So called liquid gold (and the lengths we go for it)

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Happy Halloween!

I did absolutely nothing to celebrate Halloween this year so I guess that is all I’ll be doing to celebrate it here. I did take Isa to get her photo taken in her peacock costume and I will post that as soon as I can buy a digital copy of it.

I realized that I since my thrush episode(s) I have not written much about breastfeeding on my blog. I think that is because breastfeeding is no longer an all-consuming part of my life. We’ve finally fallen into a routine (every three hours) that works for us and while I’m a little concerned that Isa is not getting enough to eat in the six (really it’s 5.5 because the last feeding is so close to the penultimate feeding that she can’t be getting 5 ounces) daily feedings, I’m trying not to let PTSD from the lactation consultant get to me and am assuming that my baby girl, who seems happy and looks healthy, is doing fine.

So for right now our breastfeeding situation is working pretty well and I have to say, now that she isn’t eating every other hour, my nipples hardly even hurt anymore. But, sadly, I return to work in four weeks and because I plan on continuing to breastfeed my daughter while at work (at least for a little while), I need to get a stock pile ready before my return.

For this reason, and because my daughter sleeps for ten hours straight now, I’ve started to pump nightly, before bed. Let me just say, I don’t love pumping. It’s a lot of work before, during and after, and the ritual adds about 30 minutes to my bedtime routine. That is 30 minutes I’d rather spend doing pretty much anything else besides pumping.

I know the medical establishment would have me believe that breast milk is the BEST thing I can give my baby (though there is very little actual research that truly proves this) and that by NOT pumping for her at work I’m condemning her to a less successful life on pretty much all fronts. I don’t really believe that. I’m a firm proponent of the mother’s happiness = baby’s happiness philosophy and that the benefits of breastfeeding should not be held, unwaivering and untouchable, over the well-being of the mother who is giving constantly and continually of herself (her body, her time and her limited resources) to make breastfeeding possible.

Right now, pumping at night is merely annoying. I have to take out the pump (as our kitchen is too small to leave it out all day), attach the power supply and tubing, take off my shirt, put on the make-shift pumping bra (that I fashioned myself with scissors and two x’s drawn on the nipples of an old workout bra), take out all the valve pieces and put them together (which is a puzzle in and of itself), connect the valves to the pumps and press the button. Then I have to achieve let down, and if I don’t do that pretty quickly, I know it will elude me unless I stop the pump, give my nipples a chance to sensitize again, and start all over.

Next I actually do the pumping. As my nipples stretch a good inch and a half and the monotonous drone of the motor whispers to me mysteriously, insignificant amounts of milk drip slowly into two bottles, slowly, eventually pooling into 2-3 ounce quantities. In my bovine-like state, I can do little of any substance (but, some would cry, pumping is substance enough!). Sometimes I read a magazine or the latest book I’ve been carting, dog eared, around my house, but it’s difficult to concentrate when (I swear) the whir of the pump motor is communicating with me subconsciously.

Finally, when I’ve massage every last drop out of both breasts and they hang, flacid, from the weight of the full bottles, I turn off the machine and unhook the tubing only to turn it on again (ah the whirring will drive me batty), to combat the small droplets of condensation taking up shop in the plastic tubes.

While the pump sucks furtively, slowly drying the tubes, I transfer the liquid gold into disposable bags complete with date and amount scrawled in Sharpie, before depositing them carefully into the freezer. There my pumping efforts will remain until the stockpile is needed to supplement what I pump at work or is thawed in cases of emergency.

The clean-up is, of course, the worst part. I have to do any dishes in the sink and wipe it down before cleaning out all the tiny pump pieces and placing them carefully on the drying rack. If I don’t wash the pump parts that night they won’t be dry by the following session… and, as the pump instructions chide, wet pump parts are a definite no-no. Despite being bone tired and knowing Mi.Vida is waiting in bed, I have to wash all those little parts before I can turn in for the night.

As for my pumping plans at work, I’m still very much on the fence about committing to pumping. I will definitely pump until the Winter Break, which is only a three weeks commitment and will bring Isa past the 6 month mark. If I’m totally miserable after that, I’ll just ween Isa in the New Year. If it’s not so bad, I’ll keep doing it and reassess at the February Break and then at Spring Break and so on. I don’t want to have any hard and fast deadline I feel obligated to meet. I have very little time, and NO flexibility, to pump at work and doing so will keep me isolated from my friends and colleagues, which are first and foremost the reason I love my job. Going back will already be so difficult, confining myself in my room during my only breaks will make it even worse; I truly worry I will need support from my peers when I return from work and I will be unable to receive that if I’m cooped up in my classroom with only my pump to comfort me. So I’m not letting pumping at work stress me out.

