Tag Archives: breastfeeding

Mean Girls

I have something to admit. Sometimes I feel like a failure. I feel it most acutely when I think about our dog, Charlie. Because, you see, we gave her away.

There came a time, in the midst of that blurry first year with the kids, that we realized it would be selfish to keep her in our home. We were just not able to care for her the way that loving ol’ girl deserved to be cared for. I won’t go into the details, because this post is not about how difficult our situation was.

This post is about mean girls and judgement.

We were so thrilled to find her a loving home, on a beautiful farm with hundreds of acres and other doggie friends to play with. No children, no more leashes and hurried walks, no more hiding behind baby gates. This weekend, however, I received a scathing email from the woman who found this beautiful home for our pup. She felt the need, now that Charlie was all settled in, to let me know her thoughts on the decision that we made for our family. I was floored. I hadn’t felt such judgement or hatred in such a long time. I tried to explain that she didn’t know how hard we had tried, how long we had all been hoping our situation would improve; how she didn’t know what went on in our home.

She told me I wasn’t the first person to have kids and a dog.

After a weekend of hurt and anger, I am now looking inward and asking myself why it hurts so much. The answer is because part of me thinks she’s right. I failed. I couldn’t have kids and a dog.

And then I started thinking about all the other people who have judgements thrown on them, regarding breastfeeding or formula feeding, bed-sharing or placing their newborn in a room by themselves, returning to work or staying home, daycare or hired help. Every time I’m on Facebook I come across another article describing one of these judgements, telling moms everywhere that they may be failing at the most important job on earth. Or our food choices: animals, dairy, organic, processed…we all have kernels of self-doubt inside of us, making us vulnerable and sensitive. I couldn’t handle the judgement because it hurt so much to wonder if the right decision had been made.

As I place more space around her words, I am using this to remind myself that I need to choose the comments I let into my world. As the young kids say, haters be hatin’. There will always be mean girls.

Some will say mean things behind your back, and some will say it to your face. Some comments, you won’t really care about, and some will really hurt you, because they will hit your place of self-doubt. The mommy wars, dietary choices, politics, bullying – these issues will always be around, because there will always be mean girls (and boys) who are operating from their place of self-doubt. The only way around it is to take care of ourselves, to know our own reasons are enough. To take care of others, by offering support, listening and – before we dole out opinions and advice – remembering: we cannot, ever, truly know what it’s like to be someone else. Our paths in life are too varied; our perspectives are too unique.

Words that come from insecurity are damaging. Words of understanding come from a place of love.

My anger from the words that were written to me is finally receding, and so I will push out words of love:

To the person who wrote them, I allow that you do not understand our reasons for giving up our dog, and I forgive that you felt the need to tell me that. Perhaps you too have been hurt by words.

To our dog Charlie, I am so sorry that we were unable to make things work with you in our family, and I know that you will have everything you deserve in the last years of your life.

And to myself, I release myself from guilt, because we chose the hard decision, the unpopular decision, the one that was best for ALL of us.

My lovely readers, I urge you to offer words of love to those around you, and to yourself. And especially to those whose choices you don’t understand.

Every word counts.

Sarah


A letter to myself

There have been lots of “letters to myself” floating around the internet by new moms. In light of a horrible night last night (probably up about 10 times – that’s not an exaggeration) I think I need to write one too.

A letter to future me – a future me who sleeps all night long…

You won’t even remember this time. This is a time when your life is under a microscope. Every minute feels like 100. One cry from a baby sounds like it will break windows, every cell in your body wants the cry to stop. That is your mama instinct in overdrive. You probably don’t remember what 4am looks like, rolling over from Jude, who was just awake at 3:30, to Thea, who whimpers now and opens her mouth looking for your breast. When you give it to her, she sighs and sucks for no more than a few beats, already back asleep. And you will be too, forgetting to do up your bra, awkwardly lying on your side with Jude nuzzled up against your back and Thea stroking your hand while she nurses.

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This is the beautiful/horrible time of your life.

