Like a Queen – with Constance Hall.

For those of you who haven’t previously heard of Constance Hall – go forth and Google, (or Facebook, or Instagram) – actually, here, just go to www.likeaqueen.com – thank me later.

To some, she is the first contestant to be kicked out of BB5 (Aus), she’s a mum of four, blogger, Author, massive fundraiser (check out her amazing work with Rafiki Mwema – www.Rafikimwema.com ) and that woman who wrote that post on Facebook about ‘three-minute parent sex between nappy changes’ last year that went viral. 

To some of us, though, she’s just a rad bitch who tells is like it is. 

I’ve been following her for well over a year now, laughing hysterically at her frank and genuine posts about motherhood, about being a woman, about accidentally buying adult diapers instead of sanitary towels, about how, if she’s caught scratching her girl-parts during a national interview – that it’s not, as we may all assume, crabs – rather intimate area eczema (who even knew that was a thing?), about parental guilt, sleep deprivation, body image, about self-love, about all love, about life and about relationships.

I’ve found myself nodding in agreement to the list of things she’s written about that ‘they’ don’t tell you about having a child, or the crappy day she’s had while her kids have had a public meltdown comparable to a nuclear explosion – all the while shoving chocolate in my face and slugging down a diet coke – wishing it was wine, wishing I had a closet to hide in, wishing I could JUST POOP ALONE, or wishing I could teleport to a Caribbean Island for a *real* margarita (not Northern Ireland’s idea of what they think a margarita should be) for just an hour of peace and quiet.

In some moments, I’ve found myself truly grateful to read that I’m not the only imperfect mother out there, and not only that, but she wears her imperfection on her sleeve like a badge of badassness.  Shouting from the rooftops about things that are deemed the taboos – she’s my kinda gal.

On days my three-year-old says ‘mama’ half a dozen times in one second, for no apparent reason other than to have me pull my hair out – from the root – or asks ‘why’ four hundred times in an hour. 

On days where he has crapped his pants three times in a row after JUST having gone for a wee in the toilet. 

On days he draws on the wall with Crayola ‘magic markers’ – I think the magic is that you can’t get the damn things off the freakin’ wall. 

On days where my laundry basket is overflowing, dishes are piled high, I haven’t showered, or cooked in two days – have no inclination to either – and I just want to have the TV parent my child for a couple hours so I can nap. 

On days where I just hand him a box of Honey Monster Puffs (because apparently we can’t call them Sugar Puffs any more – damn kale and quinoa warriors!) and say ‘Hey kid, knock yourself out’.

On days where I’m at the Goddamn end of my zen-rope and snap at my three-year old for no reason, then cry at him about how sorry I am for being only human.

Con is there, to remind me in ways only a kindred spirit can, that this too shall pass, that this too, is normal, that this is the side of motherhood that mothers are typically shamed in to keeping quiet about – one must have a spotless house, one must present oneself immaculately, one must have an amazingly behaved child – ALL.OF.THE.FUCKING.TIME. 

But here’s the thing, that’s a pipe dream.  A fantasy.  An unrealistic expectation.  Because no one – NO ONE can keep their shit together 100% of the time, no one is infallible, and I’m sure that even the Dali Lama himself gets to the end of his zen rope sometimes! 😉

So, Con announced a book tour and we all looked longingly at those saying they snagged tickets on her FB posts – I didn’t think she’d come to the UK and Ireland, but she announced UK dates and, from the front seat of my car (while I was out for lunch one day with Col and Lewis) snagged a couple tickets for my friend Liz’s birthday and off we went to check out her Q&A/book signing – thankfully, I didn’t hesitate, because the venue was sold out within, like, an hour.  Neither of us knew quite what to expect, I mean what was the format? Was she just going to talk at us for a while and then we got to ask questions? How did it work? Were we going to be the only people there? And, most importantly, would there be food?

We got there early, too early, 11.30am early for a 12.30pm start – which would have been fine if it had started at 12.30pm like it was supposed to – it did not.  They had a limited menu at the bar (Liz just wanted a freakin’ scone for breakfast! LOL!) I got the smallest and least margarita-like margarita I’ve ever had (don’t mess with this honorary Texas girl’s margaritas) so I quickly gave up on those and hit up the beanie-dude at the gin stand.  Now, I’m not a gin kinda girl, but the herd of fish-bowl-esque glasses filled with orange peel and a clear liquid that HAD to be alcoholic based on the volume of glasses round the room, peaked my attention, so off I went to try his wares.

Why am I talking about gin? Because this is locally distilled gin.  Because I’m not a gin person and I liked it so much I had multiple cocktails.  Because this gin is da bomb!  ShortCross gin, small batch, distilled in Downpatrick – find it, try it – and again, thank me later.

Anyways.  The room was cosy, there was maybe two hundred and fifty people, max, I’m not sure if that was more or less than I expected, but it was a nice sized crowd, many of whom were wearing flower crowns (Con’s signature headgear).  I can’t quite think of an accurate way to describe what we were a part of yesterday, it was less about the words, more about the emotions.  The emotion in that room was tangible, women from all over Northern Ireland had gathered together with like-minded women of Con’s ‘tribe’, to share stories, support each other, listen and just, exist.

The ladies shared some of their deepest and most secret life happenings, from abortions to divorce and separation.  The content was largely heavy – though at times we laughed a lot, too.  From abusive husbands to partners who had been caught cheating on them only days before the Q&A, or they were pregnant with child number four and struggling to find the strength they needed to leave their husband – it was shared.

It wasn’t quite the sharing of stories that surprised me.  I think if you were in that room, you know what Con is about, you know her ethos and you feel safe and as though you can share anything to her without fear of judgement.  That said? It totally saddens me that sharing stories about you, about your personal life, about your pain, or joy is still deemed taboo in today’s society.  You talk about infertility? Body image? The inner workings of the female body during pregnancy? And you’re considered brave – when really? You’re just human.

What I was *more* surprised at, was the overwhelming sense of ‘good human’ in the room.  You see so much crap in the news every day about such horrible humans out there – in that room? The GOOD in people was clear, my faith in humanity was restored a little. 

‘You can have my number and call any time’

‘Can I come and give you a hug?’

‘You are not alone’

Complete strangers walked up the room and down the rows, to hug women hurting, in pain, in tears telling their stories – some of which hadn’t ever even been said allowed to anyone but their nearest and dearest, most bestest friends, but was now shared to two hundred-odd women, and more than that? Received with love, support, acceptance.

It was quite beautiful.  And moving. 

I think I even saw Liz wiping a stray tear out of the corner of her eye at one point – though she’ll probably tell you it was an eye lash or something! LOL!

When we got home? One of the ladies who’d shared in the group, had made a Facebook group page for the ‘Queens’ of Belfast who met yesterday, and it’s nothing more than a page for the Irish Queens to unite and hang out virtually, give recommendations, provide strength when it’s needed, share our blogs, our lives, our loves – and not be judged. 

It’s quite a cool group already, and it’s only twenty-four hours old.

If Con is coming to your area, there happens to be tickets left and you’re on the fence about going? Do it.  Get off the fence before you get splinters in your arse.  It’ll be a worthwhile, interesting, fun and emotional (it seemed for some it was even a spiritual) experience.  Plus? There may be gin!!  Though I’d probably recommend that you skip the ten quid burgers at the BBQ out back 😉

Keep on being rad bitches ladies!

To the lady in the line…

Have you ever regretted *not* saying something?

Walking away from a situation and inwardly kicking yourself that you hesitated? Missed the moment? Wanted to have a time machine, rewind the last few minutes and get a do-over? Knowing *exactly* what you’d have said in that moment?

It happened to me, yesterday.

I think part of my hesitation was simply just shock and disbelief.  I just couldn’t quite wrap my brain around what was being said behind me in the Just Between Friends South Houston check out line.

Maybe some of you will relate? Maybe some of you will tell me that it’s a perfectly normal thought  process – and maybe some of you will tell me to wind my neck in and give over.  However, this set my blood boiling yesterday and I woke up this morning feeling no better.

I’m not typically a violent person.

OK, so I beat the ever living shit out of a fella when he hit my sister a decade and a half ago, but I’m not a naturally aggressive person.

