Saturday, July 21, 2012


Little man turned 4 months old yesterday!

I figure it's about time I posted some pictures of his nursery. Even though at four months it's not yet complete.

I decided against a particular nursery/layette set. Mostly because I didn't find one I liked (though I didn't look that hard). Instead, I went to JoAnn's and picked out fabric.

I started with the hand and footprint fabric you can see in the quilt above. I complemented it with the green, brown, blue, and yellow that you can partially see, too, and made a rag quilt.

This is the third rag quilt I've made. I love them because they are super easy and turn out really cute. Basically, you layer fabric and sew it together, then cut the seam allowances (which stick out on one side) and you have a cute, washable quilt that only gets better with wear and tear. I've used this tutorial every time. I'm so glad I chose to make a quilt rather than get one that came in a bed set because it's more personal. I know it's something Lucas will have forever. At least it better be!

With the leftover fabric added to a plaid pattern in the same color scheme, I made a pleated valance for the window. 

I was quite pleased with this little project because I didn't use a pattern. I just kind of played around until I got what I wanted. It turned out to be super easy. I just sewed together the squares of the plaid interspersed with the green, blue, and yellow that I wanted inside the pleats, and then pinned it to the brown to make the pleats. 

Make any sense? :)

This was the extent of sewing that was done before Lucas's arrival. But it was not the extent of homemade items that made it into the room. 

Mark's grandfather had a tradition of making something for each grandchild and has continued that tradition with his great-grandchildren. For this past Christmas, he, Mark's dad, and Mark's uncle made us a toy box with Lucas's name on it. 

Then, my parents and Mark's parents went together and commissioned another of Mark's uncles (who makes AMAZING furniture as a hobby!) to make a dresser/change table. 

He even made an attachment on the top to hold the change pad. It's removable, so once we don't need it anymore, it comes off and Lucas will have a dresser for his room. We got two sets of knobs. He stained  one to match the dresser, and the other is waiting to be painted the wall color. It's one of the yet-to-be-done projects. 

Mark and I purchased a bed from Babies-R-Us that will convert to a toddler bed and eventually to a double bed. I was very adamant about choosing a bed that would grow with him.

Mark was proud and pleased that it went together in about half an hour. 

Note how the woodcrafters made the toy chest and dresser to mimic the curve of the back of the bed. How awesome! You also can't tell from these pics, but there are decorative groves on the bed, and they added those to the toy chest and dresser, as well. 

My parents gave me the rocking chair that my mother rocked my sister and I in when we were infants. They had Mark's uncle stain it to match the dresser and toy chest.

We also chose to put in a bookcase that we've had for awhile - it's one my father made soon after he and my mother were married. 

I love that Lucas's room is a combination of new and old things that all hold special meaning. 

So, all of these things combined make a pretty awesome nursery!

Oh, yeah, I painted the owl prints above the change table. They have his first and middle name on them.

I've actually made a cover for the bright red pillow on the rocking chair, but it's in his room, and he's asleep, so no pics of that tonight.

Projects yet-to-be-done, including the knobs for the dresser, include a tablecloth for the spindly table in the corner and a bed skirt. And we'll see what else strikes my fancy during nap time.

That tells you about the form of the room. Perhaps someday I'll blog about the ways we use it!

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Lactation Consultants

This post is in response to some comments I received on Facebook regarding my post on nursing.

I am afraid in my attempt to be brief and not whiny, I broke a cardinal rule by using a sweeping generality. I do not believe all lactation consultants to be awful people. Really, I don't think any of them are bad. I just had a particularly bad experience and have had a really hard time overcoming the problems generated. I did, actually, go to one on the recommendation of a friend who finally helped tremendously. If it weren't for her, I would probably not still be nursing. No one has said I offended them, but I hope I did not. In an effort to be more thorough in my explanation, here's the specifics of my experience with lactation consultants.

