February 9, 2015

The things I love about you: Volume I: Sienna

(Almost) three year olds can be hard at times. But lately, I've been making a concerted effort day in and day out to focus on the positives of my kids. I feel fortunate they are mostly healthy, sweet, happy girls. Why do we so often focus on the negatives of our kids? I am guilty of it- I am tired when one doesn't sleep, frustrated with tantrums. But I want to celebrate them too. I want them to know what gems of people they are. I want them to know I see the best in them, even on the hardest days.

So here we go. This list is dedicated to you, Sienna.
In two weeks you will be THREE (!!!) years old. And here's what I love about you.

1. Your cheesy cheesy smile.
2. Your sweet singing voice (current favorite song you sing: "Everyone gets hurt sometimes... from, Doc McStuffins)
3. You are daringly adventurous. Jumping off of couches and into snow.
4. Your blue eyes that get so wide if someone else is upset. You can't teach empathy. But you've got it, baby girl. You care so much and it's written all over your face.
5.  The way you hug- with your whole body and your whole heart.
6. The way you ask "May I" when you want to do something- but also misuse the phrase and say "May you" also.
7. Your excitement that becomes palpable and infectious. You shake your arms in the air and jump up and down and squeal and you get so excited that you can barely get your words out.
8. Your love for pajamas. It makes me laugh. All day every day, you'd wear them if you could.
9. The sponge that is your brain. Curious is a vast understatement for someone like you. You are a fierce learner- you want to know everything. You ask so many questions a day and then the next day you surprise me with your knowledge. My current favorite thing you learned is that recycling is "to take trash and make something brand new and useful".
10. How adorable you are when you convince me to let you sleep on the couch for a nap- and then cuddle up under a blanket 10x the size of you.
11. Your ability to make everyone around you smile and engage people. We could be at Starbucks and you are asking the man in front of us what coffee he is drinking, or where his kids are (awkward at times), or introducing yourself to a new friend at the park.
12. That when we ask what your name is you say "Sienna Grace Walls" and call daddy "JAMIE WALLS!" when he doesn't answer you the first time.
13. Your creativity. It blows my mind that at not even three you can pretend you're on a boat to Disney world or a space ship, or that there are crocodiles chasing us in a river. It's dreamy to have a kid whose imagination runs as wild as mine.
14. Your hair. It just - I cannot stop laughing at it. It's beautifully wild and thick and all over the place. We can't get control of it- sort of perfect for you. 
15. The way you love your baby sister. The way you run to get her after naps and tell her it's okay when she cries. It makes me tear up thinking about it. You're SUCH a good big sister.
16. The way we are connected at the heart- you are truly my mini me. You feel as strongly as I feel. You smile as big as I smile. You cry as hard as I cry. Sensitive by nature, you let life happen and take it all in.
17. You've become my shopping buddy. Shoes? Yes. Clothes? YES! Toys- of course. You willingly scramble to get on your shoes and jacket, request a starbucks stop (sure kiddo), and say "Let's go to the circle store!" Target is our fav place to spend money together.
18. Your love of books. Stories will take you everywhere.
19. The way you light up when I mention birthdays- because they involve cake. And that you insist on making a cakes for every.single.birthday there is!
20. You are kind. You are so so kind. You ask daddy if he would like a sticker too. You hold my hand. You ask what's wrong if I'm looking tired or sad. You make get well cards for neighbors who aren't well without being prompted.
21. Your honesty. The words "Mommy you look awful" or "Today Piper peed on her changing table when you at work mommy" are so much more hilarious from a toddler. I love it. Keep me updated, kiddo.
22. The way you love your daddy. You fly into his arms after work, and you my girl, prove to me over and over again I married the right guy.
23. Your laugh that makes you almost topple over.
24. Your love of "crafts". You + Me + AC Moore forever. I think one day I'll teach you to scrapbook.
25. Your personality emerges more and more every day. I love you because you make me a better mom, a better person, and you bring me back down to earth when I'm getting wound up about silly things. Something about your sweetness and innocence reminds me everything will be okay.



February 4, 2015

The case of a missed tongue & lip tie.

This is a long story.  I've actually sat down to my blog to write this a few times, at different points, but the tears come and I get too frustrated. Now that I have some answers- even if they can't fix things- I'm ready to get the story out there.

When Piper was four days old (yes four days), I called a lactation consultant that we used with Sienna. I specifically said "she's clicking when she eats". I was sore. I was already starting to develop thrush. But girlfriend could latch and stick her tongue out and the LC said "not tied". I asked a few more times and was told if she could latch okay, she was fine.

