Journey To the Finish Line

PR's, 4 children, hopes and dreams; I'm always running after something



Adventures in Breastfeeding Twins: A Year Later

Other than this post, I haven’t blogged much about breastfeeding. I’ve written a comment here and there about ounces eaten or feeds dropped as the babies got older in weekly posts but thats about it. They are almost a year old now and we are soon beginning the process of weaning. I have much respect for those who continue to nurse into toddlerhood, but for me the journey ends at (or around) one.

Before Miles and Abby were born I tried to keep a flexible attitude about how I was going to feed them. I wanted to breastfeed but wasn’t sure I would have the supply, energy or determination. I told myself that while breastfeeding was my goal, I would not be angry with myself if it didn’t happen or if I made the decision that the effort was really not best for our family. I budgeted for formula just in case. I kept a few sample cans around and held onto coupons in an effort to keep the cost down. Knowing babies develop the suck, swallow breathe pattern around 35 weeks gestation and that we were at a higher risk for premature birth, I didn’t want to have any expectations.

Miraculously, we made it to 38 weeks. After hearing about the importance of skin to skin and nursing ASAP after birth, I worried a bit about our choice to have a cesarean section. The babies were taken to be weighed, assessed and bathed before they were brought to me in the recovery room. The hospital LC accompanied them and helped while I attempted to place one on each breast. Both latched on instantly and I congratulated myself on what I expected to be the first of many tandem feeds. I shrugged off the suggestion from the LC that I feed individually for awhile.

A couple of days later Abby showed her stubborn streak when she wailed that my colostrum was not enough to satisfy her and she did, in fact, NOT want to wait for my milk to come in. I tearfully agreed to a formula “top off” of 1-1.5 oz after each nursing session, something I probably could have refused and only ended up needing for a few feeds anyway. Because when my milk came in, I mean it CAME IN. Suddenly I grew from a modest B to Dolly Parton cup size and because I was feeding so frequently, my body produced so much milk thatI became engorged after only a few hours. To give an example, I could complete a feed, pump 3-4 oz and still not be empty. To top it off, Miles developed a poor latch and I began to battle with broken skin on my nipples. It was then that I finally understood what the LC meant and began feeding individually. For me, though, this meant I was spending 2x as long feeding and found myself overwhelmed and exhausted by it by evening. I craved a break and welcomed the pump because I could empty in half the time it took to nurse both individually.

2-3 weeks later Abby started spitting up. When I say spitting up I’m not talking about a little here and there, I’m saying we sometimes estimated ounces lost. It stressed me out so much I called a private LC for a weighted feed so I could get an idea if she was getting enough. Since she was born on the small size (discharged from the hospital at 5 lbs 6 oz and lowest weight at 5 lbs 4 oz), every ounce was important. As it turns out, she nursed like a champ but often spit up likely because my let down reflex was so strong. I tried everything from feeding reclined to assigning her her own breast (which not only didn’t work but eventually made me look comically uneven in size), feeding sitting, burping often and taking breaks.  We even bought her a special reflux pillow because she spit up at night and did a trial with Zantac. Nothing worked, and it made the experience stressful. And let’s not forget the part where I sprayed and/or dropped on every available surface in the house – some humans included.
It took 8 solid weeks before I faced breastfeeding with more enjoyment than dread and 12 weeks before I finally REALLY started to enjoy it.

If I remember correctly (and honestly there is a decent chance that I don’t thanks to sleep deprivation), it was 4-5 months before I was able to stop getting up in the middle of the night to pump even though the babies were sleeping longer stretches. It was also about that time that it started taking longer to pump than nurse so I took the night shift more often than not. On the plus side, this made things easier in general because at this point I was so used to nursing individually that tandem nursing began to feel awkward. I began to feel thankful for my ridiculously fast let down because I could have BOTH babies fed in 20 minutes (however, this did NOT help our spit up situation).

