Nursing, and Pumping, and Breastmilk Oh My!

First of all, I’ve noticed that anytime I want to talk about breastfeeding or breast milk I feel a little ashamed- because it includes the word “breast.” – or maybe not ashamed, that feels too strong. I think just slightly uncomfortable, like “what if my saying breast makes someone else uncomfortable?” But breastfeeding is pretty cool -dare I say magical– and I want to work on eliminating any discomfort I feel around it- because that must come more from cultural associations than the actual event of breastfeeding.

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*warning* graphic discussion of breastfeeding issues to follow 

There’s a lot I didn’t know about breastfeeding.

Just add it to the tome of things I didn’t know about becoming a mom- not because I don’t have a great mom or many friends who are great moms, but because I’ve always been focused on things that concern me. Until recently, that didn’t include babies.

I had heard breastfeeding was painful. I had heard that it can be difficult at first. And I had heard that most people love it or hate it.

I’ve found all these to be true except I probably have a love/hate relationship with breastfeeding rather than all one or the other. 

Here are the things I had not heard.

Breastfeeding is MESS-Y. It is hella, hella messy y’all. When you let down (letting down just means the milk actually starts coming out), you let down on both sides. So at first I would be feeding Eve and then I’d think she wet through her diaper, only to realize three days later (I was a little slow due to the fact I was still recovering from the trauma of childbirth) that it wasn’t in fact bladder leakage, but my breast milk leaking all over poor Eve. I now use a burp cloth on whatever breast Eve isn’t eating from.

Another example of messiness is, of course, at the start when your boobs are adjusting to her eating schedule and they leak EVERYWHERE any time baby goes a longer stretch without eating. It’s like “yay! Baby slept a five hour stretch…DANG, my boobs are rock hard and my shirt is soaked with milk!” I vividly remember one night when I got up in the dark to feed Eve and as I was changing her dipe, poop started spraying everywhere. As I was cleaning her up, my boobs started squirting, and *voila!* poop and milk everywhere. And by the way, there were many nights I was dripping breast milk as I changed her diaper. Waterfalls of milk just become the norm after awhile…Why didn’t I just where a bra and nursing pads you may ask? Because at that stage my nipples hurt and I didn’t want to.

I’m very grown up about all this breastfeeding stuff…

This brings us to engorgement. Friends, if I hadn’t experienced it, I would not think it possible for my boobs to be in this state. Huge. Hard. Full of golf balls. Pain. Full. I got help from a lactation consultant for this one, and let’s just say she had Eve eating in every possible position and for such a long time that I thought she would explode. But Eve was fine and my breasts were drained. After a lot of taking, Eve really gave to mom that day by emptying me out.

Pumping.

Oh pumping. Let me count the ways I hate pumping. It hurts. It’s one of the least comfortable things I can imagine. When I’m working, I pump FOUR TIMES A DAY. This means I pump before work, twice during work (while eating, writing notes, making phone calls, etc), and once before bed. Then, at the end of the day, I have to wash a mountain of pumping parts. By hand. I despise this. I just want to go to bed! Why must I wash!

I didn’t expect that I would come to see breastmilk as liquid gold. I am telling you LIQUID. GOLD. That stuff is made of my blood, sweat and tears, people. A little part of me dies every time Eve doesn’t finish a bottle and we have to pour breast milk down the drain. There have been more than one occasion where Nick has witnessed a mini-meltdown because I accidentally spilled or spoiled milk. Once I dropped a bottle after pumping and just stared at it spilling all over the carpet in horror until my husband ran across the room to pick it up. Another time I realized I had forgotten to put the milk in the fridge after work and wasted THREE whole bottles! I’ve noticed Nick tries to secretly pour out any wasted milk before I see it to shield me from witnessing the waste.

I was also unprepared for how difficult it is to feed in public and how little I care about anyone seeing my boobs while I feed. Mothers I had seen feeding their babes in public always made it look so easy. But the reality is that Eve gets hot and I get hot, Eve gets frustrated and I get frustrated. She tries to throw the cover off as I try to get her to eat quickly. It’s hard people, hard.

