Thanksgiving 2015 This Thanksgiving morning I am not feeling the best. I am not my strongest. I feel the pain of old injuries and the aches of getting older. My back hurts and I’m feeling defeated. This morning it’s hard … Continue reading
So, if you know us, personally, you may know that Liam and I embarked on an interesting Journey sometime in March/April. Liam is now small business Brand Rep. I’ll explain a little more about it in a future post, but … Continue reading
Tonight I will light a candle at 7pm.
October is Infant and Pregnancy Loss Awareness month. Declared by the late, great Ronald Reagan, this month is meant to bring visibility to the loss so many experience, yet few discuss. There is no term for a parent after the loss of a pregnancy or of an infant, but no matter the words we put to it the feeling is ultimately heartbreak.
Brian and I were blessed unexpectedly with both Aiden and Colin. Getting pregnant with both boys seemed “easy” and the pregnancies were status quo. Aside from a few funny test results with Aiden, which all turned out normal, everything progressed well and ended in normal natural births.
2013 rolled around and having made it through midnight feedings, sleep training, potty training, toddler beds, big boy beds, PreK and more, we decided to actively “try” for a third child. I didn’t feel complete, and while finances are always a concern when looking to expand a family, Brian ultimately wanted more children, too. I think it worried him that the boys would only have each other if, God forbid, anything ever happened to he and I.
So we tried, thinking things would work out easily, like in the past. No such luck.
I was sad, and my wallet was a bit lighter after all the pregnancy tests I wasted that first month. The next month, more of the same. I felt empty and broken. I began to understand the feelings of my friends and acquaintances who had experienced infertility. It felt desperate and horrible.
During this time I recalled a conversation I’d had with my mom when I’d been pregnant with Aiden and a couple of friends didn’t attend my shower because of their own fertility struggles. I was upset they were not there, and felt like they were unsupportive of my pregnancy. My mom gently set me straight, recalling her own feelings when experiencing infertility prior to my adoption. She told me that sometimes it’s just impossible to get past the loss, month after month, and be happy for others who easily get pregnant and have beautiful healthy babies. Eight years later in the summer of last year I fully understood this feeling, and was ashamed for having been frustrated with my friends.
I started to track my cycle using ovulation predictors. Month three passed but in month four it worked! That positive test made me cry out loud with joy and the smile on Brian’s face had teeth!! (those of you who know him know he almost never smiles with teeth!) I was so excited. We had never experienced problems after a positive test, so when my mom called to give me the dates of a coming summer family vacation to Rehoboth Beach, DE I told her not to waste her money on the second week because we would not be making the trip. I was pregnant and due that week!
A couple of weeks passed and I contemplated telling friends, other family, work… In fact I was at work when I noticed the pink tinge on the toilet paper. That night it had changed from barely noticeable to obvious bleeding. I sat on the stairs and cried. Brian told me not to worry, but really, I am a professional worry-wart, so that fell on deaf ears.
The doctor told me not to worry and to come in for some tests. I couldn’t see my regular doctor and the one I saw instead was reasonably kind, but gave it to me a little too straight, “You are miscarrying. It will pass over the next few days. You are older, your eggs are older, it will take someone your age an average of 6-8 cycles to arrive at a viable pregnancy. If you miscarry again, we’ll discuss the options. Wait a cycle and try again.” They took my blood to confirm my HCg levels were declining and sent me and my old eggs home.
I gathered everything I had inside of me during that week and happily celebrated other friends coming births, cheerfully returned to work and didn’t let on to my big boys. At night I cried. I had hoped to be months into a healthy pregnancy by this time and instead I was back at square one.
With the holidays coming and having to wait at least one cycle I put away the ovulation predictors and loped forward. The weeks passed and my cycle didn’t return. I fearfully took a test. Positive. I waited a day. Positive. I called the doctor and went in for two blood draws to measure my levels. Rising. They did an ultrasound. The bean was there. I held my breath for two more weeks. Another ultrasound. There was a heartbeat. I cried. So did Brian. I felt the pressure lift and I took my first easy breath in weeks.
