Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Coming up for air: of boobs, body image and a new award

Warning: this post will contain material about babies, breastfeeding woes and postpartum body issues. If you are not in an okay place with your journey, please, please, PLEASE skip this post. As always, there will be others. For now, take care of yourself. And know that it is my firm wish that no matter the road, everyone here finds resolution and happiness after living with infertility/loss.

Two and half months. That's how long it's been since I've found time to sit down at my laptop and actually type out my thoughts. Time has flown by, as has the last few days of summer and we are now firmly in fall here in the Pacific Northwest. As I watch the leaves change, revealing the red and gold that was hidden beneath their summer pigment, I reflect on all that has happened in our little world and how it relates to what's been happening in the community. For the last two and a half months, I've been reading and drafting posts in my head. But since the arrival of the Beats, and with them the onset of sleep deprivation, I've been forced into a new role of being more of a passive observer of the ALI community. Truthfully, it's been strange to be in this new role, with me struggling with feelings of guilt for having abandoned this space. I marvel at those who have recently found resolution who are posting regularly (seriously ladies, how do you do it?), but am also now getting better at acknowledging that my time away has been one that was necessary to my health and for the health of my family.

Tonight, after Grey has been kind enough to allow me an exceptionally long nap, I'm stealing a few moments while the rest of them sleep to give an update. All of this will be expanded upon in future posts, so please forgive the brain dump. But sometimes when one restarts something, it's best to jump in with both feet.

The Beats:
As of today, the Beats are 14 weeks olds (6 weeks age adjusted). And how far they've come. Back in August when we brought them home from the NICU, He-Beat was just under 6 lbs and She-Beat was under 5 lbs. Today, He-Beat is 11 lbs 2 oz while She-Beat is 10 lbs, 11 oz. It's amazing how much these two have changed since they've been home, with them actually looking like babies, chubby cheeks and all. Everyone who is familiar with premies is floored with how much they've grown and with each day that passes they continue to flourish and grow, making eye contact, smiling and interacting regularly now with Grey and me. They also have developed an interest in toys and mirrors, with each of them having a preference for certain objects over others. It's been a lot of fun to watch and not a day goes by where I don't thank the universe for having them be part of our lives

The big thing in our world has been breastfeeding. Or should I say our attempt to get breastfeeding off the ground. Since the Beats were born at 32 weeks and, hence, didn't have the ability to even suck from a bottle, a lot of time and energy was initial placed on making sure they were getting the calories they needed to survive and grow. This meant that up until their due date, Grey and I have been focusing on bottle feeding these two, with me expressing breastmilk following every feed. Though I've been happy to do this in order to feed them, the reality is that they whole process of feeding them, pumping and prepping for the next round takes between 1 1/2-2 hrs. And seeing how the Beats eat every 3-4 hrs, that leaves very little time for anything else.

Because of this, I've been trying to prioritize breastfeeding. While in the NICU I regularly met with the lactation consultants, talking about positioning, latch and even strategies for getting each Beat to the breast. Initially it seemed like the plan we had devised was working, with each Beat getting on the boob almost every other feed. All that changed when I went in for an appointment and learned that She-Beat, even after 20 mins of sucking, was only getting 1-2 ml in a feeding session. When asked what could be done to correct this, I was given a syringe with a NG tube attached and told to have Grey push breast milk in the corner of her mouth while she was at the boob. Needless to say, I left that appointment feeling fairly frustrated.

Here's the thing with breastfeeding: as "natural" as it is, the truth is that for many it requires some work to simply get off the ground. And that's if you're lucky enough to be able to identify the issue AND correct it. Because of this, there are many who will not be able to breastfeed their babies and ultimately will have to turn to formula to feed their children. It goes without saying that this decision is rarely made lightly and usually involves addressing feelings of failure and guilt. But one of the things that always makes it harder is this misconception that not breastfeeding is due to the parent simply being lazy or selfish. Yes, there are cases where it's simply this cut and dry, but those (like always) are rare.

Recently, with the push for breastfeeding, lactation consultants have become more readily available, which is a good thing. The problem is that the model most operate on doesn't work for babies struggling to feed. Granted I'll admit that I have no idea what type of training your average LC goes through, but from what I've witnessed many lack a basic understanding of the mechanics of sucking, leaving them unable to assess if a newborn is actually able to latch properly let alone draw milk from the breast. And it is this lack of understanding that does a disservice to a mother who is struggling to breastfeed as usually they are unable to pinpoint the problem and instead lay the blame for the process not working on the mother. I've seen it too often and, frankly, like dealing with an incompetent physician, only causes more harm than good.

