Thursday, October 30, 2014

Adventure: Pumping in Dallas, Texas

I set out on another work trip recently to Dallas, Texas for the Adventure and Travel Expo at the Convention Center.

At this point after two weekends of hopping planes and staying in hotel rooms, I feel somewhat of an expert on the traveling and pumping and want to share the wealth of knowledge for keeping the liquid gold in tact, cold and passing even through naive TSA agents.

Make no apologies. None. To your work/employer, to hotel staff, to airport security, to expo coordinators, to people who happen to come into your vicinity when you're pumping. My coworker from Cameroon, a man, said that it's amazing what I'm doing for my baby and he's right. You are amazing too, all the things you're doing for your baby.

Work related expos
After two trips the confidence is there for me. Before arriving to the expo I contacted the coordinator to ask where they would suggest I pump during the show. Bewildered, they sent me on a wild goose chase that eventually ended up with me speaking with the original person who I had called. She set me up in the EMT tent. Perfect, I had told her, all I need is an outlet and a curtain. (It didn't actually happen and I had to improvise because the EMT area was locked and it was a 15 minute walk back to my booth so I made do in a bathroom after speaking with extremely friendly, grandmother janitors who chatted me up while I pumped away).

Hotel storing
My hotel room didn't have a fridge that stayed cool as they had "gone green" and you needed to be in the room for the fridge to run (I'm not sure how this actually helps anyone). I contacted the front desk and poof my real fridge arrived in a matter of minutes. Sure, there was some awkwardness on the other side of the phone as she was relaying information to probably a supervisor that a guest needed to store, cough cough breastmilk, but who cares? Not me, not you and we're changing society's feelings about it the more we are confident and clear about our needs and what we're doing.

Airports are a danger zone for engorgement. The sheer fact that you need to arrive two hours before your flight means you're likely pumping in one which for me brings up the question, where the F are all the mother's rooms? I've only found one in my hometown MSP airport and one? for the entire public, including staff? Pretty crazy.
MSP mother's room Pump it up!

Sometimes it feels like you might be the only one feeding your baby in this archaic way, but you're not because women have been doing this forever and continue to pump and nurse in public spaces, quietly, covertly, getting the job done however creatively they've had to. I shamelessly lock myself in the handicapped bathrooms when no mother's room exists. Its not the prettiest of places to make miracle milk but at least I can chill with my boobs out.

Airport security
If you've read my last posts, I wrote about how great the Canadians were at letting me smuggle my 75 oz of baby's milk back home. No questions asked, just a quick test and there I was off on my way. TSA  at DFW hadn't ever. run. into. this. before. What, am I joking? No I'm not. There I stood for 25 minutes while the guy put my precious medela milk bags one after the other into the x-ray machine looking back at me nervously as the alarm went off again and again. I stared hard back at him, "if you think I'm going to dump this, you're wrong buddy," communicating through ESP. "Supervisor. Supervisor. Supervisor!" He called to his boss. "What is it?" "Well, the alarm keeps going off." "Well, ma'am, what are these pouches?" "It's breast-milk." "Oh, ok, well test strip them then, they're probably too wet to x-ray." He carries out the orders and I pass, but he tests each one and gush... a bag breaks. I'm not too sad I can make another bag and serves him right for hassling me. And also, you're welcome TSA because breast-milk does a great job of moisturizing dry hands.

UPDATE 2016: From another mama: The MSP pumping room by gate F1 is AMAZING - granite, thermostat, sink, changing table, nice chair. It was awesome.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Feeling Whacko - Post Partum and others' role in helping/hindering

Have you recently returned from the hospital or given birth? Are you feeling out of your sorts? It is ok! You'll be alright! There are a ton of resources to tap into if you're scared of the thoughts you're having. In fact, the more you're able to share or talk about your feelings the better you'll feel afterwards, if you have a good, solid support network. Skip talking to that judgmental friend who claims to have it all figured out and seek out good listeners and those who are able to empathize.

