Thursday, January 31, 2013

The Dropoff: Modern Day Wet Nurses

Keri and me:  a couple of modern-day wet nurses!

Today was the day!  Keri and I have been working hard, and now our hard work got to pay off.  She and I agreed to meet at OU Children's Hospital this morning to drop off our breast milk stores, and we scheduled a celebratory lunch afterwards.  I was definitely emotional about today; I found myself crying as we neared the hospital, the same one into which Kristen Smith walked with her baby Aiden all those months ago, and walked out four weeks later without him. He was the reason for all of this work, after all. It began with him, he has lived on in our efforts, and his life was not in vain. I cried again later when I posted a picture on Facebook of George and me handing over the milk, and then I cried again when I checked Facebook later and saw the outpouring of support from friends and strangers.  Having Keri there today was extremely important to me;  this decision has been meaningful for me all along, and Keri's addition has helped to make it fun as well. I was very much anticipating our trip to the hospital together with our three boys.

Before the boys and I left for the hospital today, I contacted the Lactation Center where we would be dropping off our milk.  A lady named Samantha kindly assured me over the phone that I could stay in the parking lot and she would come to get the milk so I wouldn't have to get out of the car.  For Milk Mama's like Keri and me though, staying in the parking lot would surely not work! We wanted to make the trek up to the lactation center, and we wanted to see where our milk was going. We wanted to put it in the freezer ourselves, and spend time talking to consultants who work with these babies.  Of course we got lost about six times on the way up to the lactation department, because that is always how things seem to work when you have two gallons of frozen breast milk, two babies, a toddler and a giant arm cast (not to mention a  somewhat disgruntled and misinformed hospital employee who is serving as the information booth attendant).  :)  The wonderful ladies of the Lactation Center were there to greet us when we did finally arrive however, and these included my dear high school friend Kellie whom I had not seen in years and who was spending the day working as a nurse on the unit. These ladies patiently answered our questions and were quite kind to tolerate our excitement on what must have been a routine day for them. It was clearly anything but for us.

  I couldn't believe that Kellie was there!  Never mind the blurriness of my inept phone.

Keri and I were able to see the breast milk storage room, and we got the satisfaction of seeing our milk go straight into the lovely freezers. We also got to meet with Keri's lactation consultant and ask questions to our hearts' content. And finally after having been greeted so warmly, we left with hearts full and arms empty. Keri donated a solid gallon, 128 ounces. She intends to donate more as she continues to pump for her son since she works full-time. I donated 116 ounces, which was 16 ounces higher than my original goal, but is now short of my final goal of a full gallon. Twelve ounces to go, and then I will call my body my own for a bit again before we try to have a third child. There is no doubt that I will donate milk again with the third child if I can, and this time for much longer. Can you tell that I am gladly embracing the role of a modern day wet nurse?

 George isn't sure about letting all of this go!

If this post can help others to consider the possibility of donating breast milk, time, money or anything that might be within their power to give to help critically ill babies, I would be grateful forever. Thank you, dearest family and friends, who encouraged me in this goal when I first set it in November.  You have truly blessed me. And while I have your attention, I will slip in a kind reminder that the CDC is now recommending pertussis boosters regularly, particularly for pregnant women, who are now encouraged to obtain the vaccination with every single pregnancy they have (article here). Much love to you all, and particularly to Aiden.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Pumping Along!

Hello!  I'm baaa-aack!  I didn't expect to be able to write a blog post again this quickly, but we decided that I could not do without being able to type on a computer at work for eight weeks, so we bought Dragon Speak.  Now I can dictate all of my reports at work, and as an added bonus I get to dictate my blog posts! Working in the healthcare field, I have spent time dictating progress notes and assessments before.  However, I haven't done it in a while and it does take some getting used to. It is easier for me to formulate my thoughts through typing rather than talking, but here goes...

If you are viewing this blog post through full web version,  please kindly slide your eyes over to the left and look at how many ounces of milk are ready to go to the milk bank! If you are viewing this site via mobile version,  I will tell you that the total is at about 90 ounces.  It seems as though it has been a long road to get to this point.  Firstly, as I noted in the last brief post, Silas and I both got a stomach bug and so I had to scrap quite a bit of milk from the total. More than once I might add.  Silas then proceeded to come down with the flu on Tuesday, but the milk bank told me that if I didn't catch the flu or run a fever, I did not have to scrap any of that milk. Fortunately, I have remained healthy and Silas quickly recovered from his flu episode. I also had to scrap a day's worth of milk immediately after I broke my hand, because I felt it necessary to take ibuprofen at one point for the pain. As you can imagine, ibuprofen is not allowed in the milk for these very delicate babies,  so I fed this milk to Georgie through his sippy cup. Perhaps that added immunity plus his flu shot kept him from getting the flu and stomach bug as well.  We are rolling right along now though with no illnesses and no medications, and I will have completed the minimum 100 ounce requirement within the next couple of days!  By the time I begin weaning myself off the pump in a few days, I will find that I have exceeded this minimum amount.  I just can't describe how exciting this is for me. To my friends who have sent their support, I thank you kindly.  You are the best of the best. And to my friend Keri, who is donating with me, I think I have no words. For once. :)

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Sick Again!

