Breastfeeding & Pumping

When my daughter was born, I thought I was ready to breastfeed from the get-go. I knew it was natural, cost-effective, and full of healthy antibodies my baby needed to build a strong immune system! Little did I know how difficult the breastfeeding process would be. I learned that in the first few days my breasts would produce colostrum, a pre-milk antibody rich fluid that would nourish my child. The nurses showed me how to position Isabella in order to secure a proper latch. We spent two nights in the hospital, and she cried through the night on both nights. “Is she hungry?” I wondered. The third night at home was slightly better. She only woke up every two hours. Yes, you read that correctly. Get ready to put your sleep schedule on hold for a while!

My child wanted to eat every two hours. And when she was breastfeeding, each session would last approximately thirty to forty-five minutes. At almost every breastfeeding session, she would fall asleep on me. It felt like I was breastfeeding 24/7. I had become a milk factory. After the ten day mark, we returned to the hospital for a lactation consultation (props to Kaiser for all the support they provide breastfeeding mommies!). By this time, my nipples had cracked and scabbed. I shared my concern with the consultant, who did a quick examination of my breasts. She suggested I try pumping to allow my nipples to heal. They sent me home with a breast pump and instructions on how to pump.

When we returned home, both my mother and mother-in-law came over for a visit. Isabella was hungry, and I was eager to try out my pump. I had her on my left breast while my husband attached the pump to my right breast. My mother (who grew up in the Middle East and had never seen a breast pump) looked at us wide-eyed. Then she shouted at my mother-in-law in my kitchen, “Hurry, you have to come see this! Your son is milking my daughter!” It was quite a sight to see. My laughter turned into a stream of tears down my face. I had truly become a milk machine. I loved the fact that I had just fed my daughter and also had an secured an extra bottle of milk all at the same time! Now the question was, would she drink from a bottle? Luckily for me, she took the bottle right away. From that day forward, I combined breastfeeding and pumping. It completely changed my life. A big plus of pumping was that I was now able to stay asleep throughout the night since my husband was able to feed the baby without my assistance. It was truly a lifesaver!

I gradually began pumping more, and breastfeeding less. It may not work for every mom, but it fortunately worked for me. I now had the freedom to allow someone else to take care of my baby while I took care of myself. I was able to go get my haircut, get a well-deserved massage, and take a long shower! All these self-care moments seemed impossible initially, since my baby needed to be fed every two hours. I now had a great supply of milk, which I was very thankful for.

For those of you considering pumping, here are my must have products for breastfeeding and pumping.

Isabella enjoying a snack.

My Must Have Products for Breastfeeding and Pumping

Medela Pump in Style – My insurance company provided me a free breast pump. It worked fine, but I had read so many reviews and heard so many great things about this Medela pump so I decided to try it out. I’m so glad I did because this pump was awesome! I used it several times a day while I was on maternity leave, and then took it with me when I returned to work.

Medela Spare Pump Parts – If you decide to get the Medela Pump, I also recommend investing in at least one set of spare parts. You will be washing these parts often, so it is nice to have a few extra ones on hand! You will be thanking yourself later for doing so.

Medela Pump & Save Milk Bags – These bags attach directly to the pump so you don’t have to transfer. Milk goes straight from the pump into the bag! Just make sure to purchase the ones that include the adapters.

Medela Car charger/Adapter – This was also one of my must haves while pumping because it allows you to pump on the go! I used my pump in the car often during my commute or long rides while traveling.

Simple Wishes Hands Free Pumping Bra This thing is a game changer. The first month or so of pumping I was holding the pumps. Who knew that there was a bra out there that would do all the work for me?! One of my friends recommended this bra and I am so very grateful because it completely changed the way I pumped! Now, I could be hands free while pumping! Freedom!

Nursing Cover with Sewn in Burp ClothThis is a MUST HAVE when you are out-and-about and nursing! It gives you and your baby privacy, and it has a sewn in burp cloth! Very convenient 🙂

Motherlove Nipple CreamThe first few weeks of breastfeeding my nipples were in terrible shape. This nipple cream is a life saver! I also love the fact that all of the ingredients are certified organic, and you do not have to worry about washing it off before breastfeeding.

Nursing Pads – When your breasts are leaking you will be grateful you had these pads in your bra. It will save you from staining your favorite shirts, and having an embarrassing moment in public.

