The Dirty Truth About Breastfeeding

Breastfeeding – whether you’re a fan or not, one thing is for sure: everyone seems to be talking about it. For many mothers around the globe, this is a wonderful celebration of the emotional and physical bond shared with their child. Breastfeeding pride is everywhere you look these days. From Instagram protests to celebrity magazine spreads, this topic has caught some media attention, as well. Olivia Wilde’s photo shoot in a diner seems appropriate since that’s the purpose of breastfeeding: nourishment.

via Glamour

via Glamour

But here’s the dirty truth about breastfeeding: not all women are able to do it. I’m sure breastfeeding is an amazing experience between a mother and her baby. And I think I may have even had a small glimpse of it. But that’s all it was for me, a brief glimpse. I cradled my son, tears streaming down my face, asking the heavens for a miracle while he cried, hungry and unable to receive any life-sustaining milk from the very body that unceasingly nourished him for nine months.

But the milk never came.

Don’t get me wrong, I am in total support of breastfeeding and completely aware of all the benefits. I could even cite you ten statistics off the top of my head about how awesome breastfeeding is. I am full of this knowledge for two very important reasons: first from the overwhelming amount of pressure and opinions from doctors, nurses, lactation consultants, other moms, friends, family, strangers, etc., and then from the debilitating guilt that followed and had me desperately searching the internet for answers.

Bottom line, I cannot breastfeed. My heart breaks a little more every time I admit it out loud. But my shame diminishes just a little, too. You are not a whole woman; you’re not even a real mother.” Those thoughts still poke their way into my mind every so often and it’s difficult to ignore when tags like #FreeTheNipple started trending on Twitter and famous celebs started posting breastfeeding pictures on social media. All this pride, all this “I am woman, hear me roar” type empowerment can be both intoxicating and poisonous at the same time. I could scroll through beautiful photos of women breastfeeding their children for hours, envying them and hating myself at the same time.

The dried up desert aka my mammary glands

Dried up desert lake beds aka my mammary glands

If I’ve said it once, I’ll say it again: you are not in control of your body when you have a chronic illness. I know this, but I am stubborn. And bitter. And I think all of us with a chronic illness are better off for being so insanely optimistic even if we never get the results we want. I wanted so badly to breastfeed. I wanted it so much it made my insides hurt (or maybe that was just the c-section). Three intimidating lactation consultants, some very caring friends, a connective tissue disorder, multiple breakdowns, a gazillion hippy-dippy remedies, and one empathetic mother later, I came to the conclusion it just wasn’t in the cards.

Shut up, tarot card!

Shut up, tarot card

The moment I finally resigned myself to my milk-less fate, I felt like an udder failure. Get the pun?  Eh, this blog post needed a lame joke, but I digress. It took my very kind OB-GYN and my own mother to pull me out of my pit of despair. My doctor told me that many women are unable to breastfeed and that it’s common for women with Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome to have issues with breastfeeding. The connective tissue disorder can make it difficult, if not impossible, for the mammary glands (which are made up of connective tissue) to produce and maintain a milk supply. So that helped on the factual, medical side, but my hormonal, emotional side still needed consoling.* Thankfully my mother was there for that. Though her story is not mine to tell, I can say that I trust her completely when she said there was nothing more I could have done and it makes me no less of a “real” mother for it. So let me tell you, if you haven’t been told already, you are a real woman, a true mother. Being able or unable to breastfeed does not make you any more or any less of a mother. Shame on anyone who would try to tell you otherwise. While I still openly support breastfeeding, I wish there was someone like me on the cover of a magazine. I wish I could see a woman – flawed, chronically ill, unable to breastfeed, tired, and with loose skin where a tight stomach once was – in the spotlight, praised by the media and told how beautiful she is. Until that happens, you have me, telling you the dirty truth and reminding you that you are beautiful. 

 

*If you feel you are unable to cope or are having serious concerns after having your baby, you may have postpartum depression. Please don’t hesitate to reach out for help. Click this link for resources and support.

