Saturday, May 31, 2014

Baby #2 Bumpdate: The Third Month

So, another month has flown by.  I've found that the weeks seem to pass more quickly with this pregnancy than they did with my first pregnancy.  I guess it's because Liam keeps us so busy (we've also been moving, the hubby started a new job, and we have a few other big things planned in the coming weeks).  Sometimes I feel pangs of guilt when I think about how obsessed I was with Liam when I was pregnant with him and how this time, the majority of the day passes without too many thoughts of Baby #2 (other than feeling like I have a stomach bug and counting down the days to second trimester of course ;).

Perhaps I'm being too hard on myself and life has just been crazy lately (but guilt-tripping myself has always been one of my strengths weaknesses).  There are many moments late at night when I lay awake thinking of our baby who is growing inside of me. This month, the hubby and I spent hours talking about potential baby names. I've obsessed over guessing gender. But mostly, I've laid awake in the stillness hoping to feel this little one move.  That is by far my favorite part of pregnancy. I felt Liam move for sure for the first time at 17 weeks. I remember how much those flutters bonded me with him and made the pregnancy feel real. I've felt two "maybe-flutters". But I'm really looking forward to the "for-sure ones"!

How far along today: 13 weeks+ 5 days.

Baby size:  At 13 weeks, the baby was the size of a peach, approximately 3 inches long and growing fast (as is my belly now)!

Trimester: Second!!  I'm looking forward to the nausea leaving completely (thankfully, it's already easing up some).  I could also really use the promised increase in energy that comes with this new trimester as I attempt to unpack this new house and finish up fixing things and moving stuff around with the hubby.  That stuff is exhauting enough without the additional first trimester "completely-drained" feeling.

Gender: Nothing for sure yet but we have some speculations that I will share with you as soon as I can get a post together.  We'll see if my OB can catch a peek at my 17 week visit...

Movement: I have felt two flutters/taps that I'm fairly sure were the baby (based off of how those early kicks felt with Liam) but I can't wait to feel unmistakable ones many more times throughout the day!

Cravings: Yogurt, sour patch kids, burritos (Rosa Maria's would be amazing but Moe's is the best we have to curb this craving), cream of wheat with Ovaltine, toast with spreadable butter and jelly, and BBQ Lays potato chips. Unfortunately, one night of giving into the BBQ chips plus sour patch kids made for some horrible vomiting :(.

Aversions: Mexican restaurants, fried chicken, sometimes brushing my teeth (it's crazy and something I experienced with Liam too but it can really push me over the edge into horrible nausea some nights).

The Not So Fun Pregnancy Stuff: Nausea. That has been the biggest challenge this month. It started picking up around 11 weeks. Usually, if I throw up, it's while Liam is asleep (nights actually have been worse this pregnancy) but one morning I got sick and Liam watched me throw up. He patted me from an arms-
length away and looked absolutely terrified. After that, I started taking Zofran every morning before I got up. There's no reason to put him through that. For about two weeks, I needed it twice a day even but, knock on wood, the nausea is waning. At any rate, it seems to have become more sporadic and less Zofran-dependent (though some mornings are still bad).  

Another challenge is the continued exhaustion. This has been a challenging month for our family in general.  The needed hard work with the added exhaustion has been a huge hurdle. Sometimes, my body just crashes and I nap after days of pushing myself to the limit and I can barely wake up even after 2 hours. The worst is behind us though, and hopefully, the pregnancy exhaustion will improve too. 

I cry really easily. (Motherhood already made me this way but pregnancy on top of it has increased the effect.) Baby books about growing up: I cry all the way through. And I won't even try I'll Love You Forever. I know better. 

Most exciting momentsSeeing the baby at 12 weeks and 3 days for the nuchal translucency ultrasound. I'm so grateful baby seems perfectly healthy! It is so incredible how much he/she grew! This fact as well as how amazing 3D is always gets me. I got to see tiny hands and toes and a beautiful profile and lots of movement. I'm bracing myself because this one seems to be a wild child. Liam was not anywhere near as active at this age. (He's making up for it now though!). I love hearing the heartbeat with my home Doppler. Since it's easier to find, I was able to share it with the hubby and my mom, which is always fun.  

