Monday, October 20, 2014

Power of a Praying Wife

When hubby and I got married, I would always hear how "marriage is hard work." I'm sure you've heard this saying too. The funny thing is that I never understood that phrase. Marriage wasn't hard work for us. I guess we were extremely lucky, because it always just worked really well without the hard part.

Maybe it's because my mom prayed my entire life that I'd meet the exact man God had chosen for me. Maybe it's because we lived together for quite some time before getting hitched. It wasn't like we moved in together for the first time. In fact, my husband was living in London working for a tech company and I was teaching 6th grade in Orlando at the time we got married. We'd lived together, apart, and had survived a lot. I'd just lost my mom to cancer a few months prior and my step-father to cancer 6 months before that. That to me, was HARD. Marriage was not.

We had YEARS of living without much worry; financially, health-wise, emotionally. We moved a lot for his company yes, but outside of that, life was gravy. We went where we wanted, when we wanted, and did things how we wanted.

Then, came the unexpected 3 yr+ journey to parenthood. Never could we have prepared for the bumps in the road. I have seen marriages end a result of embarking on this excruciatingly tough road. Not ours thankfully. However, I think it was the first time in a long time where life (which includes marriage) required work. I know I don't need to explain. You guys GET IT.

So here we stand, arriving at the place we've worked so hard to get to. Our dreams of becoming parents have come true. We have a beautiful, healthy baby boy who lights up both of our worlds the minute he opens his eyes every single day.

Why then, does it feel like I'm sometimes drowning in a mess of emotions still...or maybe again, just in a different way? I find myself floundering to figure out this parenting thing. I'm surprised at how well I'm learning to mother in certain areas, yet feeling completely defeated in others. Am I doing this right??

One of the places I know I can do better is being a better wife. I have caught myself a lot lately being someone I don't want to be...someone who makes sarcastic remarks, or corrects my husband, has to have things "my way", or becomes a smart ass when someone wraps a piece of pizza in tin foil because it's too loud and will wake the baby sleeping in the living room. Yep, that happened. To my defense though, why must tin foil be so loud?

I know without a doubt much of it's due to getting literally only 3 solid hours of sleep each night (usually 9 pm-midnight) until my shift for baby watch begins again from 12-6 am. My body is getting so used to lack of sleep it's even become impossible to nap while P's napping, whether it be day OR night. I won't lie. It's wearing me thin, and it presents itself by highlighting all of my most flawed character traits, bringing those into the forefront. It doesn't help that I am a textbook Gemini. Whoever said life is like a box of chocolates must have missed greek mythology and the story of Pandora.

However, this too shall pass. The life of a first time parent, and especially one of a newborn, is going to present challenges that no one could prepare us for. And for one of the very few times in our lives, marriage may actually require some work. It may require me to hold my tongue more often, to ask myself how what I'm about to say or do affects my spouse and my family, and to be comfortable with not being right. I am working on it though, and am committed to being a more laid back wife who points her finger a little less.

Recently, I started reading a new devotional, The Power of a Praying Wife. I'm only a couple chapters in, but this book couldn't have come at a better time. I am absolutely loving it! I want to share with you the first prayer from the book.

If you take the time to read it, I promise you won't be disappointed. I hope you get as much from it as did I...

Lord, help me to be a good wife. I fully realize that I don't have what it takes to be one without Your help. Take my selfishness, impatience, and irritability and turn them into kindness, long-suffering, and the willingness to bear all things. Take my old emotional habits, mind-sets, automatic reactions, rude assumptions, and self-protective stance, and make me patient, kind, good, faithful, gentle, and self-controlled. Take the hardness of my heart and break down the walls with Your battering ram of revelation. Give me a new heart and work in me Your love, peace, and joy (Galatians 5:22-23). I am not able to rise above who I am at this moment. Only You can transform me.

Show me where there is sin in my heart, especially with regard to my husband. I confess the times I've been unloving, critical, angry, resentful, disrespectful, or unforgiving toward him. Help me to put aside any hurt, anger, or disappointment I feel and forgive him the way You do-totally and completely, no looking back. Make me a tool of reconciliation, peace, and healing in this marriage. Enable us to communicate well.

Make me my husband's helpmate, companion, champion, friend, and support. Help me to create a peaceful, restful, safe place for him to come home to. Teach me how to take care of myself and stay attractive to him. Grow me into a creative and confident woman who is rich in mind, soul, and spirit. Make the the kind of woman he can be proud to say is his wife.

I lay all my expectations at your cross. I release my husband from the burden of fulfilling me in areas where I should be looking to You. Help me to accept him the way he is and not try to change him. I realize that in some ways he may never change, but at the same time, I release him to change in ways I never thought he could. I leave any changing that needs to be done in Your hands, fully accepting that neither of us is perfect and never will be. Only You, Lord, are perfect, and I look to You to perfect us.

Teach me how to pray for my husband and make my prayers a true language of love. Where love has died, create new love between us. Show me what unconditional love really is and how to communicate it in a way he can clearly perceive. Bring unity between us so that we can be in agreement about everything (Amos 3:3). May the God of patience and comfort grant us to be like-minded toward one another, according to Christ Jesus (Romans 15:5). Make us a team, not pursuing separate, competitive, or independent lives, but working together, overlooking each others' faults and weaknesses for the greater good of the marriage. Help us to pursue the things which make for peace and the things by which one may edify another (Romans 14:19). May we be "perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgement" (1 Corinthians 1:10).