You are lonely, sharing 90% of your day with two infants. They don’t understand that spring is coming, or that the laundry needs to be folded or that you used to manage a team of 12 employees. They don’t notice the spit up on your pants, or the snot they left on your shoulder. They don’t care that they just pooped up their own back.

They want to be on you all the time. They lie on the floor begrudgingly. And you hate this/love this. Because they are pure love. All they want is pure love. Pure love is not something you are used to giving constantly. It is tiring. It is beautiful/horrible, because it truly is your heart on the outside of your body.

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You are not tired. Tired is not the word. You move in applesauce, laboriously going from task to task. You plan your moves. If you are going on a walk, you feed and change both babies; You secure both babies – one in the pack n’ play, one in the excersaucer, and go get the stroller from the car. You half dress the babies so that they don’t over-heat, and move them closer to the front door; then you dress yourself, and finish dressing them. They will start crying at this point. Then, leaving the door open, you bring one baby to the stroller, then return for the other. And pray you haven’t forgotten anything. And pray they fall asleep. And pray they are not too cold.

They cuddle under their blankets in the stroller, sleepy eyes watching the strange world around them. This is chaos/peace.

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You wonder why you are doing this. You wonder when it will be over. You consider putting them in cribs at night and closing a door on them, turning up the volume on the t.v. and counting the minutes until you should go in and pat their backs. You consider formula and day care, getting back to your old life. Other mothers talk about how difficult all those things are, but sometimes it seems like closing the door on the crying would be the easy thing to do. It must be easier than what you’re living through! Picking them up for the millionth time and rocking them for a million minutes seems like the hardest thing on earth. You feel like running a marathon would be easier than cluster-feeding for the next 2 hours. Sometimes your eyes tear over and you realize you’ve been holding your breath for who knows how long.

So, dear me, tell me it was worth it. Tell me I have two beautiful children who know how to love and be loved. Who are free to express themselves and happy in their skin. Tell me they are kind and smart and independent. Tell me they sleep in past 5am!

Strangely, when I wonder why I am raising my babies the way I am, the answer is: this is how 8-year-old me would do it.

Yes, 8-year-old me is having a ball. Dressing the babies, giving them baths, feeding them in their matching high-chairs, taking them on walks to the park, even bouncing and shushing them while they cry. 8-year-old me is in heaven.

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I am living in strange zenith-world, where who I have been, who I am, and who I will be clamber around in my head. I know it will end, but I’m not sure which version of myself will make it out.

It is horrible.

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It is beautiful.

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It seems never-ending, yet throughout it all I know that one day it will be over. And I’ll miss it. Right?

Love,

Sarah In-the-thick-of-it

***Felt I should post-script, I completely realize that some mamas need to formula feed/put their babies into day care etc. No judgement, I realize I’m very lucky that I don’t need to do those things yet, and I know that every mama needs to do what’s right for their family. 


All About Boob: Part 1

I apologize for typos, trying to do this with a baby on my lap!

So I want to write about my breastfeeding story, because one thing I wasn’t prepared for was how incredibly difficult, time-consuming and um, controversial, breastfeeding is. I’m going to do this in three parts, though, because I’m finding there have been two very distinct phases of breastfeeding, and I am assuming weaning them will be the final phase, which hasn’t started yet.

So part 1, let’s call it, OMG This Sucks.

As I mentioned in my birth story, I had a C-section, which means I’m doped up on all sorts of drugs, and also it takes a bit longer for the milk to come in because the hormone release is different. Oh, also, get used to EVERYONE touching your boobs. I was lying in the recovery room with my new little babes, when suddenly two nurses came at me, ramming my boobs into the babies mouths (they really wanted me to tandem nurse, I’ll get back to my feelings on that shortly…). In fact, what you should know about the hospital is that they very closely monitor the breastfeeding. Every 3-4 hours a nurse was there to either slap a baby on me, or ask me when I fed last, which baby, which side…