Journey to Motherhood Part II

Hello all! Welcome to part two of my journey to motherhood. I hope you enjoyed reading part one. If you have any questions please feel free to comment down below. If you are a newcomer, don’t forget to read part one of my story, as the following is a continuation of my journey to motherhood.

It was exactly two years ago when I decided to push myself – mind and body – forward. I had been eating poorly and not taking care of myself after my pregnancy loss. I decided it was time to get back on track, which meant eating healthy again and exercising. The following month, in February of 2017, only four months after my second miscarriage, I discovered that I was pregnant again. Needless to say, I was excited but also extremely anxious. For me, a positive pregnancy test did not guarantee a baby. “Maybe the third time is the charm,” my husband said eagerly. All I could do was hope and pray that he was right.

I made it to twelve weeks with no signs or symptoms of a miscarriage. The night before my doctor’s appointment I was a complete mess. A visit to the doctor and an ultrasound had become absolutely terrifying. I broke down and cried the night before, and then again in the waiting room waiting for my appointment. This time, the doctor smiled at me as she turned the screen to show me the baby and a very strong heartbeat. I felt relief and joy, but every month was filled with worry and anxiety. At seventeen weeks, we learned that our little bundle of joy was a girl. Once again, I wanted to be excited, but I was also so overcome with fear. My husband, a psychologist, and I spent hours and hours on end speaking about my fears and anxiety. I am so grateful that I had him by my side along this journey. He constantly reminded me to allow myself to be happy and enjoy these moments. It is important to enjoy the beauty of the moment instead of worrying about what “might” happen, he would say. I would repeat these words to myself often, and let myself get excited about this baby, my little girl, and be hopeful that everything would work out this time around.

It was a constant struggle, but I fought the voice in my head saying, “What if something goes wrong?” and focused on enjoying and celebrating my pregnancy. We celebrated with a Gender Reveal Party and a baby shower. The theme for my baby shower was “Oh, The Places You’ll Go!” and hot air balloons filled the room. I wanted my daughter to grow up and travel the world. I dreamt of all the places she would go, “Kid, you’ll move mountains.”

My pregnancy went along smoothly. I never experienced morning sickness, and overall felt wonderful. However, at my 35 week appointment, the doctor was concerned that my baby was not in the head down position. She wanted to try a procedure called External Cephalic Version (ECV). Basically, my doctor would manually try to move my baby into the head down position. “We would do this at 37 weeks, in an operating room in case the baby goes into distress. We would perform an emergency c-section if necessary.” She assured me that this procedure was safe and the baby and I would be monitored the entire time. Needless to say, I wasn’t thrilled about the idea. I went home to do my own research.

According to WebMD, “ECVs are a success about half the time.” So the success rate was about 50%, and there are risks associated. WebMD states “In rare cases, it can cause changes in your baby’s heart rate, tearing of the placenta, and preterm labor.” Did I mention the baby could die? Yes, that was another risk my doctor mentioned. I decided that I would NOT try the ECV, and simply wait for my baby to turn. If she stayed in the breech position, I would have a c-section the day before her due date. My doctor also informed me that if I went into labor before my scheduled c-section, I would have to get to the hospital immediately. She said “Once your water breaks, it becomes dangerous for a breech baby since the cord can get wrapped around their neck.” I had originally planned on working until a few days before my c-section, but with this new information I decided it would be best to take the last two weeks off. I tearfully said goodbye to my students and went home to relax and wait for my baby to arrive.

For more information about an External Cephalic Version please click here or check out this video!

On October 12, 2017, my husband and I excitedly drove to the hospital to have our rainbow baby. We barely slept the night before because WE WERE GOING TO HAVE A BABY!! This proved to be a mistake. I highly recommend you and your significant other get plenty of rest the night before, if possible of course. We walked up to the nurses’ station at 7:00 AM and cheerfully exclaimed, “We’re here to have a baby!” It took about two hours of prep before I was finally in the operating room. They asked my husband to wait outside while they administered the epidural. Only a few minutes later my lower half was completely numb. The doctor asked me to try to move my legs. I tried in vain to move them. Everyone in the operating room, including me, laughed at my failed attempt. Soon after, I had an oxygen mask over my face. My husband was allowed to join me again, and my doctors began my surgery. I listened to the voices in the room, but couldn’t see anything since there was a drape between the upper and lower half of my body. My husband watched, and took pictures. He provided minute by minute updates, “Her foot is sticking out of you! It looks like a scene from a horror movie.” I laughed nervously. Even in this moment, I still had that horrible thought in the back of my head, “What if she doesn’t make it? What if she’s stillborn? What if something goes wrong?” Finally, she was out and the doctor held her up for me to see. I caught a quick glimpse of my daughter before the nurses took her for her APGAR exam. The doctors worked on sewing me up, and it took about thirty minutes before I was finally able to hold my newborn.