This time I caught the stomach bug, so I have to scrap what I pumped yesterday. Total goes from 43 back down to 38 ounces...Not stopping though!

Tuesday, January 15, 2013


Looks like my blogging is about to drop off significantly for the next month. In case you missed it on Facebook, I broke my left hand on Sunday and am going to be in a cast for a while. (Pistol Pete would be proud of my cast color choice though.) Typing with two hands is impossible, and right now I'm pecking this out with my right hand, which is taking forever! Never fear, though: my pumping for the milk bank will continue, and I will keep the 'ounces pumped' count updated on the blog for those who might be interested. Astute observers will notice that my count suddenly dropped from 33 to 28 ounces; this is because Silas contracted a stomach bug, which forced me to scrap eight ounces of milk. The milk bank is cautious of sick houses, understandably, so I had to un-tally all milk pumped in the 24 hours before he first vomited, and could not count anything that was pumped during the illness or in the first 24 hours after symptoms disappeared. We are in the clear now though, so I pumped three ounces today that I can count, bringing the new total from 25 to 28. Like I said, I will keep this number updated. Otherwise, you won't hear from me on this blog for a little while. Best wishes to you all over the next couple of weeks!

Saturday, January 12, 2013

The Australian Open Bam!

Metaphorically speaking, sometimes things just 'hit' me. I don't see them coming, and then Bam! there they are. Last night as I was walking through the movie theater bathroom I glimpsed myself in the full-length mirror and had the sudden overwhelming realization that I am a woman and not a young adult. A woman that's about to go out of the bathroom and join hands with her husband of nearly ten years. Ten years! Another realization. Whoa! See how they just come and hit you out of nowhere?

This post is about one such realization that I had about two weeks ago, a bam! in the heart that was so strong I felt gratitude, happiness, and sadness all at once (I guess that emotion is best termed 'nostalgia'). I was watching a game on ESPN and my eyes fell on the Bottom Line, where they post scores and late-breaking news. What caught my eye was that my favorite male tennis player, Rafa Nadal, had withdrawn from the upcoming Australian Open due to a stomach illness. ESPN noted that first rounds of the Open begin on January 14th. And then Bam! there it was: the sudden memories of all of those late, late nights up watching live Australian Open tennis on TV last year while my newborn Georgie either ate or otherwise refused to sleep. OMG, I thought! My baby is about to be a whole year old! Of course it's time for the Australian Open again because it's nearly time for George's birthday! And then I closed my eyes and let the nostalgia wash over me, thinking of the hours and hours of tennis that I watched as it occurred live halfway around the world, with a sweet-smelling tiny seven-pound newborn in my embrace. I watched tennis in the hospital, in our bedroom, in our living room, while I snacked on muffins and donuts, as I quietly talked to my dad on the phone while he did overnight security work, as I watched a coyote meander through our yard, as we did "shift work" when George had no idea yet when it was daytime and when it was night-time, and as I stumbled from my warm bed to the living room with my new baby, flipped the switch for the fireplace, and nursed. All while watching Australian Open tennis. And I thank God for every single one of those middle-of-the-night moments with Georgie, and astoundingly I find myself wanting that exhaustion and peace again, for a third time with a third little one.

I remembered that I blogged about my early mommyhood experiences, including the tennis watching, and I found the old post here. I remember the days well, but it sure does seem like a long time ago. I have gained so much confidence handling these two guys by myself that I find myself not batting an eyelash at the opportunity to fly unaccompanied with both of them to Massachusetts in March. These days I'm just as comfortable as I can let myself long as I stay on my toes.

Monday, January 7, 2013

A Milk Donor

It has been no secret that baby Aiden Smith had a significant impact on me during his short life. If you're new to this blog or somehow missed the bajillion posts about him, you can read about his life and his battle with pertussis here and here. My love for this child did not end with his passing; instead, I have carried him with me in the forefront of my heart for the past six months. What I am finding in time is similar to what all kinds of people no doubt experience in the grief cycle, which is an eventual turning from inwardly-focused sorrow to an outwardly-focused promotion of legacy. This baby will not be forgotten by his friends and family, and he won't be forgotten by me either. In a sort of meandering search for ways in which to honor Aiden, I stumbled across an opportunity posted by my friend Keri on Facebook: the Oklahoma Mothers' Milk Bank. 

The OMMB is an organization with a mission of providing human breast milk to hospitalized critically-ill and premature babies. These particularly vulnerable little ones are often in dire need of breast milk as a means of survival, as they might be adversely impacted by other "nutritional methods" (i.e. formula). Each of these little babies is a deserving life, just like Aiden, only for many of them there is still a chance. And guess what? Much to my glee, I'm still a milk-producing mother, so I can be a donor! =)

The process of becoming a donor has been an involved one, with good reason. After all, these critically-ill babies are exposed to everything a donor has consumed. Once you pass a phone screen, in which you are asked about everything from countries in which you have lived, diseases you might have, and daily intakes of everything from coffee to herbs to prescription medicines, then you move on to the blood work (paid for by the milk bank) and the paperwork. The OMMB goes to some cost for all of this, especially the blood work, so they ask in return that you commit to a 100-ounce minimum donation of milk. Let the countdown begin!

