Friday, May 3, 2013

My Breastfeeding Journey with Baby #2

Five years ago, when my husband and I experienced the birth of our son, we had made the decision to breastfeed.  My husband, who was adamant about not giving our baby formula, was my support system throughout my pregnancy, encouraging me to do it and being my cheerleader along the way.  I can honestly say that my fear stemmed from our son having problems latching on instead of the pain of childbirth itself!  This was my second child, and the first child we have together, and he shared articles with me about the benefits of breastfeeding.  Because he insisted on it, and I was excited about it, I also felt that he didn't quite understand that little Caleb would be dependent on me and that he (my husband) would not be able to feed him with a bottle until he was past six weeks of age.  This was the age at which babies have less tendency to get nipple confused, but Nakia was proof positive that even if all he did was bring the baby to me in the middle of the night for feedings or stay up to burp him afterwards, he was determined to help me be successful.

While in the hospital, and minutes after Caleb was delivered, he took to the breast and did what came naturally.  It felt weird at first, but my nurse gave me two thumbs up and continued to encourage my choice to breastfeed.  To better prepare myself, I inquired about seeing the lactation consultant before my discharge to ensure that my technique was efficient and that once I left the hospital, I would know what to do.  When the ladies made rounds, they showed my the various techniques that may work (football, cradle, side-lying) to allow for the milk to be expressed with ease as well as comfort for me.  It was a learning process for both myself and Caleb, but we worked as a good team and became successful.  But there still lingered a bit of fear of being able to continue once we got Caleb home.

As Caleb continued to feed on demand, I obliged but noticed that he would not always nurse from both breasts, leaving me full on one side and to the point where I became engorged.  My breasts swelled from the size of navel oranges to Florida grapefruits, with milk all the way up to my clavicle and under my armpits.  I was in pain and didn't know what to do.  I called my girlfriend Sandi who nursed her babies and she told me to get in the shower and let the warm water run over my breasts while expressing the milk to come out.  This was very painful, and although I was taking Ibuprofen to help, it wasn't enough.  I put packs of ice inside my nursing bra, used lanolin cream to ease the cracked nipples (yeah, I got those too), but my breasts were gynormous! (Is that even a word? It doesn't matter, because that's what my breasts were!!!!)

I went online in search of a lactation consultant in my area, and like angels singing in the background, I came across Becky Butler of Milky Way,, in LaPlata Maryland, and she was truly heaven sent.  We set up an appointment and my husband and I packed up our little guy to go for a visit.  Becky showed me, hands-on (literally) how to initiate contact and to ensure Caleb had a good seal on the areola and not just the nipple, which is what he was doing to crack my nipples.  He favored one breast over the other, and I needed to train him to nurse from both.  She also told me that I had an overabundance of milk, as if I was producing milk for twins and even asked if I was told that I had a pituitary problem (which I did not, I just produced an abundance of milk that could have been sold!)  I began the pumping process to get as much of my milk out as possible and start my storage and got myself on a routine that worked and the engorgement went away (still grateful for ice packs and ibuprofen).

My breastfeeding regimen worked well, and even when it was time to introduce our little guy to the bottle, my husband was even more a part of the team.  When he tried to give him a pacifier to soothe him before I returned home from an errand, Caleb refused.  He never took a pacifier and found soothing in the thumb of his right hand at three months old.

I returned to work when Caleb was ten weeks old with my Medela Pump In Style bag and cooler, excited that I would be able to continue giving my baby the best.  This experience proved tragic for me, as I will explain to you how insensitive and negative my coworkers were towards me and my choice to breastfeed.  Working as an acute dialysis nurse requires long, hard hours and a lot of one-on-one patient to nurse ratio time.  However, there are times when you can take care of two patients at a time.  Because I needed to pump at least every four hours, I would need to be relieved so another nurse or tech could watch my patient.  One particular Saturday, it was myself, an LPN, and a technician.  There was a patient needing dialysis in ICU, which meant that if I left to dialyze the patient, it would be at least four hours more that would go by before I could pump, as no one would relieve me.  Thus, putting me at an almost five hour mark, causing me discomfort and not to mention the leakage.  The other nurse on duty suggested I "pump now" before going to care for the patient, which I found absurd being as though I had just nursed my baby at 0630 and it had only been an hour.  She didn't understand this and huffed off to the ICU to take care of the patient.  There were many other incidents and comments that I recall that eventually took their toll on me AND my milk supply, and I would come home upset and crying to my husband with my decreasing amount of milk, causing me to supplement with formula.

