Wednesday, November 30, 2011

How it went for me.

I think I am far enough out of those first few awful weeks to look back at becoming a parent more objectively. It is unreal how I knew I loved the baby when he was in me but then once he was on the outside he was real. A little person. I know, shocker.

Everyone tells you how amazing it is and how much you love the baby. But what most people fail to mention how truly hard those first few weeks are. Heck, maybe in the months territory. I’ll let you know after I make it through a few more months. But as of right now, today as compared to the first month is a breeze. The funny thing is that no matter how much everyone else could drive me crazy in those first few weeks, I never felt anything but this pure and simple love for L.

I think one of the things that brand new moms should know is about how breastfeeding is at the beginning. People tell you that it will be hard, but not really the whole story. So here is mine, which of course might not be yours, but it also might make you realize you aren’t alone.

I decided to try breastfeeding and even went to one of those boobie type meetings a month or so before L was born. Think the Spanish word for milk and that is the meeting I went to. The girls there were nice and it was more of a bunch of moms talking about their boobs and being a mother with some random nursing going on here and there than the crazy boob freaks I had expected. There were mainly newish moms there with babies under the age of 6 months, which was nice and I saw myself going back after L was born maybe making friends with some of them eventually. We all know how hard adult friends can be to find and maintain.

I started bfing in the hospital and it seemed to be going well. L lost weight, but all babies do because they aren’t living in a wading pool anymore. The only bad experience with a nurse that I had was one that fussed at me for not waking L up one nite within their three hour window. Most were super supportive and told me that it would be hard but at the same time the hard awful part wouldn’t last for more than a few weeks.

We came home from the hospital on Monday, exhausted but okay. My boobs were sore and those gel soothies were glorious. Showers were miserable and torturous because of the pain to your boobs. I didn’t even turn to face the shower for quite a while, maybe two weeks at least.

L was waking up to eat every 2 hours nite and day, which is as awful as it sounds and perhaps worse. When I say two hours, I mean at 8 he would wake and eat for 40 minutes and then fall asleepish in 15 or so minutes. Then I would try to go back to sleep for the about one hour that he gave us until he woke us up again around 10. There was little cuddling and cooing, more screaming (on his part) and boob shoving (on my part). It was harder than I expected just simply because of the sheer exhaustion of no sleep. Then my boobs started really hurting every single time he latched on. So at least 12 times a day for about the first few minutes on each side I was in tear inducing pain. After twenty or so minutes on one side after I had worked through the pain, I had to work up the courage to move him to the other side and endure the pain there.

I decided by Wednesday after a chunk of my nip and some blood came off in L’s mouth that it was time to call the LC. I was in such pain I didn’t even want to feed him on the one side. The LC gave us a hospital grade pump for the immediate future and we talked about some strategies to make the pain less severe. We decided to go visit her on Friday because I was still in pain and she wanted to make sure he wasn’t tongue tied and see how he was latching. You would think driving up to someone’s house and sitting in their living room with your boob out would be awkward, but that lady had seen so many boobs, mine was nothing. She made me comfortable and I am a fairly modest person in regards to people seeing my goods.

We talked about his latch and seeing if he was getting enough milk etc. She actually weighed him before and after a feed and he was getting about two ounces, which was perfect. She gave me some tips and physically showed me how to put my boob in his mouth, which was really helpful. I made sure Brooks watched so that he would remember what I forgot- see above for sleep deprivation related stupidity.

I went home and felt pretty good about things. Feeding was still hard but it would get better, right? And it did. Some.

When we had L’s second day home visit with the pediatrician, he had gained weight really well, five ounces. Who knew I would be so happy about him gaining five little ounces. We had to come back at one week to see how he was doing, aka basically a weight check. He had only gained 2 ounces but that was okay, not great but okay. They typically want a baby to gain half to one ounce a day. We talked to the pediatrician’s LC about what to do and she said to supplement with one bottle a day of two ounces and just pump during that feeding instead. That sounds easy!

Well, that would be easy but there was a catch. I had a two week old baby that wanted to cry nonstop during that 30 minute pump session. If you are the only one home with the baby that makes it tricky. But I stuck it out. I just thought it would be a good prepper for when I went back to work and had to pump all the time to keep up with the eating machine.

In the meantime, my boobs were not feeling any better. There was a short period where it was okay and then it went downhill. The pain was so intense that I went back to the LC. She suggested a nipple shield and when I tried it, it was miraculous. The pain was so reduced from his serious latch that I could tolerate it after the initial clamp down. YAY!

