Wednesday, December 29, 2010

To: Nancy, From: Frying Pan

In all the excitement over my sinus infection, I kind of glossed over Christmas.  I was definitely feeling more bah-humbug than usual this year.  In fact, when Rob and I unsuccessfully attempted to get William to watch How the Grinch Stole Christmas a few weeks ago (the old school cartoon version, of course.  I hate CGI.  Don't even get me started), I realized, you know, I like the way that grinch thinks.  Not that I was going to stuff myself down any chimneys and steal gifts.  I really just wanted to close my eyes and put my hands over my ears and have Christmas go away.

Christmas this year seemed particularly grim because we have recently had 2 deaths in my family.  My sister's baby, Jackson, died in April.  I have not written about this very much because it is not my story to tell, and also because I know that my sister reads this blog from time to time and I do not want to say anything that upsets her.  Plus, it just hurts too, too much to try put into words everything that happened surrounding his death and since then.  But I think about the whole situation all the time.  Last year at Christmas, my sister was white knuckling it through hyperemesis, thinking she would have a 6-month old baby at Christmas this year.  I think this was a major reason why for me at least, I just wanted to skip Christmas.  I really did not feel like celebrating.


My grandmother also passed away this year, in late August.  Her death has been sad for all of us of course, but not in that same tragic, horrific way as Jackson's.  My grandmother lived a long, full life.  She had 94 years of memories.  We can sit around and share a story about her and not feel so sad.  In fact, this entry wasn't supposed to be sad when I started out writing it because all I intended to do was write something I remembered about her from several years ago, when she was still in good health.

Grandma was always starting one task before she had completed about 6 others that she was also concurrently doing.  I am the same exact way.  I can never seem to finish anything before something else pops up that I must attend to, and what results is that I am running around making myself crazy, but not getting anything accomplished.  It tends to make one a bit absent-minded.  I was musing on this as I simultaneously wrapped Christmas gifts, folded laundry, and cleaned up the kitchen this year.  At some point, I looked at a gift I had just wrapped for Rob's little cousin, and I realized that I had no idea what it was.  Absolutely no clue.  I had been there when we chose the gift and bought it, and I had wrapped it just 5 minutes ago, but for the life of me, I could not remember what it was.  It made me think of a Christmas a few years ago when my mom received a gift from Grandma and the gift tag read, To: Nancy, From: Frying pan.  I remember how my mother read the gift tag out loud and then all of us were laughing so hard that we had tears coming out of our eyes.  My grandma was laughing the hardest of all... so floored at her own indiscretion that she could not speak.  And trust me, speechlessness was a rare occurrence for Grandma.

I don't know, maybe you had to be there, but whenever I think of the To: Nancy, From: Frying pan incident, I can't help but laugh a little, even if it is just on the inside.

Hoping for more laughter in 2011.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Christmas sinus infection

As it turns out, I've been walking around with a sinus infection for the past week.  I've felt like complete and utter hell, but I couldn't really do anything about it because I had 895,000 final essay exams to grade, and then it was Christmas.  Actually, I tried to go to a "Take Care" clinic on the 22nd, and that was a total fail.  First of all, I had to drive through Mall Traffic 3 days before Christmas, and second of all, when I arrived, I was informed there was a 4 hour wait.  The scare of driving through Mall Traffic and also having found myself in an exit only lane for the interstate by mistake (think: The movie Clueless when the character D accidentally merges onto the freeway in LA) was enough to scare the sinus infection away from me, at least for a moment.  Since I was supposed to be at work and was trying to do this on my "lunch hour," I did not have 4 hours to wait, so I turned around and drove back through Mall Traffic so that I could continue grading the 895,000 essay exams sitting on my desk.

I was determined to power through this.  I mean, come on.  I'm Melissa.  When I was in Nicaragua doing my field research, I put bandaids on things that should have had stitches.  Instead of going to the hospital to get an IV for 2 weeks of Vortex, I drank some coke and just kept going.

Well by today, I am no better, and I am so completely frayed from being unable to sleep for the past 8 nights due to the congestion.  I haven't taken a breath through my nose since December 19.  I'm taking the day off anyway... even though I'm not technically allowed to take sick or vacation days until the end of February, I've worked 20 hours of unpaid overtime in the last couple of weeks, so I just get to use that as "comp time."  What better to do with my comp time than go to a doctor.

There are like 7,000 doctors that my insurance covers, and I have no idea who to go to, so I just picked the closest one.  When I called her office this morning, I found out that in order to be seen by her, I had to have a "new patient evaluation," and the first available opening for said evaluation was January 19.  I think I gave an involuntary sob and said, "But I am sick nowwww," and they told me that they would let me know if there are any cancellations.

