether. It was Christmas Eve.

There are dozens of other moments - the final confirmation of no heartbeat, the day of my d&c - too many of them to list.

I remember the first moment I realized I was going to be a mom, and I remember the moment when that was taken away.

I will always remember.

October is Infant and Pregnancy Loss Awareness month, and October 15th is Remembrance Day.

There are too many angel babies in Heaven. There are too many parents with empty arms and heavy moments of remembering.

Tonight, at 7 PM (local time), I will light a candle to honor, and remember those lives. The miscarriages, the stillbirths, the babies born who don't make it - we remember you all. We honor and love you.

You are gone but never forgotten.

Will you join me tonight in lighting a candle and remembering?

Oct 13, 2015

The other side of motherhood

I sat in the glider, gently rocking, the lights low, my son asleep on my shoulder. His head turned towards me, I leaned down, softly kissing his cheek, breathing him in.

I felt my eyes welling up and I took a deep breath, because if I started crying I wouldn't stop, and I worked too hard for bedtime to wake him. 

My eyes were shimmering because I am grateful, yet overwhelmed, desperate, but contented.

I am constantly amazed at how much I love this little boy. 
I am also blown away with how much harder this parenting thing is than I ever could have imagined. 

I'd felt more emotions than I thought possible in two days.

I had a full day out of the house with Parks and still managed to fit in my pumps - I had so much fun being out and feeling like a functioning member of society. Within 24 hours, he started cutting his third and fourth tooth, and went from happy, to clingy and screaming and fussy. Ben and I were both exhausted, which resulted in us snapping at each other and apologizing later. We tag teamed it, but Sunday I finally hit a wall - I was exhausted, P was cranky, it was one o'clock in the afternoon and all I felt like I'd done that day was pump and then try to get him to sleep. Wash. Rinse. Repeat. 

Ben was making me a snack for when I pumped, and I was in the living room with Parks, trying to keep my eyes open. Parks was shaking a rattle and because I was close to him, accidentally hit me in the face with it. It didn't hurt, but I started crying. It was the final straw.

When Ben came out, I was sitting on the floor of the living room, my face buried in my hands, sobbing. He asked if I was okay and I said no. He was going to work in a couple hours and the day before me seemed endless - several pumps with a clingy baby, and I wasn't sure how I would cope. 

I had priced non-dairy formula a couple weeks prior to keep myself motivated for pumping, and the cost was insane; five days worth of formula would run us $300, and that wasn't even a whole week! But lately it was having the opposite effect - instead of thinking, "look how much we're saving," all I could think was how expensive it was and I absolutely HAVE to keep pumping because there's no way we can afford that.

I felt trapped.

I told Ben I needed a break - a real break - and it felt like I was never going to get one as long as I was pumping. I'm starting to see pumping as something I resent instead of something great that I'm doing - all I keep thinking about it how much time it would free up, and how I'd be able to physically be with Parker more. 
And yet. That formula. The cost is insane, and we definitely do not have $1200+ to spend on it every month.
Ben ended up taking Parks to his parents' house before he went to work, and my in-laws not only watched him, but brought him and dinner back to me that evening. (I will never stop being grateful for our amazing family). I laid on the couch and tried to lose myself in shows on Netflix. I dozed for awhile but it's like my body wouldn't let me fully relax. 
Anytime motherhood seems hard I have to fight what I've now dubbed the "infertility mindset," because my brain almost instantly resorts to, "This is what you wanted for years - you should be grateful."
So that night, as I breathed in my sweet boy and nuzzled his cheeks, I let the joy and the despair wash over me.  
I am grateful for you. I'm sorry I can't do everything. I will try to have more patience because I know teething cannot be fun. I'm sorry pumping takes me away from you so much, but your chunky thighs are the sweetest thing ever. I'm sorry I need breaks from you, because with working that means less time with you overall. I love you. I don't want to wish this time away - you'll never be this little again - but sometimes it's really hard to enjoy it. 
Why does no one talk about this? The other side of motherhood - the side where your heart feels like it's going to burst with love and stress, all at once? I can only imagine how the worries will evolve as he gets older.
I snuggled him into the crook of my arm, not caring that it was starting to fall asleep. I opened apps on my phone and started mindlessly scrolling, trying to keep the tears at bay, and I came across this post. The title - When Love Feels Heavy - grabbed me by throat, and I found myself nodding and nodding, and breathing a huge sigh of relief.
When I got to this part, I gasped.  
"The thing about this kind of love, though, is that it can feel heavy. Disproportional. You may feel like you will nearly break in half from the top-heaviness." 
Yes. Yes. So. Much. Yes.
But even as I was reading it, I was thinking about how my house constantly looks like a disaster zone, I can't remember the last time our clothes were put away, or there weren't three different things to potentially trip on walking into our bedroom. There are always dishes on the counter, because now bottles take up the sink, and there are days when I just want one thing to get finished. Then I read this: 
"And, I beg you, embrace that things will always feel unfinished. Let unfinished be okay. Let unfinished be enough." 
It's like the post was written for me, and there's something so comforting in knowing so many other mothers have felt the same way. 
"And forget what you see on Instagram,
You are one hell of a mother."
I shared the post on Facebook, and then put down my phone. I gently rubbed his back and reminded myself he wouldn't remember the hard parts of today, so I shouldn't punish myself for them. I whispered what I say to him every night. "Good night Parker, Mommy and Daddy love you." 
Tomorrow is a new day.

