The Bitch that is Breastfeeding

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Pictured above: My son, hours old, and how he felt about breastfeeding.

Breastfeeding is a bitch. There, I said it. Obviously, not the case for everyone, but for way more women than I had ever heard about before I had kids. While I was pregnant, I heard every horror story in the book about pregnancy and postpartum, but nobody really warned me about the trials and tribs of breastfeeding. Maybe because the people I was speaking to didn’t want to completely horrify me, or maybe because their breastfeeding experiences were not so bad (although they came out and admitted they were worse than they let on after the fact!) Regardless, this is MY breastfeeding story, and I share it with the hope that it will help other moms who may feel alone, defeated, scared, and/or confused like I did as I tried to navigate through what I thought would come so naturally.

Before I had my son – we will call him H – I swore I’d breastfeed. I went to classes specifically dedicated to breastfeeding – how to hold the baby, how to help baby latch, how to time your feedings, how often to feed baby, and on and on. I read countless books about the benefits of breastfeeding and watched video after video. It’s my personality to try to master something from the get go, and I went into it with an I Got This mindset. I was practically brainwashed on the breast is best approach and made a vow to stop at nothing to breastfeed H. Well, I was in for a rude awakening.

H was born via C-section. Hurdle #1, I soon came to find out. He was almost 10 pounds. Hurdle #2. He was also tongue-tied. Hurdle #3. Then I learned that my nipples are not ideal for feeding. Hurdle #4. And I didn’t start pumping in the hospital until late in day two. Hurdle #5. The thing is, I didn’t know all of the above in the beginning. So, here we are moments after he is born trying to latch and it’s just not happening. It’s super painful and I have nothing coming out and he is frustrated. The amazing nurses at NYU worked tirelessly to help me with positioning, latching techniques, hand expression… you name it, they did it. We tried for a day and a half, but nothing. I barely had colostrum, and H was big, so he needed more than what I was producing. I was exhausted – nipples already cracked and sore – but I was determined. In the wee hours of the morning on day 3 – the day I was leaving – a nurse came into my room to check my vitals and asked me how I was. I started crying, telling her how defeated I was – that no matter what I tried, H would not latch and I had nothing to give him. She picked him up and tried to help me, which is when she noticed his tongue-tie. Then she pointed out that I might want to use nipple shields to help him latch, and also start pumping to start milk flow. I didn’t understand why none of this had been pointed out prior. And how the fuck did the pediatrician miss a tongue-tie! I was so frustrated, but also excited by this breakthrough. We tried the shields. No luck. We started pumping. No luck. At this point, H was starting to fuss a lot, but I didn’t know his cues yet and just thought I’d keep trying.

Cut to that evening as H was screaming inconsolably. At that point, I called my sister – a mom herself – and asked her what to do. Two seconds hearing him cry and she said, “Lex, he’s starving. Go get him formula.” And there it was, the dreaded F word! In my mind, it also meant Failure. I couldn’t do right by my baby and give him what he needed from me. If there was anything I should be able to do, it should be feed him. This should have been easy. I was just devastated. But, I sent my husband to CVS regardless for some Similac Sensitive. I cried the whole time he was gone – also because H was screaming – and then pulled it together, got a bottle, and fed him formula. He sucked it down in record time, and I cried again, realizing he’d been starving for three days. As I mentioned, he was a big baby. He needed A LOT of food. I didn’t know that then, but I soon realized it when he just consumed ounces and ounces of formula in a sitting – far more than babies usually ate at his age. I felt terrible for having had him wait so long, and almost selfish for not relenting sooner.

Two days later, I had a lactation consultant come in. Between H’s tongue-tie, my lack of milk production, and my nipple situation, we were set up to fail. She reassured me that there was no way I would have ever been able to breastfeed successfully given all the hurdles we had in our way. Apparently, moms who have C-sections have an even tougher time, as the breast tissue is swollen and makes it hard for milk to pass through. (Or at least that is what my LC said.) So, we had everything working against us.

