Success With Pumping While Your Baby is in NICU

It’s hard to believe I exclusively pumped for the three months my daughter was in NICU. I had more days where I was discouraged vs encouraged, but the round-the-clock pumping paid off once I was able to breast feed my baby. Alayna’s been home for three weeks, and is an amazing breast feeder.

Being a NICU parent is not for the faint of heart, as there are a lot of stresses that come with this journey. And constantly pumping with all that’s going on during this time can be a challenge, but for the NICU Moms who plan to breastfeed, hang in there! I want to share how I stayed dedicated and motivated to pump during this trying time.

Focus on life after NICU

I breastfed my oldest daughter until she was seven months (my supply dried up), and I wanted to have the same experience with this baby. Thinking about her comfy, cuddled up, and milk drunk kept me motivated. I didn’t really see much of an increase in my supply over the three months, but I had to remind myself that once Alayna starts breastfeeding and keeps growing, my supply will increase. Focusing on my breastfeeding plan helped me get through some of those difficult days.

Work with a Lactation Consultant

Take advantage of the Lactation resources at the hospital. The Lactation consultants showed me different ways to hold her and they are immediate resources to any questions or concerns you have. If your baby is in NICU for just a few days, it still helps to talk with a Lactation Consultant. I also attended the “Breastfeeding for NICU Moms” group that started during Alayna’s stay. If your hospital offers a similar breastfeeding support group, definitely try to attend those meetings. And once you and your baby are home, local “Mommy and Me” support groups that focuses on breastfeeding will be a good support system as well.

Don’t Give Up

I was going to the hospital everyday, taking care of my oldest daughter when I got home, and I went back to work after my six week post-partum appointment so that I could save my maternity leave. That was a lot, and sometimes I wanted to sleep instead of pump. What helped me get through some challenging moments was remembering the first point…focusing on my goal to breastfeed when she was discharged.

And I’m glad I didn’t give up. Once Alayna was strong enough to eat, I breastfed her whenever I was at the hospital, and towards the end, this is what helped her come home sooner. She wasn’t always finishing her bottles, but she would always breastfeed for at least 15 minutes which the doctors count as a full feeding.

I hope that this post encourages NICU Mom’s going through a similar experience. If something happens and you aren’t able to breastfeed, that’s okay. You’re still doing all you can to love and take care of your child. Here’s to a strong, happy baby!

Alayna

My Cervical Cerclage Story (Part 2)

(Read “My Cervical Cerclage Story (Part 1)” for reference)

At 23 weeks I was put on bed rest due to my cervix funneling. My cerclage was holding, but it wasn’t enough. Even though I was on bed rest, I was positive that I would make it to full-term again since things worked out so well last time.  I adjusted accordingly and continued on with my daily routines as best I could. I worked from home Monday through Friday, had more time to spend with my one year old, spent time with family and friends who came by, and even decided to write about my cerclage and bed rest experiences.

At 25 weeks I had my regular cerclage appointment. Over the last month I had been seeing two different doctors at the same office. At this 25 week appointment I saw the doctor that had me go to the hospital a couple of weeks before. She still seemed concerned with how my cervix looked and was adamant that I rest over the weekend and come back on Monday to see the other doctor since he was the one that did my cerclage and also discharged me from my recent hospital stay. At this point I was frustrated, because with the last pregnancy, once my cerclage was in, my cervix length was stable and there weren’t any issues or concerns for 16 weeks. Anyway, the weekend went by without any problems, and my spirits were lifted tremendously when our home team, the Atlanta Falcons made it to the Superbowl. On Monday at 25 weeks and 6 days, I had my follow up appointment and after another thorough check, this doctor said everything looked fine and I would go to 28 weeks and beyond. I felt relieved for the first time in days.

That night I went to bed earlier than normal. I was extremely tired, but couldn’t sleep due to cramping. I drank tons of water and hoped to fall asleep at any moment, but the cramps were getting worse. I didn’t have cramping issues the last time, so for me this was strange. Then they went from feeling like period cramps to….contractions. I called my OBGYN to see what they thought and of course they said I need to go to Labor and Delivery if the contractions continued. My husband drove me to the hospital and sure enough, I was in labor at just 26 weeks. I was in denial that this was even happening. I was given medicine to stop the contractions but they kept coming. My baby was ready to make her entrance into this world. Before that could happen, a doctor I’d never met had to remove my stitches. I know every pregnancy is different, but in that moment I just couldn’t understand how things ended up on the complete opposite end of the  spectrum this time. Once my stitches were out, my little girl came a few minutes later at 1 lb 13 oz. And just like that my pregnancy was over and we were now part of the NICU world.

It’s been four weeks since Alayna was born. She is progressing and doing well, and will be a month old in a couple of days. It took some time, but I’ve finally accepted what happened and am at peace with how this pregnancy ended. Other than having a short cervix, I do not know what caused me to go into labor so early.