Over the next several months we found our groove and slowly dropped nursing sessions as more solids were added. We (with mostly amusement) dealt with “distracted nursing” (squirrel!). I was pretty lucky that biting was never a big issue. I enjoyed feeing each individually because it allowed me to have some individual snuggle time. Somewhere around 9-10 months there was a noticeable drop in interest and nursing sessions began to get shorter. I had feared they would be difficult to wean, but they are proving me wrong.

I remember a few weeks in thinking that breastfeeding for a year felt like a very long time. There were periods where I felt overwhelmed, stressed, and frustrated. I became surprisingly emotional and attached to it and my ability to provide the babies with breastmilk. Once my supply regulated, I worried often about making enough. I sometimes pumped extra late night or woke up in the middle of the night to make sure they would have enough for day care. I did not enjoy pumping and admittedly sometimes was annoyed at needing to duck out of social events to pump. Sometimes I was annoyed that I was getting up most often simply because it was faster for me to breastfeed (and I was too paranoid about my supply to skip a feed/pump). If there is one thing I wish I had known beforehand it would be this: breastfeeding can be, and often is, hard.

Still, it is almost a year later and I find myself shocked that it went by so quickly. The weaning process is bittersweet. These will likely be my only babies and my only chance to breastfeed. I look forward to kicking the pump to the curb and not having to plan where I will be when its feeding time but its just another sign that my babies are no longer babies. In fact, Abby has refused the last few nursing sessions, which makes me think she might be done already. I will miss the built in cuddles that will likely be fleeting the older and more active they get.

My story isn’t all that exciting and comparatively speaking our adventure not all that bumpy. Still, a full year is quite a feat and I’d say I’m as proud of myself as I was crossing the finish line of both marathons. Maybe more. I know technically we are still two weeks away but aside from the possibility of slightly early weaning I think its safe to say mission accomplished.

We made it!

Comeback Half Marathon Race Recap

Woo hoo! I didn’t break any more limbs or appendages and so didn’t have to drop out of this one! In the fiasco that was packet pick up I have to admit I was a little concerned, but luckily that tragedy was avoided. Packet pickup was the night before, and thanks to traffic cost me 3 hours, a walk in the dark (hence the initial concern), lots of patience and almost an entire bag of snowman poop. But hey, these are the sacrifices we make as runners. 🙂

Preparation for this race was a little different and in a way it looked like I was getting ready for an overnighter thanks to a bag filled with extra clothes, a breast pump and a cooler. Racing is definitely doable while breastfeeding, but it certainly is a different experience. I was fortunate to have a friend willing to drive so I could pump on the way. Moooooo.

We drove down to Kiawah Island, parked and hopped on the shuttle that was going to take us to the race.

Pre race bus picture
Pre race bus picture

Upon arrival we were shuttled out of the bus (pun intended), went to the restroom, ran into a couple friends and then headed for the start line.

Getting ready to start
Getting ready to start

It took a couple of minutes to reach the start line after the gun went off, and I spent the first couple of miles zig zagging around other runners in attempt to find a comfortable spot. On the plus side, it forced me to start off more slowly. Historically, I’m not very good at this. The scenery was very pretty – lots of water, huge houses and gorgeous Oak Trees with lots of spectators cheering us on. One of my favorite things about spectators are the signs they make. Among my favorites at this race said “If a marathon were easy, they would call it your mom”. And “run now, poop later”.

Once the runners dispersed some I found what fell like a comfortable pace. I have heard of runners dedicating race miles to certain individuals and I had planned to spend a few miles doing the same. The problem is I was having difficulty staying focused on my speed (not wanting to go too fast) while concentrating on dedications. So instead, I spent a few miles thinking about everyone I had planned to dedicate a mile to:

To Charlie and Henry – twins born prematurely around 24 weeks and who have been fighting every bump in the road like champs.

To Tucker and Spencer – twins born prematurely at 26.5 weeks and have been fighting just as hard.

To Christine – she lost her baby boy Jacob nearly a year ago and is pregnant with her rainbow baby, but on hospital bed rest after she began to leak amniotic fluid. She has been through so much over the last year and we are praying baby stays put for many more weeks.

