Carrots for Michaelmas: Musings of a Catholic Wife, Mother, and Occasional Redhead


Why I Hated Breastfeeding (And How That Changed) Part II
March 25, 2012, 2:41 am
Filed under: Birth, Breastfeeding, Children, Motherhood | Tags: , ,

In Part I, I described my horrible experience breastfeeding my firstborn and how after four months I gave up. I was stressed out. My baby was stressed out. It wasn’t working.

I am so glad to say that round two has been totally different! Part of it must be due to Baby Number Two’s easy temperament, but I think other factors are lower stress, and a shift in my attitude and mothering methods.

By the time I became pregnant with my second baby, so many things were different. I had quit working full-time as an editor and started working part-time as a ballet teacher. We had moved back to our hometown where our amazing parents live. I had drastically improved my health by breaking my addiction to sugar and taking the supplements I needed. So, in general, everything that had made my first pregnancy and post-partum really difficult had changed and I had great hopes that breastfeeding would improve the second time around as well.

When Lucy was born, I was braced for several months of exhaustion and colic after the challenges of Benjamin’s first year. But, my worry was for naught. The moment Lucy arrived in the world, she was calm, happy, and loved to nurse. I’ll never know if it’s simply the way her little soul was formed or if she was relaxed because I was relaxed. Like my firstborn, she spits up constantly (at 5 months it’s improved some) but she isn’t bothered by it the way he was.

Now I know what everybody was talking about when they said I would love breastfeeding!

I think sometimes babies are challenging due to health issues like reflux or simply temperament, but I do think there are things mamas can do that help make a good breastfeeding relationship possible. Here’s what I did different the second time around (I was greatly influenced by the mother-baby togetherness ideas in Sheila Kippley’s book The Seven Standards of Ecological Breastfeeding):

No more working full-time. Quitting work for baby number 1 wasn’t an option. My husband was two semester’s away from his degree and me working that year was the best choice for us at the time. However, being able to be home with my babies this time around has made the experience so different and wonderful. I haven’t had to pump one time because I’m always with my baby. Now, I know working mamas who have pumped for over a year so that their baby will be exclusively breastfed. It is possible and those mamas are amazing. I’m NOT saying you have to stay home in order to be a good mama, I’m just saying that the breastfeeding experience is much easier for me since I’ve stayed at home.

No pacifiers, no bottles. Just offer baby the breast. Benjamin was given a pacifier when he was one day old and a bottle at 3 weeks. I think that had serious negative consequences for our breastfeeding relationship. So far, Lucy doesn’t know what a bottle is.

Nurse baby to sleep and co-sleep so that nighttime feedings are a breeze. With my firstborn, we only co-slept for the first few weeks and after that I would have to get up out of bed so many times a night to pick him up out of his crib, nurse, rock him back to sleep, and (hopefully) place him back in his crib still sleeping. Most of the time, he woke up the second I set him back in his crib and I would cry because I was just so tired. Lucy is 5 months and we’re still co-sleeping. I nurse her when she starts to rustle around (she doesn’t even have to cry) and after 5-10 minutes we’re both asleep again.

Have support. Living in the same town as family has made a world of difference. An exhausted new mama doesn’t really need somebody to tell her that breastfeeding is great and she should keep doing it. An exhausted new mama needs somebody to cook dinner or watch the kids so she can nap and have the physical and emotional energy to nurse.

Get comfortable nursing in public. I remember when I was pregnant with my firstborn someone asked me, “You’re not going to, like, BREASTFEED everywhere, are you? I saw a woman breastfeeding on a train once! I was so gross. I can’t believe she did that in front of everybody!” I’m not sure exactly what she expected the poor woman to do. Let her hungry child scream? Is that preferable to other passengers? Anyhow, that conversation and others made me ultra-sensitive to making other people uncomfortable by feeding my kid. Long story short: I’m over it. I’ve nursed baby girl in restaurants, concerts, Mass, adoration, work, the park, banquets, parties, the Nutcracker, weddings, you name it. I can take her anywhere.

Don’t wait for your baby to cry. Offer baby the breast often. If your baby is crying for food they will be frantic and nursing will be difficult. Let baby nurse at the first sign of hunger. I usually offer Lucy the breast every two hours or so, that’s what’s working for us.

