Miracle Milk. make it, donate it, love it.

PreemieC

2,078 Days ago, I delivered a 3 lb, 6 oz baby boy. I kissed his tiny little head and then he was taken away, accompanied by his daddy, to the NICU one floor above me. This is how I entered the world of motherhood. It was at least 3 hours before I was able to see my child and another 5 more before I was able to hold him and all the various tubes and wires attached to him. PreemieC

 

I had gestational hypertension throughout my first pregnancy. It was discovered early enough at 26 weeks and we knew that regardless of how well controlled we could keep my blood pressure, the chances were VERY high that I was going to have to deliver the baby before we reached full-term. Outside of my weekly visits to the neonatology clinic for NSTs and ultrasounds, I was put on bed-rest for the remainder of my pregnancy. And I read. I read every book about premature babies that I could find. I learned about the challenges that they face, the complications of early birth and the best practices for how to overcome them.

This was how I learned about the benefits of kangaroo care and babywearing. And this was the first time I heard the phrase "liquid gold" in regards to colostrum and breastmilk. This was also when I learned about the #2 killer of NICU babies, necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC). In medical speak, "necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC) is one of the most common gastrointestinal emergencies in the newborn infant. It is a disorder characterized by ischemic necrosis of the intestinal mucosa, which is associated with inflammation, invasion of enteric gas forming organisms, and dissection of gas into the muscularis and portal venous system." (1) In laymans' terms, part of a baby's immature gut basically dies and needs to be surgically removed. It is extremely painful and has both short and long-term complications.

I was fortunate to carry my baby to 35 weeks and have a rather uneventful, albeit quick, delivery. My son was very small and very jaundiced, but otherwise healthy. He even ripped off his oxygen tube in those first few hours in the NICU (a fact my husband is still kind of proud of). Because we had done our research before heading into the NICU, both my husband and I were very insistent that our child only ever be fed breastmilk. I started pumping within hours of his birth and then set my alarm for every three hours and religiously pumped either at the hospital or at home to ensure that my milk came in and that he would have enough human breast milk at all times.

Some of the babies in our "pod" in the NICU were not as fortunate and had indeed succumbed to NEC. I remember the young mom of the baby next to us coming in every day to change her baby's ostomy bag (she insisted on doing it herself) and hoping that this would be the day that the doctors told her that his gut was healed, he could have his next surgery and that the hole in his belly would be closed up.

NEC sickens 5,000 U.S. and Canadian premature babies per year, of which roughly 500 die from the disease. Feeding fragile and compromised babies human milk – whether from the mother or by donor — has been shown to reduce the risk of NEC by 79%. For all these reasons, The Canadian Pediatric Society says “human breastmilk provides a bioactive matrix of benefits that cannot be replicated by any other source of nutrition.” The American Academy of Pediatrics also recommends human milk, by mother or by donor, for all preterm infants. Both the AAP and CPS clearly recognize the life-saving power of donor milk for preterm babies.(2)

Yesterday, I participated in the first Best for Babes Miracle Milk™ Mother's Day Stroll. This North American campaign was started  to raise awareness, funds and donor milk to save lives and spare the suffering of our most fragile population -- preterm and compromised babies. This is the first year for the Miracle Milk Stroll and Edmonton was one of almost 70 sites – 11 in Canada, 57 in the US and 2 on military bases in England who participated.

I3MiracleMilk

 

There are still NICUs within Canada and the US who do not or can not provide human milk for these preemie babies and this is why we stroll. To raise more awareness of the importance of human milk for human babies and the need for donor milk and for more milk banks across North America. Parents, health care providers and hospital administrators need to know more about the critical importance of an exclusive human milk diet in a preterm baby’s care or about the accessibility, safety and life-saving power of donor milk if mother’s own milk is not available.

I was extremely proud that the kids and I got to be a part of this inaugural campaign and encourage you to find out more about how you can help these tiny babies in your community.

MMStroll2014

Yes, that is my preemie now in the grey sweatshirt. 

Find out where your local milk bank is and donate and please check out the Best for Babes website and all the ways you can help mothers and babies.

In Canada, we now have four human milk banks that you can donate to {monetarily or milkily} in Vancouver, Calgary, Toronto and Montreal. Edmonton has it own Milk Bank Depot at the Grey Nuns Hospital where donations can be dropped off as well.