To Cyndi – pregnant with twin girls after losing her twin boys at 23 weeks. She now works for the March of Dimes and I find her to be so strong and inspirational.

To Bryan – without his support I wouldn’t be able to do this. He is behind me every step of the way and I am sure I don’t tell him how much I appreciate it often enough, and to Miles and Abby for whom I hope to be a good role model.

Around Mile 9 I started to get tired, but thanks to Lynnsey was able to keep pace and finish strong. We crossed the finish line together in 1:51:13, an average 8:25 per mile – a PR for her and a much better time than I had expected.

Like my inhaler belt?
Like my inhaler belt?

The cool part is I got to run this race on the day the twins turned 7 months old. So even though I had to miss my original comeback race, that made this one a little bit more special.

Now to keep running!

Life with Twins – Week 20

Twenty weeks old isn’t really all that significant but for some reason it feels like it to me. Maybe its because twenty weeks is typically associated with the halfway point of a pregnancy. Maybe its the jump from the teens to the twenties. Whatever the reason, it seems old. I mean, as far as babies go.

I continue to gimp around and not run in my stupid boot. It’s been almost two weeks since I broke it so 4 more to go. I have discovered, thankfully for my sanity, that I can use the elliptical with the boot on and keep my toe stable. I’ve also (finally) been doing more core work and weights after every elliptical workout and think it may actually be helping my still split ab muscles. On top of that, I finally discovered the wonders of Breaking Bad when I looked it up on Netflix and use that to entertain myself. I  just finished the first season, so no spoilers please 🙂

On the plus side, I dunno if it was because I was sick or just lucky but it appears that I have finally lost the final 2-4 lbs I was fighting as the scale has been steady for the last few days. If I can’t run, I can at least celebrate that! I also signed up for comeback half part 2 in December. I should have 7 weeks to train for it after my toe heals. I probably won’t be able to run fast, but I should at least be able to finish it. So there’s that.

Babies are getting bigger every day. Still no rolls from Abby yet and Miles still hilariously gets stuck on his stomach because he hasn’t figured out how to roll back. We go to a party to celebrate babies that our fertility clinic throws and go to Landen’s second birthday party. I wrote about his birth in my 2nd or 3rd post in this blog two years ago. Crazy. Both babies are starting to giggle in response to tickles and pay more attention to their lovey’s and the stuffed animals on their wubbanubs. But since they’ve figured out how to grab, but not let go, they often end up pulling the pacifier out of their mouths and then cry. Like, wtf just happened mom? It was there and now its gone.  🙂 They are also (much to my demise) starting to get distracted while eating and Abby likes to do this thing when she’s done that involves my nipple and pulling. I do not look forward to teeth. We haven’t started solids yet even though the pediatrician said we could  – they still don’t seem all that interested, and I’m in no hurry.

No onto the fun part:

  • Abby wears her first pair of shoes
Whoooooo could be cuter than me?
Whoooooo could be cuter than me?
  • And strikes a pose, madonna style
  • We go to a celebrate babies party
Our babies rock the Coastal hats
Our babies rock the Coastal hats
  • And make our fertility doc pose for a few pictures
aforementioned photo request :)
I’m even cooler with babies
  • And one with our awesome nurse
She's pretty awesome
She’s pretty awesome
  • We go for a ride in the double jogger – of course no jogging
Faster mom, this is boring
Faster mom, this is boring
  • Miss Abby gets fussy and stuck in the carrier
I fuss, I get worn
I fuss, I get worn

Obviously no running stats this week. Boo.

And as always keep clicking to vote for my blog. I’m #3 right now and would love to keep moving up! Click click click!!!

A Lame Realization

I’m generally a horrible relaxer. Throw me some free time and I spend half of it cleaning, or if I don’t, I spend half the lounging time feeling guilty about not cleaning.