Try to remove stress from your life. A stressed-out mama means a stressed-out baby. I’m sure this isn’t a universal rule, but it’s true in our household. I was SO STRESSED as a new mama, working full-time, a thousand miles away from family. I think Benjamin would have had challenges no matter how relaxed I was, but I’m sure my stress made all his issues worse.

Nursing a happy and content baby to sleep has to be one of the sweetest experiences of life. I watch her eyelids flutter and finally close, her arms relax, and her feet cease to wiggle as she falls into precious sleep. I wouldn’t trade it for anything and I’m so glad I got a second chance.

Photo credit: Jade Pierce Photography. She’s seriously amazing. Jade photographed my beloved friend Eleanor’s wedding a couple of weeks ago and took some shots of me and Lucy. I was in the wedding party and getting wedding photos taken with Jade was a blast and all the photos I’ve seen are gorgeous. So, if you’re in TX and in need of a lifestyle or wedding photographer, look her up!

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Why I Hated Breastfeeding (And How That Changed) Part I
March 23, 2012, 7:31 pm
Filed under: Birth, Breastfeeding, Children, Motherhood | Tags: ,

I am a huge supporter of breastfeeding. I nurse my baby girl everywhere and do my best to promote breastfeeding and support nursing mamas.But, I never judge another mama for choosing to bottle-feed. Some mamas can’t breastfeed even after trying everything to produce enough milk for their baby. Sometimes circumstances make it almost impossible. I know this first hand…

When I was a few days away from delivering my first born, my mom came to stay.  “You’re going to LOVE breastfeeding,” she said. “It’s so special to bond with your baby that way. You’ll just love it.” Whether I was going to breastfeed or not hadn’t even crossed my mind. I knew I would love it. But I was WRONG. 

After birthing a perfect and healthy baby boy, I nursed him right away. It worked but…it wasn’t exactly intuitive. For the first day he nursed on and off and seemed to be latching well. He was sleepy and happy. But on the second day everything changed. He started to cry. ALL THE TIME. I didn’t know it then but I had just birthed what seemed to be the most colicky baby in existence. I would snuggle him and he would cry. I would nurse him and he would cry. Nothing would console him and HE WOULD NOT SLEEP. I continued to nurse him but he would latch and unlatch a thousand times during each feeding and about 30 seconds into a meal he would arch his back and start to scream. It was unbearable.

At his first pediatric appointment, I explained to the Dr., “He cries…like all the time. Even when everything should be ok! And he’s spitting up so much.” I was told, “Babies cry. Babies spit up. He’s fine.” “Well, sure,” I said, “but he cries so much that it just doesn’t seem right.” “Well, you’re a first time mom, so you’re just not used to it,” he retorted.

I kept nursing him, but it was horrible. We would both cry. It was clear: my baby hated to nurse. And I hated it, too.  After 5 weeks, I had to go back to work. So, I pumped dutifully and my son took the bottle pretty well. So well, in fact, that he didn’t want to feed at the breast ever again. So I pumped. I pumped and pumped and pumped some more. I was pumping about 3 hours a day which was more than I was sleeping because the child WOULD NOT SLEEP. At his next appointment, his weight gain was still good, but after describing his behavior again, the Dr. diagnosed him with reflux and prescribed Zantac (which did nothing).

By four months, I was a mess. Working full-time away from my baby was killing me. I would cry on my way to work knowing that I wouldn’t see him for 9 hours. And the sleep deprivation. Oh, the sleep deprivation! I was so exhausted that it hurt, physically hurt, to be awake. My whole body ached. I couldn’t think. My baby would sleep for an hour at a time, no more, and I was unraveling.

I hated nursing. My baby hated nursing. I was pumping more than I was sleeping. I just couldn’t do it anymore…

I wish the end of this story was that I perservered. I wish that I knew other breastfeeding mamas who had similar struggles to encourage me to keep going. I wish that I had been able to quit working and focus on my baby. I wish I had figured out sooner that the reflux and eczema my baby struggled with pointed to a milk allergy. Sadly, that’s not what happened. I switched to formula. The good news is that I had a second chance…

Part II coming soon! While you wait for it, check out Why I Breastfeed in Public: The Blessed Virgin Mary Does it!

