Tuesday, April 8, 2014

The Good Wife

I was entitled to a maternity leave of 75 days, and today I'm in the home stretch. I was looking back at those days and I realized that I spent them entirely by taking care of the kids and doing the endless chores at home. Perhaps, the only time I could consider "personal" was whenever I was lucky that both kids happened to nap at the same time and I could watch an episode or two of my downloaded TV series, The Good Wife (TGW), usually while expressing milk.

One of those days spent watching TGW.
I was enjoying my Seattle's Best Javanilla, which was a peace offering from the husband.

TGW is a legal and political drama, which centered on the life of Alicia Florrick; (played by Julianna Margulies) a lawyer, mother of two kids, and wife to Governor Peter Florrick. The latter is former Cook County's State Attorney, who has been jailed after a public sex and corruption scandal. Alicia was an opt-out mom - she left her career and stayed at home with her kids during their formative years. After 13 years, she went back to the grind to practice law. 

There was one episode in TGW that struck me most. Alicia was in the midst of her routine as a lawyer; constantly in the middle of something, and at the beck and call of her clients. She wanted to breath and take a break for a minute, and she told her friend Kalinda, that when she was still a stay-at-home mom, there was a time in her daily routine that she looked forward to. Everyday, at 3PM, she would pour herself a glass of wine and enjoy the silence while waiting for the kids to come home from school. She said she was missing the silence at 3PM.

I know that in a few days, I will find myself saying the same thing - "I miss the silence at 3PM, when my kids are both asleep and I'm sneaking, almost in a juvenile way, to breath and take a break."

Don't worry, for photo purposes only. I separate them when they sleep.

Being with my kids and taking care of them was a very happy time - but one that could get really exhausting. I wouldn't mind much how they wear me out physically; but being emotionally spent, that was a different matter. Since emotions could get a bit high, (and I tend to be a bad mother when I'm emotional), I found that a breather was almost always a necessity. 

Just a small window in 24 hours - a time to recharge, to take a quick bath, turn on the TV, elevate my tired feet, drink a juice from the fridge, open a bag of chips, and pray that the kids stay asleep for the duration of at least one episode of TGW. 

After my break, my emotions would be on a clean slate again. When the kids wake up, I'd have more patience to tolerate tantrums and fake cries. I'd have more energy to carry a baby sucked to my breast.

I will miss that "window", the silence at 3PM. But I will miss the kids more. 

Last night, at bed, I was telling Zohan that I would resume office on Friday. He said, his voice breaking and his face pitiful, "Eh wag ka na pasok office. 'Se wala ako Nanay. Hanap kita, di ba?"

I wish I could tell my son how sorry I was that his Nanay was no Alicia Florrick. Bouncing back to the practice of law from a 13-year hiatus could happen only in TV series. (Well, at least to me.) 

I wish I could tell him how sorry I was that I could not be an opt-out mom. But it was a personal choice. I felt that I would be a better mother if I would continue working than if I stay at home.

So I hugged him instead. A tight hug that I hope could dispel the sadness in his sweet and innocent heart. And I resolved to myself that I would devote all of my time and all of myself to Zohan and Khaleid the second I step out of the office -- even if it meant I will never have a window again to recharge every 3PM. 

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Storage solutions for breastmilk

When I reviewed my blog's page views, the most visited entries were not the ones where I bled my heart out and shared my soul. Nope, no consolation for all that carnage. It was my posts about tips and reviews and everything practical that garnered the highest visits. So... In the guise of helping out fellow breastfeeding moms in their quest for wise storage solutions for their breastmilk, I am writing this post to increase my blog hits. (Kidding. Or not.) 

Here's a list of my own storage solutions that I thought could help out other breastfeeding mamas:

1. Invest in reusable storage cups and bottles.

When I had Zohan, my mother bought a lot of stuff for the baby, the Avent Via storage cups included. I used them for storage of breastmilk the whole time that Zohan was nursing. They were practical because they were sturdy, transparent, and definitely reusable. To put labels on the expressed milk, I just wrote through a micropore with pentel pen and then stick them to the cups. I could easily peel the label off when washing the cups.

