Taking Control of My Own Body Through Antenatal Milk Expression

Full disclosure:

I am not an LC or a healthcare provider.

I discussed this decision with my medical prenatal care team, and they were supportive.

This is not typical output for AME (antenatal milk expression). My breasts had very little “downtime” between a pregnancy I lost, a toddler weaning, and then getting pregnant again with this pregnancy. Typically, a first time mom is more likely to 4-5 mL of colostrum. Second time moms typically 10-15mL.

Anyone who knows me knows how much I love antenatal/prenatal hand milk expression. More and more research is starting to show potential benefits for moms and babies. For moms- they learn how to hand express their milk, “get to know their breasts” and feel confident doing so post partum to provide colostrum if needed to baby if unable to latch or hand express to relieve discomfort related to enforcement. They really learn their anatomy- best places to massage to encourage a letdown, techniques for ensuring a nursing baby empties the breast, where the milk ducts are, etc.

For baby, a mom who knows her body is beneficial because they are more likely to feel comfortable massaging the breast and ducts to maximize transfer and thus stimulate mature milk to come more quickly. Additionally, if baby is born quite large and/or has blood sugar drops related to difficulties regulating body temp, gestation diabetes, needs to be separated from mom for emergency medical intervention, or if mom is unable to nurse or hand express immediately after delivery due to complication- the stored milk expressed before delivery could be given to avoid formula.

And I’m not a formula nazi. But if colostrum is readily available- why not give that to preserve the microbiome and “virgin gut”. I mean- if you had it in the freezer- wouldn’t you use it?

Anywho. So after researching, presenting the information to my care team with their support, guidelines and supervision, I decided to hand express and/or hand pump colostrum at 38 weeks. 5 minutes once a day is what I decided to do. Some protocols suggest twice a day for 10 minutes- but honestly I’m an old pro at this point and don’t need that long. I’m low risk. And I wanted to do it because my baby is due to be quite large- and I’m familiar with the possibility of blood sugar drops of large babies. I would rather supplement if necessary with my own milk. I did this with my daughter as well- never ended up needing it- and by the time she was born I was very comfortable with manipulating my breasts to get her to nurse quickly and efficiently. My mature milk came in at 36 hours. She was over birth weight by 10 days.

So. I’m just doing it every other day at this point because honestly- it’s starting to get a little ridiculous. I have 10 ounces frozen already, baby isn’t here yet and realistically I know that this will all probably be donated and not used. A newborn has the stomach capacity of about 5-7mL. Literally 2 ounces would be enough for a days worth of feedings.

I’m just fascinated by what our bodies are capable of. And maybe one of the reasons I recommend seeing if your provider thinks it could be beneficial is because I feel that many women are discouraged from learning how use their bodies as instruments of amazing functionality. Whether it be through sports, feeding babies, or sexual gratification/fulfillment. The older I get the more I can see the correlations.

Women are taught they need help to feed and have their babies. To doubt their body’s amazing capabilities. To doubt their ability to be competitive on the sport fields and in the board room. To doubt their ability to be sexually fulfilled.

Maybe I’m crunchy not because I want to discredit the medical field (I don’t- I work in the medical field myself). Maybe I prefer natural births and breastfeeding as a way to claim my own body, because truthfully I’ll admit I’ve had self esteem and body image issues my entire life. To feel proud of what I could get it to do without unnecessary intervention- because I’ve known a woman’s body is amazing all along.

I hand express for me. For my babies. As a way to reclaim a relationship that is uniquely ours. I trust my body. I can make it do what I need it to do and ensure that my baby will have their milk no matter what happens. Me and my body did this alone. This is our birthing and feeding relationship that I know I can ensure is successful confidently.

The 17%

In another Saturday edition of the Machelle is still nesting saga…

I have begun to unpack the breast pump box. I was the 17% who worked full time and exclusively breastfed our daughter to past a year.

Our breastfeeding journey ended abruptly when I became pregnant with a baby we lost.

So I it’s all sort of bittersweet.

Occasionally I hear people say things like, “companies try to sell you things you don’t really need if you plan to breastfeed…all you need is your baby and your boobs…”

And that’s probably true….if your plan is to stay at home. If you plan to go back to work- you actually will need quite a lot of things. Ice packs, coolers, pump bags, milk bags, hand pumps, bottles, labels, breast pads, nursing covers to pump while driving, duck bills/valves/membranes, extra tubing, extra flanges, wet bags, bottle brushes, slow flow nipples, car adapters….just to name a few.