I pray that our commitment to You and to one another will grow stronger and more passionate every day. Enable him to be the head of the home as You made him to be, and show me how to support and respect him as he rises to that place of leadership. Help me to understand his dreams and see things from his perspective. Reveal to me what he wants and needs and show me potential problems before they arise. Breathe Your life into this marriage.

Make me a new person, Lord. Give me a fresh perspective, a positive outlook, and a renewed relationship with the man You've given me. Help me see him with new eyes, new appreciation, new love, new compassion, and new acceptance. Give my husband a new wife, and let it be me.

In Jesus' name I pray.

No matter what we're going through in life, I've always known that our marriage needs to come first. Even with Preston now here, my husband still comes first and always will. We are the foundation that this family will be built upon, and as everyone knows, a house that's broken will not stand. I want our house to be solid. I want to be the wife that my husband wants to be around 24/7. I want Preston to feel the unmistakeable love that exist between his mom and dad and to find that same love for himself someday.

Love this man!

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

No More Pumping, No Regrets

I know this title may come as a shock if you've been following and know how much effort has gone into providing breastmilk day and night for little P. Let's see...there have been at least 3 lactation consultants at the hospital and 1 at home, renting of a hospital grade pump, supplements that were causing more gas than good, baking of enough lactation cookies to feed an army, and a virtual non-stop rotation of feeding, burping, calming, pumping, hand expressing, and washing pumping parts 7-8 times per day...and yes, I am tired just reading my own writing.

So, how does playtime and snuggling with a newborn fit into all that chaos? Well, it doesn't very easily at all. Even if baby adhered to some predictable sort of schedule (which he shouldn't be expected to this early) the whole pumping routine would be difficult. Add to the mix days when baby is going through a growth spurt and cluster feeding (eating every hour practically). It's extremely difficult to least for me.

Correction: It's been difficult for US. I have an extremely helpful husband who has cared for P countless times so I could pump.  He's been soooo amazingly supportive, from being up all night helping with those dreaded SNS feedings, to being part of the LC consults, to dropping whatever he's doing at a moment's notice to support my ability to pump. I was spending about 4 hours each day on the entire process, so without hubby it never ever could have worked as long as it did.

4 hours. That's a lot of time that could be spent in a precious snuggle or reading a story or singing Itsy Bitsy Spider....the list of things I could be doing with Preston and would RATHER be doing with him just became much too long to ignore. And if I can be just a tiny bit selfish, there would also be more room for SLEEP, eating better, and caring for myself and our home...all things that would help me be a better mom anyway.

Anyone who knows me knows that I do not do things half-ass. I put a lot of energy into things I set my mind to in general, and giving P as much breastmilk as possible was one of those things. However, there were enough rough and sleep deprived days that both hubby and I had to re-examine what we could do to make things less stressful. And while I realize it didn't have to be all or nothing, without a doubt we agreed that pumping was just something no one would miss...not even Preston.

I felt guilty at first that breastfeeding was not the picture perfect experience I'd hoped for, complete with rainbows and butterflies. Pumping wasn't nearly as sustainable as I'd hoped either. Of course I want the best nutrition for my child, but I am also open to the fact that giving him formula (the most expensive kind on the market might I add) does not make me a bad mom. As my dear friend Amber reminded me, "Want to see a bad mom? Turn on the news!" Right you are my friend!

I began the process of weaning off the pump last week and was already down to 1 pump yesterday. I do believe I'm officially done as of today, and I don't think my body was fighting me much on the decision to stop obviously. It seemed very happy to hang a "closed for business" sign on the door and begin getting back to normal in record time. Other things I won't miss are arthritic hands from all the hand expressing, rashes on my boobs, blisters on my swollen nips, and the uncomfortable heaviness of boobs my body wasn't designed for. I can tell you with 100% certainty now that I will not ever be getting breast implants. I have never been so grateful to be an A cup again and regain admittance into the IBTC!

Furthermore, I am beyond content with our decision and won't allow myself to feel guilty for making the best choices I can for our family...even if it's not someone else's path. Our path to parenthood was not conventional in the first place, so I am used to rolling with the punches by now. Surely there will be many more things that turn out differently than what I envisioned at first...and that's O.K!

The past week has been much easier and more enjoyable to say the least. Now when I feed Preston nothing pulls me away afterwards. I'm not watching the clock and can just cradle him in my arms and take an afternoon catnap. I will admit though, that most times I stay awake and just watch him nap and snore and breathe. I notice every little hair on his head and wrinkle on his chunky little fingers. Many times I just sit there with tears in my eyes, grateful for every last thing about him. I couldn't have asked for a better little boy, and I'm going to cherish every free moment I have with him.

These little piggies = Perfection

Snuggling in my lap as we speak

Friday, October 3, 2014

10 True Things About the First Year of Parenthood (via Girl of Cardigan)

I did not write the following pearls of wisdom, but I really needed to read them today. I hope you like this post as much as I did. It's from an amazing blog called Girl of Cardigan. Grab some of these and enjoy...