After my last experience with the LCs I was ready to throw in the towel and stick with pumping for feeding the Beats. What changed my mind was when an IRL friend who had also struggled with infertility and then with feeding her son, gave me the contact information for a well-known local LC, Renee Bebee. (Please note, I'm making an exception of sharing real life names in this case as I believe Renee is the reason we've made the progress with have and, thus, I want to spread the word. If you have specific questions, please contact me directly) Upon contacting Renee, she immediately made an appointment to come to my home the following day to observe the Beats during a feeding session, which was something none of the other LCs offered. In addition, when I talked with my friend about her experience, she shared how much she appreciated Renee being open to using formula in order to make sure the newborn is receiving proper nuriousment; a rare consideration as many LCs are so militant about solely using breastmilk. What really separated Renee from the rest is that she spent time examining the Beats, particularly their mouths. And though He-Beat was okay, with us simply needing me to reposition him at the breast to get him to latch better, she discovered that She-Beat had an unusual form of tongue called submucosal tongue tie. I'll write more about this type of tie later and what we've learned about how it has impacted more than just breastfeeding for She-Beat, but what I will say is that getting this resolved would have been next to impossible without Renee's guidance as our pediatricians and the LCs immediately dismissed this possibility and kept trying to convince us that some babies simply lack the ability to breastfeed.

Thankfully, though we've had to fight to get this covered and had to wait to see someone who specializes in clipping this type of tie, it's already proven beneficial to She-Beat as she is now well on her way to breastfeeding without a problem, but resolving the tongue tie has also seemed to resolve her ongoing issues with constipation. Two huge wins for us.

The Body:
In the midst of all of this, Grey and I have been trying to deal with our own ongoing issues. I could write a small novel about all the drama with our condo and a rant about Congress and how thoroughly they've screwed the average scientist is for another post (though I will say that I now have many, MANY colleagues who are going abroad as lack of funding is driving them away). During all of this, Grey and I have both been job hunting. And let's just say that it's been interesting. To date, Grey has had one position disappear after the higher ups decided they couldn't afford the position during the final negotiations, a hand full of positions where he was strongly considered only to be turned away as he wasn't in a position to start immediately, grants applied for disappear (see rant about Congress) and a general tone of "you're an exceptional scientist, but we can't afford you at the moment." On my end things have been better, but that's due to the fact that I have yet to complete my postdoc, making me incredibly cheap to hire. There are some promising things on the horizon, though, with both of us scheming to making sure all the pieces fall into place.

Anyway, while dealing with job hunting and unemployment for me, the other fun bit has been following up on my diagnosis of Antiphospholipid Antibody Syndrome. If you'll remember a while back, about a week before I delivered the Beats I had an ultrasound performed on my liver where they discovered a number of masses. Though believed to be hemangiomas, it was decided that I should have a MRI performed to rule out other possibilities. I've never had an MRI performed, though I am familiar with the equipment. So I naively assumed that outside of dealing with a tight space, I would have an opportunity to catch up on some sleep during the procedure.

Yeah, I clearly didn't know what I was in for.

Needless to say, I now know what an animal shipped in the cargo hold of an airplane feels like. Outside of actively having to calm myself while in the machine because of how tight of a fit it is, I was also traumatized by all the buzzing and beeping the machine made as it took the different images. Just when I thought I had heard every combination, I got a new strange one. Add in the fact that they injected me with a contrast agent, which is a heavy metal that resulted in my developing a massive rash across my chest, and I was fairly messed up for a couple of weeks afterwards.

The good news is that the masses were confirmed to be benign. The bad news is that my current physicians suck. They suck in that they haven't been forthcoming about the results (I've had to ask on three separate occasions for them to let me know what was found) and when asked about their interpretation of the results, they've either ignored me or stared at me blankly. Granted, I'll admit that I'm a bit of a strange patient as I'm usually interested in working with my doctors regarding my care, but this whole experience with them has made Grey and me wonder if this HMO specifically hires physicians and nurses who averaged a 2.0 during their medical training. Unfortunately, we're stuck at the moment with what we've got, but all of this has really affirmed my decision to take my prenatal care out of network as I'm beginning to think that otherwise not only I would currently be 6 feet under and Grey would be navigating the world as a widower but that our precious Beats wouldn't have made it.

At the moment, the plan has been to "wait and see" with me keeping in contact with my MFMs to get a referral to a hepatosurgeon if anything weird comes up. All while I prepare to break-up with another set of doctors.

Needless to say, none of this has helped with some of the body issues I've been facing as of late. While pregnant with the Beats, I easily gained the recommended weight all while following Dr. Luke's guidelines. As I watched the scale climbing, I was able to stave off any anxiety as I knew all of it would be to the benefit of the Beats. Even after I delivered, I was patient as I knew that it would take some time for the weight to come off. All part of pregnancy, was what I reasoned. The problem is, though, that since the MRI the numbers on the scale have started to climb again and I feel very much like I'm in a minority as most women in my position are actually losing weight. And what I believed I would be able to manage simply by breastfeeding is proving to be a losing battle.

Yes, I know that compared to infertility and loss gaining weight postpartum isn't a big deal, but I also know that it depresses me that the misshapen body that I see in the mirror isn't progressing in a direction I'd like it too. Add in that all this extra weight is wreaking my joints and making movement harder and it's a wonder I'm not more stressed.