Disclaimer: I'm pretty much as cool as a cucumber when it comes to most things and have been described as bubbly, and friendly at work, by friends. I think I've thankfully returned to that original person for the most part but it took some time.

In the days and weeks after I came home from the hospital with my little bundle of Theo I felt up and down almost minute by minute.

Sometimes there would be total elation especially when the sleeping baby snuggled into me or when he would get a good latch and I wouldn't feel pain while feeding him.

Other times there would be darkness that wrapped around me like heavy metal chains. Anxiety and fear. How will I ever live my life again? I would think. I am the only one that cares about this baby's safety? Was another one. Mission: must keep him healthy, alive and not let others expose him to anything that could harm him.

The transition of him outside my body and now here wandering the earth was much harder than I had imagined. I swooped like a sparrow anytime others wanted to hold him (besides my husband). They would tell me to go relax, take a nap, "yea right," I would quietly mutter as I went in my room and cried silently. My cheeks hurt from fake smiling in the weeks after the baby had been born when others visited. I didn't want anyone to touch him except maybe the grandmas as they checked with me about everything - having once been there themselves.

I felt really messed up. I told my husband that the surprise C-section felt somewhat like rape and I was having a hard time recalling all the details. I had flash backs in my sleep and awoke in sweats. I remembered the first doctor criticizing me for being upset about the circumstances. I cried in my dreams. I wasn't supposed to go anywhere or do too much as I was ordered to heal. We walked a couple blocks, getting outside helped my mental health immensely. Sometimes we would just walk and I would have tears streaming down my cheeks, no need to repeat the things I was feeling over and over to my loyal partner. He had heard me and he rubbed my back and held my hand.

I found breast-feeding to be a wonderful excuse to get people out of the house. Not being able to go upstairs due to the surgery and unable to successfully feed under the blanket, they had a small window of time to visit.

Jokes. I fucking hated jokes. Any jokes about feeding the baby something while I took a shower or he can do ____ right? Or he can entertain himself, right? I fucking hated jokes from any of the men that came over. I didn't want to address them, I didn't want to laugh at them. I just wanted to be as sure as I could be that if I was leaving the room they wouldn't do something so totally stupid. (A positive note: now is that I can handle jokes now and give it right back to them. I still think its really fucked up how people like to stress mums out with those jokes about giving them whiskey and such, but I don't automatically wish pain upon them when it happens now.)  

Monday, October 20, 2014

My Birth Story

Have you had a hard time coming up with a way to express your birth experience? 

I certainly have, especially when I consider my audience. I tend to give a different version of the story almost every single time.

If its a pregnant woman,
"I had an awesome labor with great support from both my husband and doula. We had a midwife and were so happy we went that route." No need to freak out pregnant moms, especially if they're not asking to hear all the details, plus this is all true.

If it's a friend that's had a baby,
"I had an incredible natural labor that resulted in a surprise C-section. I was very devastated at first, but have really come to terms with it." Depending on their response, I may share more or I may leave it at that if I get the "Well, you're lucky to have a healthy baby" speech. 

If it's a guy without kids,
I give the shortest version ever: "Unfortunately I had to have a c-section, but I had a good labor and obviously got a super cute baby out of the deal."

If it's a midwife/doula/my sister or my mom I typically tell the whole story, but even that depends on the reaction. I've had a couple midwives and doulas look at me uncomfortably after I tell them I had to have a c-section. One midwife said the reason was impossible (we'll get to that later). Even if that was her medical opinion, I wonder how she believes that would be helpful to me. 

Here is my true version of my story and that of my little son Theo.

I woke at 4 am to discover my water had partially broken. In denial, I asked my husband to confirm it. "I don't think I wet the bed," I told him laughing. It didn't smell like urine. I went into the bathroom which revealed "bloody show." I remembered the advice I had learned during my Enlightened Mama Birth Class, go back to bed if the contractions will allow you to sleep. I couldn't believe that I could actually follow that as it was pretty exciting. I think knowing that you're likely in it for the long haul and you're going to need all your energy is helpful in getting you to dream land while in labor.

