Monday, March 31, 2014

My Nursing Journey Summary

I've been working on this post for a while now. How do I adequately sum up something that means so much to me? Plus I kept getting all misty eyed looking at old pictures of my sweet, full, and happy babies. 

Just saying that word "summary" makes me feel a little sad. I know I've said in the beginning when I planned on nursing Claire I tried to be as passive about it as possible in case it didn't work out. In reality deep down I was actually really looking forward to it once she was born. Every picture in my head I was nursing my baby. Even picturing it made my heart swell with love for my child I had yet to meet. I was terrified I wasn't going to be successful. Every well check with Claire up until about 6 months (when we introduced solids) I was convinced they were going to tell me I would need to supplement. 

Claire 7 days old and milk drunk

Being a first time Mom I kept questioning if I was doing it "right". She was a slow gainer (a pukey reflux baby though), slept through the night (at least 6 hour stretches) and had the right amount of diaper "output". I still kept doubting myself. 

Claire! Look at those rolls!

Society or at least the PR for formula companies make us feel like every baby has to have formula. You hear the stories of babies not eating well in the hospital only to learn they were given a bottle without consent. It's no wonder they aren't anxious to nurse. Their tiny bellies are full! Formula companies have it made. They can advertise all day long about all the great stuff they put in their formula. You get handed samples at doctor appointments, samples show up in your mailbox, they seem to be everywhere. How do you advertise breastfeeding? Who makes money off of something your body produces for FREE?! Sure there is an occasional ad or billboard for it and the helpful "accessories" you can use, but in everyday life you rarely see it. 

Full, fed, and happy

Look at those cheekies!

My point isn't that formula is bad because it certainly isn't. Many wonderful moms choose to formula feed healthy kids and that's ok. My point is the seemingly lack of support a woman who wants to breastfeed often gets. I don't always think people mean to be unsupportive they are just uneducated. What people don't understand often scares them. In my own experience with Luke and his reflux well meaning people everywhere including those who support breastfeeding offered "advice". "Are you sure your milk just doesn't agree with his tummy"? "Maybe try some forumula and see how he is". "Formula helped mine sleep longer". "Are you sure all his screaming isn't because he is just not getting enough from you"? The list goes on and on.

Luke Full and happy just a few hours old

 Had this been my experience with Claire (she had reflux too, but not as severe) I might have caved and felt like I was failing her. Not because I was uneducated about breastfeeding and breastfeeding a reflux baby because I wasn't, but because I had not found my voice yet. 

Luke milk drunk

What I've discovered nursing 2 kids is often times a breastfeeding mother chooses not to chime in when others are discussing what their babies are eating or how long they are sleeping. Or when others talk about breastfeeding just wasn't for them. The Mommy wars have made breastfeeding Moms feel like they shouldn't say anything because they don't want to be misinterpreted as putting down someone who choose to formula feed. As a result Moms like myself often feel alone. I have had many days where I felt no one else near me could possibly understand how much this means to me and if I try and express it I worry that they will think I'm trying to be "better" than them which couldn't be farther from the truth. I have felt alone when I've gone to the car to feed my baby (because I refuse to nurse in a bathroom unless there is a seperate lounge) while everyone else is inside chatting and enjoying a meal. I've missed many conversations and laughs while I've shut the bedroom door while company was over to go feed my baby. In the early days with Claire I was terrified to nurse anywhere but at home. Even nursing in public with a cover deterred me from going places in the beginning. However the longer I nursed the braver I became. 

By the time Luke was a few months old if he was hungry I was going to feed him without feeling left out. I kept my cover in my diaper bag and used it most of the time, but he got so big and crazy it didn't always stay put. I nursed while at birthday parties, at the restaurant table, at the zoo, the mall, the park, if he was hungry I fed him without missing half the conversation.

I've also discovered having a supportive spouse is crucial. Eric could have cared less if I breastfed or formula fed, but he knew how important breastfeeding was to me so he whole heartedly supported my decision. When Claire was born and I was stressing over her weight gain he told me not to worry, that if I needed a lactation consultant we would hire one and reminded me I was the mommy and even if the doctor recommended I supplement (which she didn't) that didn't mean I had to. The one thing he wasn't fond of was nursing in public especially in the beginning. As time went on he quit fussing about nursing in public as long as I covered. To this day we still argue about the fact that he doesn't eat with something over his face so a baby shouldn't have to either. He does say other Moms nursing sans cover doesn't bother him just his own wife. Go figure.