Photo credit: Jade Pierce Photography (Jade does Lifestyle and Wedding Photography and she’s amazing.)



Tomorrow You’re THREE!
February 7, 2012, 4:31 pm
Filed under: Birth, Children, Motherhood | Tags: , , , , ,

Oh, Benjamin, my little paleontologist,

Tomorrow you will wake up and you will have turned the venerable age of THREE. The twos that I have loved so much will be over.  I loved the day when you turned two.

And I loved your First Birthday, too.

So many gifts of grace you have brought to our lives. The Blessed John Paul II wrote that the enemy of true love is selfishness. Being your mother has made me (a little) less selfish and therefore more able to love. I love your daddy more, your grandparents more, your uncles and aunt more since you were born and taught me what true love is. Every morning when your precious arms clasp my neck and every night when you demand one more snuggle, a drink of water, a song, a prayer, and an extra kiss you are vessel of God’s grace to me.

Just look how precious you were that first week you were born!  On the night you were born I began to learn, and am still learning, that to die to myself everyday for love of you, your sister, your father, that is freedom. Freedom to love without limit or bounds. Such a gift. And when I held you, dearest, on that first night after waiting so long and through the pains of labor to meet you, love for you was overwhelming. So precious, so sweet that it hurt. And it hit me like a blow as I looked down at you, that Our Lord loves us like that. Like a mother loves her newborn. Even more than that.

My soul, I loved your babyhood.

And I’ve loved the twos as well. Oh how I’ve loved the twos! You have been such a lovable, clever, amazing chatterbox! From the moment you wake to the moment you crash you are talking up a storm: stories, jokes, and QUESTIONS. SO MANY QUESTIONS. Sometimes, I’ll admit, after a bazillion questions, you mama will be about to lose it. And I have to remind myself how amazing you and your “why”s and “how”s are. “Why can’t a real owl sleep in my bed?” “Why does that tree have white bark?” “How do robot arms work?” You never stop. And that is just how it should be.

This year you had to learn to share the spotlight with your baby sister. And you have done it brilliantly. You love her SO MUCH. The gentle and loving way you have with her makes Daddy and I so proud. You are so caring and sweet and seeing you two together makes me love you even more.

Little bear, I have loved every day so far with you. But as I was baking your birthday cake for your party the other night, I told Daddy, “I love now. I love now the best.” I love now, dearest. And I will love your now no matter what birthday you’re celebrating. Happy Birthday, big three-year-old guy.

(Birthday party post to come!)



Our Year in Pictures: 2011!
December 30, 2011, 5:28 pm
Filed under: Advent, Birth, Children, Christmas, Easter, Motherhood, Thanksgiving | Tags: , , , ,

I think Daniel and I both agree that 2011 was our best year to date. Here’s some highlights (which turned out to become a monstrously long post with mostly pregnancy pics, oh well).

January

Daniel got a new job and we hoped to get pregnant again. Benjamin continued to amaze us with the joy he brought to our world.

February

In February we celebrated Benjamin’s 2nd Birthday (A Farm Birthday Party) and two days later found out I was pregnant.

March

Our garden produced some great food and Benjamin loved “helping” Daddy tend to it. I was really, really, sick for the whole month with 24-hour morning sickness. Daniel and my mom picked up all the slack for me. Don’t know what I would do without them. Look how tired I look, holy cow:

April

Our first Easter back in Tallahassee and the anniversary of our Confirmation. Benjamin made a little best friend named Ulee from library storytime. His mom, Zemi, and I hit it off and the boys enjoyed playing at the Jr.Museum (Tallahassee Museum) together.

I started looking really pregnant and the nausea started to get a little bit better, although I was exhausted from growing Ms. Lucy.

May

A busy month of leading company rehearsals for the Spring ballet and getting my little students ready for their recital dances. Benjamin and I started doing summery things like going to the pool and Daniel and I celebrated our 5th anniversary by a weekend away at the Animal Kingdom Lodge where we spent our honeymoon. Why we didn’t take one picture…I don’t know.

