Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Dear Gem, Help Me Sleep!

I am having trouble falling asleep, Gem. You have four teeth now. And you don't really bite me, but your upper teeth have left an indentation that gets irritated. And after a few hours of nursing in your sleep, I'm incredibly sore. You're sleeping like an angel though, so I guess I could have worse things to complain about.

We had a Superbowl party and got you all decked out in black and yellow. Unfortunately, the Steelers didn't win. You didn't seem to mind. Glee made you smile.

You stayed in bed with Daddy in the morning before the party while I was awake cooking and decorating for almost 3 hours! I couldn't believe it.

You're getting so big my little lovebug, you have been eating yogurt with your cousins and rolling from one side of the kitchen to the other. I get teary-eyed when I think of how soon this will all be over. You'll be crawling, then walking, climbing, running...

On second thought, maybe all I need to do is cuddle...

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Lack of a nighttime routine

I wonder if I'm being a bad mother because we do not have a routine for bed. It seems like everyone else gives their baby a bath, reads them a story, then rocks them to sleep. Believe me, I have tried all of those things. I have tried doing those things in different orders and at different times. It doesn't work for us. Anytime I try to "put Gem to sleep" I wind up staying up until 4 in the morning glued to the desk chair. By 3 am  I would finally nurse Gem to sleep, and any movement beyond a few mouse clicks would snap her right awake. Sometimes I worry if that is a bad thing.

Then I think it must be good Gem is a light sleeper. That means less of a chance of SIDS, right?

Or maybe it's good because I am following her schedule, and not trying to force anything on her.

Then I remember we have an early pediatrician appointment, or I need to drive Daddy to school. Or I can't sleep any longer even though I have only been asleep for three hours and desperately want more.

Then I'm hormonal, short-tempered, and exhausted. I become a whiny mess, so as soon as possible, I take Gem for a nap, and she nurses and sleeps while I sleep. For a pretty long time. Like 4 or 5 hours. And every night when I think of all the babies in this country who must have had a bath and are dreaming sweet dreams of milk and toes, I wish I could be one of those moms.

One of those moms who manages to keep up with the laundry. One who has time to vacuum, shower, run errands, and still makes dinner nightly, and keeps her baby on a routine.

But there is nothing like spending a cold winter afternoon cuddled in bed with my beautiful girl.

So tonight while I am pacing the house at 3 in the morning regretting the coffee I drank before dinner, the nap Gem took from 6 to 8, and the nap I took after lunch I'll just have to think of how cozy we will be tomorrow at noon...

Saturday, December 11, 2010

To Gem, on this day, you have been with us 153 days...

Dear Gem,

     I'm going to have a lot to explain to you about your birth when you're older because I don't know much about my pregnancy.

:insert episode of I Didn't Know I Was Pregnant here:

I do not feel I need to explain why I did not know. I just did not know. I can make connections now to all the warning signs, but at the time I was oblivious. In any case, Gem, I'm writing to you now about our breastfeeding journey so far.

I only mentioned that I was unaware I was having you because I had no birth plan at all. I started your birth at one hospital and ended at another. I was pumped with drugs, I was overwhelmed, and I was just plain scared. Scared I had hurt you, scared things would go horribly wrong, and scared that I wouldn't know what to do when I met you.

Then I met you, and everything seemed perfect. Except that you were whisked away because the nurses said it looked like I needed to rest. Nanni was with us, but she did not want to force any of her opinions on me. I do not think she realized that I needed guidance. My brain was not functioning at higher levels, and I almost did not remember how to take a drink of water let alone how to nurse you.

I was told you would be brought to me in a few hours. Six hours later Daddy had been snoring so loud I think our friends almost two hours away could hear us. A doctor came in to ask me a few questions. First, he asked if I had any rest. I told him, "No, I'm waiting for the nurse to bring Gem to me. Everything is okay right? They told me she would be here!" I spent the night on the verge of tears and broke down in front of this doctor who I think was just there to make sure I was not bleeding too much. He sent the nurse to get you, and I eventually calmed down.

At this point I had damaged our breastfeeding relationship in so many ways.