It is also pretty exciting that I'm starting to show! It's a tiny baby bump but we can really tell now.  The hubby and I had fun taking these first of our baby bump pictures. 

What I'm most looking forward to: Finding out the gender for sure. It'll be fun to have the baby named! I'm also looking forward to settling into our new house. I need the chaos to end.

Big Brother: He has had a rough couple of weeks because of all the packing and moving. He tries so hard to help. He's a sweetheart but it is difficult since we aren't unpacked/baby-proofed and have to constantly accomplish needed tasks.

I tell him he's going to be a big brother soon all the time.  I'm sure he doesn't understand yet but we'll get there.  I'm starting to plan his new big boy room.  As I unpack, I'm starting to not see any point in setting his nursery back up the way it was (though it breaks my heart a little that we'll never have him in his nursery again).  We're planning on transitioning him to a toddler bed by his birthday so that he doesn't feel that the new baby is pushing him out of it.

I'm looking forward to a fun-filled summer with Liam.  It'll be his last as an only child.  And his first where I have lots of time to spend with him.  I'd like to do some special things with him like the zoo, the beach, swimming, etc.

Friday, May 16, 2014

Breastfeeding is Amazing Birth Control

Wait?  What did that title say?

Breastfeeding is amazing birth control.  This may be a shocker to you (it was to me), but this is a true statement for more people than you may think.  Me, being one of them.  I wanted to share my journey to discovering this hidden truth because the road was pretty bumpy for me.  I'm hoping I can spare someone the emotional roller coaster it took to get here.

Adulthood has been filled with discovery, the biggest one being that the ideal images of my future life that I dreamt up when I was younger, often just aren't reality.  Here's my reality. I will never be able to be pregnant and breastfeed.  I will never breastfeed through a pregnancy.  Tandem nursing is not in the cards for me (unless I have twins). My body simply refuses to lactate and prepare itself for pregnancy at the same time.  I'm not sure if the energy burden is too much or if my body was simply programmed not to ovulate or allow an embryo to implant until I have weaned my previous child.  Why, I don't know.  But the facts remain.

In medical school, I was taught that breastfeeding is one of the least effective methods of birth control. The minute you stop feeding your infant throughout the night and all through the day, it becomes an even less reliable form.  But be advised, once you start table food, you better have another method handy because breastfeeding is pretty much useless as a pregnancy prevention.  My OB even personally warned me of this, telling me that she herself conceived her second baby accidentally when her first was 7 months old because she didn't heed the well-known warnings and used breastfeeding as her only birth control.  We've all heard these stories.  I don't need to detail that some women can and do get pregnant while breastfeeding.  I think this concept gets plenty of attention.  If you don't believe me Google: pregnancy and breastfeeding.  You'll easily find articles on breastfeeding failing women as birth control.

What you won't find unless you dig and what I feel doesn't get enough attention, is the other side of the coin.  I feel that, in general, our country is often most focused on pregnancy prevention. To the point that trying to conceive (TTC) is minimized and overlooked.  Our first baby was conceived easily so I've never seen the other side either until now.  I realize from personal experience that all the attention given to prevention makes those of us having trouble conceiving feel like outsiders, as if something is wrong with us.  Facts are often hard to find and we're reduced to searching message boards where women vent their own frustrations (which has its place but is an inadequate replacement for reliable scientific facts).

My husband and I have always wanted our children to be close in age.  My husband wanted this because his sister is 18 months his elder and I wanted it because my brother was 7 years my elder.  Growing up, my husband and his sister were close friends while I often felt like I was an only child or lived with an uncle (by no fault of my brother; the age gap was just enormous.  He made plenty of attempts to reach across, but he graduated high school when I was in the fourth grade so... as you can imagine, we were in completely different stages for a long time).

