Thursday, December 22, 2011

Don't cry over spilled milk.

Whoever said don’t cry over spilled milk apparently never breastfed. Or used a breast pump. 

This was supposed to be a blog post providing clever advice on troubleshooting your breastfeeding woes, but tonight, I’m not feeling like I have all the answers (just tonight; I usually do have all the answers, of course).

I’d really like to know the name and address of the person who painted this picture of a Gisele look-a-like—her hair perfectly coiffed and makeup flawless, no bags under her eyes and all her baby weight vanished, no pooch in her tummy—caressing a perfectly calm newborn in a cradle hold, nursing contentedly, both smiling as a cool breeze gently floats through the open window in the spotless nursery that’s frosted in lace and pastels and stuffed zoo animals.

Pffffff. On what planet does that actually happen? Here’s the real picture: I’m completely topless (and not in a good way) because I’m too tired to figure out this contraption of a nursing bra, spraying milk in every direction, soaking not only the brand new off-white glider we’re sitting in but my baby boy‘s face as well. Of course, he doesn’t notice because he’s out cold, even though we’ve tried everything (except those things that would earn us a visit from Child Services), from patting his back with a cold washcloth to tickling his toes to my husband slamming a book shut and ringing our MSU cowbell several feet away, to try to keep him awake so he’ll take in a full feeding. He sleeps through it all. My hair’s a mess, I have no idea where my makeup bag even is, my suitcase from the hospital still isn’t unpacked. I have a bath towel in my lap, and a burp cloth covering each breast, all three getting soaked as I plead with my son to wake up and nurse. And when he actually latches on, he does so with such force that I’m afraid I’m going to lose a nipple.

That was just the newborn phase.

To be fair, we had a couple of pretty easy months. I figured out the nursing bra and my milk supply stabilized. My son learned how to latch on after a couple of days and grew alert enough to be an efficient eater, taking in a full feeding each time.

Now he’s almost four months old, and he’s obsessed with his curtains. Seriously. They are right behind the glider, and he will, in mid-suck, pull away to stare at his curtains. I will shift him around so his back is to the window, but then he throws his head back to stare at them upside down. So I wait. On his way back to the breast, he’ll stop to stare at his ceiling fan. Then back at the curtains. Then back to the ceiling fan.

Two sucks and he’ll look up at me and grin, mllk dribbling down his neck, past his bib, and onto his brand new Baby Gap onesie. Or, he’ll take in too much at once and break away, panicking, until I burp him. Sometimes he’ll smile and talk baby gibberish to me with his mouth full, which will spray milk all over my nursing bra.

To top it off, he’s starting to need more than I have been able to provide by exclusively nursing. So I’ve had to supplement with stored, bottled breast milk until I can increase my milk supply. Only, he won’t take a bottle after he’s nursed, so I have to give it to him first. Then he doesn’t nurse as long, which perpetuates the problem of keeping my supply up.

So I pump. Which let me tell you is SEXY. There is nothing more attractive to a man than to witness his wife getting milked like a heifer (this is, of course, after he’s witnessed her pushing out a human being through her lady parts). And then there’s the washing all the attachments and bottles. And doing it all over again in two to three hours.

No wonder so many women give it up! It’s exhausting. And frustrating. And it hardly seems worth it when I’m constantly worrying if my baby’s getting enough to eat. Breast milk is arguably the most ideal food for our babies, but they don’t tell us how close to the edge of our sanity we’ll tiptoe should we choose to breastfeed.

My goal that I set while I was pregnant was to breastfeed for a year. Then that goal became nine months. I shortly revised it to six months. Now I’m almost to four months, and my goal is to make it to New Year’s. Which is in a week and a half.

Ok, so I’m being a little dramatic. I don’t know how long I’ll breastfeed, and a friend wisely warned me not to quit on a bad day. But that’s not really the point.

The point is, you’re not alone if you’re torturing yourself with mind games and guilt trips over whether you do or don’t breastfeed. We all have that one friend that exclusively nursed all of her five children until their second birthdays with no hiccups or bumps along the way, never pumped, ate only the freshest organic foods and took extra vitamins, drank gallons of water a day and proudly wears a World’s Best Mom tattoo on her forehead. And that is the standard to which we constantly compare ourselves. And at least for me personally, I don’t quite measure up.

I’m not saying we should give up because it’s hard. That’s not my style anyway. Parenthood is hard, period. Having it easy is not in the forecast. If it’s not breastfeeding, it’s sleep training. If it’s not sleep training, it will be potty training. Solid-food training. Discipline. Math homework. First dates with upperclassmen. We shouldn’t quit just because it’s challenging.