1) I should have brought you to the breast as soon as you were born.
2) I should have made sure you were able to room in with me and Daddy.
3) I should not have counted on the nurse to bring you to me.
4) I should not have let the nurse give you a pacifier.
5) I should have not let you have formula from a bottle.

As you can see, I made a lot of mistakes. Gem, I love you so very much, and believe me when I say I have been trying my hardest to make everything right again. I wish there had never been a drop of formula in your delicate belly. I'm sorry I was not prepared to be a mom. You brought a whole new life to me. I am learning everyday about what is best for you, and I am trying to make all the best choices for you.

With that being said, Nanni helped me understand breastfeeding in a way I had not before. I thought babies were born, and milk would just come out if you would suck. I did not know my nipples would be sensitive to your strong suck. I did not know how milk was made, and I did not understand supply and demand. As soon as we came home Nanni set us up with our Boppy pillow and told us to call the Le Leche League. I was nervous and embarrassed that I did not know how to feed you. It seemed like something I should just know. I did not understand at the time that we were learning together.

We started breastfeeding before we left the hospital because you tried to latch on through my gown. The lactation consultant came in and helped me latch you in a very forceful way, which I soon realized was unnecessary. She outfitted us with an SNS, a backpack full of formula samples, and an annoyed look at Nanni for asking her questions.

The next two weeks were not perfect. I was unable to sit comfortably because of tears that were still healing on my bottom. I was up all night every night crying to Daddy because I was afraid you were not getting enough milk, and because I was in so much pain. I started watching videos and reading personal blogs for advice.

Our latch was perfect, but it was going to hurt just a little bit because your mouth was so small. I made a "boobwich" and this helped. As you got a little heavier, I was not supporting you properly so you were sliding off my nipple. I had cracks and even bled a little. I was at fault, and was only suffering because of my own mistakes. Our pediatrician was not breastfeeding friendly. She did not understand why we did not want to continue with formula when I wanted to stop using the SNS and exclusively breastfeed. She could not answer my questions, and sent me home with a headache.

I did not use the SNS properly. The lactation consultant at the hospital had us supplementing with almost an extra ounce of formula at every feeding, when you would really only need my colostrum while we were still at the hospital. I became severely engorged. When I started to leak milk, we decided we did not need the SNS. I know now that I had been supplementing too much, and trying to wean cold turkey made it more difficult. I was engorged, so you had trouble latching. The bad latch led to soreness, and you were not emptying my breast completely because I would stop nursing you when it hurt too much. You were not receiving enough hind milk. You were gassy, always hungry, and I was getting more and more engorged because you were not "emptying" my breasts at each feeding. I developed plugged ducts.

I still had not called the La Leche League. I was embarrassed that we were having so much trouble. I did not know what to do, but between each feeding being cut short, all of the stress, and the plugged ducts my supply dropped dangerously low. Plugged ducts led to mastitis on the right side. Lack of fatty hind milk led to you not gaining enough weight between your first well-baby visit and your one month well-baby visit.

I still did not understand how my body worked. I was given antibiotics to clear the infection. I did more research and was using a hand pump to relieve the fullness on my right side. I was still so sore, you hardly fed from that side at all. What I should have done was taken you to bed with me and not left until you were so full you couldn't drink another drop, and my plugged ducts were opened up again. Instead I listened to the pediatrician.

She sent us to a lactation consultant who gave me a hospital grade pump, formula samples, and ANOTHER SNS. I had a rigid pumping schedule, herbs to increase my supply, and a schedule when to feed you.

Baby Gem, you are stubborn. You enjoyed the fast flow of the bottle compared to the breast, but did not like other people to feed you. The only way I could realistically have time to pump enough milk to supplement an extra 1.5 ounces EVERY feeding was if you let other people give you a bottle while I pumped. When I left the lactation consultant's office, the plan was to nurse you, nurse you with the supplement milk in the SNS, and then let you sleep or play while I pumped for 15 minutes after every feeding.