Over the last two years I’ve read a lot of cerclages stories that helped me get through these pregnancies. Pregnancy is an awesome experience, but it definitely has its ups and downs. And becoming part of the Cervical Cerlage world is the last thing a mom-to-be expects. For me the best part about having a cerclage was making it to another week and then passing the milestones of 24, 28 and 32 weeks. The first time I was so proud of myself and baby girl when I got to the ultimate milestone – cerclage removal at 36 weeks.Obviously I only made to the 24 week milestone my second time, but I am so thankful my second daughter was delivered safely. Now that my cerclage chapter has ended, I am now focused on caring for my daughter in NICU and the other at home. Stay tuned…

My Cervical Cerclage Story (Part 1)

I am pregnant with my second child, and also with my second cerclage. A cerclage is a stitch that holds an incompetent or shortened cervix. My first cerclage was emergent, meaning it was put in after my cervix started to shorten. We were extremely fortunate that this was caught. If not, I could have had a late miscarriage or went into preterm labor. My second cerclage, which I have now, was preventative and put in when I was 14 weeks way before any shortening starts. I wanted to share my cerclage stories, as it will be interesting to compare the experience from both pregnancies, and I hope it inspires others and myself, as I am going through this process again. My cerclage story will be in two parts, as I am currently going through “Part 2”.

With my first born, I found out I was pregnant at three weeks, and had a normal pregnancy up until 20 weeks. My birthday and the holidays happened over those 17 weeks, so I continued my life as it was with a baby on the way. My husband and I went out of town for my birthday, I went to work everyday, attended any holiday events I was invited to. As for the pregnancy during the first trimester, I had mild morning sickness and was extremely tired. Other than that, I was feeling pretty good.

On January 14th, I went in for my 20 weeks checkup, which was also our gender reveal appointment. The nurse told us we were having a girl, and that excitement lasted about 10 minutes. Once we saw the doctor, she told me that my cervix was funneling and I needed to go to the hospital immediately. Although she explained what was happening, I still could not process what I was being told. My husband drove me to the hospital, I checked in, was put on an IV, given medicine to help hold off preterm labor, and had no idea how long I would be there. I was an emotional wreck that first day, and didn’t understand why this was happening to me. I didn’t have any contractions or other signs of labor, but it was discovered that I had Group B Strep, and needed to be put on antibiotics. I would not be able to get my emergent cerclage, which was a major surgery, until this bacterial infection cleared. So, I was stuck in the hospital for five days.

My husband did not leave my side, and my parents, coworkers and some friends came to visit me, which helped lifted my spirits a lot. I also had time to research an incompetent cervix and cerclages, asked the doctors a lot of questions, and realized that all was not lost. There was a chance I could carry my baby until full term.

My surgery day finally arrived. I was extremely anxious and opted to have anesthesia, which was not my ideal choice, but once I woke up, everything was done. I went back to my room, and was monitored for four more days. I had two follow up appointments during those four days, and on the last appointment, the doctor confirmed that my cerclage was holding and my cervix was steady. During this entire time, my daughter was a rock star. She was active, healthy, and continued to develop on schedule. At 21 weeks, I was finally allowed to go home, and was put on strict bedrest.

From 21 weeks to 36 weeks, life was interesting to say the least. I was confined to the bed or sofa, and could not cook, clean, drive, or do anything that required me to be on my feet. Fortunately, I was able to still work, which helped the days go by. I watched a lot of Netflix and made a Honeymoon Photo Album. Every week that passed was a milestone, but my emotions varied day to day. Some days were good. I was positive, faithful, and knew that what I was doing was best for the baby and myself. But then some days I had cabin fever, felt lonely, and was frustrated that I didn’t have control over simple things like cooking or going to the store when I needed to.

Although my cervix was still shorter than normal, it remained steady. My doctor gave us approval to have our baby shower at 33 weeks and attend a birthing class the following day. Overall, we were blessed with a good experience and support during this time.

My cerclage was removed at 37 weeks, and I was allowed to go on about my life as a normal pregnant woman – not confined to the house anymore. We were on our toes waiting for our little girl to arrive – my hospital bag was packed at 30 weeks and we were ready! Well, Mother’s Day passed, my husband’s birthday passed….and my daughter’s due date, June 4th, had come and gone. As of June 4th, my stomach had not yet dropped and I found myself taking walks every day and eating spicy foods like hot Buffalo wings to help get this baby coming. And my doctor and I were talking about possibly being induced if I made it to 41 weeks!

On June 8th, my husband and I decided to have dinner at Scalini’s, an Italian restaurant known for their Eggplant Parmigiana, which has helped induce over 300 women. I was skeptical, as no other natural inducement had worked for me. We had a wonderful dinner and that night at 2AM, I started having contractions. After 33 hours of labor, my daughter Alivia was born on June 10th at 8.65 lbs.

I will never forget this pregnancy experience, I am now using my own story to inspire me during this pregnancy. At this time, I’m 23 weeks pregnant, and am on bedrest again. I was going on about my life just a few days ago, until the doctor saw that my cervix was funneling. I was sent to the hospital again, for two days this time. My cerclage is still holding, but now I have to take it easy again.

I’ve reflected on lessons learned during my last pregnancy with the cerclage and have a better understanding as to what’s going on and how to get through this.  I am much calmer this time, and plan to utilize my time better while I’m “resting”. The main challenge I have this time is managing my 18 month old, and will write more about how this is going in Part 2. Thanks for reading and I can’t wait to provide an update.