Oct 11, 2015

Pump it up 2.0

I shared why exclusively pumping (EP'ing) is hard, but I also wanted to talk about what I've learned - what's been useful to have, resources, etc. Again, I'm specifically addressing EP'ing mamas, but this can apply any mom who has to pump (even if it's just when you go back to work). This post is kind of a brain dump and I'm sure there are things I'm forgetting, and of course, is all from my experience, so take that for what it is!

 A few basics:
*The more you pump, the more you produce. For whatever reason - preemie, trouble latching, etc. - the baby isn't telling your body when they need food, which is how your body knows to produce enough milk. You use your pump as the baby. When I first started pumping, I did twenty minutes, every two hours for a few weeks. It was rough and I barely slept, but I also built up a great supply and now have a decent amount of milk in the freezer, in addition to what I pump daily.

*As you decrease the number of times you pump, increase the minutes you pump. I pumped for twenty minutes each time for a few months, but was getting sore sooner than my next pump session; once I increased the amount of time I pumped, it helped tremendously. (I now pump for 30 minutes at a time instead of 20).

*Set small goals, and then reward yourself when you get there. Sometimes a goal might to get through the day. That's worth acknowledging.

*You are still eating for two. Holy moley, sometimes I swear I eat more now then when I was pregnant! In general try to make healthy choices but if you want to have ice cream, have some - you need the calories! Typically you can multiply the number of ounces you pump in a day by 10, and that's the calories you're burning just from pumping. (So if you pump 20 ounces in a day, you burned 200 calories).

*Don't let numbers run your life. It is so so SO easy to get caught up with I only pumped this much. Should I be pumping more each time? How will I know if it's enough? You'll learn how much the baby is eating, and if you're not making enough? Add another pumping session. If you can't keep up with what your baby is eating and you have to supplement with formula, that's okay too - you are doing the best you can. (If you do need to supplement I recommend talking to your pediatrician about how/if to mix milk and formula and the ratio, etc).

*Hydrate like it's your job. You pumped two ounces? Awesome! However, you need to replace it and then some. Water should be your new best friend.

*You can (probably) get a breast pump for free. Courtesy of the Affordable Care Act, most insurance companies will cover the cost of a breast pump (U.S. only - sorry friends!), and sometimes even breast pads and milk storage bags. Pumps typically cost a minimum of $300, so definitely take advantage of this!

*Remember how awesome you are. No really. EP'ing is hard effing work. For however long you do it, know that you are a rock star. The end.
Why I pump!
Absolute Must Haves:
*A sense of humor. This is crucial. There will be times when something so ridiculous happens you have to laugh, otherwise you will lose your mind! For instance, when it's 3 o'clock in the morning and you start pumping, only to realize you have not attached bottles, when milk starts dripping on your leg - what else are you going to do but laugh?

