Ringing in the New Year

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Every year brings more lessons of the heart. I learn more about how to be a better mother, woman, wife and friend.

There are always ups and downs and always revaluations with the hard times. This time of year makes me remember those we have lost and how fortunate I am to have been blessed with the friends and family who are part of my life.

I always try to see the positive in things, as I m naturally a very happy and light-hearted person. However, this year brought on so much anxiety from World Events to things happening right at home. I found myself at times, struggling to simply go grocery shopping without being ‘on guard’ to those around me. It was an awakening like I had never had before and one that brought on instinctual ‘mother-bear’ reactions. (Some of which were not appropriate or loving.)

But the New Year offers hope that we can start fresh and in some respects, start over.  It gives us a chance to wipe the slate clean and start painting a new picture of what we want out of life. It is a time to set goals, to reflect on the past and change our path so history does not repeat itself. A time to forgive those that hurt you so that you can release the negativity in your life enough to start healing and moving on.

Surround yourself with those you love and friends who reassure you of a job well done.  Rid yourself of those who make you less then you are capable of being. Don’t surrender your dreams for anyone….chase them whole-heartedly with those that love you lifting you up with encouragement.

Love yourself this year. You are doing great things – even though the weight of the world may be resting itself on top of your shoulders. Be yourself.

You are special.

You are an individual, whom some may not fully understand. Don’t let their fear come across as bullying – love those who cross you so that they may get to know you instead of misunderstand you.

You are one-of-a-kind. You are loved.

May this New Year bring you more love, more happiness and contentment like you have never had before. God Bless.

Infant Sleep Habits – To Train or Not to Train

  Note: I  have only my experiences to base my opinions off of. In no way am I judging or trying to say one method of sleep training is right or wrong. I am simply sharing my experience as a first-time-mother.Pix from phone 028

As a first time mother/parent, there is a terrible thing that we do to ourselves. As we try to not only learn to care for this new human, but also as we learn how to be the best parent we can be; we compare ourselves to those around us. It seems we never rise above this method of self exploration as it starts when we are in elementary school! We compare our clothes, toys, houses and cars and continue to compare ourselves into adulthood! At times, this method seems to be proactive when we see what we don’t want to do, but many times it is a detrimental habit because we unintentionally put on blinders to options we may have otherwise considered.

Application:

When my daughter was six-weeks old, though still nursing around the clock, every two hours, I had decided it was time she learn to sleep through the night. In my mind, this meant I got a least 6 hours of sleep in a single block. I know that many of you are now thinking ‘is this gal nuts?’ and Yes, I was. Honestly, I was desperate for a little sleep and I had a close friend at the time, whose daughter was sleeping through the night before she was 8 weeks old. I asked her to share her methods and without further research or pondering, I started implementing these methods immediately. Her advise was a simple and very popular method of a 3 hour cycle consisting of Eat time, Wake/Play time and Sleep time. The idea behind this method was to teach your child NOT to use nursing/feeding as a method of soothing for sleeping.

Immediately, this method felt unnatural because to me, watching my child fall asleep at the breast felt like the most natural thing to me as a mother. I have siblings who never felt the same way, and I never understood it. The idea, that this brand new little bundle of chaos chose me as the caregiver whom they trust and love enough to surrender to sleep in my arms, was the greatest gift.

I ignored my instincts and started training my daughter to self-soothe.

In a journal I kept for my daughter’s first year of life wrote :

I am writing today because I want to apologize. You see, when we brought you home from the hospital, still 3 weeks premature, you would only go to sleep at night if I held you in my arms. Now. you are seven weeks old and you won’t sleep anytime of day or night unless you are in my arms. I read this silly book “Baby Wise” and it had a Chapter on trying to put your child on a schedule and also exposing them to where it is they are going to be sleeping as they grow up. They introduced the theory of ‘crying it out.’ Even your pediatrician says the process is healthy, he told me “we haven’t lost one yet.” So I decided it was time to try to get you in your crib…which you have never slept in before.

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We are now in the process of teaching you to ‘self-soothe’ and it absolutely breaks my heart to hear you cry. The new schedule: eat, play, sleep and repeat. 3 hour cycles until you move it to four. The book said that by nursing you to sleep I wasn’t allowing you to learn how to self-soothe and instead was teaching you to rely on me to relax. So yesterday I started to place you in your crib and let you fuss a little to fall asleep. Needless to say, what was only 60 seconds of your cry felt like an eternity and I was sobbing in my room while you cried in yours. By that evening we were both exhausted…and you never slept in your crib….and you never stopped crying. NEVER. W cried together, after 14 hours of ‘crying it out.’  Decision made; this method is not for us.