I went in to nursing very positive and encouraged by the LCs I had met. I read books, took classes, and thought I was as prepared as possible. They told me nursing was natural; anyone could do it. They said everything that led me to believe it would be easy.

Somewhere just after giving birth, a nurse or LC gave me a nipple shield. I still don't know why. (I had a c-section and was VERY groggy afterwards.) These are usually given to women who have inverted nipples or who's babies have problems latching. As far a I know, I didn't have either issue, but was given one none the less. They then told me that as long as I was using the shield, I needed I pump for 20 minutes following each feeding session.

Newborn babies eat a lot and often. Pumping after every feeding was time intensive, because by the time Lucas ate and I pumped, it was time for him to eat again. So I was anxious to stop using the shield as soon as possible. But by the time I got my head together enough to wean him from that, he was attached to it. I experienced many nights with both of us in tears because he would not latch on without it. I really felt like I was started off at a disadvantage, and no one could even tell me why I had even been given it in the first place. It took a good 3 weeks to be completely rid of the thing, which, in my hormonal, sleep-deprived state, was forever.

Issue two was my entire experience with LC #3.

I saw two LCs the day Lucas was born. They told me to feed him when he was hungry. They gave me no other instructions. They were nice, happy, encouraging, but said nothing specific other than feed him when he's hungry. So that's what I did.

My second day in the hospital, I saw LC #3. Probably the main issue was that our personalities did not mesh, which is strange because I'm generally able to get along with everyone. She came into the room just as I was getting ready to feed him. I had decided to try a different position, just because. I had been feeding him in the crossover position, where he lays straight in front of me, like you'd hold a baby. I was going to try the football hold, where you hold him kind of under your arm. Well, she came in and said, "I see you're using the football hold," and I said, "well, this is the first time I've tried it, usually I've been using the crossover hold," and she said, "but you're doing the football hold now," like, if I'm doing the football hold, that must be the only way I've ever done it and what an idiot I am for thinking I'd done it differently. She then proceeded to tell me how I was doing everything completely wrong.

One of the (many) things I was doing wrong in her opinion was only feeding him when he was hungry (which was every hour or so). She said I wasn't nursing him enough. When I told her that the previous LC had said nurse him when he's hungry, she said that was fine for the first 24 hours, but after that I needed to wake him up and make him nurse for half an hour every 2-3 hours. She made it seem like I was an idiot for not knowing that, and what a bad mother I was for not doing it.

So, feeling like a failure, I regrouped and refocused on being more diligent. Mark and I worked our butts off that day and night to be sure he was nursing as often as she said. Mark would rub his back and tweak his ears and mess with his hands and feet while I nursed him to keep him awake. We thought we were doing really well. He still nursed every hour to hour and a half. It was really hard to keep him awake, so he didn't nurse for 30 minutes at one time, but did at least 30 minutes within a 2-3 hour period. We thought we were doing well.

The next day, LC lady came back, and without even asking how we thought things were going, said he wasn't nursing enough and we would need to supplement with formula.

Now, here's this woman who's colleagues have all but outright said formula is bad, bringing formula in and showing me how to feed it to my baby. I was still so out of it and confused and overwhelmed that I didn't have the mind to ask questions or even be upset at her brashness and the fact that she didn't at all take into consideration how I thought things were going. The formula in no way hurt Lucas, of course. It was just very disenfranchising to be treated like an idiot.

Looking back, probably the biggest issue was that I had to keep dealing with issues with LCs, and was never able to deal with developing good techniques. The best way I can describe it is to think of it as a number line. If I started at a zero, LCs were supposed to guide me to a 10 to be successful. But the ones I dealt with in the hospital put me in the negative: the nipple shield and bad communication just pushed me back and back. So by the time I got to a good LC, she helped tremendously, but I was so far into the negatives, she did amazing just getting me back to zero. This was the LC I saw on recommendation of a friend. She was associated with a completely different hospital, and was so kind, encouraging, and helpful that I left her office thinking if I ever have another baby I might go to that hospital just so I can have her as a LC. I saw her in the height of dealing with the shield, so that's what we focused on in that session. She helped me understand that the shield wasn't a bad thing, and if we had to use it the entire time we nursed, it would be okay. She helped me see that he was getting enough to eat. The biggest thing: she told me that nursing hurts. Every other LC had told me that it wouldn't/shouldn't hurt and if it did I was doing something wrong. She singlehandedly got me back to zero, and enabled me to move forward.

