Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Major Accomplishments

As you probably already know, Liam turned one over the weekend. This is a day that I have feared and hoped for, off and on for the past few months. I have feared my son getting bigger and bigger so quickly, but I have hoped for it, because the day would signal the accomplishment of my biggest and most important parenting (and possibly life) goal so far- nursing/pumping for the first year. I tend to be someone who makes goals and follows through sparatically, but when Liam was born, I said that I would do everything in my power to make it nursing exclusively for the first year. When I said this, I was serious about the goal, but still had doubts about my ability to follow through.
Nursing was no problem for the first four months, as I was a stay at home mom over the summer and was always with Liam. The first major hurtle came when I went back to work in September. At that point I talked to a co-worker who is very "nature-focused" and who I thought "If anyone could do it, she could." When I asked her how long she was able to nurse, she said through the first year. Confidience up! But then I asked if she needed to supplement with formula and she said, "Oh ya. There was no way!" Confidience plummeting! I began to doubt my abilities again.
At that point, I said that if I just made it to 6 months I would be happy. October (6 months) came and went and the pumping/nursing was still going strong. Then I said, "Just through the holidays." They came and went and I was beginning to really think that I may have a chance. Then the tough stuff hit. In January, I went back to work after a two week x-mas break and started taking classes for my reading endorsement. The classes required me to work with two students (outside of class time) one on one. The only time this would work was after school and during my prep period (AKA pumping time). At first things were ok, but the further into the calendar year I got, the harder it was. My milk started to stall and not drop soon enough for me to get prepared for the huge group of screaming students to enter my room.
I was so scared that I wouldn't make it after all of this time. Although I knew it wasn't true, I thought that I had gone through all of this trouble for nothing. As spring break approached, I started just hoping to make it until then. With less and less milk, more and more stress, and even less time to pump, it seemed almost impossible. But spring break came and for a whole week Liam and I focused on nursing. The next three weeks were touch and go. Some days were very good and others were so draining that I thought it was over. But here it is, a few days into Liam's second year, and I am still nursing (no longer pumping at work- thank goodness!) and I am so proud of myself. I have NEVER felt so accomplished and I am glad that this is the goal that made it.

*Disclaimer- If you don't want to read about boobies, you should stop reading now!

A friend who is about to welcome her little guy soon, asked if I would post some tips. I don't know how much help they will be, but here they are:

1. Set a good schedule- try to spend as much time nursing exclusely before going to work. I know most people can't help this, but the longer you have, the more your body seems to respond and setting up a good schedule helped me.
2. Don't get frustrated- your milk supply will vary a bit everyday. Some days you will produce a lot and others you won't. Don't dwell on the not so great days, it will all even out if you stick with it.
3. Start pumping and freezing milk ASAP- the more milk in the freezer, the better. If for nothing else, a night out with the hubby.
4. Do whatever you need to do, to be comfortable (with pumping and nursing). Being comfortable and relaxed helps your milk drop quickly and will ensure that your little one won't get frustrated or impatient.
5. Get a good pump. I recommend Medela. When at the hospital, we were told to get a Medela pump. We ignored them thinking they were too expensive. But if you are really committed to this, you will need a good reliable pump and will most likely, eventually go get one anyway. So save yourself the time and money and just get one first.
*The next few tips will be about pumping at work
6. Be honest and straight forward with your boss- it's the law that your boss has to give you a time and place to pump. Use this to your advantage and try to create a plan early.
7. Make sure that your pumping area is comfortable and warm- being cold is not helpful when trying to produce milk and being in a stressful situation doesn't help either. I know this because I had to pump in my classroom (where two walls are windows, one of them to the hallway where students are constantly around).
8. Lock the door! Even with a massive amount of dicussion with my co-workers about what the screen in the corner of the room and lights off means, I still had a couple of almost interruptions (even when the door was locked).
9. Your favorite music and some water to drink can help to set the mood. A comfortable chair and a dark room is a nice way to prepare.
10. Set up a system for getting your pumping equipment to and from work. I took everything with me on Mondays, washed out the pieces after each pumping session, and left the pieces in my classroom until Friday. Then I would take it all home and put it through the dishwasher. To do this, it would be easiest to have two sets of everything (although not financially ideal) pump, cups, tubing, bottles, etc. Leaving one set at home and one at work would relieve a lot of prep and worry. But I wasn't able to do this and had to take the pump itself back and forth.

I hope that these tips are helpful to someone, if not, I tried!