I suppose I could have kept calling doctors and seeing if there was another one who would see me, but I decided to try going to an Urgent Care Clinic a few miles from here on easily navigable roads that would not necessitate going through Mall Traffic or the freeway.  The good people at the urgent care place were nice and the whole process did take quite a while, but all things considered, I cannot complain.  They did x-rays and found that I did in fact have a sinus infection, and prescribed an antibiotic (that I hope does not send me into anaphylactic shock) and pseudoephedrine.  I told the doctor that I was nursing and I was concerned about pseudoephedrine drying up my milk supply (I'm glad I knew that because it did not seem like that information would have been volunteered to me).  He said that yes, decongestants can have a drying-up effect for some nursing mothers, but that I could drink lots of water and pump to counter balance that effect.  And I was all GEE.  You have no idea what I have been through to nurse this child.  I am already drinking a lot of water and pumping and making like, I don't know, a half an ounce of milk a day.  After I finished off the domperidone, my temporary burst in supply has precipitously declined.  If I add pseudoephedrine to the mix, I have a feeling that is the end.

So I am completely miserable and even more miserable at the thought that the thing that might bring me relief from these symptoms might also put an end to my fragile milk supply.  There is so much sinus pressure in my face that it feels like I am giving birth through my eyeball.  I know we might be at the end of nursing anyway, but still, I don't to put the nail in the coffin myself.  I keep thinking, if I can just tough this out maybe a few more days, the antibiotics will kill off the infection and then I will feel better.  The pseudoephedrine only treats the symptoms, right?  It would just make me more comfortable in the meantime.  But god, I would really like to be more comfortable.

Thanks for reading.


Saturday, December 18, 2010


I'm pleased to report that I've had a little bit of success in the relactation department, and I am so, so so so so so so glad I didn't throw in the towel and give it up.

A year ago, when after much struggle, Will was 4 months old and my milk supply finally seemed stable, I went off Domperidone.  I had saved a week's worth of pills just in case of some type of emergency, which, as it turns out, was wise.  My milk supply has been dropping ever since Will turned 1 and I started this new job, but after the stomach flu hit me last week, I thought I was done for.  I had a moment when I decided that was alright, that we could just be done with nursing, but then I thought I might as well just try the remaining Domperidone and see what happened.

As it turns out, I started lactating again.  I was also eating oatmeal and taking goat's rue (until I ran out of that), so I guess it may have been one of these other factors, or some combination of thereabove.  But in a matter of a few days, I went from being completely empty and having nothing come out when nursing him or pumping, to actually feeling like I had milk and being able to express some when pumping.  I know it still seems miniscule, but by about Wednesday of this week, I pumped 1.25 oz while at work, and I actually had 2 let downs while pumping.

I was very excited, and Will seems to have taken a renewed interest in nursing, now that milk is actually coming out.  Even when I was bone dry, he would never turn it down or unlatch himself, he just seemed kind of bored while nursing and would often be looking around for dad's iPad.  But now he nurses with fervor, and screams at me when I try to unlatch him after all the milk is gone.  That's not really an improvement in our lives, but it does indicate to me that he was getting luke-warm about nursing only because there wasn't enough milk coming out, not because he didn't want to nurse anymore.

So, I ran out of Domperidone yesterday.  I am taking Motherlove More Milk Special Blend (it arrived on Tuesday) and eating oatmeal, and hoping that all hell doesn't break loose.  I nursed him before his nap today, and it didn't go so well.  Not a whole lot of milk came out, and when I to pry him off (because I didn't want to sit there for an hour and a half letting him sleep nurse), he screamed (shrilly) for about 20 minutes before I could get him settled down.  I just now pumped and only had a tiny bit come out; I don't know if that is because I nursed him not too long ago, or because the Domperidone is coursing out of my system and I am done for again.

Still trying to decide what to do.  I was hoping that a week's worth of Domperidone might jump start me, and I could keep this going for another couple of months if I pump at work and eat wallpaper paste (I mean oatmeal) and take the More Milk tincture.  If I stop lactating now that I'm done with the Domperidone, I have to decide whether to just give it up or order some more from Vanauatu.

Anyway, I've got to take advantage of Will's nap so that I can work and not get paid for it.  Trying not to complain too much, because I do like my job and also because next semester they're giving me a lighter load, that is, if I can hang on until then.  So tired.

Thanks for reading.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Dear William (16 months)

Dear William,

Today you are 16 months old!