But let me tell you about that time I fought every urge to punch a pregnant lady.

I missed an opportunity.

Not to punch her, so much as an opportunity to advocate, an opportunity to defend and an opportunity to educate – and for that, I feel a little guilty and a LOT disappointed in myself.

Let me explain.  I went to JBF yesterday, Col afforded me a couple hours toddler-free to do some shopping.  We’ve had three babies born in our circle in the last couple months, and there’s a couple still to come before the year is out.  While I was flicking through the rails of clothing, I bumped in to a lady a couple times.  We made small talk, she was telling me about just how much money she’d made in her JBF consigning, just how much she was spending on her soon-to-be-born little girl, who was being welcomed into the world by her two older brothers.

Me, being the enabler that I am, nodded and made the appropriate ‘think of all the money you’re saving in the long run’ noises of approval, as she held up some items for a second opinion.  Being more of an over-sharer than myself aside (and that’s really saying something) she seemed a pretty nice lady.

Fast forward to, what felt like, three days later.  JBF is great, don’t get me wrong.  It is.  But spending an eternity in a long, slow-moving line (because everyone is buying trolleys full of cheap kids clothes) is really what does me in.

I hear someone, who I later turn to glare at, and discover that it’s the one and the same lady that I’d chit-chatted to in the aisles of the clothing insanity.

She’s telling anyone who’ll listen (and a rather red-faced, heavily pregnant mother next to her – who clearly wants the ground to swallow her up for being a part of this conversation) that she’s pregnant with her first girl.  She fell pregnant ten years ago with her son and was disappointed that he wasn’t a girl.  When she fell pregnant with her second son, three years ago, she was even MORE disappointed that HE wasn’t a girl and how horribly difficult it is to live for SO LONG without having the baby girl she’s always dreamed of.  How overwhelming her disappointment has been and how at long last she’s finally thrilled to be pregnant.

Finally thrilled to be pregnant? After two healthy pregnancies and two, what I’m sure are gorgeous children.  She’s FINALLY thrilled to be pregnant, because she’s having a girl?

“Lady, are you fucking kidding me?”

I wanted to exclaim.

But, I, stupidly, bit my tongue.

“I’m surprised you didn’t say anything”, I was told three times yesterday.

Don’t rock the boat, I told myself.  Don’t get kicked out of a baby sale, I told myself.  You’ll burst in to tears and be unable to keep your shit together, I told myself.  Maybe you’re hearing her wrong, I told myself – and I listed any number of reasons NOT to confront this trumpet blasting in my ear.

On one hand? Society has conditioned us to stay quiet.

On the other? I’ve allowed myself to be conditioned.

And I stayed quiet.

I should have spoken up.

I should have advocated.

I wanted to grab this heavily pregnant, insensitive, rude and shallow woman and shake her….Ok, fine.  In the moment I wanted to punch her in her stupid face.  But I’d have settled for shaking and tell her what an amazing, precious gift she’s been given – TWICE so far and, God willing, a third time too.  Don’t be ungrateful.  Every child is a gift, a miracle.

I wanted to tell her that 1 in 8 people suffer from infertility and would sell their own mothers to be able to conceive even ONE healthy baby, and here her ungrateful self is bitching to a line full of mothers, many of whom, like me, have been in the position of wanting a child more than anything in the world and being unable to conceive.

I wanted to educate her, tell her, that some people have spent those ten years she was whining over not having a girl, those ten long, painful years, praying to have a child – regardless of gender.  Some people have spent those ten years having miscarriage after miscarriage, procedure after procedure and month after month of getting their period, when the only thing in the world they want is for there to be two lines on the Goddamned stick and she just wants a pink stick?

I wanted to pull up the fertility page, right here on my blog and let her read REAL stories, from REAL people about their struggles to get what she’s been gifted and has absolutely no concept of the value of.

But I didn’t.

I stayed quiet.

Instead? I sat in the car and fumed.

Cried tears of frustration, anger, disappointment in myself for a missed opportunity.

Tears for the me of only three short years ago, a month or so to the day, when I walked in to my fertility doctors office and underwent a procedure which, mercifully, resulted in the conception of my little ‘bubble’.  The bubble who grew into my loving, funny, stubborn, rambunctious, curious, little toddler, who is currently trying to help me type this blog post, while hitting keys and announcing what letter it is each time, repeated louder and louder each time, until I acknowledge that that is, in fact, ‘S’.

I wanted to tell her, that even when you do get pregnant after struggling with infertility, that it’s not the end – and I don’t just mean secondary infertility.  I mean, that for me, personally, and many others, if you do, eventually, GET pregnant, almost every day is a constant battle with fear and stress.  I spent my entire pregnancy worried, terrified that I was going to lose that which I’d tried and fought so hard to get in the first place.

Every morning I woke up, expecting it to be a dream, or some cruel joke.  I took pregnancy tests every day for weeks – even after my first scan – just to be sure they weren’t wrong.

Every time I went to the bathroom, I expected blood.

Later in my pregnancy, if bubble didn’t move for a little while, I was freaking out and hitting the ice cold drinks and something filled with sugar to make him move so I was reassured that he was ok.

I did everything I could to ensure that I had a healthy pregnancy and a healthy baby – including missing out on seeing Maroon 5 at the Houston Rodeo! (Heaven forbade!!)

I’ve cried, uncontrollable tears of relief, gratefulness and joy at each of the RESOLVE Walk’s of Hope I’ve been to since conceiving Lewis.  I’ve also cried tears of sorrow, pain and hope for those who haven’t yet been as lucky as I have, to reach their dreams.  I cried for my struggle and the struggles of any number of women

I think it’s safe to say that this was a steep learning curve for me, and I’d like to think that if there IS a next time, I won’t hold my tongue.  I won’t allow myself to convince myself that it’s OK to let things like that slide.  I won’t let the fact that I may burst out crying at someone, prevent me for bringing to attention how inappropriate and hurtful her comments were.

A friend told me last night that you can’t change the world and you can’t cure stupid.

I’m not sure I buy that.


The world will never change, if everyone and everything stays the same.

Maybe my speaking up would have had no effect whatsoever, maybe she’d have laughed me off and told me I was ridiculous, maybe she’s beyond help.  But maybe? Just maybe I could have been the change.  Or maybe? Even just one of ladies standing around her, (enduring her tales of woe about how she couldn’t have afforded a girl ten years ago, but how she’s in a MUCH better financial position now so she could afford every cute dress she’ll ever want or need) would have taken comfort in my words, and knew that they weren’t alone in thinking that this insensitive mare was OK in saying what she said.


She wasn’t.

Don’t bite your tongue.

Don’t stay quiet.

Be the change.

An emotional RESOLVE Walk of Hope 2016 with my darling son.

An emotional RESOLVE Walk of Hope 2016 with my darling son.

For more information on infertility, please check out this amazing charity, RESOLVE.

I woke up one morning, and my baby was suddenly a toddler!

Well, it happened.  I turned 30.

Whilst I was momentarily afraid to face the big 3.0, I quickly realized that I’m more terrified of Lewis turning one, than I am of me turning thirty.

I think it helps that I’m the younger one in our marriage, Col hits all the landmarks before I do.  That helps.

But, upon closer inspection, and reflection, I quickly saw, that actually, I’ve achieved a lot by the time I hit 30.  So, really, it ain’t all that bad.

Right??

Let’s recap: I graduated college (huge personal achievement), I met Col, moved to Houston, volunteered (for four and a half years so far), helping other expats here, got married, travelled to some amazing, bucket-list kinda places, and after a three year battle with infertility, we had Lewis.