I did a ridiculous amount of reading when I was pregnant.  I read natural parenting books and baby scheduling books and how to make your baby happy with no crying and eating is good for everyone led by the spirit of your baby your self books.  If there was a book to read, rest assured, I gave it a go.

I thought I knew everything I’d need to know.

How much of that information did I actually use?  Some.  A little.  The best bits of this, a quick trick from that, but no single book was spot-on accurate, and nothing was anywhere near as easy as all my reading had led me to believe.  Fable was just herself, and apparently she hadn’t been reading the same stuff I’d been bingeing on.  All that reading was mostly a waste of time.

These are the words I wish I’d read instead, before jumping headlong into the mommyhood with my books and my charts and my ideals and my high horses.  They’re flawed, and they aren’t all pretty, but they’re hard won and honest and as true as I can get’em. 

Here’s what I wish I’d known:

1. You are going to suck at this parenting gig and be awesome at it at the same time, all the time.  You will be a different parent every morning to a child who will also be different, sometimes changing in just hours, or minutes, or before your eyes.  There will be good days and bad days, good minutes and bad minutes, good choices and not so good ones.  You will do some things, probably a lot of things, wrong.  Be gentle with yourself, because you are wildly loved and incredibly needed.  You are climbing Mt. Everest with basically zero conditioning – expect to be kind of terrible at it for awhile.  You are beautiful.  We are for you.

2. Post-partum bodies are squashy and wobbly and dimpled and stretched and foreign and embarrassing and difficult and painful and gorgeously imperfect, and they tend to stay that way for quite awhile.  You made a human.  Now make your peace.  Eat good food.  Walk around when you’re well enough.  Listen to the people who tell you you’re beautiful.  Take them at their word.  Remember where your worth comes from.

3. Your baby is not like the other babies.  Your baby is the only one of herself who has ever been, and you and your partner are the only experts on her.  Your baby will not behave like the books say, won’t like what she’s supposed to like, won’t do what she’s supposed to do when she’s supposed to do it, and that’s normal and great and perfectly okay.  The best thing you can do is put down your literature and get to know your baby.  What does she like?  What makes her laugh?  How does she best fall asleep?  What does hungry sound like?  The discovery of these things will serve you so much more than any stranger’s care instructions ever will.  You don’t have to make your life or your family look like any particular model – you don’t have to follow the rules.  You just have to create a life that works for you and fosters love and security and a whole lot of laughter.  If that looks like 2am pancake parties, I’m not going to tell on you.  I might actually admire you and be just a little bit jealous.

4. We have got to stop telling people that things should be easy and painless.  We live in a culture that equates ease with value – the easier it is, the better it is, if it hurts you, something is wrong.  Reality check: sometimes things that are hard and painful are also really, really good.  Every once in a while as a parent, one of the things that you thought would be really difficult turns out to be incredibly easy and drama-free.  This is called a miracle, and though it might be somehow related to some book you read and the alignment of the stars and a magic way you pat the soles of your baby’s feet and the tea you drink on Thursdays, it’s still mostly a miracle, and the odds of that same miracle happening to EVERY OTHER PARENT EVERYWHERE are pretty slim, even with books and stars and tea and so much foot-patting.  We get excited in our victories, and want to share them, but it’s important to remember that we are all struggling with different issues.  One daddy’s easy is some mama’s nightmare.  And just because your baby doesn’t sleep through the night at five weeks or eat with a fork by her first birthday or cries a lot or your boobs get sore from breastfeeding (even though her latch is perfect) – just because it isn’t EASY and PAINLESS – it isn’t necessarily wrong.  Sometimes hard is okay, sometimes, often, it’s even good.  Hard is how we grow.  And guess what, kiddo – parenting is hard.  Any book that tells you otherwise deserves the big fat sticker of bullshit.

5. Speaking of bullshit, oh mylanta, the poop.  They warn you.  They tell you.  And despite every warning, it is still baffling and alarming and downright awe-inspiring how much of your next year is going to be spent dealing with, assessing, smelling for, washing off, evaluating, discussing, logging, and transporting poop.  Get good and comfy with poop, friends.  The poop cometh.  For whom the poop tolls.  The hunt for poop-tober – you get the idea.

6. The sooner you can figure out how to accept unwanted advice gracefully, the easier your year is going to be.  For whatever reason, people love to weigh in on babies – everyone has an opinion, and everyone wants to share.  I believe that most of this advice is pretty well-intended – most of it falls into the “it worked for me and I am so happy and I want to share my joy joy joy with you because you look very tired” category, which is at least only mildly offensive and really very sincere.
Here’s the thing – you can stumble through this crazy first 12 months in defense mode, snapping witty comebacks at judgey old ladies or know-it-all childless people, or you can decide to give everybody the benefit of the doubt, smile and say thank you, and become very zen and confident about knowing what’s best for your child and not giving one ounce of your abundance of poop about what anyone else says.

If I were you, I’d aim for zen.

