Category Archives: Family

We all enjoy listening to music in our family, but it is big brother Ryan who actually has a talent and passion to create it, which I highly admire.  I hope Justice echo’s Ryan’s passion for playing music.  We’ve fostered his enjoyment of making noise by creating a music corner for him with flutes, drums, rattles and other noise makers.  But when I saw big brother so tenderly showing Justice how to strum his guitar, it melted my heart.  I had to capture their moment on camera!

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If you would have told me five years ago that not too long from then I would have four kids and be married to a wonderful man, I would not have believed you for a moment.  But I have had so many beautiful blessings come my way in recent years, my growing family being the biggest! While Justice is my first born, he is not my only child. I adopted Miss Marissa in 2013 as a single parent, and dad had two older children of his own before we met, Ryan and Nadya. Each one of our teens are in a stage of developing their passions and talents, and it is so fun to see them prosper in their respective arts.

Ryan has been the musical master of the group, taking leadership roles in his high school marching band and winning numerous awards for his talent over the years. Marissa has a beautiful singing voice and loves to dance, but she is still working on the courage to show her talent to others freely.  Nadya is an amazing drawer and I am working with her now to write, illustrate and publish her first book this summer.  I hope baby can be inspired by his older siblings and their passions. Right now he is starting to show interest in making noise, banging on things, copying rhythms and blowing into flutes. I am excited to see where this goes!

As much as we would like to have them all around, all the time, it is rare when both of dad’s kids are in Fresno with us (mainly because the oldest, Ryan, is so busy and his visits here are few and far between). But this week was one such opportunity when all four of our kids were together, so off to the park we went to capture sibling photos for baby Justice!  My hope is in the future Justice will look back at these images, forming memories of his early years through the pictures, knowing how much he is loved but us all.

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Oh, and he is learning to blow kisses!

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This was a big week for us!  We took a trip up the Northern Coast of California into the heart of redwood country. Justice loved hiking with us and exploring the forest floor on his own through both touch and taste! He was even copying the sounds of the creaking trees to our amazement. These days he is full of expression and great joy for new experiences, he cannot hide his delight even for a second. How wonderful it has been to watch this budding soul observe and take in the world around him. As I said before, he is clearly a nature boy!  I love him so so much.

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This weekend our family, along with 125 other blessed souls, participated in a Teaching Conference held at Fresno City College (in the beautifully remolded Old Administration Building) about empowering individuals to rise up and serve their communities. Initially I was worried about how we were going to handle Justice and his naps at the college for two entire days, but to my delight he did pretty well.  He is a social guy after all, and was having a blast exploring and interacting with new people. His naps took place in his stroller, which was a relief. And with Grandma, both big sisters and other willing participants at the Conference, we had plenty of hands to entertain of our active boy.

I volunteered to photograph the weekend long event which kept me pretty busy. It was fun capturing candid moments of all the bright faces that were there. Here are some images that were caught with our family participating in this joyous Teaching Conference.

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As I have been taking walks around the neighborhood with Justice, I have observed his delight when he sees and gets to interact with the dogs walking our same route.  I figured, his enthusiasm over our kitties and other peoples pets means he may be ready to see the bigger animals at the zoo.  This Memorial weekend we decided to take Justice and our girls, whom are both avid animal lovers as well, to the Fresno Chafee Zoo.

Although it was hot and crowded, and many of the animals were taking refuge in the shade making them hard to spot, the kids had a great time. I think the petting zoo was truly baby’s favorite. That should not be surprising as he is a hands on kind of a guy and has very little fear.  I think our first trip was a success and we look forward to going much more since we have a family pass now!

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This was my first Mother’s day with Justice, and he certainly gave me a reason to remember it. My back was still bothering me so I could not hold him as much as I would have liked to, Daddy and Marissa had to help me out with him in most of the photos. Baby has been getting stronger and with all his teeth, we are feeling the pain lately. He has not quite figured out how to be gentle and has been clawing at our faces, pinching and biting. As Justice and I were taking some pictures together, he moved towards my cheek with what looked like the intention to give me one of his big open mouth kisses that I love so much.   My adoration quickly changed to shock as he bit down and drew blood!  Dad and I have really had to watch out with him these days. I am hoping this stage ends soon.

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This week we were fortunate enough to have big sister Nadya home during her spring break. It was a perfect time to capture some photos of the two of them, showing how much Justice adores his sister (even when he is extremely tired). If you look closely, his first upper tooth began cutting through. With his new tooth comes a new grin, a cute scrunched up his nose when he smiles!

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Justice was so tired that as soon as they laid in the grass, he began crying. He ended up taking a 3 hour after nap after these photos?!