Here’s something else you should know: they will only let you leave the hospital if the baby has lost no more than 10% of their birth weight. Well, my guys lost more than 10%, so in the middle of the night of the third day in the hospital (we really wanted to be able to leave the next day) my husband drove to the drug store to buy soy formula – it made me cry thinking about giving my new babies cows milk – and we started plugging them full of formula so that we could leave. It was around this time that they wheeled in a giant green machine with tubes and wire and dials and said, it’s time to pump. What? So I was hooked up to the hospital grade pumping machine with images of a cow barn in my head, off we went…I didn’t do too badly, an ounce or so of colostrum (the pre-milk vital for babies). They were both good at taking the bottle, and didn’t seem to have any nipple confusion.

But they also barfed up all the formula we gave them. This was one of the first low points in breastfeeding for me. This is when it occurred to me, I have to keep them alive…

We brought the pump home with us, and for the first few weeks, I would feed the babies, then pump to keep my supply up. With the blessing of my midwife, I decided no more formula unless absolutely necessary, since they were puking it all up anyway.

Low point number two: the milk comes in. About a week after I gave birth, my milk “came in”. This means that the colostrum changes over to milk, and your hormones go haywire. I could. Not. Stop. Crying. For the whole day. At the same time, Thea was not gaining weight. She wasn’t losing weight, but she had completely plateaued. We rented a scale, and started weighing the babies two or three times a day. In between feeding the babies, I was pumping milk, and then we were bottle feeding the breast milk to Thea to make sure she was taking in enough. Also, newborn babies take about 30-45 minutes to feed each time. Since my nipples started to get really sore, I was feeding them one at a time. So here’s the time line I was dealing with for the first few weeks: Feed Thea for 45 minutes; feed Jude for 45 minutes while dad feeds Thea the bottle; pump for 15 minutes; sit on the edge of my seat knowing that Thea will be hungry again in about 15 minutes – and start all over again. All day, all night, 24/7, that was my schedule. Oh, and weighing them in between, feeling defeated if they lost an ounce. They started getting really gassy too, which just made me feel like my milk was poison. And then the pain started.

Low point number three: Breastfeeding hurts like a son of a bitch. I had angry red lines on my boobs, red spots all over and my nipples felt like they were on fire! All the googling I was doing on my phone while I was attached to babies and machines pointed me in the direction of a possible yeast infection, something I had dealt with during my pregnancy, and often goes undiagnosed. I started medicine for that, and applied gentian violet, a witchy cure that turns baby’s mouth and my nipple purple! (I have a hilarious photo, but it’s on my old phone…can’t get it off…). I saw a Lactation Consultant, who confirmed the babies latch was okay, and basically just gave me support that I was doing a good job. She tried to help me find more comfortable positions etc, and we discussed why Thea might not be gaining. But nothing seemed to be making a difference. I was in pain, the babies were gassy, and Thea was not gaining weight.

The turning point: I had been doing a lot of reading about foremilk and hindmilk. The Foremilk is the lighter stuff (lets call it, skim milk) which comes at the beginning of the feed, the hindmilk (the cream) comes at the end of the feed and is what keeps babies full, it’s really fatty. The more I thought about it, the more I realized I might have an oversupply of milk, brought on by all the pumping, and the babies were just not getting the fatty hind milk. If babies are fussy and not gaining, it is assumed that you are not producing enough milk, which is why pumping is so important. But in fact , I believe I was producing too much milk, and the babies were filling up on the lighter stuff. Also, switching them from boob to boob was not helping. Only the baby who nursed second would get the hindmilk. The first baby was only getting the lighter stuff. Also, my right boob seemed to be producing more milk, with a really fast letdown. Jude loved Righty. He loved guzzling the milk, and he would get really angry at Lefty because it was so slow. However, Thea was completely overwhelmed by Righty. She loved the long slow flow she could get off of Lefty. Do you see where this is going?

I assigned them their own boob. When I made this decision I felt an incredible weight lift off my shoulders. This was the first time I used my “mother” instinct, and made a decision that worked for us, because it is really contrary to what people tell you to do with twins. I also stopped trying to feed them at the same time, because that made the flow way too fast, and they would both end up choking and sputtering.

