Breastfeeding and Working: Do You Feel Supported?

IMG_2455.JPGWhen I first came back to work, trusty Medela Symphony in hand, I felt ready to take on the world. I was ready. I was grateful to be able to find a way to balance work and breastfeeding because they were, and still are, both high priorities in my life. I was told that I signed out a key to the rooms at the security desk. They have little arm chairs with a side table attached. There is a sink and refrigerator. There’s nothing special about the rooms but they work. I was excited to begin this next phase of my journey (But not, necessarily to pump. Let’s be realistic, most of us are not excited to pump.).

Four and a half months back to work and I’ve spent hours in these chairs, scrolling through social media, sewing, reading, breathing deeply, making phone calls, and joining conference calls and hoping no one noticed the chugging of my pump. I’ve also moved my desk location, incredibly far away from that security desk. I now spend at least twenty minutes per day walking to and from the desk and the rooms. Twenty minutes that could be spent working. Twenty minutes of walking that haven’t helped me lose an ounce, either, for that matter.

And now, it seems, that the number of women pumping is growing, which is absolutely wonderful. But repeatedly, I’ve gone to get the key and both are signed out. So now I have to waste more time. And be uncomfortable. And leak through everything on more than one occasion (Thank goodness for scarves and blazers!). And one time I ended up with a clogged duct that I fortunately was able to deal with on my own. I also get less milk when this happens.
I made numerous suggestions to a committee and never heard back. I made these same suggestions to the guy in charge to building stuff and his reply was to call security and ask about a key.

This doesn’t fix delays. This doesn’t stop leaking. This doesn’t stop clogged ducts. This won’t prevent mastitis when I hurriedly pump because I had planned on going 45 minutes ago and now have a meeting in 15.

I plan on pumping for almost another year to be honest. (I can’t put it that way. Yikes.) My pumping goal is 18 months. My breastfeeding goal is self-weaning. I don’t just want this fixed for me. I want this fixed for future women. Women prone to mastitis. Women who stress continuously about their supply. Women who can barely squeeze this into their schedule to begin with.

Do you pump? Are you content with your company’s support? Is there more that could be done?

Aftermath

Everyone mourns differently.

I’m sure that I mostly seem “okay” now. I mean, certain things do make me choked up sometimes, but outwardly, I am sure that I seem just fine.

But I don’t feel just fine on the inside.

I’ve been walking the line of depression and every little thing seems like an insurmountable mass looming ahead. Just the thought of him being gone forever just kills me. The way that I will never walk into my mom’s house to see him on my couch and call “hi, Kimmy” or bow to his “gypsy queen,” as he called Ramona. The fact that when I drop Joey off from a monthly, no longer weekly, movie night, it’s with my mom is something that I can barely think about, to be honest. Movie nights were something done with Boppa.

I cannot imagine my mom’s world. The world where someone you have spent roughly half of your life with, the person you promised to be with forever, gone away.

Or, at least, mostly gone away.

He feels here, present.

My dad has never felt this present, even in the days leading up to Joey’s birth when I dreamt about him nightly and I am certain it was his way of saying he would be there. He knew him.

I believe that people can come back and visit. He seems to visit more often than most. I won’t go into all of the details, most feel too personal, particularly to my mother. It’s evident in a number of way, more so to my mom than anyone, but he’s here still quite a bit. He did tell her that her sign would be music.

He told my mom that he didn’t know what he was going to do without her one day while he was still lucid. Without her. Not what she would do without him (Though she obviously wondered that and I am sure that she still does.), but what he would do without her once he was gone. To me, that is love.

She was his world. So was his daughter. These kids that I’ve brought into this world, they are too. I’m sure that his son and his kids, particularly once the relationship was repaired, were too. And my brother and I probably fall in there somewhere. He truly loved his family. He knew what was important. I’m not just eulogizing him and sugarcoating him. It’s true. He was a man with clear priorities and they were in order.

And now he’s gone. He’s not here to hand down advice. He’s not here to celebrate our victories. He’s just not here. Or so it seems.

Last year, we were gone for Thanksgiving. We went to Florida. I had an urge to cook the meal and celebrate with my family. I’ve spent many holidays away from them. I’m a child of divorced parents, apart since I was three years old. But I had this urge. I made everything but the sweet potatoes that I told my mom to bring. I was finally not sick all day every day with Ramona. I wasn’t in the exhausted third trimester but my body ached so much when I finally sat down that night to dinner. I was proud and happy to share a meal with them. I now understand why I had that urge.

