Transcript: Parent Journey: Prince & Heidi Sabena (Part 2)

Jacqueline Kincer  0:10  

Welcome back to Breastfeeding Talk, I'm your host, Jacqueline Kincer. Today's episode is part two of Prince and Heidi Sabena's parenting and breastfeeding journey. In part one, we heard a lot of the issues that Heidi had encountered with trying to nurse Ruby and provide breastmilk for her. In part two, we're going to be talking about the resolution of things, how they finally got help and sought the answers they needed for their daughter, Ruby, and all of those steps that they took to get her the care they needed what that journey was like. Then we're actually going to be diving into a bit of the dynamic between Prince and Heidi, their relationship, their marriage, and their journey as co-parents going through this whole process with their infant, and you'll hear how things have worked out for them and Ruby, and where things are at today. 

 

I promise the story does have a happy ending, and there's a lot of great information here. If you didn't have your partner listen to part one of this episode, I think that's okay. I would absolutely encourage you to share part two of this episode with them. But if you share part two, and they don't have a lot of context for what's going on, I would share part one and part two, this episode, because there are just a lot of gems that are thrown in and out of the episode kind of sprinkled throughout. Just about marriage and co-parenting and being a family of five because they have three children total. So I just love these episodes, and I hope you love them as much as I do. Let's get listening.

 

Heidi Sabena  2:08  

Yeah, I think I started researching going to America.

 

Jacqueline Kincer  2:13  

You did because I remember you sent me a message about 'we're thinking of traveling there. Because I think, to me, it sounded like you thought weaning from breastfeeding was gonna fix it, and she would be okay. But she still wasn't because of all of these things you're saying. And so that's when you felt like... And so you were asking me, who would I recommend in the US. And I don't know if you asked me about anybody on the African continent, but I said I had had a lactation consultant from South Africa on my podcast. So I reached out to her and was trying to give you a closer option, especially with a raging pandemic going on and travel restrictions. So I do remember you reaching out, I think, at the beginning of that process of you both looking for something outside of your country.

 

Heidi Sabena  3:02  

Yeah, yeah, that's right. And you sent me somebody, Dr. Michelle Long in Cape Town. I don't know if it was the day before, or something, we had just also received...

 

Prince Sabena  3:17 

I found Kromebroom Dental online, and we found this dental hygienist. 

 

Heidi Sabena  3:24

Whose a myofunctional therapist. 

 

Prince Sabena  3:26  

Then we scheduled a zoom call with her. I didn't realize that you had already referred to her, Dr. Michelle Long. Then this dental hygienist, on our Zoom call, mentioned Dr. Michelle along as well.

 

Heidi Sabena  3:40  

Yeah. We just felt like, Okay, well, that might just be so much easier than going back during COVID. And just the amount of time it takes us to get from here to America. And then just all the restrictions, and then the insurance and the cost and all of that. And so we began to look into this in South Africa. And so we then had a Zoom meeting with Dr. Michelle Long, she's an ENT in Cape Town. And she was just fantastic. I mean, she looked at all the videos that we had taken with you. 

 

Interesting enough, she's like, I'm still kind of new on this whole tongue-tie thing. She said, “I think that sometimes people make it seem like every problem we have in our body is due to a tongue tie. So I think the pendulum is kind of shifting a little far.” She said, “I think if you never get anything done, Ruby will be fine. She will make it through. But I also think she could really benefit from getting this for anatomy. 

 

We then talked to some other people, some other doctors, and ENTs in Cape Town and just really found that actually she almost seems to be like one of the only ones that are doing it. But the drawback is that South Africa and the whole nation of South Africa, do not have a co2 laser. The co2 laser is just something that they are really wanting to raise money for, and really get one because that makes the procedure so much faster and easier, and less invasive. But with her technique, she said, if they're very young, I will just do it without general anesthesia. But once they reach about five, or six months, it's hard for me to do it well because they're stronger, and they can push back more, and also just their memory and just the trauma of that. 