Nobody is out to get you.  Everyone wants you to succeed.  And screw them all anyway, because you are raising a child, and that is awesome.  Did your kid eat something today?  Is she relatively hygienically sound?  Smiles occasionally?  You win all the things.  You are awesome enough to absorb any and all commentary, keep the bits you like, and toss the bits you don’t.  How sweet of them to care.

7. Start stretching, because it’s time to get flexible.  I’m not a big fan of general statements like “All babies like swaddling” or “Co-sleeping is best for everybody,” but there is one I can get behind – babies are really inconvenient.  Your schedule, your sleep, your stellar punctuality record, your deadlines, your best shirts, your relationships – everything is about to get messy and complicated.  You have two choices – become a weepinghungrytiredmess of doom, or swallow every ounce of pride you have and become flexible.  Ask for help.  Admit failure.  Be late.  Stay in your pajamas.  Ignore the dishes.  Let slide what can slide and rejoice when you make it through with all your bare necessities intact.  You are going to miss a few parties and a lot of snoozes and probably many other important things, and it will be okay.  It will be better than okay.  It will be amazing.
Maybe, just maybe, you’ll be one of those parents who gets a magic baby who responds to the methods in whatever book you read or is just naturally benevolent and fits like a glove into your fabulous and organized life.  Again, this is called a miracle.  We love you and are happy for you.  Now please, shut up.

8. The most important thing to get for your baby is not a Rock n’ Play, nor a good set of swaddling blankets, nor a high-end stroller.  The most important thing to get for your baby is a village.  Your village will keep you afloat.  They will carry you when you are tired, feed you when you are starving, forgive you when you are unkempt and hours late and a neglectful friend who can’t remember to wear socks let alone whose birthday it is.  They will love your baby when you are too tired or frustrated to hold her at the moment, because you are imperfect and human and have imperfect and human failings.  They will remind you who you are when you start to think your whole life is only about poop.  They will lift you up.

9. We have to lift each other up.  Raising babies is the hardest thing many of us have ever done.  We can tear each other to bits, criticize choices, and turn up noses, or we can love each other, admire adorable babies, offer a hand, and celebrate victories.  This is not a difficult choice, people.  Nobody cares that your way is better.  Everyone cares that your kid is gorgeous and let’s chat over coffee and what have you been doing with your hair lately because, girlfriend, you look fabulous.  Don’t be horrible.  It isn’t really that hard.

10. Success is found in being willing to grow.   Here’s the truth: you don’t know much of anything.  A year from now,  after your fantastic kid turns one, you won’t know much of anything still.  Gather wisdom around you.  Learn from your mistakes.  Stay humble.  Stay open.  When you know better, do better.  Be a better parent tomorrow than you were today, always, everyday, as often as you can.  Try things out and leave them behind shamelessly if they don’t work out.  Life isn’t a contest or a game – it’s simply only beautifully life. Live the minutes instead of scoring them.  Love that incredible baby.

Oh, lovely – you are going to have so much fun!

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Goodbye Fenu-farts, Hello Major Milk Makin' Cookies

You know you've entered a new phase of life when you begin singing "99 Bottles of Milk on the Wall" along your daily walks with baby. Hey, don't knock it. It's a great time kill when you need to entertain for an extended period of time. And while there may not exactly be 99 bottles on the wall (or in my freezer), I'm still sweating like an Iron Chef to sling the liquid gold across the counter just as fast as I can make it.

Unfortunately, it turns out the supplements I've been taking to increase milk supply (Fenugreek & Blessed Thistle) may have actually been causing, or at least adding to, the toot-a-thon taking place in Preston's pants. How do I know this? Well, I am not 100% certain, but I'm pretty sure it was causing some of the tummy trouble.

This week, we had a couple really good days as far as mood and lack of fussiness goes. I thought maybe it was because I'd been able to give so much breastmilk those days, but then it continued into a day in which I'd given quite a bit of formula as well. Maybe he's just growing up into a completely well-balanced mature child already?! Ha! Doubtful at this stage in the game.

I realize it could all be due to chance, but it just so happens I'd run out of my milk making supplements and was awaiting a new shipment from amazon. I didn't think anything of that piece of the puzzle at the time. Then, the new supplements arrived, and I began taking them again as usual. To my chagrin, the tummy trouble seemed to begin again almost immediately. I could literally hear the air pinging in Preston's belly. One night at the wee hours as I was snuggling him,  our bellies growled really loud at the exact same moment...which is when a light bulb went off!

Could it be more than coincidence that the worse of this ceased when I stopped taking the supplements and re-emerged once beginning them again? Why were we both having rumbling in there? It wasn't bothering me much, because I'm a grown adult and growling isn't that big of deal. But to his tiny tummy, it could be a pretty painful feeling I'd imagine. I just had this intuition it might be a factor.

From then on I became a fart detective and was noticing every little reaction to eating and how his belly was doing. I starting googling more about tummy trouble related to both Fenugreek and Blessed Thistle and wouldn't you know it; it's a very common side effect to have increased gas and watery stools...both things we've commented on several times as a concern. I already cut lactose out of my diet weeks ago, so I knew it wasn't that. Apparently, these supplements are well-known to be hard on the stomach, in both adults and breastfeeding babies (even though Blessed Thistle is also touted as a "digestive tonic") and even though it's so highly touted for milk production.