But we can develop the right perspective. This won’t last forever. Our babies will soon, right before our eyes, start eating solid foods and eventually have no need for breast milk. Breastfeeding is a fleeting opportunity to provide our babies a great start to a healthy life. And it will get easier.

Or, it won’t, and you’ll have to stop breastfeeding. That’s okay, too. Formula is not the devil’s spit, and feeding your baby formula is certainly not the unpardonable sin. However long you are able to breastfeed is time well spent, even if it’s a few short weeks.

If breastfeeding is a priority for you, then stick to your beliefs and make it work to the extent you’re willing to sacrifice for it. But let’s give ourselves a break and keep it in context. Breastfeeding is not the only way to produce a healthy child. It’s not the only way to bond with our babies or prove our love for them. There will be countless other opportunities for that. And we won’t screw them up for life with this one decision.

There will be countless opportunities for that, too. :)

Thursday, December 15, 2011

HypnoBirthing: My birthing preferences

Several of you have asked me to post a copy of my birthing preferences that I gave to our nursing staff, so I've included them at the bottom of this blog post.

A few thoughts about birthing preferences: You need to discuss these with your doctor, nurse practitioner, midwife, doula—whoever is going to be involved in your labor and delivery—well ahead of your due date. DO NOT walk into the hospital when your contractions are two minutes apart and bark your orders to the nursing staff between breaths and expect them to happily comply. In fact, the earlier you disclose them the better, because if you and your physician heavily disagree, you may need to find someone else to deliver your baby. I was very blessed to work with my doctor, Dr. Chris Radpour, and the nursing staff at Erlanger East in Chattanooga, who were super supportive of our decision to have a HypnoBirthing birth. 

You and your partner (or whoever is going to be in the room with you) really need to talk about what's important to you and what you can be flexible about, and know how to pick your battles. DO NOT be a momzilla. Birth is not the time to tap into your inner diva. While you should make decisions based on what you're comfortable with, you may also be paired with your nursing staff for a while, and it serves your best interest not to make enemies with the nursing staff. (I actually baked cookies and delivered them, along with thank-you notes, to my doctor's office and the nursing staff at the hospital afterwards. Those nurses stay up on their feet all night long and tend to your every need for hours on end; it certainly wouldn't hurt to show a little appreciation.)

Remember, you are paying A LOT of money to have this baby; as long as you're not putting your health or the health of your baby in jeopardy, it's your call how you deliver your child. Within reason (please use common sense, ladies), you cannot be forced into anything you don't want to do. Fight for what's important to you, and (again, barring emergencies) don't take no for an answer. The nursing staff and doctor work for you, not the other way around.

Speaking of special circumstances, know that these are not the Ten Commandments. If a special circumstance arises, please be flexible. At least listen to what the doctor has to say and make an informed decision. Do not be so married to these preferences that you panic if something doesn't go your way. The point is to be confident and in control.

Birth preferences for natural labor 
Courtney and Kelley Thompson, baby Liam 


  • I would like my husband to stay with me at all times
  • Please, no students or hospital staff other than doctor/practitioner/nurse in the room
  • Visitors will only be allowed in room after birth 

    • Self-hydrate with clear fluids, no IV or IV port if not medically necessary 
    • Intermittent rather than continual blood pressure and heart/fetal monitoring

     Anesthesia/Pain Relief/Intervention
      • Avoid artificial induction 
      • Allow membranes to release naturally  
      • Please do not offer pain medication or ask about pain level  
      • Avoid episiotomy; I have been doing Kegels and perineal massage to minimize tearing 


        • Quiet, calm, dimly lit labor and delivery room 
        • Use of labor ball if needed 
        • Freedom to move around or try different positions if needed  
        • Mother-directed birth breathing, rather than forceful pushing   
        • I would like to wear contact lenses or glasses 

        After Birth
          • Immediate skin-to-skin contact with mom
          • Wait reasonable amount of time for cord to stop pulsing before cutting
          • Dad to assist with cord-cutting
          • Allow for natural placenta delivery
          • Mom or dad to hold baby during routine vital check/eye drops, etc.
          • Mom or dad to be present for circumcision
          • Breastfeeding exclusively soon after birth, then every 2 ½-3 hours—no bottles/pacifiers

          We have chosen Dr. Chris Radpour and the staff at Women’s East because we feel confident in their abilities and trust their experience and professionalism. In the event that a deviation from these preferences is medically necessary for the health of the mom and/or baby, we are open to your advice and recommendations and will be happy to cooperate.

          We would like to create as serene a birthing environment as possible, with only the most necessary assistance. We feel that if this birthing process does not exactly follow the charting system, it is not necessarily cause for medical intervention. We would appreciate the opportunity to try natural methods to maintain labor progress.

          Please feel free to message me or comment below if you have any questions!

