life, love, and maybe babies

Monday, December 21, 2015

Make Like a Tree and Maternity Leave: 10 Tips to Prepare You For What'sComing

Maternity leave. Two tiny words that can bring up a wealth of all kinds of emotions. Fear, anxiety, joy. For the most part, the idea of maternity leave (if you're taking it) will make you feel excitement, and maybe even a little hopeful. After all, newborns sleep a lot. You're going to get SO MUCH DONE! You might even start and complete that novel that's been living inside you for the last 10 years. Move over, J.K. Rowling, there's a new best selling author in town.

Then you get home with the baby and you realize things aren't exaaaaactly like you thought they'd be. And with that, here are the top 10 things about maternity leave you never saw coming.

10) Time flies, even if you aren't having fun

You'll probably be up before 6:00 AM. And yet, somehow, when your husband walks in the door in the early evening and asks, "So what did you two do today?", you find yourself wondering exactly that. WHAT THE HELL DID I DO WITH THE LAST 12 HOURS?

I'll give you a hint. You changed diapers, fed baby, changed baby, soothed baby when he cried for two hours straight, attempted to load the dishwasher but gave up when baby woke up from his nap, and took a shower. (No promises you get one of those tomorrow, though.) When you look at that list, how in the world did those few items take up that much time?

Because they just do.

I'm convinced days with a baby are actually looped into some sort of cosmic time warp or dog year phenomenon, where one minute is actually 10 minutes. So hours really only last six minutes. And therefore, those 12 hours are really only 72 minutes long.

Trust me on this, I know what I'm talking about.

9) Television makes no sense

When you first started thinking about maternity leave, you poured through your Netflix account, looking for a great series to start (and maybe even finish!) while your babe and you snuggled on the couch.

Good luck with that, honey buns.

What actually happens is you watch the first few episodes when baby is sleeping 16-17 hours a day and get really into it. (For me, it was "The Affair" on Showtime). Then, right as you're getting into the meat and potatoes of the show, baby decides he's had enough of you eye-gulping television and wants to be fed smack in the middle of episode 4. So you pop the boob (or bottle) in his mouth and settle back in. But he doesn't want to be fed anymore, he wants to be rocked and cuddled. So for 20 minutes you look into his eyes and coo at him until he drifts off to sleep. But then you have no idea what the hell just happened on your show. You reach for the remote, but the movement startles baby and he wakes up...and you get to start all over again.

Bottom line? You aren't going to be watching any television unless it's something you've already seen.

8) You will learn efficiency at a pro level

This happens fast. Pre-baby, you could nestle on the sofa in the morning, drink in the morning peacefulness, and occasionally change the channels on the television.Those days are gone. Now you must learn to think in advance of what you could possibly need before you sit down. TV on? Check. Channel correct? Check. Coffee in arm's reach? Check. Bladder empty? Check. You will learn to anticipate every conceivable scenario and your response to it before you're seated. (I'm convinced this is actually brain training for when my child is older and is trying to think of ways to sneak out of the house.)

7) You might hate your partner a teeny little bit

Your days are spent changing poopy diapers, feeding your baby on demand and occasionally eating a meal. So when your husband gets home, you fully expect to be able to do a changing of the guard and hand baby over for a bit of a reprieve. Perhaps you'll finally pay the bills that have been mounting on the kitchen counter. Or eat an apple. But Hubs might have other ideas. And for the record, it isn't even his fault. He (or she) comes home from a hard day and wants to have snuggled with a happy baby. Not grumpy, smelly, hasn't-slept-for-hours baby that needs to be rocked and bounced. So when you give him that baby, don't be surprised when he immediately tries to give him back and say, "Oh, he must be hungry. I can't help with that." And then you want to throttle him.

This is going to take communication for both of you to get through. Hubs needs to know you need a break. After all, you've been working hard all day too, just in a different way. Both of you deserve a little downtime and you're going to have to take it in shifts. I remember the exact moment I realized Hubs and I needed to talk very seriously about what I was expecting from a help perspective when he came home from work. I was sitting on the couch nursing my son and realized I had left his pacifier upstairs. I asked Hubs to grab it and he replied, "Well, what would you do if I wasn't here?" I considered calling a divorce attorney right then and there.

The point is, you have to talk to one another. You both must understand that life is different now and "downtime" might just be a fond memory. And you need to be there for each other.

6) You will kick yourself for "powering through" your tiredness when you were pregnant.

Because naps were at least an option back then. Now your bed beckons you and you have to ignore it.