The good news is with all the pumping I’m doing now, I’ll have quite a bit of breast milk stored up. And if I do decide to stop pumping at work I might be able to stretch out my stock pile to cover about a month of breastfeeding while not pumping to keep up my supply.

Of course, myriad things could happen, like I might not have time to pump and my supply will gradually decline. Or Isa might decide she loves the bottle and won’t have anything to do with the breast. If either of these things happen, I’m going to let nature take it’s course and not fight against the inevitable. I’ve been pretty lucky with breastfeeding thus far and want to end the experience happily, and not angrily, or regretfully.

Until that time, I’m trying to take in every minute I have breastfeeding my baby. I know these moments with her are limited and I want to enjoy them while I can. For the next four months I will consider every feeding to be a gift, one that I treasure and never take for granted.

BUENAS NOTICIAS – Isa met her aunt this weekend, the aunt who will be her nanny in a short month. Of course they loved each other and while it was bitter sweet to see them get along so famously, I was very happy knowing that my SIL will be with her every day while I’m away.

Useful Tuesdays: Motherlove Diaper Rash and Thrush Ointment

As a cloth diaperer I can only use certain diaper rash ointments that won’t mess with the absorbency of the inserts. I’d read on different cloth diapering sites that Burt’s Bee’s and Welleda put out good diaper rash creams and I bought both. I have to say, they’re okay. But the BEST diaper rash ointment I’ve come across is Motherlove Diaper Rash and Thrush Ointment.

I bought a pot of this from Kaiser’s Lactation Center when I was battling thrush. It worked almost instantly on my daughter’s very red and upset nether regions. I even applied it to my nipples at the end of my campaign against yeast. I’ve used it ever since and I would highly recommend it to cloth and disposable diaperers alike. It’s truly an amazing ointment and it works wonders on baby bottoms that have come under attach from simple diaper rash or the more dastardly foe, thrush.

The only problem with this stuff is it can be hard to find. So far I’ve found it at Kaiser’s Lactation Center (which impresses me greatly), a natural baby store/boutique and a coop-owned and run natural groceries near my house. Of course you can get it on Amazon and I’m sure it’s sold on other sites on the World Wide Interweb.

Topless

I have thrush again. I knew I’d be one of those people who just keeps getting it (or never really gets rid of it) for six months or something horrendous. It’s been building slowly over the past two weeks, the itching, the burning. It’s still nowhere near as painful as it was before, but it’s there, annoying me constantly.

I talked to a midwife about it yesterday. At that point I was still hoping it might be eczema. But after whipping my boob out for all to see in the waiting room of the yoga studio she declared it was probably thrush. I guess I knew deep down that it was even before she told me.

I haven’t decided how I’m going to go about getting rid of it. I’m not at a place where I’m willing to deal with gentian violet again. Nor have I started boiling my bras or washing them with a vinegar rinse. I suppose I’ll have to figure it out as I go along. Right now it’s not too bad and maybe if I follow the midwife’s advice, and remain topless whenever possible, I can get keep it reasonable. I don’t think I’ll ever actually get rid of it, so I guess this is the best I can do.

My milk supply has evened out pretty good. I don’t leak all the time and can even sleep without a bra at night if I pump before bed. Hopefully going topless, and getting some sun on my nipples every once in a while (I’ll have to go to my parents house for that because the sun has left San Francisco for good) will keep this fungus from raging out of control again. I don’t want to use a lot of creams and topical ointments because that led to a nasty rash last time. So this time I’m just using a homeopathic diaper rash/thrush ointment I got from the lactation center and spraying them with diluted grapefruit seed extract at least twice a day. I hope that is enough.

I’m also not at a place where I’m willing to give up sugar and simple carbohydrates. I’ll cut them down considerably but I’m not giving them up. I’m also continuing to take probiotics and I’ll start going overboard with those, taking them around the clock.

I don’t know why my body can’t fight off this yeast. The midwife says that yeast infections like this signal the bodies inability to control something that always lives on or in the body. Why is my body so easily taken over by this stuff? I don’t understand why my immune system might be compromised; I’m sleeping enough, I haven’t been sick. I’m really at a loss. I hope my body can find a way to control this yeast so that I don’t have to keep fighting it off.

Until then it’s shirts off around the house. Needless to say, Mi.Vida is thrilled.

BUENAS NOTICIAS – Mi.Vida’s podcast is throwing a street festival today with three stages and fun vendors covering three blocks. It was a blast last year and should be again. We even got sunny weather!!!