Tell your friends about how important human milk is for these compromised babies and how easy and safe it is to donate milk!

And of course, wear your Miracle Milk™ T-shirt with pride!

MiracleMilkT

 

Happy Mother's Day Everyone!

natasha~

 

 

 

1.  Neu J. Necrotizing enterocolitis: the search for a unifying pathogenic theory leading to prevention. Pediatr Clin North Am 1996; 43:409.

2. Fast Facts: Miracle Milk from Best for Babes foundation.

first instincts

As you may or may not know, my first foray into motherhood was not a smooth road. It was more like the Dakar Rally to be honest. At twenty-six weeks pregnant I was diagnosed with gestational hypertension and immediately admitted to hospital. And what followed for the next nine weeks was an uphill battle to grow a healthy baby, while flat on my back. Did I mention that we were building a house at the same time too? Yeah, this time in our lives was quite the opposite of stress-free and relaxed.

At our 35 week ultrasound we heard the words we had been preparing for, "It is time." Our baby was the size of a 30-week fetus and my body just wasn't giving him enough sustenance anymore and he needed to be delivered. On the evening of December 11, 2006, after a surprisingly fast induction, our tiny, fuzzy, 3 lb, 13 oz, skinny little baby, quite literally flopped his way into the world and onto the delivery room bed. I gave him one kiss and he disappeared with his father and a brigade of nurses and residents into the bowels of the NICU.

Our days and nights blurred and became about life in the neanatal intensive care unit. Wires, tubes, beeps, blips and alarms, blue lights, an emergency transfer to another hospital to see a specialist and back again the next day. I honestly can't remember much of those first few weeks of my child's life. I spent about 18 hours a day at the hospital and Christmas 2006 didn't really happen that year. I had one focus, and one focus alone; feed my baby, help him grow and bring him home.

I was a tired, stressed, on edge, first-time mother, with a tiny baby, who needed so much of me and from me and once we got him home, this did not change. He needed to be held constantly (or I needed to hold him constantly) and fed almost every hour. I did not sleep, I am sure I forgot to eat most days and I spent countless nights with tears streaming down my face and onto my sore nipples every time I got up and moved to another room to feed him, so as not to wake my husband.

I have the pictures from this time in our lives and in most of them I am smiling, but for the life of me, right at this moment, I can't remember half of what happened in those first 4-5 months. I know that at least once a day I would be breastfeeding him in our chair and then wake up 20 to 30 minutes later, with a kink in my neck, not able to remember falling asleep or knowing how long we had been there and thankful that I hadn't dropped the baby.

I was obsessed with my little preemie's weight and became a regular weekly fixture at the public health clinic. I charted his pees and poops and I timed how long he fed on each breast and the intervals between feedings. I scheduled his naps like a drill sergeant and I had a three ring binder to house all my colour-coded charts. My poor baby was slowly becoming a set of numbers that somehow I had to make sure all added up.

And then, probably around the same time that I was about to lose my mind and a friend suggested I attend a La Leche League meeting, something clicked. I realized that I was reading too many books and blogs and forums about how to do this mothering thing. I was listening to the advice and good intentions of everyone around me and I had not even considered listening to myself or to my child.

I threw away all the charts and the ugly binder. I got rid of the timers and gadgets to remind me which breast was up next and I let go of trying to control every aspect of our new life. I came to realize that doing so just meant that I ended up frustrated and depressed that I couldn't actually control any of it.

I looked at my baby and not the charts that I had assumed he had to measure up to. I listened to him. I fed him when he wanted to be fed. More often than not, in bed, lying down with him. We slept together. Better than we both had in MONTHS. I wore him in our favourite sling and we found our comfort zone with nursing in public. We started to go out more, made new friends and I continued to let go of my need to control and schedule every moment of his life.

I started to worry less and relaxed into motherhood more and a natural rhythm to our days and nights started to emerge. I admit that sleep was still our most difficult hurdle. My husband wanted our baby to sleep in his own room and my son wanted none of that! I believe that had we not pushed back on this so much and just let him continue to sleep with us (as we ended  up doing most nights anyhow), we might have avoided all the nights of trying all the different no-cry-gentle-shushing-sleeping-on-the-floor-sleep solutions and whatever other tactics suggested in the sleep-book-du-jour we happened to be reading. Yet despite this, I finally felt like I was doing motherhood the way I was meant to.