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10 Things No One Tells You About C-Sections

Ah, the c-section. Whether it’s the iconic film scene of an alien bursting out of some poor chap’s torso or a picture of medieval torture in a history book, the images that come to mind when discussing c-sections are not usually happy ones. Let’s be honest: you’re getting major surgery, taking a tiny human out of a bigger human, and are (most likely) going to be awake for it all. So if anyone tries to dismiss your right to be a little antsy, well I won’t say what to do for legal reasons, but you get the idea. This isn’t meant to scare you, of course. But I always thought that the unknown was the scariest thing. At least if someone had told me what was going to happen during the c-section, I’d know what to expect. So that’s what I’m going to do for you. Here are all the gross, scary, awkward things that will happen before, during, and immediately after your c-section!

 

10. Paperwork & Red Tape

Even if you thought you were super smart and preregistered with your hospital prior to giving birth, there will still be paperwork to fill out and red tape to deal with for a solid twenty minutes. We arrived nice and early to our scheduled c-section, yet when we checked in at the desk (after my impromptu puke session in the parking lot bushes), they didn’t have my name right and had me listed with a different OBGYN. But we perma-sickies are used to knowing more than the hospital staff, aren’t we?

You better listen when I'm talking to you

You better listen when I’m talking to you

9. You Will be All Sorts of Exposed

I knew my c-section wasn’t exactly going to be a fun getaway to Club Med (that’s still a thing, right?), but I didn’t expect to feel so much like a patient and not a person. That’s no reflection on the staff, it’s just the nature of the beast. After waiting for what seemed like an eternity in the lobby, my husband and I were taken back to our room where I was told to change. No undies or socks or jewelry, just a gown and a a gross hair net. Then a nurse came in and shaved my lady area and acted like it was a totally normal thing to do. This was my introduction to how matter of fact the staff would be about all the private and embarrassing aspects of the ordeal. In some ways it was reassuring, but at the end of the day it’s still very awkward when someone is silently shaving you.

Do I make eye contact? Is that rude?

Do I make eye contact? Or is that rude?

8. You Will be Alone… a lot

After the grooming session was over, I was told my husband would have to leave and no one would be allowed back in until the surgery was about to begin. Suddenly I was alone, just waiting for a nurse to come in, and full of time to daydream about all the things that could go wrong. Even after the pre-op stuff started, it’s still just you and a handful of people.  Technically they had more people on staff than usual as a precaution for my high-risk pregnancy risks, but without a loved one there you still feel very alone… and nervous.

becoolbecoolbecoolbecoolbecool

becoolbecoolbecoolbecoolbecool

7. Yak City, Sick, Yak Yak City

Okay, my not-so clever spin on a line from a rap song may not be funny. But you know what is funny? Telling the nurse like nine hundred times that you’re GOING to puke, have them nod but do nothing, and then letting a glorious waterfall of vomit wash over them. It didn’t feel great, but a small part of me thought “maybe next time you’ll listen to me when I say I’m about to upchuck.”

Deal with it

Deal with it

The actual point of this entry is to warn you that you will definitely puke at some point. It may be when they’re poking or prodding or it may be when your internal organs suddenly shift as they finagle a human out of you. Which brings me to my next point…

6. Lines and Wires and Garishness, Oh My!

Second time in a row I’ve tried to be punny, but whatever, it’s who I am! Aaanyways, no one really told me the frequency with which people would simultaneously be both in and making holes in my body. First there was the three-attempt IV in my arm (EDS makes for lousy veins), then there was the two-attempt spinal block (scoliosis doesn’t help much), and then there’s the fact that someone has their hands INSIDE of you. It’s like the dentist, “You won’t feel pain, just pressure.” Yeah, right. I didn’t feel the scalpel but it felt like someone was sitting on my chest AND pushing my stomach and lungs up into my throat.