However, I did not always get the same amount. Some pumping sessions I would only pump half an ounce. Sometimes I could pump 2 ounces. Sometimes I would only need 10 minutes and I would have 2 letdowns. Sometimes I would pump for 15 minutes and not have one at all.

During all of this, you decided you did not want to sleep anywhere but in my arms. You did not want Daddy to walk you around while I pumped. You did not want to nurse with the SNS tube in your mouth.

I broke down and let Daddy supplement you with the bottle while I pumped. I almost ruined our nursing relationship by doing so. You guzzled the pumped milk so quickly, then screamed and screamed until we gave you more. I was so worried that I had not been giving you enough, that I let Daddy put formula in with the breastmilk to make sure you had enough. I spent more time pumping than we spent nursing.

Seven days later you had a weight check, and the doctor still did not think you were gaining enough. I followed all of the advice from the lactation consultant. I made sure you were getting more supplements. I took the herbs to increase my supply.

The pediatrician told us to take you for blood work and a urine analysis. Then we would know that if there were no metabolic problems, then my milk must not be good enough. That we should switch to formula, and that if you did not gain she wanted to admit her to the hospital where they would make us switch to formula while they performed horrible and painful tests on you, and kept you away from us. In mind I knew my milk was exactly what you needed. Bullying by the doctor made me ignore my instincts.

I cried and cried until I had no tears left. Daddy almost punched the nurses who were trying to take your blood. They poked you six times, and still did not get enough to do all of  the screenings ordered. They watched you pee all over the bed, then asked me to give you a bottle because they needed to give you a catheter.

I was almost numb at this point. All I wanted to do was hold you in my arms and let you drink until you were smiling in your sleep. Daddy liked to call that look "milk drunk." I always thought you were dreaming about angels. You were screaming from the needle pricks and strangers touching you. Because the bed was covered in crunchy paper, because I was not holding you and keeping you safe from these people. You were constipated from the formula confusing your still developing digestive system. I did not know what to do to stop all of this. I was in a nightmare. We were supposed to take you back to the pediatrician after all of the tests. Instead we took you home. I put you in bed with me, grabbed some movies and some water, and we did not leave.

The doctor called us three days later to tell us you had no metabolic problems, and for you to come in for a weight check. I did not mention to the nurse that I had not pumped or supplemented in three days. All we did was nurse in bed. On demand. I continued to take the herbs. I made sure to drink lots of water. We did not go visiting anyone. I did not try to let other people hold you so you could "get used to it". My family told me I was spoiling you. I stopped taking calls. I told Daddy to tell everyone you gained just fine so they would leave us alone. The doctor said when we went to the office that if you hadn't gained in the last three days at least a half an ounce each day that you would need to be hospitalized. You gained more than that. I did not tell her anything about what we were doing, she just assumed I was still pumping and supplementing.

Looking back, I think we had a rough start. I did not know enough about breastfeeding. I did not know about supply and demand. I did not know about fore milk and hind milk. I did not know I was negating all of the pumping I was doing if I continued to give you equal amounts of formula as breastmilk.

I do know now that my infection led to a low supply. It did not mean that you weren't getting enough, it just meant that we needed to slow down. So many people wanted to meet you, but we needed to stay home and rest. We just needed each other. You would drink more milk so I could make more milk. I did not really need the hospital grade pump. It was interfering with our nursing relationship. It was making me time your feedings, but you fed quickly sometimes and sometimes you liked to linger. I was trying to fit you in schedule, but you wanted to be the boss. I could have just hand expressed some milk when I was engorged so you could latch on better. I apologize for not trusting my instincts. For buying into all of the propaganda we were being served by the medical professionals we went to see. We took you for a weight check five weeks later, you surpassed all of the expectations. We had kept the hospital grade pump just in case, but returned it on that day as soon as the lactation consultant told us you had gained.

Four weeks after that you gained even more weight. You have become much more efficient and do not feed for as long. However, you still like to sleep in my arms, and you still get gassy when you stop drinking too soon because something distracts you.

Gem, you are five months old today, and you are reaching all of your milestones. You are "on the charts" like the pediatrician wants. You have a belly exclusively full of my milk, and the best baby smiles in the world like I want. I love nursing you. I love you. You are my everything.