5) Your laundry will become biblical

Remember the feeding of the 5,000? This is what happens to your laundry. One tiny, little human will produce more laundry than you could ever conceive. Sometimes baby wears an outfit for literally three minutes. Then it's one go-around with a blow out diaper and baby needs new pants and you need a completely new outfit.

4) Your bank account will suffer

No, not because you need to buy diapers and formula and wipes, although those certainly cost money. The spending shenanigans comes from online shopping. But wait, you say, I thought I was going to be spending all my free time rocking baby and being tired. How am I going to shop?

Your body is an amazing thing and will learn to buy things with the use of only one extremity. Did you know you can rock baby with one arm and scroll through Amazon with the other? You will become next level amazing at it. 

To make matters worse, night time feedings may cause half-awake spending, which is both the best and the worst kind. The best is when a package arrives that contains an item that you've always wanted but could never pull the trigger on. Did Hubs buy this for you because he loves you? What a doll! And then the worst part comes...because you realize you sleep-bought this item for yourself during baby's 3:30 AM feeding. Oops.

If you want to try and curtail the damage, don't save your credit card info onto your phone. At least then you have to physically go and get your wallet to purchase something. Otherwise, you're just a few clicks and an Amazon Prime membership away from bankruptcy.

3) You will wear out Google

Is baby supposed to burp after breast feeding? When should she stop sleeping in her bassinet? Are these weird bumps on her arm normal?

Get ready for your entire search history to revolve around things that may or may not be wrong with your kid. And prepare to feel more judged than you've ever felt. For the first three weeks of maternity leave, I relied on Google or Mom Blogs to guide me through what I was supposed to be doing. The problem arose when I found great advice, then three minutes later found advice that counteracted the great advice I just got. It's a vicious cycle. 

Use Google if you truly think it will help, but more than likely, you'll end up more confused and fully convinced you're failing at motherhood.

2) You won't work out

I bought a set of workout DVD's my second day of maternity leave, and they're still sitting in my kitchen. It's not that I don't plan to use them, but I've made peace with the fact that they're going to have to wait until after my son is in daycare. This is the one time in my life I can spend an unprecedented amount of time with my baby. I'm not going to use it worrying about my gut and stretch marks.

The workouts can wait.

1) It will fly

Don't blink. Your time with baby will be over before you can even process that it's happened. Sure, eight or ten or twelve weeks sounds like an eternity, but it isn't. As the end of my uninterrupted time with my son comes to a close, I am floored by how quickly it's gone. I struggled with feeling like I got nothing accomplished, but then I remember that I had a baby. I kept him alive. I fed him from my own body parts every single day and he is happy and thriving and well. 

And now I have to turn him over to someone else.

It breaks my heart, but I know I soaked up every minute of my time with him and didn't take any of it for granted. Even when he was cranky and barfing or pooping every four minutes or refusing to go down for a nap, I was grateful for him. I was thankful to have him in my arms, a little piece of my husband and me.

And now I'm ready to go back to work and watch him thrive. 

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Feed Me, Seymour: The Honest Guide to Breast Feeding You Never Knew You Needed

When I was pregnant, people would constantly ask me one question that grated my nerves more than any other...

Are you going to breastfeed?


As someone who had worked so incredibly hard to even get pregnant, I hadn't really taken the time to consider breastfeeding vs formula. I was way too busy thinking about whether this pregnancy would even go to term to focus on what I would do to sustain my baby's life after he came. 

But, as most babies do, he arrived. And he was hungry. Our nurses at the hospital were fantastic and the lactation consultants were extremely helpful in helping me to get breast feeding going. Now that nearly 13 weeks have passed, I look back and see how much my approach to breast feeding has changed since those first few days.

So let's get to the good stuff that 4,392 other articles won't tell you about breastfeeding. For example:

1. Breastfeeding is freaking hard

Yeah, yeah, you say. Everyone knows it's hard. All the mom's say it. But really, what's so hard about it? I mean, you bring the baby up to your nipple and off you go. Um, no. That's the forensic explanation. It is so, so much more than that. I mean, sex is technically putting part A into part B, right? But we all know how intense and complicated and wonderful and awful sex can be, don't we? Breastfeeding is the same way. It's all the nuances and little things that make it either fantastic or awful.

Full disclosure, though? At the beginning, it's pretty much just awful. So don't go into your first experience breastfeeding and feel like you're a failure if you aren't screaming, "YAY, I GET TO BREAST FEED TODAY!" 

That may never happen.