But I’m determined to give our son the best nutrition again. So I’m sorting through the flanges, the tubing, duckbills, valves, backflow protectors, bottles, the Spectra to medela adapters, the hand pumps….and it’s bringing back all of the memories of eating oatmeal in my office while watching the spraying. Making sure my phone speaker was on mute during conference call pumping sessions. Occasionally watching Netflix/Orange is the new Black while pumping. Making hands free pumping bras, etc.

Breast milk is only free if you think all of the time moms put into their nursing journey is worthless. And if you don’t include the cost of the supplies they need to make breastfeeding work while away from their baby.

Hoping these supplies still have some more good juju in them.

To Our Second Child…

Good news. You’re about to be born into a loving family. Bonus: you get 2 moms and a sassy big sister. You’re the first boy in the house- besides Pirate, our geriatric rescue dog.

Look kid. As the 2nd child- you’re gonna miss out on some things. I’m due in less than a month and haven’t done a baby book. Your ultrasound pictures are crammed into my desk at work or in my glove box. We are totally just reusing your sisters gender neutral nursery and not making another one for you. You’ll also be getting a lot of her clothes or hand me downs from friends. I didn’t take weekly bump pictures with weekly blog updates. I forgot to take my prenatal vitamin A LOT. I drank a tons of coffee and Dr. Pepper while pregnant with you. I ate sushi and cold lunch meat at least once a week. I also stopped giving a crap about my weight gain and didn’t work out nearly as much while pregnant with you.

But. There is good news. All of that stuff above I just mentioned? It doesn’t matter. Seriously.

I’ve got some good news for you though kid. You are way luckier than your big sister- and here’s why:

Your moms know what the hell they’re doing.

I’ve gotten you an awesome nursing pillow. I seriously scored us a free $100 kick ass nursing pillow today. You’re gonna be so comfy while cluster feeding. And I won’t be concerned about you cluster feeding- because I know it’s normal. I actually know a lot about breastfeeding. Get ready son- tons o’milk coming your way. My boobs make the good stuff- that fatten you buttermilk that will have you back to birth weight by 10 days.

I know that it’s safe to cosleep following the safe sleep 7 guidelines and nurse all night long. You’re welcome. Feel free to cuddle up to the boob and nurse away. I’ll be sleeping topless so help yourself. I’m not gonna care if you only sleep in 2 hour increments at 6 months old. I know that’s normal. And I know that frequent night nursing will help maintain my supply. And I know that it won’t last forever.

I’m a pro at babywearing. You’ve got tons of slings, wraps, and a beautiful new wrap conversion Tula free to grow waiting on you. You will probably never be put down or have to learn how to walk. You’ll be nice warm and comfy, and feel free to demand milkies while in the carrier. Also- I have tons of nursing clothes and feel confident nursing in public. So guess what? You get milk anytime, anywhere. Your sister had to nurse in the bathroom at AC Moore once…but now I have 0 problem shopping/walking around while nursing in a carrier.

I didn’t waste money on a stroller. I’ll know that the days are long but the years are short- so I’ll cherish our late night nursing sessions. I won’t put you in ridiculous outfits. I also won’t give you unnecessary frequent baths.

I probably won’t encourage gross motor skills because mobile babies are over rated. I also won’t worry when you don’t start solids until 10 months old.

I can promise a large amount of bow ties. Because lesbians love little bow ties on baby boys. We also already belong to an awesome village of moms. We have so much support. I know I could call close friends who would help me right away if our family needed it. You’re also already guaranteed a spot at a phenomenal childcare center- with the same sweet ladies who took care of your sister. They already know about cloth diapers and paced bottle feeding for breastfed babies.

So look. I forgot vitamins and enjoyed a lot of caffeine. But it will even out because you’re going to have really confident moms and a village who can’t wait to meet you. And that is way more meaningful and beneficial than spending hours making a baby book.

Try to stay put til April, kay?

Thanks.

Buttons or Bows?

We didn’t find out if “Doodle” (EJ) was a boy or a girl.  There was already so much to be excited for.  Ways to celebrate the pregnancy.  The birthing classes, the breastfeeding classes, the newborn care classes- not to mention the nursery, organizing gender neutral baby shower gifts.

And while we hoped to have another baby, the journey to “Squishy” was a little bumpier.  We had a miscarriage in between these pregnancies.  It took more attempts, drugs and hormones.  We decided to try “1 more time” before our infertility doc went out on maternity leave.