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Each week I share a bit about our growing baby, hint at the struggles and delights of parenthood, and show photos of our precious boy. Yet, motherhood has proven to challenge me in so many unexpected ways, much of which I do not necessarily talk about here. This week I am making myself vulnerable, as I want to take a moment to tell you about one of the most emotional and heart-wrenching journeys I have faced as a new mother, how I feed my baby.

I knew, long before experiencing motherhood myself, that nursing my future baby would be the only way. I’ve had so many beautiful examples over the years of breastfeeding mothers that it was one of the things I most looked forward to when I found out we were pregnant.  I made connections with the local Le Leche League group, took classes, spoke with so many mothers, read books, blogs and prepared a “nursing” corner in our house anticipating this special time. But things did not go as expected.

The lingering narcotics in my system from the emergency C-section, uncontrollable shaking, and inability to use my arms and hands initially kept me from holding my baby for the first two hours after birth. But as soon as I was able to hold him in recovery, skin to skin it was and our first nursing session was underway. Although still groggy and recovering from major surgery, I remember the feeling of this first nursing session so very well.

Things continued to go well in the hospital. The lactation consultant said we had good technique and that baby was latching correctly. Although I had the expected sore nipples, I was confident going home that we had this!  Not long after arriving home dad and I started noticing orange deposits in baby’s diapers. Come to find out it was called “brick dust” and was due to baby being dehydrated. His doctor wanted me to supplement each feeding with my pumped breast milk. This, I believe, was the start of our troubles…

We had to somehow feed baby this extra milk while still encouraging frequent nursing sessions. First we tried an SNS system which allows baby to nurse and get the extra milk at the same time through a small tube, even with my husband and mother assisting me, we could not make it work.  So feeding him with a syringe was next, but he just would push the precious milk I had pumped right back out of his mouth. Struggling the first two weeks to get supplemented breast milk into him caused us to turn to the bottle, which we soon discovered was the only form of feeding besides nursing that Justice would accept. His wet diapers increased, he was gaining weight and things seemed to be going okay again. But, I was never able to pump much milk, 2 ounces total if I was lucky. The feeling of inadequacy crept up as I was on forums with other new moms who would show pictures of their pumped milk total of 4-10 ounces in a single pumping session. I could not even get close to that.

Our nursing sessions were long, could easily go an hour and a half, and baby was still so fussy. Right away I started participating in local breastfeeding support groups, with Le Leche League and consulting with other mothers for advice. In an effort to figure out why he was so distressed, I began eliminating things like dairy from my diet per doctors advice to see if it was some sort of allergy or sensitivity that was causing the discomfort. In the end, it did not seem to be food related. I had the feeling that I was not producing enough for his increasing appetite. So under the guidance of two different lactation consultants, the quest to increase my supply was on.

I am sure many new nursing mothers can relate, trying a concoction of so many things to get their milk supply up; drinking extra water, oatmeal each morning, brewers yeast, taking supplements like Fenugreek, Milk Thistle, and Mothers Milk tea, making lactation cookies… the list goes on. Baby was still fussy, and the quantity I was pumping kept going down. I fed baby as often as he wanted it, which meant I was doing very little else during those days but nursing. It was exhausting. Just to get a bit more rest in the evenings I would save my pumped milk so dad could relieve me for one feeding at night allowing me to sleep a couple of short hours.

Week 5 was a turning point. Baby Justice began to refuse to nurse every few feedings, pulling away and crying each time the breast was offered. Something was wrong. Back to the lactation consultants we went. They watched me feed Justice and said he is latching well and transferring milk just fine. My baby could nurse, he just refused to and we were not sure why?  We did get his tongue tie corrected, yet it did not make any difference in his behavior.  Then it was suggested we try taking him to a chiropractor.  Although they were very nice and adjusted baby several times at no charge, it still did not impact him. The refusal to nurse got more and more frequent over the next few weeks. We exhausted so many possibilities… It was an emotional time, so many tears were shed from both baby and I. The reality is Justice preferred the bottle, I was putting so much pressure on him to nurse, it was turning into a power struggle, and that was the last thing I wanted him to associate with me, negative feelings when eating. Something had to be done.

