Category Archives: motherhood

Tandem Breastfeeding: An Unexpected Journey

I didn’t set out to tandem breastfeed. I had thought about it, but it wasn’t something that I had absolutely decided to do.

The journey starts with the birth of my first child, a sweet baby girl. Breastfeeding was difficult. But it was something that I was determined to do. I fought through the pain, the sleepless nights, and through the constant emotional ups and downs. She was a slow weight gainer, but I was determined to breastfeed her. We had to go through frequent weight checks, each one leaving me feeling like a failure. The nurses questioned me about how often she was breastfeeding, what her diapers were like, etc. She, we, didn’t fit into the “normal” box. I breastfed her on demand, which meant that sometimes she ate every hour, sometimes every couple of hours. But, the nurses never liked that answer. They made me feel like a horrible mom that couldn’t provide for her child. But, my daughter was happy, healthy, and meeting her milestones (often early), so I did my best to shake off what they said.

Eventually, through the stories of some friends, I discovered that my daughter had an upper lip tie and posterior tongue tie. Those contributed to her slow weight gain and her reflux. They also explained why breastfeeding was so painful. We saw a pediatric dentist (after being dismissed by a pediatrician) and got her ties revised. It definitely helped, my pain went away, but what I now know is that she needed extra help to relieve the tension in her body that was caused by the ties. She also could have benefited from some suck training. But alas, nothing I can do about that now. Even though breastfeeding was going better, she was still a slow weight gainer. At 4 months old she had completely dropped off the charts. We started brown rice cereal at the advice of her pediatrician. And so began my love hate relationship with pumping. I diligently pumped every day so that I could mix the cereal with breastmilk. Slowly, she started to gain at a “normal” rate. By the time she was 6 months old we no longer had to do weight checks. Oh, what a relief that was!

Because of the journey with my daughter, breastfeeding became something very emotional for me. I worked so hard at it. I had made small goals along the way. First I just wanted to make it to 6 months. Then I wanted to make it to a year. By the time she was 12 months old, neither of us was ready to stop our breastfeeding relationship. The benefits don’t magically disappear. So, I decided that I would let her decide when she was ready to wean (with the caveat that if I wasn’t pregnant by the time she was 18 months old, then I would start the weaning process).

And then I got pregnant when she was 15 months old. That’s when the idea of tandem breastfeeding first intrigued me. I was still going by the decision to let her wean when she wants. I figured if we made it through the whole pregnancy, cool, if not, cool.

Breastfeeding while pregnant was not always easy. It was painful at times and just plain uncomfortable. But, I knew that the discomfort wouldn’t last forever. I took it one step at a time. When she was 18 months old, I couldn’t handle the constant breastfeeding anymore. So, I began to set boundaries. This blog was particularly helpful and encouraging to me. We slowly cut down on the number of times she was breastfeeding. At one point my milk dried up completely and she dry nursed. I found another blog that also was encouraging to me. I’ll be honest. So many times I wanted to give up, and almost did. But my daughter wasn’t ready, and I guess neither was I.

Towards the end of my pregnancy she was down to about once or twice a week, until the last couple weeks when her frequency slowly increased. Things were not uncomfortable at this point and she was happy to be getting colostrum.

After her brother was born, I decided to give the tandem breastfeeding a go. It’s been 16 days now. Is it easy? Nope. Am I touched out at the end of the day? Yep. Is it hard to set boundaries with the toddler? Absolutely. Do I regret our journey? Never.

Some days are easier than others. Today the toddler was a hot mess crying for “Boobie” constantly when her brother ate. It broke my heart that I couldn’t give her everything she wanted when she wanted it. But, I also know that learning boundaries is good for her. We’re still figuring this whole thing out. The sweet moments when she holds her brother’s hand as they breastfeed or when they both fall asleep on the boob, make it all worth it. I don’t know how long this journey will continue, and that’s okay, I don’t have to know. We’re taking things one day at a time.

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Everett’s Birth Story

​Oh my sweet Everett, you are more than I could have ever hoped or dreamed for. Your journey into this world is not what I would have chosen, but it was perfect. 
Your labor and birth was so different, yet similar to your sister’s. She came 2 days early, and you made us wait until almost 42 weeks. But you came just when you were supposed to. You needed more time to grow and plump up.

So let’s get to the details of your story.

