A Love Letter to My Village

Motherhood is tough. Motherhood is messy. Motherhood has kicked my booty. The first few years are some of the hardest. So much crying (both me and the babies!) and the never ending cycle of feed, burp, change diaper, rock to sleep, over and over and over and over. Then there’s the whining, the tantrums, the constant questions, the potty training, the messes…it’s enough to drive a person completely crazy or send them into a dark depression!

So what gets us through it? (Besides lots of coffee and wine.) What is the light, the breath of fresh air, the hope for all the lonely, tired, lost mamas out there?

It’s our village – the group of women and men surrounding us, lifting us up, encouraging us, and helping out during some of the most difficult years of our life. Every mom needs her village, and I’ve been so blessed with mine. There have been so many people over the years who’ve been a rock, a shoulder to cry on, an inspiration, a light.

And I just wanted to take a minute to thank them.

a love letter to my village | sunshineandholly.com | motherhood | it takes a village | mom friends

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Successful Extended Breastfeeding with Low Milk Supply

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Successful Extended Breastfeeding with Low Milk Supply

 

My breastfeeding experience with my first baby, Graham, wasn’t at all what I had imagined.

He was 4 weeks early and I never made enough milk after trying countless strategies to increase my supply. I wanted to breastfeed so badly and although I knew how blessed I was to have a beautiful, healthy son, I couldn’t get over the emotional aspect of not being able to exclusively breastfeed. He was supplemented from the beginning in the NICU and eventually quit breastfeeding at 5 months after he realized the bottle was faster and easier.

Successful Extended Breastfeeding with Low Milk Supply

Looking back, I really believe now that my low supply was the entire reason I ended up with postpartum depression. I felt like such a failure – my body let me down. I also felt judged by others and felt like I had to defend myself every time I pulled out a bottle for Graham. (In hindsight, no one cared how I fed my son. During Graham’s entire first year of life, I only had one instance of someone judging me and making me feel guilty about not breastfeeding.)

Successful Extended Breastfeeding with Low Milk Supply

After I came to terms with the fact that I was never going to produce enough milk for Graham, I started thinking about what I would do differently when I had a second baby. I was SO determined to make breastfeeding work the second time around and dreamed about sharing my success story of exclusively breastfeeding a second baby. Breastfeeding was one of the things I most looked forward to when thinking about having another child. After my failure with Graham, my heart just couldn’t heal – every time I saw someone else breastfeeding, I was sad. As my friends had babies and were able to breastfeed, I was happy for them. I truly was. But my heart still ached. Why wasn’t I able to produce enough milk? Was it because Graham was early? Was it because I wasn’t able to hold or feed him for 12 hours? Does my body not respond well to the pump? Do I have insufficient glandular tissue? Was it because I was on birth control for so long? Is it a genetic issue? Hell, was it the type of deodorant I was using during pregnancy?!

 

Well, the second time around I had a beautiful, term, perfect baby girl. And…I was STILL not able to produce enough milk.

 

But even with a low milk supply, Maddie nursed until she was 17 months old. And I couldn’t be more proud of what we accomplished.

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A Successful Natural Breech Birth Without a C-Section

This is a personal birth story of a successful natural breech birth. I am not a doctor, so please follow your doctor or midwife’s advice during labor for a safe and successful birth. I am also NOT judging moms who have c-sections. The goal of labor is to bring a baby into the world the safest way for both mother and child. 

natural breech birth | sunshineandholly.com

Our little Madeline made her “grand entrance” into this world on September 27th, 2014. I say “grand” because my sweet little girl was breech and came out butt first!

natural breech birth | sunshineandholly.com
Newborn pictures by CiJi Ann Photography

From the beginning, I knew I wanted to try for an unmedicated birth this time around. With my first baby, my son Graham, I had low milk supply and wasn’t able to breastfeed like I wanted. So this time, I didn’t want any drugs in my system to make sure that breastfeeding would (hopefully) get off to a better start.

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Graham’s Birth Story – Part 2

Please excuse any typos – I’ve got a newborn and spelling and grammar is the last thing on my mind!

Graham was taken to the NICU to have his breathing monitored. He was grunting with each breath so even though he came out crying, they still wanted to watch him.

The rest of the day is a blur. I remember getting cleaned up but that’s about it until that afternoon. (The first time you stand up after giving birth – geez. That will be something I won’t forget. The nurse that helped me in the bathroom was wonderful. It takes a special person to be a nurse.) I know at some point I was moved to a different room. I know Josh went to take pictures of our family looking through the glass into the NICU. But I don’t remember much else.