          Monday, December 12, 2011

          Spice things up: hot and healthy jambalaya recipe

          Being that I'm originally from Texas, I can't get enough of spicy foods. I like my food like I like bubble baths and men (or man, since I'm married): the hotter the better.

          This jambalaya recipe that I got from my aunt is both delicious and pretty healthy, and since the temperature is dropping outside it's time to warm things up in the kitchen. This is super easy to make, and it can easily be toned down to your own tolerance level.


          White meat from a whole rotisserie chicken (I use traditional flavored), torn into chunks
          1 package smoked turkey sausage (I use Oscar Mayer or Butterball)
          1/2 stick butter, divided
          1 can Rotel tomatoes and green chilies
          1 can French onion soup (I use Campbell's Select; it's 18 ounces)
          about 12 ounces of beef broth (I use 1/2 a container of Swanson's all natural)
          Tabasco sauce
          3 cups Uncle Ben's converted parboiled rice

          In a large skillet, brown turkey sausage in 1 Tbsp butter on medium heat. Add chicken and heat well. Add tomatoes and chilies, stir and heat one minute. Add French onion soup, beef broth, and as much Tabasco sauce as you'd like; bring to a boil. Mix in rice. Bring to a boil again. Let simmer for about 15 minutes, or until rice is tender.

          Pour into a 9x13 casserole dish. Slice remaining butter and scatter slices over the top of jambalaya. Cover with aluminum foil. Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes. Let stand for 5 minutes. Serve and enjoy.

          My husband and I can eat a pan of this over several days. It's one of our favorite recipes!

          Hypnobirthing: The main event

          Please forgive me: I’ve been procrastinating on this blog post. Call it a classic case of momnesia if you’d like, but truth is I haven’t really forgotten about it; I just haven’t had any idea how to talk about my birthing experience. Going through childbirth is one of the most beautifully bizarre experiences I think a human will ever go through, and it’s deeply personal for each individual. Not to mention, you’re always walking a fine line of getting charged with a TMI.

          But if my experience can help someone else feel better about giving birth, then I don’t mind dishing the deets. I’m giving you fair warning now: If you’re a dude (although I’m pretty sure the only man that reads my blog is my husband), then you might want to skip over this post.

          Women tend to go into labor when they are in a relaxed state, from what I hear. That’s why, for a lot of women, it happens in the middle of the night. For me, it was only fitting that I go into labor on a very relaxing Labor Day, in the evening immediately after taking a nap, about 6 p.m. I went to the restroom, and for whatever reason it occurred to me that my husband hadn’t packed for the hospital yet. I was packed, Liam was packed, but Kelley had been putting it off. So I walked into the living room and said, “You know, you really need to have your suitcase packed. Technically I could go into labor any time now.” He shrugged, said, “Ok, sure,” and went upstairs to pack. I’m not kidding you—less than a minute later, my water broke. (Or in Hypnobirthing terms, my ‘membranes released.’ I think that sounds kind of silly, to be honest, and water breaking doesn’t freak me out, so I’ll just say that.) I yelled up the stairs to Kelley that my water broke, and I was pretty sure I was in labor, and I heard Kelley’s footsteps get more hurried. “Are you sure???” He yelled back. Oh yeah, I was sure.

          I didn’t start having contractions (Hypnobirthing: surges) right away, and actually, my amniotic fluid was still running down my legs, so I just soaked in a warm bath for a little while and called my nurse. She said to go ahead and head to the hospital. “For an exam or something? Are you just wanting to check me? I’d rather wait here and come in later when I know I’m going to stay. And I’m taking a bath right now.” “Um, no,” my nurse replied. “To have a baby. You’re in labor. If you’re water broke, the baby’s coming, so don’t wait too long.”

          I stayed in the tub a little while longer, and then Kelley and I learned that the roads en route to our hospital had flooded. We decided it’d be best to make our way to the hospital before my contractions started 1) so I could stay relaxed, and 2) because we didn’t know what we were getting into with traffic. By the time we had everything packed and loaded, the contractions started. They were barely anything; occasional mild PMS-like cramps. We headed to the hospital. On the way, I listened to the birthing affirmations that were included with my Hypnobirthing book, and we prayed for a healthy labor and delivery. And please, God, make it quick!

          At 9 p.m., I got checked in to my room. The nurse performed an internal exam; I was 2 cm dilated and 80 percent effaced. My birthing preferences were distributed to and read over by the nursing staff, all of whom were very supportive and understanding. We dimmed the lights, I climbed in bed, and turned on  some relaxing music, laying there with my eyes closed. My goal was to be as relaxed as possible.