Eventually, I’ll come out of this. I’ll be okay. But for now, I’ll continue to cry behind closed doors or in the middle of a barn turned temporary store full of beautiful handmade items over a baby hat. And it’ll be okay.

Just Like That, Six Months Flew By

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Ramona turned six months old yesterday. She goes to the doctor on Tuesday so we will know exactly how much she’s grown, but I can tell you that it’s quite a ways away from 6 lb 12 oz.

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She eats solids now and didn’t seem to be a fan of applesauce. She has seemed to at least tolerate everything else that she’s tried. She’s so excited to eat. I love her faces while she eats. I have such a wonderful time feeding her.

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I’ll always look back at these first six months with bittersweet tears. She’s growing so fast, as babies do. She is an absolute joy in our lives. But I’ll wish that life had been different. That we could all feel the joy all of the time. I know that she was here to help with our sorrow, but I feel as though she was cheated out of my complete happiness between me having postpartum depression and grieving. Her smiles and my gut tell me that she’s just fine though.

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Speaking of those smiles, I get the biggest ones when I come home from work. And I absolutely much acknowledge her before I do anything else or she cries until I do. It’s absolutely sweet.

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A second child is different. I’m no terrified of everything. But there’s an age gap so this feels new. But I know what I’ll miss later. It feels more leisurely at times, knowing what I need to stop and breathe in and enjoy. These upcoming months are certainly on that list. There’s so much discovery. I’m looking forward to it.

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I’m happy. Completely happy.

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Shaking Mornings Up

It’s not a great idea.

John received a big promotion at work, which is great. But it means a lot of changes in our lives. He now works Monday through Friday, which is great for our time together. He works at 7 am, which means I now get everyone out the door and shifted my schedule to accommodate this. It also means that I literally park a half of a mile away at work. Exercise, I guess? Ramona goes to daycare full-time now and Joey goes to the after school program daily.

It’s day three of this new routine. I’m not coping well. In part, I think, because I’m at the anger stage in the grieving process so I’m already dealing with some extra anger. My temper is short, my days are long, and the mornings are crazy. Crazy as in, yesterday morning, ten minutes before it was time to go, I discovered that my car seat was still at daycare. John had to drive back home.

But we will get there.

I haven’t left work on time yet, so that can’t help. It was almost seven when I pulled in the driveway last night.

For now, let’s just doggy paddle through these waters.

Do you have tips or routines that get you through the day?

BraunTherms VoxBox

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Somehow the Internet decided that I was good enough for the coveted VoxBox. I see people Googling how they can increase their odds of getting one and whatnot. I signed up, answered a few questions and the next thing I knew, a digital ear thermometer was being delivered to my door, compliments of Influenster. My review is purely my own thoughts and experiences.

It arrived before winter, but that doesn’t mean I have yet to use it. Ramona has been stuffy this week. We’ve all had varying degrees of sickness, with my mom getting hit the worst. (I would guess maybe because she spent the last six months not allowing herself to get sick and the very end barely sleeping. It’s no big surprise that she was sick right away.) It appears to mostly be a summer cold and if it is enterovirus, everyone seems alright so far. I drank more water and ate more fruits and vegetables as soon as I started feeling off and I’ve mostly fought it away. On Friday, Ramona was pretty stuffy and felt rather warm so I did legitimately use my thermometer to make sure she didn’t have a fever. Her temperature was just slightly warm and most likely she was just overdressed, probably because it was 44 when I woke up and 77 when I left work.

It’s a breeze to use. I just turn the power button on, put a cap on from the dispenser that conveniently fits into the case (They thought of almost everything, more about what they didn’t soon.), stick it in her ear and press another button. Shortly after that, it’s beeping and I’m breathing a sigh of relief at seeing only 99.1 on the screen.

I remember when my parents bought an ear thermometer around twenty years ago. The thing was pretty big. This fits nicely in the palm and the medicine cabinet.

The screen is nice and big so when you are swiveling your head around your baby’s turning head, you can easily catch the reading.

I do have one ever-so-slight complaint. I’d love to see a light on here. It would be perfect for late-night readings when you don’t want to disturb your sick little one more than you have to. Otherwise, it’s perfect.

Thanks, Influenster, think of me again?

The Love You Take

It’s taken me a week and a half to finish this. I cannot find the right words to express how great he was and how sad we are. John, you will be missed. (Not my husband, my step-dad.)