You started walking this month.  You walked across the room on Thanksgiving day.

Since then, you will sometimes walk on your own a few steps here and there, but by far your preferred form of locomotion is to push a chair, toy box, or laundry basket around the room.


You went to go see Santa Claus this month, in the Central West End.  It was freezing that day, and you hated it.  You wanted me to come up and sit beside you.

With Santa


You love opening and closing drawers, cabinets, cupboards, and doors.  There aren't enough baby locks in this world to keep you out of them.


You have started climbing, or attempting to climb, onto or out of things.  This worries me because you have no concept of the laws of physics.  Yesterday you climbed out of your highchair, while you were still strapped into it.  I'm still not sure how that happened.

You are constantly chattering. The other day, you finished your cup of soymilk and said, "More!" just as plain as day. You still say da and dada all the time, and you say mama or mom a lot too. You say mama mainly when you're mad. Like when I'm changing your diaper and you'd rather be playing, you say this "Mo-oooom" that makes it sound like you're a teenager rolling your eyes at me. It's kind of funny.

You started letting us brush your teeth again.  For several months, you refused to let a toothbrush even near your mouth.  I was so worried you were going to end up with hee-haw teeth.  I am much relieved that you are open to the idea of brushing your teeth again.  Last night you even brushed your teeth all by yourself.



Speaking of teeth, you've gotten all your first molars by now.  I am pretty sure you are working on your canines now.  You are drooling a lot and very congested and refusing to eat and a couple times in the past week or so you screamed for a few hours in the night instead of sleeping.  I am hoping that soon, this too shall pass.

Your dad and I had the stomach flu this month and so far, you've managed to avoid getting it.  That is a miracle.  I'm so thankful. You do have a rotten cold right now, or maybe it's just congestion from teething. You like to sleep in the big bed with mommy and daddy when you aren't feeling well. I don't like it when your teeth hurt so bad that you have trouble sleeping, but I do like to have you all snuggled up in bed with me. You're the best thing on earth.

Love always,


Friday, December 10, 2010

Stomach flu

This past week both Rob and I had the stomach flu.  He got it first, and then it hit me with a vengeance about 24 hours later.  Rob still wasn't feeling good when it hit me, but thankfully he had the wherewithal to function and take care of Will.

I'd often wondered what it would be like for me to have intestinal distress for the first time since my hyperemetic pregnancy.  Unsurprisingly, it wasn't pretty.  I started throwing up about 5am on Tuesday and finally quit at around 10pm.  I threw up every 1/2 hour to an hour most of that time, except for about a 3 hour block in the late afternoon when I didn't puke but just felt like it, which was perhaps even more awful.  I was ridiculously dehydrated.

I took a sick day on Tuesday, even though I am technically ineligible to take a sick day until I've worked there for 6 months, but under the circumstances, going to work was not an option when all I could do was lie in bed and puke into a bucket.  On Wednesday I was back in the office though, very spacey and unable to eat or drink anything.  I couldn't really stand up or walk for long periods of time, and even talking to people was difficult.  Unfortunately, this is the busiest time of year for me... giving 4 final exams and grading 2 papers, all for large intro classes with several hundred students.  I am looking at some serious overtime in the next 10 days, it is crazy ridiculous.  I had about 30 people in my office for Intro to Public Health alone, firing questions at me about their upcoming exam, when I was just like, people, I need to lie down now, please.

Somehow, miraculously, Will has not gotten it.  I almost hesitate to write that, incase I jinx it and he gets sick.  But I feel like he would have gotten it by now if he were going to.  Half of his daycare was out with the stomach flu, as was one of his teachers.  How he managed to come through unscathed is a mystery (or is it just the antibodies in breastmilk?)

So much vomiting did bring up a lot of really scary, dark, unhappy memories of my pregnancy, a lot of anger, a lot of everything I have tried unsuccessfully to forget about these last 16 months.  But it also made me realize a few things.  Mainly, the completely messed up way I felt for several days after giving birth had absolutely nothing to do with giving birth, but because of the 8 hours of vomiting I did during labor.  The vomiting that was caused by the GBS antibiotics that they "had" to give me.  That terrible, nauseous, unable to eat, unable to drink, unable to speak, unable to see straight, unable to stand up without passing out... that wasn't because I'd given birth.  It was because I'd vomited for 8 hours straight and didn't eat anything for almost 2 days.  I still find it weird how nobody at the hospital really gave a shit about how completely messed up I was after Will was born, but that is a different post for a different time.