I'm trying to manage: currently I get the Beats out for walks 2-3 times a week and I've been cutting back on sugar where I can. Still there's a long way to go. Another post for another time.

The Stork Award:
Ending on a positive note, I received notification from Teresa @ Where the *bleep"* is our stork? that I have the honor and privilege of being one of the first bloggers to receive a new blog award she designed, the Stork Award. I absolutely love the theme of this award, being that each of us has our own unique story to tell, not only on this journey but also in life.

How it works:
1. Include the Stork Award icon in your post
2. Link to the person(s) who nominated you
3. Answer the 10 questions about yourself
4. Nominate as many bloggers as you want to receive the award 
5. Ask your nominees 10 new questions 
6. Link your nominees and let them know they've been nominated
7. Post the Stork Award icon on your blog side bar if you are so inclined 

I promise to answer all of Teresa's in a future post, but considering what an amazing honor this is, I felt it was necessary to not only thank her about also to spread the love. I'm limiting myself to 15 bloggers with the hopes that others will have the opportunity to give their own nominations, but there are so many wonderful bloggers out there with their own inspirational stories. So go spread the love.

Here are my nominees for this wonderful award:
And I'm reusing Teresa's questions:
  1. Do you like to plan things out in detail or be spontaneous?
  2. What embarrasses you?
  3. What are some of your favorite websites?
  4. How would you explain your basic life philosophy?
  5. Would you rather be hated or forgotten?
  6. What do you like least about yourself?
  7. Do you have a favorite number? Any particular reason why you like that number?
  8. If you could try out any job for a day, what would you like to try?
  9. If you could go back in history, who would you like to meet?
  10. How are you, really?
As the Beats are officially stirring, that's all for now folks. Many posts within a post and I promise to write more soon. In the meantime, love and light to you all. And may there be happiness and resolution to your journeys soon.


  1. Wonderful to hear the the Beats are thriving, despite it all! GOOD FOR YOU for being such an amazing advocate for their and your own well being, and listening to your gut!

  2. I also gained weight after pregnancy in part due to the stress of breastfeeding with an undiagnosed tongue tie finally discovered at 4m by a private practice lc. It took going paleo diet for a couple of months to jump start actually losing the weight. So you aren't the only one having to deal with that frustration, and I did e d up losing the weight eventually.

  3. Ahhh, thank you so much for including me!

    And seriously, I am stoked you found someone who can help with the breastfeeding, but if at any point you just realize it is all too much... I can honestly say that as stressed and upset as I was about having to formula feed Cheeks, this kid has thrived at every turn and beat up all her milestones. Breast is totally best, but sometimes formula isn't all that far behind.

    As for she-beat - I have the same tongue tied problem! My mom couldn't breastfeed me either, although there was never an explicit reason "why". Now you totally have me thinking that must have been it!

  4. First off, I kept posting a lot after Stella was born, but there was only 1 of her - I'm guessing that's hugely different than caring for TWO newborns! Give yourself a break. :)

    That is really interesting info about the tongue tie - good to know that the ramifications can extend way beyond breastfeeding. I had no idea!

    The weight is so hard to predict - some women drop weight like crazy while BFing, and some can't lose the weight until they QUIT BFing. I was somewhere in between - lost the pregnancy weight quickly, but then gained some back and didn't lose that until Stella was mostly weaned. It's just hard to find the balance of eating enough to not affect your supply yet not OVEReating. The rule of thumb is about 10 cal / ounce, so for 1 baby, about 300 cals/day are burned by BFing (avg is 30oz/day for an EBF baby). That means you should be taking in 600 cals/day over your maintenance calorie intake level (whatever that is - I think for most women it's around 1500?)...and anything over that is just going to be adding to your waistline. That being said, it's not quite so cut & dry when hormones are involved! It's a good rule of thumb to know though. Also, I found a lot of my hunger was actually thirst -- I was drinking 100 oz water/day when Stella was nursing in order to stay hydrated enough!! Good luck. :)

  5. Wow, thanks for the nod, it means a lot! I have no experience with breastfeeding but I've read a few bloggers now talking about how lactation consultants are very staunchy pro-boob and won't really hear anything else, even if it's clearly not working for mom and baby/babies. Stay firm and do what works for you and the Beats, and don't let anyone else make you feel bad about it.

  6. I don't blame you for not posting. You got your hands full, lady. Hope the weight comes off easily and the post-partum stops soon as well. Hugs!

  7. Feel free to not post all you want. (-: You have every reason to be away from your computer. I feel like I can't keep up with it with one two-year-old. I can't imagine I'm going to be blogging much once my twins are here. So sorry you've had an uphill battle in so many different areas. I can sense the tiredness and the readiness to have something come easily. That's what I'm hoping for you - that sooner rather than later, things will start really falling into place for you. Until then, hold on, friend.


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