It ain’t too shabby.
And, after reflecting a little on the last year, I’m slowly coming to realize that Lewis turning a year old, isn’t all that bad.  We tried for three years to conceive. I wanted him so very badly, and I spent my whole pregnancy afraid to go to the bathroom, in case disaster struck.
I wanted him so very badly.
When he was born, I bawled.  I couldn’t believe that he was ours and that we could really take him home.  I cried at the smallest thing.  He opened his eyes, I cried, he yawned, I cried, he grabbed Col’s finger and I cried.
He is simply amazing.
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I’ve definitely changed.  This year has changed me.
Motherhood is a juxtaposition.  Fo’ sho’!
I’m more relaxed (baby led weaning and mess), yet more highly strung (danger and injury to my precious cargo) than before.
I’m more calm (trying not to over react to every little bump or fever), yet more emotive (I seriously cry at everything!) than before.
I’m more patient (teaching him things), yet more impatient than before (saying no two hundred times to the same thing).
And I’ve learned.  A lot.
Let’s start with the boobs, if you’d told me, this time last year, that I’d have made it a full year Breastfeeding, I’d have laughed in your face.
FACT.
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This little “leech” stuck to my boob 24-7.  I’d finish one agonizing feed and it would be only a matter of minutes til the next one started (feed every three hours my ass!) The screaming agony of his latch (that no one could fix), that resulted in me crying at every feed for months on end, the bleary eyed night feeds, the leaking, the boob pads, the lansinoh, the panic attacks and stressing when he needed fed and we were out in public, the time spent in the car when I didn’t feel confident nursing in public, the double shirts (pull one up, pull one down), the teething, the fish hooking, the nose poking, the pumping, the pump and dumping (I had an MRI with contrast, and surgery with narcotics and couldn’t feed Lewis for two x twenty four hour periods) and feeling like Daisy the dairy cow.
Its all behind me, and I’m almost mournful that our journey is nearing its conclusion (he’s down to morning and night feeds and is self-weaning).  Almost.  It’ll be nice to have my boobs back to myself, for sure.  But, more so, the sheer pride of getting him to this milestone, when so much didn’t work right from the get-go, I’m thrilled.
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I can’t begin to tell you how your perspective changes when you have a child.  You watch something on TV and you cry. Nay, sob. Because it tugs at heart strings that you never knew existed.  Your whole being becomes about protecting and raising this beautiful slobbery, stinky butted kid, who just has to look at you and your insides turn to goo.
You perceive a whole new level of security and risk.  You’re like a member of the secret service, everywhere you go, checking, double checking and triple checking. Everything. Twice.
You become a multi-tasking genius.  No, really.  You’re keeping the kid on the changing table, who has suddenly morphed into Usain Bolt, while dealing with poop, potential projectile and spontaneous pee, hands that are fascinated with boy parts, changing and dressing him? It should be a bloody Olympic sport.  Fact.  And don’t get me started on people telling you to practice dressing a teddy bear!!
My advice? Practice dressing a 200lb Labrador, while he’s chasing a squirrel down a motorway.  That’ll learn ya!
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And the poop? THE POOP! It’s only poop! It’s only puke (he had reflux so bad that he had to sleep in a swing for six months)! It’s only squished up, two day old Mac and cheese in your hair.  Today, for example, Lewis had a blow out.  They are infrequent, but we needed to change his clothes and in the clean-up process, he kicked out his leg and got poop all over his foot, ankle, calf, knee and thigh, he stuck his hand in it and then grabbed my, already poop-tainted arm. It’s only poop.  Just keep telling yourself that.  It’s only poop!!!!!!!!!!
Showering is a novelty, going to the loo (especially solo) is a novelty and hobbies are a novelty.
But holy shit I’ve never known a love like it.  The love I have in my heart cannot be contained.
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This child can make me cry, just by looking at me.
He’s smart, he’s funny and he’s a sponge.  Watching the cogs turn in his head fascinates me.  When he figures something out, he’ll check to see whether we are watching, and if we aren’t, he’ll do it again.  One night he had started using his walker by himself, the walker was out of reach and dada hadn’t seen his new monkey truck yet, so he started walking around the living room pushing along the basket of laundry.  He’s currently using his daddy’s table as a walker, after having used the nappy bin.  Resourceful kid.
He’s inquisitive, likes exploring and figuring stuff out.  He likes testing boundaries to see just how much mama means the ‘no’ she’s just said three times.  His favorite toys are the unsuspecting ones, a spoon on the tiles, an empty egg carton or one of his plastic plates to bang against the bin.  We should have just returned all these toys people got him and bought eggs.
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He is FULL of love and he’s such a happy kid, he gives smiles generously, he gives kisses unprompted, he waves at, and makes friends with strangers, he loves his daddy (who can’t leave the room without a scream-fest when daddy gets home from work), he claps his hands when I sing, he loves to dance, and he’s just cut his sixth tooth.
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Being a parent has being the biggest blessing I could ever have hoped for, and it is multiplied exponentially, by the fact that we got blessed with such a shamazing little boy! <3
Happy birthday little one, I can’t wait to see what the next year has in store for our little family <3
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Motherhood: Breastfeeding

Today is the day.

My baby boy is twenty weeks old.

 

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Twenty weeks was the personal breastfeeding goal I set when I got pregnant.
I made it.

 

I may have shed a few tears of joy, for if you’d told me nineteen weeks ago, that I would still be breastfeeding him, even at six weeks old, I’d have laughed in your face.

 

My breastfeeding journey has been bumpy to say the least.  It started rough, got rougher, and, even a couple months ago, we were still having some issues.
It’s very hard to have an opinion on feeding your baby.

 

Let’s just take a moment for that to sink in.

 

It’s very hard to HAVE an opinion on feeding your baby.

 

It’s even harder to share it.  Even with your nearest and dearest.

 

Regardless of how you feed your child, people will judge you.

 

Let’s just take a moment for THAT to sink in.

 

Judged for how you feed your baby? What has this world come to?

 

You may say that you don’t care what “people” think.  But when you’ve just delivered this teenie tiny, wholly dependent on you, baby, and you’ve been catapulted into the throws of parenthood, for the first few weeks, it’s tough.

 

Choose breast, and there’s an overwhelming pressure to succeed.  Whether actual, fictional or solely from yourself, expectations are high.

 

Choose breast, and, while I’m told it’s best, it’s certainly not easiest.  (Though, having had to solely bottle feed Lewis for two twenty four hour periods in the last twenty weeks, I’m not convinced bottle feeding is exactly easy.  That screaming while he was waiting for his bottle to be made, was heart wrenching).

 

It’s the most natural thing in the world, ‘they’ say.
It’s a beautiful thing, ‘they’ say.

 

However, from the minute Lewis was born, it wasn’t ‘natural’ at all, our little 7lb 6oz bundle of joy, dropped to 6lbs 8oz, and, instead of helping me, all of our medical professionals were pushing formula.  Not just offering an alternative, or supplementation, no, I mean pushing, hard.  Which, for a first time mother with breastfeeding issues, who was originally resolved to breastfeed, no matter what – is a VERY attractive back door out.

 

I had no support from my nurses or doctors.

 

None.

 

That left me in a scary place, and I came dangerously close to quitting, more than once.

 

Almost every day.

 

I wouldn’t have ever described myself as a ‘lactivist’, or ‘crunchy’, just some chick who wanted to give breastfeeding a fair shot.  Not because I believe formula is the devil, (I was raised on it and I turned out grand) but, firstly, I’m cheap and begrudge paying for a can of formula, if I have the means to feed my child myself, and, two, having a pediatric dietician as a best friend who has educated me on the medical benefits of breastfeeding – I was resolved to try, or have her turn up on my doorstep and slap me!

 

I have pretty much bucked every trend or piece of advice they tell you, exclusively breastfeed for at least eight weeks, don’t give them a pacifier, don’t take milk ‘enhancers’ to bulk up your supply, don’t do this, this, this or this.  Well, I have pumped from day one and Lewis has not only fed from me, but he has had a pacifier, a nipple shield and bottles – thankfully, with no nipple confusion.  I’m aware that we are very lucky with this, though, had he developed nipple confusion, on top of our existing issues – I’m pretty sure I’d have quit.  That would have been the straw that broke the camels back.

 

I think a lot of my success has been due to a very easy going baby.  As long as he got his food, he didn’t care about the process of how.

 

He did have 8oz of formula.  My pediatrician gave my husband a bottle to give to him, because ‘he’s lost too much weight’, she said.  Well if he didn’t chug that bottle down, and if I didn’t cry my eyes out at being such a failure at something ‘they’ said was so very natural.

