One Month Later

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At the risk of sounding like a halfhearted blogger, many apologies for the lack of posts lately. It’s been a crazy month full work, home renovations, doula trainings and dog recovery. More about the first three later, but for now I just wanted to post a photo of Frenchie one month after his surgeries.

Thank you so much to all of you who wrote me privately to ask about him. He is better than I could have ever imagined. When I saw him laying on the vet’s table panting and crying in pain, I truly feared he’d never walk again. Now it’s all we can do to keep him from running, jumping and frisking. If you asked him, he’d tell you that he’s been 100% healed for weeks and we are crazy/mean for keeping him from doing his favorite activities. If you ask the surgeon, he’d tell you that he’s very pleased with Frenchie’s recovery so far and that we need to continue limiting his activity for another two weeks to make sure it has time to heal properly without risking re-injury.

The best part of this has been the outpouring of love and support we’ve received from friends, many of whom we’ve never met in person. Our fellow volunteers at the French Bulldog Rescue Network rallied around us immediately with doctor recommendations, treatment ideas, tales of successful recoveries, and plenty of thoughts and warm wishes. It made me so proud and thankful to be a part of such a wonderful organization.

 

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Second Surgery, Same as the First…

After two days of rest and recovery at the animal hospital, it’s clear that Frenchie’s surgery was not a complete success.

His wonderful surgeon was forced to close early due to the excessive bleeding. And while we had hoped that he was able to remove enough of the ruptured disc material to ensure a full recovery, that was not to be. Frenchie is still suffering, so second surgery will be performed this afternoon. We hope with all our might that this one will do the trick.

If you can spare some positive thoughts or prayers for him, we would be truly thankful.

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Breast is Best…But What About a Backup Plan?

I forgot how much I hate the smell of formula.

It’s been over three years since I’ve handled the stuff. The babies I’ve cared for in the last three years have all been fed expressed breast milk, so it’s been awhile. But Baby Boy has reached six months old, which was his mother’s cut off for pumping. (She has never nursed him. She’s been pumping since the beginning.) So from this point forward we will be alternating bottle of formula with bottles made from our frozen reserve of breast milk. Until the breast milk runs out (likely in a month or so) and then we’ll be down to just formula.

This post is not about her decision to stop pumping. It’s certainly not about judging another woman’s choice. But it has me thinking about this issue.

It should come as no surprise that I am pro-breastfeeding. One does not have to be a super hippie to know that breast is best. No matter how great the scientific breakthroughs, formula does not come close to providing everything that breast milk does. It is not only better in terms of nutritional content, but it provides immunities that strengthen the baby’s immune system providing health benefits in both the short and long term (decreased risk of juvenile diabetes, multiple sclerosis, heart disease, and cancer before the age of 15). And it provides health benefits for the mother as well — lowered risks for osteoporosis and breast and ovarian cancer, to name just a few.

I’ve always planned to nurse my children for at least the first year of their lives. I’ve never planned to offer them formula. But in the back of my mind, I’ve always thought… “Well, if it doesn’t work out, there’s always formula.”

But after opening that bottle of formula last week, all thoughts of that backup plan fled my mind. For me, it’s not about the studies or statistics. It’s just a gut reaction — mother’s intuition, perhaps? — that says I cannot feed that to my child. I was surprised by the severity of my reaction. And I was a little scared of what that would mean, of the pressure that would put on me, if I wound up having serious trouble breastfeeding. If formula is not an option, what do you do?

Meanwhile, at my Homebirth Meetup earlier this week, we were discussing the subject of milk supply. One member of the group, who has recently entered the third trimester of her first pregnancy, was expressing some fears that her history of thyroid imbalance would lead to an inadequate supply. We discussed it for awhile, but there was no way for us to know whether her fears would come to fruition of if she was worrying unnecessarily.

Finally, another member, who was sitting cross legged on the floor nursing her nine month old daughter, ended the discussion. “Look,” she said. “You do your best. You talk to your midwife, you talk to a lactation counselor, and you try everything you can to make it work. And if it doesn’t, worst case scenario…you call us and we pump for you. We will find milk for your baby.”

I don’t know if it was the generosity of her offer or the calm, confident tone of her voice, but I had to struggle to hold back the tears.

This is the support circle that every new mother needs. This is the village it takes to raise a child.

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Frenchie Update

Frenchie is awake and officially in recovery! His nurse reports that he was able to stand and walk a little this morning and that he is able to go potty on his own (which is a wonderful sign).

The problem was indeed a ruptured cervical disc. The surgeon said the disc had some serious calcification which means it would have taken only a simple, every day action like running, jumping or playing to cause it to rupture. He said there was no way to predict or prevent this from happening. He removed the ruptured disc as well as a second disc that also suffered severe calcification and was likely to rupture in the future.

Frenchie suffered some pretty serious sinus bleeding during the surgery, so the surgeon was forced to close early. There was some concern that he may have to do a second surgery today, but since he is doing so well, that is unnecessary. We are very relieved.

The best news is that the surgeon expects a full recovery. It will be at least 4-5 days until Frenchie can come home and then he’ll have a long recovery and rehab period. We will also have to be vigilant about preventing any future damage, which likely means regular trips for doggie chiropractic care and acupuncture. But that seems like a small price to pay to keep such an important member of our family healthy and pain-free.

We are so incredibly relieved and happy with his results so far. And we are a bit overwhelmed by the outpouring of love and support we received from our friends. We are lucky indeed.

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Breaking My Heart

Frenchie at the Vet

Frenchie waits to the see the vet

He’s my sweetheart. My handsome boy. My practice baby.

And he is in pain. So much pain.