Despite how hard this journey has been so far, the means have been well worth what we have now. I hope if you ever have babies I can help you nurse them so you can experience the encompassing warmth I feel every time you nurse.

Gem, now we just have to survive teething and starting solids. Here's to the last five months, and as many more as you want!

Love always and forever,


Monday, November 1, 2010

Mall glares

     Breastfeeding has been a huge challenge for us. Throughout everything though, I still feel perfectly comfortable nursing in public...until someone looks at us. Well, stares more than looks. I was able to use a thin scarf to cover us when I went out when she was a newborn, but now she is more interested in the world and just fusses if I try to cover her up. She rarely will stay latched for more that ten minutes at a time, and loud noises (or children, or talking, or anything really) will cause her to let go and try to look around.

I try not to see this as a problem. I'm often quick enough to pull my nursing tank back into place, or even just put my arm in the way until I'm covered. My wonderful boyfriend is supportive of me nursing our girl in public, and will even just stand in front of us if we're having some trouble. I'm pretty clumsy, Gem's squirmy, and I really just don't like the idea of strangers looking at my breast(s).


I do not try to flash my goods for everyone to see. I understand people can't help but look at our beautiful girl. For some reason though, whenever I get really awkward or even dirty looks from people it is because they caught a flash of my nip. Honestly, you were looking at my breast while I was feeding my daughter, did you expect a bottle to magically appear there if she let go?

     If strangers trying to catch a peek wasn't frustrating enough, my family really does not know how to react to us. My aunt likes to take us places, and for my birthday we went to Walmart, Old Navy, and Panera Bread. A trip to three public venues can be tough on me. When Daddy comes with us, Gem will let him carry her around and she will just look around and smile and enjoy her Daddy time. When I take Gem out she wants to nurse, then look around, then look around while nursing, then change positions, then almost always has a diaper blowout, then gets overstimulated and upset and wants to nurse again. In the same hour. So for my aunt's sanity, I nursed Gem before we left the house, in the Walmart parking lot, in the store, and in the car again. During all of this it was pretty cold outside so Gem was happy to be snuggled under my scarf. In Old Navy she was getting fussy, but by the time we were at Panera she really just wanted to be at home snuggling in bed.

     The Panera Bread near us has a fireplace and big cushy chairs surrounding it, with small side tables. I was able to eat my food and nurse much more comfortably. It was very warm however, so I did not want to cover Gem and make her too warm. My aunt stood and held a bad in front of us almost the entire time we were there! We weren't even facing anyone. Someone would have to actually try to see what we were doing, and if they did I had a very calm and tired out girl in my arms, so she was sleeping on my breast blocking any mishaps.

     I know auntie was just trying to help me be modest, and she didn't want to offend anyone. I was offended. I do not understand why I need to hide away while I feed or comfort my baby. It did not help that there was another family who had their baby sleeping in a carseat with a pacifier. My aunt would have been fine with that scenario. Breastfeeding is something she has not been exposed to, and since I'm not doing what she did she does not know how to react.

Just so everyone knows, I did not give in. I did not say anything to her, and ignored her requests for me to use a blanket. I just smiled and kept eating.

Also, I got some cute leggings and the most beautiful scarf from Old Navy. 


I wear the leggings all the time, and I lost the beautiful scarf....somewhere. I really thought it was in the car. It isn't. I thought it could be in the living room. It's not. The twins must have found a new hiding place because I really think my scarf is gone for good. Seriously.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Busy busy!

     My birthday was this past Saturday. Daddy, Gem, Cha, and I went to see a hot air balloon launch.

     Except, the balloons didn't launch! It was too windy to get them off the ground, and as the sun started to set it got too cold for Gem. We took some nice family photos though, and of course Daddy has much better pictures with Gem because of my master photographer skills. Not really, I'm actually pretty terrible. I keep reading tutorials and trying to get better pictures, but I think without an actual class I'm not going to improve much.



I wrote this a week ago, then forgot to post it. Oops!