I brought H home on a Saturday. The LC came over on a Monday, and by Wednesday, we were sitting in Dr. Dahl’s office getting H’s tongue-tie snipped. He latched for two minutes and was over it. That was actually the last time he ever made it to my breast. I went to a lactation group at NYU for some help, and ended up with a Supplemental Nursing System (SNS). It’s a small tube that they tape to your nipple that is attached to a vial of formula that you also tape to your body. Basically an IV of formula. It’s supposed to trick baby to latch on to your nipple and feed, but H wasn’t having it. I remember sitting in that circle of moms just balling, and feeling, again, like such a failure. Boobs were popping out everywhere, milk was flowing, and these moms seemed so happy and carefree. Some were even talking about how they had so much milk that they had to donate it to milk banks. Meanwhile, I’m sitting there with these ridiculous contraptions attached to my body and my child is screaming his head off for a bottle. I fed him in the bathroom at NYU, feeling so embarrassed to bottle feed him formula in front of the other mothers. I now refer to those first few weeks as “the dark days.”

I tried pumping for about 3 weeks or so. I would pump for 45 minutes and get half an ounce of milk. Then I started Fenugreek and drank Mother’s Milk Tea and would only get 1-2 ounces after 45 minutes. H ate 4-6 ounces every three hours! I could not keep up! Nipples were cracked and bleeding and I was in so much pain, but if H wasn’t going to come to me, then I was going to bring me to him. I felt like if I could just give him even a few drops of liquid gold, it was worth it. BUT IT WASN’T. I will never forget the moment I realized I had to stop. I took H to the pediatrician for his 4-week check up. Dr. Horwitz sat me down and said, “H is great. Really healthy and doing amazing. You are not. What’s going on?” Through many tears, I shared with him my breastfeeding challenges, and he told me to stop. He actually said Stop. He said H was thriving, and that formula was at the top of the list of the best things I could ever feed him—that it was only downhill from there with baby food and human food and everything else he will be consuming in his lifetime. (Which I now know to be true!) He reminded me that a happy mom = a happy baby, and that my state of mind was everything. I had to rest and feel good to be able to take great care of my son. So, I went home that day, packed up the pump, stocked up on formula, and called it quits. I was done.

What I learned was that formula was not at all horrible. H has thrived. Anyone who knows him will tell you he is beautiful and healthy and super smart and incredibly verbal. He is fine. I did the right thing by trying, because it is what I needed to do for me, but in the end, I couldn’t have continued to torture myself, and that’s precisely what I was doing. I was miserable in body and mind, and that was no good for anyone around me at the time, especially H.

I just had my daughter 8 months ago – we’ll call her E. I, of course, tried to breastfeed when she was born, too. She didn’t latch, and she was also tongue-tied, so on day two, she went on formula. I knew the road ahead of me, and I was not about to go down that road again. And guess what? She’s just fine…and so am I.

#MOMLIFE

Body After Baby: What Happens & How to Deal

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I shared my thoughts on Beauty After Baby with Yahoo Beauty three months after my son as born, and then again one year later. I learned a lot in that year, so I also wanted to share which products and services helped me heal and find myself again. I felt like if I was a guinea pig, I should at least share my experiences to help other new moms, so I wanted to share that article here to help even more of you figure out how to get your body back after baby…

As featured on Yahoo Beauty on June 4, 2015:

Here are some of the best solutions to handle everything from your c-section scar to hair loss.

Nothing changes you more, both inside and out, than having a baby. In the months leading up to birth, there is so much information about what happens to your body during pregnancy. However, I found that there is a lot less about the dozens of changes that happen in the year after you give birth. With every milestone my son hit this past year, I, too, was keeping track of my own progress, celebrating the healing, or lamenting over yet another beauty/body challenge. I’m lucky enough to work in the beauty industry and had access to many incredible products, tools and professionals to help me tackle every issue that came up. However, despite me being a certified beauty junkie, I’ve never tried and tested so many cosmetics, creams, and gadgets than after I had my son. Head to toe, my body went through so many radical changes, so I took it upon myself to scour the market to find the best products that deliver quick and noticeable results. In the spirit of moms helping other moms, here are the best solutions to handle everything from your c-section scar to hair loss.