 

When they finally placed my baby into my arms, all I could do was breathe her in and cry. I couldn’t believe she was finally here. Isabella was born on October 12, 2017 at 9:54 AM. She was six pounds, fifteen ounces and nineteen inches tall. She was born with a full head of hair, and looked just like me. My angel was finally here, and I could finally breathe again.

Journey to Motherhood – Part I

Hello everyone. Welcome to my very first blog post! I’m super excited to share my experiences of motherhood with you. Whether you are a new mommy, a mommy to be, or even a seasoned mommy, my hope is that my experiences provide applicable value to you. So grab a beverage of your choice, sit back comfortably, and get ready to enter my world.

I always knew I wanted to have children. Taking care of others always came naturally to me. Family circumstances as a young child led me to become a caretaker to my younger brother. As a teenager, I was the go-to babysitter for the children of friends and family. I truly enjoyed being in charge and taking care of the needs of these children. These early life experiences confirmed my love for children as well as my desire for learning, which led me to pursue a career in education. In the last 13 years, I have worked with children starting from grades Pre-K all the way up to 12.

Participating in the Girls Build LA Challenge with my students, October 2016

Although my experiences with children weren’t always a walk in the park, working with children confirmed my desires to have children of my own; I just had no idea how emotionally and physically challenging the journey would be.

Let me tell you a little bit about the man who made my journey to motherhood a possibility… my lovely husband. I was introduced to my hubby in 2005 by my dear cousin. Fortunately, my cousin actually married my husband’s cousin, and it was during the wedding planning, pre-wedding festivities, and the wedding itself that helped to spark our romance. I knew he was the one for me as soon as we started dating. He was kind, loving, patient, and so attractive! And in October of 2010, we tied the knot! We spent about five years enjoying every moment and living life to its fullest. We dined in LA’s greatest restaurants, partied at the hottest night spots, traveled to beautiful destinations, and spent quality time with amazing friends and family.
 

As much as my husband and I enjoyed spending quality time alone with each other, we always were in agreement about starting a family of our own one day. In August of 2015, we finally decided to take that next step and try for a baby. We were so excited and eager to start the process. This process can be very stressful. I will speak more about the importance of having fun with the process in future blog posts, including my do’s and don’ts when trying to conceive.

After a few months of trying to conceive, I missed a period. It was March 5, 2016 when I took a pregnancy test and it was positive! My husband and I were so excited! We wanted to share the news with the whole world but we knew it was too soon. Only a week later, I started spotting and a trip to the doctor revealed that I had a chemical pregnancy. I was absolutely devastated by the news. I know it may be difficult to understand, but the minute I saw that line on the pregnancy test I felt an immediate bond with my baby. I wanted to be a mother so badly, and it all seemed like such a cruel joke for the opportunity of motherhood to be taken away from me in an instant.

In September of 2016, only 5 months later, I discovered that I was pregnant again! Of course, I was excited but this time the excitement came with a great deal of anxiety. I visited my doctor to confirm the pregnancy, and at 10 weeks I got to see my baby on the ultrasound. It was such a relief to see that image of my baby and its beautiful heart beating.

I returned again at 12 weeks for another medical appointment. This time I met with a midwife. She started the appointment by checking for the baby’s heartbeat with a Doppler. It took several attempts and every minute that went by my heart was racing. She said that she needed to consult with the doctor and left me alone in the room. The five minutes I spent waiting for the doctor were absolutely excruciating. Finally, the doctor entered with the ultrasound machine. His expression already gave me the answer I knew was coming. He said “I’m so sorry but the baby has no heartbeat and it looks like it has not been growing for a few weeks now.” How was this possible? I had just seen my beautiful child on the same screen only two short weeks ago. I had no symptoms… no pain, no cramping, and no blood. No indication from my body that anything was wrong. “It’s called a missed miscarriage,” the doctor explained. Now my body was the one playing a cruel joke on me. I was in shock, and tears were streaming down my face. “You have three options: 1. You can wait for the miscarriage to happen naturally 2. I can give you medication which will start the process 3. We can do a D & C” He may as well have been speaking another language. I didn’t hear or process a word he said. I took his prescription and walked out. I couldn’t make any decisions. I decided to go home, speak to my husband, and decide on what would be best.