Friends: You need people you can text who will respond quickly (and positively!) when you're complaining about how hard this is or how exhausted you are. There's a time and place for considering other options (i.e. formula), but when you're tired and vulnerable, having that suggested can make you feel like you're not doing a good job. You'll learn who your cheerleaders are; use them. 

Virtual: Find yourself an online forum. I belong to a closed Facebook group for exclusively pumping moms - all those ladies get it. There's understanding while you mourn the loss of that nursing relationship, there's encouragement when you're having a rough day, there are helpful tips when you're trying to troubleshoot something about your supply or your pump, and there are hilarious pictures and memes and jokes that we all appreciate because we've been there. Scrolling through that feed while pumping can always lighten my mood. 

In-person: Exclusively pumping is not for the faint of heart, and that doesn't just mean for the mom. Your partner will have to step up, whether that's helping feed the baby, washing pump parts, letting you cry, or encouraging you to take a shower and rest between pumping sessions. This doesn't always have to be your partner - in fact, having outside help will do the both of you a world of good because on top of pumping you have this tiny human to care for which is awesome but also overwhelming. I don't know what Ben and I would have done without my mom and mother-in-law the first six weeks of Parker's life; their help, especially when it came to pumping was invaluable. Even after EP'ing for five and a half months, I still need help - my evening pump is the hardest for me, so when I pick up Parker after work, nine times out of ten I end up staying at my parents' or in-laws' house for this pump so I can have an extra set of hands.

*A hands-free pumping bra. Or two. This will change the way you pump. You don't have to hold anything, you can catch up on social media, read a book, knit, whatever, because you have the freedom of using your hands. I have two - one stays at home, and one is always in my pumping bag.

*Pump Log. This is an app that's unfortunately only available for iPhones (sorry Android users), but it is wonderful! A man created this for his wife when she was exclusively pumping which is so cool! It's free for the first 50 pumps, and then $6.99 to "upgrade." Trust me, it's worth it. You can set alarms to remind you to pump, log how much you pump at each sessions, update how much milk you have frozen, and so much more. My favorite part about this app is seeing my "stats," which include how much time I spend pumping, how many ounces I average, and how many pumps I've done since downloading the app. I didn't discover it until right before I went back to work, and I wish I would have known about it sooner - for so long I was writing down how much I pumped (while we were figuring out how much P needed), and this is so much easier!
My pump bag!
What's made my life easier:
*Multiple sets of pump parts. There is nothing, nothing more obnoxious than having to spend your precious spare minutes between pumps washing bottles and pump parts. Buy stock in Medela, and then stock up. I have four sets of everything, and yes, there's always something that needs to be washed, but I don't have to wash things between every pumping session.

*Know your pump. When I buy something, I just want it to work. I really hate troubleshooting, but reading (or at least skimming) your manual ahead of time will help because you're not going to have time to read it thoroughly once the baby is here. This will also help so you're not watching troubleshooting videos at one in the morning trying to figure out if there's an issue with your pump or if it's user error. I have a Medela Pump in Style Advanced, and have found their website and their customer service line extremely helpful!

*You do not have to sterilize your pump parts daily. Let me repeat that. You do not have to sterilize your pump parts daily. For months, we were sterilizing pumping parts and bottles daily, using the Medela quick steam bags. They are super easy - a little bit of water, microwave for less than two minutes, and you're done. You can even use each bag twenty times. But, we have multiple sets of pumping parts and bottles - so it would take six or seven rounds with the bag to sterilize everything and then we'd have to dry it all off. We still sterilize things more than most people, (once a week using the setting in our dishwasher) - do what makes you comfortable, but take it from someone who cannot get that time back, it does not have to be a daily thing.

*Advocate for yourself. Know the laws about breastfeeding and pumping once you return to work. The Affordable Care Act ensured that companies must provide a designated space for mother's to pump while at work, as often as they need to. This space cannot be a bathroom, and unless your company has less than 50 employees (and establishing this room would be considered a "hardship"), they have to provide a place that is private and free from "intrusion of co-workers." Read more about the laws here.