The most shocking part of breastfeeding is the exhaustion. I have trained for and run a marathon. That does not compare with the fatigue my body feels daily from breastfeeding. Given the choice between running a marathon or breastfeeding for a year- I would take the marathon.

Instead of calling it a feeding, I have jokingly referred to nursing as a draining of my life blood. That’s exactly what it feels like.

As Eve eats I feel more and more like I need to sleep. I start to feel like I haven’t slept in days. I typically have a million things I plan to do when she’s done eating, but by the time she finishes I feel like I can just summon enough energy to put her to bed or lie next to her on the floor as she plays. My husband barely recognized me without my usual flurry of productivity whirling around the apartment.

And as a side note, while I’m doing Eve’s last feed of the day, which can last an hour or more, I have adapted the lyrics to Give Me Jesus from “In the morning, when I rise, give me Jesus” to “In the evening, when I nurse, give me Jesus.” It seems to help a little. Feel free to steal.

Though it is hard and messy and painful, I am thankful for the opportunity to breastfeed my beloved babe. I am thankful for the bonding and the quiet one on one time. Breastfeeding forces me to put every single thing in my life on hold in order to focus on providing for my precious daughter. It brings my focus back to relationship. It rips me from my usual state of doing, back to the most important state of being

And I relish the sweet time breastfeeding gives me with Eve.

When my year is up (if I make it that far, which I hope to), I’ll be happy to be done with the pumping and messiness! But I’ll also miss the closeness and bonding with my little girl. I know breastfeeding Eve is something I will never be able to have again once she is weaned. So I am grateful for this phase. Painful and messy as it may be.

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A Saturday Morning Moment

This.


I am incredibly proud of myself because I just had “a moment.”

I spend a lot of time working with clients on mindfulness and appreciation. Be IN the moment. Appreciate what’s around you. ACCEPT things the way they are, without judgment.

But how often do I practice these things?

…well that’s not so important, but I did just have a moment!

A moment where I realized how grateful I am.

A moment where I appreciated how loved and blessed I am.

A moment where I stopped what I was doing (this is almost impossible for me) and just sat and felt it.

The house is not as clean as I would like. Eve’s toys glitter our floor as a reminder that things will never be as organized and clutter free as they once were. Dust sits atop our furniture like an unwanted guest who refuses to leave.  Our camping chairs are by the balcony door because I know that if we keep them in the garage it will make it even less likely we’ll actually sit outside at night drinking wine and/or smoking our pipes and/or connecting with each other after Eve is in bed (rare due to the fact that I turn into a zombie after Eve’s nighttime binge feed).

But this Saturday morning I was tuned into things that matter so much more.

Enjoying the fresh cup of pour over coffee Nicholas made for me.

Feeling grateful for a healthy, happy baby.

Anticipating the taste of blueberry muffins and a new Greek omlet/frattata/egg thing I’m trying for the first time.

Getting excited for a visit from a friend and her baby this morning, and a visit to a friend and her family from Grad school this afternoon.

Laughing at book I’m reading about parenting the French way.

I’m in it. In this moment.

It feels good.

Having a baby means these moments are much more rare.

But having a baby also helps me focus on the real things in life. The things that last. The things that matter.

Perfect Today

I keep meaning to post a group of sticky notes on my mirror at home as reminders of all the things I’m trying to improve in me.

The notes would say things like:

Be more patient.
Listen more.
Eat Healthier.
Have more grace for others.
Have more grace for yourself.
No negative self-talk.
Enjoy the moment.
Gossip less.
Exercise more.
Have faith.
Be honest.
Apologize.
Be a better wife.

Something about raising a little girl who will someday be a woman has motivated me to be a better person. I mean, I’ve always wanted to be a better person- and hopefully I’m a better person today than I was five years ago- but this whole being a mom thing makes it feel even more important. I want to model what it looks like to be a strong, compassionate, beautiful, woman for Eve.