LOSING YOUR HAIR

Yes, it is true. Your hair falls out after you have a baby. From what I understand, it is the hair you were supposed to shed during pregnancy that you held onto because you were taking prenatal vitamins.  So, now that your hair is falling out by the handful, what can you do? I went back on prenatals and starting using Aveda invati, which left my hair thick and full. (They have a three-step trial pack that you can sample for only $8 before you splurge on the entire hair care system.) When hair starts to grow back in, note that you will have annoying baby hairs and fly-aways. Since they stick straight up, I tamed them by applying a heat protectant (Bumble & bumble Hairdresser’s Invisible Oil Heat/UV Protective Primer) and then curling them down, followed by a pomade or styling crème. I learned not to flatiron them too much, as that will cause breakage and set you back in growing them out.

SENSITIVE SCALP

As if hair loss wasn’t enough, my scalp became very sensitive as a result of changing hormones, reacting to all shampoos with itching and flaking. I started washing my hair once a week with Paul Mitchell Tea Tree Special Shampoo, and turned to Aveda Scalp Benefits, which helped eliminate my dry, itchy flaky scalp after the first wash.

BREAKOUTS & SCARRING

Hormones flaring caused lots of breakouts, and the acne left scarring because my pigment had changed. My go-to was Clinique Even Better Spot Corrector to treat dark spots (spot treat only), MD Skincare Alpha Beta Peel twice a week to keep skin clear, and Bobbi Brown EXTRA Repair Serum for dry patches. I also swear by the Clarisonic Mia 2 because it erases all bumps and dry skin, clears my pores, and leaves my skin fresh and glowing.

DARK CIRCLES

Sleep deprivation can take a huge toll on a new mom – it made my already dark circles look like bruises. After long, sleepless nights, I would use Kiehl’s Midnight Recovery Eye in the morning, and would layer Bobbi Brown corrector and concealer on top to lighten the under eye area and make it appear as though I got at least 5 hours of shut eye.

ECZEMA

Post-baby, I developed a case of eczema on my hands and fingers. Turns out, my son suffered from it as well, so I had already tested almost 20 eczema creams for his benefit. I found one called Good On Ya’ on Amazon.com, which instantly cured his and my eczema. Our cracked, itchy, red skin disappeared in 3 days.

KERATOSIS PILARIS

While we are on the subject of skin, those damn hormones cause yet another skin condition that covered my arms and upper thighs in little bumps called Keratosis Pilaris. I found relief using DERMAdoctor KP Duty Dermatologist Formulated Body Scrub every other day in the shower followed by KP Duty Dermatologist Moisturizing Therapy on the affected areas.

STRETCH MARKS

I spent my entire pregnancy trying to prevent stretch marks by slathering on lotions and potions by the gallon, but I lost that battle. So far, I have seen the best results after using a combination of coconut oil and Crème de La Mer, which I alternate each day/night. Laser therapy is really effective as well, but is pricey, so I will hold out until I know I am done growing my family.

LINEA NEGRA

The Linea Negra is a stubborn mark as well, which I thought would never go away. It ended up disappearing before the stretch marks after religiously applying Dr. Jaliman Triple Action Cream every night after my shower. It’s essentially a bleaching cream, so I just applied on the line itself and it’s vanished.

C-SECTION SCAR

Talk about a battle wound, c-section scars can be itchy, numb, sensitive, and sometimes even painful long after you have a baby. A year later, mine doesn’t look much different than it did days after I gave birth. The red, raised smiley face reminds me daily that healing takes time and a lot of patience. It also takes work. Coconut oil and Scar Away for C-Section Silicone Scar Sheets can only do so much. To speed up healing, I have recently started scar therapy (think physical therapy focused on and around the scar) coupled with laser light therapy to break up the keloids (scar tissue), which is crucial. As the scar tissue can attach itself to organs and/or limit your movement, it is extremely important to make sure you nurture your scar and fully heal.

DIASTASIS RECTI

During pregnancy I had Diastasis Recti, more commonly referred to as “mummy tummy” or “baby pooch,” which is a separation of the abdominal muscles causing your belly to stick out. When the ab muscles move aside like this, the uterus, bowels, and other organs have only a thin band of connective tissue in front to hold them in place, which becomes dangerous because the tissue may tear, and organs may poke out of the opening, otherwise known as a hernia. Diastasis Recti can also cause lower back pain. It is important to address and takes serious commitment to fix. Regular PT can help at first so you know what exercises to do to protect and strengthen your core. Eventually, I ended up practicing the Tupler Technique and wore a brace daily, taking it off only to shower, in an effort to keep everything in place and protect my organs. I now practice the Dia Method for maintenance and have a few more months left before my abs completely come back together. Until that happens, Spanx are a wardrobe staple.