Strangely, I learned a couple other things I hadn't initially the fact my pee smelled like maple syrup? Yes, very weird! Apparently, fenugreek can cause false readings of maple syrup disease in babies, and sure enough I realized I smelled like maple syrup every time I hit the loo. I am not being a hypochondriac either. It's like when you eat asparagus and can clearly smell it in your urine...except I actually smell like an IHOP! It's unmistakeable and so very strange.

Needless to say, I decided it's simply not worth taking these supplements if there's any chance it's causing any doo-doo disdain for Preston. They have definitely helped increase my supply, as I went from pumping only 0.5/1 oz. on both breasts per session, to now averaging 3 oz. However, many times a supply can be well established by 6 weeks, and we will be 6 weeks on Monday. Worth noting that I also rented a hospital grade pump for a month (Medela Symphony) to help bring in my stubborn to flow milk.

It's equally important, if not more important, to just keep creating the demand for milk by pumping, and that is something I'm continuing to do of course. I just returned the Symphony yesterday, because we don't need the $75/month rental fee. Instead, I will still be using my spiffy little Medela Pump In Style Advance that I got for FREE thanks to the Affordable Care Act. It's a $300 pump itself, so I will take what I can get even if it's not the very best available.

And because I'm one of those people who feels they need to be doing something more, I began searching for other natural ways of increasing milk production through nutrition alone. I made these Major Milk Makin' Cookies last night for the first time. Jackpot!!!

These cookies are seriously good, and I would feel pretty good about eating them even if I wasn't lactating. Outside of being full of galactogogues, they are pretty healthy for tons of other things...heart health for one. Maybe I shouldn't have told hubby they are for makin milk, because he needs these in his life too! I'm hoping he likes them, because unbeknownst to me, the recipe made almost 5 dozen. We've got some cookie eating to do!

This could be dangerous.

The magic milk making ingredients are oatmeal, brewer's yeast, and flaxseed meal...

You can read about all of the amazing properties of these foods here if you're interested. The blogger who posted this recipe @ gives some fantastic info on how it works to increase prolactin, the key hormone related to milk production.

Only time will tell if/how my supply is affected, both from the dropping of the fenu-fart and discontinuation of the hospital grade pump, as well as the addition of the cookies to hopefully balance it all out. I couldn't help but notice after making the cookies last night (and proceeding to eat a few more than I'd planned) that my next pumping session I got 5 oz! It could be coincidence, but I rarely ever get 5 oz, so I'm hopeful they're a decent enough replacement. Hopefully I won't turn into a total cow eating them like candy either. Cow's are good for milk making yes, but not good to fit in my shorts. ha!

We've been using this really convenient iPhone app to track Preston's feedings and my pumping sessions. There are a ton of apps out there, but if you need something to help organize I highly recommend iBaby Feed Timer.

This is what the log looks like...

This is what data for our last 24 hours, week, and month look like...

Bottle Feedings

The app allows you to input anything related to breastfeeding, pumping, feedings, dirty diapers, sleep, and make notes anywhere needed. You can share the account across more than one iPhone, so that means hubby or a caregiver/babysitter can track while you're not with baby. You can view all the data in real time as soon as the other person inputs something. Then, it also analyzes data so you can see trends over time. And, you can even email/print a spreadsheet of all the data at the click of a button...pretty handy if you need it to show your LC or pediatrician for any reason.

Fingers crossed I won't see a huge decline in supply due to the dropping of supplements and downgrading my pump, but if I do, I'll just drown my sorrows in cookies and almond milk.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Thank You letter to RE

There are many thank yous I've made along our journey to parenthood, but this one was long overdue. I ran into my RE at the beginning stages of pregnancy while visiting my MFM in the same building, and I proceeded to have an emotional breakdown. I could barely mutter a "thank you" at the time. I was just so overwhelmed with gratitude.  I truly feel that without IVF, we may not have ever had success starting a family, so I wanted to send him and his staff a proper "thank you." This is what a wrote...

Dear Dr. Vaughn,                                                                                                     8/23/14

I’m writing because there is no way I could ever convey my heartfelt thanks in person without sobbing buckets of tears…tears of joy of course. I sit here having just fed our absolutely perfect little boy, who just turned one month old. Preston Alexander joined our family on 8/18/14 at 21 ¾ inches long & 8 lbs. 8 oz.  He’s a very healthy and happy boy!

As you know, it wasn’t an easy journey for us to the place we’re at now. However, I don’t feel we would have arrived at this new and exciting chapter without your help. We came to you after being dissatisfied with another RE, and I knew from the moment I stepped into your office that you were the one to help us. There was a figurine on your desk which read “Babies are a gift from God” or something along those lines. This was only a very small clue into the humble, caring, patient, knowledgeable and just “meant-to-be” doctor that we invited into our journey…YOU!

It wasn’t an easy or clear-cut path. There were pregnancy losses, failed attempts, surgeries, and many tears. However, one thing remained constant; anytime you walked in the room, I immediately felt at peace. I knew that you were our strongest ally always. I felt I could trust you without a doubt and that you had our best interests at heart. A peace just fell over me anytime you were there, and when I felt like giving up, it’s like God whispered “Stay right where you’re at. You are exactly where you should be.”