I went to the hospital on Friday, July 1st to start the induction process. Even though I had been having contractions for 3.5 weeks, I was only 2cm dilated and you hadn’t made your way down yet. So, we needed help to get labor started (the doctor didn’t want you to stay in past 42 weeks). Even though induction is not what I wanted, I had peace about it. I was ready to meet my baby boy!

We checked into the hospital around 4pm and were greeted by a familiar face. Our nurse Misha had taken care of us before when I thought I was in labor a couple weeks prior. She took good care of us. I had a cooks catheter placed at 7 something. This device helps dilate the cervix and can start labor. Around 3 hours later it fell out. I had some mild contractions, but things still weren’t starting. The midwife let us get some rest overnight and wait until the morning for the next steps. By Saturday morning things still hadn’t started yet. I was dilated to a 3 which got stretched to a 4. We waited a little bit longer to see if things would happen, but they didn’t. So, we started pitocin and the first round of penicillin (thanks group b strep) around 9:40. That got the party started finally.

Contractions were consistent, but still not strong enough. Each hour the dosage of pitocin got upped by 1 until we were at a 5. It was my goal and desire to be able to get off the pitocin before birth actually happened.

I have to pause here to say that during this whole process, I felt very empowered, encouraged, and respected. All of the midwives were supportive of my desire to have as few interventions and drugs as possible. Though Chrysantha’s birth was much smoother, I didn’t always feel like everyone was on board with the plan and I had a hard time speaking up for myself. This time I made myself heard and was able to have good discussions about each step of the process.

Back to the story. Contractions started picking up and getting consistent in the afternoon. The pitocin was working to dilate my cervix. We were able to turn down the pitocin, which I was very thankful for. I was definitely nervous about having pitocin. I had heard from several people that it made contractions really intense and the natural rise and fall and rests don’t necessarily happen. But my body was kind and though the contractions were more intense, they still had a very nice pattern that made them bearable. Contractions were happening consistently and building, I was dilating more and we were able to turn off the pitocin completely. I was so relieved! Things kept happening, but progress was slow. Everyone was fine with taking things a step at a time. I was thankful for the opportunity to let my body do what I knew it was capable of on its own.

I got to labor in lots of different positions. With Chrysantha I was a lot more tense at times and didn’t want to change things in case they didn’t work. It was good to try a variety of things.

A few things came up. When I was getting my last dose of penicillin, my arm started hurting really badly. Dealing with that in the middle of intense contractions was NOT fun. After my nurses tried to fix things, I ended up just having them take it out. It was sooo much better to labor untethered. I had more freedom to move around and things were finally going how I hoped they would.

Everett’s water broke a little after midnight on Sunday July 3rd. We thought that would move things along. Well, Mr. Ev had different plans. He moved back up the birth canal and managed to keep some of the bag intact in front of him. 

Unfortunately my contractions started slowing down. The monitor wasn’t very good at picking them up anyways. But because things slowed down we had to discuss our next options. I was thankful for the rest I was getting in between contractions, but I knew that things couldn’t go on forever. So, we agreed for the midwife to break the bag of waters that was left. Again, we hoped that this would get things moving along. It helped the contractions pick up, but they were too far apart. They were super intense though and I did my best to gently push Ev down during the contractions, but he just wasn’t budging.

Finally it’s around 3 am, my contractions are slowing and the OB on duty is pressuring my midwife to move things along. She comes to talk to me and we agree to having her place an internal contraction monitor and to start me back on pitocin. The thought of being hooked up to the IV again and having that potential pain was not sitting well with me. When my midwife was inserting the internal monitor I started getting painful contractions. So, we abandoned the plan and she helped me push Ev out. It was just the jumpstart we needed! It took 4 painfully long minutes of pushing to get Ev to come out. He was a lot harder to get out than Chrysantha was. Once her head was showing it took less than a minute. With him, these 4 minutes, though not long in actuality, felt like they were forever. I was thankful to have a mirror to see the progress. Seeing his cute little hair gave me the energy and strength I needed to fight through the pain and push him out.

After he arrived we figured out why things had been more difficult. He came out with one of his arms touching the opposite shoulder and the umbilical cord loosely wrapped around his belly. He needed the extra help to move down and get out.