I probably could have returned to her, and probably should have, but I was really struggling with asking for help. I had been told it was natural, every woman could do it, and that implied that it should be easy. What should have been emphasized is that it's hard and it's okay to ask for help. I spent all of my time online trying to find ways to improve things, but was hesitant to actually see someone. We were doing okay at this point; no longer using the shield, but it was still extremely painful. Instead of seeking more help, I decided to wait for my 6 week check up with my doctor and ask her for help.

The last bad experience was with the nurse at my doctor's office. My doctor referred me to her nurse, who was supposedly a LC. She had me nurse on an exam table with no arm or back support, which was really painful because I was holding him up all on my own, and when he slipped his latch got shallower. After nursing like that for 15 or 20 minutes, all she could say was, "it looks like his latch is a little shallow." When I asked her for some ways to improve his latch and get it deeper, she literally told me, "you just have to shove it in there." Helpful.

I was so beyond frustrated at this point, that's when I stopped looking for improvement. I had spent so much time reading online, and I just kind of shut it all out. It was at this point that I stopped nursing and went to exclusive pumping. That, I was able to make work.

I pumped exclusively for probably 5-6 weeks. It was cumbersome. I had to deal with pumping and bottles and all of the supplies that went with it. I had lots of support from my husband and other family members who would wash dishes, a task that literally never ended. It felt like Christmas when we would have all of the bottles clean at one time. I'm sure they all thought I was crazy to keep breastfeeding through it all. But at 3 months, I decided to try to return to nursing full time. This time around was so much better. For the first time since he was born, I actually think I'll make it a year.

So, that's my LC story. What matters most is that I've made it, with great support from family and friends. I had that instinct - I knew that we could make it work, despite all the odds. I am appreciative of the help I received, even through my frustrated refusal to seek it out. There are good LCs out there. I hope if you're beginning this journey, you will be blessed with a good one. Just don't be afraid to ask for help. Nursing is the hardest thing I've ever done, but as a result, it's the most rewarding. It certainly isn't the right choice for everyone, but it was for me, and I'm glad I've made it this far!

Friday, July 13, 2012

10 Things I've Learned about Nursing

Update: I've posted a follow up blog to this one that details more my experience with lactation consultants. They are good people. I just had bad experiences. You can find that post here if you so desire!

I've started to write my nursing story on several different occasions, got about half way done, and decided it was way too long with way too much whining. I want this post to be somewhat beneficial to others. Of course, when I think that, I really should just reference #3.

So instead of telling it as a narrative story, I decided to make it a list of 10 things I've learned about nursing. The list idea was inspired by Shimelle, a great London scrapbooker whom I follow (and have even taken some of her classes - Learn Something New Everyday, anyone?) And instead of me focusing on the crappy parts about nursing, hopefully this will help me keep things positive, thinking what I have gained and how I have improved. Well, here's hoping, at least.

So, without further ado, 10 things I've learned about nursing:

1. Lactation Consultants Lie - Okay, we're off to a great positive start, aren't we? I could put this in positive terms, but this is the idea that has been rolling around in my head for almost 4 months. It was actually the title of my narrative nursing story. And I guess it's really not true. They do not lie intentionally to hurt you. They just want you to breastfeed so badly, they'll tell you all the good without the bad. My intention, however, is to be truthful. I read lots before Lucas was born, trying to educate myself so I would be prepared and successful. And no one said the truth: breastfeeding hurts. A lot. It is not nor will it ever be what I would consider comfortable. I mean, there is a person sucking on your boob. Hard. As in, if I don't suck, I'm going to die. Literally. Almost four months in and I would say it has been down graded from painful to uncomfortable. And every time I mentioned the pain to one of the 5 lactation consultants, 4 nurses, 2 nurse practitioners, and my OB/GYN (and the partridge in the pear tree), they always gave me the next milestone as the time it would get better: "By two weeks, it's so much better!" "Give it a month, then things improve." "You really have to do it for six weeks until you see some improvement." "Well, after two months, it should be better." Well, after two months, I quit the sucking on the breast thing, but we'll get there.

