Hello World!

We welcome with love, Nora Anjali Sieminski
January 7, 2015 6:34 am
6lb. 4 oz., 19.5 inches

It’s go time!

Dearest baby of mine: for the next number of hours, it’s just you and me kid. I promise to take very good care of you on your first journey.

My water broke early this morning — so we’re heading to the hospital to meet you.   We can’t wait to wish you a happy birthday! It won’t be long now…….

 

 

 

Got Milk?

Warning: This is a long entry, thank you in advance for sticking it out ’til the end. It’s worth it, I promise!……

According to Wikipedia:

A wet nurse is a woman who breast feeds and cares for another’s child. Wet nurses are employed when the mother is unable or chooses not to nurse the child herself. Wet-nursed children may be known as “milk-siblings”, and in some cultures the families are linked by a special relationship of milk kinship. 

In contemporary affluent Western societies particularly affected by the successful marketing of infant formula, the act of nursing a baby other than one’s own often provokes cultural squeamishness, notably in the United States. When a mother is unable to nurse her own infant, an acceptable mediated substitute is screened, pasteurized, expressed milk (or especially colostrum) donated to milk banks, analogous to blood banks, a sort of bureaucratic wet-nurse. 

I’ve done a lot of research on this topic for Baby S’s sake. Given my druthers, I would have tried to breast feed since I personally believe that there are helpful antibodies in that liquid gold.

I totally understand that it’s a hard thing to do and not every woman who desires to breast feed can successfully do it. Some have trouble getting their milk to come in, while others can’t produce enough milk, still others face the challenge of a baby who won’t latch or nipples that are inverted etc.  I also understand that women who have had work done on their breasts (reduction and/or enlargement) can also face difficulties. There are a million and one reasons why breast feeding may not work out.  I also understand that some women just aren’t that into it and have zero desire to even try.  To each her own, I say! My beliefs aren’t intended to make you feel badly about the choices you’ve made for your child. Quite frankly, it’s none of my business!

But again, for me personally, I would’ve liked to try and do it. Enter the modern day Milk Bank. As Wikipedia referenced above, the Milk Bank is now a viable option for people like me.  Most people tend to think that the milk in banks will go to babies in the NICU or to multiples whose mama can’t produce enough milk to feed all her little ones. But, someone like me can also avail themselves of the bank.  I got my OB-GYN to write me an RX so that we can feed Baby S a 50/50 split of breast milk and formula for the first month of her life.  If all goes well with that, our pediatrician can keep writing RX’s for us, until we’re ready to move her to formula 100%.

The way our local milk bank works is women who are super producers and who pumped and froze their extra milk, donate it.  The bank we will work with will only take milk that is expressed between birth and 6 months. They do this because they blend the milk together to make it a “universal” age. It would be way too expensive to keep every mother’s milk separated out.  The bank goes to the donating mother’s home to collect the milk and give the mother a blood test to be sure she’s healthy, the milk is pasteurized and blended and put into glass bottles. As you can imagine, all these steps come at a price.  Those expenses are passed along to the recipient mom — at a cost of $3.75 an ounce. Yup, you read that correctly, shit is spendy! But worth it to us.

By way of background, the average cost of powder formula is 11 cents an ounce and ready to drink liquid formula is anywhere from 28 to 50 cents an ounce. So, 240 ounces (at $3.75/oz) from our milk bank will cost us $960 (including shipping and handling) and will last us approximately 20 days if we’re doing a 50/50 split with formula.

Our pocketbook is going to take a hit, but fine, let’s do this! This is money well spent in our opinion. Liquid gold, here we come! (For those of you wondering, yes, I called my insurance — and no, sadly, there is zero coverage for women like me who are unable to breast feed due to breast cancer — something we should work on for the future….)

BUT WAIT, it gets even better.  Recently, Paul’s cousin Beth who lives on the east coast (and has two kids, her youngest is 8 months old) texted me and said:

You can tell me this is totally crazy but I really do think I was a wet nurse in a former life – I have donated 550 ounces of BM already and will have even more soon. Not donating it again but I am a totally qualified donor 🙂 The milk is good for up to 5 months – again this could be insane but do you guys want it? I will say it’s not lactose free or dairy free but it surely packs the pounds on Ben 🙂

Ummmmm, HOLY SHIT — YES! We’re not squeamish in the least about this.  I can’t wait for Baby S and her cousin Ben to be milk siblings! Beth is an incredible mom; and, as an added bonus, she’s family. How much better could this get?? She’s sending us slightly over 300 ounces of unadulterated milk! She is our very own wet nurse!