The babies started day care last week and while eventually the plan is for me to work 3 full days, the caseload just isn’t there right now so I only work a few hours on Wednesdays. Since Bryan works right across the street and we are paying for it anyway, he takes the babies to day care for the full day. This means that, at least for the next few weeks, I have a few hours to myself every Wednesday. After spending all my time recently juggling babies and cleaning, laundry and exercising it seemed my options were endless…..well, as endless as they could be considering I still have to pump every 3 hours. I could sleep all morning, I could watch episode after episode of Gilmore Girls, I could blog until my hearts content, I could run and run and run.

Naturally I didn’t.

You know how you see those TV episodes where mom finds herself alone in the house for a few hours? She has these grand plans of a luxurious bath while reading half a novel followed by a 2 hour movie and then a nap? But somehow she gets distracted and ends up cleaning the entire house in a fury?

I thought of that today while I washed out the vacuum canister.

It wasn’t all bad though. I went for a 6 mile run this morning, took a shower, had my coffee and pop tarts. I washed and folded two loads of laundry, cleaned the vacuum, vacuumed the floors, cleaned out the coffee maker, unladed and loaded the dishwasher, attempted a nap, took a picture of the giant shrimp Bryan had shipped here per his request (don’t ask), all while watching Gilmore Girls in the background until I pulled a plug with the vacuum attachment while attempting to rid the area behind the TV of cobwebs. I didn’t get everything done I wanted to in my head but somehow I managed to get a few things done and relax a bit in the meantime.S Strangely I feel somewhat recharged.

As I sit here now in front of my laptop, pumping, I think to myself that I have a much bigger issue than the un mopped floors and piles of baby clothes left unsorted (all left for tomorrow, or maybe next Wednesday). I just described a morning of cleaning, showering and eating as somewhat relaxing.

I am horribly lame.

Oh well 🙂

The One Where I Talk About Boobies and Support

But not in the way that you probably think.

So this week is World Breastfeeding Week. I didn’t even know there was a breastfeeding week. In fact, August is also breastfeeding MONTH. Who knew an entire month was dedicated to boobs? And that my birthday shares the month dedicated to boobs?

My husband would be so excited.

So lets talk about boobs- doctors, the internet, TV ads – they all tell how breastfeeding is beneficial to both mom and baby. How it saves you money, reduces the risk of SIDS, decreases risks of cancer, and apparently makes babies smarter. Its natural, they say, to use mothers milk. It’s always available. It’s great bonding time. It’s healthier than formula. Some people go as far as to say that formula is bad. (On the other hand, I’ve also heard that breastfeeding is for poor people who can’t afford formula)

Here is what they don’t tell you:

Breastfeeding IS great bonding time. It’s rewarding. But it’s also complicated. It doesn’t always feel natural.

Breastfeeding is HARD.

I breastfeed the twins and other than a little bit of formula during the early days have for the entire 12 weeks they have been alive. I am proud of this and hope to continue until they are at least 6 months (maybe even a year). My experience hasn’t been nearly as difficult as some but I’m going to be honest when I say: I have a love/hate relationship with my boobs, and breastfeeding.

Once I figured out the crazy mechanics needed for a woman to get pregnant, sometimes I wondered how anyone gets pregnant at all (despite the fact that its so easy for some). The same goes for breastfeeding. Many things have to work correctly – at the same time  – for it to be successful. You need an adequate supply. Baby needs to be able to latch. Baby needs a strong enough suck. Baby needs an adequate suck-swallow-breathe sequence. Baby’s oral anatomy needs to be adequate  in order to be able to extract the milk.(i.e. no tongue/lip ties) The list goes on and on. The problem many moms face is a need to start with a bottle for one reason or another that results in a baby who then isn’t interested in the breast.

In the hospital the babies were brought to me about an hour after delivery to attempt breastfeeding. The latched, together, like champs. I thought to myself “dang,this breastfeeding thing is easy”. A couple days in, though, things started to go a little awry. Despite latching well, they were still crying after a feeding. And I’m not talking “hey, I think I’d like a little more milk, mom”.  I’m saying “OH.MY.GOD.I.IHAVEN’T.EATEN.IN.YEARS!!!!” (years I tell you, years). It was heartbreaking – and the nurse suggested, only 2 days in, that we supplement with formula until my milk officially came in. I told myself AND others before they were born that I had no qualms about using or supplementing with formula if that what was needed – that I wasn’t going to allow myself to be upset if I needed to use it. But suddenly, sitting in the hospital listening to Abby scream, I felt like a failure because I wasn’t able to supply what she needed.