 I remember that very moment in time; holding my daughter tightly as I watched my tears fall onto her onsie as she power-nursed as if it was helping her forget about the horrific hours that had finally passed. I decided, after giving it an honest try, that being ‘Baby Wise’ wasn’t all it was cracked up to be and it wasn’t important. I decided it was More important to listen to my instincts and stop listening to everyone else’s. Most importantly, I stopped being concerned with everyone else’s progress and success and started to focus more on all the wonderful moments I got to have with my daughter that many of my friends would never get.

The most sad comment a fellow mother ever made in my presence; I will answer her cries if she needs me, but I don’t go in if they just want me.

So what is the purpose of being a parent if you refuse to be their for your children? Just a thought.

Even as I try to write this post, I hear my daughter calling my name and it is before 5AM.

There is an innate reaction for most mothers when they hear their child’s call, cry or whimper; we HAVE to answer it.

All I know,  is that if my life ended abruptly today or tomorrow, I would be so thankful to have taken the time to cuddle my children and nuzzle my nose into the back of their neck so I can memorize their smell, their breathing patterns and the rate as which they fall from REM into a deep sleep. How else would a mother know that her daughter hums quietly just before she falls Pix from phone 020asleep? And that before that last part of REM she flails her arms so vigorously that you actually have to take cover if you are too close. Aren’t those things a mother should know? If I just sent her into her room to tend to herself…..I never would have made these precious little discoveries.

They grow up and don’t need you all to quickly already – why rush it?

Let’s Talk Breastfeeding

Pix from phone 035 I am not going to lie; I was 100% against formula, bottles and pacifiers while I was pregnant with my daughter. I decided ‘breast was best’ and was not taking NO for an answer.  I actually  had a small distaste, due to uneducated assumptions on my part, for those that would not breastfeed. If you follow our blog, you already know that after a traumatic cesarean section my daughter, Bean, ended up in the NICU, on formula because I could not get her to latch for the first three weeks of her life.

So let’s start from there. She latched! I thought my long nights of pumping and bottle feeding were over! Well, they were, but now my daughter was eating every two hours, around the clock and it took her about 20 minutes each side….so lets add that up for fun; 12:00am feed daughter till 12:40 and sleep 1 hour and 20 minutes before I had to wake and do it all over again. It was almost worse then pumping because my husband couldn’t help this time!

A side note, and yes I am very good at tangents. For the ladies who have had babies and had their milk come in…..H-E-L-L-O? I went from an A cup to a D cup overnight?!?!?!? There were times I found myself trying to tuck the extra skin on my stomach, into my pants just to see what my body would look like with a D cup….and without the Buddha belly. Sorry – I digress.

Back to breastfeeding.

What shocked me most about breastfeeding, was how unnatural the whole process was for me. I mean, just because Bean latched the first time, we actually had to practice the ‘lift & tuck’ technique every time she fed. Sometimes it would take me 10 minutes to get her on a good latch before she ever started feeding! This made for a frustrated little baby as well as a mother. But I learned something amongst all the struggling; we were learning about more then just a good latch, but how to trust one another and about one another’s needs. The entire week, after that first latch was exhausting and long, but eventually, with many around-the-clock feedings we mastered the technique and she needed almost no help to latch and feed successfully.

Unfortunately, with a good latch, comes some really amazing pain. Yeh, I said it. The hidden secrets about breastfeeding that no one tells you and then you are way to busy to think about. PAIN! Not just the pain of a stubbed toe, but P-A-I-N like you have never felt before on a part of your body that has NEVER seen this much action. Seriously! I remember one time I sat into a huge comfy recliner assuming this feeding would be pain free and when she latched I actually had to catch my daughter in mid air because when my body felt that first suck I threw her. No joke. (she was fine – and only upset due to hunger).

Why does no one tell you about this pain? Do you think people are afraid it will discourage you from nursing? (Likely actually). I asked my mother one time about whether or not she went through such pain and she snubbed it off with a casual ‘oh, I don’t remember.’ WHAT?!?!?!? My daughter is now 3 years old and I have a very vivid memory of the pain. Pix from phone 056

Like I am sure many mothers have, in their silent suffering, developed a coping technique that I link to call “sour puss.” It is when you take a very deep breath in, just before your child latches, and when you get the first suck you squeeze. No, not your child, but everything else you have control over; your eyes closed, your lips pursed, your fingers and finger nails into the palm of your hands, your toes into the floor and your rear end cheeks so tight you could hold a quarter. Now count to 10……and it is over. The pain is short but fierce.

Thank God I am Irish, Scottish and Stubborn or I never would have been as successful as I was. We developed a wonderful bond which we still thrive off of today. I understood and now still understand my daughter in a way no one else ever could or would. I know her fears, what makes her anxious and I know how to calm her in the midst of a fit. It may not have been the easy route to take, looking back, but breastfeeding my child was the only natural thing about her entire arrival into my world!

I mean seriously – look at that sweet little face.

