Me, My Premature Baby and My Inability to Breastfeed

I’m a NICU mom. I quit pumping…and you can too.

When I was pregnant, several people asked me if I planned to breastfeed. My answer was always the same: “I will definitely try.”

I actually read on a blog recently someone saying they didn’t like when people say they will “try”. The writer felt that was a ridiculous statement because everyone can breastfeed.

I’m here to say, that is 100% not true.

When my son was born more than 9 weeks early, I really wanted to provide breastmilk for him because he was a “preemie”. Physically “breastfeeding” him wasn’t logistically possible as he hadn’t yet learned to swallow, suck and breathe (apparently, they learn that in the womb around 34 weeks), so he was taking all of his “feeds” through a feeding tube.

A nurse (or a lactation consultant, I really can’t remember as I was still pretty shell-shocked about having my baby early) rolled in a breast pump machine, breast pump kit, syringe and labels. She patiently demonstrated just how to use the machine. Nothing was coming out now, but she assured me my milk would “come in” in a few days. In the meantime however, I was to pump around the clock every 2-3 hours.

The next day, a lactation consultant visited my hospital room. I told her I still hadn’t gotten anything – including colostrum – so she showed me how to hand express. I was shocked when liquid slowly oozed out of my boobs! It’s really happening, I thought to myself. I figured a few drops in my syringe that day was just a precursor to the mountains of bottles I would be filling up as soon as my milk came in.

After being discharged from the hospital two days later, I went to Babies R Us and rented the exact same machine they had in the hospital.

I continued to pump around the clock and continued to get nothing. And I don’t mean the “nothing” that people say they’re getting when they’re actually getting about 2 ounces. I was literally getting NOTHING. Not even a drop.

A week in to this, I began to panic.

Because I was sitting in the NICU for 10-12 hours a day, I talked to a lot of nurses and lactation consultants. I endured the innocent “do you have any milk, Mom?” question over and over again. I wanted to scream, if I HAD milk, don’t you think I would give it to you??

The lactation consultants and nurses suggested I keep trying. “Drink water.” “Eat oatmeal.” “Do lots of skin-to-skin with your baby.” “Look at pictures and videos of him while you’re pumping.” Tried it. Tried it. Tried it. Tried it. Still nothing!

I began to up the ante. I put a heating pad across my chest. I tried harder hand expressing. I bought fenugreek pills and Yogi tea.

For all my efforts, I got one to five mls on a good day. Yes MILLILETERS. And, yes I was pumping around the clock – even waking up in the middle of the night to pump.

One night, around about 4am, I had a breakdown.

Exhausted and bone-dry, I cried.

My husband seeing my dedication to pumping and my anguish with the results suggested I stop.

“But he needs my breastmilk!” I explained through tears. Our son was trapped in a hospital, surrounded by strangers and struggling to thrive outside of the womb. All I had to do was come through on my ONE JOB: provide breastmilk.

My husband, the ever-present voice of reason even in the midst of the most trying time of our lives said simply, “He’s not getting your breastmilk anyway. You’re just putting yourself through torture.” Or something like that. I can’t really remember exactly what he said because I was crying and delirious.

The next day, I talked to my son’s neonatologist and dietician. They both assured me that he would be fine on formula, so that night, I quit pumping cold turkey. I got the best night’s sleep I’d had in weeks and with the stress of the NICU, I needed that sleep for me and my baby.

And you know what? My boobs never filled up and never felt sore. It was as though I had never tried breastfeeding at all.

At times, I still feel bad about not being able to breastfeed my baby. Stirring up that weird powder stuff sometimes causes me a twinge of pain. At least once a day, while feeding my son with a bottle, I say out loud to my husband “I wish I was breastfeeding our son”.

And like so many things I’ve had to make my peace with since my preterm labor — no baby shower, no maternity photos, no Fresh48 photos, no “big and pregnant” stage, no last ten weeks of my pregnancy, no fun “going into labor” moments — I’ve had to struggle to make my peace with the fact that I’m not a mom who breastfeeds.

Eventually, I returned the pump to the store, placed all the breastfeeding pump accessories in a box, and put away my handsfree pumping bra, maternity bras, maternity camis and sweaters and the nursing covers I had invested in. The disappointment and dejection I felt while doing this is hard to put into words. I didn’t even know I wanted to breastfeed so bad until the realization hit me that this was not an option for me.

It’s one thing to DECIDE not to breastfeed, but knowing my body failed my son (again) is tough to take.

What makes it harder are the constant (real or imagined!) reminders of all of the benefits of breastfeeding (and breast milk in general!) from boosting his immune system and going easy on his digestion system to healing his chapped lips and treating diaper rash, and I just feel defeated. [Seriously, I googled “how to treat a newborn’s dry lips” and the first result was “use your breastmilk”. I wanted to throw my phone across the room!]

