Dear Mastitis: Don’t.

Mast-effing-itis.

When you’re pregnant for the first time, no one tells you about it. Perhaps on purpose. It could be because women who have had it before are so haunted by the experience that even uttering the word “mastitis” brings on dark and disturbing flashbacks. Because even the thought of it elicits feelings of fear, anxiety, and toe-curling pain.

Full-fledged mastitis is no laughing matter. It can be worse than a bad flu, and in severe cases like actress Jaime Pressly’s experience, it can even lead to a 7.5 hour surgery to remove abscesses and breast tissue that have formed as a result of an extreme case of untreated mastitis.

mastitis

What is it? Mastitis is what happens when milk builds up in your breast (often referred to as a “blocked duct”, but isn’t actually a physical blockage) causing inflammation, and even infection. It amazes me that something that sounds so simple, could be so physically torturous.

Side Note: do NOT Google “mastitis images”. You can’t unsee some of the images that come up. I’m serious, JUST. DON’T.

It is said that one in ten breastfeeding moms experience mastitis. Based on those odds, you probably think you’re safe, right? Not necessarily. I’ve had it three times – once with each child (so far), and not just the mild version.

A few weeks ago, we went on a little out-of-town jaunt to visit family. On our first night away, while I was nursing, I noticed a little tender spot on my breast. I knew immediately what was coming, and I lost sleep over it that night.

The thing about mastitis is that it starts slowly, and then progresses at the speed of light. You flirt with a little tenderness, and then it slaps you in the face. All of a sudden it hurts to have your t-shirt graze the agonizingly painful spot. You feel light-headed, and start to shiver uncontrollably. A fever comes on, and nausea creeps up your throat. This may not always be the case, but this is how it has always been for me.

Thankfully, there are ways to get rid of the torturous infection. And while mastitis is worse than any of the other things I hate about nursing, it too shall pass.

 

 

 

Best Apps For New & Expectant Moms

I didn’t have an iPhone for my first two pregnancies, and to be honest, I don’t know how I survived without one. How did I get by without the ability to take, post and share bump watch pictures of my gradually-growing belly? How did I get through my previous pregnancies without the advice and support of my social network of online friends? How did I survive the late-night feedings without the distraction of a few rounds of Candy Crush?

Well this time around, I’ve been taking full advantage of my beloved iPhone, and wanted to share my top picks for pregnant and new moms. Aside from my usual time-wasting App addictions (Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, Candy Crush ), I’ve added these two Apps to my must-have list for moms:

FOR  PREGNANT MOMS

Recommended App: BabyCenter – My Pregnancy Today (FREE)

best apps

Highlights:

– Due date calculator and tracking calendar

– Day-by-day pregnancy growth updates and advice

– Educational tips (ie: what’s safe during pregnancy, informational video clips, expert advice on various stages of pregnancy)

– Support system of expectant moms who share your due date/month

– Weekly fetal development images

Why I love it:

I didn’t think I’d be as interested in tracking the growth and development of my baby with my third pregnancy, but the easy-to-use App helped me to keep up my excitement about the third baby with cute size comparisons (“your baby is now the size of a pineapple”) and fetal images. It was also a great way to keep my kids engaged through the long waiting process. I was able to give them regular updates on how many days were left until the arrival of their new sibling, and to show them images of what the baby looked like while in mommy’s tummy.

FOR NEW MOMS

Recommended App: Baby Log – Activities, Growth & Milestones (Lite – FREE, Detailed – $4.99)

best apps

Highlights:

– Feed tracking (including a live nursing timer with ability to note left or right, or a formula feeding tracker)

– Diaper change tracker (ability to indicate wet + BM)

– Sleep timer to track naps and ensure regular feedings

– Ability to track/chart growth and milestones

– Tracking for multiple babies

Why I love it:

I remember writing down every detail on scrap pieces of paper with my first two babies, wanting to ensure that their feedings and diaper changes were on the right track. Now that I’ve discovered this App, keeping track is easier than ever! With a full household and busy schedule of activities, it’s easy to forget when baby was last fed, has had a diaper change, or a nap. My ability to keep track of these little details helps to ensure that my baby is happy and takes the stress out of trying to write down or remember the details.

 Can you recommend any other great Apps for new and expectant moms?

3 Reasons To Take Maternity Photos

When I was pregnant with my first child, going for a maternity photo shoot seemed like a no-brainer. We wanted to capture the special milestone in our lives – to document our journey towards parenthood.

But with our second child, taking maternity photos seemed a little…redundant. Why would I bother doing it again when I looked exactly the same as the first time around. Not only did I opt out of the professional photos, but I think there are only a few photos (captured by friends) of my second bump. I even framed and hung a maternity photo from my first pregnancy, pretending it was of my second. I know, poor second/middle child.

My third pregnancy has been a longer, more challenging journey than my first two, and while I’m just as excited to be welcoming a third child into our family, this will definitely be my last pregnancy.

Photo by Jenn Di Spirito

Photo by Jenn Di Spirito

Eager to see this latest pregnancy as a gift and to keep my mind optimistic throughout the long journey from bump to baby, I decided to take fun, unique photos of my bump along the way.

Here’s why I think every pregnant woman should do the same:

1) Document It. You spend 9 months carrying and growing your precious baby. While it can be a long and uncomfortable journey, don’t forget that it’s a miracle. Forget about the extra weight gain, swollen ankles and puffy face, and capture yourself with that pregnancy glow – because eventually you’ll enjoy looking back at those photos and reminding yourself of the journey it took to get to mommyhood.

Follow me on Instagram @bitsofbee

Follow me on Instagram @bitsofbee

2) Celebrate It. Don’t just wait until your precious baby arrives, celebrate the journey! Take fun photos of your bump (my favourite: the “bump jump” photo below), and celebrate your transition through each trimester. It’ll help to keep you feeling positive as your body goes through the changes that come with pregnancy.

Follow me on Instagram @bitsofbee

Follow me on Instagram @bitsofbee

3) Share It. Part of celebrating your bump should be sharing it with your friends and family. While you may see the photos and think to yourself, “Ugh my face looks so bloated”, people will love taking the journey with you and watching your little belly grow. It gives them little progress updates along the way without having to check in regularly.

Follow me on Instagram @bitsofbee

Follow me on Instagram @bitsofbee

And while taking regular bump watch selfies can be a fun and rewarding way to journey through your pregnancy, I highly recommend having a few professional shots taken as well. Because with the right photographer, your true beauty will shine through, encouraging you to document, celebrate and share that beautiful baby bump with confidence.

Photo by Jenn Di Spirito

Photo by Jenn Di Spirito

 Did you have pregnancy photos taken?

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mixed Babies: What Will Baby #3 Look Like?

Between my husband and I, we cover 6 nationalities – Trinidadian and English (him), and Macedonian, Irish, African, and German (me).

us

With so many ethnicities under our skin, the possibilities are endless when it comes to what our babies will look like. When I was pregnant with my first, I assumed that our darker genes would dominate and we’d have cute little light brown, afro-donning babies.  To my surprise, my first born was peach-skinned with dark wavy tresses.

Our first born, Emma (3 months):

her

 

With our second child, I assumed that his physical appearance would mimic that of our first, but we were again surprised by the unpredictable results of nature, and he came out with bright orange locks and pale pink skin. My little bit of Irish snuck through and presented itself in his cute little ‘do.

Gavin (at 3 months):

him

 

With baby #3 on the way, I’m left to wonder what this one will look like! I’ve learned my lesson and will not make any assumptions, but wouldn’t it be cute if she came out completely different again – perhaps dark olive skin with blond curls and green eyes? We will of course love her no matter what she looks like, but one fun thing about waiting for the arrival of a new baby is wondering what his/her face will look like. Two more weeks until we see her cute little face!

Were you surprised when you first laid eyes on your baby? Did he/she look like you/your partner?

 

Pregnancy: Is It A Boy Or A Girl?

Are you trying to get pregnant, currently pregnant, or thinking about having another baby, and secretly wishing for a certain gender?

Pregnancy Boy Girl

When newly pregnant, we all say the same thing: “I don’t care if it’s a boy or a girl, I just want my baby to be healthy.” And while this is mostly true, for many of us there is an inner desire, a nagging whisper at the back of our minds – a secret hope that just maybe it’ll be a boy or a girl. We may not say it out loud, but for many of us, that wish is there.

There are countless myths out there on how to “get” the gender you hope for, or how to figure out what you’re having while pregnant. I’ve been pregnant FOUR times now, and there are two things that have worked for me EVERY. SINGLE. TIME.

Here are some things that worked and didn’t work for me.

 What DID NOT work for me:

1) Chinese Calendar Gender Predictor

The Thought: By combining your estimated due date with the birth date of the mother, the calculation will result in predicting the gender of your baby.

My Stats: This worked 1/4 times.

2) Belly Shape: Round or Oblong?

The Thought: Some people are adamant that if your belly appears to be wider, you’re having a girl, and if you’re carrying high with a round or narrow belly shape, a boy is in your future.

My Stats: I carried the same way for all of my pregnancies and have have had both a boy and a girl, with another girl on the way.

3) Pregnancy Cravings: Sweet or Savory?

The Thought: If you’re craving sweet treats, it’s a girl, and if it’s savoury snacks that satisfy your cravings, a  boy is coming your way.

May Stats: With all of my pregnancies, my meat tooth has won over my sweet tooth (pass the bacon please!) – regardless of which gender I was carrying. 

What DID work for me?

1) Timing: Date of Conception.

The Thought: Calculate your ovulation dates based on your cycle, and “try” at certain times during your ovulation cycle to make a boy or a girl.  I used this site to help with the calculations for all of my pregnancies: BabyHopes.com (Note: be sure to check the box beside “Show me the best days to have sex in order to increase my chances of having a baby of a certain sex.”)

My Stats: This worked for me 4/4 times (and has worked for half a dozen of my friends as well).

2) Heart Rate.

The Thought: If the baby’s heart rate is over 140, you’re having a girl, and if your heart rate is 140 or  less, you’re having a boy.

My Stats: This worked for me 4/4 times (and has been correct for several of my friends as well).

So there you have it! While none of these methods are 100% guaranteed, I’ve had some pretty consistent results. I love my kids, and I feel so blessed to have beautiful, healthy children.  I know that ultimately “you get what you get”, but I figure there’s no harm in trying if you have a preference. Just remember that your chances are always 50/50, and that you have to be prepared to love your baby unconditionally, regardless of gender.

Did any of the pregnancy gender prediction myths work for you?

Should I Have My Tubes Removed?

tubes removedLast year, Angelina Jolie underwent a double mastectomy after discovering that she carried a mutation of the BRCA1 gene, greatly increasing her chances of breast and ovarian cancer. A bold move to some, but her decision to have the preventative surgery made sense after having lost her mother to ovarian cancer in 2007, and discovering that the estimated risk of breast or ovarian cancer was over 80% for her as well.

As I prepare for my third C-section, I’m left to contemplate a fairly new procedure that claims to greatly reduce the risks of ovarian cancer in women as well – the removal of fallopian tubes. Unlike Angelina, my body is free of any signs of cancer or mutations, but like her, my biological family has a long history of cancer. My biological grandmother, grandfather, father and aunt have all had various forms of cancer, and all except my biological aunt have died from the disease.

I’ve now spoken to two doctors, who have both recommended the surgery over the age-old method of tying the tubes. Studies have shown that removing the fallopian tubes greatly reduces the risks of ovarian cancer, but I’m left to wonder – what are the side effects and health risks of this fairly new surgical procedure?

Because this procedure is so new, embraced mostly by British Columbian surgeons, and frequently referred to as the “Vancouver surgery”, there is a lot of controversy around its practice. While it has been proven that a high percentage of ovarian cancers have in fact started in the tubes and not the ovaries, there are very little findings to show the possible long-term side effects of the procedure. And it is the unknown that worries some professionals in the field.

I’ve consulted two doctors so far, both of whom have performed this surgery on several occasions. Both doctors have emphasized that the research and findings around removing the tubes as a preventative measure could be highly effective, especially when the patient is already receiving abdominal surgery such as a C-section. But both doctors have also said that because the surgical procedure is so new, there is a lack of case studies to show the long-term effects of the surgery, such as the possibility of early-onset menopause.

Both doctors also emphasized that the surgery is minimally invasive when done during a C-section, and that so far they have seen no side effects as a result in the patients they’ve treated.

I’m still left with a lot of questions, and may consult another doctor just to round out the opinions, but I’m curious to know – Have you or someone you know had fallopian tubes removed? What is your opinion on this procedure?

Side note: The Vancouver Sun ran a two-part series exploring the removal of fallopian tubes. To read more about their findings, check out their stories here.

 

Getting Through Pregnancy After Miscarriage

When I was pregnant with my first child, I was mesmerized by the beauty and transformation of my growing belly. I followed my baby’s development each week through websites, images and email updates. I read books, asked for advice from friends, decorated the baby’s room well in advance, and came up with a name for my new little baby girl – well before she was due to arrive.

With my second pregnancy, I was a little less enthused by the process itself, but equally as excited about the child who would soon add to our little family. I was thrilled when told that I was to have a baby boy, and again, excitedly decorated the baby’s room, came up with a name, and bought accessories well before he was due to arrive.

My third pregnancy, well that one that changed things for me. My late-term pregnancy loss opened my eyes to what I had naïvely believed to be impossible: that things can go wrong – regardless of how well you take care of yourself, how well you follow the “rules”, and how spotless your health record may be.

When I found out I was pregnant for the fourth time, my excitement was shaded by a tinge of anxiety. Would this one make it? Was I ready to risk going through the same process again if it didn’t work out? While I tried to let my optimism overshadow my fears, it was simply impossible to push those fears aside.

Here are 3 things that have helped me through the process so far – hopefully these tips will help others who are struggling with the same fears:

1) More doctor’s visits. My doctor has been very understanding throughout this pregnancy. She has allowed me to visit more regularly, sending me for ultrasounds and checking the baby’s heart rate with a Doppler to reassure me that this one is nice and healthy. My doctor has also shared stats with me on the likelihood of a miscarriage happening again based on my history. She has ensured that I have taken all tests and precautions to ensure the healthy growth and development of my baby, and has offered her support whenever needed.

2) A Doppler. While I thought that I would feel more secure about this pregnancy after surpassing the 12 week mark, I was still hesitant, nervous and cautious. Borrowing a friend’s Doppler to check my baby’s heart rate has been a fantastic way to reassure myself when my worries and concerns get the best of me. It has also helped me to feel more connected with my new little girl.

3) Time. The waiting game is the hardest part, but as I move through the weeks, I feel more and more comfortable with accepting that this baby will remain healthy throughout my pregnancy. As my belly grows and I start to feel swooshes and flutters from within, my anxieties fade and my true excitement about adding to my family is coming to the forefront.

While I still have my moments of doubt, I’ve found that celebrating this pregnancy, sharing my news with friends and family, and keeping myself focused on those things in life that matter most, have helped me to overcome my fears and return to my optimistic self. Bring on the diapers and breastfeeding and onesies, cause this mama’s ready for her happy ending!

Pregnancy After Miscarriage

My beautiful cousin and friend giving my belly some love

The Reveal

It’s been a roller coaster of a year in our little hive. But today…today was a special day for all of us.

Pregnancy Announcement

We were going to try to save this gift for Christmas morning, but I’m not a patient person. I had waited long enough and needed to let the secret out.

Tonight, I let my kids open this big huge gift, and boy were they surprised by what was found inside…

Pregnancy Announcement

I’m pregnant.

And it’s a healthy baby girl.

I have so much to say about my experience with pregnancy after miscarriage – the journey it’s been thus far, facing my fears, and going for an ultrasound tonight to find out the gender of my baby. And I’ll write about it all soon.

But tonight, tonight I’m going to bask in the good news, the love of my little ones, and the joy on their sweet little faces.