I want to do things my daughter will be proud of. 

All of a sudden I’m imagining myself traveling overseas to fight Isis or curing cancer or something.

Something Eve will be proud of me for. Something Eve will aspire to herself.

But most days are so full of nursing, and pumping, and cleaning, and cooking, and working, and hosting, and nursing…that I don’t make time to intentionally work on these things that will make me a better person.

But I don’t know…I’m still trying. I still want to be better. To love better. To trust better.

And I have to find a way to try to change and to accept what doesn’t change at the same time.

And there’s a lesson there-
I don’t have to be perfect for Eve to love me. Her face lights up even when I walk into her nursery with my silly sleeping bun on top of my head and mascara smeared under my eyes. And Nick loves me. And God loves me. And lots of other people love me-

With or without my litany of self-improvement to-do’s completed.

That’s the other thing I want Eve to know:

You are perfect and beautiful every day, in every circumstance, because Christ has made you so.

Be patient with yourself. Love yourself. 

Do try, but know that love is not dependent on anything you DO, because who you ARE is fearfully and wonderfully made. 

You are perfectly imperfect, as they say, and nothing, nothing, nothing, will ever, ever change that.

And Eve will never believe this about herself, if I am unable to believe it about myself. 

I am perfect. I am wonderful. I am so loved.

Right now.

Today.

Becoming Mom

Some days I still can’t believe she’s real. 

Deep breath. 

Just three short months ago my life was so different. This little girl is full of so much life and so much happiness and so much beauty…I do not deserve such a wonderful little girl.

Nick must be a saint, because I certainly have done nothing to deserve such a precious gift.

I’m still so unsure how to live up to the giant task that is being Eve’s mom

And I know that none of us deserve any of the blessings God has given us. And I know that I will screw it up. But it just feels like the stakes have never been this high. 

How does life change so quickly and how are we expected to adjust so heroicly?

God guide me. Spirit fill me. Jesus love me.

This is my only hope in surviving parenthood. 

What I’m Learning From Eve

This is my last week home with my precious baby girl, Eve, before I return to work full time.

What an indescribable and bumpy journey maternity leave has been. It’s crazy how long and how fast it has been at the same time. We have spent so many days together- Eve and I- we’ve been on the floor, she’s been in my arms, tears have been shed (by both of us), visitors have come and gone, I have learned how to eat and nurse at the same time, Eve has learned to sleep on her own without being held.

It’s only been eight weeks, and already I’ve learned so much about parenting, about Eve, about myself.

Here are the top three things I’ve learned so far:

Humility: Oh how true it is that you will do the things you never thought you’d do when you become a parent. I look back now at some of the thoughts I had, “I will never do X”…”I will never be the mom that Y’s.” I’m embarrassed even to admit these thoughts, because how arrogant of me! Who the heck was I to make assumptions when I had absolutely no clue what it was like to be a mom.

I Don’t Have To Know Everything. Right Away. All the Time: Guys. I don’t like to feel like I don’t know what I’m doing. I especially don’t like it when the consequence of not knowing what I’m doing is an unhappy and crying IMG_3404(adorable, sweet) baby. Now that I’m starting to be able to understand Eve more, I’m realizing how high my expectations of myself were at first. I thought I didn’t know what I was doing as a mother- which is part of it- but it was also that it took time to get to know my daughter. There was no way I could have known what she needed or wanted right away. I am learning each day how to care for her, but I was unreasonably hard on myself in the beginning.

As I am in many areas in life. I just want to be good and competent and know what I’m doing as soon as I start anything. Many times this is simply unrealistic.

Grace, Krista, grace.

Nothing Lasts Forever: The first few weeks of maternity were tough. They. were. tough. A good friend kept telling me, “it will get better.”
-hate nursing? it will get better
-baby hardly sleeps at night? it will get better
-feel isolated and lonely? it will get better
-feel depressed? it will get better
-terrified out of your mind? it will get better
-body feels like it’s been hit by a train (and your husband touching you is absolutely out of the question)? it will get better
-heart brakes every time your baby cries? it will get better
-feel overwhelmed? it will get better

And it has.

In week four I fantasized about going back to work.

Now, in week seven, Eve is more alert and less fussy, I feel more rested and more like myself, my confidence in my parenting abilities (though still wavering) has improved, and Eve and I are much, much more bonded and attached. The thought of leaving her to return to work is a difficult one.

In the first weeks if Eve had a “bad day” I freaked out because I was sure she would be colicky for the next three months. Then she’d have a “good day” and I would be sure that she would be perfect from there on out. Not so. I’ve slowly learned that she has phases and to enjoy the good ones and ride out the hard ones.

There’s a scene in My Best Friend’s Wedding where Julia Roberts is feeling like a terrible person because she did something dreadful to hurt her best friend. Someone sits next to her in the hall and says, “My grandma always said, ‘and this too shall pass'”.

Motherhood is such a powerful reminder that every moment is just that- a moment. And that moments together make up a season. No moment lasts forever. No season lasts forever – though sometimes it feels like it does. This life on earth won’t even last forever.

This too shall pass.

I will not say I’ve learned to enjoy every moment- because some moments are are just hard- but I have learned to enjoy the many, many beautiful moments and that the hard moments will pass.

And though I don’t enjoy every moment, I am certainly grateful for this season.

So in gratefulness, and patience, and humility, I will continue to see what this little lady has to teach me.

“You’re a Good Mom”

“You’re a good mom” -how I need these words every day.

Everyone tells you parenting is the hardest thing you’ll ever do. True statement.

It’s also the most foreign thing I’ve ever done. 

When approaching challenges in the past I have always told myself I’m a quick learner and a hard worker and I can figure it out. I’ve also reminded myself that if others could manage it, so could I.

Same with becoming my mom- I thought, I’ll figure it out- my sisters and friends have. I can trust my “women’s intuition” as they say, and learn along the way.

But coming home from the hospital with an infant felt anything but natural, and whatever intuition I was supposed to have seemed to be missing.

For every big decision- diapers, feeding, napping, scheduling- there are people- very opinionated people- on both sides. I question myself on everything, and the experts are no help because they can’t even agree.

Unfortunately, God didn’t send this little lady with a manual- Feed when cry sounds like this. Time feedings this many hours apart at week 3 and this many hours at week 6. She likes to have her tummy rubbed after she eats….

Due to these insecurities, I’ve found myself more sensitive to judgment. In the past, I haven’t been all too concerned about what people thought of me. But since I’ve become a mom I’ve noticed feeling anxiety before people visit.

What will they think of my parenting practices? Will they think I’m starving her? That she’s too small? That I’m a terrible mom? That I have no idea what I’m doing (which would be accurate, but I don’t want anyone to know that)?

Parenting just feels very vulnerable.

Fortunately, my support system has stepped in to meet me in my vulnerability. Instead of judgment- they have offered love. Instead of condescension- they have offered patience and encouragement.

When I got home from the hospital, Nick and my mom kept telling me, “you’re a good mom.” Somehow they knew this is what I needed to hear. They kept saying it to me over and over, and it felt like water to my dry, exhausted, mamma heart.

I have been amazed at how much I need to hear those four simple words, and how much they do to calm and quiet my freaked-out soul.

This Mother’s Day I’m thankful for all the moms- and non-moms- in my life who have given me space and encouraged me as I find my own way as a mom.

To my mom for cooking, cleaning, and empowering me to believe that I could do this mom thing.
To my sisters who have answered my gagillion questions about birth, and diapering, and oh my gosh how does this breast pump work?
To my breastfeeding advocate friend who keeps telling me she’s proud of me.
To my counselor friend who patiently told me “you’ve got this” as I cried overwhelmed tears on the phone.”
To my church friends and small group who have brought me meals to give me more time to be with my babe.
To the many friends and coworkers who have believed in me and told me they think I’ll be a great mom.