I realize in reading this, the thought of what having a baby does to your body might be a bit scary. Keep in mind, this is my story. Every woman has a different, personal experience. What we do share is the fact that, no matter what beauty challenges we face, we’d do it again and again (and most of us do) to be able to be mothers.

#MOMLIFE

Beauty After Baby: One Year Later

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A year after I wrote Beauty After Baby: The Honest Truth, Yahoo Beauty asked me to come back and write about how I felt one year later. Did anything change? Did I feel better? Worse? Did I regret writing the initial piece? Was I maybe experiencing postpartum depression? They wanted to check in at the one year mark to see where I was at. The truth is, I was excited to share more thoughts and experiences. I felt great. Some things got better, and some things did get worse. No, I didn’t have PPD, but I would’ve been happy to share even if I did. So, I put pen to paper, so to speak, and wrote this piece about beauty and confidence a year later. If you read my last post about Part 1, I mention it gets better. Here’s my story…

As featured on Yahoo Beauty on June 24th, 2015:

It’s been exactly one year since I opened up to the world and shared some very personal “Beauty After Baby” struggles that I was experiencing as a result of just having birthed my first child. At the time, I wrote on Yahoo Beauty: “ I have to admit that I resent what pregnancy has done to my body. I understand that the stretch marks, scars and baby weight are badges of honor, but it doesn’t really change how I feel. Personally, I no longer feel pretty. In fact, I’ve never felt less pretty than I do right now. I’m not happy with how my body looks. I’m embarrassed to be naked in front of my husband. I’m afraid I won’t lose the baby weight and that the scars and stretch marks will never fade. I’ve lost my sexy and I’m scared I won’t get it back.”

In sharing these feelings, I sparked a conversation that, of course, involved a lot of criticism and name-calling, but mostly an outpouring of gratitude for admitting what many women don’t want to admit – our bodies, our looks, and our perspective change radically after a baby, and sometimes those changes are tough to deal with. In my mind, that doesn’t make us self-centered. It makes us self-aware.

As shocked as I was about what I was experiencing, I was almost as surprised by the response I received. My post started trending on Yahoo, Good Morning America called to film a segment, followed by The Today Show. My inbox was flooded with e-mails from women all over the world—some thanking me for putting into words what they had been feeling, while others instantly felt like I was a girlfriend they could confide in. I received stories about breastfeeding woes, hair loss, weight struggles, sex after pregnancy, pancake boobs, cracked nipples, stretch marks, c-sections scars… all the things we new moms may experience and have to learn to accept and work through. The common denominator was that we were all dealing with something and not feeling like ourselves, and we were all blindsided and totally unprepared. So, for every person who called me a narcissist for sharing my story, each one of these e-mails was my redemption song. Through these newfound connections, I learned that one of the best ways to deal with post partum issues is to talk about them with other women who are going through something similar. I quickly realized that my post automatically signed me up to be that person who offered a safe place with no fear of judgment. It’s truly been an honor.

So, here I am a year later receiving many e-mails asking how I feel now. In short, I feel better, but I am just starting to get to a place where I feel like a semblance of my original self. Truth is, I won’t ever be the person I was before I had my son. My body is different in ways I cannot affect. I am learning to accept that, mostly through shifting my mindset and focusing on getting to a place where I feel comfortable with how I look now, versus trying in vain to get back to my old self. It makes the goal much more achievable. If I want to dig a bit deeper, I’ll admit it’s frustrating at times to look at other women who bounced right back, and I’m not talking about celebs—do yourself a favor and completely ignore them. I mean women without trainers and chefs and flexible schedules and a lot of help. I envy these real women in the sincerest, and most admirable way possible, but accept that we all recover on different timelines.