 

The second bottle, was just going in to day four, middle of the night, my milk hadn’t come in yet, he was constantly feeding every second (cause the colostrum just wasn’t enough to fill him) and he was SCREAMING.  He wouldn’t take a pacifier, and I was at my wits end, again, admitting defeat, proclaiming myself a failure, I picked up one of the many, many formula samples I’d been given in his short existence, and fed him.  The next morning, my milk came in and we have never used formula again.

 

Two things.

 

Firstly, using formula, supplementing or solely, is NOT a failure.  Many people get pregnant and there’s not a second thought in their mind, it’s totally normal for them to feed their babies formula – yet, when you want to breastfeed and you have to ‘resort’ to supplementing, there’s this undertone of pressure, failure, like you couldn’t hack it or let your baby down in some way.

 

Well, let me tell you something, my baby was hungry, and I fed him the only way that was available to me.  That, does not make me a failure.  That, makes me a good mother.

 

As of this morning, Lewis is 18lbs 2.5oz and I have 200oz of breast milk in the freezer (I pump once a day) and I’m nursing in public with no cover (which is a huge accomplishment for me!).  Aside from 8oz of formula in his first week of life, he has been solely on breast milk – either from me, or from a bottle.

 

48wIn no way is that a failure.

 

My son is healthy, happy and, at his four month check up, two weeks ago, he aced his percentiles – 64% height, 82% weight and 90% head circumference.

 

I dare you to tell me that those 8oz of formula, was in any way a failure.

 

Feeding your child – however you so choose, it not failure.

 

Breastfeeding is not for everyone, I can honestly say I’ve never done anything so entirely selfless in my whole life.  It hurt (for months!!), it is time consuming (even now!) and, if you have a child with reflux/gerd, it’s messy.  He’s recently transitioned, from copious amounts of projectile vomiting that didn’t really have time to hit his tummy, to smaller amounts of vomit, but it’s been partially digested, so I spend my days smelling of curdled milk.  Yummy.

 

Not.

 

The major thing that bugs me about breastfeeding is, that I really wasn’t encouraged to do it by my healthcare professionals and wasn’t offered donor milk either.  If it wasn’t for Col, Amber and Magz texting me multiple times every single day, and night, I’m 100% sure I’d have quit.  It was all just too much.

 

Not only that, but we must have been given hundreds of dollars worth of formula freebies, from the nurses in the hospital, from the pediatrician, and, almost, from my OBGYN (they had bags lined up along their desk).

 

It’s not about freebies.  I know that.  But, as a breastfeeding mother, I was offered zilch – and, let’s not say that there isn’t anything they could have given.  There was plenty – mostly support (you are medical professionals after all, and I was struggling so hard in the beginning that I cried, a LOT, to the nurses!!)

 

But there are any number of things that we use as nursing mothers, or exclusively pumping mothers, that big companies could give out in the hospital in goody bags, like the formula companies put together.  For example: Breastfeeding literature (what is normal/usual, local contacts for support groups, like new mums breastfeeding groups, local La Lecher group etch), Lanolin, breast pads (disposable, or reusable), breastmilk storage bags/collection and storage containers, Medela quick clean wipes, portable cooler carrier for transporting breast milk, nipple shields (for inverted nipples/babies struggling with latching), nursing cover (for those who aren’t comfortable without one), granola bars, ice packs/Lansinoh soothies gel pads, vitamin supplements (especially Vitamin D), Vitamin D supplements for baby, muslin squares, sample of baby laundry detergent… the list of suggestions for a breastfeeding goody bag, is endless.

 

Why don’t these exist?

 

Opinions are like backsides, everyone has one – a sentence, never more true in my life than after having a wee’un.  You should do this, you should do that, you shouldn’t do this, you shouldn’t do that.  UGH! The advice, solicited or otherwise, is constant.

 

But, moreso, people also seem quite misinformed, and lack an education on the facts surrounding breastmilk vs formula.  I was surrounded by “why don’t you give him formula? it has more calories!” Or “you should start him on cereal, it’ll do him the world of good”.  I truly believe that if there was more support and help while you were in hospital and the first few days at home on your own, more women would choose to breastfeed their babies.

 

I’m all about individual choices, those choices just weren’t for us – and, in spite of being aware of my choice, friends kept making “alternative” suggestions.  Can’t we all just respect one another’s choices, and support each other when we need it?  Please?!

 

Either way, we prevailed, against all odds, twenty weeks, and going strong.

 

42w
I am so, crazy proud of myself and our little bubba for sticking at it, but I honestly couldn’t have done it alone.  Magz and Amber – my two best friends in the world, were at the end of the phone every single feeding time, supporting me and dragging me through to the next feed.

 

Short of coming down from Iowa, Amber was amazing, she sent me some baby weighing scales to ease my mind (the doctors were saying he wasn’t gaining enough weight, he wasn’t gaining quickly enough, he wasn’t eating enough etc etc etc and the best way to keep track of that was to weigh him pre and post feed and figure out where my issues were).  She came pretty close to sending a private lactation consultant to my door – but stopped short, when I discovered the Lactation Foundation in the Medical Center, Houston.

 

I can’t begin to tell you just how much help Alisa, at the Lactation Foundation, was to me.  I walked in to that office building, terrified and constantly bursting in to tears.  The medical professionals I had dealt with, had me so convinced that I was a total failure and that I should just give up, that I was pretty afraid of what she would say when I sat down in the chair and poured my heart out to a total stranger.

 

She was utterly fantastic!

 

She helped me figure out what my issues were with pumping (wrong sized flange), she worked with me a number of times per week on Lewis’ latching and feeding, she didn’t rush me, answered both Col’s and my questions on feeding.  She listened to me crying about my horrible hospital experience, and patiently told me it would all be ok – and she was right!

 

And let’s not forget Col.

 

41w
Col, who was there for me in the middle of the night when I was wailing and sobbing about how much of an utter failure I was to myself and my baby.

 

Col, who was there to talk me out of hitting the free samples of formula when I was crying in pain and dreading the next feed.

 

Col, who was there to keep me awake when Lewis was cluster feeding, night after night.

 

Col, who is there for me and loves me.  Always.  In spite of my tough times and misery.

 

He has been invaluable to me, holding my hand, drying my tears, cleaning my pump, bringing me drinks and snacks while I feed and just being a presence when I need him.  The list is endless.

 

I love my two boys with all my heart and I hope that our breastfeeding journey is a message to those of you considering breastfeeding, or who have started breastfeeding and are struggling – stick at it.  It wasn’t easy for me, but all journeys are not the same.  If you are having trouble, search for a local breastfeeding support group, new mums group or a lactation consultant to talk to – don’t be embarrassed or self conscious, it’s their job to help people like you – and, trust me, once you get some help from them, you’ll be kicking yourself and wondering why you didn’t seek them out sooner.

 

Life is all about the lessons, but I wholly believe that this breastfeeding journey was WAY more difficult than it had to be (and I am still composing my letter of complaint to the hospital we gave birth in).

 

Take control of your own journey.

 

Make it what you want it to be.

 

It’s ok to cry and be frustrated.

 

Lean on those around you.

 

Don’t be afraid to ask for help.

 

You are stronger than you ever thought possible.

 

44w

Pregnancy and depression: Sad and Blue.

Another old post, written during my last few days of being pregnant!

“What the hell are you doing here?” I asked incredulously as my best friend of ten years stood in front of me in the parking garage of George Bush Intercontinental Airport, having given me ZERO indication that she was coming.

“You sounded sad and lonely lately,” was her only reply.  As though it told me everything I needed to know as to why she up and left her 4-year-old and hubby-to-be in Iowa and hauled her ass to Texas, and, I suppose, in some ways, it did.  (Read more about her trip to see me, here, on her blog!)

These last few months have been a very trying time for me, being pregnant and away most notably, from my two bestest friends, going through this move-not-move crap with Col’s company, and, most recently over the last month or so, my health issues whilst pregnant.  Trips to the ER, hospital stays, tests, bloods, urine, scans etc – it’s been trying, scary and exhausting.