Friday, October 8, 2010

Day of Bert and Ernie (BERTDEY)

     It's offically my birthday! I'm 24 now, a mama, and in a completely different place than I was last year. I'm really happy to relax and be with my family, instead of being out at smoky bars with strangers.

     Today is also John Lennon and his son Sean Lennon's birthday today. It is said that John loved Sean more than anything, and became a househusband for him. I think that's really interesting, and also beautiful. Read more in this Daily Mail Article which includes lovely pictures of John, Sean, and Yoko. If possible, Gem's Daddy would be at home with us everyday. He'd cook us delicious meals, sing thoughtful songs, and everyday would be a celebration.

     Gem will be 3 months old on the 11th, it's crazy how much time has passed! She's been cooing more, and we like to stay in bed after Daddy leaves for school. She tells me all her secrets, and I tell her mine. I can't wait until she can tell me about her dreams. I always wonder what they're about. When people ask, I tell them she's dreaming about angels because she looks so serene, she even smiles in her sleep sometimes.
     I can't wait to see my surprise from Daddy! I'll post pictures tomorrow, if weather permits we're going to a soccer game and then a hot air balloon launch. 

     Quote of the day:
"They say it's your birthday, well it's my birthday too, yeah!"

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

My First Post

     I'm an avid lurker of cooking. crafting, and breastfeeding blogs. I never leave comments because I'm always nervous that whatever I write won't be interesting enough for someone else to read. I always wind up kicking myself for not sharing my opinion, experience, or even thank yous because I'm too self-conscious.

     I need to write all of this down. For my sanity, to reflect, and to share with Gem. This is too wonderful a life to keep all to myself.

     Our beautiful baby girl Gem was born on July 11, 2010 to her very happy but nervous Mama Marissa and Daddy. We're living with Daddy's parents, Daddy's sister, her husband, and their twin 20 month olds. Our house may be crowded, but it's full of love. Delicious food is always being made, new wines are tasted, friends visit often, and kisses are currency. I find myself challenged everyday to become a better mother, a better aunt, a better baker. Daddy's sister Ahmee makes jewelry and imports luxury items handmade from Nepal. She bakes homemade bread, tries to organize our chaotic house, and offers me advice all while trying to plan for her business and raise her own babies. Nonni and Nana(Grandma and Grandpa) work very demanding jobs in the medical field, and are often gone for 10-12 hours out of the day. Chacha (Uncle) is still adjusting to living in the United States, as he just moved here from Nepal a month and a half ago. The babies are the sweetest and most stubborn. BB(baby boy) gets into everything sharp, and BG(baby girl) is a momma's girl. They are currently struggling with finding English words and feeding themselves.

     My days right now are spent increasing my milk supply by pumping with a hospital grade pump,reading other blogs, and trying to enjoy all of my cuddling time now. I have a computer next to my bed, and spend way too much time on the internet while I'm nursing Gem. I should embrace it now, because she is easily restless and I know we won't have this much down time for very much longer. I had a very difficult start to breastfeeding, and am very interested in learning about other mothers' experiences and advocating for other breastfeeding moms. We co-sleep, we are working on carrying in different slings, and enjoy taking Gem to visit family, friends, and new places.

     I studied developmental psychology, early childhood education, and special education at the University of Pittsburgh. I was unable to complete my studies due to financial difficulties, but I hope when Daddy finishes school, I will be able to return. For now I'm currently staying at home with Gem, while Daddy finishes college. He's getting his Associates in December, and transferring to a better school to get his BA in elementary education. Daddy is one of the smartest people I know, but loves to laugh. We can have a serious discussion about education reform, politics, and local schools, then go watch South Park and original Star Trek episodes. He is a musician, and sings folk songs to Gem and me whenever the mood strikes him.

    This is only a snapshot of my life right now, but I have so much more to say. For now, here are some actual snapshots of my family:

Baby-faced Daddy and Gem at the hospital. 
Mama and Gem's least favorite way to be held.
I've still got it!  ;)    

Zen Gem in the car.

     That's all I have for today, but I'll leave you with a quote of the day:
 "You know in Alaska they let their babies play with knives." - dedicated to Auntie Emily.