OH – I do remember this. After I got cleaned up, the family came back in the room and we announced his name. That was a disappointment as well because I’d always planned on holding him and introducing him to everyone. But he wasn’t even in the room with us when we told everyone his name.

Luckily everyone loved his name. 🙂

That afternoon, Josh wheeled me up to the NICU to visit Graham. We weren’t able to hold him and I couldn’t see him well in his bed without standing up. We stood for a while and touched his hands and chest and legs and feet. I gave him a kiss. (I’m tearing up writing this now.) But they had the heat lamp on him and I wasn’t feeling very well, and it hurt standing there a few hours after giving birth. The heat started making me sick, so we didn’t stay long. We went back to the room and rested there until that evening.

I’m not sure what time it was when we finally went to go see him again. He had been moved to a different area with chairs we could sit in. We were also finally allowed hold him again. I breastfed him and we gave him a bottle. Josh’s family had stayed, so they got to hold him. It was a special, quiet time. The lights were dim and we all just took in the sweet new baby.

So many wires and cords. 🙁
 

I think I was just in shock that whole day. All of the moments I had dreamed of that I didn’t get to experience because he was early – they didn’t bother me at the time. Maybe it was the shock of having a baby. Maybe it was because I was worried about him. It wasn’t until that night that I really started to process the whole day. I thought of all the things I thought we’d do – like holding Graham on my chest right after he was born. Introducing him to the family. Showing him off to visitors. Laying around all day in the hospital room just staring at him and bonding as a new family of three. We missed out on all of that. Instead, I spent most of his birth day watching tv with Josh in our room. Without our brand new baby.

And that night was the worst. I finally bonded with Graham that evening when I got to hold him again. And then we had to leave him. Josh was exhausted from not getting much sleep the night before when I was in labor. I was exhausted too, but too emotional to sleep. I spent most of that night crying. (Like I am now remembering all of this.)

The next day was better. Graham was moved to the 7th floor – which is for babies that don’t need the serious monitoring they get in the 2nd floor NICU. We spent almost the whole day with him – only returning to our room for me to take my meds and to eat meals. Our families visited again. My mom, dad and sister were able to hold Graham for the first time. A few of our friends visited too.

My dad and me.

Graham ended up staying in the NICU for a full week. His breathing was fine after the first night, but he was a “lazy eater” and ended up needing a feeding tube. So we weren’t able to take him home until he started eating better. It was so hard leaving the hospital without him when I was discharged. I had watched all of these happy women leaving the hospital in wheelchairs holding their sweet babies. I was wheeled out holding my purse. It was just so hard. This was the most emotional I’ve been in my whole life.

Poor baby Graham with an IV in his head and a feeding tube in his nose. 🙁

But we went back to the NICU every single day. We got there in time for his 9am bottle and left around 11pm each night. You’d think we would have gotten bored sitting around all day every day for a week, but we didn’t. We took turns holding Graham and staring at his sweet face.

We were also working on breastfeeding at the time and I was pumping every 3 hours around the clock. Nights at home were emotional too – getting up to pump just reminded me my baby wasn’t there with me.

The day we finally got to bring him home was such an awesome day. We were pros at taking care of a baby by then. The nurses in the NICU (who were all awesome, by the way) had shown us how to feed him and change his diaper. That was the good thing about having a baby in the NICU. We were able to ease into parenthood.

Our little NICU pod where we spent the first week of Graham’s life.

“Look ma, no more wires!”
 
Finally going home!
 
 
 

We brought Graham in and introduced him to the pups. Our family came to visit and we enjoyed our first day and our first full night at home with our sweet baby boy.

 

 
 
 
The Grandma’s sorting baby clothes. 🙂
Graham’s actual birth was better than I ever could have imagined. Very little pain and you can’t beat only pushing for 20 minutes – especially for a first birth. But the days after his birth were so emotional. I’m so glad he’s healthy and that the few issues he had were minor. But I do regret the moments we lost out on because he was so early. I keep thinking if there was something I did that made him come so early. I had such a healthy pregnancy…

Graham is doing so great now. Eating like a little piggy. He’s up to 9lbs now!

Graham – your daddy and I love you more than you’ll ever know. We’re so happy you’re here with us!