In those moments, I continue to remind myself that there are millions of babies in the world and a solid percentage of them are not fed breastmilk for a myriad of reasons. That’s what formula is for: women who don’t breastfeed – either because they can’t or they don’t want to. My son will be 100% fine.

And when people ask if I’m breastfeeding, I’ll just say no and not let anyone make me feel bad about it. I gave it my best effort, failed and moved on. And you can too!

Finally Leaving the NICU!

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Six weeks ago, I left the hospital in tears after having my baby early and then leaving him behind in the NICU. Today, I am the happiest I have ever been!

After 42 days and 11 hours, 3,000 miles traveling back and forth, $184 in discounted parking, $196 in cafeteria food, probably 400 hours spent sitting at his bedside, an ocean of tears, plus watching baby after baby around us being discharged home, Alexander was finally released from the hospital today.

I am SO thankful for the prayers, the support and the skilled & caring Nationwide Children’s Hospital NICU team at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center who got us to this point. God is so good!!

My baby is FINALLY home. #SeptemberToRemember ❤️

Happy Neonatal Intensive Care Awareness Month!

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Baby Countdown Is On! 10 Weeks

baby countdownI feel like I’ve been pregnant forever.

Mainly because I found out in January, so I’ve been pregnant the whole year! But now I’m getting into the home stretch: I have just 10 weeks left!

When I was in college, we were on an academic quarter calendar and each quarter was 10 weeks long. In some ways they seemed long, but in reality, those weeks went by in a flash.

So basically, just like I had one quarter of Psychology 101 or Journalism 133, I’ve got one more quarter of Baby Prep 101 left! And that FREAKS ME OUT! I have 10 weeks left to get ready for the baby.

I still have so much to do! And what if he comes early? I may have only 8 or 9 weeks left. Literally, only God knows.

I am so excited….and only feeling slightly overwhelmed.

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Baby Boy Nursery Ideas

Now that we know what we’re having, it’s time to start thinking about the nursery.

The previous owners of our house had a little girl and they painted her bedroom pink. We immediately decided to leave the pink in hopes that we would eventually get pregnant – and then we would have a 50/50 chance of having a girl.

Well, we’re having a BOY, so bye-bye pink room!

Our little girl theme would’ve been pink princess. I know, so cliche, but I loved the idea of pink, lace and tiaras everywhere. I hadn’t thought too much about what I would want the boy theme to be so I went to Pinterest for inspiration…and found A LOT! We narrowed it down to a few. Continue reading “Baby Boy Nursery Ideas”

Five Places to Visit In Tipp City Ohio

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My husband and I like to road trip and for my birthday we decided to check out Tipp City, Ohio.  Continue reading “Five Places to Visit In Tipp City Ohio”

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DIY Dressing Room Reveal

Spare Bedroom Dream Closet

Take it from me: once you’ve converted a spare bedroom into a huge closet/dressing room/cloffice – whatever the cool kids are calling it these days – it is almost impossible to go back. Continue reading “DIY Dressing Room Reveal”

Musings On Unanswered Prayers…

praying-emojiRecently, I’ve come to terms with something that has been groundbreaking in my walk with God.

I realized: We don’t get everything we ask God for. Continue reading “Musings On Unanswered Prayers…”

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Blue Apron: Why I Canceled

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This is me in my head!

If you’re like me then you have dreams of being some gourmet glamour girl. Hair in-tact, flawless makeup, rocking a perfectly pressed apron, feet in stilettos, cooking up delicious meals in a gorgeous kitchen.

In reality, you’re in sweats, house wrecked, hair a mess, barefaced, standing in your god awful kitchen and pulling crumpled, stained pizza place coupons out of the junk drawer.

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This is me in real life

“That was last week. For real, this week will be different.” At least, that was what I thought to myself when the first Blue Apron box arrived on my doorstep. Continue reading “Blue Apron: Why I Canceled”

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Marriage Stuff: Turning Toward Him

By the time my husband arrived home from work, I was already in sweats, curled up on the couch, blanket draped over my lap, three episodes deep in a Keeping Up with the Kardashians season 1 marathon. I’d planned to order a pizza and relax in that spot for the rest of the evening.

So when Joe got home and asked if I was hungry, I was fully prepared to suggest a medium pepperoni pizza for two. He had other plans, “how about something out of the box?” (No pun intended.) He suggested we go to a local restaurant/bowling alley.

Ugh, I immediately thought to myself, now I have to get dressed.  Continue reading “Marriage Stuff: Turning Toward Him”

What To Expect When You’re NOT Expecting

I can see “the question” coming from a conversation away.

It’s innocent, well-meaning, inquisitive…and frustrating.

“So when are you having a baby?”

I’ve been hit with the question at brunch with friends and while sitting in church near acquaintances. The question comes up at work and when I bump into an old friend at the mall. Even complete strangers find it appropriate to ask me if my husband and I are having kids soon.