Why all this reminiscing about early motherhood you ask?

I wrote this with a friend in mind. I think she may be struggling a bit with being a new mom and trying to figure it all out and get it right. The sleep, the breastfeeding, all the other stuff that still needs doing, all of it is overwhelming. I want to remind her, and all new mamas, that motherhood is in us. It is written in our mitochondrial DNA from our grandmothers, grandmothers, grandmothers and we just need to trust in our nature, our instincts, to access it.

Think of a mama cat who has her first litter of kittens. She has never done this before, but she makes a nest, she births her babies all by herself, she licks them out of their caul, chews off the umbilical cords, starts nursing the first one even before the next one is delivered and will eventually eat the afterbirth and placenta. No one taught her to do these things and she didn't read "What to Expect when you are Expecting a Litter of Kittens." She is following her instincts and doing what in in her nature to do and what her babies need her to do.  

Perhaps, for some, the charts and the books and the schedules help to make the transition to motherhood easier. It makes sense to want an Operations Manual or Policy and Procedures binder for a new job, and in this regard, there is no lack of written material out there to read and use as our manuals for motherhood.

I would like to propose that we look deeper within ourselves for our own motherhood manual. It is there, just waiting to be accessed. And what I have learned is that the best way to access it, is to throw away all the other books, focus on your baby and listen to what your heart, your body and your mind are telling you do to.

If your child is crying and "the book" says don't pick him/her up, but your gut is twisting up with anxiety and the cries are like knives in your brain... LISTEN TO YOUR GUT and hold your child!

If you know what your baby does when he/she is hungry, but "the book" says to wait 3 hours between feedings to get a good schedule going... throw away that book, watch for these hunger cues and FEED YOUR BABY!

If you know that the only way your baby is going to sleep is safe and warm in your arms and against your chest and beating heart... then establish a safe place to co-sleep and SLEEP WITH YOUR CHILD! ( I am almost certain that you will get more sleep too!)

Trust your instincts mamas. They are there for a reason. And as it was for our grandmothers, grandmothers grandmothers, it is and always will be about survival. These days it may not be a saber-toothed tiger that is the main threat, but the constant bombardment of images and information about 'how to be the good mother" can be just as devastating to us!

Take a deep breath and relax.

You got this one, Mama!

[youtube]http://youtu.be/Vw4KVoEVcr0[/youtube]