2. There is pain. No matter what you read that says otherwise.

Almost every "how to" guide I read clearly stated that if your nipples hurt while breastfeeding, you were doing it wrong. That is blatantly not true. Remember, before you had your baby, your nipples were rarely (or never) getting play. Maybe once a week? Once every two weeks? Hell, it might have been five months since your boobs last saw daylight because when you're pregnant, your boobs hurt and you're all " DON'T TOUCH ME THERE, OKAY!?" 

Now, this eight pound human being wants to chomp down on your practically re-virginized tata's and get liquid out of them 10 times a day. And this isn't supposed to hurt? Girl, please.


The fact is, your nipples have to get used to being sucked on in a completely non-sexual way. It just isn't pleasant at the beginning. Now, that isn't to say that if it hurts to feed that you're definitely doing it right, it just means that if it hurts, you aren't necessarily doing it wrong. And you, my friend, get the joyous task of figuring out which category you fall into. For me, it hurt because the cross-cradle hold turned out to be a dud. My little man just couldn't latch correctly. The minute I switched to the football hold we were off to the races. But it still did hurt at the beginning. 

I highly recommend walking around shirtless and braless for at least a week if you can. Your partner will love it and your nipples will love you. Be aware though, you will have to thwart the increased advances made by your partner as a result of your free floating lady parts. Just "accidentally" squeeze some breast milk on him. He won't touch you for a month.

3. You will leak.

I spent a good month and a half waking up in the middle of the night swimming in my own liquids before finally realizing I needed to sleep with a bra and breast pads. And no one thought to share with me that when you feed your baby on one side, the other side is going to let down, too. You must prepare for the rain!

Sometimes the leakage happens two minutes after my baby's last feeding, sometimes it takes two hours. So keep close watch, as thou cannot know the time or the hour when the boobs will spring a leak.

Do yourself a favor and invest in the nursing pads and keep them in your bra 24/7. Don't bother taking off the sticky adhesive strips and trying to keep them in place, either. They're going to move, as are your boobs. You get used to it and eventually you won't have any qualms about fixing it in public. 

4. You'll Never Take Your Bra Off Again

Because #3.

5. Ounces matter

If your breastfeeding time table goals exceeds your maternity leave capabilities, you're going to have to pump. I'd recommend starting pretty early on so you can get the hang of it. 

Pumping sucks. In fact, they should just call it Sucking because that's what it is. Two weird, plastic, alien-looking things attach to your titties and siphon the freaking life out of them. If you're lucky some milk comes out, too. But guess what? Sometimes you'll pump for 25 minutes and not a single drop happens. It's super reassuring. Then out of curiosity you'll Google"how many ounces should I be getting when I pump" and you'll read things like, "I immediately got 10 ounces at every pump!" and "I loved pumping! I got 1,200 ounces in two weeks for my babe!" 

(I just tell myself that these women are ugly in real life. It's the only thing that makes me feel better.)

(Not really, those ladies are just super lucky.)

As an added bonus, here's something else you have to deal with. Your husband WILL NOT get it. One of the first times I pumped, I only got half an ounce and my husband said, "So just throw that out, right? It's not worth it to keep it."


Excuse me? Not worth it? I just spent 35 minutes with a machine making a sound that can only be described as several cows being disemboweled as I hunched over two giant vacuums who, I swear to God, get personal pleasure out of my pain, and you don't think the half ounce I pumped is WORTH IT?

I highly recommend keeping all sharp objects away from yourself when you've just pumped, because if anyone dares question how much you got, you will probably end up on death row.

6. Forget Text Neck. 

You will get Tit Neck from looking down at your boobs when you pump to SEE IF ANYTHING IS COMING OUT. Oh, and get ready to get genuinely excited when you see the milk start to spray. It's like Christmas morning.


7. Eventually you will breast feed for all to see in public


8. The nursing cover sucks

Who wants to eat like this? Exactly no one.


For the purposes of research, I ate my breakfast today with a blanket over my head and guess what? It's not a pleasant way to eat. I couldn't see anything, it made me hot and it's stupid. Why would I expect my child to eat this way just because we're in public? I mean, if I do flash a nipple it's for less time than Janet Jackson's wardrobe malfunction.

Also, the nursing cover is the most awkward thing on earth. How is anyone expected to thread the needle of a mouth to a nipple without the benefit of SIGHT? I am not a superhero, people. 

9. Cluster feeding is a real thing

As I left the hospital with my newborn son, basking in the glory of the beautiful human I produced, my lactation consultant called after me, "Don't forget about the cluster feed at two weeks! You'll feel like he's attached to you!" 