I am just so glad we did! No question that you are truly in your line of work first and foremost to help people realize their dream of having a family. I have always believed that fertility medicine is not taking the place of God’s desires for us, but that He anoints gifts to certain people to help those who need it. You, Dr. Vaughn, are one of those people. I know he placed you in our lives for a reason. And even if it didn’t happen on our timeline at first, I can now say that I wouldn’t change it, because look at the amazing miracle we now have in our lives.

There are no words to convey our gratitude for everything you did to help us. You are making a HUGE mark on this world, one patient at a time. I know I am only one of thousands of people who feel this way about you and your life’s work. THANK YOU and your entire staff from the bottom of our hearts!

With Gratitude,

Matt, Emily & Preston

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

1 Month Foxy Hiccupotamus

Our hungry little milk monster has morphed into an uncontrollable hiccuper this week, earning him a new nickname...all credit goes to the hubs for that one. Brilliant! Apparently, the intense hiccuping I'd felt in the womb for the last half of the pregnancy is sticking around for a bit longer. Preston is getting pretty tired of it, and I was wondering if it was normal. Well, come to find out it is a normal newborn thing. The pediatrician says it could last until 6 months of age, so we have a ways to go before we say sayonara to hiccups and hello to some other nickname making fun of Preston's bodily functions.

Hard to believe, but P will be 1 month old officially tomorrow! He wanted to look foxy for the occasion...

He's already wearing 3 month clothing and has outgrown much of his newborn and 0-3 month stuff. This is probably not the most accurate way of weighing a newborn, but hubby weighs himself holding Preston, and then weighs himself without Preston to get P's weight. According to our very scientific calculations, he's about 12 pounds by now. Is that even possible? Um, I'm thinking YES with the amount of food that he's eating. Our new favorite line is "He can't be hungry again!"

I'm pretty sure when I wrote my last post, he was going through a growth spurt and was consuming a ridiculous amount of milk. Since then, I've really tried to make sure he's giving solid hunger cues before handing him a bottle. We're getting better at distinguishing his different cries, and even one which resembles a dolphin noise. Not even kidding, he sounds like Flipper, which makes us laugh every time. I'm not sure if it's because we're being better about trying other comfort measures before the bottle, or because his growth spurt died down, but his eating has normalized slightly and he's not requiring quite as much to satiate him the past few days. I WISH I could say the same about the amount of diapers he's blowing through (literally).  

Yesterday was quite a record breaking day. 15 diaper all time high. Preston tells us immediately when his diaper is wet and does NOT like sitting in it! We are not keen on just letting him fuss in the middle of the night and hoping he'll settle back down either. I mean, I wouldn't want to sit in wet diapers, and I don't feel right letting my kid do it either. 99% of the time it's guaranteed to escalate way past a wimper anyways. I'm hoping there will come a time when a tiny little wetness in his diaper won't create a blood curdling scream as if he's about to die, but for now we're at his beckon call changing diapers faster than a NASCAR pit crew.

It was also a good day, because for the FIRST TIME EVER I pumped enough breast milk to meet his needs. He drank 26.8 oz. of breastmilk & I pumped 29.5 oz. Get I get a hallelujah?! I won't say it was easy. I pumped around the clock every few hours, and it took 8 pumping sessions followed by hand expressing to get there, but I finally did it. Realistically, there isn't a huge enough surplus that I am confident I can do that every day, and I don't expect to. 30 oz/day is good on a day he's being a mild eater, but on days when he's absolutely frenzied and eating his hands off every 2 hours, I just don't see how I'll ever keep up. Still, I will keep trying my best and enjoying the feeling when I can give little to no formula. Preston enjoys those days too. His tummy is more settled, and he's happier and less fussy overall.

And on that note. I've got to run. I'm past due to pump, and the hiccupotamus needs a diaper change!

Thursday, September 11, 2014

3 Week Flailings of a First Time Mom

Excuse my absence. It's been a tad busy around here. I've been reading others' blogs during pumping sessions, which is my only time to be online lately. Taking out my computer has been a challenge, but let's see if I can actually get a blog in.

The last couple weeks have been a whirlwind! Talk about not knowing which way is up or down. Our "plan" seems to change daily around here, constantly adapting to what might work or not work. I think we've moved our nursing glider about 4 times now, as well as other furniture and baby entertaining devices. It's like musical chairs for clueless first time parents.

Whoever invented the Fisher Price Rock n' Play deserves a Nobel Peace Prize, by the way. Our little guy is totally addicted to it, and against everything I said we wouldn't do, he's actually been sleeping in it in our room at night. We tried having him sleep in the bassinet of his Pack n' Play, but he's just not having that. We also had him sleep one night in his crib (upstairs in his nursery with camera monitoring). He did fantastic for one whole night and then he wasn't having that either the next night.