And it worked.

And then I started getting sick almost immediately.

I gag while brushing my teeth.  I hurl at the sight of dog food.  While driving I have simultaneously peed myself while puking- our 2 year old proclaiming “eeewwww mama…” in the back seat.

“It will get better in the 2nd trimester….” They said.

It didn’t.

In fact, if I’m being honest.  I kind of hate this pregnancy.  I was looking forward to another glowy awesome pregnancy when I loved my body.  The feeling of so much joy, feeling life dance inside me.  Watching my belly grow.  Oh how I loved the bump and feeling kicks.

I throw up every day.  I hate my body. I feel like shit. Thanks to my perfectly centered anterior placenta its hard to feel the baby move or even hear a heartbeat.

So I talked to Mary.  I needed something to be excited for.  Something to celebrate this pregnancy and to be unique.

So we decided to find out the gender.

We went to a privately-owned ultrasound place (not our midwives office) because they could see us sooner.  And while I’m glad we went…I must admit the ultrasound tech was…. shall we say very conservative?  It was obvious that she wasn’t too keen on the idea of a same sex family.  She made her opinions be known.

And when people don’t even attempt to hide their biases, I personally enjoy making them squirm.  So when she told us it was a boy…I couldn’t help myself.  “Well.  That’s the first time a penis has ever been inside me…” just came out of my mouth.  She was horrified.  Mary rolled her eyes.

At least it will make for a good story 😊

Our baby boy is very healthy.  Growing well, and has all the major body parts.  We are so very excited.  I wouldn’t have cared one way or the other- but I feel like I finally have something to think about besides puking and pure exhaustion.

A baby born after a pregnancy lost is sometimes called a “rainbow baby”.  Last week- I saw a pattern for a little rainbow baby hat, and decided to make it.  I didn’t know if I should sew on a coordinating button or a rainbow bow.  I made a bow and decided I would just take it to the hospital with us.  But now I’m excited to sew on the little button.  And maybe I can turn the bow into a matching bow tie.  And I can’t wait to sort through the clothes our friends gave us for a boy.  Or come up with a boy name.  Or find matching Big Sis/Little Bro outfits.

I’d be just as happy going through EJ’s clothes to sort out the newborn sizes, attaching a bow, finding a girl’s name and knitting matching mermaid tail sleep sacks for the girls.

I feel like I finally have something to think about.  Something to hope for, something to look forward to- besides how miserable I am.  Every pregnancy, every baby, and every person is different…and I’m really glad we decided to do this.

 

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On being pregnant…again.

I don’t even know where to start.

This week, we had our first appointment with the midwives.  She asked how many pregnancies and children we have.  Its weird to say 3 pregnancies, one daughter.

3 pregnancies sound like a lot. But we only have one daughter.

And yes, I’m pregnant again…but it still feels like something is missing.  I’m pretty open about our pregnancy loss we had last December.  I thought I had mostly healed and we were ready to start again.

Truthfully, I’m appreciative of how the experience has helped me connect with other mothers with similar experiences.  Not that its fun to be part of some special miscarriage club- but I can understand how they feel.   I finally get why people are hesitant to bond with a pregnancy.

With EJ, we told Mary’s parents right away.  Well, we waited 3 days after the 2nd pink line appeared to tell them.

With Bean, the pregnancy we lost, I knew something was off from the beginning.  My quant levels were low, and I never got the “urgency” to pee like I did with EJ.  I know that’s weird.  But I distinctly remember telling the doctor- “I know something is wrong- because I don’t have to pee.”  I felt another “soul” inside me with EJ, and I never felt that with Bean.

With this pregnancy, which we have dubbed, “Squishy”….I don’t know how I feel.  I want to bond, but I’m afraid to.  I’m only 10 weeks but we’ve had 3 ultrasounds.  All of them have shown a heartbeat and baby growing right on track- but I’m still afraid to get excited.

It also doesn’t help that I feel differently with this pregnancy.  With EJ, the moment I got pregnant I felt glowy right away.  I loved being pregnant from the moment I found out I was until 37 weeks (when I was done with being pregnant in the August heat).  I looked forward to creating a nursery.  Growing a bump.  Buying little onesies.  I couldn’t wait to “look” pregnant.  Couldn’t wait to feel kicks- and loved it when I finally did!  I was oblivious- and convinced that everything would be perfect.  And actually, with EJ it was- but now I have a lot of friends that had not so perfect pregnancies and deliveries, and I’m more aware of what could happen.