The gossip and negative comments floated back to me on a daily basis, and one day when the nurses were in the manager's office, I challenged them to speak up about my desire to pump and that by law, no one could refuse me to do so.  In other words, shut up about my breast pumping unless you want to take up a collection and purchase formula for me to feed my baby.  Silence rung out, and a few of the nurses feigned words of encouragement and even suggested I give them a schedule of when and how long I needed to pump.  I rolled my eyes and reminded them that since they didn't have children nor knew anything about breastfeeding, it was best to keep their suggestions to themselves.  In other words, deal with it you B word, and leave me to do what I need to do.  No one took into consideration that the area in which I needed to pump was in the labor and delivery area, which was downstairs and all the way on the opposite side of the hospital, taking me about ten to twelve minutes to get there.  Once there, I had to make sure the room wasn't occupied and then had to get set up.  Pumping required at least 15 minutes, making my entire time off the unit 25 to 27 minutes in which someone else had to watch my patient.  I had to still be considerate of the breaks my coworkers needed to take, and a lot of times I chose to use my breakfast and lunch break to pump instead of to eat.

Needless to say, after more months of the snide remarks and evil looks, I continued to pump and nurse Caleb at night.  By the time he was nine months old, I was exclusively pumping as he chose to no longer take to the breast, but I managed to pump three more months until his first birthday.  I vowed to myself that I would never allow myself to be subjected to such negative women who cared less about the well being and importance of breast is best for a nursing mother.  Although I supplemented with formula, Caleb grew well.  I should have not been surprised by their nasty ways, being as though when I was well into my eighth and ninth month of pregnancy, no one except for my dear friend Toya assisted me with pushing my dialysis and RO machine to the units or carry my supplies for me.  I continued to take on-call, and the staff in the unit always helped me bring my machines back upstairs once I was done, even into the wee hours of the midnight hour.  Even the nurse manager of the ICU complained if I dared to leave equipment behind from the night before, knowing that I would return in the morning to continue treatment on a patient.

This journey really sucked for me, but I really learned a lot.
One, I don't like working with a bunch of females.  They are unstable creatures, catty, and jealous, especially when you have things going for you.  I never asked for handouts, and I never once called out sick during my pregnancy; I showed up with swollen ankles, full bladder, and leaky breasts.

Two, there are some good people in the healthcare field that will look out for fellow nurses, and the ICU and CCU nurses and staff always made sure I was comfortable and even had water to drink and food to eat during my breaks.  (There are so many of you to name, but if I miss anyone, charge it to my head and not my heart; however, this was almost six years ago. Ally, Brenda, Karen, Shelly, Renee, Tammy, Jan, Barbara, Jeania, Amanda).

Three, don't sweat the small stuff, although it didn't seem small at the time.  You see, not too long after that, I became a better person and was able to shake off the mess that could have caused me to use ungodly words and cuss a few folk out.

And lastly, I am loved by my family and friends, and that love outweighed any of the foolishness with which I had to deal with.  I vowed to myself that I would NEVER go through this again, and I didn't.  And now, as I am nursing my third child, I can really see God's got it.  He took me through the storm so that I could see the rainbow that he put there when it was over. (Read my next blog on Breastfeeding Baby #3).

Friday, April 19, 2013

Reflecting on the birth of my children

Tomorrow we will celebrate the birth of my second born, my son Caleb.  He will be five years old.  As I write this, I am consumed by the sound of the rain, beating against the screens of my window and streaming down the siding of my home.  It reminds me of the Sunday, five years ago, when I first met Caleb face-to-face.  His round face and straight, jet black hair was all you could see.  He immediately took to my breast, and began nursing as if it was going out of style, easing my fear of not being able to encourage my infant to latch on.  But this was not the case.  And with my husband by my side being my biggest cheerleader, I knew it would work as mommy and son bonded instantly.