I ended up canceling our milk bank order for now. If we want, we can still get it after we use up Beth’s milk.

Side note, thank goodness Paul and I are both from Buffalo. Anyone from Buffalo will tell you that we all had a supplemental fridge or freezer in our garage or basement growing up. Well, even in our small San Francisco Edwardian home, we do indeed have a supplemental deep freeze in our storage room 🙂 HAHAHHAHAHAHAHAHAHA! Normally, it’s filled with Trader Joe’s goods — but we’ve made room for our cache of breast milk! YAY!

I wrote this blog entry as I waited the UPS delivery from Beth.  She had to buy a special cooler and dry ice to get the milk to us from the east coast.  Happy to say that I just received the shipment. The milk arrived 100% frozen and is now safe ‘n sound in our deep freeze. Below are some pics (I love to document everything).

See, I told you it was worth reading until the end. Paul and I genuinely can’t find the words to tell Beth how grateful we are to her.  What an incredible gift she’s giving our child.  I cry just thinking about it.

 

Showered With Love

Baby Sieminski is so loved by so many of you. It makes me so happy!

Over the past two weekends, we’ve had two incredible baby showers.  The first was when we were back east in Buffalo visiting family and the second was here in SF.

Both were exquisite. These two Sieminski girls feel so loved and cherished. Thank you all so much for the support and lovely gifts.

I have to send a special shout out to Sandy in Buffalo and Sarah, Tegan and Ami in SF — you  all did an amazing job planning and hosting these events. I will never forget them!

I’ll let the slideshows below do all the talking!

Buffalo Shower:

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San Francisco Shower:

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Another year, another cancerversary….

Happy two year cancerversary to me.  Wow. Time really does fly. I can’t believe another year has gone by.  I also can’t believe that I now mark time by my cancercerversary — more so than my birthday. Weird.

As I get further and further away from my diagnosis date, I’m learning some important lessons and coping skills.  While cancer (and it’s potential recurrence or mets) are still at the forefront of my mind everyday, I’ve gotten much better at acknowledging those thoughts, and then filing them at the back of my brain and carrying on with my day.

I’m not sure what changed or why I’m coping better these days. I suspect it has a lot to do with the life that’s growing inside of me! I put our daughter before myself now — even though she’s still in utero. I don’t have time to let the past haunt me.

Don’t get me wrong though, while I feel less afraid of recurrence (or perhaps more at peace with the fact that I’m not in control of whether or not I have a recurrence) this year saw a new set of issues crop up…  Recently I’ve struggled a lot with survivors guilt.  How is it possible that I had cancer, took all the steps that the doctors recommended — and it all WORKED.  I’m still NED and I’m pregnant on top of that. So much good luck and fortune smiling down on me.

Yet, I know people who did all of the same things I did, but their cancer didn’t go away. In some cases, those people are no longer with us.  It’s so hard to wrap my head around all of this.  But it’s my reality. Though I can’t help wondering why them and not me?

I don’t have the answers to any of this at the moment, I’m just slowly trudging through these waters and trying to remind myself that my feelings are legitimate and normal.  And I focus on our family – I marvel every time baby girl Sieminski kicks inside my belly. It’s such an amazing feeling that jolts me back into reality and reminds me to be happy — to revel in all of our good fortune.

Speaking of good fortune — we’re currently in Buffalo visiting our newest niece, Anna Yasodhara! She is the cutest, smushiest, yummiest love bug I’ve ever seen.  Paul is madly in love with her! I can tell he’s beyond excited for the arrival of our bundle of joy! Watching him coo over her makes me love him even more (didn’t know that was possible!).

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Our lovely sister-in-law, Sandy, is throwing us a baby shower this afternoon.  I truly can’t think of a better activity to do on this cancerversary! OH! Here’s another tidbit for you — today is not only my two year cancerversary — but it also marks the first day of my third trimester! Whoot!

Obligatory bump pic below:

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Breast v. Bottle

Guys! I can’t physically breastfeed so PLEASE, for the love of all things sacred, stop asking me about it!