Meeting him was definitely worth all of the waiting and the pain. The nurse kept remarking how he didn’t have any of the signs of a past due baby. The amniotic fluid was clear, he wasn’t peeling, he wasn’t big, etc. She said he looked like a 38 week gestation baby. All of those things just reinforced my conviction to wait for him to be born. I’m glad we didn’t force him out sooner, he clearly wasn’t ready. He came at just the perfect time. He was brave and strong in his entrance and he brought peace. I love my sweet Everett Ninghai and I am so thankful for him! I learned a lot through his birthing process. And sweet boy that he is pooped on me right after birth!

How My Son Taught Me to Love My Body

It’s interesting that now, at 34 weeks pregnant with my son, is when I finally love and appreciate my body. All kinds of changes happen during pregnancy, and women can often find the changes hard to deal with. I actually wasn’t that excited about getting pregnant when my body was not yet where I hoped it would be.

After having my daughter, I lost a bunch of weight right away, but then over the next 6 months I slowly gained back all the weight plus an additional 3 pounds. Breastfeeding did not help me lose weight. I tried eating more food, then eating less food, but neither worked. Exercise wasn’t really helping either. Finally after introducing protein shakes into my diet, I was able to lose weight. Over the next 9 months, the pounds slowly melted off. The inches decreased significantly as I gained lean muscle.

I was still about 20 pounds heavier than when I got pregnant with Chrysantha, even though size wise I was the same. I was definitely leaner and more fit. But, it was still hard for me to see the higher number on the scale, especially knowing that it would only increase as my pregnancy progressed.

So, a little background to put things in perspective. I’ve been overweight basically my whole life. I was incessantly teased all through elementary and middle school. In 5th grade I weighed 200 pounds. I tried many diets growing up, but none of them worked. Any time I lost weight it wasn’t too long before I gained it back and then some. I was healthy, except for my weight.

Somewhere towards the end of high school and beginning of college I reached my highest weight. I did not like the number on the scale and started making changes. I slowly lost some weight thanks to exercise and learning how to eat healthier.

I have always been very aware of my body and how big I was compared to others. I wasn’t happy. I was always self-conscious. I realize in retrospect that I used my weight as a shield. My weight was like armor protecting me from hurt and harm, or at least that’s what I thought. It was easy to convince myself that others didn’t like me because of my weight. Certainly that was why no decent guy was ever interested in me. All my problems were because of my weight.

Eventually I lost about 100 pounds. I didn’t and couldn’t lose any more. I slowly began to like more of my body (prior to that, I only liked my eyes). Guys started to take interest in me. I had my first boyfriend. I settled because I didn’t value myself enough. I thought he was the best I was going to get. Oh, how very wrong I was!

Having a good man love me for me and love my body definitely helped improve my self-esteem. But, that only carried me so far. Deep down, I still didn’t like the way I looked. I was still self-conscious. Even though he showered me with compliments and showed me through actions how desirable I was, I didn’t really believe it. I still didn’t value myself enough or think that I deserved such love and attention.

So, fast forward to now. Here I am 34 weeks pregnant. I now weigh 1 pound more than I did after I lost those 100 pounds. But, that doesn’t bother me. The scale does not define me. I am healthier and more fit than I have ever been. I have more muscle and less fat than I did before, not to mention the fact that I’m growing a sweet little boy.

I didn’t expect to love my changing pregnant body. I certainly didn’t love it and appreciate it as much with my daughter. But my precious son is showing me my value and worth in giving him life. I’m so glad I didn’t let my fears hold me back from getting pregnant. I had a choice to make and I knew that I would get pregnant. I hesitated momentarily, thoughts of not being where I wanted flashing through my mind. But choosing to get pregnant again, even though it was scary, was the best decision. I am so incredibly thankful for this journey that I have been on. I’m thankful that God is renewing my mind and transforming my thoughts about myself into His thoughts about me. I’m thankful for the opportunity I have to carry and bring forth life into this world. My son isn’t even born yet and he has taught me so much.

It is my desire for each person, women especially, to see and know their worth. Society puts so much pressure on our appearance. We put so much pressure on our appearance. We don’t celebrate ourselves enough. We don’t marvel enough at all that our bodies have done and been through. My journey, your journey, is not over. We are strong. We are capable. We are valued. We are loved. We matter.

Mothering with Intention

Having Chrysantha chase me around the kitchen island, coffee dates, lounging on the couch, her covering up with my blanket, watching her excitement with all the Christmas lights and decorations, these are a few of my favorite recent memories.