Caleb waited to enter the world until his big brother Jordan arrived to meet him.  While my mother was in the background snapping photos of my Va-jay jay, I focused on my pushing and was anxious to see my firstborn with his little brother.  Their bond was instant, and even now as they fight, I can smile when I hear big brother recite prayers with my pre-kindergartener before bedtime and it makes my heart dance.  Caleb was born at 40 weeks, right on the day he was due, weighing 8 pounds 4 ounces.  He shares a birthday with Luther Vandross and Stephen Marley.

Thinking of the protective spirit of Jordan, I recall the day he came into my life.

I was a senior in college, studying nursing at The Catholic University of America in our nation's capital.  One of about a half dozen brown girls in my graduating class of 1996, I had my doubts about finishing school.  But my reason for completion came in the face of my brown chubby-cheeked baby boy, who was born during the blizzard of that same year, on a Tuesday afternoon.  I went into labor early Monday morning, the day recognized as Martin Luther King, Jr.'s birthday, a federal holiday.  Concerned about missing too much school for fear of not being able to graduate, I focused on giving birth to my little person.  As I dozed off and on, I recall how my sister sat in the room with me, eating McDonald's while I starved during my laboring process, only able to munch on ice chips.  Jordan was born at 39 weeks, weighing 8 pounds 0.5 ounces.  He shares a birthday with Sade, Aaliyah, and Debbie Allen.

McDonald's was also being eaten by my husband during the labor of my third child, a girl, Gabrielle.  She was born on Wednesday morning, on an overcast day, with the night sky being lit up by the full moon that helped guide our way to the hospital.  A rough pregnancy led to an even more challenging laboring process, as my baby girl emerged face-up as opposed to face down, causing the intense back pain that I experienced before and during my labor, to include the Braxton-Hicks contractions.  Gabrielle was born at 40 weeks, exactly on her due date, weighing 8 pounds.  She shares a birthday with Berry Gordy, Trey Songz, and Judd Nelson.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

When I started out in nursing school, there were a few fears that I had, but kept them to myself.  

I was afraid that I wouldn't be good enough. 
That my patients wouldn't like me. 
That I would make mistakes when it came time to pass my medications. 
Or that I simply would struggle to make it through.

My patients loved me, even when I couldn't read the expressions on their faces.  When one of my clinical instructors grilled me to the tenth power while my palms were sweaty, I was able to regurgitate the names of my patient's medications, the side effects, and even the lab values that you would be cautioned for. (Needless to say, this was an instructor who treated all of the "brown" nursing students in this fashion, and through it all, I managed to get a B in that class.)

Here I am, years later (sixteen to be exact), still in the nursing field, working the education side of nursing, which is what I found myself doing through my various fields of nursing.  As a "people" person, I found myself being recommended to be a preceptor while on active duty as an Army nurse at Walter Reed, and I loved it!
This preceptor role followed me as I embarked on the civilian side of nursing and now, as an Education Coordinator, I am able to continue in this role.

As I was cleaning out my basement, I came across an old file that contained a lot of the things I held onto during my "juvenile" years as a nurse fresh out of school. I found a small card, about the size of a business card, lying on the floor next to the file. It contained the Principles of Hospitality, which I will share with you.

  • Smile and greet every patient.
  • Speak to the patient in a warm, friendly, courteous manner.
  • Display genuine and enthusiastic interest in the patient; pay complete attention.
  • Anticipate patient needs and be flexible in responding to them.
  • Be knowledgeable about your job. (This is a biggie!)
  • LEARN to take ownership of patient problems and resolve them.

In preparation for a preceptor class that I will be co-teaching, I plan to make copies of this and pass on to the preceptors for them to remember 1) why they are preceptor in the first place and 2) how they can groom new employees to give their all and put their best foot forward.

It is always key to remember that you don't get a second chance to make a first impression, and it always helps when you can put yourself in the shoes of your patient. They may be nervous, scared, confused. Or they may just want you to listen and give a warm smile.

