hi there! i'm michelle, southern california based photographer and curator of the coco gallery.

welcome to my blog where i share my life, my latest adventures, photo projects, random nuggets and the occasional stray thoughts.

for clients: to view my portfolio just click on this link - theCOCOgallery.com. to book sessions please send me a message through theCOCOgallery.com or contact me via michelle@thecocogallery.com | 949.734.0604

Monday, April 5, 2010

mila | beauty and the boob

there is a LOT of information out there about pregnancy and parenting.  you don't even need to buy any books because the clinics, doctors and hospitals give you just about everything you need as far as information and then some.  you can enroll in free classes, take home pamphlets, download info, sign up for daily newsletters, ask any of your mommy friends for information  and if you still really want to buy more books on any of it get the fun ones and laugh along with the hilarious realities.  despite all this, there are some things that still were kinda left out.  luckily, like most people, when push comes to shove i'm pretty good at adapting.

today's topic is breastfeeding.  i took the class, i read the pamphlets, i talked to people.  but my learning style is such that i require hands on practice.  ummmm that doesn't work for breastfeeding.  it's not like i could borrow or rent a baby and practice the theory before kaya showed up.  you know what i mean?  nevertheless, i felt prepared for the task.  i knew that i wanted to try this out for at least 6 months.  i knew that it could take a while to get the rhythm going.  i knew that it may not work out.  i also knew that i excel at anything i set my mind to.  

UCI medical gave me such a positive experience as far as my stay there.  i would seriously recommend them to everyone.  they had lactation specialists (3 of them actually), stopping by and educating me and encouraging me in the quest to breastfeed kaya.  

kaya had to stay in the NICU (neo-natal intensive care unit) for a week after delivery because of all the complications from the delivery.  she had a team of doctors and nurses watching over her 24/7 and taking care of all her needs.  this round the clock care included her feeding needs.  she wasn't allowed to come to me (in the maternity ward) to feed.  i had to pump the milk and bring it to her.  the nurses and lactation specialists showed me how to collect the precious droplets of colostrum i pumped.  it was like siphoning specs of gold from my body.  every drop (literally) counted.  the first time i pumped (one hour after delivery) we collected 4 milliliters of this precious liquid.  the nurses were in shock.  apparently that was a lot.  i was so proud.  4 mL!  that's like a water bottle capful.  but i was so drugged up that i spent the next 2 days in and out of consciousness.  sleeping off the exhaustion and pain.  i was supposed to be pumping more gold out every 3 hours and instead got around to it like every 6 hours if i was lucky.  the quantity i extracted slowly dwindled to 2 mLs and then eventually i was just dry.  i felt awful.  i was letting my little girl down.  ohmigosh i just wanted to cry.  in the meantime, kaya was getting formula supplements while in the NICU.  she was ok.  it didn't matter, i was beating myself up over it anyway.  i decided to lessen the amount of pain killers i was taking (since it made me sleepy), set my alarm on my phone to go off every 3 hours and made a decision to pump no matter what.  eventually the milk came back.  slooooooowly.  

it was the end of the 4th day when one of the nurses in the NICU suggested that i try to take kaya to breast instead of pumping.  she called in the lactation specialist to supervise and we tried for a half hour.  we failed.  i felt like such a loser.  i felt so small and so inadequate and so rejected.  i was surrounded by all these experts and this was my child and i didn't know how to do this... AND i still wasn't producing enough milk to feed her needs.  the little i produced (by pumping) the nurses would add to the formula they fed kaya.  it did little to console me to know that my milk was more nutritious and beneficial to her than all the formula they provided. everyone was being so positive, supportive and encouraging.  i still hated myself.  eventually kaya latched on (with more help and encouragement from the staff at UCI), the supply caught up to her needs and she's 100% breastfed now.  one of the nurses had told me (on the last day) that the IV bag they had me on for the surgery interrupted my milk flow.  it was part of the reason why my milk production dropped to zero.  wow!  i wish i knew that from the get go!  the irregular pumping definitely affected the production process too and so did waiting too long to get kaya latched on.  i felt like less of a loser.  i also should have had the balls to make sure that the nurses were using a "slow flow" nipple on the bottles they were using to feed kaya.  it was one of the things they taught you in lactation class.  don't teach your child to have it the easy way coz your body can't compete with that.  i was just too busy feeling inadequate and intimidated by all the expertise around me.  the well meaning staff at the NICU were doing their primary function which was to take care of the baby and they did an amazing job!  but i've since sent in a recommendation note regarding the slow flow nipples.  nature has an amazing way of working things out thankfully.  

a last note on nature having an amazing way of working things out.... 

all the women in my family are C and D cups.  they used to look at me (and my lil A cupper) and wonder what happened.  my mom, who worked at maidenform at one point, would bring home bras for me that could give a wall cleavage.  my aunt had laughingly told me at one point that she would pay for a boob job when i graduated college.  that day came and i nudged her about it (jokingly).  she said she would cover for one boob.  not desiring any uneven results i politely declined the offer.  well, apparently i'm a late bloomer.  now finally, at 37 and one child in, i've caught up to the rest of the women in my fam.  crossing my fingers and hoping they are here to stay.  if not... i'm starting a re-inflation fund.  

all that said, today i can title this entry "beauty and the boob".  had i written this 3 weeks ago it would have been "boobie and the beast".  

i've started to get serious about taking kaya's picture.  going to attempt a "52 weeks of kaya" project.  this is kaya at 3 weeks old.  i can't believe how much her face has changed already!  all that milk she's getting is filling in her cheeks.  


  1. WOW! Thanks for sharing your story. I too had a C-section and wasn't producing. I tried so hard to breastfeed and she wouldn't latch on, I wasn't producing, etc. Way to stay committed! Ultimately I decided to formula feed and felt like such a failure. I felt so ill-equipped. I was never prepared for the reality.

    Kaya is precious! Congrats!

  2. beautiful boobie post. it's amazing how obsessed you can become with milk production (or lack there of) when you decide to breastfeed! sounds like our families have similar genes too i'm the black boob of the family with nothing significant to show. i need to ramp up my re-inflation fund.

  3. Love the idea of 52 week project! At least be happy that she latched on. Arjun never did and for first two months I was pumping every 2 hours and the next four months I pumped every 4 hours and kept him exclusively on breast milk, but it was super exhausting!! I barely slept between pumping and feeding him. Thanks to the nanny I got a couple of hours in the mornings. Also, I was up to C-cups but boy they deflated with a vengeance once I stop breastfeeding...sigh...I have also started a re-inflation fund ;).

  4. she's so beautiful, Michelle. thanks so much for sharing your stories!