On (last, now) Tuesday, he passed. I woke up that morning with the intentions of going to my mom’s after breakfast. I worked remotely from her house on Monday and had been planning on doing so all week so that she wasn’t alone. He had gotten to the point where she didn’t like leaving him alone in the room in fear of him getting out of bed and hurting himself. I told her that I would send Ramona to daycare/leave her with John and just work from her house so that if she needed to leave the room, she could without worry. I had taken the day off because I have a ton of time left and had some things to do that afternoon. I got up, a bit leisurely because it was a day off. I showered and headed downstairs to eat. I briefly wondered if I should just take my breakfast and eat at her house, but ate at home. I was eating my final bites when my phone rang. I rushed around to throw some diapers in the bag, grabbed the baby, and drove obnoxiously fast for four blocks.

She must have awoken as he took his last breath.

The week is already a fuzzy blur, much like I remember the week my dad died. You float from one place to another, hopefully doing and saying the right things and at the end of the day you either cannot sleep, you pass out when these things happen. I had both types of nights.

Memory after memory has floated back to me lately. I went outside for a few minutes either Tuesday or Wednesday and as I stood on the back deck, my mind wandered back to the day that we officially knew that it was cancer. He and my mom came over as we were outside, doing some yard work as I hoped to induce labor because I was at the very end of my pregnancy. We already knew, but this was the official test results stating that he had cancer. I remember being outside in the warm sun, him sitting down because he was exhausted. Me standing a bit away as he and my mom smoked cigarettes. (She’s quitting very soon.) Them telling us what we already knew. He was sick. It was stage 4 and he wasn’t going to treatment. Or years ago, as teens and preteens and all of the wonderful, pain-in-the-ass things that teenagers love to do with Lindsay, my step-sister. That family trip to Gettysburg. (He was a civil war buff.) “Horror night,” and watching movie after movie sprawled across the living room floor with an allowance’s worth of junk food, purchased on a bike ride to Yellow Goose. His patience with Joey and Joey’s adoration of him.

I don’t believe that when the body dies everything else is gone forever. What exactly happens or what remains, I cannot comprehend. But I know that he’s here, at least sometimes, somehow. The little voice that my mom hears on her head, making humorous comments, I wonder is it her or is it somehow him. My dad undoubtedly has visited Joey.

I still cannot believe he’s actually gone. That his time with us here on Earth is really and truly over. It seems so unfair.

There’s a million maybes and what ifs and maybe one of them could have changed the outcome. Maybe not. When it’s time, it’s time.
Until we meet again, John. Feel free to visit your little Queen of the Gypsies and Momo Jo from Idaho anytime.

This Working Mama’s Pumping Tips

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As I posted the other day, Ramona is now five months old and I’m left wondering where time went. This means we’ve also been nursing for that long and only have around a month left of her receiving everything from me.
It also means that I’ve been pumping regularly for over two months too.
In those five months, I’ve learned plenty.

I love that I am dedicated to nourishing her myself. I lug my pump back and forth to work. I am renting a Medela Symphony, so that’s a good amount of pump to drag around. We haven’t had to overcome any major struggles, fortunately, but after a move at work, I’ve found it to be more inconvenient.

I have my own small library of tips for working and pumping mamas that I’ve found useful so far.

1.) This should be rest. But I’m realistic and know that you and I will try and fail. But try anyways. Daily.

2.) Eat and eat well. I get more milk when I nourish my body with fresh fruits and vegetables for lunch than when I run to the cafe and eat garbage or order Chinese.

3.) Oatmeal and coconut milk. I eat/drink these regularly and find that the days that I do, I produce more.

4.) Find a schedule that works and stick to it. I actually blocked out time in my calendar. My baby is my top priority and getting the pop-up reminder alerts me if I am really involved or gives me the excuse to drop a call, if I need to go.

5.) I once read that someone repeated a mantra when they went to pump about being grateful to make milk for their baby. I do this on days that I need to connect more with her, which brings me to the next point.

6.) I know that you’re filling your phone with pictures and videos, so use them. Connect with your baby from afar in any way you can. If you aren’t like me and actually have a sense of smell, if you need to, bring a blanket or something that smells like your baby. (I’m told that this smell is addicting. I cannot smell it one bit.)

7.) Drink water. Tons of it. All day. Get yourself a great water bottle and don’t let it leave your side. I always have mine.

8.) Relax. On days that I am stressed or too on the go, I need to stop and breathe deeply and mentally force myself to relax for a minute or two. Tension doesn’t do great things for milk flow.

9.) Nurse whenever you can. Ramona always wants me to nurse when I get home, even if she just ate. I love this opportunity to reconnect at the end of the day. Nursing her after my first day back to work may have been my favorite nursing session ever. Maybe even more than our first.

10.) Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Call a lactation consultant, they are frequently covered by insurance, so check. Join a group in real life or online for support and advice.