It makes me sad to knowing I'll never nurse a baby again. I feel blessed that I enjoyed it so much and liberated in a way knowing I don't have to count my hours when I'm away from the baby. I knew Luke's time was coming to an end for a while. Getting him to nurse was a challenge for several months. Knowing he needed milk until at least 12 months I fought with him to pay attention long enough to get in a quick nursing sessions. Like Claire it wasn't the before bed time session he held on to. He dropped that about 11 months old. It was his morning "coffee" as we called it that he was reluctant to give up. I loved it. We snuggled and slowly woke up together although the older he got the later he slept and we were often interrupted by the crazy 3 year old going "I'm hungry, get up Mommy, Uke full now"! We would both laugh at her and his morning nursing sessions got shorter and shorter as each morning she woke up with greater insistence we feed her which of course distracted him. I had a feeling when our last nursing might be. One Saturday morning i knew I was going to have to leave the house to run an errand before the kids would be up. That would be our test to see if he missed it or not. However, the night before he randomly woke up which he had not done in a good 2 months and out of habit and knowing a sure fire way to get him back to sleep I offered him to nurse. He accepted and instead of going back to sleep when he was done he looked up  and gave me one of his adorable million dollar smiles. He layed there grinning and I smiled back then he sat up and gave me the biggest sloppiest kiss on my mouth. I couldn't help but giggle and kiss him back. I knew then that no matter how heartbreaking it was to me to close our nursing relationship that my sweet boy was telling me thank you and that he would always need his Mommy's snuggles. I cried as I laid him back in his crib and knew then that that would be my last time nursing him and I couldn't have asked for a more perfect way to nurse my last baby for the last time. 

I truly love helping others in their nursing journeys. No matter how long or short it is. I would absolutely love to become a certified lactation consultant, but the clinical hours required are just not feasible for me to do if I want to be a stay at home mom. So I'm researching other ways to help others such as becoming a breastfeeding counselor. I don't want to do it for money, but because I'm passionate about helping others achieve what meant so much to me. 

Monday, March 24, 2014

More than "just" a dog

IThis past week has been a very rough week for our 4 legged fur baby. What we wrongly assumed would be a some what simple diabetes diagnoses for Cooper turned into so much more. I won't bore you with all the medical details of what happend, but will give a brief synopsis. Monday when I took Cooper to the vet bloodworks showed and ultrasound confirmed liver/gallbladder disease and failure. After lots of fluids and close monitoring (due to his congentital heart murmur) he got the clear to come home on a coctail of medicine with instructions to come back for a recheck in 3 weeks to determine if this was an actue infection or if he is in fact in liver failure. All was well Thursday evening and all day Friday. Friday evening he really seemed to have perked up and even got down on the floor and tried to play with Eric and the kids. That night we noticed his breathing was a little more shallow than normal, but nothing too concerning. Saturday morning the kids actually slept in a bit so we took advantage of the extra of the extra sleep too. After Claire got up I got in the shower and Eric went to fix Claire some breakfast and let Cooper out to potty like normal. All of a sudden Claire comes running into the bathroom saying "Cooper not feel good, Daddy need you now"! I got dressed and went to see what was the matter. His breathing was weird and he kept hacking like he was trying to catch his breath. You will need volume, but this video sort of describes how strange it was.

