Hey! I'm Emily... homebody, amateur philosopher, professional photographer, mama and wife. This is my little world-- a place for me to preserve the little snippets of my life that bring me joy, make me think, or show my creative leanings. I'm so happy you're here. If you get a minute, please introduce yourself in the comments. If you like what you see, you are invited to follow my blog through your RSS Reader. Just click the link at the bottom of the page to add me.
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Sunday, December 4

On Skim Milk Breastmilk and Fat Warm Formula Bottles

I think Larkin is going to terminate our nursing relationship. Sooner than later. 

I think it's breaking my heart. 

But it has been a long road.... far longer than the three months of her life. This has been a 9-year-long road, and I know her move to liberate herself from my weak, thin-flowing lifesource is not entirely her issue. I know I probably can't give her enough of what she needs. 

Nine years ago, while still in the hospital recovering from an unexpected c-section, I remember clearly hearing the term "brick dust" for the first time, ushering me suddenly into the hard, rocky world of breastfeeding insecurity. "Brick dust", if you've never heard the term, is explained as follows, on askdrsears.com: 

"If your baby is not getting sufficient amounts of milk, you may notice a “brick dust” residue on the diaper, due to urate crystals from overconcentrated urine (a normal finding in the first few days), which should disappear after increasing baby's milk intake."

When Noah had a brick dust diaper within his first 48 hours, I was urged to supplement him with formula despite my deep desire to exclusively breastfeed, and being new to all of it, gave in, worried about my new baby's loss of weight and his overconcentrated urine. He improved with the intake of formula and we eventually settled into a decent nursing relationship once we got home from the hospital. I was still teaching at the time I had Noah, but I was lucky to get 12 weeks home with him before having to return to school. During that time, I don't remember having feeding worries, and he thrived. Once I returned to school, though, I began the necessary regimen of pumping at work in order to maintain my supply for my baby back at home. I'd not been very diligent at pumping prior to this return to work... Who wanted to be stuck to a machine when their baby was right there next to them? But once back at work, I stuck to a careful schedule of pumping whenever I'd have been feeding my baby, and I had high hopes that I'd be able to produce enough to keep him fed with my milk even while I was away. 

It became clear, after a few weeks, though, that my pumping output was just not going to cut it. I seemed to pump less and less as the weeks went by, while Noah was growing bigger and bigger and needing more and more. So it was that, several months after his first formula, we once again began to supplement our baby. It was bittersweet, but it was necessary, and we settled into the new normal fairly quickly, able to let go the "ideal". 

With this system in place, the pumping, the supplementing, and the ongoing nursing, Noah and I managed to keep our nursing relationship strong and consistent though his entire first year-- my personal goal. And as he moved toward 13 months old, he slowly and naturally weaned himself and we were done before he hit 14 months old. We were both ready and it was a peaceful transition. 

And then there was Lucy. Lucy was an unhappy baby. Tiny and angry and exhausting. She was a little small for the doctor's liking, and he mentioned supplementation and/or a regimen of pumping on my part, but he was never hyper-worried about it, and for the most part, she latched fine and nursed well. I noticed pretty early on that she favored my right breast, and that was not a surprise: five months before Lucy was born, I'd had a freak infection in my left breast that had required surgery and several drainage sessions, and the breast doctor has warned me that while the damage wouldn't be permanent, some milk ducts had been compromised and would still be healing when baby arrived. Betty the Boob just didn't make as much milk as the right side gal. Because of this, sometimes, just because we still had samples from the hospital, we'd supplement her with formula, but it was not a dedicated regimen... just an option we went with here and there. But I was a stay-at-home-mom by the time Lucy came along, so I was home with her 100% of the time, and I did NOT want to dust off the pump and add that nonsense to my already strained, stressful days. So as the weeks wore on, Lucy and I managed. I tried fenugreek and Mother's Milk tea sporadically, ate oatmeal... wished and prayed over my supply... But mostly we just trucked along, trying our best.

And then she was four months old, and we found ourselves in Utah for my baby sister's wedding. I was the photographer, so I had a few of my sisters lined up to help out with my tiny angry baby for the times I was needed to shoot photos. I'd planned to take nursing breaks that day, but every time I looked at my crying baby and thought about shimmying out of my fancy dress and making the time for Lucy's notoriously long nursing sessions, I just.... couldn't. I was worn too thin. Time after time that day, I told whatever sister had her at that moment, "Just give her a bottle."  At the end of that long day, when it was finally just my baby and I, and I brought her to my too-full breasts to finally nurse, I looked down at her lovely, calm face and thought, "Man. That was SO MUCH EASIER. And you are doing just fine." Within the next month, after that epiphany/breaking point, I made the conscious decision to take our nursing relationship from full-time to once a day, first thing in the morning when milk supply is always the most abundant. The rest of the day I would give her formula. And my colicky baby bloomed into a happy, content little one. 


She ended up weaning from our morning nursing by the end of her 8th month, and by then I was okay. I was ready to let go. Those extra three months of snuggle-nursing her in the mornings was enough to help me transition to no nursing. Because the honest truth was-- mostly-weaning her when she was 5 months old saved my mental health. And it saved hers. We were both immediately happier. And in hindsight, it may have never been colic. She may have just been HUNGRY. Always always hungry. Until I gave in and let us both take the "other path". 

So then Quinn. By the time Quinn came along, I was a veteran. When my baby dropped farther down from his birth weight than they liked, I wasn't surprised. I let them offer him a formula bottle or two. When after weeks of newborn nursing, he seemed to need some supplementing, I did the supplementing. He wasn't angry and hungry like Lucy-- and for the most part, I was pretty confident that Betty the Boob had healed and I felt like I was able to feed him enough, usually. But to be honest, by this third baby, my confidence was not in my ability to make milk. My confidence was in my ability to read my baby and understand that I probably would NEVER make enough milk, but would know how to care for my baby in spite of that. With Noah, a lactation consultant helped me realized I'd need a nipple shield for my inverted nipples in order to have a good start to the latching relationship. With Lucy, while still in the hospital, I decided to see if she and I could do it without the shield. Within two days, I was asking for it again. By the time Quinn came along, I didn't even blink: I told the nurse first thing that I would need one. Forget trying to pretend I might be better at this whole nursing thing the third time: I knew I would 1. need a shield 2. probably not make enough milk 3. feel insecure, so bring it on. Let's get started. Quinn and I, with supplementing, still managed to go a respectable distance in our nursing relationship, but eventually he weaned himself at about 10 months old. And while it wasn't the full year I had once again set a goal for, it was close enough. In spite of my insecurities and my inherent failings in breastfeeding, we made it close enough. 


And here we are. Fourth go-round. Miss Larkin Clementine.  From the get-go, she was awesome: she latched without a nipple shield and hung on. My supply flooded in earlier than it ever had before. I had ACTUAL LEAKING sometimes, something that almost never happened with my other babies (just one more reason to always be insecure about my supply). I thought we were gonna ROCK this nursing thing, finally. And then her first doctor's appointment at 5 days old: her pediatrician (a new doctor) came in with a concerned look on her face and began the age-old yadda yadda about dropping more than 10% below her birth weight and how about we try some supplementing-- feel free to pump to get those extra ounces, or we can give you formula, etc. etc....  And I kept my smile pasted on while she left to get a little 2-ounce bottle of Similac for me to give Larkin; it stayed on while she came back to tell me, "We just need to get her weight up in the next few days-- after that we can skip the formula if she's doing well. I know this isn't ideal, but let's get her strong enough to begin getting better at nursing." and she left the room again and I crumpled and cried as I fed my baby formula. Thinking, "Here we go again. Who did I think I was kidding? I was never good enough at making enough milk to feed my babies." 

Since day 5, it's been such a strange ride. It's a cycle of:
Go see doctor. Doctor gets concerned and says scary things. Mom gets more and more dejected and sad at her inability to help her baby get bigger. Mom and baby go home and mom is sad and worried for a few days. Then mom continues to spend all day and night with her baby and her baby is FINE and thriving and meeting milestones. Slowly mom's natural insight and instinct about her baby come back to zero and above, and her confidence returns. Baby is FINE and happy and doing SO WELL. Surely that means we're on track. 
Then its time for the next weight check doctor appointment, and the cycle begins again. 

Larkin is small. She is steadily gaining pounds and height, just not at the rate that she should be according to the WHO/CDC etc. charts. So her doctor worries and wants to see her growth accelerate a bit more. So we are constantly supplementing her with bottles of formula. More and more as the weeks go by. I'll admit it was with reluctance on my part in the early weeks. Surely with the leaking and the latching and the veteran mama part of it all, this was just a hiccup and Larkin would get the hang of this and we'd get on track. But if I ever slowed down my supplementing, thinking we'd be okay, inevitably the next dr. appointment would show that her growth had slowed, and I should have been continuing with the extra formula more regularly.  Eventually one day, when she was maybe 9 weeks old, there was a day when she was fussing at the breast-- something she's done off and on since week one-- and I stopped trying so hard to get her to settle down to nurse, and instead just made her a fat warm four-ounce bottle of formula and she took it ALL. And then, for the first time in days, after she burped, she just sat in my arms wide-eyed and peaceful and content. For almost 45 minutes. We'd just made it though her fussiest weeks, those classic weeks 6-8, so anytime she was content for longer than 10 minutes it felt like a miracle. So to have the full 45-minute stretch was an uber-miracle. I stopped resisting the formula supplements after that day. I thought a lot about Lucy, and my years-long struggle with breastfeeding supply and confidence, and I just thought, "You know what? If she's HUNGRY, and this has just FED her, it's okay. It's okay. I can still nurse her... but I can also give her fat warm full bottles of formula and we'll both be fine. She'll be full and I will know she has gotten enough and we will be fine."
 So that's what we've been doing. Larkin is almost 14 weeks old, and is due for her next weight check appointment in the next couple of days. But I know from my borrowed baby scale and free growth chart app that she's up, percentage-wise. I think her doctor will be pleased. I think we're doing great. (Of course, this is all that classic cycle, right? Mom is confident. Time to visit doctor and get worried and dejected again.)

Except.... 

She's been doing that fussy-at-the-breast thing at least once or twice a day in the last week. And it's killing me. I've just come to peace about the formula/nursing compromise. But that doesn't mean I'm ready to fully be done nursing.. so when she fights it, it hurts my heart. And I have to wonder if the more she gets those warm, full bottles of easy-flowing formula, the less patient she is with my sad skim-milk slow-flow old boobs. Is she feeling impatient? I'm not prideful enough to stop the bottles in order to get her to want me more again... I know she is thriving under the supplementation. But I had hoped with all my heart that she and I could still maintain some nursing in the meantime. That maybe, like Lucy, if we eventually even had to go down to once a day, we could make it past 6 months. Maybe even that full year I always wish for. 

But here we are, not even 4 months, and I fear she's getting less and less willing to work for this. And I am so sad. What a sad, wimpy way to go. Out with a whimper, not a bang. 

Maybe I'm jumping to that conclusion too quickly. Maybe it's a phase-- an off-week, and she'll be back at it soon, and we'll have another few good weeks again. Maybe? 

But tonight, as I pass her to her daddy for a bottle after trying in vain to get her to settle into a nursing session for the second time in just a few hours, I'm not so sure. I think she's trying to break up with me. 

This has been a long, hard, draining road. Nine years. I'm so tired of feeling not enough. So sad that I was never that great at this. 

So... I'll keep you posted. But if you see me in the meantime, I could probably use a hug.

(Thanks for reading all of that. ♥ )

Wednesday, November 16

"Should"


I should:

Try to stay up a little later to edit client photos.
Think about tackling that massive pile of outgrown clothes and general STUFF that has taken up residence in the middle of my bedroom floor.
Probably wash my face at night.
Really really figure out how I will make time to do my business finances before 2016 is over.
Try to finish editing Larkin's newborn photos so I can finally share them.
Make a Larkin birth announcement, for that matter. 
And mail them. 
And make a Christmas card.
And order them.
And then mail them.
Try to take Quinn and Larkin on more walks now that she's settling into a more chill persona.
Try harder to plan ahead to make dinners for my family again.
Probably apologize.
Eat more veggies.
Talk to God more than I talk to Facebook.
Not count my chickens before they hatch.
Use less exclamation marks and happy face emojis. 
Work on crawling out of the "new baby survival season" now that she's 11 weeks old.

 I really should... 

But for tonight, I'm going to choose my bed instead. 

*
(Photos from tonight's peek in on my little ones. Clearly one of them has a lot on his mind as well. Maybe he should write his own list!)

Sunday, November 6

Larkin Turns Two Months Old




Our sweet girl, at two months:
  • Is holding her head up like a champ, and loves to look around.
  • Prefers a vertical position when awake-- no cradling her! Help her to sit and watch life, or hold her on your shoulder, and she's pretty content.
  • Has begun "worrying" my shirt or skin when she nurses.. her sweet busy little hands absentmindedly moving and stroking and holding onto what she can find.
  • Went through a pretty fussy stage at the classic 6-8week stretch, but now, at almost 10 weeks, is easing out of it (I think? I hope? Who ever really knows?)
  • Loves her swaddle, loves her MAM binkie, seems to love when Joe plays Hozier for her... 
  • Has begun taking an afternoon nap alone!! In her future nursery! She seems to really like/need the opportunity to get herself to sleep alone at these times... So I turn the white noise machine on, feed her til she is sleepyish, then I burp her really well, put her in the rock and play with a binkie "scarved" in, and sneak out. She will often cry for a minute or less, but then gets completely silent, stares around her room for a bit, and drifts off peacefully. I check her constantly since she has that scarf in place... so it's an awesome thing, but I'm not sure how we'll do if I ever take that crutch away....  But for now, it's amazing to me every time. My not-so-newborn is doing so well!! 
  •  Still has steel-gray eyes, and they are almost always wide and alert and expressive.
  • Loves her bath when the water is deep and warm, with a big warm washcloth on her tummy and both my hands holding onto her. She likes to turn her face to the water, instinctively drawn to the liquid like it's going to feed her. 
  • Hates the car still... but if I "scarf" in a binkie, we get a 60% success rate of her calming down and dozing off. 
  • Loves her Daddy and is so good to fall asleep for him when he swaddles her, expertly pats her bum, and walks/rocks her til she gives in. 
  • Fights me at the breast sometimes, for no apparent reason. But then totally loves her breastfeeding time at other times. *shrug* WHO KNOWS?
  • Takes a bottle well-- most of the time it's formula, sometimes its pumped milk.  It's helpful for when she's been fussing at me and won't settle to nurse. I know Joe can take over and she won't starve. 
  • Has hints of two dimples when she smiles. I wonder if she'll keep them? 

And we continue to reach out, mostly in the dark, for a new normal... for equilibrium after such a shift in our world. We wouldn't have it any other way: Larkin is a beautiful, joyful gift to us. But for sure, we feel like rookies all over again much of the time.  And that's okay. The absolute best thing to come out of these early weeks, besides our actual sweet baby girl, is the much-needed, much-cherished teamwork that becomes such a well-practiced dance between Joe and I. We are each other's SURVIVAL right now, and though it means we don't actually get much time together, together we are making our family life a good one, and we are handling this crazy season of newest new baby time. I'm really lucky to have Joe. ♥

*
(Photos taken on Larkin's amazing bird quilt made by my friend Melanie Hess of Thoroughly Modern Minis, on Etsy. See her 1 month photos HERE.)

Sunday, October 30

Oops! Halloween Last Year

Welp, somehow last year I managed not to blog my kids' Halloween costumes for the first time ever. I posted a peek of them on Instagram.... I even prepped imaged for the blog post that never happened. But then.... well.... oops. 

So today, the day before our 2016 Halloween, here are 2015's photos. 

Lucy: Ladybug Girl

 





Noah: A Phantom Reaper, a created character of his own


And Quinn: a Reluctant Wild Thing





 And Joe's sister Mary was visiting last year, so I got to photograph her dog Henry and Mary herself as Amelia Earhart.



Tune in tomorrow (hopefully) for this current year's costume photos!! Hooray, Halloween!

Saturday, October 29

Life These Days:



 What I Feel Compelled to Do Every Day For My Sanity:
1. make my bed (which is so odd, since for most of my life this hasn't been a priority. Guess I finally grew up? Sad.)
2. Pick up living room clutter.
3. Put throw pillows back on the couch
4. try to keep dirty dishes contained in stacks
5. Keep the dining room table clear of extra STUFF.
6. Wipe countertops. 
7. Get out of my pajamas. (Kids out of pajamas, too.)
8. do my eyebrows and wear mascara.

What I Have to Let Go Of, Even Though It Makes Me Stabby If I Let Myself Think About It Too Long: 
1. The toy bins that REALLY need a sort and purge and rotation. 
2. My kids' unmade beds and untidy corners in their room.
3. Unfolded laundry, usually. 
4. The kitchen countertop clutter nest. 
5. The two messy corners of the living room- one housing baby stuff, one housing the unfolded laundry.
6. Toothpaste stalagmites around the sink. 
7. Regular showering.
8. Feet and hair in need of a professional pampering. 
9. Piles and boxes of outgrown clothing needing sorting/purging/storing
10. My whole disaster of a bedroom, really. Except the made bed. ha. The room is too big, and therefore a catchall for all the piles of "to do". 
11. School paper sorting and purging. 

What I Happily Let Go Of These Days:
1. Looking stylish. 
2. Being embarrassed about my poochy tummy. 
3. Watching my carbs. 
4. Feeling guilty about buying myself a fountain Diet Coke a few times a week. 
5. Long-term projects that take monumental effort even when there isn't a new baby around. (Like family photo books, business bookkeeping, scanning kid artwork for books, etc.)
6. Guilt-trips from anyone else. I make enough of my own guilt to last four lifetimes. 
7. Screentime limitations. 
8. Keeping up appearances. 
9. Pretending this is a walk in the park. 
10. Wondering why it isn't "how I expected it to be"

What I Want: 
(Oh this is a Pandora's Box..... )
1. A haircut and color. 
2. To have more patience for the moments when all of my kids are clamoring at me at the same time in varying tones of need. 
3. For autumn to STOP BEING 80 DEGREES. 
4. But for Winter (40 degrees and lower)(brown and bare trees) to not come any sooner than usual. 
5. To sing harmony with someone. 
6. To stop needing peanut butter cups to cope with stress. 
7. ZERO CLUTTER. (This will never happen.)
8. To edit the rest of Larkin's newborn photos and share them, print some. 
9. More money. Working less on my end hurts us in the "fun spending" dept. And I want to spend fun money on prints, on Christmas gifts, on new shoes for the kids, on that haircut/color I mentioned above.
10. Quality one-on-one time with Quinn, and with Lucy, and with Noah, and especially with Joe. 
11. A massage. This baby-carrying is killing my back! 
12. To stop caring about STUFF enough that it sticks around in my life. Or to have more storage space for said STUFF. (Can you tell I'm home too much and seeing all this STUFF all the time right now? SO sick of stacks of papers, of unused office supplies, of puzzles and art supplies, of things I "should" keep for work, for posterity, for "someday". Etc. Etc. Etc.)
13. To shake off the blues when they come, or to be able to really dig in and WALLOW in them instead.... but neither option is possible. 
14. To have Larkin's good days coincide with my good days so we can ROCK those days. 
15. To not wish this away too fast. 

*

(the photo is one of several my friend Katie took while she was in town three weeks ago... Someday I'll have more ready to share. Maybe?)

Monday, October 24

Floral Wreath Photos (+ Some Bonus Fruit) | St. Louis Newborn Photographer



And some clementines in honor of her sweet middle name...
 

This set of photos were some of the earliest on my wishlist this time... I'd been seeing all sorts of fun floral wreath photos with babies in the middle and loving the trend. And really, it's almost one of the easiest newborn photos you can do-- just get a good swaddle going and make sure baby is deeply asleep. The rest is just getting good light and choosing your floral (or fruit) props! 

| Larkin Clementine: 14 days old |

Sunday, October 16

Some Fresh 48 Photos of Our Girl

Inspired by so many fresh, clean, peaceful lifestyle-type "Fresh 48" images I've seen around the internet, I made sure to take a few minutes during our last bit of time in the hospital to try a few of my own, for my little one. 

A "fresh 48" is a mini session that happens right in the hospital, sometime within a baby's first two days of life. It's less intense than a birth session, but also less posed than a styled newborn session after the baby comes home. It captures the newness of the whole experience, and the peace and stillness of the hospital room where parents are first getting to know their little one. I love the idea, and have done a few... but never intentionally tried one with my own babies til now. But oh how I cherish these images below... I'm so glad I have them. My sweet, fresh, new baby girl:



Sweet dreams, little one.... 

*
Next up, perhaps some of the posed newborn photos I did like crazy during her first three weeks? Ah, eventually I'll get enough edited to fill a post!!  

Here's to a great October week ahead. My favorite season, my favorite weather, pumpkins on the porch and apple cider in my mug... Let's make the most of the coming week, shall we? ♥