I don’t know what happened. Saturday morning he cried out in pain for no apparent reason. He did it again, and we rushed him to the vet. The vet gave him morphine and prescribed steroids and crate rest. He theorized that it was just a strained muscle or possibly a pinched nerve, and told us to monitor him and try not to worry.

His condition was unchanged Sunday, and we hoped another night of rest would help.

He woke at 4:30 this morning screaming in pain.

Another trip to the vet. Another shot of morphine. X-rays that showed some spinal abnormalities. A referral to a trusted surgeon who specializes in French Bulldogs and has two of his own.

He is on his way to the specialist now with C.S. while I wait by my phone at work trying not to cry. My poor baby.

UPDATE: Frenchie will go under the knife in a few hours. The surgeon believes he ruptured a disc in his neck and is very concerned about his rapid decline. (Yesterday he was walking fine and crying sporadically. By this afternoon he was unable/unwilling to stand, unable to correct his foot position, and crying constantly without narcotics.) He began assembling his surgical team immediately and they will be operating asap. French Bulldogs are notoriously bad when it comes to their response to anesthesia and this is major surgery. I am terrified and sick with worry. Please send good thoughts his way.

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Two Lines

A few times over the years, I’ve waited with baited breath while friends watched a little plastic stick for the appearance of a second line. That little line — or the absence of it — has the power to change lives. I’ve waited with friends who were not ready to be mothers and prayed fervently that their missed period was a fluke of nature. And I’ve waited with friends who had tried for years to conceive a child and hoped that this was the magical month.

But I’ve never waited for myself. As a lesbian who has never had sex with a man (TMI? Sorry.) I’ve never had occasion to worry about birth control or pregnancy tests. I’m well read on the issue, because I feel that birth control is an important feminist and human rights issue. And because I like to know how my body works, I’ve read plenty on natural family planning and fertility. I talk openly with friends about their birth control choices and know the pros and cons of each method. But I’ve never used any form of birth control, and I’ve certainly never worried that it’s failed me and been forced to wait the interminable minutes to see if a second line will appear.

This month, for the first time, I’ve started tracking my cycles. Because we plan to start trying to conceive in the next 6-12 months, it seems like now is the time to start taking notice of my fertility. I’ve begun the process of making better choices for my body: eating better, cutting back on caffeine, trying (unsuccessfully at times) to get more exercise, taking a daily pre-natal vitamin. There might have been an incident last month when I threw myself into this routine wholeheartedly — cutting out caffeine completely, adhering to a strict diet, and going cold turkey off the mood-regulating herbs I’ve had such success with. And this might have led to a complete meltdown one weekend complete with sobbing and followed by sulking. But we don’t need to talk about that. Ahem.

Anyway…the point is that I am following a more reasonable health plan now and am quite happy with it. I’m also researching a few more herbs that I will be incorporating into my regimen. I’ll post about those in detail later.

The most interesting change in my routine has been tracking my cycle. This involves taking my temperature daily with a basal body thermometer before getting out of bed and plotting those temperatures on a website that makes charts for this purpose. It also means testing my urine with an Ovulation Prediction Kit (OPK) when I expect that I might be ovulating. I started early this month, because I didn’t want to miss it. So for ten days, I dipped a tiny strip of paper into a little plastic cup of urine and waited for the ink to spread. For a whole week, there was no change. Not ovulating. Even though I knew this was to be expected because I had started early, I was still beginning to get nervous as the day’s passed. What if I never ovulated? What if there was something wrong with me? And then there it was: the second line.

The reality is that it means nothing right now. We aren’t trying to conceive yet, and of course, a positive OPK is not a guarantee that we’ll be able to conceive when the time comes. But in that moment when I saw the second line appear and then darken until the test was unmistakably positive, I had a glimpse of what the future holds for us. And it was pretty awesome.

Aside: I didn’t explain all of this to C.S. before I started doing it. She does not enjoy discussing “female issues” and really does not care what I do with my body as long as it ultimately ends with us having a baby. So it was pretty funny to watch her as she pondered the myriad of reasons for the thermometer’s lingering presence on my nightstand until I eventually clued her in. I can’t wait for her to find the OPK strips in the trash can.

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The Comfortable Middle

Apparently, Meetup.com has a new feature that automatically publishes to Facebook when you RSVP for an event. My Facebook statuses generally garner anywhere from zero to five responses. This one auto-post generated 30 responses in under an hour.

Tonight I’m attending our local Homebirth Meetup. I joined this group when I began my doula training, because I support homebirths and I wanted to connect with the community to offer my services.

Moreover, I have always wanted to give birth at home. I see birth as a natural process that can be accomplished without intervention in the vast majority of cases. I see no reason to go to the hospital unless there are complications.

When I saw the cascade of comments begin to arrive in my notifications box, I braced myself for the worst. Homebirths are not the most socially acceptable choice, and I know women from the community who have suffered much guilt at the hands of well-intentioned (but usually uninformed) friends and family members.

So imagine my surprise when every comment turned out to be supportive. Perhaps the response will be different when I am actually expecting, but at this point, every single reply came from someone who was excited about the idea of a homebirth. Friends I barely knew or hadn’t talked to in ages emerged with stories of friends or family members who had successful homebirths.

C.S. piped in at one point with a typical tongue-in-cheek response: “We’re going to name the baby “Granola” because according to H.H., it’s going to be cloth diapers, homemade baby food, born at home and probably wrapped in recycled burlap for the first year of its life.”

And although that comment made me laugh out loud, it only strengthened the voices of my supporters who responded positively to all of those choices (aside, perhaps, from the recycled burlap swaddling).

Such is the life of the Half Hearted Hippie…even when I think I’ve gone full-on hippie, I find out I’m still just somewhere in the comfortable middle of the road.

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