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Looking for the Manual

Pix from phone 038     So after my debacle, which lasted a month, at the hospital I was literally handed a pile of discharge paperwork, asked to sign it and kicked out. I had been on bed rest, attached to 4 different machines, sliced open without a completely working spinal, had a child ripped from my abdomen, and could have lost my life, and I didn’t even get a high-five as I left. Seriously?

I tore through the paperwork when I got home in search of a manual. I needed some sort of step-by-step instructions for this little human I must now carry outside my womb. Obviously, it had to eat, it needed protection and such…..I waited for those ‘instincts’ to kick in, but all I felt was bloated, sore and exhausted. Is this the elation everyone was talking about when referring to motherhood?

Why did no one tell me that there was a chance I might not instantly bond with my daughter? I was both mortified and ashamed at how I was feeling and assumed I was alone with fear. I had pictured my birth experience over and over in my head; no drugs, vaginal delivery, doctor pulls her out and places her directly on my chest, she latches without incident and I immediately bond with her as our eyes meet  and I can see into her soul…blah blah blah. Missed that boat, didn’t I?Pix from phone 042

Here I was, a brand new mother, who was now pumping breast milk around the clock in three hour intervals and then bottle feeding my newborn. This was NOTHING like I pictured motherhood to be. I was determined, while pregnant to exclusively breastfeed after reading research on the benefits, but could not get my own daughter to latch after she was born. Granted, that was in part due to the fact that I was on Narcotics from the C-section and exhausted from the trauma of her birth. However, my head was also filled with all sorts of nonsense from the NICU nurses, lactation consultant and everyone else in the world who had NEVER been in my situation; your nipples are too small to nurse, it is because she is a preemie, you have to use a nipple shield to start out, if you cannot latch her by the next feeding we are inserting a feeding tube with formula. PRESSURE?!?!?

For 3 whole weeks I pumped around the clock and NEVER supplemented with formula – this meant I pumped for 20 minutes and then took another 40 to feed my daughter. Ex. 12:00am Pump. 12:20am Bottle feed my daughter. 1:00am Wash bottle, freeze remaining milk. 1:30, go to bed. 3:00am Pump 3:20am bottle feed my daughter…..you get the picture. Motherhood was completely robotic for me at this point. I longed for things to be ‘normal.’

After a friend invited me to a La Leche League meeting, which I first thought she was asking me out for coffee, I did get my daughter to latch. The leader asked if I had ever heard of the ‘lift and push method.’ Assuming she was not talking about my new method of putting on a brassiere I sat there, bare-chested and allowed this woman, whom I had never met before, to show me how to correctly place my daughters mouth onto the breast. My daughter latched instantly, and for the first time since I gave birth, I felt like a mother. She was 3 weeks old.Pix from phone 043

So, lesson learned; there is no instruction manual for those first few weeks so that you are forced to learn what works for you and your child. This is the process that creates the bond between mother and child. So if you find yourself frustrated and lost and not sure where to start or who to turn to for advice, just focus on cuddling that little human being you just grew in your womb. As thier body heat radiates enough to start a fire, take comfort in the fact that you will figure it all out together. I promise.

What no One Tells You About Parenting

Sometimes, choices in parenting, require that you simply close your eyes and hold your breath. No one tells you this of course before your child arrives. Instead they say things like, ‘it is completely natural,’ ‘you will figure it out as you go along,’ or ‘everything will work itself out.’ Well for those of you like me…..with mild OCD and lacking a verbal filter……to those who dare to give you such advice….just simply say ‘bug off!”  Then run. They are hiding the truth from you….

Parenting is the greatest blessing in the world. I know all of you reading this can remember the very second, those first seconds and the moment you met your first born. That feeling of elation and excitement and fear all contained in those uncontrollable tears falling down your cheeks. You can describe that moment with all the words you want, but until you have been there, there are no word to describe it really. Me? I didn’t get any of that with my first-born.

There I was, in the OR, strapped to a table like a  science experiment or a crucifix, drugged, naked and shivering. No, this was not a typical Friday night for me, thank you for asking. I had full frontal placenta Previa and the case was so sever, that we had decided to deliver in the OR rather then L&D in order to have access to emergency plans we may need.

My spinal didn’t work right. Although everyone in that room will tell you different, they were not the one with no control over their body, counting the layers of skin being cut and then sutured by feeling it!

By the time they pulled my daughter out and I heard her first scream I had given up. I had decided that as long as she were fine, if it were my time to die, then I would be alright with that.

I lay IMG_20141112_101458519on the bed, in and out of consciousness, while I heard clinking of tools, suction of blood and little paper-like blue booties scurrying across the floors. My OB was playing music and ‘Your So Vain’ came on…..SERIOUSLY?

So my husband followed our daughter up to the NICU for a pneumo-thorax and I stayed behind, waiting to bleed out and die.

See? I totally got jipt with the whole ‘elation and instant love’ for my child because I was too busy trying not to die.

I closed my eyes and held my breath. Welcome to freekin parenthood.