Now that I have Khaleid, the Avent Via storage cups are making a comeback. I'm using these cups for storing milk that are intended to be consumed at home within 5 days from collection.

For a more organized appearance, you can stack them in twos and place them in small baskets that are available in different storage stores. I got these white baskets from Japan Home Centre for a very cheap price. 

In addition to my Avent cups, I also ordered these Autumnz storage bottles from Mamabella

Image from Mamabella's Facebook Page

I love that the bottles fit my Ameda Purely Yours breast pump, such that I can express milk directly to the storage bottles and put them right away in the refrigerator. 

I am anticipating that these Autumnz storage bottles will be a great help when I express milk in the office. (I only have almost two weeks left of my maternity leave.) Since the milk can be expressed directly to the storage bottle, I can do away with the collection bottle (which I used to tediously wash and pat dry after each session when I expressed milk for Zohan).

2. For the storage of milk expressed outside the house, use disposable plastic storage bags.

The reusable cups and bottles are practical, but they are quite bulky. So, everytime I go out or when we go home to the province, I just bring with me disposable storage bags. These plastic bags are a little pricey though, so if you're matipid like me, make sure to canvass for the cheapest brand. I've tried a lot - Ainon, Precious Moments, Spectra, and Orange and Peaches. They are all relatively cheaper compared  with other brands.

3. Position the plastic bags horizontally in the freezer, instead of vertically. 

I used to store milk in bags standing horizontally, since that was the only way it could accommodate 5-8 ounces of milk. But notice how bulky and disorganized they could get. It also used up a lot of space that the fridge no longer had room for our ulam.

I discovered that storing only 2-3 ounces per bag and filling it out vertically will make a more practical way of storing inside our fridge. 

Just stack them up!

4. Divide the collected milk into volumes of one feeding and store them into separate bags/bottles.

Once a person has gone through the hassle of expressing breastmilk at least once in their life, they are likely to realize that the adage "no crying over spilled milk" really makes no sense. Every single drop of milk is too valuable, you wouldn't want to waste it.

So, to ensure that there will be no spilling or throwing away of expired milk, I store milk in their containers per volume of a single feeding. As a result, it is easier to transfer milk to the feeding bottle (I can just empty the entire bag!). More importantly,  since it's good for one feeding, there are usually no left-overs that get stale.

However, there's a downside to this tip. If one feeding, let's say consisting of 2 ounces, is stored in one bag, it will be impractical and expensive since each bag will not be utilized to its full capacity of storing up to 12 ounces. Even if a reusable cup/bottle is used instead of a disposable plastic bag, it will take up so much space in the refrigerator.

So, mommies, just take this tip based on what you're not willing to discard - breastmilk, money, or space.

5. For expressing milk in the office, invest in a compact and practical storage bag.

I used to carry bags upon bags of pumping paraphernalia when I expressed milk for Zohan. I also carried a small cooler for the ice packs and collected breastmilk. You could imagine how bulky and heavy it was! (You can read about it here.)

Now, I am so glad to have found a small bag that can carry it all. It's so compact it looks like I'm just carrying my baon. Meet my Posh Autumnz Storage Bag (also available at Mamabella):

It's actually a bi-level bag. The top can be used to store breast pump, micropore, and pentel pen. The bottom portion can accommodate all ten Autumnz storage bottles, but if you want to make room for the ice packs, you can store at least six bottles. Both top and bottom are insulated so you don't have to worry that the milk will not be cold enough.

6. Collect milk for short-term and long-term storage.

I am lucky that my milk's supply is more than Khaleid's demand. Since there seems to be an abundance of milk, my first morning collection are intended for long term storage. I place them in plastic storage bags to be frozen and stored up to three months. For the rest of the day, the milk that will be collected are for short-term storage. They are placed in the disposable cups for immediate consumption (meaning within the next five days). 

This system gives me enough assurance that even if my supply dwindles, or when I cannot express milk religiously, Khaleid will still have the frozen milk to consume while I work on increasing my supply.

There you go. I hope I was able to share something practical to the mommies out there. If you have other tips that you swear by, do hit the comments button. After all, they said it takes a village to raise a child, so let's be part of each other's village.

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