I wasn't really listening. 

Thankfully Hubs was, because around the two week mark, my son went on a breast feeding binge. He fed every 15 minutes for over two hours straight. As I sat there with red nipples, a sore back, and angry as hell, Hubs piped up, "Hey, didn't that lactation lady say this would happen around two weeks and you just had to power through it?" 

Those lactation peeps. They're always right.

Cluster feeding sucks but it is necessary. It's signaling to your body to up the milk production to keep up with what baby needs. If you supplement with formula, it might cut back on your discomfort, but you might not ever get your supply up to where it needs to be. Try and power through. Sit down with Netflix ("House of Cards" all day, erry day.) and a bunch of snacks and let babe eat as often as he needs. Have some lanolin on your nipples in between feedings and you'll come out the other side, I promise.

10. Your timeline will change

When I started nursing, my pie in the sky goal was to make it at least a year. After day two, I had decided I would make it a week. After a week, I decided one month...max. Now I've been successfully breast feeding for three months and my new goal is six.

The correct answer for how long to breast feed is: as long as you want.

There is no magic number of months or days or weeks. Frankly, if you're hating every second of it, you are transferring that energy to your baby. He can feel it. If you are absolutely despising the process to feed your child, then it might be time to move on. 

But here's a little thing to remember: breast feeding is like having contractions. If you knew you had 192 more to go before your baby arrived, you probably would have just given up and jumped out the window. Instead you took it one at a time, minute by minute, half hour by half hour. That's how I've learned to handle breast feeding. I take it week by week. 

So, new mama (or second or third time mama), give yourself a break. Join a breast feeding support group. Email me. Call your mother. Call your best friend who breast fed twins for nine months. Your body was designed for this, and you owe it to yourself to give it a try. If breast feeding isn't for you, that's fine. You will probably get questions from nosy people with good intentions. Try not to go too hard on them. They just don't know any better. 

Hang in there!


Thursday, December 3, 2015

Looking back...

I don't know who "they" are, but apparently "they" say looking back isn't a wise thing to do because it prevents you from moving truly forward.

I say horseshit.

As an infertile, sometimes looking back is the only way to see just how far I've come. (Surely that's a Maya Angelou quote...or I'm just amazing.) If I didn't have the strength to look back, I wouldn't be able to see that one year ago, I was in Colorado, living at my friend's house, sticking myself with injections every day, and waiting patiently for my retrieval date. Every morning I would wake up, convinced I was at home, and then reality would set in. I would remember that I was far from home, without my husband (who would come later), living off of my friends' hospitality, all in the hope that this journey would end with a pregnancy.

It wasn't an easy time for me.

But, because I look back, I can smile at that time. I can laugh at the day I tried to go buy my in laws a Christmas present at a nearby Crate and Barrel, and was so terrified of the Colorado traffic that I turned the car around and went right back to the house (with a detour to buy ice cream, of course). I can finally grin at the memory of telling myself, "If you can get through this Gonal F injection, you can rent Serendipity," because I knew a Christmas movie would cheer me up. I can get all warm and fuzzy thinking about how my selfless friend Lindsey asking me what she could bring me home for dinner, as I sat on her plush couch, watching her TV, reading her books. 

Most importantly, I can look back and not have my heart break as I recall the pain and turmoil I was experiencing as my retrieval date grew closer. I don't have to wince at the memory of giving myself an injection in the Dick's Sporting Goods bathroom. I no longer live in fear of it all not working. 

Because it did work. 

My son is sleeping in his crib right now. I can go in and watch him breathe. I can look at his fingers and his toes and pinch them ever so gently to know he's real. I can hold him up to my breast and feed him, sustaining his life with my own. All because I went through that pain and suffering and misery a year ago.

Just one year.

I always thought that if I looked back on infertility, I would surely think about how it was the worst time of my life and how much I hated it. But quite the opposite has happened. I truly look back on my time in Colorado and throughout my infertility and feel proud. Accomplished. I feel invincible. Then I look back on my birth story and feel even more proud, accomplished and invincible. By golly, by George, I can do anything. If I can handle all of that, I can handle no sleep, engorged boobs, and crying fits at 3 AM. I can handle teething and potty training and first dates and puberty. I can and I will handle it all like a champ.

And I will look back on all of it. And I will smile.

Happy Holidays, all! Here's a photo from our fall family shoot. Wishing you a wonderful holiday season!



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