The nitty-gritty:

Last but not least, I thought I'd give you a peek into my pumping bag. I do not have the bag that comes with my pump (I didn't see the point in spending the money on it), and I keep more in my pumping bag than others, but I know I have anything I need, so a bigger bag is worth my peace of mind.
Parts for my three pumps at work
What's in my pumping bag:
  • Pump
  • Tubes (and extra set)
  • A pouch with breast pads
  • Quick clean wipes
  • Lanolin
  • My pumping cover - these ponchos are so soft and wonderful! (I have one in Cobalt AND Mint!)
  • Hands-free pumping bra
  • A few medela storage bags and a sharpie (I typically just store milk in medela bottles and then bring it home, but in case I wanted to put milk in a bag and then right in the freezer, these are handy to have).
  • Heat pads
  • A burp cloth for any small spills (See also - it's totally acceptable to cry over this kind of spilled milk).
  • Three ziploc bags with a set of pumping parts each (See above photo - depending on how many times you pump you can easily re-use a set of parts from one pump to the next, but I find it's easier to just have a set for each pump session).
  • A bag and ice pack to transport milk on my way home (and keep it cold)
  • A book
  • Knitting
  • Earbuds
If you pump for ten days or ten months, if you're an over producer, an under producer, or just enough-er, you rock. Remember that! Pump on, Mama!

Sep 29, 2015

The fifth month

*Has been exploding with new skills and discoveries on a daily basis the past week or so! This includes: reaching for our faces, starting to snuggle in and give hugs, rolling over like it's his job (he was doing it occasionally, but now it's a constant thing), and teeth! 
*Has two teeth, and I think is working on a third - this happened in less than a week's time! So far he's been fussier and clingy, but last night he took forever to go to sleep and was up every two hours, so here's hoping this next tooth pushes through and then we have a bit of a break.
*Is discovering everything. It's so fun to watch him experience things. For instance, he still thinks ceiling fans are interesting, but they are no longer the most amazing thing ever - that's reserved for going up and down the stairs. (No really, when we get near the top, he starts waving his arms and gets all excited - it's fantastic!)
*Has a few favorite toys - but I use the word toys loosely, because one of them is simply a framed picture of the three of us on one of our end tables; he'll lock onto it and just stare and smile! Others include the plastic domo cup we use to rinse him in the tub, and the stuffed animal we call creepy monkey. (If you could hear the laugh, you'd understand). Also, his feet. Feet are the best, and apparently quite tasty!
*Loves baby yoga - I have this book, and I do a series of poses with him every evening before bedtime. Even when he was younger and didn't seem to pay attention I'm glad I kept it up, because now even if he's fussy, I'll put him down, rest my hands on his tummy, take a few cleansing breaths, and he instantly calms down. (When my sister saw this, her response was, "this is like some Jedi mind sh*t!")
*Still hates being in the car. HATES. it. *Sigh*
*Loves fall. No, really. He gets crazy excited every time he sees the wreath on our door, and taking him outside is a sure fire way to calm him down if he's cranky. Almost everyone on our street knows Parks now, and even when I pass them when I don't have him with me, they'll smile and give me a wave.
*Still wants to be sitting up all the time - I got a tub that has a seat where he can be upright and all is right with the world again. (i.e. he no longer screams while I'm giving him a bath). Thank you, Amazon Prime.
*Has finally been successful at babywearing! A few friends loaned us several different carriers but for so long Parks wasn't having it. He tolerated the Moby (essentially stretchy fabric), but he's outgrown that now. God bless Mom friends I can text because someone suggested a Beco Gemini carrier, and then told me about a Facebook group where I could buy one gently used. I got one for a third of the cost and you guys? GAME. CHANGER. I don't know if it's just because he's older and is into seeing more things now, or if it's truly that he loves this carrier specifically, but this is how we take walks most nights, and we've even done a few grocery store trips. It has been so refreshing to feel like I can actually go out with my son. 