A light! (And some darkness)

I wanted to post an update on my thrush situation – turns out it’s not just thush I’m dealing with but a pretty aggravated case of contact dermatitis. Basically I have a really raised, red, weeping rash on my nipples and areola and that has been causing me more pain in the past week than the thrush.

I had an OB appointment this morning and she prescribed me a steroid ointment. I put it on in the bathroom at Kais.er, immediately after picking it up from the pharmacy, and in minutes I felt relief. I’m supposed to have it on for about 8 hours a day for 14 days. I’m so relieved that there is something available to make me feel better.

I’m also relieved to know that my thrust symptoms were not actually getting worse as I accelerated treatment, I was just feeling symptoms of something else. This means the Gen.tian Vio.let and Di.flucan are probably working just fine and I will be able to beat this thing. My OB said that if I don’t feel relief in three days to call her, but they already feel so much better now, I’m sure I will be much better by Friday.

On a sad note, my OB was very late in seeing me today and I think it had to do with someone else having a miscarriage. The nurse came out about 15 minutes past the start time of my appointment to tell me that “something had happened” and my OB would be 45 minutes late in seeing me. At first I was really frustrated because I have a ton of grad school work to do today and I hadn’t brought anything to pass the time. After the nurse left though, I realized that her tone of voice, her face, what she had said, it could really only mean one thing… what else could have happened so suddenly to push everything back like that? I just felt so sad for whoever was in there finding out the horrible news. I also felt like an @$$hole for feeling frustrated. Why oh why do people have to loss their babies?

Another story of very sad baby loss came to me yesterday via a friend I met on the message boards who I then got together with IRL. We met up to talk about pregnancy loss and then got pregnant in the same month – she was due only four days after me. She called me yesterday to tell me that her cousin, on the east coast, just had a still born baby. This cousin was due a month after she was so it must have been full term when it was born still. I couldn’t believe it. Of course my friend is devastated for her cousin, who she had been bonding with over baby stuff for the past nine months. She was asking me what to say in the card she intended to send and I really didn’t have an answer. I can’t imagine what that woman will think getting a card from her cousin who’s baby didn’t die. God, why is life so devastatingly painful and  unfair.

So today I’m feeling very, very thankful, not only for some relief from my pain and some hope that my situation will improve, but much more importantly for my beautiful daughter who was born healthy and happy, despite all my anxiety about what could go wrong. I promise I will NEVER forget how happy I am to have her in my life and how scared I was that she’d never arrive.

BUENAS NOTICIAS – My mother is watching Isa today so I can get work done (don’t you see how productive I’m being?!) I’m so lucky to have family to help me during this grad school class – otherwise I’d be in deep, deep dog doo-doo.

My arch enemy

I have an arch enemy. It’s name is yeast. I have been combating this enemy for over a month. I can’t remember what life was like before I was in the throes of battle with this formidable foe. My first formal attack seemed successful but it was just lying in wait, biding it’s time before I stopped treatment and it could advance once again, this time seemingly with more power than before. This war with yeast has completely taken over my life. I want my life back. I want to win this war.

There are many casualties in this war against thrush. The most upsetting casualty is comfort – I’m in pain all the time. Breastfeeding hurts, but it’s the random, burning, itching, shooting pain that takes over my nipple and travels back into my breast at all hours of the day – and most times without provocation – that is getting to me. I’d endure breastfeeding pain much worse than this if I could remain pain free for the rest of the day. The burning and itching are constant but if something rubs against my breasts or my nipple pulls away from my nipple pad it sends lightening bursts of agony through my entire breast and brings tears to my eyes. Many tears have been shed in this war, not just from pain but also from frustration.

Frustration over the second casualty – convenience and time. I spend SO MUCH TIME combating this persistent enemy, it’s insane. Every time I nurse I have to wipe both nipples down with vinegar rinse, then I have cover them (and most of my breast) in a clo.trimozole/hydrocortizone mixture which has to dry before I can put an antibacterial ointment on. Finally all of that should be dry before I put on nipple pads. During this time I can’t bring Isa to my chest, which makes it hard to hold or comfort her. I have to put her down after feedings and leave her somewhere for at least 5 minutes before I can pick her up. She doesn’t like this much and vocalizes her displeasure with gusto. The final feeding of the night is a huge deal as that is our Gen.tian Vio.let attack time. For this feeding Isa has to be stripped down to a simple disposable diaper (we usually use cloth) and slathered (on her face!) with a jelly or oil to keep from retaining a persistent, purple stain all over her cheeks, nose and chin. I have to be completely naked but for some sweats that I’ve surrendered to the cause and our glider and nursing pillow have to be covered in towels that are understood to be further casualties of this conflict (they are both COVERED in bright purple stains). When we’re done I have to wipe Isa’s face off (and man does she hate that) before putting her down to somehow cover my breasts without ruining the bra I’m covering them with. It’s in a huge ordeal and takes forever, which is especially frustrating when it’s midnight and I just want to go to bed.