Ultimately, we've decided it's still really early to have him away on a complete different floor from us. He's only 3 weeks old, and we want him near us at night. However, the RNP is the only thing that seems to make him happy, so RNP it is for now. I realize I may have a beast to tend with later when transitioning to crib (which obviously doesn't vibrate or cozy him like the RNP), but it's anything to stay sane and get a couple hours of sleep for us right now. Pediatrician says it's totally fine, so guess we get a free pass on that one.

Other than that, our life is ruled by feedings, diaper changes, random meltdowns, and celebrations of poopy diapers after long stretches of grunting and kicking in a very dramatic effort to poo. My life specifically has been ruled by pumping, which I try to do 7 times each day. In fact, I made the decision to stop trying to breastfeed for now and switch to EP (Exclusive Pumping).

I mentioned earlier than I was using SNS (Supplemental Nursing System) feeding. This was because my milk was really late to come in (took 1 week for it to even show), and even then I wasn't producing 100% of Preston's needs. The SNS is a little contraption that you fill with formula, but then attach a tube to your breast with tape right near the nipple. It delivers formula via this tube, but the baby thinks it's just coming from your breast, so the risk of "nipple confusion" later on when you do decide to solely breastfeed is lessened, because he's always fed right at the breast. Here is a pic of what that looked like...

When I didn't want to strangle myself with the SNS

Awe, don't we look so serene? DO NOT BELIEVE THIS PICTURE!!! LOL  Seriously though, this was during our "honeymoon phase" with the SNS while in the hospital. What you don't see is what ensued in the 2 weeks that followed this photo...of me and Preston and dad (yes, it took 3 people to make this work many times) awake at 2 AM feedings, getting the formula ready, attaching it to mom exactly right, getting baby in position on the breast friend pillow without making me gasp in pain from my C section incision, getting him to latch on to this tiny floppy spaghetti noodle tube taped to my boob, making sure it was aligned with his chin so that it was actually flowing correctly, and then him proceeding to fall asleep at nearly every feeding, at which time I would try every trick in the book to wake him (blowing on him, undressing him, caressing him, you name it) to keep him eating, and then try to keep the device working properly the entire time as the noodle flopped out or was yanked out by someone's curiously strong little hands. It was a giant PITA!

I really tried to make the SNS work, but it was NOT a long term solution, and my body wasn't upping it's game on the production front quickly enough. I also hoped I'd be able to solely breastfeed, but it just didn't click like I'd hoped. I met with 3 different lactation consultants while in hospital and had a really great one come to our home for a 3.5 hr visit afterwards. She put me on a "triple feeding" routine in an attempt to increase milk supply fast, where every 2-3 hours I would

1) feed Preston with the SNS, while simultaneously using manual stimulation of my own breast to make sure he was also getting breast milk along with the formula
2) pump with hospital grade pump for 10-15 minutes afterwards
3) hand express for 5 minutes after that

You guys, I did this routine 7-10 times per day for 2 solid weeks, and I just couldn't take it anymore. I saw some slight increases in my pumping amounts, but due to the fact Preston was also drinking some from the breast, I really had no clue how much I was actually making or delivering on any given day. It felt like I was giving formula all the time through the SNS and it was not an easy process. I was MISERABLE. I was not enjoying feedings like I should have been, and I'm sure Preston wasn't either.  We decided that we needed something simpler.

For me, the goal of breastfeeding has always been more about the nutritional aspects for baby than it was about the bonding (I know, opposite of many moms). However, I really felt like I could bond with baby better if I was A) happier and more relaxed and B) I had the time to do it. I wasn't having any time to just hold baby much after feedings, and snuggle and just be together. And so after many tears and discussions, hubby and I agreed that I'd try EP instead. This meant no more floppy spaghetti noodle taped to my boob. No more failed attempts at satiating baby at the breast alone, followed by cries for more food. Instead, I would just do my best to pump as much breast milk as I could. We would deliver through bottles (which would allow hubby to take on some responsibility of feedings too) and then we'd just supplement with formula when we had to.

So far, pumping is working much better for us. I won't lie. EP comes with it's own set of challenges. There is still zero down time. I don't work, and while this might seem easier, I can't take a "break" in a quiet room to pump and am not protected by any law stating I am allowed to take a break. I'm by no means saying working moms have it any easier, just saying I can't ever get away to pump, unless hubby offers to watch baby and/or he's sleeping. Baby always needs something, and only with the help of my amazing hubby to take on baby duties, it's made possible.

I really want to give Preston the very best I can, so I'm trying my best to stick with it.
I can't make any promises how long this will all last though. As I type this, I am already an hour overdue to pump, have just fed Preston, and he's strapped to my chest via his Baby Bjorn, because it was the only thing that would make him happy at the moment. Unfortunately, there are no holes for pumping in this carrier, so time will tick by until I do get a free moment to pump next. I actually enjoy just holding him more than pumping anyways, so I'm happy for the excuse to miss a pump on occasion.

Additionally, I'm not even sure how long I'll choose to pump, because the other clock that is ticking is my biological clock. We won't be able to TTC until my period returns, which will most likely never happen while pumping this much. If/when we decide to TTC naturally or pursue fertility treatments again, the pumping will have to cease altogether.

Speaking of clocks, here is a snapshot of what our day looked like yesterday just to give you an idea of what goes down on a daily basis...