And so the emotional roller coaster began.

We did end up using a little formula for a few feedings. Then one morning I woke up and suddenly I had transformed from B for Barely There to D for Hello Dolly Parton. As a runner, I was not a fan of the drastic size increase (seriously, you should see how ridiculous my sports  bras are). I was, however, excited that things were rolling the way they should be – and then my nipples started blistering and I couldn’t figure out why. I winced through a few tandem feedings before I realized that Miles’ latch sucked (this is no longer a problem – if you’ve seen a pic of him lately,  you know he gets plenty). I fed separately and worked on this and after a few days and some nipple cream they were back to normal.

That’s when the spraying started. I sprayed everything – the couch, the bed, my clothes, the floor, the babies eyeballs. I got out of the shower and dripped on every surface in my bedroom. To this day I find some old milk stains in strange places (like my bed foot board) and still sometimes drip on various surfaces post shower. I still spray the babies in the eye. It takes a few weeks for your body to figure out how much milk to produce. Some don’t end up with enough. Others, like me, end up with too much. I was filling up so quickly I was uncomfortable in less time than they were ready to eat in, or they would finish and I would still feel uncomfortably full. Pumping some milk helped me build a stash  and feel better temporarily. Then I started dealing with some mild engorgement because my body was supplying me with what it thought the babies were drinking when in fact they were drinking less and as the babies get older the demands change and I often find that it is a fine line for me between making enough and way too much. I saw a Lactation Consultant. I know many moms out there probably wish for an oversupply but believe me when I say it comes with its own set of problems.

Then there is the emotional side: in the course of the last 3 months I’ve found Ive developed an attachment. Iff I suspect for even a second that my supply is dwindling I worry that I am failing my babies.  Before seeing the LC, I worried a little every day about whether Abby was getting enough simply because she was so tiny. At the same time, though, I have had days where I find breastfeeding to be very limiting. I can’t go anywhere for more than a few hours without my pump. Even on a “night off” when Bryan or family member takes the babies, I still set an alarm to get up and pump to make up for the lost feeding(s). I have scheduled “pump breaks” at work (though am VERY lucky to have a boss that has not given any of us moms trouble about this). It took me nearly 8 weeks to be able to say I started to enjoy it. There is always going to be an element of guilt because of my infertility history. I am not a shy person and care more about the ability to leave the house and take care of my babies than I do about what others think, but still find myself eyeing those around me as I nurse with a cover on, wondering if they are bothered. It’s ironic all the hype about how great breastfeeding is but feeding in public is often met with distain, even with state laws in 48 states saying I have the right to breastfeed in public.

With that said, I know my struggles have been minor compared to some. Women on Twitter write about working from exclusively bottle feeding to exclusively breastfeeding and pumping several times a day on top of nursing in order to produce enough milk. That level of dedication inspires me. Let me be clear when I say I know I am lucky in so many ways. If given the choice I would go through it all again, and plan to  breastfeed as long as my body will let me (or until a year). I fully support the concept of breastfeeding month and advocate the use of mothers milk. But I also support moms who, whether by force or choice, use formula either exclusively or as a supplement. Plenty of babies thrive on formula. The feeding path each woman chooses can be a difficult one and no one should be judged for the one she takes.

Mama By The Bay, I love your “I Support You” campaign, and so I wrote this post not only to share but to say:

To moms who pump and bottle feed, moms who formula feed, moms who breastfeed, moms who supplement – doing what is best for your family and your baby(ies) is most important. It may be World Breastfeeding Month, but breastfeeding moms aren’t the only moms who need support. We all do.

I support all of you.

My Dolly Parton boobs do too.

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