I recently celebrated my son’s first birthday, and while I cannot believe how quickly this year flew by, there’s another part of me that sometimes feels like time just stands still, mostly because many of the pregnancy wounds and scars that I first wrote about haven’t fully healed. I often wonder if certain scars and marks shouldn’t be gone by now, especially the c-section scar that still looks back and smiles at me in the mirror, but I try not to be too hard on myself. Some of the body after baby issues are superficial, but most are about true healing, overall health, and regaining confidence – all crucial to being the best mother I can be to my son.

To tackle the surface beauty issues (hair falling out, itchy scalp, dry skin, keratosis pilaris, etc.) I spent the year as the beauty industry’s guinea pig, scouring the market for the best products that delivered noticeable results. To address my health issues, like diastasis recti and lower back pain, I committed to PT and partnered with great doctors and healthcare experts to set realistic goals. What is most important when you’re going through all of this, however, is support. I feel so blessed to have a loving partner who will sometimes catch me sucking in my stomach and tell me not to be ashamed—that my stomach is beautiful because it is where I carried our baby. And I cannot forget my friends and my new mom friends—the ones near and far who I lean on and share battle stories with, because let’s face it, for as beautiful as motherhood is, it is hard work.

So, a year later, marks are fading, scars are slowly healing, I got a sassy new haircut (mostly so I don’t notice how much of it is still falling out), and I’m bringing my sexy back. I look at my son and my heart explodes, which makes me just fine with my new normal.

#MOMLIFE

Beauty After Baby: The Honest Truth

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I gave birth to a baby boy in May 2014. He was my first child, so I had never been pregnant before, and therefore did not know what postpartum (not depression, just post pregnancy) had in store. I wrote this piece for Yahoo Beauty about three months post childbirth about how I felt about my body, and how I had lost a bit of myself, and therefore, a bit of my confidence. I share it here because I had such an overwhelming response to it. Some called me vain, but most said thank you for sharing because they felt like someone understood them. Let me be clear about something that I learned from makeup artist and mentor Bobbi Brown — it’s not about how you look; it’s about how you feel you look. When I wrote this, my feelings were very real, and they still are when I re-read it. I hope this help those of you experiencing the same feelings. Know it does get better. I promise. (I write about that in a later post.) Enjoy. xo

As seen on Yahoo Beauty on July 7, 2014:

Two months ago, I gave birth to a baby boy. I’m madly in love with my son and feel blessed that I was able to have a child and that he is healthy. I know how lucky I am, but I have to admit that I resent what pregnancy has done to my body. I understand that the stretch marks, scars and baby weight are badges of honor, but it doesn’t really change how I feel. Personally, I no longer feel pretty. In fact, I’ve never felt less pretty than I do right now. I’m not happy with how my body looks. I’m embarrassed to be naked in front of my husband. I’m afraid I won’t lose the baby weight and that the scars and stretch marks will never fade. I’ve lost my sexy and I’m scared I won’t get it back.

I share these thoughts at the risk of coming off as superficial, because I know that I’m not alone. In speaking with other new moms, I’ve learned that so many of them share the same feelings and concerns, but don’t want to admit them out loud for fear of being judged, or simply because it’s embarrassing or depressing to talk about.

Therein lies the problem. Why should a woman be made to feel bad about wanting to feel good about herself? I’m not upset about how I look more than I’m upset about how I feel I look. The truth is, in gaining a beautiful baby boy, I simultaneously lost a bit of confidence when I saw what the aftermath of pregnancy did to my body. Friends warned me that my body would change, but nobody told me just how much, or that most of those changes would be for the worse. I thought I’d get to keep the glowing skin, thick hair, and sexy cleavage, I had during pregnancy. I was confident that the baby weight would melt off with breastfeeding. Instead, I couldn’t breastfeed, so I’m holding on to those extra pounds. I can’t exercise them away because I’m not cleared to work out just yet. I have a neck covered in skin tags. I have stretch marks the width of my stomach that my derm said will never completely disappear. My feet are a full size bigger. I need to resize my wedding band because my fingers got fatter, too. Part of my summer wardrobe is a splint (aka girdle) that I have to wear 24/7. It helps correct a condition called Diastasis Recti, also known as “Mummy Tummy,” as my abdominal walls separated during pregnancy after carrying a very large baby. To maintain a shred of dignity, I won’t even go into the countless gross and uncomfortable things that we new moms have to deal with in places we never thought we’d ever focus so much attention. Just know that the list goes on.