 I quickly called his vet who said they were booked for the day, but they would fit him in I may just have to wait. I started to argue with them that he needed to be seen NOW, but decided it wasn't worth the arument and his breathing should speak for itself. I was right and they immediately saw him. I will say the vet office we have been seeing has been fantastic about communicating all options to us. Never pressuring us and always running every cost by us first. When we first moved to the Houston area Cooper was just a puppy and I had to take him to a vet because he kept vomitting. Cooper's main vet is an awesome office back home who did (and still does) all his vaccinations, checkups, teeth cleaning, and anything that isnt urgent. The small town we come from everyone has full confidence in their vet and although animal care isn't cheap it is also still affordable and there aren't alot of "options". They treat the pet with the available equipment and medications they have and send you on your way I never knew any other way. Anyway back to when Cooper was a puppy and got sick I called the first vets office I had seen nearby. Long story short they are a chain vet (not that all chains are bad), but for a normally healthy puppy whose only symptom was vomitting the estimate to "cure" him was over $600! We didn't have that kind of money then. They didn't give me any other choice and basically made me feel like I was a terrible pet owner if I didn't do all the recommended testing. I left feeling helpless. That first experience has made us very leery of all vets in this area. Thankfully through some friends and the wonderful experience we have had at the vets office he has been going to through all this my faith is restored. I mean, you have to (or most have to) truly love animals to become a veterinarian. The hours are long, the pay isn't what you would expect, and the days are often filled with difficult patients, owners, and decisions. As the week progressed I began to feel sorry for the fantastic doctor Cooper was assigned to. She truly wanted him to get better and never recommended any testing that wasnt necessary or treatment that wouldn't help him, but before she could do anything she had to call one of us for cost approval. I understand why, but I still felt bad for her when I knew her heart was in the right place. I know I said I would keep the medical stuff short Saturday morning Cooper was in heart failure. The very thing that helped his liver (all the fluids) is quite likely what sent him into heart failure. We knew this was something we would have to face with his heart murmur, but never expected to when his 7th birthday is just right around the corner. The doctor explained our options of trying all we could or that we do nothing and it was his time to go. Obviously you know our decision was to try everything we could. I am glad we did as the echocardiogram showed his heart isn't all that bad and that with his breathing they expected it to be much worse. He is still a "ticking time bomb" as one doctor said, but hopefully with the right treatment and monitoring we can help him lead a longer life.

If you would have asked me a month ago if I would ever consider spending the amount of money we did the past week on a dog I probably would have told you "no way, it's just a dog". Well as it turns out our Cooper isn't just a dog to me. At the very thought of losing him I was a complete mess. Everyone knows going into owning a pet that humans live longer than animals and the loss of that pet is a sad thing they will one day have to deal with. I just couldn't say that at not even 7 years old it was ok to say goodbye. You see Cooper has been with us the majority of our marriage. He was our 1st anniversary gift to each other. He kept me company while Eric had to start his postion in Houston before I had found a job and could move yet. I was the one taking him out to pee all hours of the night, cleaning up the endless mess a puppy makes, and snuggling with him at night to get him to sleep. When we moved he was our best friend in a new city in which we knew no one. He eagerly greeted us each day that we came home hoping and praying we would adjust to the move soon. He was our first "baby". He snuggled next to me month after month that we failed to conceive a child. He never complained about the many tears I cried on his fur wondering if we would ever have a baby. He was my baby. He was the one who told Eric (by wearing a big brother tshirt) that I was pregnant with Claire. Then when we brought Claire home he didn't get mad. Instead he went into a deep depression for the first month. Almost a catatonic state. We laugh about it now, but back then we were truly worried about him. When Claire started eating at the table and crawling on the floor Cooper quickly fell in love with her. They became and still are best buddies. He was everywhere she was at and she the more she giggled at him the more he would show off. When Luke was born we worried about him becoming depressed again. Instead this time he didnt pay the new baby a whole lot of attention besides a quick sniff or kiss on the forehead when the baby was in reach. Within a few months it was obvious he cared about Luke too an Luke was almost a welcome relief from the crazy active toddler that was constantly chasing him around. He would lay on Luke when he was having floor time almost like he wanted to blend in with the toys.
Playing with baby sister

Loving on baby brother or hiding from sister
Sister made him the "baby"

I will be the first to admit that when the kids were born that he wasn't quite the "baby" anymore and more of "just the dog". His barking was suddenly more obnoxious. Me yelling at him not the wake the baby. His accidents were all the more frustrating, just another mess in the long line of messes I needed to clean up in the day. We bought a new couch and suddenly he wasn't allowed on it. Not to scratch the leather. He was assigned the loveseat in which we never sat on. Poor guy was used to snuggling next to us everynight. When I was pregnant with Luke and quite irritable from being hugely pregnant, not getting much sleep, and chasing around a 2 year old all day I made the decision it was time for him to sleep in his kennel at night and he got kicked out of our bed. Like all dogs do he went through a few days of adjusting to new rules, but quickly adapted and never complains. So, I get it, I do when others look at us in disbelief for giving up a room remodel to save "just the dog". I have given that look too and quietly shook my head saying I will never be that way. Truth is there is no way to describe the love you have for your 4 legged family members until their life hangs in the balance. How you will react or feel isn't something you can plan for. You cannot understand someone's grief over their pet until you yourself have experienced it.  Our mini Cooper is now resting on a blanket on that new couch snuggled next to me right where he should be.

Being taken care of by brother and sissy

Taking care of sissy while she is sick

When Cooper was a young baby (by the looks of it so were we)!