Monday, April 18, 2011

Dairy of all Kinds

My son had his one year check up today where we were told that he is only in the 8% for weight. He has always been "little", but this is a big change from his last appointment. I have been worried lately about his eating habits. He has been refusing food and not wanting to eat anything except veggie crunchies or goldfish. We have been working on the switch to real food for a couple of weeks and at the beginning he was very receptive and loved eating what mommy and daddy had, but now he refuses everything. This alone would worry me, but we are also going through the process of figuring out whether or not he is allergic to dairy products. He has eczema (thanks to his mommy) that seems to get worse when he eats dairy and recently he is getting a red, itchy rash around his eyes too.
To make things even more interesting, I have stopped pumping at work and we are trying to switch to some other sort of milk (cow's, soy, or rice). Wow! What a wonderful situation! Allergies, food, breast pumps and milk(s). The doctor told us that we should hold off on dairy for a week or two to see if things get better and to use soy milk in the meantime. Then we will try cow's milk again to see if there is a reaction. After having to have a dairy-free diet for just a week, I can't imagine what it would be like for Liam if it were a permanent situation. I had no problems with cravings, it was just so hard to find dairy-free products. Almost everything has dairy-even things you would NEVER think would.
I can't help but be sad that I passed these wonderful genes on to him. I have eczema, asthma, alopecia, thyroid issues, allergies to almost anything natural (except food, thank goodness). I know that at least now, Liam has eczema and it is highly possible that he also has ashma and allergies. So far, no sign of anything else, but it took until I was 5 years old for me. I am trying so hard to think positively, but it is harder and harder the more that comes up. Knowing how hard dealing with all of these issues can be, makes it so difficult for me to be so powerless to help him. I guess that is a lesson for a new mommy- we can't fix everything that they go through.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Parties and Steps

Today was Liam's first birthday party. Because it's April, the weather is unpredictable, and we invited upwards of 60 people, we decided to have his party at the local YMCA. His party was wonderful and full of love and fun. He was so happy the whole time! I don't think that it was the gifts or the cake that he found so exciting, but the attention and support that he felt from everyone who was there. We were all so happy to be there and everyone truely wanted to celebrate him and the day that he became a part of our lives. I realized that this is the most important thing that we can hope for, for his future- people who care about him and are happy to be there for him in celebration and in sadness. I realized just how many of those people we have around us and how important they are to our health and happiness. This list is not limited to only the people who attended the party, but extend for miles.
Although, a first birthday party may seem like a big enough "step" in one's life for one day, Liam doesn't roll that way! He decided to starting walking too. He took his first steps about a month ago, but actually began to take more than one or two steps at a time and is looking sturdier and sturdier. I am so proud of him and his accomplishments, but I know that this is one that will have lasting consequences for mommy and daddy. Today was a busy, happy day, but it also brought a surge of calm and excitment for the future. I believe that I am starting to see things more clearly and that the things that should be focused on are coming to light more and more each day. It is so easy to get caught up in things that don't really matter, but today was what life is all about. Family, friends, celebration, and growth, what else could you ask for?

Saturday, April 16, 2011

On a Speeding Train

Today is my son's first birthday! One year ago today, I met the LOVE of my life. When that day began, I had no idea what I was getting myself into. I knew that I would love the little person who had been growing in my belly, and I knew that my life would never be the same. But the meaning behind these words is not even close to describing what happened the moment that I looked in to my little man's eyes. I heard the song "Beautiful Boy" by John Lennon the second I saw him and the words in that song describe so much of what I feel. My life is so different and I would not change one single thing about it! My life before Liam was wonderful and perfect for who I was then, but my life would no longer be complete without him. In fact, he IS my life now and I am so proud of that!
When I was pregnant I knew that things would change and that I would "miss out" on some of the things that I enjoyed, now I know that what has changed is me and what I now enjoy. Making my son laugh, watching him learn, seeing him sleep, and coming home to his excited panting and reaching is now all I want. This has been the case for a whole year now and I can't believe it. There are times when it feels like Liam has been here forever and I can't remember who I was before him, and then there are times when the day he was born seems as if it were yesterday. Today, I have experienced both feelings multiple times.
It is the most amazing and sad feeling to be at this point. Amazing because I love who he is becoming and what he has done to change me, and sad because I am not ready for him to grow up and it is happening right before my eyes. Being a parent is the hardest, scariest, and most rewarding thing that I have and will ever do and I am so proud of how naturally my husband and I have fallen into the jobs. I know that I will and have already made many mistakes, but we are learning fast and my son's happy, calm demeanor tells me we are doing something right. Everyone (even strangers) comment about how happy and relaxed he is and although I can't take full credit, I know that the way we are with him has something to do with that. As we put my son to bed tonight, I couldn't help but get teary-eyed and be a little sad that the first year of his life is already over, but I know that if he has improved our lives this much in one year, just imagine how happy we will be when he is grown. I love you more than anyone and anything my sweet boy!