 Because of this desire to have a sibling near Liam in age, we started TTC before he was even 12 months old.  I knew I didn't want to wean him at that point because I wanted to breastfeed until at least 12 months.  My plan was to let him wean himself after that point.

During the first few months of TTC, I started noticing that my cycles had gotten longer than before I had had Liam.  At first, I gave this no thought other than that it made the months of waiting stretch even longer.  I was having periods so I assumed I must be fertile.

By the time Liam was 12 months old, I stopped pumping during the day and we went to only nursing in the evening after work, before bed, and in the morning.  Still no luck getting pregnant.  I started thinking maybe that two evening feeds so close together were reducing my fertility so we cut back the next month to only nursing in the morning and at night.  I still sent breast milk with him to daycare (we had quite a stock in the freezer that I figured we might as well use that up).  It was a good compromise.  My baby was still getting breast milk three times a day and hopefully my cycles would adjust and we could conceive.

Still no luck so I started researching.  I found all sorts of articles on women getting pregnant while breastfeeding.  People telling their ooey gooey stories of tandem nursing and how wonderful it is and how people shouldn't judge them.  Trust me, I wasn't judging. I wanted to be there with them. I was actually starting to freak out that something was wrong with me.  5 months of trying to get pregnant and all we'd had was a chemical pregnancy.  And instead of regulating themselves, my cycles just seemed to get longer and longer each month.

At this point, Liam was 14 months old and showing no signs of desire to wean.  After a lot of discussion with my husband, we decided that maybe since I had lost so much weight from nursing that my body couldn't handle a pregnancy on top of lactating and that we'd cut Liam's feeds back by one each month.

We decided this together but I was hesitant.  My attachment to nursing my baby boy was obviously more emotional and less rational than my husband's view.  What we decided made sense but I still hesitated.  I figured I'd do some reading and find something to back our theory up and then I'd be good to go.  Plus, surely I'd get pregnant when we cut back to once a day feeding, and Liam could then wean himself from there.  At least I'd have my night time bonding and cuddling with him.  That was the most special time in my eyes anyway.

I did a lot of research.  The vocal, well-broadcasted answer to my question:  "Do I need to wean to get pregnant?" was clearly stated as "No" and sometimes as "Most likely not."  And everything I read said structured feeds that are limited to the daytime only are least likely to interfere with your fertility. I also unfortunately found out that a myriad of women online bash women who consider weaning one child in hopes of having another.  Calling such Moms selfish.  I was obviously even more of an emotional wreck after researching and was still wavering back and forth in our decision.

Then I finally came across something I could hold on to.  Despite this article sending the same message that stopping breastfeeding is probably not necessary to get pregnant, I found something useful in the article Breastfeeding and Fertility by Kelly Mom. It stated that several studies have shown that there is an intermediate stage between menstruation resuming and full fertility.  It is a stage in which you have ovulation without luteal competency.  In other words, the uterine lining is inadequately prepared for the fertilized egg and it fails to implant.  This really spoke to me because it is what we believed occurred with our miscarriage.  My pregnancy tests were lightly positive then faded away instead of darkening, seeming like a failed implantation.

I started connecting the dots as I read more.  My late ovulation and long cycles were a sign of this luteal phase defect, as I learned it was called.  But everything I read on the topic talked about people with PCOS or other fertility problems.  Breastfeeding was never mentioned.  So, did I have a fertility problem?  Was force-weaning Liam going to help my fertility at all?

I loved nursing.  Liam loved nursing.  It really did feel cruel to tell him and myself no without any assurance that I was accomplishing anything by it.

So I hit those message boards I told you about earlier and I found one story, only one, that gave me the reinforcement I needed.  I wish I had saved the link but the gist of the story was that a mother had a 3 year old she was still breastfeeding, very sporadically.  She said it wasn't even every day but maybe every other day or so, strictly on demand.  She had been trying to get pregnant for over a year and had talked to her doctor and read everything online like I had done.  Everyone told her that sporadic feeding like that couldn't interfere with fertility.  Since she was in her 30s, she was getting concerned that another baby just wasn't in the cards for her.  She was convinced by others that forcing her son to wean was cruel and selfish so she waited.  Then, he self-weaned randomly and she got pregnant that same month. After nearly a year and a half of trying, she felt it couldn't be coincidence. She wanted to share her story because she too said she had no idea such little breastfeeding could actually serve as birth control.