gross-out-gif

Yup, pretty much

5. So… c-c-cold… might… die

Another one I wasn’t warned about, surprise! Not only will you be freezing due to lack of clothing, but they keep the operating room super sterile and apparently that is synonymous with ARCTIC. Oh, and the spinal block. Unlike a vaginal birth, you have no choice about whether or not to use some kind of anesthesia. And spinal blocks give you this horrible sensation of internal cold and uncontrollable trembling. Super fun symptoms to have when you’re puking while horizontal. But the cold! Maybe it’s just me, but being freezing cold with nothing to do about it was ridiculously aggravating. It helped to imagine this, though:

Oh, Vince, you do go on

Oh, Vince, you do go on

4. Here Comes Baby!

Nothing can really prepare you for the big moment. Most of the things they don’t tell you about c-sections are negative, but this is a rare positive surprise! I cannot put into words the mixture of intense emotions that surged through me when the big moment arrived. I was extremely relieved he was healthy, so excited to meet the little thing that was once smaller than a blueberry inside me, in awe of the fragility of this new life, nervous that I wasn’t going to be a good enough mom, and just blown away that this HUMAN came out of ME!

It really is!

It really is!

3. Alone Again, Naturally

I may be in my late twenties, but I love me some melancholy 70s music. As Gilbert O’Sullivan so poignantly states, “Reality came around.  And without so much as a mere touch, cut me into little pieces.” Except I was cut just once, maybe six inches wide. Boy, did reality come around, though. After the awesome moment that you hear your baby’s first cry (of many), you are on your own again. I wanted to do the “natural” c-section thing, but with my severe shaking and unstoppable, frequent vomiting, they couldn’t bring the baby near me. So off he was carted, my husband went with him, and I was alone on the table getting stitched up. I guess I should have figured this, but the “finishing up” portion of the c-section took about forty-five minutes and was much longer compared to the “pre-baby coming out” part. Emotions were running high, I just wanted to be with my baby, but this is one you just have to endure.

OH THE FEELS

OH THE FEELS

2. EXIT ONLY!

Warning: TMI ahead.

Pee-pee holes, as adults often call them, are meant for one thing and one thing only: to let urine out of your body. In other words, it is an exit only. This is why I hate catheters and do not like when grumpy nurses with cold hands wake me up and fiddle with a tube in my sensitive area.

Excuse me?!

Excuse me?!

Oh you thought the c-section was the end of people all up in your nether regions? Haha, nope! You will be woken up just as much, if not more, by the hospital staff than your own baby to check out your “stuff.” P.S. you don’t get to wear underwear for a while. You’ll lay on a doggy pee-pad while Carrie-sized amounts of blood just pour out for way too long. I thought that since it wasn’t a vaginal birth, it was normal down there. False. You’ve just had a baby taken out of you (a significant trauma) and the blood has to go somewhere. So expect your “exits” to still be examined for a while after the surgery.

1. You Want Me to Do WHA?

Hey you know how you just had a baby and you’re super achy but have somehow managed to muster what little strength you have to care for your baby? Well now they want you to freaking WALK. The audacity! They stress the importance of getting vertical and walking, and I get it, but does it have to be so soon?

Not an option, bro

Not an option, bro

Apparently, yes. You really do need to get up and walk. In the end, walking when I did – and doing it often – significantly helped with the healing process and getting my bowels moving. Trust me, do not underestimate the value of getting your tummy factory up and running again!

 

So there you have it: ten things that you probably didn’t know about the whole c-section process. Some parts of the experience are super unpleasant, some are just awkward, but in the end you get an incredible reward: your very own baby! Its resale value is slightly less now that it’s out of the original packaging, though. (GET IT?) But for real, I’d do it all again (maybe take a few more stool softeners) because nothing compares to the moment when you look into your baby’s eyes for the first time. Oh, geesh, where’s my Kleenex?

HOLY GUACAMOLE – and other musings

Has it really been six months since my last blog post?  I wonder why tha – oh wait, I know.  As a matter of fact, just as I sat down to write this, my little monster blessing decided it was the perfect time for a meltdown.  But we’ll get to the joys of parenting a little later.  Well, actually that ties directly in to what this post is about.  I mean this in the least hippie-ish way possible, but it’s all about acceptance.