I wasn’t doing so bad at all, until the ‘rest’ thing was mentioned.  I don’t do good with resting, especially when I have a four page, room-by-room, ‘before the baby comes’ to-do list staring me down every day.  I get frustrated, I get cabin fever and I feel trapped and caged – it’s bad enough as it is that we can’t go flying, sailing or on a long road trip somewhere, never mind, ‘one store per day, max, no long walking, no rodeo, no this, no that, no the other…’

I was starting to get pretty down about the whole situation last week, the list wasn’t getting done, the house was getting worse, not better and I couldn’t do anything without getting scolded, or spiking my blood pressure readings, so I just had to sit there.

Staring at everything that needed done, and making a new list of things that weren’t on the original list to begin with!

Thankfully Col stepped up over the weekend, on Saturday he (with limited help from me) halved our list, so I started to feel better, but given the high BP, the swelling, the potential that baby could come any time, I just wanted to have things done.

Between that, drama, and being so far away from people who would bend over backwards to help us.  Friends here in Houston moving, away for Spring Break, sick, with have guests in town, or just too busy to play ‘distract Las from her misery’, I’ve just been slowly disintegrating into a pool of self pity and sadness.

It kind of came to a head the other night, we were sitting watching TV and I got up to get a bowl of ice cream (Col had brought home ice cream with the groceries earlier that night).  He said something like, ‘Wow! Moving fast on that ice cream!’ and I replied, ‘well, it’s a pretty good cure for depression’.

‘You’re not depressed!’ he gave a half-laugh, until he looked at me, stopped what we were watching on TV and asked, ‘What’s wrong?’

I just burst in to tears.

Maybe I wasn’t depressed, maybe I wasn’t *yet* depressed, maybe I was just sad and hormonal, but it was a scary place to be and I’d tried hard to be brave, I’d tried keeping my fears to myself, but it just wasn’t working.

I told him I was frustrated, upset, lonely, afraid and when your newly hired cleaner tells you, ‘I’m here to help you’ and you burst in to tears – something is most definitely wrong.

I physically felt like crap, my blood pressure was all over the place, my feet were so swollen they hurt, I was seeing stars, having headaches and feeling generally miserable.  It’s bad enough feeling miserable, but when you’re ‘confined to quarters’, it serves as a constant reminder that you’re feeling miserable, and then you start to feel emotionally miserable too.

At that point, there’s not much that hubby could say, or do.  He just held me (after saying he didn’t know what to say or do) and reminded me what we’ve accomplished recently.  He told me that for him, the measure of this pregnancy, has been the water bill – that by the time the next water bill arrives at the house, we’ll have our baby home, to keep my eye on the prize and how women draw the short straw in life – lol!  He’s an amazingly calming influence in my life, but not even his kind words could keep my tears from flowing.  It was tough, and, thankfully he totally had my back.

Maybe it was early onset depression, maybe it was just a severe case of the blues, but, it got me thinking.  Depression while pregnant is more common than you think.

You think it’s normal, everyone says that hormonal changes can also make you feel more anxious than usual. But depression and anxiety during pregnancy can often go undiagnosed for many women – because they often dismiss their feelings, chalking them up to the temporary moodiness that often accompanies pregnancy.

According to The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, between 14-23% of women will struggle with some symptoms of depression in pregnancy.

For more information about depression during and after pregnancy, call womenshealth.gov at 800-994-9662 (TDD: 888-220-5446) or contact the following organizations:

The Politics of Pregnancy

9

“Getting through the first trimester, without completely losing it, wasn’t easy, but once I heard the heartbeat of my baby for the first time, everything made sense.”

(Please note: I found this blog post in the recesses of my drafts folder, and, even though Lewis is here and three and a half months old, I still feel that it has value, so I’m going to post it anyway!)

I’m exhausted.

And I’m not convinced that it’s all the fault of our little growing bubble.

I feel like I’m constantly battling and firefighting, since we got pregnant.  Don’t get me wrong – it’s not all bad (and I’ll get to that in another post) but it’s bloody tough.

I thought that once you became pregnant, it was ‘easier’.  Infertility is a minefield.  What they don’t tell you, is that pregnancy can be just as difficult emotionally.

Who to tell, when to tell, how to tell, how to tell those who may be sensitive, how to tell before the curse of social media spoils the surprise, WHO to tell before the curse of social media spoils the surprise.

Advice: Tell who you want, when you want and how you want.  Don’t be pressured or convinced to tell early or to tell someone you’d rather not tell, before you tell someone else.  Ultimately everyone should be happy about your wonderful news, even those you are ‘afraid’ to tell or sensitive to the news, even those who are also pregnant, people can be happy for more than one person at a time, don’t feel guilty, this is your time as much as it’s everyone else’s time.  You deserve your moment as much as everyone else does, whether it’s your first baby, your fourth baby, or whether you announce at seven weeks or twenty seven.  Enjoy it and bask in the love and happiness of your circle.

Don’t say this, shouldn’t say that, say this.

Don’t eat that, shouldn’t eat that, eat this.

Even my doctors – my Fertility specialist and my OBGYN – and they haven’t always both agreed on ‘pregnancy procedure’.

Many have advice, questions and many have had it worse and enjoy telling me how easy I have it – which, is fine, it may seem easy to you or compared to you, but this is my first time and, in truth, only some days it feels easy.

Advice: Pregnancy is vague, grey area and every single one is different.  Your pregnancy may be nothing like any one else that you know – this is perfectly fine.  Don’t freak.  I freaked in the beginning because I wasn’t sick, or nauseous, or, really, in any way displaying symptoms of pregnancy.  People say ‘sickness means a healthy baby’, so when you’re not sick, you freak the hell out.  Don’t.  It’s ok.  It’s actually pretty normal.  We tend only hear the war stories of pregnancy, rarely the ones that go smoothly and one of my friends said that people only say that to make you feel better when you’re hugging the toilet and barfing your guts up.

Many have advice on what they did when they were pregnant, what they heard or read that you should do during pregnancy.  Advice on names, feeding, advice on sleeping, advice on what books to read, what books not to read, advice on co-sleeping, attached parenting, home birth, water birth, home schooling, putting your kid in daycare and people are already placing bets on gender.

Advice: Don’t poke the bear.  Regardless of how open and flexible your friends may seem about their parenting styles, don’t engage, question, contradict or criticize.  No one takes it well and they will vehemently defend their choices to you – mothers are like elephants – they never forget.

By that same token, don’t let anyone tell you that your choices, or the choices you will try to make, are wrong, less-than, and even though their advice may be given with the best of intentions, it’s your pregnancy, your baby, your body, eat what you want, drink what you want (alcohol excluded obviously!), sleep when you want and don’t let anyone make you feel guilty for these things.

People seem surprised to learn that I plan on trying to breastfeed – which, in itself starts to open a can of worms, but when I go on to further open the can by adding that I’ll also be, at least in part, trying ‘cloth diapering’, oftentimes, the judgmental looks aren’t enough and people simply *have* to have their say about *our* choices, (which, by the way, have already been made) and proceed to tell me that they never had me down as a crunchy person.

Like they can somehow convince me it’s a bad idea, or that I’m naive to think it’s possible, ‘that’ll change once the baby is here’.

Some people, on the other hand, just need to see a modern cloth-diaper to actually understand that how they perceive cloth-diapering to be, is a thing of the past and that ‘reusable nappies’ these days, aren’t much different to the ‘real thing’.

In short, I’m cheap, if I can feed my kid myself and save money with cloth diapers so I can spend more money spoiling my kid rotten or showing him/her the world, then why wouldn’t I try these things?  I’m not judging anyone for not doing them, one choice doesn’t make you a ‘better’ mother than the other, I’m just making choices that will hopefully work for us, though blog posts like this, keep me grounded and remind me that it’s not easy, it’s a huge challenge, and it doesn’t work for everyone.

Plus – let’s all agree – they’re cute as hell!

Charlie-Banana-cloth-diapers

All of the advice is furthermore complicated by being pregnant at the same time as at least 6 other people I know.  One friend, is even due a few days ahead of me.  It takes a lot of my energy, praying that each and every one of us will have a safe and healthy pregnancy and give birth to a healthy, happy baby – who preferably sleeps through the night and is already toilet trained – but, we can’t always get what we want, eh?

