One More Day {A Pumping Story}

image In case you haven’t heard, this is World Breast Feeding week.

Every year for the last three years, it’s rolled around and I’ve had many, many feelings.

But mostly, I feel shame.

Before my son was born, I planned to breastfeed. I took all of the classes, bought all of the nursing bras and tanks and Bamboobies and nipple creams. I even had phone numbers for two IBCLCs.

I was scared but determined.

I was ready.

My son was born at the crack of dawn and latched quickly. It hurt, but it was okay. He nursed all day and then into the night. Then he vomited profusely, covering my husband and me in colostrum and amniotic fluid. Then we all slept.

The next morning, he wouldn’t nurse. He was tired. I was tired. Sitting upright to nurse was extraordinarily painful for me, and I felt every ounce of the 3 liter blood loss I suffered during his birth.

That second day, I pumped colostrum and my husband fed it to our baby with a dropper. He perked up, but not much. Soon after, my newborn baby stopped breathing while feeding at my breast.

He turned blue.

As a trained medic, I knew what to do. I breathed for him. We called 911. He began breathing again.

The ambulance came. He stopped breathing again and continued to stop breathing every 10 minutes for the next 16 hours.

Our tiny baby boy had suffered a stroke.

Over the course of the next week, we would learn that a clot traveled through his body to his brain and destroyed cells in two areas in his right hemisphere. I would sit painfully upright in a wooden chair next to my son’s bed in a tiny NICU room where he teetered between heaven and earth.

And I pumped. Every three hours. I willed my body to make milk to feed him because when he decided to stay here with us, he would be hungry. That was a thing I could do. That was THE THING I could do.

The stroke left the left side of my baby’s body weak and slow to react. We did all of the home therapies the hospital showed us. I tried to latch him to my breast but he was unable to form a seal with his mouth because of the muscle weakness.

I was relieved. Deeply, shamefully relived. Because every time I held him to my body, I felt the terror of his near-death shoot through my body like ice water. Holding him to my bare breast sent me into a silent, self-loathing panic and all I saw was his tiny body turning blue.

So, I pumped. Every three hours around the clock.

When he had recovered enough muscle tone to nurse, he looked at me with fear in his eyes and screamed. He was terrified, too.

I passed him to my husband and pumped.

I accepted this breastfeeding failure. And the inadequacy began chipping away at my soul.

A few months later when he was diagnosed with a rare food allergy syndrome and it became clear that he would need my milk for many more months, I cried. Huge, selfish, shameful tears rolled down my face and onto my chest. I could not fathom pumping for another week, much less an undetermined amount of time.

As summer came, so did chronic mastitis. My boobs were done. I did all the things I was supposed to do to prevent it, but after 13 months, living on a 12 food elimination diet to keep my son’s profound food allergies in check and unrelenting stress, my body wanted to be done. But my baby wasn’t. I was still his sole source of nutrition.

Even if I wanted to quit, I could not.

I put a sticky note on my breast pump. It said “One More Day”.

That was my mantra in the morning during my first pumping session. It turned to “one more pumping session” and “5 more minutes of pumping” on hard days.

I watched my son grow as I sat on the couch and pumped. As my husband and friends fed my son the precious gold that came at a very dear cost to my mental, emotional, and physical well-being. I wanted this part to just be over.

And I felt the shame wash over me again.

My final pump session was not the wild, freeing, jubilant affair I believed it would be. After 21 months, I put that electric bastion of failure and disappointment in the closet and whispered “fuck you”.

Then I whispered it again.

Fuck. You.

To the pump.

To the closed closet door.

To my breasts.

To my kid.


To the stroke.

To God.

And then I put it all away.

This week, I opened up that closet and took out my pump. I looked at it with indifference. It was a tool, it was not my captor.
Then the ghost of the shame I’ve been carrying around all these many months reminded me that our story isn’t over yet. There is redemption in this. My pump made it possible to take exquisite care of my baby. It gave me a reason to continue living.

It was a literal saving grace in the midst of the most traumatic time of my life.

The shame is transforming, and transitioning into pride. I did that. Every three hours. Every damn day. For 21 months.