2. Lactation Consultants Lie - No, I'm not repeating myself. I feel so betrayed by the lactation consultants I saw (except for one who really did help) that I feel their betrayal deserves two spots on my top 10 list. This time, though, they lie intentionally. Or, I guess, they manipulate intentionally. Everyone agrees that breastfeeding is best, right? Even I agree, or I sure as heck wouldn't be doing it. But lactation consultants will pressure you so much into breastfeeding that you just know you are a horrible mother if you even think of giving your child formula. They tell you everything that leads you to that point without actually saying it. I know it would not be the end of the world to give Lucas formula. I've even given Lucas formula (once under the mandate from a lactation consultant - go figure.) But when you're in the midst of hormonal imbalance, sleeplessness, and the worst pain you've ever experienced (seriously, breastfeeding was worse than childbirth), no reason can override the shell of guilt that has been ingrained into you since your first childbirth class. And I think that's their plan. It's mean, it's manipulative, and it's not fair, But it works.

3. Trust Your Instincts - I decided to go positive on this one. Because what it could really say is "No one has any idea what they're doing, either." (Even lactation consultants. Except that one.) This is probably the biggest lesson I've learned, and it's one I have to re-learn every day. I am the only one who can instinctively know what my baby needs. And I have to trust those instincts. No book, no consultant, no mother, no husband, even (though they definitely come the closest, and I rely on his instincts a lot, too!), can tell you what's going on. Trust me, I've tried. I've sought advice from so many different avenues, I finally had to stop seeking advice and just wing it. And, funny thing, I kind of do have those mothering instincts that tell you what to do. I just have to trust them.

4. Breastfeeding is Hard to Do, but Harder to Stop - I've tried to stop on several occasions, but somehow we are soldiering on. I've carried a can of formula around with me for four months, now. But every time I've said "that's it!" he gets hungry, and I pull out my boob. Really, what I think kept me going was that after two months of excruciating pain, I finally switched to pumping almost exclusively. I would nurse once a day, but eventually there were days I didn't nurse at all. So it was really easy to give him a bottle of breastmilk, which helped me hope that some day I would return to nursing.

5. It Doesn't Have to Be All or Nothing - This is something I've learned to be true in many areas of raising a child. It doesn't have to be perfect. Every good thing you can do is a good thing, even if it's not exclusive. Every cloth diaper you use is one less disposable in the landfill. Every load of clothes you do in one day is one less that sits too long and has to be run again. Every time he nurses at the breast is one feeding of the best stuff. I did give him formula twice, and he is no worse for the wear. And I even feed him breastmilk from a bottle for about a month, while I pumped almost exclusively. Even though he wasn't getting it straight from me, and was probably eating too much at a feeding (because breastfeed babies stop on their own, while bottle fed babies tend to finish the whole bottle), he was getting my milk one way or another, and that was enough.

6. It Is Oh So Satisfying When They Gain Weight - My mother has joked that my milk is "4%" - full fat. It is very satisfying to watch your baby gain weight and grow, knowing the only thing nourishing them is you. It's also really satisfying to watch a bottle fill with pumped milk. It's like magic - making something out of nothing.

7. Nursing Clothes Are SO Comfortable - seriously, I love my sleep bras, and my nursing nightgowns. I would live in them if I could. But, alas, I have to put on real clothes at some point.