June

We took Benjamin blueberry picking and we fell into a wonderful routine of morning outings for the summer: park, pool, jr. museum, pool, brogan museum. Such a happy time! And I got bigger:

At the end of June we had the best family vacation ever: a trip to North Carolina for my wonderful friend Jane’s wedding and then a week split between resting and reading at my grandparents mountain home and visiting my wonderful cousins, aunt, and uncle, in SC.

July

We returned from vacation just before the 4th of July and I was suddenly hugely pregnant. My good friend, Beca, was in town for the summer and kept me company. We also said farewell to the Harry Potter film series with a party and a midnight movie. That wouldn’t be a major milestone of most people’s year, but…well, you know how we feel about Harry Potter.

August

August was pretty miserably hot, although nothing near the infernal summer they had in Texas this year. I was getting SO BIG and so excited about our baby girl. Our dear friends, Brian and Lois, moved into our third bedroom while raising support for their mission work in Nepal. We also started to get really plugged in at our parish and starting making some wonderful Catholic friends, something we’d never had before, including my friend Colleen who has been such an encouragement to me this year.

September

I turned 26 this month and started to have Braxton-Hicks contractions all the time. My due date was October 13th but we were sure she wouldn’t wait so long to come since I was already dilated…we ended up waiting, waiting, and waiting some more. I did some pretty nutty nesting to get ready for our sweet girl and we rearranged the house to prepare for her arrival. My friend Erin was visiting for a couple of weeks and kept me distracted with Downton Abbey.

October

We had a scare when Benjamin caught Hand, Foot, and Mouth disease (a mild illness for toddler but dangerous for newborn if the mother has been exposed). He had to be quarantined away from me at Marmee’s house for over a week. Thankfully, I didn’t catch it and neither did Lucy when she FINALLY arrived almost two weeks past her due date and met her incredibly proud big brother:

I love this picture so much, despite the fact that I’m still so puffy from late pregnancy and labor. I think Benjamin’s expression is precious and he’s been just as sweet and gentle with his sister each day since.

And SHE. Well…we’re so in love her. From day one she has been the most precious and sweet of babies. She’s so easy, so adorable. So happy and smiley and SLEEPY. Praise God.

November

We started learning how to live life as a four-person family. Sleep-deprived and full of joy, we celebrated Lucy’s baptism and the anniversary of Benjamin’s baptism.

We hosted Thanksgiving at our house with Daniel’s folks, my folks and brother, and some dear friends.

December

In late November and December we were all pretty miserably ill with colds and sinus/throat/ear/eye infections. Even sweet Lucygirl. But it’s still been a wonderful Advent and Christmas. Having two precious babes is a gift I am thankful for every minute.

Can’t wait to see what 2012 has in store…Praise God from whom all blessings flow.

 



Lucy’s Birth Story: Part III
October 27, 2011, 1:45 pm
Filed under: Birth

Catch up on Part I and Part II.

So, we had been at the hospital for two and a half hours. I was having a contraction while standing up and Daniel was holding me up so I could try to relax through it. I looked up at him and (he tells me) my eyes got wide. “SHE’S COMING,” I said. “NOW. RIGHT NOW.” All of the sudden I could feel her head and she was coming out. Pronto. All I could think of at that moment was that I needed to get back to the bed or else she was going to be born on the floor. However, during back-to-back contractions, it’s not easy to move quickly and agilely.

With Daniel’s help I sat back on the bed and felt a gush of fluid. My water had broken and I could feel that Lucy was almost crowning. I laid on my side because I seem to remember that position can slow down the pushing phase and ideally, I wanted my midwife back in the room before my child was born. It was at this point that Daniel looked around and realized that the only three people in the room were me, him, and my mom. “GET ERIN!” I told my mom. “What do you want me to do?” Daniel asked. “Hold my leg up because she’s coming right now!” As soon as I lifted my leg he could see that Lucy was crowning and he prepared to catch her. Although I was not voluntarily pushing at all, my body had taken over and in a matter of seconds I felt her head and shoulders sliding out. Erin had run back into the room and was there in just enough time to catch her as I pushed out the rest of her little body. It was seriously less than one minute! I heard Daniel shout, “She’s here! You did it! She’s here!” and after a second of realizing that the pain was over, Erin placed my precious little girl on my chest.