The “fuck you” has turned to deep, unspeakable gratitude. Gratitude for these breasts, that pump, and my healing, thriving 3 year old. Gratitude to God that I get to be his mom.

To all of you mamas making great sacrifices for your babies, no matter what those sacrifices are, you are unbeatable warriors and tidal forces of love. The world and your sweet babies are lucky to have you.

You can do this.






Your Journey Is Perfect and I’m Sorry

Religion and Faith.  What a tricky conversation.  In my lifetime, I have been a preacher’s kid, a missionary, a church employee, a bible reader, quasi-cult member, medical mission operator, a religious non-profit founder, a reformer, a fanatic, a harsh critic, and finally a questioner. Questioning saved my life and connection to faith, even though it has been hard for some people I love. I understand, though, because I’ve been there and it was hard for me to understand, too.  


This weekend, I was faced with a reflection of myself 15 years ago.

I was fervent. I was committed. I was totally drinking my own kool-aide. I had zero grace, understanding or compassion for people who did not hold the exact belief set I did.

I was a complete asshole.

I am so sorry.

It doesn’t matter that it came from a good place in me. I didn’t believe you when you said you felt great about your (very liberal) relationship with God. I didn’t believe that you were okay in your complete unbelief, or anything inbetween. I could not fathom how you could claim Mohammed or Buddha as your deity. I lost sleep over your belief system, or lack thereof.

My heart genuinely broke for you and in that brokenness, I BROKE YOU. Not irreparably, and it wasn’t a new break. But I broke you more. With my zealous beliefs and narrow, judgmental rhetoric, I tore the scab off your healing wound and (lovingly) kicked you in the teeth.

I am so sorry.

Your spiritual journey is yours. You invited me to walk beside you as you carved your path, and instead I handed you the map for my journey and demanded that you make it yours.

I am so sorry.

You and your journey are exactly right and can be trusted, even if I don’t understand it.

If there was ever a moment you believed that I loved you but I came at you with a misguided sense of righteous anger instead of connecting to the deep love I hold in my heart for you, I am so sorry.

You showed me grace, and in a few instances, rightfully showed me the door. Being the hands and feet of God never meant being the voice.

I didn’t understand. I didn’t get it. I get it now. It was never my job to change you. There as never anything wrong with you to begin with. You just echoed the fears and doubts in my own heart.

To all of my friends, regardless of belief, thank you for being here. Shutting you up/down/out only serves to show you how broken and scared I am, too. Thank you for staying even when I’m intolerable and self-righteous and just flat-out wrong.  I want to change that because you deserve love without conditions.

I am so sorry. I’m here now. I love you.


How to Feed The Whole Family Without Going Crazy {An Integrated First Foods List for TLB’s Infant Feeding Guide}

It’s dinner time. This might be the most dreaded and simultaneously anticipated hour of the entire day. What we often see happening in our heads is not always the reality of our experience, though.

Candlestick Table

Fantasy: A beautiful table setting. Children, clean, happy, patient, and compliant as parents bring in the food and set it on the impeccable table. Laughter ensues as you dish up tonight’s yummy food that you worked hard to shop for, plan, and create. It’s cooked to perfection, and your family takes turns sharing they highlights of their day, make appropriate jokes, and they eat everything without complaint, including your charming, little babe. You stare across the table at your partner with twinkles in your eyes and share a satisfied, knowing half-smile. Because nothing says foreplay like a good meal.

After the family works harmoniously and efficiently to clean the dishes, put away leftovers, and tidy up the kitchen, you all relax with a small dish of ice cream and nobody asks for seconds. It’s perfect.

Reality: After spending two hours in the kitchen assembling 3 different dinners to accommodate everyone’s dietary needs, you push homework and bills and a random assortment of household clutter that has mysteriously accumulated on your table during the last 12 hours over to the far corner where you artfully ignore it’s presence as you coax your children to eat amidst their complaining, your scolding, and eventually all-out bribery. Your baby throws everything on the floor, but not before nailing you in the face with home-made organic butternut squash puree. You and your partner are too consumed with the dinner activity to actually eat much, and after precariously re-arranging the refrigerator to accommodate nearly three full meals’ worth of food and haphazardly doing the dishes with a baby on your hip, you just call it a day, pass a package of bunny grahms around, and (miraculously) get the kids to bed.

You and your partner eat ice cream straight from the carton, feeling defeated but also relieved you made it through another day. You watch an episode of whatever series you’ve been trying to get through for months, and fall into bed with a high five before passing out from pure exhaustion. Maybe tomorrow things will go a little better, but who cares because you’re already asleep. For now.

I can’t always reconcile the Fantasy v. Reality dinner situation. I try, though. One of the ways I shorten the gap is by making a few meals a week that I know everyone can (and will) eat, including the wee ones. Here are some family dinner ideas that will satisfy everyone, and will be appropriate for all ages, even the babies who are just starting their life-long solid food experience.

Creamy Polenta with RaguPolenta Ragu

This is an easy dish that makes excellent leftovers. Polenta is easy to eat, doesn’t require teeth, and you get a full serving of veggies along with varied textures in each flavorful bite. This is a base recipe, but you can tweak it to please your family.





Zucchini Goat Cheese Lasagna Photo of Zucchini Goat Cheese Lasagna

This is another one-dish meal that is easy for all ages to eat and appreciate. By substituting noodles with zucchini, you’re upping the veggie factor. Goat cheese can often be easier to digest than cow’s cheese, so this is great for those with sensitive tummies.





Perfect Chicken SoupPerfectChickenSoup

Soup is fun for little ones, even if it tends to be a bit messy. Fishing out chunks of chicken, veggies and noodles while splashing and tasting the broth is a great food experience. It’s yummy for everyone else, too.





Cauliflower Fried “Rice” CauliflowerRiceCorner

This veggie-based dish is quick to prep and has something for everyone. It’s easy to customize for your picky eaters, and your baby can enjoy eating this independently or with a little help from mom or dad.






Tortialla Soup paleo tortilla soup avocado bone broth

This is another great food experience for your little one, and you can get creative with toppings. It’s one of my family’s favorites, and full of healthy fats! If you aren’t up for letting your baby bask in soup, you can let them play with chunks of avocado, chicken, tomato, and cheese.





FrittataQuarterView Garden Vegetable Frittata

Frittatas are so easy, and ideal for busy families. A frittata takes 20 minutes to prepare and makes excellent leftovers for breakfast or brinner.






Hemp Crusted Zucchini Sticks EZucchini

This is my toddler’s favorite dish. I love it because they’re so healthy and he can share with his younger friends.







Brown-Butter Sage Spaghetti Squash SpaghettiSquash

This is an easy prep with a high satisfaction factor. With simple ingredients, this works well as a side or as an independent dish. This is ideal for trying solids!






Almond Joy Barscoconut bars

These are soft and easy to chew, but everyone will love them as a snack or treat after dinner. I often eat these for breakfast, but don’t tell my kid!






Quinoa Fritters

Quinoa Fritters with Honey Butter 

My family is stoked when I make these. I love cooking with quinoa because it has so many more nutrients and has a fair amount of protein. Many kids (and adults) with food allergies and grain intolerances handle quinoa very well. With the easy-to-grasp shape, these fritters are ideal for baby-led weaning or eating with some help from an adult. You can whip up a batch in a hurry, and serve with a side of bacon or some leftover frittata.



I can’t promise you’ll have your fantasy family dinner with these dishes, but hopefully it will make dinner a little less hectic and please everyone, especially your littlest eaters.  And if all else fails, there’s always milk.

You’ve got this.



7 Speedy Self-Care Hacks for Busy People

I loathe the term “self-care”.  I’ve never been a huge fan of it, but now as a mother, I super dislike it.  I support it. In theory.  Taking breaks to rejuvenate and come back to life as a better person? Sign me up. A massage? Sign me up twice. A long hike in a forest? I’ll get my boots! A getaway with my husband?  TELL ME MORE.

The ideal setting for the best self-care ever of all time.

But here’s the thing with self-care.  It doesn’t always look like a massage or pedicure or magical trek through the woods alone with only your (greatly neglected) journal and a Lara Bar to keep you company. And it almost never looks like a relaxing, kid-free trip somewhere else with my husband because it’s expensive and takes many elements of planning and, uh…it’s expensive.  It could happen, but the reality of securing childcare, paying said childcare, going on the trip, taking time off of work, paying for lodging and food and travel?  It’s pricey and time consuming.

The bottom line is this: Self-care can sometimes feel like a privilege instead of a necessity for mental and emotional health.

It doesn’t matter if you are in a committed relationship, a single person, a parent, a single parent, a grandparent, a circus performer, totally bankrupt, rolling in Kanye amounts of cash, worked to the bone, a teenager or college student, whatever.  YOU NEED TO TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF.  Instead of carving out an hour, a day, a weekend, or any other difficult amount of time, focus on small things.  It doesn’t have to be time-consuming or spendy.  Taking care of yourself can be simple, free, and take 30 seconds or less.

  1. Pee first. Whatever you have to do, it can wait 30 seconds while you pee.  Screaming kid?  I get it.  Pee first.  You have to start dinner right this minute? Pee first.  You need to take a call? Send it to voicemail and call right back after you pee first.  Because peeing is important to your well-being.
  2. Slip off your shoes and feel the grass.  When was the last time you slipped off your shoes during your lunch break and stood in the grass?  Never?  Well, start now.   Let your kids play at the park or in your yard and sip your coffee with your shoes off for a minute. Enjoy the way the grass feels between your toes and the soft earth beneath you.
  3. Breathe on purpose.  Just take a deep breath, okay?  Not because you “need” it, but because it feels freaking wonderful to expand those lungs and breathe in deep, then exhale fully. (10 points if you take a deep breath while you pee barefoot. -10 points if you do that in a public restroom.)
  4. Massage your hands. Before bed, when you need a minute to refocus, or just because you like soft hands.  Grab your favorite oil or lotion, and be sure to gently pinch the soft spot between your thumb and pointer finger for extra relaxation.
  5. Add fruit to your water. Your toddler didn’t finish his apple slices?  Toss a few into your water bottle or pitcher.  Slice up a lime or orange while you’re at it and toss those in, too.  If you’re feeling super fancy and have it on hand, add a mint leaf or two.  Stimulating your taste buds can help keep your mind clear and connected to your body.
  6. Quote it. Find a short quote or poem. Read it. Twice. Return to it when you need to fuel your spirit.
  7. Eat a spoonful of peanut butter. Or sunbutter. Or almond butter.  Or Nutella.  You probably need the protein or chocolate fix. Go ahead and do that now.

If all else fails, drink that extra cup of coffee, or turn up your favorite music and dance. Or hide.  Yep, sometimes straight up hiding can be self-care.

Oh, and if anyone has any ideas about how we can abolish the term “self-care” and replace it with something more fantastically fun, go for it.  Let me know.  We will sprinkle that phrase like glitter from a unicorn.