That month, our 6th month trying, I had a 44 day cycle with ovulation on day 28 or something crazy like that.  I went and talked to my OB who said that with numbers like that, pregnancy was unlikely.

So, I did it.  I stopped nursing my son.  I cried.  He was confused.  My breasts swelled and hardened. I cried from pain and from sadness (and I now know also from hormonal changes). I gave into one last feed to reduce my physical pain to a bearable level and we stopped for good.  I cried some more but remained resolved.  I kept thinking of that woman with the 3 year old and hoping I was like her.  That breastfeeding was birth control for me.  Amazing birth control.

And it was.  I will never know how long that first cycle post-weaning would have been, but I do know that I ovulated around day 14 (yes, textbook perfect ovulation timing).  And now, I am almost 12 weeks pregnant and very happy with our decision to wean.  My son still loves to cuddle with me.  He gets cow's milk before bed.  He has had no increase in sleep disturbances. He is happy and the biggest Momma's boy you've ever seen!

I wish I could go back in time and reassure myself.  Tell myself that something horrible hadn't happened to scar my uterus during delivery or from the Mirena I had for 9 months.  That I wasn't infertile.  But that I just needed to stop my birth control--breastfeeding. To ask around and maybe I'd hear that sometimes breastfeeding is actually amazing birth control.

Because, since I've made this discovery independently, I've heard other stories like mine. My pediatrician/lactation consultant informed me that she could never conceive without weaning either (and she has four kids). She knows others like me as well.  My mom also vaguely remembers my great-grandmother saying that her mom used to breastfeed her kids as long as they were willing simply because the minute she weaned, she was pregnant with the next.  The stories are out there.  They just aren't as vocal as the "I got pregnant while breastfeeding" stories.

So I'm putting my story out there.  I hope it reaches someone who is going through the same thing I went through and that it gives you the courage to ignore all the hatred people express toward weaning to conceive and that you feel empowered to do what you feel is best for your family.  Because I know that regardless of what others may think, that is exactly what I did.  I stopped my birth control so that we could get pregnant and Liam could have a sibling near his age.  That birth control just happened to be endowed upon me for free from Mother Nature.  And what a beautiful birth control it was for those 15 months that I was able to take advantage of it.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

18 Months Update

My baby boy has done a lot of growing up since my last update at 15 months!

Vocabulary: This is the biggest thing that has been changing in the last few months. Since he had his ear tubes placed at 16 months, his vocabulary has tripled.  It's such a relief to know that he can hear well (although, he absolutely hates the vacuum cleaner now. Vacuuming = automatic melt-down).  His favorite words are : ball, kaka (poop in Hungarian), ow!, roar, joo (juice), and coo-coo (cookie).  His favorite book is 101 First Words.  He loves pointing to pictures he knows and saying the word or babbling as he points if he doesn't.  He pretty much never gets tired of that book.  He loves reading in general though.  He squeals with excitement when I tell him to go get a book for us to read.  He's also started babbling long sentences in his own little language.  We love listening to him monologue.  It's exciting to think that the reaching and grunting and pointing and crying because we don't know what he's asking for will be a memory soon.

Walking: What walking?  This boy doesn't walk.  He runs and climbs.  Like a wild man.  Sometimes he takes tumbles but thankfully it hasn't been anything serious.  It's impossible to keep him from climbing anymore because he is on the couch in 0.2 seconds.  Thankfully he has taken our lessons about getting down feet first to heart and usually has no issues.  He does have moments where he seems to just randomly lose his balance and fall (sometimes just while walking).  His pediatrician said that's totally normal for his age. It's hard to believe that 3 months ago we were worried about his gross motor skills. It's a relief to have that behind us.