The OMMB is a brand-new organization, and they will begin accepting milk donations (although they are certainly in need of financial donations currently) within the next couple of months. In the meantime, I am supposed to be dropping off my milk donations to the OU Health Sciences Center, where it is being pasteurized and then carefully shipped to the North Texas Milk Bank in the Dallas area. Not to worry, though: Oklahoma babies in need of milk draw from the North Texas Bank, so donating to there really means my milk can serve Oklahoma babies in need as well. Once the OMMB is officially up and running, my name will be transferred to the donor list there, and my donations will stay at the OUHSC.

My contact at the North Texas Milk Bank, a kind lady named Simone, told me that the ideal donor is a lactating mother with an over-abundant supply for her young infant. I would have been the ideal candidate with Silas! He and I pumped exclusively for six months, and I had such an over-abundant supply that I had milk stashed in four different freezers. This time is different, and my body doesn't seem to respond well to the pump these days, so I draw a lot less from that. With George I have only pumped on the days that I work and have only produced exactly what he needed, and thus I have no stored supply. As I am weaning him in the coming days (he turns one on January 18th), I plan to keep up my supply with pumping, and then donating all of the collected milk to the bank. Simone said there is a need for my milk, but not for long. Apparently, a mother's milk changes to fit her baby's nutritional needs, so the milk that I produce for my 11-month-old does not have the colostrum that a newborn needs; therefore, my milk is helpful for older babies who have become critically-ill, but within just a couple of short months, my milk won't be any good to them anymore. Crazy, huh? So pump I will! I have already begun, since George is nursing less than he used to; in addition, on days that I work I will donate everything I pump to the milk bank because George isn't taking a bottle from his caregivers anymore, and his intake of formula through a sippy is highly questionable at best. Although he drinks water from a sippy with ease, he tends to reject formula and breast milk from it, so I can't waste these precious ounces on George (I only work two days a week, so it isn't like he'll starve).

I am up to 15 saved ounces as of today. BJ has set up a cool little widget on the side of the blog, so if you're interested in following the countdown, it will be available for viewing. Thanks for letting me share this on the blog! Just one little way that I can honor sweet baby Aiden.

Friday, January 4, 2013


If BJ and I were to create a list of the funniest people that we know, our friends Jeremy and Laurie would each individually be in the top five; collectively, they are undoubtedly the funniest couple that we know. BJ's and Jeremy's mothers were friends before the boys were born, and the boys have been close all their lives. This friendship fortunately has extended to adulthood, and has also extended to the wives. Over the years I have gotten to know Laurie increasingly better, and I consider her to be a close, dependable friend. A couple of years ago Jeremy and Laurie moved to Elk City, Oklahoma, which is two hours west of where we live. When they told us that they were moving, BJ and I knew immediately that our contact with these two wouldn't diminish, but rather that we would soon become quite familiar with a little western town called Elk City in which neither of us had ever set foot. Many a weekend has been spent there since that time.

Jeremy and Laurie are at a similar stage of life as us, as they have two children that are right at our kids' ages. Miles, hilarious as can be, turned three not too long ago, and little Roxie is two just months older than George. In December we went and spent a long weekend in Elk City, and I just had to share the pics of our kids together. The weekend was spent playing and relaxing; we cooked and baked, the kids played outside in the freezing cold and made Jello Jigglers, the adults played Settlers of Catan and talked until way too late at night; there were Thunder games watched, funny stories told, new accents attempted (and typically failed), and a trip to Elk City's community park where we met Santa and Mrs. Claus and rode the harrowing mini-train (for the second time, because clearly we have a death wish). We also spent time with them at Holly's house, the photographer extraordinaire who has quickly become a friend of ours. I have to admit that I have been an emotional wreck over the course of the past year (which is not news to this blog), crying almost daily but not exactly depressed. After our December weekend in EC though, something changed, and I find myself feeling unexpectedly BETTER. Some part of me is surfacing from wherever it has been. Laurie and Jeremy are good for that.

 Roxie and Georgie

 Miles and Silas 
(insert my favorite conversation between these two over the weekend):
6:30AM--Miles is standing over Silas, who is in bed sleeping
Miles: Silas, wake up and play with me!
Silas: (crankily) No...
Miles: But I'm your best friend!

 Tasting Jello for the first time
 I'm not kidding about this seatbelt-less train ride. If you don't hold on tightly to your child as the train flies over the rickety bridge, you are chancing the frigid waters below!

 Yeah, there were no good pictures of our children with the Claus'.

 Don't judge us that all of our children are jumping on the trampoline. Barefoot. In the 28 degree weather.
 Reading books in jam-jams with Laurie.

 I'm sorry, but could a guy be cuter?

 Time for us to build a sandbox, dad!

Thanks, Laurie and Jeremy! You guys are awesome and we love you!