          Each time I had a contraction, I practiced my long, slow, drawn out deep breath (as opposed to the shorter, forceful breaths) that lasted for the duration of the contraction. I closed my eyes. I blocked out everything around me. And to my surprise, the relaxation techniques worked. My entire body was working together. I switched from laying in the bed to rocking back and forth on the exercise ball, leaning backward on my husband, who was sitting behind me in a chair, for support. Each time a contraction started, I just leaned back with my eyes closed and breathed. Occasionally, I went and sat on the toilet (yes, I just said toilet…sorry for the mental picture), which eased the pressure I felt. The nurse came in every hour to monitor my contractions and Liam’s heartbeat for about 15 minutes, but other than that we were left by ourselves. I did not get hooked up to an IV, which tends to overhydrate and can lead to swelling, so I sipped water frequently and even ate a pack of snack crackers for energy. This lasted from 9 p.m. until about 2 a.m.

          That may sound like a long time, but in reality it flew by. I remained relaxed and focused, the light stayed dim and the contractions were really not painful. I would only describe them as medium pressure.

          At about 2:30, I asked the nurse to check me again. At this point the contractions were about a minute apart, and they were getting a little more intense. I wanted to know if I needed to brace myself for them to last like this for a while, or if we were getting close. She said I wasn’t even in active labor yet; 4 cm dilated and 90 percent effaced. She suggested I take a walk, or I could rock back and forth on the exercise ball. My husband and I attempted a walk, but I only got a few feet down the hall before another contraction started. I could not walk during the contractions, and they were too close together, so we headed back to the room to try the exercise ball.

          The next two hours felt like 30 minutes. Sitting on the ball really moved things along. The contractions were on top of each other; I felt some intense pressure and continued to breathe long, slow, deep breaths. One primary theme of Hypnobirthing is the power of controlled thoughts. I taught myself to interpret the sensation I felt not as pain, but recognize it as pressure; not allowing it to cause me to tense up, but to welcome the pressure as my baby getting closer to emerging. I get it; it sounds a little cheesy. That’s okay; I can definitely say it made labor easier.

          I suddenly felt an overwhelming urge to push. Now, I know this may be a crude comparison, but it was not some foreign, scary event. I honestly felt like you do when you need to have a bowel movement. You know that urge to push? That’s what it’s like. I started pushing (while still on the birthing ball). The nurse came in to hook me up to the monitor again, but I told her I couldn’t do that anymore; no distractions—it was time to push.

          She, of course, didn’t believe me. I kept insisting, and kept pushing. She said that she and Kelley needed to help me up to the bed, that I couldn’t have the baby if I was sitting on the birthing ball. I got on the bed, but on all fours, and kept pushing, roaring a deep roar through my breaths. That continued for what seemed like five minutes. The nurses still didn’t believe I was quite there, but then they saw Liam’s head crowning. The next events that took place happened very fast. The nurses (with Kelley’s help) turned me over onto my back (my legs had sort of locked up and I couldn’t move myself), in a semi-upright position. With just a few more pushes, Liam came right on out. The doctor didn’t even make it in time; he got to my room just as the nurses were cutting the umbilical cord (we waited until the cord stopped pulsing to have it clamped). They laid Liam on my chest, all 5 pounds, 9 ounces, 19 ¼ inches of him, and he looked at my face with the biggest blue eyes I’d ever seen. It was magical; at that moment the commotion in the room blurred. Our son was born!

          Our son, Liam, at one week old. Photography by Sarah Holland.

          Hypnobirthing encourages “breathing the baby down,” rather than forceful pushing. If I hadn’t abandoned that technique when the urge to push took over, I probably wouldn’t have even needed the two small stitches I had. There are times where I regret being impulsive, only because of the annoyance that tearing evokes. But I can’t complain; my experience was amazing. I can’t describe what that took place as my husband and I worked together to bring our son into this world. Our last few moments just the two of us, and the first few moments as a new family, were ones that created an unshakeable bond between us.

          We’re still living the benefits of a gentler birth. I had an easy recovery, not feeling exhausted or sleep deprived but somehow energized.

          I know that every woman is different, and every birthing experience is different. However, I feel confident that my future births will be positive experiences because I will make the preparations necessary to have a gentle birth. Even if special circumstances arise, and they don’t go exactly like I planned, Hypnobirthing instilled in me the confidence I’ll need to make informed decisions and to stay calm.

          Let me reiterate that birth does not have to be the dramatic, scary, dreadful experience that the media and other women make it out to be. It doesn’t. Period. We women tend to flock to the dramatic, and we love a good story; the juicier, the better. But childbirth is a natural process that our bodies were created for, and letting nature do its thing can make for an easier birth. I’m living proof.

          If you have any questions about Hypnobirthing, or about my personal birthing experience, feel free to contact me or leave comments below!