 

She said, “I would want to put Ruby under general anesthesia”. And that sent me into a tailspin. I did not want to do that at all, I was so fearful. We really sat on it for like a month. And even really, up close to the time that we traveled, I was still very fearful. But I understood why. And I guess, you know, they just really assured me that we were going to be working with an excellent pediatric anesthesiologist, it was a whole pediatric anesthesiologist-like anesthesiology team. This lady came very highly recommended to us. And we just started thinking like, I guess, you know, babies do come out and have heart surgeries, and they have different surgeries where they do have to be put under general anesthesia. And that's why these pediatric doctors are trained that way. We wanted them to do their best. It was like, if we're going to do this, we want you to do it right. And if that means she needs to be put under, then that's just what we're going to have to do. So we decided to move forward. 

 

She was five months old, and we flew to Cape Town. But one of the things is that they recommended was, and I loved this, I felt like this was really a confirmation to me because I had studied so much that your posts are always saying, ‘Don't think that just getting the tongue clipped or the upper lip clip is going to solve everything, you must have a whole teamwork approach, it has to start first with your lactation consultant, then you need to work with your pediatrician, then there needs to be a therapist, physical therapist or a cranial sacral therapist, then there needs to be the surgery. And then there needs to be therapy afterward. And it's a whole long process. But you must do that therapy if you want to have a successful surgery and outcome’. And so that was something that they recommended to Dr. Michelle Long, I want you to meet with this cranial sacral therapist. She's a pediatrician and she works with all these babies. I want you to work with her a few times before the surgery. I'm just learning different exercises, beginning the exercises, then you'll come and have the surgery with me. And it's just, literally a five-minute procedure. And then, I want you to see this therapist for two weeks afterward, after the post-op, and then you'll meet with me.

 

Prince Sabena  7:47  

I don't even know we had to do some of those before we learned.

 

Heidi Sabena  7:50  

We were already working with the cranial sacral therapist. Her name was Angela Buck. She's fabulous. She's just wonderful. I don't know, she just really is studying so hard. And has worked with so many people, so many babies and moms and families, and just, she just wants to keep getting better and better to be able to really offer and provide great care for families that are struggling with the tongue tie and all different things. So we had the surgery, we met with the therapist, we were doing the exercises, then we had the surgery. And I tell you what, we were just so impressed with the surgeon. She's just fantastic. So if there's anyone that you end up referring to, they can talk to us. She's just great. We would go to her every time. Yeah,

 

Jacqueline Kincer  8:38  

That's the best, right? Because, you know, it's a scary thing. This is your little baby, you want to make sure she's in the right hands. And it sounds like you did find such an excellent, excellent option. 

 

Heidi Sabena  8:57  

Yeah, and you're going to a country you don't… We did not know a soul there. So we were just, I mean, through a lot of prayers and just you know, these checkpoints of the check, wanting to know, are they saying the right things, are they you know, and just having that first thought, the dental hygienist recommending so highly and then just talking with a therapist. She just loves Dr. Michelle Long. Yeah. So she did the surgery. She was just so attentive to us. We met with her beforehand, and then just was on call all the time. Just really so thoughtful. She's just a young woman. She was, you know, has a child herself. And so she just was so sensitive to our situation and, being parents and a mom and all of that.

 

Then it was amazing. Like, as soon as she had the surgery. We were not prepared for the post-op. We didn't know that coming out of general anesthesia, she would cry. So much like on a level crying, it was horrible, and just, you know, being in pain and all of that. So It was pretty traumatic, she was pretty swollen. On the first day, we could only feed her with a syringe. Her trying to figure out why is her tongue moving this way, when it couldn't even reach her lower ridge. Now it's moving. She didn't know what to do with it. And that was pretty traumatic. I would say,

 

Jacqueline Kincer  10:22  

Did she do sutures in Ruby’s mouth also? 

 

Heidi Sabena  10:27  

Yes, she did sutures. She did the upper lip tie and the lower posterior tongue tie, and did sutures and both. And that was wonderful because they said the sutures are there. We don't have to be as tense about the reattachment that's really going to help with that. And so you can that I was so worried about reattachment and they just were like, this is why we do this. And that will, you don't have to worry about that. It gives you that time. And they even didn't have to go in like immediately we went the next day, they were like don't do any stretching. Don't do any of that. Just give her time and then come in and see the cranial sacral therapist, and then she'll teach you and she progressively gave us each time we went. We had new exercises to progressively get more movement and you know, more stretching, so it was just really beautiful like a gentle gradual process. But one thing we noticed was her neck. Yeah, it was like her neck grew an inch. Yeah. It’s like she had attended.