My answer varies from a mumbling shrug to a bright and cheery “I don’t know. We’re open to it, so probably sometime soon.” What I want to say is: “We’ll have a baby when I get pregnant. We’ve been trying for a baby for years and failed every time. At this point, I’m sick of people asking.” But that would be rude and I understand that the person asking me isn’t trying to be rude, so I just do the fake smile thing or the mumble shrug thing.

Either way, I’m frustrated both with being asked the question and by not being able to answer with “I’m pregnant right now!”

No one wants ME to have a baby more than ME. And sometimes it seems that every one has a baby except me.

When I’m out and about, I notice more pregnant women than ever. I notice every toddler in a stroller, every kid in a shopping cart, every baby peeking out of a Bjorn strapped to his mom’s chest.

There was a time when I thought getting pregnant would be the worst thing to ever happen to me. Even after I got married, I was still anti-baby-on-the-way. Each visit from Aunt Flow was a relief. I was focused on my career, my marriage, my friends, and my freedom.

Then one day something changed.

I’m not even sure what changed. All I know is I went from rolling my eyes at anyone who commented that my (White) husband and I would make beautiful children to endlessly scrolling through “#MixedRaceBabiesIG” pictures on Instagram. I went from declaring a baby would be the death of my career ambitions to dreaming about conquering the challenges that come with being a working mom. Suddenly, I realized that I no longer wanted to put mommyhood on hold for my career. I wanted both.

And so far, it hasn’t happened.

Every month when my cycle starts, it feels like a funeral…but I’m the only one invited.

Perhaps unfairly, I blame this crushing disappointment in my inability to get pregnant right away on a sex education system that preached unprotected sex automatically equals pregnancy. Abstinence-only education preaches that even protected sex can result in pregnancy. Case in point: Remember that famous “Friends” episode (“The One Where Rachel Tells Ross”) and they had an entire – hilarious – scene about the fact that condoms are not 100% effective against pregnancy? Yeah, lucky them.

Of course sex leads to pregnancy (both wanted and unwanted), but it’s not that simple for many women.

The truth is, you can try and try and try and fail and fail and fail.

At the end of the day, all the calendars, ovulation kits, strategic positioning, multiple romps in a day, weight loss plans, prenatal vitamins, careful timing – even fertility pills and IVF- in the world are completely at the mercy of God and biology.

In fact the CDC counts the number of married women ages 15-44 that are infertile (or unable to get pregnant after at least 12 consecutive months of unprotected sex with husband) at 1.5 million. If you count the women who can get pregnant but not carry a baby to full term that number jumps to 6.7 million.

On the bright side, a new study found that almost half of women who said they’d been struggling to get pregnant for at least a year ended up having a baby despite not getting fertility treatment.

So there is still hope!

While I’m not yet expecting, I try to keep in mind that right now is not forever. So I’m still waiting.

And waiting.

And waiting.

But I’ve decided that waiting isn’t necessarily that bad.

Because to wait is to remain actively involved in your breakthrough.

You’re only “waiting” if you’re still believing. If you didn’t believe you will have what you’re hoping for, then you wouldn’t be waiting at all. Instead, you would have given up hope.

So, in that spirit, the only thing I’ve found helpful and productive while waiting is to be thankful. To be thankful for the place I am in right now. To be thankful for both the days I can sleep in carefree and the nights I can slave at work until the wee hours. Thankful that my husband and I can just pick up and go on a trip and thankful for the days we can just stay home and do absolutely nothing. Thankful for getting to watch my nieces and nephews and thankful for the ability to just give them back.

Although I am hoping to go from here to mommyhood as soon as possible, in this moment right here, right now there is something to be thankful for. Every single thing has its upsides and downsides. I just have to focus on the upsides and maybe even create an upside simply by looking for it. While I’m waiting for things to turn, I may as well make the most of the kid-free moment I’m in right now because, once I’m finally pregnant, I’ll never have this moment again.

So, if you’re like me and you’re wondering what to expect when you’re NOT expecting, well honestly, expect to be disappointed. However, I hope you’ll join me in tempering that disappointment with a little enjoyment and thankfulness for the moment that we’re in right now.

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#BackstageBuzz

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I don’t play favorites with my segments because I love them all equally, but “Backstage Buzz” is definitely one of the most fun.

Backstage Buzz is a series I created featuring musicians, comedians, actors, speakers, etc who come to Columbus for concerts and events. Continue reading “#BackstageBuzz”

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Royal Caribbean – Allure of the Seas Review

DSC_0050A friend once told me that “cruises are a poor man’s vacation.”

Obviously we weren’t really friends because who says that to someone after being told they’re excited about a honeymoon cruise?

Regardless, I’ve been on five cruises since then and I LOVE CRUISING. Continue reading “Royal Caribbean – Allure of the Seas Review”