Around 7:30 am I called into work, I wasn't sure I'd be coming in that day I told my coworkers. They texted back in excited anticipation, "is it happening?! is it happening?" I left them wondering as I myself was also wondering. They all went to watch the Twins' game for office bonding that day and I got pictures texted to me (that I saw later) of their huge bloody mary's and beers. 

I called the midwife hotline who asked a series of questions and then who told me I would need to arrive to the hospital by 5pm that evening because my water had broken (at least partially). I agreed to arrive by then but then wanted to labor at home as long as possible. I called my husband (who I had sent to work that morning) to come back home as the contractions were getting closer together. He went to work for about an hour and a half before he was back at the house excited as he could possibly be, ear to ear smile and in disbelief, I'll never forget that starry-eyed goofy look on his face. 

He rubbed my back and we timed the contractions, still far apart we decided to go to Pico de Gallo for some guacamole and smoothies. I think we just needed a distraction. I had contractions while eating the delicious food and we laughed about if they would kick us out. I remember telling Phil I had the worst outfit ever on, crocs, sweats, a big sweater with wool socks. We walked around the neighborhood after that, I had to stop a couple times and breathe through what I thought was pain (I would later learn it was nothing!). We ran into the neighbor, a super hot dude, that Phil told I was in labor and he was like "Oh shit! What can I do!?" and I laughed telling him I was fine, it was still early. I think he thought I was going to deliver right there on the sidewalk.

Around 2pm we called the doula to come over. The pain was getting more intense. I rolled on the yoga ball, swayed from side to side, breathed through the contractions and we laughed and told stories in between them (about 4-5 minutes apart). We learned of her travels around the world, she laughed at Phil's jokes which I later told him to eventually "Shut the hell up" (something I wouldn't ever typically say). 

Around 4pm we decided it was time to move this party to the hospital especially if rush hour was happening. I remember we listened to the radio and the music helped me figure out how long the contractions were going to take a chorus and a verse and it should be over. I bounced in the passenger chair to get through the pain and kicked my feet in rhythm. Once arrived, we had a long walk down the tunnel to the maternity ward. A couple of stops and sways against the brick wall and we made it there. Thank god I had pre-registered as they ask you too many questions as is! 

To our surprise, the midwife we hoped would be there was going to start her shift in an hour! We got settled into the room, working through the contractions, was monitored a little bit to assess the baby and my blood pressure but then was free to move around. I sat on an old fashioned birth stool, used the yoga ball, sat backwards on the toilet, against the bed, I swayed and swayed and breathed and moaned. I felt really good! The support was incredible with my doula timing each one on her watch and cheering me on. I threw up a couple of times but it wasn't constant nausea. Somehow 3 hours passed by and I was checked by the midwife, 5cm and 100% effaced. She said she felt a hand on his head. "I'm going to go get the other midwife to verify. Also, your water hasn't fully broken so I need you to keep laboring outside of the shower/tub." I had planned to have a water birth. "I may need to get an IV started for you as we really don't want you to be dehydrated after vomiting." "No, please, no" I had said, "I hate needles, I will drink water."

The second midwife confirmed her thoughts, a hand bulging against the water bag. They did an ultra-sound while I went through contractions on the bed, being as tough as I could. "Looks like he's head down but we want to move that hand." They put towels under my bum and lower back to try to spin the baby. I had three contractions trying to be as still as possible while laying on my back on the bed. This was challenging. I got cheers from my husband and the doula. 

"We really want your water to break on its own" the midwife had said. As a former athlete, I accepted the challenge. I lunged into my contractions, I squatted through the pain, I did all different positions to get that water to break. I wanted so badly to make that happen so I could deliver Theo in the tub across the hall. 