What this entry is supposed to be about is that the stomach flu has had catastrophic consequences on my ability to breastfeed.  As I recently mentioned, I have been struggling a lot lately to make any milk at all, and I feel like the stomach flu has essentially sealed the deal for us in terms of weaning. I didn't nurse Will on Tuesday, the day I was sick.  I was just too, too sick.  I couldn't stop vomiting/dry heaving and shaking/shivering all over, and I really really did not want Will to get sick.  I was so afraid if I touched him or was close to him at all, he'd get it.  In the morning before Rob took him to daycare, Will toddled into our bedroom and was looking at me and I could see his little blonde head bobbing along as he circled the bed, and it made me so sad because I just wanted to hold him but felt too awful.  I was still too sick to nurse him that night.  I was completely freaking out about it though, because I knew that I am not in the position to be skipping feedings, and that if I did this, it would probably mean the end of it.  Rob knew I didn't want it to end this way, so he bundled up and walked over to my office (where I keep my breast pump) and brought it home to me.  Give him a gold star for this.  I pumped, and I pumped (stopping to throw up at least once) for over 20 minutes, and not a drop came out, not a single drop.

On Wednesday, I nursed Will in the morning (feeling nothing come out) and I pumped later at work (okay, maybe a couple of drops, but that was it).  I know I am still ridiculously dehydrated, but it doesn't seem to be getting any better.  I've still kept nursing him, but it seems very futile at this point.  Just for comfort, not milk.

The thing is, on Tuesday when Will didn't nurse, he was totally fine without it, even at night time.  Rob rocked him and put him to bed, and he slept clear through until 6:30 the next morning. For several months, he really hasn't sought it out, but he doesn't turn it down when I offer it to him.  And he still never, ever unlatches on his own.  Even if he is bored and wants to play with his toys or with dad's iPad, he just tries to take me along with him.  Sometimes I think he might be a little frustrated that there is no milk coming out, but most of the time, that doesn't seem to bother him either.

I don't want to give it up this way, but it would be an easy out right now.  It's just that last night he had a really rough night.  I think he's getting his canines in, and he woke up around 3am and screamed for about 3 hours.  He was trying to latch on to my sweatshirt, he wanted to nurse so bad.  So I just nursed him, and even though there was no milk coming out, it comforted him.  I just wasn't happy about it.  It doesn't feel so great to nurse him without any milk coming out, and the whole situation of losing my milk this way made me really sad.

Sooo.  This morning I broke into my emergency stash of leftover Domperidone from when I gave it up about a year ago.  I have enough for 8 days.  I have no idea if it will do anything, but I had to try.  I also ordered some Motherlove Special Blend tincture, which should arrive on Tuesday.  In the meantime, I'm pumping at work and trying to rehydrate the best I can.  We'll see if any of this works.  Maybe it won't, but at least I won't go down without a fight.

Thanks for reading.

Saturday, December 4, 2010


This is seriously hard for me to write, but I may be about to stop nursing William, and it is not because either of us is ready for it.

Ever since I started this new job (and started nursing him less), I could tell my milk supply was steadily dwindling, but for a long time I thought, after everything I've been through, there is no way I can be going through Low Milk Supply again.  I've fixed that.  We're done with it.  This dwindling is normal.  We've made it past a year, and now there will be no reason for me to stop nursing him until one day he says to me, "Mom, I'm done with that," and I say, "Okay," and we have a piece of (vegan) chocolate cake or something.

But that's just not what's happening.  After my last bout of mastitis, things seemed okay for a while, but then (and brace yourselves for TMI), my long and blissful bout of lactational amenorrhea ended.  Aunt Flo is what seemed to put the nail in the coffin.  Will nurses, but I can't ever feel any milk coming out, and I rarely hear him swallow.  I even took the breast pump to work, to try to increase my milk supply (but recall how pumping between feedings was fantastic failure when I was dealing with Low Milk Supply).  After feeding him in the morning around 7am, I've been trying to pump around 9 or 10am at work.  Maybe it's having some effect, I don't know, but even if it is, the effect is miniscule.  If I pump closer to 9:00, sometimes I get nothing or maybe just a drop or two.  If I hold off till 10:00 or even a little after, I might get enough to thinly cover the bottom of the Medela bottle (so what... 1/8 of an ounce? 1/4?) but never anything more than that.  It is seriously depressing.  Not in the sense that I want to save the milk to give to him (I just rinse it down the sink), but just because it seems to confirm the fact that I've run dry.