8. A Supportive Chair Makes All the Difference - When Lucas was born, we had some really bad couches that were so deflated you could feel the frame through the seat cushion. They were awful. I didn't really know how awful they were until I tried to nurse sitting on one. I had to sit on a pillow, put two pillows behind me, one under my arm, and one on my lap with the bobby on top of it. Then the baby. Only then could I sit comfortably for the 45 minutes it took him to nurse at first. During his second month we bought a new couch/love seat set that has recliners on each end. I thought I had died and gone to heaven. Now I can nurse with one pillow behind me and the boppy or a large pillow on my lap. It makes life so much easier.

9. Nursing Is As Easy As I Imagined It Would Be - I have to admit, I didn't plan to nurse only because breast milk is better. That was certainly a contributing factor, but I also wanted to ease of nursing. No bottles to wash. No worries about how much to feed him and if he was getting enough. Not having to take formula and bottles with us every time we left the house and being sure we would have enough for however long we wanted to be gone. It's taken 3 months, but I think I'm there. At first, I was given a nipple shield (still don't know why - they're for women with inverted nipples. Not me.) So I had to take that everywhere. I finally weaned him off of the shield, only to need heating pads, yeast infection cream, and wipes to wipe off the cream before feeding him to get through a feeding. Then I turned to pumping full time, and that involved more stuff than I could have ever imagined: the pump and all of its accessories, bottles to pump into, bottles to feed from, heating pads, hands-free bra, nursing cover (because pumping in public is less accepted than nursing in public), cooler and ice pack to keep milk cool. At 3 months, I decided to try to move back to nursing full time, and it has been so much better this time around. The pain is a lot less (reduced to uncomfortable, remember?) and it is really nice to be able to leave the house without having to think about how long we'll be gone and if we have enough of everything to make it as long as we want to stay out. It is easy, in the sense that you don't need three bags of stuff to do it. You just need you and the baby.

10. igbok - Have you seen these bumper stickers? I love them. I had to look it up to see what it meant, because I had no idea, but it's so simple. It means "It's Gonna Be OK." And that's the tenth, and probably most important thing I've learned. No matter what, it's gonna be okay. I was and am committed to breastfeeding. There were times I was ready to give it up, and if I had, it would have been okay. Both my husband and I were raised on formula, and we turned out okay. But something inside me told me we could make this work (instinct, #3). I stuck it out, and finally, yes, it's okay, too. This is another lesson with broader application. No matter what choices I make as a parent, as long as I am seeking what's best for my child, it will be okay.

So, there you have it. Ten things I've learned about breastfeeding, and about parenting in general. We've made it three and a half months, and I know we have MUCH more to learn. But as long as I can keep #10 in mind, we'll make it.

And to conclude, a cute picture of the kid from the 4th of July. It doesn't get much better than this, does it?

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Puppy Love

One of the questions we get most often from family and friends is, "How is Briscoe getting along with Lucas?"

Briscoe is our 7 year old Sheltie. We've had him since he was 6 weeks old, 10 months after we got married. He was my birthday present from Mark, and I've often referred to him as my first child.

Briscoe is an awesome dog. He was wonderful with our niece when she was little, so we were hopeful that he would take well to Lucas. We sent a blanket that smelled like Lucas home from the hospital, like every book and website tells you to do. Then he went to stay with Mark's parents while we were in the hospital. When he came back to our house, he went immediately to Lucas and licked his feet. A proper welcome to the family!

Briscoe loves Lucas! He often sits at my feet while I nurse him and settles in the floor by his change table when he gets his diaper changed. Today he laid down next to the swing while Lucas was swinging.

For the past week or so, when Lucas has woken up at night and I've been nursing him, Briscoe has started whining at the bed. We first thought that he thought since we were up it meant breakfast, so we kept telling him that it wasn't time for breakfast. Then it dawned on us that he didn't think it was morning, he was whining because Lucas was crying and he wanted to check on him! So one early morning, we pulled Briscoe onto the bed, too. After Lucas finished eating, Briscoe went for some cuddles - he laid his head down on Lucas's legs. It was adorable!