And then there is the sanitizing. Everything that touches my boobs or Isa’s bottom has to be sanitized with vinegar or boiling. That means I can only wear a bra once before it has to be washed on hot (which is ruining my bras), with vinegar added to the rinse cycle. Nursing bras are expensive and I don’t have a lot of them, plus I have to wear a bra at night when I sleep to hold pads over my my nipples or I’ll wake up in a puddle of my own milk. Needless to say I’m doing a load of “sterile” wash every other day or so. I also have to add vinegar to the rinse cycle of Isa’s cloth diapers. I don’t have an in-unit washer and dryer so adding vinegar means timing a return trip to the laundry room so as to perfectly coincide with the beginning of the rinse cycle. It’s all very stressful and time consuming.

Another important casualty is food. Yeast thrives on sugar so I can’t eat any. I can’t eat simple carbohydrates unless they are accompanied by lots of protein and fat. On my birthday I barely had a sliver of cake. I haven’t had anything sweet – not even fruit juices – in over two weeks. The yeast is so bad I can feel it burning after I’ve indulged in something so sinful as a cracker or, god forbid, bread. I had no intention of dieting this soon after having my baby and I LOATHE these restrictions on food. It really, really bothers me.

The final casualty of this war is money. Man I have spent a lot of money combating this formidable foe. From probiotics to Gen.tian Vio.let to grapefruit seed extract to giant bottles of vinegar to extra sets of cotton nipple pads (NOT cheap) to tubes and tubes of clo.trimozole to Di.flucan prescriptions – I’ve spent well over $100 in at attempt to rid myself of this stuff.

And I’d be okay with all of this if I knew I could win this war, but honestly I feel less and less hopeful every day. I’ve read so many threads online where people voice there experiences of having thrush for months on end, even after going hard core and taking Di.flucan. Di.flucan is supposed to take care of yeast but I’m over 10 days into my prescriptions and it’s hardly made a dent in my pain. Gen.tian Vio.let is also supposed to take it out but again, after my SECOND week of the stuff, the yeast is not even just lingering, but fully present. If a simultaneous attack of Di.flucan and Gen.tian Vio.let can’t make a dent in this thrust, how can I hope it will ever go away.

The lactation consultant I’ve been seeing promises me we can get rid of it. She says that our bodies are made to balance themselves out again. But I’m giving my body all sorts of back-up and it seems totally unable to control this invader. I feel hopeless, desperate and so, so frustrated.

Last night I sobbed for the fifth night in a row, about how much it hurts and how desperate I feel. There is no end in sight and I don’t know how much of this I can take. If stopping nursing guaranteed I could end this, I probably would, that is how bad it is. It’s miserable, painful, stressful, upsetting – just plain awful. I wouldn’t wish this on my worst enemy. I feel so sidelined by this – to have motherhood defined by a condition I didn’t even know existed?! AHHH!

I guess I can only take things one day at a time, one minute at a time, and hope for the best. That is really all I can do.

BUENAS NOTICIAS – My sister watched Isa yesterday so Mi.Vida and I could see Inception on the IMAX. SO AMAZING!!!! I highly recommend it.

Difficulties

I have to admit, in the past two weeks there have been some tear filled days. I’m not really sure why but there have been. I think the stress of new motherhood is finally getting to me.

Mi.Vida was supposed to be returning to work part time but instead he had to go back full time – even more so as things have been very busy. It was hard to go from our little cocoon of he and I and Isa for two weeks just hanging out at home to being alone with a baby that suddenly wanted to be held 10 hours a day. She’s a wonderful baby and I’m not complaining about spending all day with her, I do enjoy it very much. But it’s hard to be alone, with no adult voices except those on the TV (man I can watch a lot of CSI reruns on Spike – they play that show literally ALL DAY!).

When I do go out and run errands it wipes me out more than I think it will and I usually over do it and return home about to break. That probably happened last week. I was supposed to go to my parents for most of Wednesday so my mom could watch Isa and I could get grad school work done and attend my online class at 4:30. Instead I ran errands until 1pm, ate lunch with my folks until 2pm and then did laundry and dealt with some packages that had been delivered until almost 3pm. So I had very little time to work on grad school work and I was exhausted to boot. I definitely need to scale back what I think I’m capable of or I’m going to run myself ragged for silly reasons. By the time I got home and unpacked my overflowing car I was about ready to lose it, which I did periodically for the rest of the night.