I will leave you with The Learn Process:

L = Listen to the patient
E = Empathize with the patient
A = Apologize
R = Respond
N = Notify the tracking process (and this may vary in your different positions)

It is also wise to have a mentor.  While sharing your stories and situations with a fellow nursing student may be helpful, keep in mind that some people may not be happy to see your success and may harbor feelings of jealousy. (I learned this the hard way, too.)
Having someone who will ALWAYS take your side is not a good need someone who will be the devil's advocate, in a sense.
Surround yourself with positive people.
Take time away from your studying, or your job, to do something fun.
Keeping a journal may prove helpful, as it was for me. (And I still have it to this day.)

My goal is to one day write my nursing journey to share with those who will come after me.

Act as if what you do makes a difference.  It does.  ~William James

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Sharing My Love of Writing

As I share my love of writing with my dear friend Nathan Seven Scott, I recall telling him how awesome it would be if he shared his stories with the world.  A lover of E. Lynn Harris myself, I was wondering who would give us books of his caliber.  Unfortunately, we had to lose him so that the work of Nathan could be born.  I find it amazing that after all these years, we have maintained a friendship that has taken us through our own little worlds, and as I embarked on my writing journey, I pushed Nathan to go for it as well.  (My unwavering confidence in Nathan has helped me to push myself to continue on with my writing as well. More about me later!)

I reached out to a friend from middle school, only to find out that through her own busy life, she would be able to help me with the editing of my book.  Khadijah Ali-Coleman gave me such wonderful feedback and pushed me to add just enough drama and hot, butt-naked sex (yes, she really did!) to give me the page-turner I knew I could create.  I had no idea what to expect when we sat down to discuss my book, but I can say that she put a stank on my story that only SHE could do!  And so, I had to share her expertise with Nathan, and he has been pleased with what she produced.

As I reflect on my journey, I mentioned before how I wrote poetry while in college, and that my professor Dr. Acklyn Lynch pushed me to get that hobby of mine going.  Writing was my outlet, and I didn't always want to share what I created.  My love of reading is what really pushed me to write my first novel, and I have been addicted ever since.  I have the perfect team and the 'write' tools to get me there.  Artist, life coach, editor, mentor, publisher, fellow writer friends, family, sistah-girls, and FANS!

I have decided to further share my passion to write with middle school students, and have challenged them to participate in my first ever writing contest.  You can find the info at for more information.  Any and all middle to high school students are encouraged to participate.  My goal is to have a writing camp specifically for those interested in putting their creative minds to work.  I am grateful for this opportunity, and for those who want to write and just don't know how or where to start, you can always reach out to me.  I am sure that Khadijah will welcome the eager writers as well, and you can find her at  And don't forget to tell her that Karen Minors sent you!

And now, I must continue to write.......

Friday, January 14, 2011

He Keeps on Blessing Me

He keeps on blessing me
even when I'm not worthy
even when I doubt
even when I fail.
He keeps on blessing me.

I looked far and wide
when He said to look near
when He said to listen
when He said to surrender.
He keeps on blessing me.

When I couldn't see the light
at the end of the tunnel
when I closed my eyes
at the end of each day
as the tears ran down my face;
when I forgave myself,
because He forgave me.
He keeps on blessing me.

He keeps on blessing me
answering every prayer
hearing every cry.
He keeps on blessing me.

Last year was a challenging year for my family, but we kept the faith. When we thought all hope was lost, the Lord stepped in right on time and picked us up. Stress had become my new best friend, and bitterness was my passenger in the car. I carried my hurt and feelings of "why me?" day in and day out. While wearing a smile on the outside, I was crying on the inside.
Yet, I pushed forward and I leaned not on my own understanding.
I cried out and waited on Him to hear me.
Are you there? Do you see me struggle? Lord, please help us. Help me. I don't like feeling like this. Where do I turn? Show me the way.