She also was gaining weight, which in retrospect I think was only because I had SUCH a huge oversupply. She barely had to suck to get milk. We had so many difficult symptoms. Gas, reflux, constipation on her end. Thrush, nursing pain, redness on my end. The latch was awful no matter what I did. Her little lip flipped under. Still, we kept on trekking.

Fast forward to seven weeks old. This was my first major breakdown. Piper slept 7 hours straight at night some nights, but wouldn't feed. She would cry and claw at me, pop on and off. Sometimes completely refuse to nurse. We'd go five hours, then I'd give her a bottle. Some days we barely fed at all.  Bed time became so horrible because she would start crying on the way upstairs. She was too tired to make the effort to feed- looking back I know this now. So I'd give her a bottle and then pump. I cried so many tears. Endless tears about losing my nursing relationship. We went to a wedding that weekend. I put on a smiling face but it was one of my hardest days of parenthood. The break, as I look back, probably was the best thing for me. But, my heart was broken into pieces.

From weeks seven until thirteen, we ran the gamut to figure out what was wrong. A second opinion from another (wonderful) LC. Visits to the chiropractor. Two trips to the GI specialist. Everyone said- reflux must be the culprit because she was spitting and coughing and looking disorganized. After tons of fighting, it was time to return to work. Bottles became part of her everyday repertoire.

I began "exclusively pumping" aka a life of hell. I pump, clean my parts, put together the next bottle and hope to get it all done during her naps. I freeze what I can when I can. When P's awake, I lay her on the play mat or in her bouncy chair. Oh, that second child I have? Right. Sienna is usually really good while I pump and we can do things like puzzles or painting or coloring which is cool with her as long as she has my attention. At first, I couldn't keep up. I found a kind hearted mama friend who donated milk to us in case we needed back up. I slowly worked on building my supply. I took supplements. I ate oatmeal. I increased my fluids. I pumped up to 10 times a day. It worked, at least to a degree, because most days I pump more than she consumes. I am proud to say I now have over 450 ounces in my freezer.  My first goal was to make it to 6 months on exclusively breastmilk- and we've almost done it! This is not to sound like I'm whining either- pumping is 100% my choice. I could formula feed but that's just not what I have in mind for myself and Piper. Every day I wake up and make the decision to keep going with this. And so far, that's the best choice for us even if it does mean extra work. 

 The middle of the night nursing has been the one thing I can hang onto.  I go in there and scoop her up and cuddle her close and she is still the most erratic nurser on the planet. But she nurses. I feel milk dripping down my arms sometimes as it spills out of her mouth. She latches and unlatches and sometimes sighs and grunts when she's frustrated. But it's just us- and there's no rush- and it works for now. She keeps my supply up and I get middle of the night sweetness. (Her night waking and me refusing to fully sleep train her is also a product of nursing at this time).

After a few months of all of this, I've settled in. Pumping is still not fun but I've learned the tricks of the trade, I can get it done relatively quickly when I need to, and I have a husband and support system that lifts me up and keeps me motivated. And Piper, sweet smiley happy Piper thrives on breast milk.

Two weeks ago I was home with Piper playing on the floor. As I was making funny noises with her lips, I realized it was hard to lift her top lip. So then I tried more. And what did I see? A TIE. I don't even know ties well but I saw it right away. I started fishing for information all over. I joined a facebook group about tongue ties. I read up on Dr. Ghaheri's website. I read Dr. Kotlow's website. She hit every single symptom. I did too. The thrush, the pain, the poor latch, the lack of weight gain. And there it was... in front of me this whole time....

Piper is tongue and lip tied. 

She's posterior tongue tied, which is harder to find. But still, it's there. Her frenulum on her top lip is tight and wide, so it likely would cause funky spacing in her teeth. And no one caught it until I took to the internet. It makes me wildly insane that my breastfeeding relationship was squandered by something that could have been fixed... you know... back at that four day mark. If you think something is wrong with feeding, keep seeking help. Keep asking more people for more opinions. Feeding shouldn't be a struggle! Not like this.

So here we are. Trying to balance the anger and the hope. My poor baby hasn't been fussy, she's been struggling to functionally eat well. Last night as the monitor turned from green to orange and I heard her cries, I went to get her and settled into her chair. I nursed her as I felt her dribbling milk out. I reassured her that she was okay and to try again when she unlatched. I smelled her sweet smell and held her close- and in that moment in the dark at 4am, I reminded myself we are just both doing the best we can.

Next week we go back for her appointment to get her tongue and lip revised. I'm hopeful, but also realize that she's now been having bottles and nursing erratically for five months. We will have to retrain her in proper sucking. Do stretches. The battle isn't over, but at least we know what we're fighting now.

On the upside: I have the smiliest happiest girl. And for that, despite all of this, I am thankful.

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