So, when asked, we can say with confidence that Briscoe loves his little brother. We know these two will be friends forever.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Why I Thought Having a Baby Would Make Me Blog More, I'll Never Know

June has been busy for us. The ironic thing is that we have had nothing to do. I love summer because, as teachers, we have no schedule. Even better this year, because I was on maternity leave through the end of the school year, both hubby and I have had nothing to do (scheduled activities, that is) since mid-May! It's been such a blessing for both of us to be home with Lucas.

The thing is, we haven't really been home. We've been traveling to the big city often and staying lots - we realized last week that as the month ended, we'd spent more nights away than home. It's just that there's more to do in the city - shop, eat, play (I sound like a tourism commercial!) So we pack up our world and traverse the hour or so to visit family and eat decent Mexican food. The down side is that I'm never near my computer to write a blog. I tried on my phone once and it was just too difficult. It also didn't keep my paragraph distinctions, and I can't abide by that.

So here goes a quick recap of June:

Father's Day was epic, if I do say so myself. Mark did so well for me for Mother's Day, I had to attempt to keep up. Here's the thing with us and gifts: Mark is excellent at picking out gifts for people. He just has this knack... I, on the other hand, suck. No, really, I do. I've embraced this fact, and just let Mark do all the shopping when it comes time for Christmas. But this fact means that Mark generally loses out on the whole surprise element when it's his turn to receive a gift. Usually he tells me what he wants, and for the most part he is happy because he gets what he wants and doesn't have to act surprised and happy with the potted hydrangea I got for his office. (Seriously. I did that. See? I told you.)

Happy Daddy's Day!
But his first Father's Day was different. I thought it would be a fun tradition for Lucas to pick out a Lego kit for he and Mark to put together together. Seeing as Lucas is just now developing the ability to hold something, this first Father's day Lego kit would be just for Mark. I got a little Star Wars kit, Luke's Landspeeder, because it had cool characters and wasn't too expensive. (At the time, Mark and I had decided we were going small for Mother's/Father's Day...) Once Mother's Day came around and I was blown away by his gift, I knew I needed to up the ante, or at least call! So I went back to the Lego store and got Luke's X-Wing Fighter... a kit that had been on Mark's wishlist since before he and I met. And then I went online to and ordered him Darth Vader's Lightsaber. I figured, as the father of Luke, it was the most appropriate gift.

I totally win the prize for best wife ever. Not only because I got Star Wars related gifts, but because he never saw it coming.

June also brought another exciting milestone: little man is 3 months old! Which means I have successfully fed my child only breast milk for three months now. This is the most successful I have ever felt in my life. Now, for at least 6 weeks of that three months, I was pumping exclusively, but hey, he got the milk one way or another! One of these days I'm going to post my story of breastfeeding... the whole story, not just the one with the Mexican landscapers picnicking next to my car.

Three months is an exciting milestone because it meant it was time for his first "professional" pictures. That was an experience. My happy child who loves everyone cried like he was being tortured. I hear this is common. What's uncommon is spending 6 hours at the mall to take, choose, and order said pictures. Ugh. Luckily, Lucas handled the experience much better than Mark or I and, with the exception of the 20-30 minutes or so he was the center of attention, nursed and slept quite peacefully. I went into this thing thinking I wanted the traditional 3 months, 6 months, 9 months, and 12 months pictures framed on the wall. Now my perspective is that I can cover the couch with a white bed sheet as easily as the next guy or gal. At least he doesn't scream at me when I point a camera at him!

It's July. We're trying to stay cool. I'm moving back into nursing full time, instead of pumping and feeding him expressed milk. We are enjoying the freedom of summer and occasionally looking toward the upcoming fall. I will be teaching developmental English classes at the college where Mark teaches. I'll get to work two days a week and stay home the other three. I am so very excited about this - a little nervous, but excited.

Ah... the baby calls. I guess that's all for now!