*Feel like I've got a better handle on this whole parent thing...and then teething happened. Sheesh! I've realized teething disrupts everything (naps, eating, bedtime), and I can only hope there will be breaks of "normal" every so often in between the teeth coming through.

*Still struggles with exclusively pumping. Right now my biggest struggle is in the evening - the pump where I'm by myself with Parks. Ever since he started teething I'm lucky if I can keep him entertained for half the time I'm pumping. He just wants to be held, and I can only do so much for him. If I could drop that pump, I would but it goes back to the more I pump the more my body produces so if I did drop that one, my supply would dip as well. This is absolutely the hardest part about being a mom for me right now, and I'm frustrated I don't have a viable solution.
*Have started a little tradition of sharing pictures and videos during my night pumping session before bed. A lot of times it's not easy to send each other the pictures we take of P, so we enjoy them together which has been fun. 
However, we are pretty good about texting or calling when Parks does something hilarious - if we're both not there we want the other one to be the first to hear about it!  For instance: when Parks wakes up from a nap he looks around, and if he doesn't see anyone he'll lift his legs and just repeatedly slam them onto the mattress of the pack and play, until we come over, and then he grins.

*Had a big conversation about being more intentional with each other so our relationship doesn't get lost in the shuffle. It's so easy to just go through the motions - especially when we're both exhausted and working. Our anniversary is next week, so we're both taking the day off, my mother-in-law is generously watching Parks for us, and I'm looking forward to just relaxing and reconnecting with Ben.

*Experienced our first car accident with Parks. It was actually just Ben and him, they were at a stop light and were rear-ended but it was less than 15 mph, and there's not even damage to the other guy's car. (Damage to the one we just bought though, of course). Ben and Parker are both perfectly fine, but I cried sporadically the rest of the day it happened. Talk about perspective.

Oh Bubba! Five months! Pretty soon you're going to be half a year and then one before we know it! You are so much fun these days, so we're trying to savor them as best we can - we love you so much!

Sep 25, 2015

Pump it up

I've been wanting to write a post about exclusively pumping, and since I'm coming up on my five-month mark, I figured now was as good a time as any! I thought for awhile about how to write this post - pro list, con list, but as everything is so intertwined, a point/counterpoint format seemed to make the most sense.

Having said that, let me be clear - this is all MY experience. This should in no way be interpreted as a "you should do things a certain way," type post. If you're feeding your child that's all that matters! There are of course challenges with nursing and formula feeding, but since I don't have experience there I'm not speaking to that, and I don't mean to diminish them in any way. Again, this is all my experience and any emotions or comments are just proof of all the thoughts that go through my head on a regular basis. 

Also, this post is long. I'll try to break it up with pictures, but get comfortable!
Exclusively pumping is not for the faint of heart.

I've been exclusively pumping (or EP'ing) since Parker was less than a week old. He had major latching issues in the hospital (which we didn't realize until we were home), and he lost a pound in his first five days. (Babies typically lose a bit of weight at the beginning, but not that much). We hit the ground running to get weight back on him, which happened to coincide with the day my milk came in, and pretty much just learned as we went!

Most people assume (including me, before we had Parker), you breastfeed, or you bottle (formula) feed. There's not a lot of talk about exclusively pumping - it's breast feeding from a bottle so it's sort of a merging of the two. However, you kind of have to search for information and support for it, because while it's common, it's not often discussed.

With nursing, the baby cries when he or she is hungry, you feed them, and your body adjusts to how much they need and produces more or less milk based on that. But with EP'ing, you have to train your body to produce milk, using the pump as the baby.

For the first few weeks when we were worried about P needing to gain weight and I was trying to establish my supply, I pumped every two hours. That means TWELVE times a day I was pumping for 20 minutes at a time, feeding Parker (we wanted him to associate me with food), then trying to sleep before starting again. I was maaaybe getting 40 minutes of sleep at a time. (The first time I went three hours between pumpings it felt like a vacation). I didn't drop my middle of the night pump (usually 3 AM), until right before I went back to work when he was ten weeks old, so for ten weeks, the longest stretch of sleep I got was four hours.