He never left me.
He blessed me with a new job.
Then he blessed me with a second new job and a promotion.
He blessed my husband with a job offer. Hallelujah!
My best friend, Stress, left me and Bitterness was ejected from the car.
A smile remained on the outside, but the crying stopped on the inside.
Sometimes we feel like all hope is gone.
But there is hope.
He told me so.
And He keeps on blessing me.

And now, I must write....some more.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Christmas 2010

Christmas 2010 was different this year.
We decorated and put up the tree on Christmas EVE! (Caleb had fun passing us all of the ornaments and just putting them anywhere on the tree.)
I had recruited Jordan to help me decorate the dialysis unit where I work.
(Well, I had to bribe him with a few candy canes in order for him to help out.)
But, it worked.

And since he did such a wonderful job, I knew he would love to decorate the tree with his 2 year old brother! And they had a fun time. Caleb stayed up until right before midnight and still woke up at seven a.m.! I just made him get in our bed and watch Sprout until we were ready to get up.

This Christmas we were not able to spend the holiday with my aunt and uncle like we do every year, because my aunt had pneumonia. It was hard for her, as well as us, to not be able to be with the family, but we needed her to get well and not get anyone else in the family sick. Our day was smooth, and quiet, except for the drum set that we got for Caleb! He played along with Sesame Street and Veggie Tales, putting on a show for us. We had a nice breakfast and for dinner, we had one of my husband's favorite dishes: curry shrimp. Yummy!
I didn't get to cook! Aww, man! (said with a smile on my face :)

Later, that evening, we drove to the home of one of my Army nurse buddies from Walter Reed. She was surprised to see us, and another dialysis nurse was there, also. It was good to get out for a little bit and it was good to be off from work for four days straight! Working outpatient dialysis can really wear you down, from the long days that turn into long nights! Whew! So, it was a welcomed blessing to be able to have my family time all at one lump time.

My husband, Nakia, surprised me with a Kindle. He knew that was all I asked for, and I knew he couldn't get it for me because it was practically sold out. Loving to read until the wee hours of the morning, this was a gift that he would be getting his money's worth!

The time that we shared this Christmas meant more to me because we were all together, I didn't have to be on call, nor use vacation time just to be home. Family members participated in holiday devotionals and we were able to read each other's memories about past holiday times.

Christmas is not about the gifts we give or receive, but of spending quality time with family and friends to reflect on the reason for the season: Happy Birthday, Jesus!

Monday, November 22, 2010

On Becoming an Author

I have been on this journey since 2007, when I began writing my first novel while visiting my future husband's family in Bermuda. It Is What It Is was birthed while I sat on the seashore and my son and future husband were fishing. This was a story I held on to for some time, and my desire to write never waned.

This journey has been like a roller coaster, mostly with ups and not many downs, fortunately. I was blessed to have the TEAM that my mentor Ananda Leeke spoke about last year when I first met her. In addition to her recommendations, I was blessed to have an artist for a husband, who I let design my book cover and website. I also reconnected with a childhood friend, Khadijah Ali-Coleman, who is the editor of my novel.

The excitement that I feel now as I felt when I first started is still the same.

To see my book in its final stage has been absolute feelings of exuberance and a HUGE sense of accomplishment. I started my story to tell my "love story" and it turned into a fiction with much drama. When Khadijah told me that I was "holding back", I hung my head because I knew she was right. By following her direction and listening to her pointers, I just jumped in and moved forward. She pulled it out of me, and when I read my book from start to finish, I screamed. My actual words were "This is the freaking BOMB! SAY WHAAAAT!"

My sentiments were shared by three special people who were given a pre-release copy of It Is What It Is. One of them said "I love your quotes and a true reader will have no problem immersing themselves in the story." I was literally tickled pink.

Another reader said she visualized the places I describe in the book, placing herself there as she read along.

Like Kem says in his song "Matter of Time" from his latest CD:

"You are right where you are supposed to be

Everything is in divine order.

Nothing happens under God's creation without His eye upon it.

There is a divine appointment for everything that takes place in your life.

So just relax, let it's a matter of time."

Thanks to everyone who has followed me on Facebook, Twitter, and recognizing my desire to get this book done. There is more to come. Thanks for being patient and waiting on me. This was truly a journey that I will never forget.