 

Prince Sabena  11:32  

Just her body posture looks different. She could hold up her neck better. Her countenance changed. Yeah, you could definitely see like, all of a sudden, it seemed like like the world had opened up to her. I remember saying, it's almost like a personality is finally coming out. It's like, this whole time. She's just been so tight, and miserable. And you don't really know who this baby is. And it's like, as soon as the surgery was done. Two days later, you could see, I mean right away, you can see the difference. You could see the personality coming out.

 

Heidi Sabena  12:12  

And it was weird because she would cry. But on the other hand, she was a very silent baby. And as soon as the tongue was released, she started being so loud and just crying differently, not just screaming and pain, but just crying like a normal baby before. It's like she was silent. Other than just assuming the acid reflux.

 

Jacqueline Kincer  12:34  

Did she start babbling and things like that, too?

 

Heidi Sabena  12:38  

Yeah, she started talking. I mean, she was able to like set up, then I think once she started to sit up more because she was now five months old. Seems like he said, I think that's a beautiful way to say it. Like, it's like we finally got to see her personality coming out and see who she was. Yeah, it was crazy, literally, like it felt like that tie. I think it went down to the tip of her toes. Do you know what I mean? Like that tension, and just getting therapy. I mean, Angela, she just hated that therapy. But Angela just did such a beautiful job. And each time she would get more movement and more flexibility. She seemed to be comfortable. Which was so encouraging to us.

 

Jacqueline Kincer  13:25  

That's amazing. I love that you got to see and witness these big shifts for her because of the treatment you are getting her. So I always tell parents, that's how you know it was the right thing because nothing else was getting those changes, right?

 

Heidi Sabena  13:41  

Yeah. And I was terrified, to be honest with how tight she was and her tongue being tight. I was terrified to feed her. I thought this girl is just going to choke to death because if she can't move her tongue around, how is she going to move food? We're doing okay, barely, with formulas with a liquid, or we're going to do with a solid. And so that was really helpful with Angela, our therapist. I mean, she said, part of her therapy is that I want you to do baby-led weaning. None of these purees. I want you to give her things because that's going to help her move her tongue to learn. That's the therapy, to move her tongue in different directions, learn how to swallow and how to gag and how to move food out so she doesn't choke, and just to begin to do that. 

 

So as you know, we were doing the stretches we would do the all the exercises for six weeks we did it but by then she was starting to eat food and she was chewing on a pork bone or you know, like sucking on things and just by then she was just getting, you know, we couldn't do exercises anymore. She was just getting too strong. But at that point, it was fine and there was no reattachment. So Dr. Shelley Long had said, `I want you guys to call me back in three months and just tell them He like if you had to do it all over again. Do you think it was worth it?’ Like as a surgeon I want to know, did it really make a difference? Because, you know, I'm doing these but I'm, I think it's true. I'm still not totally 100% on the bandwagon.

 

I think where we're at today, she's now 11 months, and she has such a high palate. Her palate is just, I mean, we take her to a chiropractor, Zeinab, the myofunctional therapist was just like this palette, it's just like so, so incredibly high and narrow. So she's still thought she can move her tongue around, she still clicks on the bottle, but not as much as it's reduced. And her feeding is faster. But it's still I think it's still slow and labored compared to like, what another baby that might have a more like flat, narrow palate because with breastfeeding they need in the tongue being released, they need that to push up on the palate to move those bones to be able to make that tight seal. But she can't. No matter how much she can lift her tongue, her palate is still so deep and high, that she can't make a seal and seal that off. 

 

So I think we're still headed to braces or all of that. For her quality of life and just being able to eat. I mean, she's a fantastic eater. And I think one of the things I want to say to moms who are terrified of maybe they've watched so many Instagram stories, and reels and lactation consultants that maybe aren't the best like, or just other moms, you know, all the mom chatter on Instagram and stuff, just being afraid that their baby might not bond with them. Like To be honest, I breastfed Naomi and Hannah, but Ruby is my most bonded child ever. And I, I just think that's God's we won't we won't tell them well, we'll just keep it a secret.