Those who have experienced miscarriage and loss call a child after loss a Rainbow. Liam is my beautiful blond rainbow. He held on through all my fears and worries – nine months worth, from bean to gummy bear to fully formed delicious baby boy. He knew how much I needed him, he knows the job of a rainbow is to help us remember the beauty in pregnancy and infancy while guiding our minds to lessen the heartbreak in loss.
During this month of Pregnancy Loss Awareness those who have experienced a loss are asked to light a candle at 7pm on 10.15 and let it burn for one hour in a united effort to produce a continued wave of light across the world for one day, honoring the babies who are forever in the hearts of those who loved them.
I write to erase the shame and sadness of loss in miscarriage. I will light the candle to honor my heavenly baby and all the little ones lost by friends, family and acquaintances. I invite you to do the same if you, too, have lost a pregnancy or an infant, or if you care for someone who has.
For more information on Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Day visit: http://www.october15th.com/
The other day my 7-year-old son brought me a hand-drawn picture of our family done in penguins (he seems to be into penguins these days). I asked him to do me a favor and tell me who was who in the drawing. He pointed out the Daddy watching tv and the Liam (our newest addition) in his bouncer. He said the two playing nicely together were the Colin and Aiden penguins, enjoying a shiny new toy.
“Well, who is the dead looking one,” I asked, obviously concerned as I was the only penguin missing?
“That’s the Mommy,” he said, “She is laying in bed, pumping milk for the Liam penguin. See, there are the tubes and her pump.”
Ah-ha. He pretty much nailed it.
The great Breast vs. Formula debate is always on the forefront for new mothers and fathers. What really is best for the baby? For the family? Somehow, this time around I’ve found myself on the outs of both groups – pro-boob and pro-powder, I’ve done both in the past and am really doing neither this time! As shown in Penguins a la Colin, I am Eping, a term used to describe those who exclusively pump and feed their babies breast milk from a bottle.
How in God’s name did I end up here? Backing up to 2006 and Boy #1 I made every attempt to breastfeed. Aiden was born with a small chin and an even smaller little tongue which was attached making it impossible for him to latch properly and stay there. Feeding him and making sure he was getting enough was endless. The few weeks I was able to breast feed we were both in tears on numerous occasions. I was in pain and he was starving. The lactation consultants I saw offered suggestions, none of which helped. The final straw was two-fold: first, it was suggested that he have his tongue clipped in order to free it from the place in his mouth God had placed it, and second, I got mastitis. Ouch. And we were done.
Honestly, a better atmosphere entered our house. Aiden was full and happy and my infection cleared, as did my bleeding, bruised and scabbed nipples (sorry for the graphics, but no one is meant to have a baby latched 24 hours a day). I recall some side-eye and a few rude comments when I pulled out the formula in public, but I never felt the need to explain myself.
With #2 things were different. I intended to try again. Maybe this baby would have a “normal” tongue, and regular ability to latch. I forgot that I also had a 15 month old, and the amount of time it takes to properly breastfeed a newborn infant became immediately obvious as Aiden relentlessly pounded the bedroom door looking for me while I tried to nurse Colin, also with a tiny attached tongue and lazy eating habits. Needless to say I gave up two days into it in the interest of time in general, as well as the time an attention I needed to provide Aiden.
But then Colin got sick. It was scary. He was hot and huffing, not something a 4-day-old baby should be or do. I called the pediatrician and we were seen within the hour. When they looked him over they asked if I wanted an ambulance. Really? Why? He was 104.1 and obviously fighting an infection. They needed to get us to Children’s ASAP. I said I would drive. I think it took me 15 minutes to make the trip from my house to Chicago Ave in Minneapolis – a drive that should take around 30 minutes under normal circumstances (I’ve made that drive many times since and have never beat that time, even with blood and screams from the backseat pushing our PR to the limit).