Now, I spend three hours a day (broken up into six half-hour sessions), attached to my pump, and that's the least amount I've ever pumped. If you add in prep and clean up time, I easily spend 24 hours every week pumping. Whew!

Early on, my mother-in-law said I have all the pros of breastfeeding, but all the cons as well. I didn't really understand that at first, but wow, has it proven to be true.
Where it all happens!
You're not the only one who can feed him.
Why it's great: Ben is the one who gets up with him in the middle of the night to give him a bottle. A little more sleep for me, and some great bonding time for them. (I once woke up to a text from Ben saying he loves being able to feed him because he's so cute and he gets to really see him grow. Ahh, how I love that man).
How it's hard: For awhile, I mourned the loss of the nursing relationship. While pumping is still me providing milk for Parks, it's such a different process that I stopped associating my pumping with his growth and health. When I laugh at his thigh rolls or tickle his belly I have to remind myself I did that, even though we are not nursing.

When you pump you can take a little break.
Why it's great: When I'm at work, this is true. Sometimes I listen to a podcast and knit while I pump, other times I read a book. It's a little bit of "me" time.
How it's hard: At home, this is not the case. It's hard to not see the things to do while I'm sitting there pumping, even if I have a distraction like a book. If Parker is awake and Ben is home I talk to them and I play as I can (Ben will do "flying baby" to me so I can give P kisses, etc.), but it's hard being there and not really being able to do things with him.

The worst is when Ben's at work (he works afternoons and evenings), and I have a pump or two to do while he's gone. I have all kinds of tricks and things to do with Parks to keep him entertained while I pump, but when he's exhausted (or lately, teething), and just wants to be held,  I can only do so much for him. He's upset, I get stressed, and I usually end a pumping session with a screaming baby while I'm saying, "I know, I know, hang on, I'm almost done."

"You could always use formula."
Why it's great: This is something that's suggested more often then I would expect by people. Their intentions are great - they're trying to help me relieve some stress, and on a good day, it IS nice knowing there is an option in our back pocket that we can go to if needed - we'll still be able to feed our son.
How it's hard: On a rough day when someone says this, it makes me think of being in the middle of infertility hell and someone suggesting, "why don't you just adopt?" Yes, we're choosing breast milk instead of formula, but why does that mean our choice should be questioned when it's hard? (Plus, add in Parker's dairy intolerance and there are times when I don't know if we could afford the amount of non-dairy formula we would need). This also goes back to mourning that nursing relationship - the natural thought process is you breast feed or bottle feed with formula, and EP'ing is this weird middle ground. It can be such a sensitive thing, so when someone makes a suggestion, what I hear is "well you're obviously not doing it the 'normal' way, so why don't you just stop?" (Even though I know that's not what they mean!)

Sleep when the baby sleeps.
Why it's great: Honestly, this just makes me laugh. Parks only naps for about 40 minutes at a time, so if I do get to sleep it's not for long stretches. (And there are always bottles/pump parts to be washed, so nine times out of ten I'm doing that instead).
How it's hard: On the rare occasions where Parker has slept for really long stretches (six or seven hours at once), I'm still up at my regular times to pump. The only way my body knows to keep producing this amount of milk is if I'm really strict about maintaining my pumping schedule.

"Let's get coffee/grab lunch - you can totally bring the baby!"
Why it's great: I love love love how supportive our friends and families are - pretty much everyone assumes or makes it clear that Parks is always welcome when we do something/go somewhere these days. Not everyone has that and I do not take it for granted. Getting Parks (and his diaper bag) ready is pretty streamlined these days, as is packing my pumping bag; I'm even a pro at strapping all these bags to me and carrying him in his car seat.
How it's hard: Besides the sheer volume of stuff I have to take with me, there's a lot to factor in when I'm leaving the house for awhile. Will there be an outlet where I can pump? Is there a place I can warm up heat pads? (I have re-usuable flax seed ones to help with milk flow - not a big deal if I can't use them for one pumping but I try to use them very consistently). Will Parker be hungry before I pump again - do I need to take the bottle warmer, or can I just warm up a bottle now and take it with me? Will I be able to entertain him while I pump?