natasha~

~~~~~~~~~~~

I took a teeny little hiatus from the Summer Blog Challenge these past few days. I am sorry, but life trumps blogging and really, if I have no life, I have nothing to write about, so it is actually a win-win for everyone! 

Be sure to check out the other fine #summerblogchallenge writers who have no lives... JUST kidding! Liam,  ZitaMagzDPeterChristineCliff,  HethrAprilKaren, and Kim all have wonderful lives that you can go read all about on their blogs! 

 

 

 

this side of pro-choice

***Trigger warning: The following post covers the topic of abortion.

Please be aware of this while reading and sharing.***

** It also comes with some book spoilers too.** 

I am part of a book club. Really, who isn't these days?

We are a bunch of women from all walks of life that meet once every 6-8 weeks and drink wine and eat chocolate and cheese and yes, we even discuss books!

This past week was Book Club Week and I was especially looking forward to it, because, 1) I really needed a night out and said wine and chocolate and 2) I actually finished this month's book choice a whole week ahead of time.

The book was Caitlin Moran's half autobiography, half feminist manifesto, "How to be a Woman". And if you haven't read it already, then I highly recommend you get yourself in the queue for the e-book from your local library ASAP! (See what I did there? Talking like a Brit. QUEUE!)

I am not going to lie, I really LOVED this book. It has already inspired this post a few weeks ago and after the many discussions had at book club last week, I can't help but write even more.

Once we had all settled in with our wine and chocolate and a hand-full of mini Licorice Allsorts (SCORE!!), it was time to get the formal discussion part of the night underway. I wasn't surprised that the first question, "Do you consider yourself a feminist?", caused some in the room to hesitate with an answer. I think the definition of feminism (we had the 39-page Wikipedia print out) has undergone so many waves and permutations that most women are confused by its meaning and as such find it hard identifying with it as part of who they are. This was a good a place as any to get the discussion going and go it did!

And while the topic of feminism and it's definition generated a lot of good idea sharing and clarification for some, the one chapter that got the most air time and perhaps evoked the most emotion in all of us, was Caitlin's very candid, brutally honest chapter on abortion.

I had to read this chapter twice to really absorb it and to understand what she was trying to say in it. It is a touchy subject, no matter how you frame it and Caitlin forced me to reexamine my views on the subject from all angles. All I could think of afterwards was how much respect I had for this woman. Caitlin writes that in the few minutes after she learns of the pregnancy, the minutes that pass in which she imagines this baby, this boy's whole life, she says:

"I can't have you," I tell him sadly. "The world will fall in if I have you."

She goes on to describe her abortion in detail and also how easy this decision was for her to make. Some in my group saw this as narcissistic and selfish, and I would suspect they thought it very unmotherly of her. Everyone around the room claimed to be pro-choice, but a lot of them had a very hard time with the way that she described her unborn child, the abortion itself, and the speed with which Caitlin made her choice to have one.

But I got it.

And when I was reading this chapter all I could think about was two years ago, when B and I were discussing whether or not to have another child (also known as me insisting that I "had a feeling that I wasn't done" and him telling me that he didn't have it in him again), HE got it too. Way before I did.

..........

I believe that as mothers, we are programmed (and to varying extents, expected) to give and give and give. We have a child and all of a sudden the weight of the world is literally on our shoulders and God forbid you have an unmotherly thought in your mind or do something that does not fully acknowledge you as the self-sacrificing martyr that you somehow have now become. Sometimes we lose sight of how much of ourselves we are constantly giving. That for some it gets to the point that we are no longer happy, no longer fulfilled, feeling resentment, suffering in silence from anxiety and depression and just going through the motions of our lives. Why do we do this to ourselves? There is no prize for who sacrificed the most, who is the most giving, who loses themselves the most in this gig.

So why on earth would we ever tell a woman that all zygotes conceived must be born, or that she should not have that choice, especially if it indeed does mean that her world will fall in?

One of the mamas in our club said that the reason she wanted to have three children was because she wanted that sense of happy chaos in her family and not just the easiness of two kids. I understood what she meant, but her comments gave me pause and got me thinking more about this.

Who decides what level of chaos is "happy" for any family?

For some that may be three children, for others it is one child, for others still it may be 5 or 6, or if you are the Duggars it is 20+. Whatever your number is, what is important is that YOU know what that threshold is, that you know your capacity for love, for giving, for, as Caitlin so aptly puts it, "...being life support to someone who weeps for me and rages against me..." Because when it comes down to it, no matter how much we are told that it is, that capacity is NOT without its limits and without sacrificing something in return.

I left this chapter with a new understanding of what pro-choice means to me. It is not just about choosing to have an abortion or not, it is about choosing a life that is versus a life that may be. I have a deep respect for Caitlin and all other women like her, who are strong enough to make a choice that says, "THIS. This is all the family that I WANT, all that I NEED and I simply can not do more than this."  Her words and her story and her ease with which she made her decision, a decision based on her threshold for keeping her world together, keeping herself whole and sane, and made with no guilt or shame, made it very clear to me that so many of our choices in life (and especially in motherhood) are not made like that.

Last week Annie at Phd in Parenting took a closer look at the issue of choice and why it is seen as stalling feminism these days. The one line in her post that struck me the most was when she said,

"Shame is a barrier to social change, in feminism and in many other spaces."

And this is what was bothering me that night at book club. I was in the minority in my feelings about Caitlin's chapter and opinions on abortion and I couldn't understand why. Then I read Annie's post and it hit me, the other women in the room did not feel that Caitlin showed enough shame or guilt about her decision. That she was too flippant about it. That is was callous of her to describe this child and imagine his life, knowing full well that he was never to be born. The problem was that everyone was thinking about the potential child in this situation and not the ACTUAL WOMAN LIVING HER LIFE RIGHT NOW, who showed no shame in her decision and made it with a certainty that made a lot of people uncomfortable.

And then, two more very important questions and issues arose for me that night that I am realizing are quite complex and quite possibly rooted in some deep, deep patriarchy.

Why do we always question (and judge) the motives of a woman's decisions when it comes to her body and those she brings forth from it?

AND

Why are decisions made out of love (and knowledge) of ourselves as women and mothers almost always seen as inherently selfish?

I would love to hear what you have to say on this.

Natasha~