They admitted Colin within an hour of our arrival. We were there for 9 days while Colin recovered and his breathing and oxygen were monitored. While there I remember a friendly enough PA who came in to check out Colin. She was pleasant, chatting and discussing his prognosis. She then turned to me and asked if I was breast-feeding, and how was he doing with feeding?
I was not breast-feeding, I said. Her demeanor changed as she described to me my role in Colin’s illness. Out of her mouth spilled the most hateful and horrible communication – It was my fault Colin was so sick. I was not feeding him breast milk, and giving him the immunity to fight off his illness, and most likely this was also the cause of him becoming ill initially. I was not a good mom.
I was six days postpartum. My milk had come in and was dried up. She left and I burst into tears. desperate to heal Colin I begged one of the special care nurses to help me. Can I still make milk? What do I do? Was this all my fault?! I tried to pump, but only drops came out. Fenugreek and other natural remedies to increase production were fruitless. I felt like I had failed, and I also felt the need to explain my formula from that point forward. I felt the need to placate concerned strangers, and eventually I found myself explaining away bottles of formula to random people who had not even asked.
I can recall what I would say, “My boys have little mouths and attached tongues. They can’t latch or feed normally.” It made me feel inadequate and ashamed. My babies were not good eaters and I was not a good mom.
Fast forward 7 years and we arrive at the birth of Baby Liam. He came out with the same little mouth and attached tongue. It’s really rather cute – if you pull his bottom lip down a bit his tiny tongue moves around, never passing the gum line. When I tried to get him to feed he refused to latch. The nurse was kind and offered me a little bottle of formula. I asked for a pump.
Over the next couple days I read about Exclusively Pumping. I read everything I could find on the internet – which isn’t a ton. I figured out why. Most people don’t do it. It’s incredibly time-consuming. It takes 8-12 sessions a day, 15-20 minutes per session for at least 40 days, to establish a supply. That’s around 2.5 hours hooked to a pump in any given day. And this doesn’t include the time it takes to bottle feed your newborn, clean and sanitized pumping supplies and organize milk for feedings or freezing.
You have to do it around the clock. The best yields, when hormones are highest occur between 1am and 5am – that means pumping in the middle of the night regardless of how much you need sleep. No wonder Colin drew me as a prone penguin, pumping milk from her bed.
I don’t fit in. Even though Liam has been fed breast milk exclusively since that small bottle of formula in the hospital, I am not a breast-feeding mama. And while my Joovy Boob bottles might get a side eye or two from those who judge a bottle feeding mom, I often long for the ease and convenience of formula feeding. Stuck in limbo, and having been on both sides of this great debate I simply wish for all of us to stop judging. Can’t we make it easier on each other? We are all doing our sleep deprived best, why throw the breast at one another? Shame on that PA for making me feel so terrible back in 2007. Shame on anyone who makes any mom feel less than she deserves to feel about the her ability to care for her babies.
Did you know that my babies cannot latch when you asked why I’m feeding them from a bottle? None of them. Did you know that my sister spent days in the NICU worried about the health of her LO, and even while pumping her milk dried up and formula was the only option? Did you know that my friend breast feeds because formula is expensive and not a cost they factored into having babies, not necessarily because it’s “best”? Did you know that the daddy feeding the baby from the bottle lost his wife following childbirth? Sometimes we can’t do what might be medically “best”, sometimes we choose to do something for reasons other than soapbox cries. No one is right, and no one is wrong, we are all just trying to do what is best for our families in the only way that we know how.
Sometimes I long for the ability to stick Liam under my shirt to relieve engorged full breasts, and other times I wish my body was all mine again, and that lovely powdered formula sounds like a Godsend. But for now, I will remain a pumping penguin. From somewhere in the middle, I’m still here, but I’m pumping.
Resources on the Internet I have found helpful for Exclusively Pumping moms: