Monday, April 14, 2014

// 15/52 //

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Saturday, April 12, 2014

// b a c k e a s t //

I feel like I've been neglecting this space a bit.  A lot has been going on.  I could list it all, but I'd rather not.  Life is too short and has too much potential to make a list of all the difficulties.  However the main task ahead is our decision to move back east.  It's a huge decision and one that takes a lot of planning.  We have so much to do, and the moments have been both exciting and bittersweet.  

We don't want to leave and yet we do: it's this tension, the energy that both pulls us away and keeps us clinging on.  How is it possible to feel two things at once?  From experience, it's possible and quite common.  

Around Christmas time, Jimmy and I had a conversation.  We began to explore the possibility of moving back to New Jersey, where all our family currently lives.   We grew up there; right in the middle of the New York metro area.  We lived where towns melt into towns, and cars beep at you if you actually stop at the stop signs.  Well, jimmy did.  I grew up where there is a bit more space and across the way from a farm.  <3  According to Jimmy, "I grew up in the middle of nowhere!" 

It wasn't until recently that we began to actually plan.  With the plan comes new stresses, but also new excitement.  We cannot wait to have a bit of break (hello, sleepovers at the grandparents house!) and seeing our kids so loved by family.  Our boys have two cousins and I can imagine them all as the best of friends as well.  It will be incredibly refreshing and I always love a change.  (i may or may not absolutely love change. haha!)

But leaving Santa Cruz will be heartbreaking.  We tried to make it work and gave it our all.  Jimmy has had many jobs, but nothing worked.  We have worked and worked and pushed ourselves to the limit.  Now, it's time to refresh and regroup, and hopefully, it will be our time of dreams realized.  We will keep this place in our hearts forever.  It was our first home as a married couple, where our kids were born and it's home.  It always will be.  

There last months here will be spent well.  We have a million things to do, but enjoying this place until the very last minute here is on our list as well.  We will continue walking and always enjoying the beautiful space we have fallen in love with.  Tomorrow we are meeting new and dear friends in Big Sur.  We could do other things or save on gas, but why?  It's more important to spend time with sweet friends.  

Today, we went to one of our favorite spots and hung out with the children before Jimmy had to work.  Jimmy, my talented photographer husband, took these photos! <3

Also, a few announcements:

I hit 2000 followers on instagram!  I've been talking to a few people in hopes of doing a giveaway.  This giveaway is specifically a THANK YOU! Daily, I'm overwhelmed by the love and support i've received through blogging and social media.  I would still like to include another company in my giveaway, so if you are interested let me know!  (email me at

AND  Jimmy and I are launching our photography site soon.  We have decided to take our hobby professional and if you would like any photos send me a message!

Lastly, on our way back to New Jersey we want to meet some of the families we've "met" through instagram.  We will be putting together a series when we get back.  I will be posting our route soon and if you live on it and would like to meet, then let us know! (more info soon!)

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Wednesday, April 9, 2014

a d v e n t u r e s i n b r e a s t f e e d i n g - e l i s a b e t h ' s s t o r y //

I'm sharing Elisabeth's story today. She shares her story of having a baby in the NICU and her passion for breastfeeding. Thank you so much for sharing, lovely mama! <3

I never realized how life-changing breastfeeding would be for me, especially considering how my breastfeeding adventure began. It has been one of the most important things I have ever done in my life, and I am so proud of myself for making it work. I find that many people do not really understand breastfeeding, and I have taken much comfort in the many women I have glimpsed online proudly breastfeeding their babies. I think it is so beautiful.

I have two sons, Beckett (3) and Hudson (14 months). They were both born premature. Beckett was born at 33 weeks, and Hudson was born at 31 weeks. Before I got pregnant, I found out that I had a uterine anomaly called uterus didelphys. In everyday terminology, I myself was born with two uteruses. I only found out before getting pregnant because I had a pelvic ultrasound to rule out pain that turned out to be appendicitis. The ultrasound findings recommended that I get an MRI because of something odd. Once I got the MRI, that’s when I found out.

I actually was lucky enough to have no trouble conceiving and I had pretty normal (albeit high risk) pregnancies with lots of monitoring. My doctors weren’t entirely convinced that anything would necessarily go wrong. Things were going so well for my pregnancy with Beckett. I thought I was going to go full term. I felt great. And then I just went into labor too early. And with Hudson, I really hoped that getting a weekly progesterone shot would help me get to full term. But I suppose my uterus could only hold so much weight.

I feel fortunate that I had very quick, though very painful labors with both of my sons. I still feel bad when I hear stories about women being in labor for days because I was only in labor for a few hours with only minutes of pushing. Yes, I was pushing out premature babies, but my boys were rather large for being so early. Beckett weighed 4 lbs 13 oz and Hudson (who was born earlier!) weighed 5 lbs 1 oz. And no matter how big or small, it hurts to push out a human, especially with no drugs!

I never imagined that my sons would have to spend time in the NICU. I never imagined how it would feel to be in a hospital room alone without your baby. I was fortunate that I was able to hold both of my sons for a brief moment before they were whisked off with the NICU nurses, who had been in the room waiting for them to be born. Now, I am so grateful that both of my boys were born healthy. They just needed time to grow and learn to eat. But the myriad of emotions I experienced is something I still can’t really explain to other people. This is why I love connecting with other NICU moms with similar birth experiences because they really understand. I never experienced the joy of having friends and family come to celebrate your baby in your room. My babies were never in my room. They had to live in their own little isolette for weeks. And I had to make that trek back and forth to the hospital. Beckett stayed in the NICU for 23 days, Hudson for 27.

I can vividly recall when the first nurse asked me if I wanted to breastfeed. Of course I did. I had always wanted to. She explained that once Beckett was stable that he could start to take my breastmilk via a little tube and that I should start pumping every 3 hours. I just listened and never turned back. Little drops of colostrum turned into vast amounts of breastmilk that soon began to overtake my own refrigerator and the refrigerator and freezer at the hospital. I set my alarm every night for 3am, so that I could pump and call the NICU to check on my baby. And then I would pump again at 6am, shower, go to the hospital, pump again, etc. The nurses commented on how much milk I had – I just figured that all moms must have that much if they followed the instructions to pump every three hours.

Once Beckett and Hudson were able to start breastfeeding, those NICU nurses were indispensable. So many of them were so helpful, as were the lactation consultants at the hospital. They encouraged me to use a nipple shield because they said the baby’s mouth would be too small. I did both times, but boy was it a pain to wean both boys off of that! But I was religious about breastfeeding them. I lived at that hospital and breastfed around the clock. Both of my boys transferred milk so well (the nurses teach you how to do pre and post weights to see how much they were taking). I really felt lucky.

I did have a few struggles with breastfeeding, but I did my best to persevere. Once I was able to bring my boys home, I started to have a pumping issue. Since I was so obsessive about pumping, I would feed them in the hospital and them pump immediately after. One nurse commented that I would have to wean myself off of pumping because I wouldn’t want to do that after every feeding. I didn’t really understand what she meant until I would feed my baby and still be so incredibly engorged afterwards. I had to use cold compresses just to get the swelling to go down after each feeding. It took a good 2 weeks to get my breasts used to the real demand of the baby. And my supply was so great because of all the pumping that I had to start block nursing and only feeding the baby on one side for each feeding. That went on for a few months until my supply really regulated itself.

I did get thrush and mastitis with Beckett, but I still nursed throughout and never supplemented. I went back to work as a high school drama teacher when he was 4 months old and pumped every day. I had such a great supply that I could never see why I would use formula. He self weaned at 16 months, just after he started walking. It was really hard for me because I loved it so much, but I could just tell that he was ready to be done.

This time around, I have more of a snuggler. My Hudson and I have a really great Hudson breastfeeding relationship right now. Because he was born in January, I was lucky to be able to stay home with him for almost 8 months before I went back to teaching in September. I am still pumping at work right now (Hudson is 14 months) and Hudson gets bottles of my pumped milk while I am away. He also still wakes up at night to nurse, but I secretly treasure these sessions because I know that they won’t always be there. I am exhausted for the most amazing reason.

One amazing side effect of all the pumping I did while my sons were in the NICU is that I left the hospital both times with BAGS full of frozen breastmilk. I seriously probably had around 300-400 ounces just from those 3-4 weeks my babies had to stay in the hospital. I knew that it was great to have a freezer stash, especially as a working mom, but I also knew that I would never need all that extra milk because I just planned on breastfeeding the whole time. That’s when I did some research and decided to become a donor for the International Breastmilk Project. They use donor milk for premature babies in the U.S. and overseas. I felt like that was the perfect thing for me to do with all of my extra milk. I donated my milk from Beckett and I continue to donate milk from Hudson. Since there are many times when I feel like my body failed me with my pregnancy stories, I have to remind myself that my breastfeeding story is really so amazing and that I should be honored that I have been able to exclusively breastfeed both of my sons AND donate extra milk to babies who really need it.

I am a humble person in most areas of my life, but this is one area where I feel like I am allowed to be proud. I really think that breastmilk works wonders – especially with premature babies. But it is about so much more than that. The bond I have experienced with both of my sons is indescribable. I treasure it so much. And I love hearing the stories of other moms really persevering through the difficulties to make breastfeeding work for them. I think it is the most amazing gift.   

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Tuesday, April 8, 2014

// m o m e n t s //

So, Asher been sleeping through the night and our world has changed.  Today, and hopefully from now on, he seems much happier.  He's been throwing tantrums and other things.  I'm feeling more hopeful that it was simply a lack of sleep that was causing the crankiness.  (and teething too!  he's getting molars, for goodness sake!)  I've been sleeping on the couch to help encourage a full night's rest (for both of us) and it's working!  He is letting Jimmy help him back to sleep, and now he's not even waking up.  AND he's bonding more with Jimmy, which is amazing.  These first two photos are of first thing in the morning:  he runs to me yelling "ma ma!" and climbs right up and helps himself.  I do not mind, as long as we are both rested. ha!  That night we made our way to the beach for sunset and the ocean was especially lovely, approaching us as a confident friend.  The matted blues and lavenders are breathtaking, and like I mentioned on instagram, I will miss her; the lovely pacific ocean.  

Monday, April 7, 2014

// a d v e n t u r e s i n b r e a s t f e e d i n g - l e a h ' s s t o r y //

Gosh, I love these adventures in breastfeeding stories.  I am so grateful to these incredibly strong and powerful mamas.  Some stories have more difficulties, but they are all so very strong in so many different, but similar ways.  Leah's story is full of strength and honesty.  <3 Thank you for sharing, mama!  I'm so grateful.  

I’ve been meaning to write this for a LONG time, but I found myself overwhelmed trying to place words on an experience that has so much emotion tied into it yet is still viewed by much of society has something that should not be openly spoken about or viewed.

When I became pregnant, I was not ready. I was shocked with the idea of being a mother, even though I had literally dreamed of it since I was a little girl. I was much younger than I had expected to be as a mom, newly married, still enrolled in school and had many dreams I felt like I needed to accomplish before starting our family. I would lay awake at night in a panic wondering how on earth I could be the mother than I knew I wanted to be when I felt that so under-prepared. To top it all off, pregnancy was not entirely enjoyable for me. I just could not wait to have my baby outside of my body….but it scared the life out of me at the same time! I always knew I wanted to breastfeed but I had been warned by many that as a first time mom it would be “extremely difficult and painful” so I shouldn't feel bad if it didn't work out the way I thought it might. Towards the end of my pregnancy I started to research and really wrap my head around the fact that this was my new life, and I was going to do everything I could to achieve my parenting goals, starting with birth and breastfeeding. I became incredibly determined (some may say stubborn) and set

My eyes on doing what I felt was the best for my baby and myself.
In September 2012, my husband and I welcomed our little boy, Xander Alan, into the world through a birth experience that changed my entire life. I had the birth I had dreamed of, natural and holistic, calm and empowering. After that I KNEW I could do anything I set my mind to, and my next goal was to breastfeed to at least a year.

Breastfeeding came very natural to me, but it was far from easy! I did not experience many obstacles, but it was entirely consuming of my everyday life, and I was completely in shock! It may sound funny, but I seriously had no idea that a tiny human could need me so much. 

and I still don't understand how my son had enough room in his little belly to nurse every hour all day and all night! I took a semester off from school in order to focus my full attention to on our new addition and to be able to breastfeed full time during those first few, precious months. When Xander was 3 months old I returned to school part time with a hand pump in my backpack and the most determination I had ever experienced. I felt so empowered that I could in fact reach my goals in parenting and still complete school as I had originally planned no matter what anyone else had told me. I had an incredible support system around me, but I knew that no one would have been shocked if I did not continue breastfeeding OR school It was an exhausting couple of months to say the least, but we did it! Xander and I continued to have an amazing bonding experience with exclusively breastfeeding through both breast and pumping with a bottle while I was in class. During this time I also became a huge advocate for public breastfeeding, something I wish I had done from the very beginning!
 As my son’s first birthday approached, our breastfeeding relationship began to slow down. He experienced new foods, many distractions and needed me less. This was such a strange time for me, as I looked forward to not always have a child attached to my breast with little freedom to be away from him, but I also mourned the end of our special bond! I knew it was so healthy for both of us, but my commitments at school were getting more intense as I progressed in my studies. I was nearing the time were I would be required to start a couple of internships, and I did not want this extended period of time to be shocking to either of us. We began to naturally wean during the day and we co-slept and breastfed throughout the night until Xander was 14 months old.

After his first birthday my son began popping out some hard-core molars which caused him tons of pain. He actually had the most adverse reaction my pediatrician had seen in a long time. When we would nurse at night he could quickly puke everything he had just consumed, and no one was getting any sleep, energy or nourishment. The extra saliva would sit in his throat as he laid next to me, and after nursing he had a hard time swallowing, so he would throw everything up. He started to lose weight gradually as this continued for a couple of weeks because he would puke food from his dinner. With his new aggressive teeth, extra drool, ear-aches and irritability I was at a complete loss for what else to do. It was an incredibly stressful month, and consequently we had to entirely wean from breastfeeding rather suddenly. I felt heartbroken for my child and like it was my fault for making him so sick even though logically I knew it was not my fault at all. I felt a lot of guilt for not trying harder and finding other solutions to continue breastfeeding much farther past 14 months, but as time goes on I feel content knowing I did the best I could with what resources and support I had at the time. Hopefully next time we have a child things will be a little different and I will be able to breastfeed a toddler!

I’ll close by saying that although I did have a lot of sadness with how our adventure in breastfeeding ended, the entire experience was incredibly empowering for me as a new, young mother! From this experience I have become very passionate about supporting mothers through birth and extended breastfeeding, so I recently started the process of becoming a certified birth doula. It’s funny how life works like that, isn’t it? I would have never pursued becoming or doula or even wanted to think about supporting a woman through birth if I had not experienced it myself. Although I became a mother much sooner than I thought I wanted or was ready for, God clearly had bigger plans for my life and used this experience to lead me to exactly where I am supposed to be!

Before I had Xander I thought I knew what my dreams for the future were, but I had no idea that he is truly my dream.  
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Saturday, April 5, 2014

// a d v e n t u r e //

Adventure is a word that has been so easily marred by the modern outlook on life.  We keep busy and have unrealistic expectations, which have turned our sense of adventure into an avoidance.  My husband has taught me that our life is only as rich as our sense of wonder.  I admit, I haven't always understood it.  Every drive we went on, since the moment we started dating, was filled with "Oh, look at that! 's"  Sometimes, sadly, I wasn't in the mood to be full of wonder, yet it's one of the things I admire most about him.  I hope our kids, if anything, understand the importance of adventure.  They understand that every moment you step outside is full of possibility.  I don't need to manufacture it for them- all I need to do is avoid killing it.  It's there, but more often than not, it's the parents who discourage it.  I want to learn from it and remember a time when it was fully free inside of me.  

Yesterday, the kids feel asleep in the car.  Jimmy looked at me and said "Do you want to go on a drive?"  This phrase is always met with excitement, from both us.  It's how we fell in love, going on long drives together.  (sometimes with a pack of cigarettes, but thank god those days are over.)  We'd drive and drive.  We discovered so many places, ones that held our hand as we fell in love.  We lived in New Jersey, a place most think is devoid of beauty but the truth is that's never the case.  All places have opportunities of awe.  

We stopped in the redwoods, after a long climb up a mountain.  We ended up in a town, an hour away from home.  We got out for a little and walked around.  Then, we just drove home.  That was our Friday night. <3

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