Favorite things: Juice, mangoes, mandarins (fresh and snack cups), Mommy, Daddy, riding his tricycle, cats, wheels (on cars), balls, books, and playgrounds.  
  • He loves fruits in general and juice is a special treat.  He is still mostly a vegetarian though he likes liverworst, duck, and hot dogs (I think he's shaping up to be a bit of a food snob someday :).  
  • He's a full-blown Momma's boy but he gets really excited when I tell him Daddy is home.  He yells "Dada, Dada...!" and runs to the door many evenings.  
  • We got him a trainer tricycle that I push him around the neighborhood on that he loves.  It makes him feel like a big boy and he much prefers it over his stroller. 
  • Bless our cat, Bubbles.  He is such a trooper.  Liam lays on him, pulls his tail, chases him...etc.  Bubbles tolerates it, sometimes purrs, or if he gets tired of it, he leaves the room.  He has never ever tried to claw or bite.  He deserves an award in kitty heaven someday for sure.  
  • Daddy has fake spinners on his wheels, which Liam loves spinning.  It has caused him to develop a fascination for car wheels and a need to test all wheels to see if they have spinners (oh boy...).  
  • We try to go to the playground at least a few times a week.  It helps him get his climbing energy out and he has so much fun!  He points and squeals when he realizes where we are.

Fun things: We went to go see Liam's aunt in Connecticut over Spring Break. It was quite a flight and Liam was a handful but he had a good time.  We went to a children's museum and visited Yale. He enjoyed meeting the Yale Bulldog as well as his Aunt's dog (who also deserves an award).  We also went to the airshow in town later in the month.  

Funny story: We came home from shopping one afternoon and Liam was playing with the mangoes we bought at the store.  I was putting away some of the other groceries.  When I turned around he'd gnawed a hole in one of the mangoes.  His eyes were wild, afraid I'd come and snatch it away.

Stats: 24lb 9oz (30th percentile for weight) and 2ft 8in (60th percentile for height).  Not sure where my chunky baby went but it must be all that constant motion and his vegetarian preferences making him tall and skinny now.  He's actually wearing the same size shorts as last summer.  His belly was so big we had to go up to 12 and 18 mo shorts so they fit perfectly now although he's wearing some 2T as well.

Behavior: Overall, he's a wild child but super sweet.  He has his moments of hitting and pinching (we're working on it) but he is sensitive to when he upsets me and comes and tries to cuddle and give me hugs to make up for it.  Of course, he has tantrums but I think they have room to get worse since distraction or spending time with him or ignoring him for a few seconds still quells them.

Best part: I've graduated school and have started my year off as a stay-at-home Mommy.  Liam's last day of daycare was on Friday (during my graduation).  I don't think he realizes yet that he's not going back.  I'll end with a picture of him on his first day of daycare a year ago and Friday.

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Pregnancy Bumpdate: The First Two Months

One of the things I've enjoyed most this pregnancy is looking back on the journal entries I made when I was pregnant with Liam and noting similarities and differences.  I find my entries too sparse and brief in retrospect so I'm going to attempt to do pregnancy updates (bumpdates if you will) like some of my fellow bloggers.  I doubt I could keep up with a weekly one and I also don't think there'd be too much exciting or different to share that often so I've decided on a monthly update.  For now though, I'll roll the first two into one.

This pregnancy is already different in that we're coming into it with a recent miscarriage and months of trying to conceive in between.  In the preceding months, I had taken numerous pregnancy tests and I was down to my last one so I was determined to wait to test until I could know for sure that a negative meant that we were out another month.  On the morning of March 23rd, the day before my period was due, I began to notice that my usual pre-period symptoms were missing.  So, unable to wait any longer, I used that last test, an "internet cheapie" as they are lovingly called and saw this:

Yep, that's the faintest possible shadow of a second purple line. My gut knew it was positive because I had seen a lot of negatives in the last few months.  But my scientific side needed stronger evidence. The hubby saw the line too but agreed that it was definitely questionable. He said waiting a few days then testing again would be best.  I knew he was right, but...Did I mention I'm IMPATIENT?  And that my husband is sweet and understanding?  I lasted until the afternoon then went out and bought a First Response Early Result.  I was nervous when I took it, but that didn't last long thankfully. Pretty much instantly these two beautiful pink lines popped up.