I laid down to get checked around 10:30pm. I was 8 cm and then GUSH. Oh, that's what your water breaking feels like. "Shit!" said the midwife she had ruptured it with her hands. I was ecstatic. "Molly, I'm going to go get the doctor on call because I'm feeling something I've never felt before." I look at Phil, starting to get scared, he comforted me, the doula did too, she just wants to make sure it's all good. The doula said, "Molly, you're going to be moving into transition now so you're going to be getting ready to push." 

The doctor bolted in the door, "Hi I'm doctor so and so I'm going to check you." Checks me.. "Yep that is a foot this baby is butt down. Molly, this is a student____ can you please give your permission for her to check you too for learning purposes." "Ok?!" "Ok thank you, now you see that is a foot and we're going to have to do a c-section." This is all while I'm contracting like crazy. A huge amount of staff enter the room. "I have to have a c-section?" I ask in pain, worry, and total sadness. "Well, did you come here to have a natural birth or a c-section?" She verbally bitch slaps me across the face with that comment. "A baby." I say starting to cry. The marathon that I had been dominating and was so close to the end was stopped by the officials. I wouldn't be finishing this race- I'd be transported to the end. A huge let down.

A nurse attempts 3 times to get an IV started, why I hate needles - I have small veins. The anesthesiologist gasps at her, "I'll do it he says" and get its on the first try. My wrists are being constrained to the bed. I look for my husbands eyes as I'm so scared. I think I say out loud, "I'm so scared" a couple of times and I can't find him. He left the room, unable to watch the torture, crying himself in the hallway. My doula shows up strong. "Molly, its ok. Let me tell you everything that's going to happen." She walks me through the procedure. The doctor leaves and another doctor comes in who will be performing the procedure, unaware that my doula has informed me of everything this doctor just asks if I have any questions. My mind is spinning, I've been given a muscle relaxer so I'm starting to loose the feeling of contractions but my body is shaking out of fear? adrenaline? shock? I tell her "I think I'm in shock right now." Phil reenters the room, wiping his eyes. The doctor tells us both we'll have a baby before midnight. It's 11:20pm. 

The midwife, my husband and the rest of the crew go into the operating room. The lights, I'll never forget how bright the lights are in that room. A huge poke in my back which I feel all the way into my groin. It's my imagination, I'm sure but I can't shake the feeling that a needle has pierced me like a sword. The fear started creeping in on reality. They ask if I can feel anything, I say I can't feel poking but I feel pressure and I feel scared. The anesthesiologist calms me, I think he makes jokes or at least is what I remember as being the nicest person in the room besides the midwife and Phil. 

Phil is allowed to come in after the back needle and he's in a full outfit too. They lift the curtain. I'm holding my midwife's hand and Phil's hand. I'm scrunching my face as I feel them pull me apart. I cry out in pain, I hadn't done that until this stage of the labor. This pain, the supposedly painless pain, was by far the most uncomfortable of the day. The doctor and staff beyond the curtain talk about their weekends plan (being as it were almost friday). I am just another procedure in their long day.

I hear them say, "alright your baby boy is born at 12:01am." I start to cry and hear him wail. I am elated even though I am feeling so defeated by the experience. My baby is born, my baby is born! My midwife tells me he's so cute, Phil goes over to the baby, laughing hysterically and crying! I can't believe he's here. I hear him crying and crying and I'm laughing and crying. They tell Phil to put his first diaper on. Finally they bring him over to me where he meets his mama's face for a couple of minutes. 