Take good care,


Supporting Simon: Empathy for Autism

Friends, meet Jessica.  We met over 15 years ago as teenagers, bent on changing the world for the better.  Over the years, we have remained dear friends and are happy to have sons just a year apart.  Last year, Jessica’s youngest son, Simon, underwent a long process of therapy and testing which finally culminated in an autism diagnosis.  I asked her to share Simon’s story here.  She graciously complied. In a conversation last week she said, “Could you imagine someone telling us all we would encounter now, 15 years ago? We wouldn’t want to even open our eyes to the future. Yet here we are and we are thriving!” And that is why I wanted her to share.  Life keeps going.  We are stronger and braver  and bigger than our diagnosis, disease, and dysfunction. We have access to hope and healing, even if we have no cure (yet). I’m proud to call this woman a friend.
        Its been close to four months now since D-Day: the day we received the package. A package full of the numbers, paragraphs and codes. The package that labeled my dear son Simon as a boy who was autistic.
Simon and Jessica
        I was expecting this, but I was not prepared for the avalanche of emotion that followed, seeing it all in black and white on crisp smelling paper.  The heavy blue folder filled with advice on teeth brushing, sensory processing, oh and a list of lawyers to contact should our school district not be cooperative.
        What is NOT in the big blue folder is how to handle your relationships. How to talk to people you know as well as strangers about your sons neurological differences. Nor was there a guide titled “Emotionally Processing Your child’s Diagnosis and Letting Others Know How They Can Be There For You”.
        One can find a million articles on autism and plenty of them start with the “37 Things You Should Never Say to a Parent of an Autistic Chilld”. I struggle with these articles, not because the content isn’t true, because it leaves people feeling paralyzed and fearing they will say the ‘wrong’ thing. So, they either avoid the topic all together in order to avoid saying anything hurtful or, perhaps, say nothing at all.
        After doing a bit of self care in the last few weeks, I was truly blown away by some of the truths in Brené Brown’s research on vulnerability and especially, how Empathy helps propel us into relationship and away from shame.
        With much of this truth, in addition to realizing how I personally process grief, I can look back and tell you exactly what I needed in this time. I needed a cozy, safe space where nothing I said, or felt, was perceived as wrong and held against me. A space where I could scream, freak out, ask “why”, followed by more crying. In this space, the nights would feel long and dark and alone. This space is grief. It is real and evolves each and every day. Some days laughter comes back for a moment only to be followed by more tears. Eventually, the tears flow less and less frequently.
“To every person walking through a major life-changing situation, you need to allow this space in your life to exist.”
        To everyone else who is watching from the outside looking in, you need to simply choose to sit in that space with that family for a moment. There is no need to fill up this space with empty works. Simply let them know that they are never alone. It can be liberating to acknowledge that nothing you can say verbally will change the grief and trauma they are experiencing. Instead of filling space with words, YOU simply hold the space and share it with them.
        On our way home from the Cleveland Clinic with that big blue folder on my lap, my husband and I cried and remained quiet without any music playing as we drove. We let the silence and sound of our tears be our song. We pulled into the driveway to find our fantastic neighbors in the driveway.  They knew the diagnosis was possibly coming that day, and not even a minute out of the car they were there with open arms and tears to match ours. They listened to the few words I could utter and instead of filling the air with ‘I’m sure it will be fine….or my nephew is autistic and doing great…’  They chose to inhabit the space with us and be in it too.
        An hour or so later, we’re trying to just get back to our day and a friend had told me she wanted to bring something by. Truth be told, I wasn’t up for any visitors but something in me also really wanted her there. I knew she was coming clear across town and she pulled in the driveway and when our eyes met, it was like she understood what we had just underwent.  Her hug was compassionate and gracious. She also did not fill the air with ‘Gods got it under control….everything will be OK…’ because she wasn’t actually certain of anything in that moment.  What she DID do was hand me a six pack of beer for Joel…fruit snacks for my kids and flowers for me. She also handed me a card and it wasn’t filled with words of empty flattery or ‘Only special Moms get special kids…’ – what it was filled with was ‘You are not alone. We love you.’ She joined me in my space. She brought a little light in.
        I could go on about the beautiful conversations, hugs and acts of kindness sent our way upon, during and before Simon’s diagnosis. What I am most grateful for is those who chose to sit with us, look us in the eye, wipe our tears and cry a few of their own. If you’re unsure on how to be there for a friend who is going through something you do not fully understand, just go and be with them or practically love on them.  It is as simple and dropping off a coffee or a little bouquet of flowers and a hug.  Never under estimate the power of a hug.
Miller Fam
Jessica and Family
        In four months, we may have a gained a diagnosis that will likely effect Simon forever. We have also gained a support system of Grandparents, teachers, therapists, and a new found surge of power within my husband and myself. This gives us courage on hard days and helps us see the progress. Even progress many would regard as trivial, is a big deal for Simon. Simon is growing, learning, and understanding more of his world every day. Ultimately we are so grateful to all who have helped us and are still helping us process this new way of life.
Proud Mother of three fantastic sons and one exceptional Simon,