 

Ruby is like, obsessed, I have never had a baby, so obsessed with me, as I have Ruby, you know, doing the bottle feeding, you're still holding them, I couldn't see that in my postpartum fog and depression and just sadness. I couldn't see that. You're still gonna hold her, you're still gonna feed her with that bottle, you're still gonna snuggle, there's so much snuggling that happens, even if it isn't at the breast, and she still loves to be close. And you know, I get to smell her hair and her neck and I get to give her a bath, and just, you're so close. And so to not be afraid that if that is your journey like the formula is not your enemy, and you will still have a beautiful relationship with your child. And you know what, think about me who, I’m 40 I'm almost 45, I had formula all those years ago. And I'm, I'm a healthy person and think about the way they formulate it now. Like, I know that we just had that recent scare.

 

Jacqueline Kincer  18:07  

I was gonna say, I think formula these days is way better than when you were a baby. So if you know you, you still turned out okay, but we've got an even better formula now. 

 

Heidi Sabena  18:30  

Exactly, exactly. So, unfortunately, it's just like one part of your diet for your whole lifetime, right? You have all these other years of different foods and everything. But when you're wanting so much, because you just hear only that breast milk has all the benefits there is this feeling of that formula is like, horrible. And I just think that's not true. Like I think moms need to know that. But if you can breastfeed, that's beautiful. If you want to choose to do the pumping, that's great. And I just said, I appreciate that about you so much. 

 

I don't care if you cannot breastfeed, it's fine. Really, it's okay, but I'm here if you want help, and, and I can support you in that, but if it's not going to be where you can go, that's okay, too. And I think that's just you're just so gracious. I really appreciate that we've become friends through this and that you walked me through and our family through a kind of a very confusing, tumultuous time, but you were just so steady. And that's why I had to write to you I know I blow up your phone with these long messages. But I just thought it was probably thinking we're done. Like you had a tongue tie release. Like, we're done. Like our session has ended, but I just had to call you and that's how this kind of came up to do the podcast is to say, thank you so much like thank you for helping us and being the first person to pinpoint that and to really validate, you know what we were thinking was wrong and wondering if that was what was wrong that she did have this tongue tie and just because it's a new thing For people doesn't mean it hasn't always existed, you know, and I'm just so thankful for your expertise and how much you study and are constantly trying to better yourself. And that. So thank you for letting us share our story. I hope it's been helpful. 

 

Prince Sabena  20:14  

Absolutely, the experience made us more knowledgeable. And we've been able to help other people like your cousin was recent, she gave birth in February and her son had a tongue tie. And it was helpful for us to be able to share with her experience and catch it early and deal with it early and think she's in the US. So it's much easier to deal with there. And after doing what she's doing now, it was just helpful to have that information. And I think even just our feed, like the feeding experience, changed so much that we used to have to sit her upright to feed her. And as soon as we get the surgery, we didn't have to do that anymore.

 

Heidi Sabena  20:55  

Yeah. And we didn’t have to have the Gaviscon anymore, like immediately, yeah. And she doesn't spit up anymore.

 

Prince Sabena  21:06  

She doesn't spit up anymore. We don't prop her up, as we used to anymore. Like, there are so many things that we don't even realize, we forgot. Now that changed so much. And it's like, now I could go to work and not worry about I've left my wife behind and how I'm going to find out when I come back. So it's just I think it really improved the quality of life as a family.

 

Jacqueline Kincer  21:32  

Wow, that's powerful. I was just gonna ask you if you'd seen those symptoms resolve, and I just kind of wanted to do like a quick little round of a few questions to wrap this up with you guys. I love what you said about letting go of it because there's this messaging about breast milk and breastfeeding. And it's a fact that there are a lot of wonderful things in there. And it's this food that our bodies are supposed to make for our babies, it's hard to balance that message with a formula and acceptance of that. You don't want to discourage anyone from breastfeeding if they want to. And if it's possible, but you don't want to demonize formula. So I know there are a lot of professionals that listen to the podcast, what is your advice for them when they're talking to their own patients? Or if they're sharing messages on social media? regarding that issue, what would you say, is something that you benefit from hearing from people that are talking about that topic? Do you have anything to say? I didn't mean to put you on the spot. But I always want to know, like, how can we better help parents who are dealing with infant feeding and trying to balance breastfeeding and formula? 