Advice (as given to me yesterday by two very dear friends): quit worrying about other babies and other mommas, your priority right now is you, your hubby/other half and your little one.  Do what you gotta do to get your baby delivered in to the world healthy and to have a happy family.  This post, ‘My anti blog‘ about differences in pregnancy resonated with me, it’s funny how ultimately we are all doing the same thing, growing a little person, but our journey there can all be so hugely different.

Listen to all of the advice with respect (sometimes you’ll need to get your game face on) and thank them for their opinion.  Take from it what you need/want and leave the rest.  It doesn’t, as I was starting to feel, make you a bad mother if you do things differently to what people say, or to what other people do.  Find what works for you and be yourself.

Even your OB and nurses will often treat you like you’re on a conveyor belt, they deal with hundreds of people like you on a regular basis.  To them, it’s not really a huge deal that you’re pregnant.  You’ll even find that your friends will say your doctors are wrong in some cases!

People WILL want to touch your stomach (otherwise known as ‘stranger danger‘ over at The truth behind the glow).  It’s started already with friends, obviously, cause they know.  I’m dreading the time coming when strangers *know* and will approach without warning to rub my belly like i’m some kind of good-luck charm.  I don’t do strangers in my personal space.

As the saying goes, this is my first rodeo, I’m just doing what I can, when I can and how I can, during this hugely different time in our lives, to ensure we all get through to the other side!

I found this article, explains things a lot funnier that I ever could, it struck a few chords with me and made me giggle.

This blog post, ‘This wasn’t in the brocheure‘, is also a riot, I find it better to prepare myself with the forthcoming trauma of pregnancy, through humour – it helps me cope with the imminent doom 😉 LOL! Check it out.  I’ve found I enjoy reading blog posts over at ‘The truth behind the glow‘ not only is she funny, but educational, in a non-terrifying kinda way.

In short, there’s no right or wrong way to be pregnant, and, once your baby gets here, there’s no right or wrong way to be a parent – something they don’t tell you in books, or at the OB’s office.  Try to stay calm, take on board all of the advice you get, but only hold on to that which you want to – and, most importantly, go with your gut!

RESOLVE to know more…about what is next……even if what’s next, is pregnancy.

Yes, I said it.  The ‘P’ word.

If you had told me this time last year, that I would be writing my “Join the movement” blog entry for National Infertility Awareness Week 2014, while sat nursing our six-week old baby son at 1am, I’d not have believed you.  In fact, I’d have laughed in your face.

It’s ok to hope…

It’s ok to dream big…

They say, ‘stay positive’, and you try.  Really, you do.  Or, at least you think you do.  But my self doubt about getting pregnant, was never so apparent, as when I got pregnant and experienced an overwhelming sense of shock, disbelief and found myself wholly unprepared for the world of pregnancy whilst having lived through infertility.

I was isolated, lonely, I didn’t feel like I fitted in with my TTC friends any more, I didn’t feel like I fitted in with my pregnant friends either – our journeys had been different, and, in short, I was petrified.

Every time I went to the bathroom, I expected blood.

Every time I went to the OB’s office, I expected bad news.

Every time I had a scan, I expected, nothing.

I was wholly unprepared.

And, in hindsight, if we had to have progressed along the fertility path a little more (as in, beyond sperm wash and IUI), I’d have been wholly unprepared for that too.  What were the next steps? Was I ready to take them? How far was I willing to go? How far were WE willing to go? What was the cost of the treatments being offered to us? What did our insurance cost? So many questions – so little answers.

Resolve to know more.

Be educated.

We tend to head down the path of fertility, taking one step at a time, daring to keep the faith – as little as is physically possible, to get us through our monthly cycle, and just enough to keep us sane and seem like we’re positive to friends and family.  But are we truly faithful that all will come good at the end of our journey?  I’m not 100% sure that I was.

What comes next?

Regardless of where you are on your fertility journey, you should educate yourself on what stage comes next, especially when it comes to pregnancy – the word no TTC couple dares to whisper, focus on, or think about.  But I do believe that you should – even just once – think about how it’s going to be and then throw every thought you just had, out the window (cause for me, it was nothing like I was expecting!)

For me, it was such a shell-shock, such a baptism by fire, that I even wrote a blog in an attempt to channel my experiences and findings, and figure my journey out as I waded deeper in to my pregnancy (“Fertility whilst pregnant” found here) feelings, thoughts and emotions that I wasn’t prepared for, hadn’t given thought to or considered, it didn’t help much – I still floundered.

I really struggled through my pregnancy, instead of enjoying every single moment, I was overwhelmed, guarded, cautious and waiting with baited breath for the moment that someone would tell me it was over, something went wrong, or, they’d made a mistake and I wasn’t really pregnant to begin with.

But that’s normal, right? You go month to month living in hope, only to be shattered when your period arrives.  You had hope, you had faith, you were strong and positive and then you had your dreams shattered by your very own body.  It’s tough.  So how can you plough into a nine month new journey, (that you had doubts about ever happening to begin with), totally positive, excited and ready to face what comes your way?

Don’t be uneducated about pregnancy for those who have endured and conquered infertility, resolve to know more – about the next step – even if that next step is getting pregnant, carrying a healthy baby to term and giving birth to that which you have dared to dream about for so long during your fertility journey.

Be ready.

Be resolved.

Because your fertility journey could end as abruptly as mine did – and then what?

  • Resolve to know more about when to see a fertility specialist.
  • Resolve to know more about all your family building options.
  • Resolve to know more about infertility advocacy.
  • Resolve to know more about the latest treatment options.
  • Resolve to know more about the disease of infertility.
  • Resolve to know more about adoption.
  • Resolve to know more about PREGNANCY.

For those of you who aren’t yet aware, the national infertility association is called RESOLVE.  Each year, RESOLVE celebrates National Infertility Awareness Week with a blog theme, and this year, it’s ‘Resolve to know more’. I am joining, for the third year in a row, because I, and many, many people who I love in my life, have been touched by the horrible affliction of infertility and I think it’s something that needs shared and talked about more – not swept under a rug.  You’ll see from my blog that I’m not a ‘once a year’ fertility blogger, fertility is something I talk about a lot, even during my recent time being pregnant.

I have a couple of blog posts about my own infertility journey here:

Don’t ignore, every path has it’s puddle (Join the movement 2012 Entry)

Taking the first step, for the second time

Hope: Thy name is Shelley Join the movement (2013 Entry)

I have also started a Fertility Friends segment, sharing stories (some, anonymously) from friends of mine who want to share their own journey.  If that’s you – please get in touch!

We’re all in this together.

We are not alone.

We are RESOLVED.

I was RESOLVED and now, I have a son, who, when he’s old enough, will understand the trials we went through to get him – and perhaps, too, his siblings.

Don’t give up.

Pregnancy: Baby shower #2!

Please note: I wrote this PL (Pre-Lewis) a few weeks ago – I’m just getting round to posting it, cause we’ve been a little busy! 😉

Let’s take a moment to talk about how kick-ass my church is.  Between the female ‘priest’, an inclusive congregation and periodically having a five-piece brass band bursting out a choon of a Sunday morning, it’s not exactly what your mind would conjure up when you think about church in the traditional sense.

Having been brought up in the Catholic church, attending Catholic convent/nun-run schools that preach fire and brimstone, you’re going to hell for any number of sins, I was hesitant to jump in, when my friend Sheri suggested I join her church choir.  I married a protestant, I lived with him ‘in sin’ before we got married and by my childhood church standards, I’ve already got a one-way ticket to hell printed with my name on it.

That said, the fire and brimstone is a large part of why I didn’t attend church for a loooooooong time.  I truly don’t believe God is that petty or judgmental, he created us, he knows our limitations.  I am more of a ‘do right by your neighbor’, kinda believer.  As long as I treat people right, am not a criminal or evil doer and I keep my nose clean – no killing, stealing, adultery, coveting or bearing false witness kind of deal, God can’t have too much on his ‘send to hell’ list, right?