I’m really happy we are pregnant.  And I’m relieved that things have been good so far.

But I’m still hesitant to dive head first the way I did with EJ.

Maybe its because I’ve had much more sickness with this pregnancy?  I wasn’t nearly this sick with EJ, but with this pregnancy I’ve been taking nausea meds 2-3 times every day.

Maybe because we don’t have to do as much? Maybe this is actually reassuring because I’m not nervous.  I know that I don’t need a perfect nursery- the baby will be attached to my boob all night so prepping another room is just pointless.  We don’t need to buy a lot of things because we bought everything with EJ gender neutral.  We can even use the cloth diapers again.

Maybe because I weigh more this pregnancy I’m not so in love with my body?

Maybe it seems to be going by faster because I’m chasing a toddler?

I don’t know.  But I do know that I just feel differently this pregnancy.  And its not necessarily bad, but its just not what I was expecting.  I thought if you were one of those women who LOVED being pregnant, then you would LOVE being pregnant again.  And I just don’t feel the same level as excitement.  I’m hoping its just because I have less to worry about, less is unknown to me, less preparation- maybe I’m more prepared, more experienced, and this is all a sign of actually being a better mom.

Maybe my heart is still healing, and its okay for me to be more cautious.  I know that this baby is meant for our family, and I know that we are so lucky.  I know that this baby will be so loved by 2 moms and a very sweet big sister.  But I’m going to try to make more efforts to take care of myself and this little “squishy”- try to spend more time being in touch with myself, and getting to know the little soul that seems very determined to be here.

 

 

18 months a whole lot of toddler

Well I guess it is about that time again.  It’s been a little while to update what is going on in our lives.

Machelle has gotten another job that she really seems to enjoy.  It is a LOT more responsibility, but she is very capable of being an amazing addition to the team at her practices.

I have been accepted in to the Graduate program at ECU for the Online Masters in Business Administration.  It begins in the fall, so I guess I have this summer to get any sort of organization and fun things lined up before I get bogged down by school for the next 3 years.

I have decided that we have go to do some decluttering of our house.  The house we live in is plenty large for the purposes that we need to use it for—you know like sleeping, eating, and showering—but we have started to let things clutter and there needs to be some serious, serious purging that needs to take place. So I am taking that on as my summer project.  I want to have the house as organized and clean and well put together before I start school in August and then will have absolutely no free time.

A few posts ago I wrote a letter to EJ about things that I wanted her to know as she grows older.

Now it is my time to write myself a letter.  One that I will force myself to read at least monthly to remind me of things that I need to be focusing on instead of other things that sometimes get in the way.

Here goes:

Dear Mary,

3 years ago, you were not even close to the person you thought you would be as you type this letter to yourself.  You spent way too much money on bar tabs and way less money on gym memberships.  You had gym memberships, but they often lapsed or you were the equivalent of the people who only go to church on Easter and Christmas.  So with that being said, I need for you to read some small pieces of advise that I have to offer you that you know already, but tend to forget when things get hectic.

  1. Slow down- spend the time after you get home from work playing with EJ and interacting with her instead of worrying about how you are going to get everything packed for daycare the next day.  She goes to bed early, you can do that stuff later.
  2. Be open- well as open as you possibly can be.  Don’t squash dreams before they have even entered your brain, or the brain of others.  Listen to these ideas and think them through then make a decision.
  3. Listen- and I actually mean listen.  Listen to what your wife has to say to you when she gets home from work, rather than acting like you’re listening while you scroll through 32 emails that can wait until tomorrow.  Listen to your child as she is starting to learn new words and wants to know that you are listening to her and praising her for learning these words.  Listen to your coworkers and others in your field when they have issues and when they have ideas that they are looking for your feedback on.
  4. Leave work early- not every day, of course that’s not possible.  But take time for your family.  One day you are going to wake up and have only your family. Your career and job does not define you.  You can’t fix everything over night.  Although, sometimes in your line of work, things can creep in to the “EMERGENT” folder in your brain filing system, and when they do these items need to be vetted to make sure they actually are emergent.  Do not waste precious time at home with your family, working on something that can wait until tomorrow.
  5. Organize- get your house, your job, your soon to be school in order so that you are the most efficient.  It’s going to be hard to finish your MBA with a disgusting garage or no where to put your tools for success.  Everything needs a home. And you need to find this home and then get rid of everything else.  There’s no sense in keeping a receipt from 3 years ago.  GET IT OUT.
  6. Get back in touch- everyone’s life is changing rapidly around you–surprise you aren’t the only one.  They’ve got kids, husbands, wives, dogs, houses, jobs–just like you (well except for the husband part–no thank you).  But the bustle that is every day life does not mean that you can not reach out to them and catch up with how they are doing in their life.  If you don’t, you will lose touch with some of the most influential people in your life.  Stop saying you will do it next week, do it today or at least before the week ends.
  7. Make at least 10 minutes a day for yourself.  This can be in the car, in the shower, on facebook, or right before you hit the pillow.  This is the shortest blurb, but the most important.  If you let yourself go, you aren’t going to be able to do anything that you want to accomplish.  Treat yo’self.