She was squalling (not shrieking like her big brother did) and was pink and beautiful with a full head of black hair and grey-blue eyes. Erin started cleaning her off and I brought her to my breast to nurse. She didn’t latch immediately but we snuggled and then Daniel got to cut the cord. Then she really latched and nursed for a good 30 minutes. Her APGARs were 9 & 9 and she was 6lbs and 14oz, 19.9 in long.

Since birth she has been calm, precious, and beyond sweet. Having a little boy is amazing but I can tell that having a girl is a whole new world of wonderful. We are so in love with our beautiful daughter, Lucy Elanor. Our hearts are filled with more love now that we have two children to love. And introducing Benjamin to his baby sister was so special. He is so proud of her and sweet with her, although he is having a little trouble adjusting to no longer being an only child, but that’s to be expected. We thank God for a safe delivery and for our healthy girl! She is joy itself! Thank you for your prayers for her health and safety during the past few weeks. I love being her mother and she is loved beyond measure. Praise God from whom all blessings flow!



Lucy’s Birth Story: Part II
October 26, 2011, 8:55 pm
Filed under: Birth

Click here to read Part I.

Having sent my mom home because “nothing was going to happen,” we decided to go on a walk before going to bed. The walk didn’t do anything to make my contractions more frequent and Daniel encouraged me to try to sleep so I wouldn’t get too exhausted (I had, after all, been up most of the past two nights with contractions.) After settling in bed, my contractions stayed just as erratic as before: 25 minutes, 10 minutes, 18 minutes, etc. However, they started to strengthen significantly. By 12:30am the pain was starting to overwhelm me, but the contractions STILL weren’t regular. Between 12:30 and 1:30 they were:

11 minutes

6 minutes

12 minutes

16 minutes

13 minutes

11 minutes

The contractions were SO STRONG and taking my breath away. I started to get overheated during each one and then so cold afterwards that I was shaking involuntarily. At 1:30 I woke Daniel up and started to cry.

“I don’t think I can do this! They aren’t close enough together so I’m not even in active labor yet but they hurt so bad! If they’re going to get even worse, I don’t think I can do this. I’m so tired! DO SOMETHING!”

Now, my husband is amazing in situations when I’m being hysterical. He calmly asked me what I would like him to do and I decided that I wanted to go to the hospital and either get something to help me sleep for a few hours so I wouldn’t be so tired, or have them speed things up so that I could move into active labor and have a baby.

When we stood up to pack the bags in the car I started having some back-to-back contractions…”We need to leave….NOW,” I said.

Fortunately, the hospital is right up the road and we arrived at around 2:10am. As soon as I stepped out of the car, I started vomiting in the parking lot. “Am I transitioning?” I wondered. “What’s happening?”

We checked in and got set up in triage where the tech set up a monitor on Lucy’s heartbeat and one to measure my contractions. I was right in the middle of a super painful contraction (partly due to having to be in bed and hooked up to monitors) when the tech was trying to get the monitors set up. “I’m in the middle of a contraction,” I told her through gritted teeth. She continued poking and prodding me which is just SO PAINFUL and I snapped. “Get off of me! CAN’T YOU JUST WAIT TIL THIS IS OVER?!!!!” She backed off. Then I felt bad but…REALLY? Don’t mess with a contracting woman!

After being on the monitor for 30 min and wishing I could get off the bed into a labor and delivery room, a nurse came in. “It doesn’t look like you’re contracting at all,” she said. “WHAT?!” I responded as a contraction rushed over me and I disappeared into pain for a good minute and 40 seconds. “Hmmm. This is not hooked up right,” the nurse said. She watched the monitor as I had a couple more contractions and checked me for dilation: 5.5 cm.

“Alright. We’ll get you to a room and we’ve called your midwife.”