(My thoughts on tandem nursing: everyone wants to know if I tandem nurse, and I start to feel like a bit of a circus freak. Like everyone’s picturing this giant octopus of nursing, arms and legs flailing around a naked-from-the-waist-up mama. I gave up on tandem nursing because not one of us enjoyed it. It takes a bit longer, but what was I doing anyway? Now I’m glad we get the one-on-one time.)

Here’s my reasoning for assigning breasts: breastmilk adjusts to the baby. If your baby is a newborn, the milk is composed of exactly what a newborn needs. As the baby grows, the milk changes to give the baby the correct amount of nutrients for the stage the baby is at. Also, the milk gives the individual child what he/she needs. Baby needs extra B6, milk makes more B6 etc. So I started wondering…if I keep switching my babies from one boob to the other, how will my breasts ever adjust to the individual baby? It just makes sense to me to keep them on the same boob. Jude got his fast flow Righty (although I continued to express a bit before each feed to make sure he got enough hind milk – and I still have to take him off sometimes when it lets down), and Thea got her slow flow Lefty, and I trusted my instincts. And it works. It works so well. Thea started gaining weight, the milk adjusted to her needs. I stopped pumping so that my production would calm down, and so that I would have more down time. I also didn’t have to keep track of who had what last. I felt relief.

Assigning a boob to each twin is really unconventional, so I’m just going to outline my thoughts and my arguments against what is normally said about it, in case anyone else is struggling with this.

The strongest argument against assigning each twin a boob is that a babies position needs to be changed when they breastfeed because one eye will focus differently than the other, hindering brain development.

Answer: I alternate between cradle hold and football hold. Mostly I cradle hold, but once a day or so I football hold them so that they get a different perspective. Um, that’s not hard to do.

The second biggest argument I’ve encountered is that with each breast producing a different amount of milk, your boobs will be lopsided.

Answer: Well, most women’s boobs are not equal in size to begin with, but okay. The answer is, no they won’t. I could post a picture, but that might be weird. My boobs are not lopsided.

And the third and strangest argument is that if there is a baby who has a weaker suck, your milk production may go down. My question is, what if you only had one baby with a weak suck? Would you rent a baby with a stronger suck to “help out”? Erm, no. You work on the latch, you massage the breast, you help the baby suck. Thea was the weaker breastfeeder, and now she sucks like a champ. And my production is fine. She is growing, she is healthy, and she loves her Righty boob.

You may notice a tone of defence in what I’m saying. That’s because this was NEVER offered as an option to my breastfeeding problems. Not by the midwives, not by the nurses, not by the Lactation Consultant, not by my La Leche League leader. So I’m going to say it here: Breastfeeding twins is different from breastfeeding one baby, it is twice the work, it is hard, and ANYTHING you can do to make it easier is better for you and the babies. Assigning a breast to each twin should be offered as a viable option, and not frowned upon or mentioned as an after thought and with lots of warnings. (Seriously, if you come across this as an option, you will be warned about doing it…).

So there you have it. I made it work for me, I trusted my instincts and we’re going on six months of breastfeeding. I did try to give them formula once, about 2 months ago, when I was feeling low and wondering when I would ever be able to leave the house by myself for more than two hours at a time…but it did not feel right, or easier. They didn’t drink much, and I decided it wasn’t worth it. Now that they are six months old, they are eating some solids, so if I can’t be home, at least dad has an option (not that it ever happens, I have no life.)

One last thing, I assigned them their own boob at 2 months, and it wasn’t until 3 months that everything stopped hurting. So I guess my advice is stick with it, it WILL get better. But that’s the twin motto: IGB. It gets better.

Now if you’ve made it this far, here’s some gratuitous cuteness for your trouble:

Mmm, our new baby carrier tastes so good...

Mmm, our new baby carrier tastes so good…

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Yep, six months old and on the move.

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Playing together nicely. This is what it’s like in our house all the time! Yeah right…