We were both ecstatic and there was some happy dancing involved ;).

With Liam, we waited until I was 6 weeks along to tell our families and 10 weeks (after 2 ultrasounds) to tell the world.  With our miscarriage, we hadn't told anyone and I was about 5 weeks.  It was awful sharing the bad news without ever having a chance to share the good news.  So this time, we told our immediate family the same night we found out.  We Skyped them with Liam wearing his "Keep Calm I'm going to be a big BROTHER" shirt.  It was perfect!

With Liam, miscarriage was a worry but it felt far away like all the other horrible things that can and do happen to people.  This time, the fear was strong and real.  I probably took 6 total pregnancy tests--a poor woman's quantitative hCG test.  I loved watching the test line darken and the control line begin to disappear.  But as such things go, the last one I took, the control line became darker and the test line fainter so I really just gave myself another reason to freak out.

I read things online about other people having similar things happen when hCG levels got high enough.  It's called the "dilution effect", but it really doesn't make a lot of sense to me to this day.  I didn't find it super reassuring as a result.  On top of that, my nausea came and went around that time.  The fainter test plus the disappearing nausea made me worry.  I had a "pregnancy confirmation" on April 9th (the day after the fainter test) and the nurse offered me a quantitative hCG to reassure me. It came back at 40,000 and for 6 weeks that seemed great.  I had my scientific reassurance and I was finally able to push my fears to the back of my mind.

I had my first ultrasound at 8 weeks and we shared our big news with everyone that same day.

Lots of back story this time since it's the first one but let's get into the bumpdating shall we?

How far along today: 9 weeks+ 5 days

Baby size:  At 9 weeks, the baby was the size of a green olive, approximately 1 inch and growing fast!

Trimester: First and so ready to move onward and upward out of the nausea/exhaustion months!

Gender: No telling yet but I look forward to trying out all of the wives' tales just for fun (I'll do a post on the predictions afterward).  I can see the perks of a brother for Liam and being able to reuse clothes too but I'd love to have tutus and hairbows in our future too.

Movement: None that this Mommy can feel yet but ready to feel something soon.  That is by far my favorite part of pregnancy!

Cravings: Yogurt, ice cream, sour candy, chocolate, and BBQ Lays potato chips (pretty much bad-for-me foods)

Aversions: Pretty much all real food whenever a wave of nausea hits.  Heavy meats seem to settle worst with me.  Korean food (usually my favorite) made me very sick last week.

The Not So Fun Pregnancy Stuff:  Hunger and nausea sometimes simultaneously or rapidly following each other, in no particular order (so confusing!). Gas and bloating was insane at first but seems to be settling down finally.  And unbelievable exhaustion (though the second month was spent in the PICU so that may have something to do with it).  Mood swings are strong and tears seem to be involved more often than not--happy tears, angry tears, sad name it!

Most exciting moments: Seeing the baby and hearing the heartbeat on ultrasound at 8 weeks then finding the heartbeat with my home doppler at 8 weeks + 4 days.

What I'm most looking forward to: The 12 week ultrasound.  I love seeing the baby and hearing the heartbeat but I'm also excited to try out a few gender wives' tales for fun (more on that later) ;).

Big Brother: We don't think he has any idea yet and it's kind of fun to see him smiling in his big brother shirt knowing that the significance is lost on him.  He has been very very clingy this last week though so a part of me wonders if he somehow knows more than we think!

Picture:  No bump to show off yet and I'll spare you my bloat but I'll start those next month!  I'll share our first ultrasound picture instead. It's a camera phone snapshot of the screen but it's baby's first picture!

I'd like send a special thank you to Alli at Beautiful Family Affairs for the inspiration of these posts!