 After some research, I decided on taking the medication. I spent the weekend on the couch, and waited for the inevitable. The emotional pain was much more severe than my physical symptoms. It felt like a heavy period.

 About a week later, I was leaving work when I suddenly began shaking uncontrollably. I sat in the parking lot and prayed for it to pass. I was finally able to get myself home & took my temperature. I had a fever and I knew something was wrong.

 Another trip to the doctor revealed that I still had fetal tissue that hadn’t passed. This had caused an infection. I had to have a D&C after all I had already been through. “It will be quick and not very painful.”

My doctor had really downplayed how painful this experience would be. I went through the D&C fully awake, with no general anesthesia. She gave me something to numb the pain, which was directly injected into my cervix, and that part itself was excruciatingly painful!! Then, the D&C itself was THE WORST pain I’ve ever felt in my life, and I have a pretty high tolerance for pain. The pain I felt during this experience was one I will never forget. I felt like I was being tortured. I cried out loud as my husband squeezed my hand and stroked my hair. I couldn’t believe after the heartache of losing another pregnancy I had to suffer through this physical pain. I got up and walked away feeling absolutely broken.

 The months following my second miscarriage were some of the darkest days of my life. I fell into a deep depression. I did not want to see my friends or family or anyone who wasn’t my husband. I learned very quickly that most people do not know how to deal with someone who is grieving the loss of an unborn child. I think it is especially challenging for people to know how to handle this particular situation. Some even questioned why I was grieving. I heard some of the most obnoxious and ridiculous things from some of my closest friends and family members. One popular response was, “Well, everything happens for a reason.” Everything happens for a reason? Is that supposed to comfort me? “Something was wrong with that baby, so it’s actually a blessing that you lost it.” I never answered back to any of these comments. I would just shake my head, in disgust, and walk away.

 Then there were times when it wasn’t what the person said, but instead, it was the fact that they were expecting a child, and I had just lost mine. These situations were so awkward and difficult for me to tolerate. These experiences triggered thoughts of never being able to carry my own child. I spent months in bed crying, and crawling deeper and deeper into a dark hole that I didn’t think I would ever be able to climb out of. I felt so alone, as it seemed like no one else understood how I was feeling, including my closest friends and family. Luckily for me, I had a supportive husband (who also happens to have a doctorate in psychology!) and wonderful friends and family who helped me through this difficult time. I kept myself busy at work, and focused on all of the positive aspects of my life. Traveling and being outdoors always reminded me of how fortunate I was, and how beautiful life could be. Most importantly, I learned from this difficult time that with patience, a strong support system, and faith, I could learn how to cope with the heartache of a miscarriage. If you have recently experienced a miscarriage or have fears that you may one day experience one, please know that there are healthy ways to cope with this difficult life encounter.

Miscarriage - Facts & How to Cope

Before experiencing my miscarriages, I had no idea how often they actually occur. According to WedMD, about “15-25% of recognized pregnancies will end in a miscarriage” and over 80% of these miscarriages occur within the first three months of pregnancy. (https://www.webmd.com/baby/guide/pregnancy-miscarriage)

Remember, you are not alone. You are allowed to grieve, and how you grieve is completely up to you! We all experience grief in different ways. Here are ways to cope after a miscarriage:

  • Turning to partner/spouse for support. My husband was mourning the loss of the baby, too. He was always there to listen, cry with me, and give me the love and care I needed.

  • If you are religious, it may help to speak to a leader in your community such as a priest, rabbi or other spiritual healer.

  • You can join a support group. If you prefer an online support group here is a link

  • See a therapist or grief counselor

  • Create a memory box. Include any items that are meaningful to you, your partner, and your baby.

I hope that this post has been valuable to you. As painful as it is to relive these experiences, I am hopeful that they will help you and others recognize that you are not alone with your struggles.

 

My future blog posts will focus on my experiences with motherhood and the valuable lessons I have learned along the way. I will also provide advice on all things related to babies and motherhood, recommendations and reviews on products I am using (or have used), and document my experiences with two under two as they happen in real time!