Then we went back to check his weight and he had gained 5 ounces with the help of the bottle. We were giving him what I had pumped after a regular feeding when he still seemed hungry but after I had nursed him for forty minutes. Things seemed to be going better but it was still tough. Then the two day nursefest happened. I know clusterfeeding is common, so I googled it and intended to stick it out. After those two days, it seemed like L couldn’t get enough.

I was pumping for a few minutes after nursing to increase my supply and then still was doing the one bottle a day where I would pump instead of nursing. But somehow my pumping began to decrease. The first week I was getting one to two ounces. Then it became closer to one ounce. Then I was barely getting half an ounce. It was mental torture because the thought that L wasn’t getting enough from me since after almost every feeding of nearly an hour he would still seem hungry. My baby. I am supposed to be providing for him. I am supposed to be the one that feeds him. What kind of mother am I if I can’t simply feed him.

It was hard enough to give him that first bottle after the LC and pediatrician suggested it in the second week. It was heart breaking to think he wasn’t getting more than half an ounce at a time from me. I kept telling myself that the pump isn’t as effective as a baby. But then I would question why it had done so well the first few weeks when I would get one or two ounces.

I would sit in the rocking chair holding him and cry. Cry because it hurt. Cry because he was always still hungry after he ate from me. Cry because I wasn’t doing what a mother is meant to do. Cry because I wasn’t sleeping enough.

After six weeks of nursing, I was getting only drops out of my leftie and maybe a quarter of an ounce out of the right. I had talked to the LC several times and she told me one thing that I have kept in my mind every time I have doubt. First and foremost, the baby needs to eat. Plain and simple. We tried some herbal supplements but nothing seemed to make a difference.

If only it were so easy to tell your brain that formula was fine for the baby, that I wasn’t giving up. I kept trying to nurse for another week with the amounts decreasing still when I would pump. What happened to supply and demand? Apparently my supply and demand didn’t get the memo that there was supposed to be more supply. At eight weeks, I finally conceded that my body wasn’t doing things well and bottles would be okay. I cried so many times during mixing up bottles that I can’t even tell you how many times I cried. I felt like a failure even if no one was calling me one. I felt like a failure even though it was obvious that L was so much happier. He was sleeping better, napping more and just generally happier.

I read about how to stop nursing because I imagined it would be painful. Old leftie honestly felt little to no pain in less than two days. A sure sign that it wasn’t producing the way it should have been. My right boob was a bit longer but in less than a week I wasn’t nursing at all and my boobs were flat as could be.

On some level I wanted someone to just tell me to stop or someone to tell me to just stick it out. But no one would. I had to make that decision on my own and every time I thought about stopping I felt like a failure. Then everytime I counted the minutes that L was nursing I felt like a horrible person to be wanting to rush my newborn baby and get him off of me and my useless boobs. I wasn’t enjoying anything but so many people said that it got better so I thought I was just being a wimp.

One of my closest friends and I talked about everything about a month into it and one thing that we both determined was that if you were dealing with only one thing at a time, everything would be so much easier. But you aren’t. You are exhausted from a lack of sleep. Your boobs are aching and a mess. Your hormones are completely out of wack and you can cry at the slightest thing. Plus you are recovering from either a major surgery or a natural birth, neither of which are anything too easy. On top of that I got an infection at the incision less than ten days after birth. Happy 30th Birthday – here’s some antibiotics for your hootch.

I still feel self induced guilt over not sticking it out and what I perhaps missed by not breastfeeding longer. That bonding time with L that I am missing. But I just have to keep telling myself the same thing that the LC said to me – first and foremost, the baby must eat.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

The rest of that birth story. Okay, at least part of it.

They pointed me in the direction of the room and told me that if I would have been having a natural birth this is where it would have happened. At that point, I was still having quite a few natural birth contractions so I didn’t really give a crap about what room I was wheeled to. I could have stayed in the elevator and been just as comfortable.

The nurse asked if I was planning to breastfeed and gave me a gown to change into. This particular gown was of the regular ginormous variety but had the extra special two slits in the front for your boobies to slide right out of. Those hospitals, they know how to make a big pregnant girl feel good don’t they? As I went into the bathroom to change, lord knows why I was all modest, I heard Brooks on the phone in a mock whisper about just getting to the hospital and how I was in the bathroom changing. I am pretty sure he was talking to my dad since he is the only person that would call at almost 4 in the morning.

I fussed at Brooks to get my clothes off the floor since the effort of bending down was too much. I held onto the sink several times as the contractions rolled over me. Since my beautiful gown was open in the back, again with the modesty, I asked Brooks to tie it for me.