Then the pain of them pulling me back together starts to happen more and more and I can't hold my baby. I ask Phil to take him away. My body is trembling again. I imagine my intestines laying on top of my abdomen. Finally we leave the operating room, Theo rides with me in the bed back to my room. I can't believe he's here and he's mine. Back in the room, my body starts to tremble, my teeth chatter and I'm in so much pain. They pumped me full of pitocin but the doctor didn't order pain medication for me. The nurse who failed at needling me said she couldn't give me anything until that order came through. 15 minutes go by and I'm a shakey mess, I can't hold Theo, I can't even think of breast feeding. Another nurse says I don't care, I'm going to get it. I get hooked up to the pain meds and it's ice cold liquid going into yet another vein. Cords everywhere- I'm given Theo as I can finally breathe and start to breastfeed. I don't remember if it worked very well the first time. I remember telling the doula I couldn't believe she was still there as it was 2am when he latched. I thanked her profusely and she left having only eaten a granola bar that whole 12 hours. 

Phil and I stared at our new creation, we then began our journey as a family of 3. 

Canadians are the best

How to: Store, Pump and Transport Breast Milk While Traveling

An update from the last post:

There was no issue at all with getting breast milk across the international border of Canada-USA. I simply traveled with the milk separately from all my other luggage and after a quick electronic scan, the friendly Canadians gave me the clear to proceed and were not awkward at all.
Oh Canada, you're so friendly!
Question: Where do you pump while in route?
Answer: Everywhere.

I only found one mother's room at the Minneapolis/St. Paul airport. See photos below. Otherwise I noticed that in Chicago and at the Toronto airport they had lockable handicapped bathrooms. At first I felt a little guilty occupying these rooms for 20 minutes or so, but then after some reflective pumping, I thought this is truly a medical condition that requires being plugged into a wall and its not my fault nipples are controversial for public display even if for baby's food. That's how I would justify it to myself when I heard knocks at the door, that and usually there were always two of those bathrooms around the area. 

Neutral Art Alert! 

A nice chair but a little bright!

If flying through MSP, the mother's room has a sweet leather comfy chair, and is located on Concourse C (You have to go the informational booth to get the key at C12)

Question: How did you transport the milk? 
Answer: A picnic bag and carry-on.

I came home with close to 100 oz of breast milk which was kind of fun in a way. Here I was walking through three airports with a heavy bag of milk that used to be in my body and now was slung over my shoulder. Does that blow your mind ever? 

Here's the milk transporter bag I used (purchased on Amazon)
I don't think they intended the use to be for transporting precious milk but it worked so well! I did bring about 6 ice packs which I stored in the hotel freezer for the duration of the trip. I decided this bag was going to be perfect size for storing the milk bags that I would later freeze. 

Question: How did you store the milk before flying?
Answer: Hotel Fridge - NOT frozen

I didn't want to attempt to freeze the bags unless I knew that I'd be able to keep them frozen which with a layover and flights always being variable I decided the best bet was to keep them relatively cold.

Question: How do you time pumping with flying to avoid engorgement?
Answer: GOOD question! Plan ahead and be prepared to change those plans.

Flight delays happen and so do long lines at customs! I had milk dripping down my chest while waiting to be allowed into Canada and that was indeed a stressful moment. I got through it by thinking of what a funny story this will be later with my other momma friends. I don't know if I looked suspicious to the customs officer when I finally made it to the front, but my face embarrassed by the round wet marks on my shirt must have said enough. I pumped before retrieving my luggage and did an extra long session as I didn't want to decrease my supply. One flight also included an extra hour of taxi-ing, I debated my head for the whole hour when I would eventually need to approach the flight attendant about pumping on the plane but instead waited it out. I think just being aware of your surroundings and having a possible pumping spot in case of an engorgement emergency is the best way to handle the stress! Also, advocate for yourself and ask the question boldly, "Where would you suggest that I express breastmilk at this airport/gate/flight?"

Next stop: Dallas, Texas for the Travel and Adventure Expo.
I called ahead for an area to pump during the two day show and it went like this...

"Excuse me I'm wondering if there will be a designated area for expressing breast milk?"
"You want to send express mail?"
"No, ha, express breastmilk... pump."
"Ohhhh (nervous texas laughter), I have no idea."

Wish me luck!