11.) Find a breastfeeding friendly pediatrician. Don’t stick around with a doctor whom you don’t feel comfortable or dislike. If you’re told to supplement, seek a second opinion. Supplementation does nothing good for your supply, nursing boosts it.

Do you have any tips that I haven’t covered here? Any secrets?

Five Months! (On Tuesday)

Ramona will be five months on Tuesday and John and I have been left wondering what happened to our tiny squish. I’m posting now because who knows what this week will bring.
Remember this?

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Somehow she’s turned into this:

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“Could you shut my door on the way out, Mom?”

So I’m not sure when that one happened.

She’s sitting for short periods entirely by herself now. She also latches onto anything that could possibly be misconstrued as a nipple and nearly anything that cannot. She’s latched onto her doll’s nose, my nose, John’s nipple, my water bottle, and who knows what else. It’s adorable somehow, even if my face must look like a giant boob. She rolls over both ways but sometimes forgets this and gets angry after she rolls one way and realized that she doesn’t want to be that way. Again, somehow adorable.

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Another month from now she will be starting to eat food and this keeps blowing my mind for some reason.

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John calls these her Elvis pajamas and says he would rock a jumpsuit like this in a heartbeat.

I mean, she will be a year before we know it and then we will blink again and college application time will be here.
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She is legitimately one of the happiest babies I’ve ever met. She has a grin and a giggle for everything, particularly “squishy wooshy tushie.” She also likes it when we yell “free buns!” at diaper change time. We are big on potty jokes here, apparently.

I Am Not A Fan of Wal-Mart, But I Love Their Peanut Butter Cups

I’m a stress-eater. I’m not one of those people who loses weight when life really sucks. Pass me the peanut butter cups and second third slice of pizza. Carrots? Celery? Those are for happy, healthy people, not me.

This means I quit losing baby weight awhile ago. I have continued to shrink a bit, so there was some muscle stuff going on, I think. My arms are looking less blobular and have a hint of definition, though they are nowhere near Michelle Obama arms. But I am not at a level that I am happy with at all, whether I ditch the scale and look in the mirror or not.

And I need to stop making excuses for myself. Eff those peanut butter cups. Stop buying Oreos. They are just gross anyways. If I have breakfast at 5:30 am, this does not mean grab toast and oatmeal when I get to work at 8, just grab the coffee and go. Yes, Ramona gobbles up calories, but I have reserves to burn.

I need to stop telling myself that I will start yoga when life slows down. Dying is a slow process and we’ve all already started it ourselves. Let’s make the most of all of our time here by being as healthy as possible, mentally and physically. He might go tomorrow, he might go three months from now. Why should I be unhealthy because I am waiting for it to happen?

So, internet, I’m putting this out there for you to read and to hold myself accountable that I will get up, get moving, and eat a damn salad. (Not the teriyaki steak bento box that comes with miso soup, white rice, some California rolls, a couple of dumplings, tempura shrimp and a couple of veggies, and some more steamed veggies with my steak. That I eat all of.)

Alternatives

Life has been this crazy mix of highs and lows. I am trying to see the beauty and feel all of the good feelings more deeply to get through this.

No lie, I’ve had some pretty weak moments where I imagine all of us continuing on in this state of limbo in our lives, watching him get sicker and sicker and I just feel like I cannot do it. I get so exhausted in those moments. Each day needs to be taken on its own. Now is not the time to focus on the future.

I took a couple of days off to get some things done. We have a new bed and bedding now. I’m in love and slept so comfortably.

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I also have my own Tula, that I sold the mei tai to fund, lest you think we hit some sort of secret lottery and bought all the things. (Though retail therapy is how I deal.)

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We also enjoyed a delicious meal at the new Steak Stone & Sushi here in Lockport. Ramona expressed her opinion at my order well. And John leveled up in parenting, especially since he’s right-handed.

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I spent some much-needed one-on-one time helping Joey clean his room today. He now has our old bed. He informed me that he wants his room to “look like an adult’s room,” which means that he wants me to take his toys out. I’m not ready for this. We did finally get these up. I had picked them up a month or so ago for him.

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This was all in the last two days and I am so ready for sleep now. Seriously, how comfortable does Ramona look in my new bed??

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Tomorrow is back to normal life for a couple of days and then the long weekend before school starts, which we are ready to take on. Okay, one last picture because how could I not share this perfection??

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And in one last bit of happy news, Sakura Bloom released their fall colors today, so Ramona will have some all new style. (I sold again to help fund!) I love the luxury of feeling the brand new silk or linen and the joy I feel when my stiff, new sling has become so soft and so floppy with love.

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