Admitting all this is hard because first of all, I am stating that my body is a complete and total failure.  But beyond that, I think the larger issue is that I'm feeling like, oh my god, I've made a huge life mistake.  If I wouldn't have accepted this position, if I would have just stayed home and kept nursing him whenever he wanted to, we wouldn't be in this boat now.  Even though this job (if I keep it until then) will provide him a free college education, and I have tried to convince myself that my working (and this job in particular) has been positive for William, I have clearly not acted in his best interest.

So do I have to go over the reasons why I want to continue nursing him?  Apparently, because the last time I wrote something about my nursing problems, some moron posted a comment insinuating that I was a selfish freak for nursing a baby past 1 year.  (Freak... I can understand why an idiot would think that.  But selfish? WTF.  I didn't delete the comment simply because it was so fucking ridiculous.)

So here are the reasons why I would like to continue nursing William:

1) He still wants to nurse.

2) WHO guidelines indicate nursing to at least 2 years.

3) As a biological anthropologist, arbitrarily stopping nursing at 1 year makes no sense.  Across mammals, weaning generally coincides with the eruption of the permanent molars (which doesn't happen until like, age 6 or 7 in humans).  And cross culturally, many societies nurse for much longer than one year.

4) The immunological properties of breastmilk.  Will has survived outbreaks of stomach flu, hoof and mouth disease, and impetigo at his daycare, all unscathed. He's had a runny nose practically since starting daycare, but in the scheme of things, I feel pretty lucky.  Is breastmilk giving him an edge to stay healthy?  I don't know.  But I don't want to find out by stopping and then having him get sick all the time.

5) I love him so much.  I just want to what's best for him.  And that's not because he is anyone's grandchild, nephew, cousin, whatever.  Please.  As if.  He's mine.

I go back and forth about what I should do.  Sometimes I sit there and think, you know, we've had a good run.  I bet not even a La Leche League leader would fault me for weaning him at 16 months.  Considering how we started out, we've been remarkably lucky.  When everybody and their freaking brother was telling me to give him formula (including my OB and a pediatrician, who both told me that giving him formula would INCREASE MY MILK SUPPLY), I refused.  Thank god I knew my OB and the pediatrician were dead wrong about that, because had I listened to them (and the throngs of other people who told me to give him formula), it would have been a completely different story.  He never had one drop.  I tried everything, literally everything, to increase my milk supply, and I got it to work.  He thrived, and is still nursing at 16 months.  He's made it past the critical 1-year point, so we'd be fine to just stop and move on with our lives.  In some ways, that would probably make my life easier.  I could go running in the mornings before work, without having to worry about leaving enough time to nurse him.  Or I could go running, grocery shopping, etc in the evenings without having to be the one who puts him to bed.  Rob could put him to bed, or we could even go out together and have a sitter put him to bed.  In his whole life, I have always been the one to put him to bed, every single night.  I like putting him to bed, but it would be nice if for some reason I had to go somewhere or do something, someone else could do it and I wouldn't have to worry.  For a while I thought about just cutting his nursing down to once a day, either in the morning or the before bed, or maybe even as soon as I get home from work.  But given the problems I am having maintaining any kind of milk supply on twice a day, I'm afraid my milk would dry up completely if I reduced it to just once.

And the reality of that freaks me out.  I'm Melissa.  I am not going down without a fight.  I've gone to heroic measures before, I'll go to heroic measures again.  I will do whatever it takes.  Breastmilk is this wonderful, magical, substance of perfection, that will keep my kid healthy and have long term positive health benefits throughout his entire life.  Sixteen months is too young to take that away from him.  I will pump, I will power pump, I will quit my job if I have to, but I am not giving up.  I will stop nursing him one day when he tells me he's done with it, or he otherwise indicates that he just doesn't want to nurse anymore.  But not a moment before that.  As long as there is a breath left in my body, I will not give up.

The thing about heroic measures though, is that I'm not sure what measures to actually take.  None of the usual galatagogues (ie, fenugreek, blessed thistle) worked for me during Low Milk Supply, and I swear that pumping/power pumping made it worse.  None of the easy things, like eating oatmeal or drinking lots of water, worked either.  Domperidone was the only thing that worked for sure, so I guess if I was really going to heroic measures, I'd call up Vanautu again and place an order.  One other thing that may have had a slight positive effect was the Motherlove More Milk Special Blend.  I have no idea where to get that in St. Louis, but I am leaning strongly towards ordering some online.

So, that's where I'm at.  Who else out there has been through this?  Anybody?  I feel kind of like, probably not.  But if you have, please drop me a line and tell me what you did to get through.  Idiotic comments, however, will be promptly deleted.

Thanks for reading.