Breastfeeding has not been as easy as it was at first. Even though our bout with thrust is over, I’m still experiencing a lot of nipple pain. I know we’re not latching quite right because I’m getting a white stripe through the middle of my nipples. I’ve been to the lactation consultant twice but it hasn’t resolved my problems. I think our issue is that Isa doesn’t open her mouth wide enough and so she doesn’t get enough of the areola in her mouth and ends up sucking on my nipple. Isa is also very strong, with powerful jaws and she generates an impressive amount of suction. None of that is helping my poor nipples any. I have to admit, I can feel quite hopeless about the breastfeeding, since there doesn’t seem to be any reason to assume it will get better. I’m trying not to think future attempts and just focus on the breastfeeding session that I’m involved in at the moment.

Isa was also in a strange mood yesterday. She would go from zero to screaming in about 2 seconds, which is not like her. I kept feeding her and she kept getting fussy immediately afterward, acting hungry again. I don’t like to feed her too much because she projectile vomits it all up again later if I do. I did end up caving once and she did throw up some of it, but not all. Still, less than 30 minutes later she was giving me hungry signals again. I refused to feed her so soon after her last meal/throw up session and she was not happy about that.

It was just a tough time with her. I could tell something was wrong but didn’t know what it was and didn’t know how to fix it. I kept getting frustrated and I felt like Mi.Vida was frustrated with me that I was getting frustrated with her. I feel like I’m the one who is supposed to be able to soothe her and when I can’t I feel like a failure. I feel like Mi.Vida can just hand her over to me when his attempts at calming her fail, but who can I hand her over to? If she’s not hungry, or she has just eaten and will probably puke if she eats again, why am I supposed to be take her? I guess I just have more experience with her and that is why the assumption persists, but it’s still a lot of pressure.

It’s a lot of pressure being not just a parent, but a mother. As a mother I’m supposed to have all the answers. I’m supposed to be able to nourish my daughter through breastfeeding, stop my child’s crying, know if she’s hot or cold, know if she’s sick and how to make her better. It’s a lot of responsibility and of course, as a mother you want to be able to do all these things, desperately. I hope I can find a balance between my desire to be the best mother I can be and the reality that I’ll never be as good a mother as I’d like to be. Just one more way I can practice letting go.

BUENAS NOTICIAS – It was so nice having Mi.Vida home for three straight days this weekend. I appreciated that very much.

Overcoming Thrush

In the past few days my nipples and breasts have become increasingly sore – painful really. I thought we were just losing our good latch because of the oversupply issue, but it kept getting worse and worse. Yesterday I started crying while I nursing Isa, the pain was so bad, and I decided to ask Dr. Google for advice. I quickly self-diagnosed myself as having thrush – a yeast infection on the nipple. I immediately felt better knowing that there was a reason for the shooting pain in my nipples and breasts that lingered long after we finished nursing.

Today the Lactation Center called me back and confirmed that I probably did have thrush. They said it can be hard to diagnose and that usually they figured out if people have it by treating them for it and seeing if the treatment resolves the issue. The woman I spoke to told me to read Jack Newman’s page (which I already had) and to get Gentian Violet and follow the protocol for using in on the website. Luckily the Walgreens that is two blocks from me had one bottle of Gentian Violet and I ran right over and picked it up. Isa wanted to feed almost immediately upon my return and I decided to give it a try. The website warned that it was messy, but MAN IS IT MESSY! Right now I have two bright purple nipples and a baby with a bright purple face!

The treatment was basically to paint my nipple and areola with the Gentian Violet right before Isa nursed. Her contact with my treated nipples would in turn treat her mouth (babies get thrush in their mouthes and you have to treat both at the same time). As Isa fed, her face got messier and messier. At the end, her cheeks and chin were as purple as her lips and mouth. She looked pretty ridiculous. The stuff definitely stains and even after much wiping, she is still a purple face baby.

Some other parts of the treatment are disinfecting clothes and other things that touch my breasts or Isa’s mouth. That means washing all my bras on hot EVERY DAY and changing breast pads after every feeding. I also washed all our towels and burp rags on hot as well. Finally we had to boil Isa’s pacifiers and the one bottle nipple she has used.

Evidently this treatment can start making me feel better within hours and I should have real relief in about three days. That makes me so happy. It has been very painful and makes nursing something I dread. I hate dreading that time with my daughter and I hate the pain I feel even while we’re not nursing. I so hope this treatment works. In the meantime I just have to wait.

If you would like to read other posts about thrush, they are:

BUENAS NOTICIAS – It’s the weekend and Mi.Vida is around to hang out!