Okay, so maybe it IS a little hippie-ish

Okay, so maybe it IS a little hippie-ish

 

Point being, no amount of preparation can adequately compare to the reality of having a little human who needs you for everything and relies on you 24/7.  They should have called the book (and subsequent movie) “When you’re Expecting, Expect to Have your Expectations Obliterated.”  Perhaps I shall copyright that and become a millionaire.  Or, more likely, it will take me eight hours to finish this post because of feedings, diaper changing, consoling, pulling out of hair, and teething meltdowns.  And you know what’s the most insane part about all of that?  I actually don’t mind it.  I even think I – dare I say? – like it!  That is possibly the best expectation to have blown out of the water.  You love this mini monster so darn much that no amount of Gitmo-level torture can make you bitter about the situation.  You may, however, be so sleep deprived that your happiness frightens others.

 

face-off1

I’M JUST SO HAPPY

 

So yeah, a little acceptance, a lot of self-forgiveness, and a healthy understanding that crazy is the new normal will help you make it through the first few weeks.  And let’s be honest.  The first few days will feel like weeks and when the doctor discharges you, you will expect to exit the hospital and see flying cars and robot people since surely eons have gone by whilst you were in there.  Because, besides the fact that you’ve just had a small human taken out of your body, you are awakened every one to two hours for days on end and your sense of space and time is just not what it used to be.

 

Obligatory DW gif

Obligatory DW gif, sorry

 

I’d apologize for the lateness, the lack of clarity, and the shortness of this blog post, but apologizing is just no longer the biggest nor the best tool in my skill set anymore.  Apologizing really shouldn’t be in yours either with the small exception of explosive diarrhea in a public place.  And that’s totally a random example, not like anything close to that has ever actually happened… ahem.  Anyways, I really will get back into the swing of things with better posts and (hopefully) better time management, but I’m a mom now and things are just a little more timey-wimey and wibbly-wobbly these days 😉  So accept the crazy.  Accept that leaving in ten minutes really means getting on the road in twenty.  Accept that some people won’t be able to keep up with the new mommy you.  Accept that you’re a new mommy.  Accept that there will be more bodily fluids on you then a hotel scene in an episode of CSI.  Thank you to anyone who has kept up or stayed with this blog, it truly means the world to me ❤

Holiday Hullabaloo

It’s a week til Christmas and the Holiday Hullabaloo is in full swing!  Isn’t hullabaloo such a great word?  Technically it means “a clamorous disturbance.”  So yeah, the holidays are a temperamental blend of being enjoyable yet chaotic.  Add a high-risk pregnancy to the mix, and keeping your sanity can quickly become a real struggle.  Here are some tips on how to gracefully handle survive the season.

Lower Those Expectations

Even in my pre-pregnancy life, I was never one for big, fancy Christmas parties.  The schmoozing, forced mingling, and awkward moments of silence with party goers you don’t know always gave me an uneasy feeling.  I will say this, though, I have perfected the fake laugh for when a saucy uncle or drunk coworker makes a lame or inappropriate joke.

Really? Did you just say that?

Really? Did you just say that?

So when you’re preparing yourself to either host or attend a holiday party, don’t freak yourself out by anticipating the worst.  Remember that if people know you’re pregnant or have health issues, the only thing that’s expected of you is to answer cliche questions (“So are you excited?”), ignore weird comments (“Enjoy this party, ’cause fun is over after the baby comes!”), and dodge the belly-rubbers.  Don’t hold yourself to unrealistic standards and don’t let anyone give you a hard time about it.  They should just be happy you’re wearing pants.

Let It Go (don’t take it personally)

When people make offensive remarks, treat you differently, or otherwise cause you to feel uncomfortable, try not to let it get under your skin.  The sucky part is, most of the time it’s those closest to us that can say the (unintentionally) worst things.  While your partner, in-laws, and best friend may mean well, a simple “You don’t seem like yourself; you were acting weird at the party,” can cut deep.  Your hormones are at an all-time high, so even the most innocent observation made by a loved one can make you feel like you’re a high-risk pregnancy alien.