 

Prince Sabena  22:58  

I think if we went back to do this all over again, I would still want to breastfeed. So I think breastfeeding is great. And it's something that should be encouraged. But sometimes circumstances don't allow it. Different things. You know, as we've seen with our case you have a baby who's born prematurely, whatever the different issues come up. And I think that what I've learned from the experience is there needs to be room in communicating, especially communicating to moms, that this is the best option. But it may not always, you may not always have that option for you. And it's okay, if that option is not available, because there is another option that is the second-best option.

 

Heidi Sabena  23:48  

And that your baby's going to be fine. I love that too. Because I do think it's important like it is if you're able, I know some moms, it's just they're not able to do breastfeeding or just, you know, just give them the willies. You know, it just gives them the creeps to do that, like they just know that they might get like, just really too emotional with that or like whatever reason, but I do think that doctors, you know, that can encourage you and say like, how can you are if you are able like we would encourage you to breastfeed, it just so has so many health benefits for your baby, and how can we help you with that. But if it's not working out well like that, they would help them to know that it's not going to their baby's going to grow and their baby's gonna be healthy and just fine with formula. Because I think you're afraid that they're going to, like not get good brain development or their body. I don't know what I thought.

 

Prince Sabena  24:41  

For me, that is what I observed is for moms, it's so the success for a mom is defined by the ability to breastfeed and breastfeed well, and long enough, and as I believe from What My wife tells me everything that comes from the message that is out there. That is very popular. And so by the time you have your baby, you want to be successful. And so but you've already defined what success is, it has to be breastfeeding. And it has to be very long, you know, she wanted to breastfeed for a year, which is wonderful. But that was the standard. And so for her, and the fear was, I'm not going to, even before Ruby was born, you could see the fear in her eyes, that I am, this may not work out, if this is a challenge, I cannot fail. And then it didn't work out. And I feel bad for her. But it's almost like she had set herself up for this failure. And yet, it's not a failure. 

 

So I think for me, it's helping moms understand, what does success look like for a mom? Is it breastfeeding, and really, ultimately, now that we are now where we are, you realize, you know, success is using the knowledge you have, at that point. And making the best decision, you can adopt that moment, but with the resources, you have, because all those things dictate what you can do and what you can't do. You know, and for Heidi, that's where she had to get to, to realize I've used the resources I have, the knowledge I have, and where I come to, I've given my best. And what I have is a formula. And I'm gonna do that now because I don't want to do the others. But I don't have that option.

 

Heidi Sabena  26:40  

I had tried everything too like I mean I had been on your holistic lactation milk, I'm sorry, I totally blanked but like to supplement supplements, and I was using those. And then I still felt like I wasn't making enough milk. So then I doubled up, I don't even know what I could have done like Contra. Like it could have made it worse. But then I was using this other one that I got, which was like mother love or something. And so I was desperate to make more milk. And it was just so frantic, like, I think maybe my us just stressed or I don't know like my body just wasn't doing that, it wasn't making it. 

 

The formula is so many ways has just brought so much peace. Because, you know, sometimes doctors will say, how much did they feed? I don't know, my breast is not clear. I don't know how many ounces? She got out, you know, or like Princeton, how much do you think she got? I don't know, where's the formula? It brought me this piece of saying, I know, she drank three ounces, you know, and there was just a piece that came in my heart, which then brings a piece to our home and, you know, to my kids and just you know when Mom is at peace the house in peace? Yeah, it was I think just not to push it on someone right away and be like here, your milk isn't coming in immediately. Because like we know, colostrum, it takes time, like and the baby's okay. But not just to force it and sabotage the whole process. But to also let them know that it's okay, if they need that, even as they are practicing, you know, to get the thing, the ball rolling and get the breastfeeding going up to a good place, I think. Yeah. So I guess just to not demonize the formula. I really had demonized it so much, I think,

 