I know it could all be worse and that I am blessed to have this wonderful baby boy. But on top of the other challenges that come with being a new mom, I never expected beauty, or lack thereof, to take such a toll on me. Having been a beauty publicist for more than 14 years, I’ve seen firsthand on several occasions how beauty is so greatly linked to confidence. I’ve also witnessed beauty’s power to transform and heal others. The little things I can do for myself now, like get my hair colored or treat myself to a manicure, are an instant boost to my self-esteem. A little bit of concealer, mascara and lip gloss goes a long way to make me feel pulled together after countless sleepless nights. Beauty is powerful.

I work for a brand that celebrates a woman’s natural beauty, and I, too, truly believe that women should be empowered beyond superficial beauty. But dealing with unfamiliarity when I look in the mirror took me by surprise, leaving me uncomfortable—for the moment—in my own skin. I’m sure that, in time, I will slowly start to feel like a semblance of myself. I know that it hasn’t been that long since I gave birth and that you can’t completely reverse 9 months of pregnancy and traces of childbirth in only 8 weeks. I know some things will go back to the way they were, and some things just won’t. So, for now, I’ll let my makeup work its magic until I get my sexy back and focus, instead, on the true beauty in my life…my son.

 

 

Positively Thankful

Thanksgiving is a day to reflect on all of our blessings and show and/or express appreciation. I try to do this year round, although that can be challenging to do. Admittedly, I often find myself stressed or complaining about things until I take a deep breath and put it all into perspective. And that is precisely what I did today. I thought about all of the things that I typically find stressful, frustrating, challenging, or annoying, and I decided to spin them into something positive. I found that I could do that with almost everything, so here is my list of things I am thankful for:

  • The mess in my house — it means my kids are having fun and are happy
  • Toys everywhere — some kids have zero toys. My kids are lucky, so much so, that we are donating half of their stock to Toys for Tots this holiday season.
  • Constantly having to do dishes, wash bottles and empty the dishwater — it means there is food on the table
  • The loads and loads of laundry — it means my family has clothes to wear
  • Working full time — it means I have a job and can support my family
  • Having to walk the dog in the winter — it means the dog is still heathy and can take walks
  • Poopy diapers — yes, I went there. If my kids were not pooping, I’d have a bigger issue, so it’s great that they are, even though I’m up to my elbows in shit all the time.
  • Noisy neighbors — at least I have a roof over my head
  • Babies crying — if they weren’t crying, I’d have a bigger issue.
  • Babies crying in the middle of the night — um, nope. I will take a pass on this one.

Mom life is hard. Marriage is hard. Juggling both while working full time and trying to find time for yourself is even harder. It’s easy to lose yourself in the negative. I’m always grateful for days like today when I can check myself and recognize that all the negatives are actually not negative at all. They are all blessings that should be viewed and appreciated as such. I know that life actually is pretty shitty for some people, and not the kind I deal with. So, Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours. Hope you get to celebrate all the positives in your life.

#MOMLIFE

The Juggling Act

Welcome! If you’re here, you’re likely a mother, a wife, holding down a job, and trying to also find time for a social life and personal time for yourself. YOU ARE NOT ALONE! It can feel like you are at times, so I started this blog to share my thoughts on motherhood (it’s really hard), marriage (also a lot of work), working full time (there’s got to be another way), and life in general. The juggling act that is all of the above is really fucking hard. (Oh, yeah, I will probably curse a lot, too.) But it is. And we are supposed to aim to “have it all” and achieve “work/life balance,” leaving people under the impression that we have it all under control, wondering how the hell does she do it all? Well, personally, it’s at the expense of my sanity, personal time, and sometimes even my health. And I don’t do it all alone. I have some help, and couldn’t survive without it. So, I hope you find this blog a place where you can come for very raw, honest conversations about the good, the bad, and the ugly of being a Mama, a Wife, Work and Life. Post comments, ask questions, and let’s connect. After all, we are all in this together!