The nurse came in and asked a few questions but directed me to lay down so they could start an IV and check my progress. Everyone seemed to be moving quickly but not in any real hurry. They helped me breath through the contractions which amazingly enough did seem to help. I was still groaning and feeling the pain but I was okay.

The nurse checked me and at that point things went into warp speed for me. She told me that I was ten centimeters dilated and fully effaced but that my water hadn’t broken and she didn’t want to anything more that might break my water. I barely remember the next few minutes because it was a barrage of the nurses flying around trying to get things done quickly. Apparently breech baby and fully ready to go mama means HURRY THE HELL UP.

It seemed like my contractions went from groaning and bearable to holysh#tmotherf*cker in a matter of moments. The nurse was having trouble getting the IV in my left hand so they went to my right. They couldn’t get it in there and so they moved to my left arm. I thought there were three or four of them working on me at one point, all in a hustle bustle. Then I heard it.

“Okay, someone check on Dad over there. He’s not looking too good.”

There it was. Brooks thought he was going to pass out. I looked over and he was a lovely shade of gray. He had changed into scrubs and was being pushed into a chair. I didn’t realize this but my nurse count was a bit off. There were at least six or seven nurses doing various things to me but in my state and with my eyes being clamped shut because of the pain I didn’t notice. There was also blood and apparently the nurses were a lot more frantic than I realized. The doctor came in to check me and at that point I thought I wasn’t going to make it through contractions. They were coming so fast and the pain was unreal. I am not a screamer but there was screaming. Serious screaming. All of that and frantic pace everything was happening at was enough to make my dear husband afraid for both me and the baby. I don’t think it is too often that nurses and doctors really work that quickly.

I can remember feeling the baby drop down and immediately the contractions got even worse, which I am not sure how was possible at this point. The nurse right next to me just kept saying breathe honey, breathe. I told her that I couldn’t do it anymore. I don’t know what I thought I couldn’t do but apparently I was done with contractions and was ready for them to stop. Apparently it doesn’t work that way.

The next thing I know the nurse says to me – DO NOT PUSH! DO NOT PUSH! As soon as the doctor checked me and verified my dilation and effacement I was immediately rolled into surgery. I can remember not even being able to give Brooks a kiss but I wasn’t even thinking about that. I just told him to make sure that he brought the camera with him.

As soon as I was in the room and on the surgery bed, I heard the doctor start doing a head count of basically every one of her staff that needed to be in the room. She was definitely not wasting any time calling out who all she needed there. They immediately started prepping me for the spinal tap. The anesthesiologist started to introduce himself to me and I can only remember yelling at him – I don’t care WHAT your name is. He launched into the verbal consent for the spinal. Then they made me sit up and hump over like a cat. Well let me tell you that when you are having contractions and are as big as a house, arching your back like a cat is not the easiest. It took two tries for them to get the spinal in and within moments I felt relief. Relief and nothing. It was like the skies opened up and the most glorious pain relief that was ever invented just rolled itself over me.

I immediately apologized to the anesthesiologist for being so mean and told him that I wasn’t usually like that. That was apparently when I got it together.

The doctor was working quickly to get me cut open and the baby out. Brooks came in at this point and I think he was relieved and astounded that I, who was screaming like no other five minutes before, was splayed out on the table in a zen state. I professed my love for the spinal over and over.

I heard my ob say here he is. But no crying. None. I can remember feeling panic because you always hear the baby cry right away, don’t you? I kept saying – is he okay? Why isn’t he crying? Why don’t I hear him crying?

No one would answer me. Not Brooks, not the doctors, no one.

And then after a few minutes, which felt like hours, he cried. Apparently there was merconium, likely from the stress of the last hour or so, in his lungs and they were working to suction it out. Brooks could see them doing that but I think he was paralyzed with the same fear I was but also didn’t know exactly what they were doing either.

Immediately I felt a crazy happiness that my baby was okay and here safely. At the time I didn’t realize the stress and pressure that the medical staff had been under to get me and the baby safely through the csection. It seemed like there was a sort of jovialness in the room right after the baby started crying. They did it! The baby was safe! Mom was okay! If high fives would have been appropriate I think they would have been flying.

After cleaning up the baby for a moment and Brooks cutting the cord, they brought him over for me to look at. He was so red and sweet. I loved him already.

I only got to see him for a few minutes before they took him down to the nursery and out of the operating room but it was the most amazing few moments of my life. Our baby. I was a mother in that moment. It is cliché and ridiculous but that is how I felt.

That and exhausted.