Ever since I found out I’m pregnant — I joined a new club — the “mom-to-be” club. I’ve waited years to gain entrée into this one and am elated to finally be here! As I suspected, people crawl out of the woodwork to offer support, guidance and helpful tips. It’s incredible!

Most notably, however, is the ease with which people talk at you about breastfeeding. The conversation always starts from the assumption that you’ll be breastfeeding.  For the oodles of women out there who choose not to breastfeed for their own personal reasons, this is a terribly invasive and rude conversation.

For me, it’s just a kick in the gut.

Obviously perfect strangers that I meet now have no idea I had cancer.  All they know is that I have weird, short hair (what can I say? I’m in that awkward grow out stage right now!)

20140902-124635-45995478.jpg and I’m having a baby. Great! inevitably, the requisite baby small-talk commences: “OMG, congrats! Your bump is so cute! When are you due? Is it a boy or girl? How are you feeling?” Then comes the breastfeeding convo: “Are you going to breastfeed? It’s a total bitch – hands down, it’s the hardest thing about being a mom. Natural Resources, which is in your neighborhood, offers great classes on breastfeeding — they’re worth the money.”

Since they’re strangers, I politely explain to them that I can’t breastfeed because I had a bi-lateral mastectomy.  I give my 2 minute cancer bio and that usually quiets the conversation. Only the most special people like to return to the topic 5 minutes later. It’s usually in the form of “Well, since you’re not breastfeeding, your boobs are going to KILL after the milk comes in and you have to let them dry up.”  Ummmm, no they won’t. I’m not sure how many ways I can tell you this — but while my breasts are anatomically stunning (!) and easy on the eyes, they’re 100% silicone.

It’s shocking to me how many people who are fully aware that I had breast cancer and a bi-lateral mastectomy STILL mention nursing to me! OH EM GEE, for real? This includes family members and fellow BAYS (my breast cancer support group) friends.  As for my BAYS ladies, there are many paths to treatment for cancer. Some of my BAYS friends had lumpectomies, or single mastectomies and the possibility of breastfeeding still exists for them. Some breastfed their children before being diagnosed, so they don’t stop to think about having a baby post DX. But still, I expect more from this group of people.

Now that I’m showing, these conversations happen pretty frequently. I’ve heard a lot of silly things come out of people’s mouths. But this next one is by far my favorite: “There’s so much pressure to breastfeed, it’s like you’re a monster if you don’t want to do it — you’re so lucky, at least you don’t have to choose whether or not to do it — the decision’s been made for you — AND nobody can give you grief about it because you don’t have boobs” WTF? That one is up there with my favorite breast cancer insult “Well, at least you got the easy cancer.” Not comforting people, not comforting.

Here are my conclusions:

1. People are so damned excited about a brand new life entering the world, they get amnesia about any and all sickness you had in the past.  Essentially, babies are blinding! (This helps me explain away close friends and even family members who talk to me about breastfeeding.)

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2. People don’t really understand what a bi-lateral mastectomy entails. Little refresher for you – all of your breast tissue is removed in surgery. You are left with skin, pectoral muscle, anatomically shaped implants and rib cage. In that order. I assure you, there’s no breast tissue. No milk ducts. Nope, no possibility of milk comin’ outta there.

In all, it just sort of sucks to be reminded so frequently that I had breast cancer because it makes me think about the limitations I’ll face after giving birth. It makes me sad that I don’t have a choice in whether or not I nurse our baby. I’m also really sad that my chest is still pretty numb, the skin on my chest is cool to the touch (silicone implants aren’t a great heat conductor) and my implants are pretty hard. I wish I could give our daughter a nice warm, squishy landing pad to snuggle up to (and that I’d be able to physically feel her laying on my chest). But I can’t, and that’s sad to me.

If there’s one lesson I want you to take away with you from this post, it’s this: the breast v bottle conversation is as taboo as asking someone who they’re going to vote for. It’s really not your business, so please don’t go there.

 

 

 

 

Gender Reveal

Paul and I wanted to do something special to remember the exact moment we learned whether we were having a baby boy or girl.

So we made a gender reveal video. Hope it brings a smile to your face.

For those of you unfamiliar with gender reveals — we asked our doctor to leave us a voicemail with the gender. I then drove to the bakery and they listened to the message and the baker filled the cupcakes accordingly.  Very hipster/yuppy, I realize. But we didn’t think we’d ever get pregnant so we’re fully embracing all the cheesy stuff along the way!