Jacqueline Kincer  28:20  

yeah, oh, gosh, well, so much wisdom from the both of you. And this has been a very long road, even though it really was, you know, just it hasn't even been a year, right. But that's a long time. And that's affected your family in such a deep way. And now things are going better. And that's what we've wanted all along. And so no matter how you have to get there crossing borders, and, you know, doing all of these things, paying crazy shipping to get a pump. And you guys really, I would say the common theme that I love about your story is that, first and foremost, you seem to be just so committed to your family as a unit as a whole. And so whatever decisions you've made, whether or not you would have done it in that same way, next time, you know, now you have more knowledge and whatnot. So there's that, but it's I feel like you're still the strong family unit that fears that maybe Prince it seemed like you might have felt like I'm losing her like she's so obsessed with this topic and with breastfeeding, and Where has she gone? And now you guys are back together sort of in a way right. But as a family, you're very cohesive. And I just love that for you. So I'm thrilled with everything that's, you know, gone. Well, I'm not thrilled that it took so long to get there, obviously, but you're on the other side of it now. So just any last words of encouragement for parents that might be going through something difficult, you know, like the lack of resources, the lack of finding the right providers. Get the information or whatever it is like what words of encouragement would you give to someone who's listening to this and is going through something similar?

 

Prince Sabena  30:07  

I think for me, in the thick of it just as we sit here talking, it's just amazing how, in the midst of it all, it seems like they will never end. You know, there are so many unknowns, it can be a very exhausting, scary place. But now we're here 11 months in. And we can even remember some of the things that happened a few months ago, I guess it just shows how however bad all this can be. But eventually, you do get past it. And I think it's helpful to know as a parent, right from the start when you're at the hospital, and you're struggling to pump. And I'm trying to, you know, comfort her and I just didn't seem like it's working out, it's just helpful to know, there's an endpoint to this, it's not going to always be this way. But as well, to remember, to still enjoy this moment, to enjoy this experience, and I kept on trying to help myself, remember, you have a bad day, this all is, we still have a little gift of God in our arms. And I want to enjoy this, even as I'm struggling, you know, to stay awake, I want to be able to enjoy her. So I think for me, it's just knowing that, that this too, shall pass is part of what I would say. Yeah.

 

Heidi Sabena  31:32  

And I think too, you know, I'm speaking to those that are married, to not turn on each other, to really like to press into each other and to find, you know, strength and comfort and help, you know, to ask each other questions to ask each other for help. And to not, you're already dealing with so much. So don't allow the situation that you might be going through to be like really Terrier, family apart. Because first and foremost, I think, you know, the way we can care for our kids the best and our little babies is to be working on our marriage and to be leaning into each other and to looking for even how, you know, as a mom and healing from a C section length, but still, how can I help my husband? You know, how can I be a blessing to him even as I have a lot going on, and just trying to be gracious to him. And, you know, just to not take things that people, like we say to each other too, personally, and be quick to say I'm very sorry. And I shouldn't have said that. And please forgive me to ask for forgiveness a lot, I think, yeah, just because already, you know, it's so stressful. And you know, and for a woman with the hormones that are going on and stuff to then be at odds with each other with your spouse. That's not good for your child. Like it's not healthy for your kids and stuff too. So when you know mommy and daddy are doing well. So yeah, I think the fight for that fight for your marriage. And, and that will really help you in that journey. Because to her, two heads are better than one. Sure.

 

Jacqueline Kincer  33:06  

And they are to you guys. Well, you two are just a beautiful couple. And I just you know everything it's like, I don't know, listening to your story is like listening to a really moving documentary because you know, you have this dramatic plotline. But this happy ending, and of course, Ruby's only 11 months old. So there's a lot more story to tell with her. But I'm just thrilled for you, and that you've come out the other side of this, and just such an amazing way. So thank you for sharing your story with me with everyone who's listening for being willing to talk about it. Because I think the more we talk about these things, the more understanding we have. And so not only have you been able to help your cousin with her baby and what she's gone through, but you are helping. I don't even know how many people are gonna listen to this, but 1000s of people around the world. So it's incredible work that you're doing. And your story on the podcast is just part of that work. So thank you.