I cried so hard when it came to asking dad to pick up some formula as a backup because I could not satisfy my son. When my adoptive daughter first saw the container of formula he brought home, aloof to the struggle at hand, she commented that I should not feed it to baby as “It’s poison.” Although this was not my mindset, her comment brought me to tears, and just thinking of that moment still brings up emotions. She had been watching me nurse over the previous weeks, and was touched so deeply how I was nurturing Justice and would recall how she wishes she had gotten that same love and care when she was an infant. A desperate night with a hungry crying baby and unable to pump enough milk to satiate my boy, I gave him the thing I never thought I would, formula. I could not even bring myself to be the one to feed that first bottle to him. But there were many more formula bottles after that… Gradually the sadness came in as day after day, my milk supply kept going down, all while the feelings of rejection by my son were dominant in my mind.  I still offered baby the breast each day but he would turn away and cry if I pushed it. The last I remember him nursing was around 8 weeks. After that I was a full time pumping mom. The quest to increase my milk supply continued as he got both breast milk and formula bottles.  When my supply withered down to a measly 15 milliliters a pump, I still could not bear to give up.  I reached out to my OB and she gave me a prescription for Reglan.  I held onto it for a bit hesitating, as a major side effect was depression, an added complication I was already trying not to let take hold of me during this time.  But I gave in, and took the medication with a bit of success. My supply did get up to 2 ounces again, but it was short lived.

Dad had gone back to work, which meant I was on my own with baby for 4 days and nights each week because he worked out of town. Baby was still demanding as ever and so very fussy. In order to get my supply back up, I had to pump 8-10 times a day, yet I was alone and baby hardly gave me a chance to pump, all I could fit in was half that, plummeting my supply once again.  By mid-November I was able to squeeze the last bit of milk out, Justice was 4 1/2 months old at the time.  My last few pumps were dry. That was it, my final milk was fed to my son.

It was not until late in the journey that the notion of donor milk was introduced to us, I felt it was too late at that point and wish I had done the research before it was so desperately needed. I had to accept what was previously unacceptable to me. I was no longer a nursing mother, I could no longer give my baby my own milk, I had to be a full time bottle/formula feeding mom.  Even at this point I attended a breastfeeding support meeting to see if there was anything else I could do. But I had to accept my fate. During this whole journey I felt Justice and I were not bonding. The rejection feelings were strong. I resisted the bottle he demanded for so long, yet that was the only way Justice wanted it.  The lactation consultant saw how baby and I interacted, and without prompting, commented on how bonded we are together.  I was shocked and actually explained how I feel quite the opposite.  She disagreed with me and pointed out how he looks and responds to me, how attentive I am, and committed to giving him the best I can.  That was the first time I started to see our budding relationship differently.

Baby is now on the cusp of turning 6 months old. He is growing so quickly these days, is healthy, and much happier (but no less demanding). While it is not perfect, I feel our bond is stronger than ever. He loves to hear my voice, lights up when he sees me and I can finally feel that connection I so deeply hoped for. I love this boy so very much, he gets kisses from me all day long and actually returns them in his slobbery sweetness.  It’s difficult to accept that Justice prefers the bottle over nursing. Honestly, I still struggle with that fact.  But I also need to realize we are all individuals with preferences, babies included. I am sure there will be many more unmet expectations as I raise him. This is just one test of many more to come, I am sure.

I cherish those nursing days we had together. I remember the complete exhaustion, sore nipples, roller coaster emotions, painful breasts and aching back.  What I would give to go back to those days. One of my favorite memories was sitting on the edge of bed breastfeeding Justice, talking to my husband as he started massaging my feet, something he would do while I was pregnant. I must admit I am still a bit envious of those moms who are able to easily breastfeed baby and have an oversupply that they never have such concerns. I am so happy for them, yet I long to be that mom.

The journey has brought me here, bottle feeding my son. I am accepting that fact more and more these days. Now is my chance to create new memories around food with Justice.  He is a distracted little guy these days and he eats best when he is half asleep. So I lay him down in our bed, cuddle up next to him and bottle feed the little man as he drifts off into dreamland. Justice still holds my finger while eating, he intently watches me (as long as he isn’t distracted by a passing kitty or teenager) and wants to grab at my face all the time. These too are sweet moments I can now recognize and cherish.

I am careful about judging others these days. A lot of unsolicited advice and opinions are freely handed out to new moms. As I sit bottle feeding my son I am questioned by individuals with good intentions and big assumptions. Our journeys are each as individual as we are, no two alike. What we do have in common is our humanity, our compassion. Holding judgement back and looking at the beauty of a mom so lovingly caring for her infant is how I hope to see others, and be seen myself.

(All photos featured this week were taken by my husband Bryn Higgins.)

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Our little guy is growing fast. He is trying to become mobile these days, and although he hasn’t figured out that crawling is an option, he is just beginning to realize that rolling can get him places. So flip flop he goes when he really wants to reach something. Time to keep a very close eye on him!  He has also started showing the first signs of stranger anxiety this week. Before now he was very social and loved new people holding him and watching their faces. Now he has started crying when being held by unfamiliar people. On the flip side of that, he lights up when his favorite people come into the room.  Grandma gets a giant smile every single time she visits, when he hears my voice he gets excited knowing I am close, and he loves exploring dads face and laughing at his silly noises. He has a special connection with each of us.

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