And even then, say I DID take the Lord’s name in vain (which, I shamefully admit to doing very regularly – I hate to blame it on my Irish culture, but, it is what it is!) God’s a pretty forgiving kinda guy, he’s got more on his plate to deal with with rapists, murderers and adulterers, than little old me who says ‘Oh my God’ 200 times a day, right? He’s not up there keeping a check-list… RIGHT?

Ok, so don’t answer that.  If he is, I don’t want to know – and I hope that by the end of my life, the ‘good’ I’ve done, will outweigh the number of times I’ve taken his name in vain.

At St Stephens, there’s no bashing or judgment.  Just family.  It was weird at first, I wasn’t used to a church (often publicly referred to as ‘diet Catholic’) that talked about performing  same sex marriages (and then did!) with a rector that regularly admits that she, too, is as flawed as the rest of us are.

It was refreshing.

I find myself wondering what I’m missing at church, if I can’t attend on a Sunday morning.  I wonder what laughs and lessons I’m missing from Lisa and Brandon’s sermons and what beautiful, moving, music the choir and organist are performing.

Let’s not forget, that the people in the congregation are in a league of their own, from the minute I entered the church, many people recognized I was an outsider.  Are you new? Do you need help? Welcome! Come and sit next to me, etc and their friendliness and warmth were genuine.  As the saying goes, they are from ‘good stock’.

So, having had my baby shower in November – ahead of our big December international move (which, yes, again, never happened!) and having taken a five month (ouch!) time-out from church and church choir during the early and exhausted part of my pregnancy and, again, while we got ready for our ‘move’.  I didn’t expect any other gatherings, get-togethers or gifts to come over the last stretch of our pregnancy.

But on Thursday night (a fortnight before bubble became Lewis), at our usual break time during choir practice, our choir director accidentally announced the it was time for the ‘baby shower’, instead of the break.  The cat was out of the bag – but I was still pretty surprised.  I had wondered why a number of the choir folk had been asking me if I was attending rehearsal on Thursday night – I’m not that big of a deal in choir – so it was a little out of the ordinary, but I thought nothing of it, figuring they are just glad to have me back and were concerned about my up and down health at the moment.

However, when we went in to the break room, they had set up this fab-tastic party!

Las' Baby Shower 070From decorations and balloons, to snacks, cupcakes and gifts – they had everything covered.  It was a somewhat extended break (we normally have ten minutes, but we had at least double that) and we had a great time.

Sheri (bubble’s Godmother) had even recruited my sneaky husband to get me to rehearsal that night (I’d been feeling off during the day) and to attend himself, so he got cake and prezzies too!

Las' Baby Shower 074

I left choir practice feeling much better than I did when I got there, but also gooey and emotional at the choir’s thoughtful gesture and beautiful gifts.

Las' Baby Shower 084

This baby is going to be born in to a wonderful church family and we can’t wait for everyone to meet him! <3

Las' Baby Shower 090 - Copy

Pregnancy: Hospital preparedness (What to pack in your hospital bag!)

What to pack in your hospital bag is a pretty big decision.
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You’re about to go in to labor – you’re going to spend two to four days, at probably the worst (and, if you’re in the USA, most expensive) hotel of your life.  The bed will be uncomfortable, it’s going to be bright, loud, and you’ll probably sleep very little.  You’ll also likely be in a gown the whole time, there will probably be blood, pain, occasionally stitches, people will be taking blood, urine, blood pressure and pulse information, you and baby will both be monitored, you may have an IV, catheter, or any number of other possible medical treatments while you’re in there – and that’s all the ‘foreseen’ stuff.
My first piece of advice is to have your bag ready to go around week 35.  We packed our bags literally the night before we ended up being induced – dumb luck.  Pack it a little earlier, be prepared.  And – leave it RIGHT beside the front door – complete with a list of ‘additions’ that you have to grab on your way out – phone, charger, etc.  Ignore people who say you’re too early – you may well be, but better to be ready, just in case, than to be caught on the hop and have to panic-shove stuff in a bag!
Secondly – ask your hospital for a very specific list of the supplies they provide for you, this will help you ensure that you pack the things you’ll need, whilst not packing way too much crap to lug back and forth from the house to car, car to hospital and back again.
Thirdly – pack light.  Here’s a list of everything I packed – based on polling I conducted among my friends and family, below that, you’ll find a list of what I used from what I packed.
What I packed:
Clothes
‘Yoga pants’ (high belly) x2
Pair pjs (yoga pant style, loose top)
Cami ‘Shelf tanks’
10x old undies (that you don’t mind getting destroyed)
Regular bra
Wash bag for dirty clothes for parents
Wash bag for dirty baby clothes
Fleece (or jumper, hoody, zippy)
Large black towel x2 (don’t mind getting them destroyed)
Slipper socks w/grippies x1
Slippers x1
Flip flops
Electrics
Phone charger
Tablet and charger
Kindle and charger
Extension cord (we discovered on our stay in the hospital, the phone doesn’t reach the bed from the socket!)
Camera and charger (and memory card!)
Toiletries
Conditioner
Body wash
Razor
Deodorant
Toothbrush + toothpaste
Lip balm
Deep moisturizer
Hair brush
Hair ties
Always infinity pads (recommended by THREE different people)
Nursing pads
Lanolin +
Witch hazel wipes
Other
Snacks + hard candy
Pillow
Notebook (to log visitors/guests etc)
Waterproof pad (for use in the car!)
What we packed for hubby:
2-3 outfits (old/ok to get potentially destroyed, including shoes!)
PJ’s x2
Pillow
Toothbrush
Deodorant Phone charger
Tablet + charger
Button down shirt (for skin to skin, in case mum couldn’t!)
Pain killers (common for the men-folk to get a headache)
Snacks + drinks
What we packed for baby:
Car seat
Premie outfit (Just in case he came out a little small for NB)
Newborn outfit
Outfit to come home in
Blanket (for the trip home)
Sleeping gown x2
Boppy
Dummy/Pacifier
Burp cloths x2
What I actually used:
Toothbrush/paste
Body wash
Deodorant
Yoga pants
Lip balm
Electronics (chargers, extension cables)
Witch hazel pads, pads and Dermoplast spray (provided by hospital)
Col and baby used most of what they brought – Col could have done with a second sweater on-hand, as the first one got dirty quite quickly, my room was pretty cold and he refused to leave our sides to go the three miles home and get a clean one!
I spent most of my time in the ridiculous gown that the hospital gives you upon admission.  I figured with the amount of monitors, bands, tests, epidural and hopefully breast feeding, that I didn’t care that my arse was hanging out, or that I was mostly naked the entire time.  Easy access was the plan!
The hospital provided me with most things that I (and baby) needed, all my post-labor care products, nappies, swaddle sheets, t-shirts for baby etc.  They even gave me sample tubes of lanolin and a Medela pumping kit for their hospital grade pump, so we were set, and realistically didn’t want for anything.
One thing I didn’t bring with me, was a change of clothes for me to go home in.  I had my yoga pants, but no clean shirt, so I left in the shirt I arrived in – pack yourself something clean and fresh to wear.  Don’t forget this one!
There wasn’t anything else that I think I should have brought, could have brought, or feel like I was DYING, or stupid for not bringing.  In actual fact, were I to do it all over again? I’d pack a very, VERY small bag – instead of the rather large bag we lugged in and barely opened!
What was the one thing you couldn’t have lived without during your birthing hospital stay?  Did you over-pack? Did you under pack? Was your hospital a great provider of ‘things’? Or did you have to provide everything yourself?

Pregnancy: Delivery. Birth plan, schmirth plan!

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For the squeamish among you, look away now – you’ve no real need to read this.  However, if you’re planning on having a baby – here’s my no holds barred account of my labor experience (as in, the medical fact account, the decisions we made and the very quick labor that brought our little bubs in to this world!)  It’s by no means a ‘typical’ experience, but it brought the most beautiful little boy in to our lives and I figure I should document it, to compare against his future brothers and sisters!

So, we were at 36 + 5 and had just dropped my best friend off at the airport, having had her turn up wholly unannounced for the weekend – talk about a shocker!  Let’s just say, I’m glad we had mani-Pedi’s done while she was here, at least I had pretty nails in labour!