I am so excited to be pregnant with another baby. I know that Chrysantha is going to be a great big sister. She is so loving and caring. She likes taking care of others. I’m excited to watch her grow in her new role. But until that time comes, I am purposing to enjoy the moments we have with just the two of us. I want to make the most of the time we have before our new baby comes. I want to be intentional about making memories and pouring love into Chrysantha. I want to continue to build her foundation of love. I am so thankful that I get to be her Momma. She fills my heart with joy everyday. Her sweet kisses and her heart melting smile make the rough times much better. She loves me so well. I am trying to love her better.

Being pregnant and mothering a toddler is not easy. I’m a lot more tired than I was the first time. But, I do need to be mindful of how that is affecting me. Of course I need to have grace with myself. I am certainly not perfect. When I find myself getting frustrated, I try to stop and refocus myself. God is certainly my strength during this time.

I am purposing to give Chrysantha opportunities to learn and grow. Sometimes it would be soooo much easier to just keep her from new things. But, I am raising her to be independent. This means that shopping trips take 20 times longer. I let her walk around and give her opportunities to learn how to listen and follow directions. I give her the freedom to explore and look around. I constantly have to repeat myself, but she is learning. She knows how to come back to me now. She knows how to stay next to the car when I’m putting something away.

I’m certainly not saying that my way of doing things is the right way, but it’s working for us. It’s exhausting, but I’m seeing the fruits of my labors. I hope that by teaching her these things now, we will have a much smoother time when didimeimei (younger sibling) comes.

Gaining Confidence

It’s been a few months since I last blogged. I have been very busy with an increasingly active baby. She eats more, stays awake longer, and wants to play more.

I was reflecting on this whole parenting gig earlier and I realized some things. I am way more confident now. In the early days I was so lost. I knew a lot of information, but I didn’t know how that would translate into real life with MY baby. I also didn’t really know my baby yet. We had to get to know each other and figure each other out. We’re still doing that, but we understand each other a lot better now. In the early days I was so unwilling to let her cry for any reason. I always had to solve the problem and try to fix it. I still try to minimize her crying if I can, but it doesn’t stress me out anymore. For instance, I know that if she cries in the car, there is nothing wrong per se, she just wants to be back in my arms again. When she is trying a new skill she usually ends up crying a little and getting frustrated. I’ve learned to encourage her and let her cry a little before rescuing her.

I still have so much to learn. Sleep has been our biggest struggle. Baby girl seems to go in 6 week cycles. She likes things a certain way for 6 weeks and then she doesn’t like it anymore. We’ve gone from her sleeping in her rock n play, to sleeping in her crib or the pack n play, to only sleeping ON me, to sleeping next to me and in her crib or pack n play, and back to only sleeping on or next to me.

Our relationship is constantly changing and growing. Of course when I start to figure things out, she likes to change them again. But, that’s okay. I’m thankful that I have the flexibility to follow her lead. Being a Momma is hard, but I wouldn’t trade it for anything.

Grief

I’m finally allowing myself to grieve. October 1st is quickly approaching. On that day it will be 14 years since my dad passed away.

With each new life change comes grief and altering of expectations. Growing up I didn’t picture having children that didn’t know my dad.

When baby girl was born, there was a sadness in the back of my mind. But, I didn’t allow myself to really feel it. And I’ve been ignoring it ever since.

But, today I allowed myself to grieve.  To grieve the life I thought I would have, to grieve the life I pictured for my children.

I think part of why I didn’t allow myself to grieve was because I had this idea that I was supposed to be happy. Having a baby is a joyous occasion. And it was. It was the most joyful experience of my life. There is nothing else that compares.

There are moments when I look at baby girl and I’m sad for her and me. I miss my Daddy. I just want a big bear hug (he was a pro at them) from him. I want her to experience his love like I got to.

So, today, I allow myself to feel the feelings I’ve been pushing away.

Unexpected Sadness of an Old Life Gone

Last night was Back to School Night at the school where I was a Preschool teacher for 8 years. I got really sad thinking about how I didn’t get to be a part of it.

I’d been longing for the day for so long that I’d get to stay home and have babies. I am so thankful and so blessed that I get to stay home with my sweet baby.

But, there’s a part of me that hasn’t yet processed through all that means. The beginning of the new school year was always so exciting and nerve-wracking. There was so much anticipation. It was fun to meet the new students and their families. Each child had so much potential waiting to be unlocked.

It’s hard to move on from something that was such a big part of my life for so long.

I’m sad and happy all at the same time.