Holiday “Cocktail” for Pregnant Mommies

I always enjoy a glass of wine or Sangira with my Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners, and Champagne to toast in the New Year. Well, this Holiday Season, I have to forgo my wine and champagne. I’m excited to be pregnant again, AND I get to indulge in my favorite non-alcoholic beverage! During my first pregnancy, someone made this drink for Christmas, and it was sooo good.

I don’t have a name for the drink, but it’s festive and a perfect substitute “cocktail” for pregnant ladies during the holiday season. And just so you know…this Holiday Cocktail should not be limited to pregnant moms…it’s perfect to serve to your guests who don’t drink alcohol at all.

All you need is 100% Cranberry and Pomegranate juice (It doesn’t matter if they are separate or come mixed together), Club Soda, lime, and your favorite cocktail glass.

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Mix your juice and club soda into a pitcher and stir. This Thanksgiving I used the Kroger Brand Club Soda, but any brand will work. Chill for at least 30 minutes. When it’s time to eat, or time for the toast, pour the drink into your glass and add a lime. Enjoy, and Happy Holidays!

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Fresh Mango Salsa

I love chips and salsa on a lazy weekend, and it’s also one of my favorite recipes to make from scratch. I used a “Southwest Salsa” recipe as a basis to get started and experiment with. The southwest salsa came out spicy, and while I like spicy foods, I prefer to have a milder and sweeter salsa. After experimenting with a few different variations of the salsa, I finally found the right flavor for my family and our guests. Hope you salsa lovers enjoy this simple and convenient recipe!

  • Batch of vine tomatoes (Usually about 4-6 tomatoes)
  • 1-2 mangos
  • 1/4 cup of red onion (Add more if you like red onion)
  • 1/4 cup of fresh cilantro
  • Small cam of chipotles in A0dobo Sauce
  • Small can of diced mild green chilis
  • 2 limes
  • Salt (if needed)

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Cut up tomatoes, mangos, red onion and cilantro and add to blender. One mango will suffice, but if you like a sweeter salsa, use two mangos.  Drain the liquid from the adobe and green chilies and add to the blender. (For a spicier taste, use the whole can of adobe chili. For a less spicy flavor, use 1/2 can or less.)  Add the two limes and then pulse the ingredients.

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This amount can last a week, so eat it with tortilla chips, add to chicken, nachos, eggs – any dish that goes well with salsa.

Reflections – Life Outside of Motherhood

My sweet little girl had her 1st birthday party over the weekend, and I felt a lot of different emotions as I was getting ready for her party. This time last year, she was six days overdue – after we were told at 20 weeks that I had a high risk pregnancy and she would probably come early. I started my maternity on my due date, June 4th, with no baby in site. I ended up having six full days to myself before my new journey as a mother started.

It’s amazing how life changes the moment your child is born. Everything seemed so surreal at the time. I had baby fever for a while, and here was my baby, in my arms. I was finally a mother. A tired mother, apparently! The other night I was looking at some of the pictures right after delivery up to our first day at home, and I had no idea how tired I looked! That tiredness has not gone away in the last year.  I can go on and on about my memories and thoughts as a first time Mom, but I’ve had some time to reflect on changes within me as a woman.

As I mentioned earlier, I took maternity leave. I went back to work after 12 weeks, and being a Working Mom has been my number one challenge this year. I cherished every moment of my leave, but discovered that being a full-time stay at home mom was not for me. The mothers who have this amazing opportunity are blessed, but I still want to have a career of some sort. Even though I feel this way, the guilt of leaving my child with another caretaker for eight hours a day, everyday, is extremely overpowering. I am fortunate to have a good job and can contribute to the household income, but since I don’t know if we’re having another child, I often wonder throughout the day if I should’ve (or should) just take that step of faith, be at home with my daughter and go back to freelancing. But then if I go back to freelancing, when am I going to have the time to network and bid for jobs? Ahhh! Too much to think about! The ideal working life for me remains to be seen, but I know everything will work out as it should.

Once upon a time, really just a few years ago, my weekends included Zumba every Saturday morning, maybe taking a trip to the local farmer’s market, and just doing whatever else I wanted to do. Now, my weekends are all about family. These days, if I am going out on a Saturday morning, it’s to take my daughter on a playdate, or she’s joining me on some of my outings. The change in my activities has also brought about a change in the people I do them with. Of course I’m spending more time with other mothers, some of whom I didn’t have a relationship with before we had children. I still hang out with some of my old friends who don’t have children, and I appreciate them for understanding the change in my life. With everything going on, it can be challenging to maintain some old friendships as well as create new ones. But with the limited time I have, I’ve learned that the ones who want to be in your life, will.

After being a wife, mother, and career woman…. where is the time to myself? I definitely enjoy the simple things, such as sneaking upstairs and catching a few episodes of my favorite Netflix shows when little baby decides she wants her dad. Also, a good pedicure or couple hours at the salon are an oasis to me. Sometimes a few moments to ourselves is all we need when we have a break from Mommyhood.

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