11:00 PM- Bottle of breastmilk (57 mL)
10:45 PM- Wet diaper
10:25 PM- Wet diaper
9:50 PM- Bottle of breastmilk (60 mL)
9:45 PM- Pumping (100 mL)
9:30 PM- Wet diaper
9:00 PM- Wet & dirty diaper
8:35 PM- Bottle of breasmilk (120 mL)
8:30 PM- Wet diaper
7:00 PM- Pumping (110 mL)
6:30 PM- Wet diaper
5:55 PM- Bottle of breastmilk (120 mL)

3:40 PM- Wet & dirty diaper
3:35 PM- Wet & dirty diaper
3:20 PM- Bottle of breatsmilk (128 mL)
3:15 PM- Pumping  (110 mL)

12:15 PM- Bottle of breastmilk (90 mL)
11:35 AM- Pumping (90 mL)

11:20 AM- Wet diaper
10:45 AM- Wet diaper
10:00 AM- Bottle of breastmilk (120 mL)
10:00 AM- Wet diaper
8:00 AM- Pumping (120 mL)

7:30 AM- Wet diaper
7:05 AM- Bottle of breastmilk (120 mL)
5:40 AM- Wet diaper
5:20 AM-Bottle of breastmilk (80 mL)

5:20 AM- Wet diaper
3:45 AM- Pumping (100 mL)

3:20 AM- Bottle of breastmilk (60 mL)
3:15 AM- Wet diaper
12:45 AM- Pumping (125 mL)
12:45 AM- Bottle of formula (128 mL)

Phew! Anyone tired just reading this?!?! It's just me and hubby flying solo here, so no rest for the weary! This day I'm happy to say we were able to give mostly breastmilk, because we did more formula the day before, and I had extra breastmilk stockpiling in the fridge. I would love to give this much breastmilk every day, but I'm always racing to pump more. Outside of carving out time, my body has just needed a lot of extra help to do this it seems.

Apparently, some women with fertility issues also have trouble with milk production, and I'm thinking it's plausible I might be one of them. Sure, I'm producing more now, but it's taken a village and whole lotta work, and it hasn't just happened naturally like it's supposed to. I haven't had my prolactin tested to find out if it's hormonal....I need another "to do" like I need a hole in the head if you can't tell. Honestly, I'm really not interested in traveling down a path of having a bunch of blood tests done to figure out what the real culprit is in this. 

What I'm able to get now is exponentially greater than it was at first though. I'm taking supplements religiously to try to help increase my supply, like fenugreek, blessed thistle, and nursing tea...

I'm now making about 2/3 of what Preston needs at this point, and we're giving less formula than we were before.  I'm still striving to make enough for 100% of his needs, which is no small feat as this milk monster's appetite grows leaps and bounds. I'm pretty sure he's having a growth spurt this week, but I'm not giving up as of yet. Now yesterday, when I woke up to blisters on my nipples...I was ready to just throw in the towel and quit altogether! It's easy to feel defeated when you are in pain or things aren't playing out the way you'd envisioned them. But then, I tweaked a few things (bought larger flanges, did some first aid on the nips, started using nipple butter again at each pumping, etc) and I was right back to pumping.

As for formula, that's been a challenge in and of itself.
Preston's tummy doesn't agree as well with it, and we are now on formula attempt #5. We've tried several to see what works at the advice of our pediatrician and many other moms out there. None of them settle as well as breastmilk, but Similac Alimentum seems to be the best for us so far. Of course, we may need to take out a second mortgage to afford this stuff. Cha-Ching! Gotta be the most expensive formula you can possibly buy. Figures! We've also added Culturelle probiotic to one bottle daily and are using infant gas drops with formula feedings. Still nothing works 100%, but we'll keep trying to ease his discomfort the best we can. When you see your baby in pain from gassiness or trying to poo, it's all you can do to try to fix it.

I never thought I'd be so affected by someone else's bowel movements, but it's like a 4th of July celebration around here when Preston has a good poop! He's happier, we're happier. I swear, even the cats are happier, because he's not fussing and crying. I really look forward to his digestive system normalizing more, which I understand usually happens by about 3 months. I'm assuming that the farting will not stop there though, and that I have many years of boy farts to look forward to.

As crazy as it's been, I've got to say I'm proud of us as a couple. We really have no clue what we're doing, but we're making it work. We've somehow managed to keep a clean home, feed ourselves, and make sure our animals are still alive as well. CPS has not come and arrested us yet, and our baby is eating and pooping and gaining weight (Preston was 9 lbs. 2 oz. at his 2 week apt, up from 8 lbs. 8 oz. at birth)...he's got to be over 10 lbs by now. I keep reminding myself that if the millions of idiots out there can raise a kid, then so can we!

Plus, all of the hectic moments just melt away when we look at the sweet face of this little boy who depends on us for every little thing. He has such a sweet personality already, and makes us laugh at the smallest of things, like his soft high pitched wimpers when he's tired or the way he attacks a bottle like a caveman when he's hungry. Here are a couple snaps over the last couple of weeks...

First bath at home

Snoozing right now as I blog
Snuggle attire...check!
First walk around the neighborhood. Fresh air!