We got to the room at about 3:15am. Our nurse Jacqueline was precious and sweet and they tried to get me an IV of penicillin ASAP because I had tested GBS positive. The penicillin STUNG as it went in but, I was distracted enough by the whomping contractions that I didn’t pay much mind to it. My midwife, Erin, arrived at 3:40. I did most of my laboring in a rocking chair hunched over into the contractions or standing and holding onto Daniel. After I’d had my IV and labored a few more minutes, my mom arrived with her bags of doula comfort aids at around 4:20am. Erin checked me and I was at 8.5 cm. They hooked me up to the fetal heartbeat monitor during a contraction to check on Lucy. She was doing great. Erin said, “I have to check on a patient in triage, I’ll be right back.” I decided I wanted to pee between contractions so I stood up to walk a few feet to the bathroom. I had a doozy of a contraction as soon as I stood up and another one as I walked towards the bathroom. I tried to pee really fast because contractions on the toilet hurt SO BAD and as soon as I stood up I had another one. Daniel was holding me up so I could try to relax through the contraction. I looked up at him and (he tells me) my eyes got wide. “SHE’S COMING,” I said.

Stay tuned for Part III!



Lucy’s Birth Story: Part I
October 25, 2011, 5:33 pm
Filed under: Birth

I just knew that Lucy would come early. Big brother Benjamin had arrived at 39 weeks and I there was no doubt in my mind that she would come at least as early. At 37 weeks I started losing my mucus plug, experiencing extreme pelvic pressure and some mild cramping, dilating and effacing, and feeling the Braxton-Hicks become more frequent and intense. “Any day now!” I started to think. I even stopped teaching ballet in South Georgia because I didn’t feel right about making the drive alone in case I started having real labor contractions. At the midwife’s office I perfunctorily made an appointment for the following week thinking, “well, it’s not like I’ll still be pregnant 7 whole days from now!” But…I was pregnant 7 days later. In fact, I was pregnant 14 days later….and I was pregnant 21 days later when my due date came and went. Each night as Daniel and I settled into bed I would try to find a comfortable sleeping position (ha! Yeah right!) and then groan, “I’m going to be pregnant forever!” Well-meaning folk would call and text asking whether we’d had our baby girl yet and I just had to stop answering because it was too frustrating to say “No, we’re still waiting,” for the 10 millionth time.

I had an appointment at the midwife’s office when I was four days overdue. I was 3 cm dilated and 60% effaced so everything looked promising but….still no labor. We had tried all the natural labor inducing techniques I’d heard of except for castor oil so my midwife recommended acupuncture to induce labor since, for many women, an acupuncture treatment will induce labor within 48 hours. Because I was overdue, she also scheduled a non-stress test and a biophysical profile. If both came back showing that Baby Lucy was still happy and safe in the womb, then I could wait another week before being induced at almost 42 weeks. I really wanted another natural birth without having to be induced with Pitocin because I’ve heard that it makes the contractions so painful so I decided to give the acupuncture a shot. I called an acupuncturist, (one of the deacons from our parish) and set up an appointment for the next day. Having never had acupuncture before, I didn’t know what to expect but it was completely painless and from the table I could see pictures of Our Lady of Guadalupe and the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Perks of having a Catholic acupuncturist! I didn’t start having contractions after my first treatment so Wednesday morning, Deacon Mike gave me another treatment and I started having contractions. They became a little stronger and more regular that evening and I got up around 11:30pm to sit up and do some laundry and watch 30 Rock streaming on Netflix while I timed the contractions. They were consistently 10 minutes apart but not at all strong so I decided to try to sleep at around 3am and slept through more contractions until 7am when Benjamin woke up.

Thursday morning my contractions spaced out and were still very mild but I would still have a strong one occasionally. By evening they started getting more intense, but were still at least 10 minutes apart so I just went to bed and slept in between them. We sent Benjamin so spend the night at Marmee and Grandaddy’s house just in case we needed to rush to the hospital in the middle of the night. But…by Friday morning they had spaced out again, were very erratic and not at all consistent either in strength or frequency. Daniel stayed home from work with me to time contractions and we took some walks. Whenever I stayed on my feet for any length of time, the contractions got stronger and the pelvic pressure became more severe. During my last month of pregnancy I had some sciatica in my legs and this intensified making walking difficult. Early evening I had my mom come over with her “doula bag” so that I could soothe my lower back with the awesome heat packs she made from socks full of rice. That’s where the contractions were really hurting. We sat and talked between contractions and watched a few episodes of Modern Family and although the contractions continued to be strong, they would sometimes space out to almost 30 minutes, so at 8pm I figured nothing was going to happen that evening and sent her home to get some rest….but I was oh so wrong…

To be continued in Part II!