7 things–not a lot to ask.  So stop making excuses about how you can’t get these things done and do it. A well trained monkey can do 7 things.  You are slightly smarter than the monkey, so at least that ball is in your court.

You’re strong, you’re brave, you can absolutely conquer this.

I love you

9 years…

9 years.
3,285 days.
78,840 hours.
4,730,400 minutes.

That’s the amount of time that Machelle and I have spent together.

When you break it down, it seems like quite a long time.  But most days, it feels like yesterday that she reached out to me on a no longer existing form of social media–no it wasn’t myspace–and told me that she wanted to “meet new people.”

We have done so much in the past 9 years.  We have gotten much better jobs, said goodbye to people that we loved, and said hello to some pretty amazing people who have come in to our lives.

What happens when you love someone so much it hurts? When you long for time by yourself, but as soon as you get it, you long to be back with the one you left?  Love is a hard thing to explain and an even harder thing to keep alive. If anyone ever tells you that love isn’t work, they are doing it wrong.

Love is not smashing the dishes all over the kitchen when you get home from work after you’ve asked your lovely wife (or husband) a million times to put the dishes in the dishwasher before they leave for work.

Love is being beside someone when things hurt. Sure, when they hurt physically is one thing. But standing beside them when they are emotionally shattered can be just as difficult.

Love is getting out of bed to get the chocolate chip cookies that are downstairs–that you both want–but neither of you want to get out of bed for.

Love is folding clothes. A shit ton of clothes.  Baby clothes, your clothes, dog clothes, just a crap ton of clothes.  How can one human wear that many clothes in 1 week?

Love is waking up early to let the dogs out and keep them quiet before you go to the gym at 4 am.

Love is falling asleep way before your better half does while they continue with the stuff you have to do the next day–and they aren’t angry about it, because they understand how incredibly tired you are and how imperative it is that you get sleep.

Love is spending Saturday mornings in bed eating waffles–or Chick Fil A if its been a good week–and watching Daniel Tiger or Sesame Street on repeat because it keeps your toddler happy and you can all pretend for a few more minutes that the day won’t end up in total toy chaos.

Love is making yourself better for the other person.  And true love is when you have found someone who loves you just the way you are–but inspires you to make yourself better.

Love is changing diapers. And anyone who is reading this that cloth diapers, you know true love is spraying out that diaper that has sat at daycare or somewhere else for a little too long.

Love is letting your wife burn expensive candles that you could really care less about for the first 4 years of the relationship–but around year 5, somehow you both start caring about the scents you get during the next trip.

Love is supporting someone when they may be making a life changing decision.  Helping them weigh out the pros and cons and then having the confidence in your partner that they will eventually make the best decision.

Love is looking across the dinner table you are sitting at without children and saying “Man, it’s really nice not to have to pick up a fork off the ground or dodge a flying piece of bread.”

Love is so many many things. The best thing about it is, it is ever changing and evolving.  If you aren’t willing to take the time you put in to the beginning of relationship, 9 years down the road you are going to find that things aren’t looking so hot.

9 years–after the excitement of something new wears off, after the “you can’t keep your hands off of each other” stage is long gone, you will realize that the person you fell in love with in the first place is still there.

Take the time to rekindle what you had in the beginning.  Go out on dates without your children.  Make out in parking lots like you did when you were first dating. Do whatever you guys need to do to feel more connected.

I promise you, feeling connected will be the best thing you could do for your relationship.  Your happiness and the happiness of your relationship will be thankful. 16423104_10101916499836166_937302104681424307_o