Buster knows how I feel

Buster knows how I feel

So while dignity and grace may seem like qualities of the past, a little poise can go a long way.  Sure it’s hard to muster a diplomatic smile when your pelvis feels like it’s slowly being crushed into oblivion, but flipping out on your aunt for saying it looks like you’re smuggling a watermelon isn’t exactly keeping in the holiday spirit.  Trust me, as awkward and weird as you feel about all the changes happening to your body and psyche, those around you are grappling with how to connect with this different and new you, too.  Cut everyone the same slack that you would like them to give to you.

Accept Help & Take Shortcuts

Yes, you are superwoman.  No, you don’t need to prove it.  Put down the casserole dish, slowly back away, and nobody gets hurt.  I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: bravery and pride are not the same thing.  You may be like me and you don’t want to admit to yourself that you are no longer able to do the things you once did.  Or you may be like thousands of other mothers who have fallen victim to the expectation that pregnant women should be able to “do it all” and better look good while doing it, too.

Thank you, Society.

Thanks a lot, Society.

With so much on your plate already, joyfully accept any and all help offered to you during the holiday season.  And don’t feel bad if this year your pumpkin pie is of the Sara Lee variety.  Be vocally appreciative when someone provides assistance and remember that help comes in many forms.  It can be tangible, like a home-cooked meal, or it can be something meaningful like running an errand for you or just giving you a shoulder to cry on when you realize that cute dress doesn’t fit you anymore.

Comfort is Key

Speaking of clothes that don’t fit anymore, for the love of all that is good and holy, don’t squish yourself into an uncomfortable festive frock for appearances’ sake.  I made the mistake of cramming myself into a pair of stockings for a holiday occasion.  Granted, they were really really cute stockings, but after fifteen minutes of yoga-like positions trying to get them on, the end result was that my pudgy preggo legs looked like they were stuffed into very sad sausage casings.  I also forgot that, as a living human, I would eventually need to eat.  I’m truly surprised my stockings didn’t spontaneously burst.

Sweet potato casserole with marshmallow topping!!!

Sweet potato casserole with marshmallow topping!!!

Needless to say, after I peeled off my stockings, I promised my poor body I would never subject it to such cruel abuse and torture ever again.  Now, a sparkly headband is the extent to which I choose to express my holiday cheer.  Dresses or over-sized tops and sweaters paired with stretchy leggings will be your best friend during this season.  You’re already in enough discomfort with your pregnancy and health issues, so don’t make it harder on yourself by sporting high heels and painfully tight attire.

Emotions… OH GAWD THEY’RE EVERYWHERE!

If you haven’t already, you will at some point inexplicably cry over something that isn’t actually that sad.  The holidays will put your emotions to the test.  Now I’ve never been particularly maternal or girly, so the sensation I felt when watching a Kohl’s holiday commercial where a young couple secretly decorates an elderly widow’s apartment seemed foreign and strange.  “Are my eyes leaking?  What’s happening?!” I thought to myself.  But I soon found out that this was totally normal and even non-pregnant humans tear up when evil marketing execs concoct intentionally sad commercials designed to render you emotionally vulnerable and more inclined to buy their products.  My emotions were all over the place in the weeks leading up to Christmas.

Yup, pretty much

Yup, pretty much

So try not to be embarrassed if you find yourself getting weepy at the dinner table when relatives are reminiscing about a loved one.  Or you could even get emotional over something really trivial and that’s normal, too.  I had a minor breakdown when I not only couldn’t get my turtleneck on, but then I got stuck and couldn’t get it off either.  My husband’s laughter only made my rage induced blubbering swell even more.  Try not to get hung up on the negative side of the emotional roller coaster.  Remember that the holidays are a time of love, celebration, and really awesome food.  Enjoy the moment (and take plenty of leftovers).