These are questions I ask myself every. single. time. I have to leave the house for awhile - so nine times out of ten if I'm going to be gone for a few hours, I take pumping stuff, or the baby, because both can be too much for me to handle on my own.

At its best, pumping is an incredible sacrifice I'm making for my son and I can see the results in his elbow dimples, thigh rolls, and how he's growing like a week. (He's over 16 pounds now!)

At its worst, pumping seems like the ultimate punishment - I never get enough sleep, all the time I'm pumping I am literally away from my son, and on days when he's in a foul mood, all I do is hold him and then pump, (because leaving the house is too overwhelming), I feel trapped.

However, Parks is awesome, and thriving, and I have been rocking this for five months. FIVE months! That's fantastic! My long-term goal is a year, but most days that seems overwhelming, so I have several mini-goals set for myself. For instance, right now my goal is to make it to six months and I'm only a month away from that - woo!

I have another post planned about what's been helpful, what I've found to be a waste of money, and what you absolutely need (support from those around you and a sense of humor!), because if I go inot that now, this post will never end.

As always, I appreciate this space for sharing when things are real - and hooray for you making it to the end! Happy Friday!

Sep 17, 2015


Dear Body,

The past several years have been a struggle, and you've been put through the ringer; shots, pills, procedures, and surgeries. There were times when I hated you, times I felt betrayed by you, and even times when I was terrified of what you were capable of doing.

But today we are entering our thirty-second year. I say we, because I finally feel a part of you again. After years of infertility I felt disconnected from you, and that's not an experience I would wish on anyone.

Last year on my birthday I wanted to savor where I was in life. This year the word I'm choosing is honor. I want to honor what you've accomplished.

You regulated how I gained pregnancy weight, and have been amazing at losing it afterwards. Not only do I weigh less than I did before I got pregnant, at a recent doctor's visit I was told this is the lightest I've been in years!

You carried our little guy in a pretty textbook (i.e. healthy) pregnancy. You stalled labor when there was a problem (the cord around his neck), and then recovered beautifully from a c-section.

You continue to produce milk - food to feed this little boy - and while there are times I resent pumping, it's an amazing thing you're doing.

So thank you.

Thank you for giving me the most breathtaking son. You've done so much, and this year, I will honor you however I can.

You did it. WE did it.

And I couldn't be more grateful.


Sep 7, 2015

A few observations

Dear Parks,

Oh Bubba! You are amazing and hilarious, and it's crazy to think we've only had you in our lives for four months because you've completely transformed our world.

There are so many things you've done already but there are a few that melt my heart every time, and I need to write them down so I don't forget them!

In the mornings when you wake up, I say "goooood morning," in a singsong-y voice as I walk into your room and your eyes search for me - I repeat myself until you find me, and then you smile; sometimes it's a crooked little grin, sometimes it lights up your whole face, but it cracks my heart wide open. It's the best way to start my day.

You don't mind being swaddled, but as soon as your arms are free you throw them above your head like you've never. stretched. before.

You know and love your Daddy and seeing you together makes my heart so happy. You two already have games established and they mostly involve making each other laugh.

You get chatty when you're tired, and when I sing lullabies you coo, so it sounds like you're singing along. It cracks me up!

For as much as I complain about you fighting sleep (you only nap for 30-45 minutes at a time), your Dad has pointed out you're essentially me, in baby form. Your hands get shaky when you're sleepy and overstimulated (my teeth chatter when I'm really tired), and even if you're exhausted you want to see what's going on, similar to the phrase I always say: "I'm just going to do one more thing..."

A lot of motherhood is not glamorous, and sometimes it's really hard. However, after a frustrating day, there's nothing better than rocking in the glider, feeling the weight of you in my arms, your milk-drunk breath tickling my neck, and hearing your little coos and giggles in your sleep.

You made my heart bigger. When I receive good news my happiness is fuller, as is my sorrow when I hear bad news.

You've turned my world upside down, in the best way possible. You're my favorite little guy!

All my love,