We had finally gotten our to-do list down to a few things, sell Col’s car, get my old car serviced, hire a cleaner, sort and rehang the picture frames we’d taken down before Christmas for our transfer, get Col’s work shirts laundered, take some stuff to Goodwill, go to the post office to send my BFF’s baby gift before she went in to labor (she was at 38 +6) and give the house a general tidy (we started this room by room and were pretty much finished upstairs).

I had committed to an SSA coffee morning in Missouri City, Thursday morning (36+6), and, in spite of it being a high blood pressure day, I went off to coffee, determined that I wasn’t going to let this high blood pressure/threat of Preeclampsia take away my last few weeks of progress.

By lunch time, however, my numbers continued to climb, I called the nurse at my OB’s office, left a message and drove up to our mechanic’s garage to drop off the Saab and pick up Col and by the time I got to the garage, she’d called back to say, ‘come in for monitoring’.

In the car on the way home, I asked Col if we should stop by the house and grab an overnight bag – just in case, though changing car’s to the car that had the baby’s car seat and throwing our ‘hospital bags’ in the boot, just didn’t occur to either of us.  As far as we were concerned, we were going to be observed and sent home, like previous times we were called in to the hospital, having been told ‘just watch your blood pressures’.

I also didn’t stop somewhere to eat, again, cause we figured we’d get sent home and eat then.  So let’s note, I had 2 fish tacos and a cupcake at 11-ish and we were on our way to the hospital!

After a round of bloods, blood pressure and urine, the nurse announced we were being induced – that I was showing signs of preeclampsia and the only way to cure it, was to take the kiddo out.  Well.  Let’s just mention here, there was no discussion, no time to process, no option, it was ‘let’s get this kiddo out’ and that was that.  It was around 5pm.

The rest almost passed by in a hazy blur, I tried to keep some notes on my phone, so that I could blog (duh!) and remember exactly what happened.  The plan was ‘simple’, cervix softener (x2 around five hours apart if nothing was happening), Pitocin, break waters and labour.

At 8pm, I had my first cervix softener (which, apparently is a 1/4 of a baby aspirin, inserted in to your cervix), which was repeated at 1am – not the most pleasant of experience, but whatever.

At 3.17am I was only 2cm dilated and was given Pitocin (which I had no real time to think about, yet, was mildly concerned as I hadn’t done my research on the drug – thinking we had a few weeks to go – so was vaguely aware that this may be a bad idea).

At 3.35am there appears an OBGYN who was on the ward delivering another baby, it turns out my OBGYN had woken up to check on my progress, heard she was on the ward and sent her in to break my waters – essentially a chick with a crochet hook pops a water balloon in your va-j-j, you feel a gush and so starts the labor process!

The nurse suggested I take my epidural around 5.30am while the anesthesiologist was in our side of the building, considering that the contractions were strong and regular, it wasn’t a bad idea – I was around 4.5cm.

The epidural hurt going in, but I knew it would and I was prepared for it.  Between the needle and the contractions, I gripped the bed and thought of Hawaii.  Waves lapping the beach – calming, relaxing thoughts – the guy was sticking a needle in my spine after all.

At 5.30am, I was still around 4.5cm dilated and around 75% effaced, his head was down and ‘sunny side up’ (as in he was facing my front instead of my butt), but labor was going slowly – so they increased my dose of Pitocin.  It was shortly thereafter that my epidural broke down.  I started feeling isolated, and seriously strong contraction pains in my right hip, they were every few minutes and hurt like absolute crazy – because of the high dose of Pitocin to make the contractions stronger!

The nurse called another anesthesiologist, who said he’d have to take out the first epi (noooo!) and put in a second one (double no!!) but considering how agonizing my then 6cm contractions were, I didn’t hesitate.  However, that hour, was insufferable, trying to have an epidural put in between contractions – also, insufferable, at which point, my blood pressure, and baby’s heart rate dropped pretty low, so I was put on oxygen to try and chill us both out a little.

Epidural-ing, is probably a skill that very, VERY few people possess.  That’s why I’m perfectly fine with paying the drug-pushers the big bucks – he was playing around in my SPINE! Yes, I made up a word, I do that.  Also, once it was in, I still felt things, but it was much, much duller kind of way.  I wasn’t grunting through pain – the epidural took!

At this point, the nurse was starting to get concerned, she guessed he was going to top out around 8lbs and she was murmuring about the chances of a C-section, which concerned me slightly, because, section was not, at all, in my birth plan – I hadn’t read much about that either, and the unknown is pretty scary, so I was a little wigged.

The external monitors weren’t doing so well at keeping up with a wiggly baby, so, they put internal monitors on.  It turns out that a lot of my amniotic fluid was still pooled in there, so they had to clear it out – which hurt quite a bit, in spite of the epidural.

At 12.30pm, I was 6cms, baby still hadn’t turned around yet, so my nurse had me roll to one side and put the ‘top’ knee into a stirrup.  Shortly after flipping to my other side, I very classy-like, told my nurse that I felt an overwhelming need to poop, ‘Then bear down’ she said, not sure what that was, I guessed push – so I pushed.

A few minutes later, she was shrieking ‘stop! Stop pushing! Dr Diase isn’t here yet!”, I asked her what percentage of women, crowning in labor, can stop pushing when asked? She didn’t have an answer! LOL!

I think I pushed twice or three times, huge, long, deep pushes and baby arrived, no OBGYN in the room – delivered by Mendy our nurse, who had called for any back up she could get, and Col – who was holding my leg the whole time – due to a stirrup malfunction.

The cord was cut by daddy and our little bubble, was pronounced perfect – only 45 minutes later, at 1.15pm.

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The nurses (and our OBGYN) were incredulous, practically zero first time mothers have such an easy labor and delivery.  Pushing for so little time, baby turning so easily etc.  Our little guy practically delivered himself – even at three weeks early, he was ready and eager to be born and see his parents 😉

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Doting daddy rocked out with Lewis, while mummy was stitched up by Dr Diase, who arrived moments later, announcing she’d been waiting for this child all day and had missed his big entrance!

Things to note:

– In this country people think it’s abnormal if you don’t want your baby boy circumcised.  Everyone will ask you.  EVERYONE.  And they’ll make a weird face when you say ‘no’, EVERY time.

– If you have pre-Eclampsia, you very may well be put on a magnesium sulphate IV for 24 hours starting when the baby arrives, to prevent seizures.  For me, this meant a catheter and 24 hours in bed.  For Col, this meant that for the first 24 hours, baby was pretty much solely dependent on him, and any mummy interaction was after being ferried to and from his bed by daddy.

– No matter how well prepared you are, or you think you are – something unexpected could always happen.  We were prepared, we had all bags packed and ready to go – right next to the front door, car seat was installed – and we ended up with the ‘wrong’ car at the hospital!!

We planned for a ‘regular’ delivery at 40 weeks, but my health issues called for a 37 week induction.

We had so many plans and ideas on how we’d have liked things to go (I’m going to do a separate blog-post about breast feeding and other ‘issues’ I had), and you need to be somewhat flexible, don’t put pressure on yourself.  I opted for an epidural, because I have a low pain threshold, I’m a whiner, and I really had nothing to prove to anyone during my labor.  When it failed and I got a taste of ‘real, active labor’, it made me 100% sure I’d made the right decision.

– Be your own advocate.  Don’t be afraid to speak up, trust your gut/instinct – especially in the USA where you are, realistically, paying for a service.  My three-day stay in the hospital (not including once baby was born and started his own tab) was billed to the insurance company at $21.5k – that’s not a small bill.

Be very clear about your wishes, breast or bottle, pacifier or no, immediate skin-to-skin, circumcision etc – you are the only person who has your baby’s absolute best interests at heart, you are the only one who knows your plan – share it, stick to it and don’t feel like you have to defend it. Write it down, make copies and hand it out if you have to.  That way, the staff will know your intentions from the get-go and you’ll have as much control over the situation as you can possibly retain.

– No matter how hellish your journey may be, C-section or vaginal, drugs or no, breast or bottle – it will all be worth it in the instant you see your little one.

Our little Lewis was certainly worth the wait and work!

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