To so many amazing and supportive women in my life who play a mom role whether you’re a biological mom or not.

Thanks.

And I hope today you hear those words as well-

You’re a good mom.

Mother or Heavyweight Champion of the World?

Where do I even start when writing about my birthing experience?

Honestly, the first word that comes to mind is traumatic. 

I hesitated to use such a strong word, but then I read this from Baby Whisperer: “It’s not just the physical trauma, which would be enough to debilitate anyone. It’s the exhaustion, the staggering cocktail of emotions, and the crushing feelings of inadequacy that overwhelm you as well. And that, lovey, is normal.”

Yes, and oh my goodness, yes.

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IMG_3314To prepare for birth, Nick and I attended a 10 week birthing class (the last session which we missed because I was in labor), interviewed friends and family about their birthing experiences, and met with a doula. We developed a birthing plan and went over it with our Obgyn. I tried to stay active going for walks and doing my 7-minute workout circuit, pregnant yoga, and tons of squats. I read several books, and Nick read parts of some.IMG_3315

Fortunately, all went as planned- We labored at home for awhile (I took a bath while we watched the Michigan State – Louisville game, we went for a walk, we reviewed class notes, we danced in the living room in hopes of speeding things along…) and arrived at the hospital hours later, four centimeters dilated and 80% effaced.

We walked the halls as I breathed through contractions leaning on Nick (Nick was AMAZING) and having our doula, Deann, massage my back. I had an IV in my hand for penicillin (I hated how many times I was stuck with needles throughout the process) due to my testing positive for Group B Strep.

IMG_3333I remained calm through most of it, and Nick and Deann were the dream team. In my mind they were Paulie and Mickey rooting me on in my fight for heavyweight champion of the world- in “my corner” offering water and cold washcloths throughout the night (from Rocky for those of you who had a sad childhood and don’t know the reference).

However, during the pushing phase, I lost my mind and started screaming and crying hysterically. Hysterically people. I embarrassed myself, and fear my six week check up when I have to face my doc again. (I’ll spare you the rest of the nitty gritty details)IMG_3329

But giving birth to my beautiful daughter was only the beginning. The days and weeks after coming home from the hospital were also physically and emotionally difficult. I was so, so beyond blessed to have my mom come spend two weeks with us, and my husband’s constant support and encouragement. Without the two of them, I think I would have ended up in a psych ward somewhere.

And of course it is true that it is totally and completely worth it (even though I spent a better part of my time in the hospital trying to figure out how to have more kids, but never, ever have to go through that experience again), and that giving birth is beautiful as well as traumatic. How could a human body emerging from my own human body- and made by my husband and my human bodies- not be the most amazing and miraculous thing?

But it took days for this to sink in. It took days for it to sink in that this was a human life, lent to us from God, made from my husband and I, and she was- is- our daughter.

Many women talk about the instant, overwhelming love they feel after giving birth…but for me it took longer. I loved her for sure, but it was sort of a surreal, intangible love until I had time to get to know her and bond with her- which is ongoing.

The entire experience really did feel like a fight. I had to fight to get her out, and I had to battle the intense “cocktail of emotions” that came afteward- humility, shock, anxiety, sadness, fear, overwhelment (in case you’re wondering, that’s not really a word). Everything felt exhausting, but there were breaks and support and beauty in the pain.

My team never left my corner- Nick, my mom, Deann, friends and family who prayed and visited.

I didn’t win a fancy belt (like Rocky did- at least in second, third, and fourth movies;), but I get to be mom to the most amazing and gorgeous little girl I’ve ever met-  and I have the chance to continue to get to know her every day and every year as she matures into an even more beautiful, strong, and intelligent woman, who I’m sure will run for president one day.IMG_3440

It still feels super hard and overwhelming, but I can’t wait for Nick and I to continue to do life with her.