Friday, October 17, 2008

The Trials and Tribulations of Breastfeeding

Whether or not to breastfeed was never really a decision I had to make. I always knew that I would. My mother breastfed me and my sisters; to me, it just seemed natural. Which is why, I guess, it was so surprising and frustrating when it wasn't quite that easy.

Before O was born, I thought breastfeeding would be this wonderful experience. It's all natural, it's how our bodies were built - it should be a breeze, right? Not exactly. In the hospital, the first time I tried to feed O, nothing seemed to work right. No milk (which is normal), O didn't seem to "root", I couldn't quite figure out how to hold my boob, and my nipples took one look at that gaping mouth and said NO WAY. Two meetings with a lactation consultant later, and we were using a nipple shield. Not that that solved all our problems - that thing presents a plethora of problems all on its own.

Then there was the issue of O not wanting to wake up every 2 - 4 hours to eat. He was tired after 44 hours of labor - and so was I!

Once we got home and my milk came in, we continued to struggle with the shield. It was near impossible to get it on properly while juggling a screaming, hungry newborn. Then, if he would stop eating at any point, the shield would simply continue to fill up with milk and leak. And on the really fun days, O would pull it off and spill milk everywhere.

Then, when O was about 3 weeks old, suddenly he had terrible colicky behavior. The nurses hotline and doctor brushed it off, telling us he probably had colic, and we'd just have to wait it for - for the next 5 months. We knew that there had to be another explanation - in addition to the yelling, screaming, and literally no sleeping, O would writhe in pain and be unable to pass gas or have a bowel movement. There was something going on in there.

We read every article we could find, and we found that one of the biggest offenders is milk - not my breastmilk, but the dairy I was eating and passing on to O via my milk. Babies cannot digest the milk proteins (caseins) in milk, which is why they cannot have cows milk until they are a year old. Some babies are sensitive to what their mothers eat. While the pediatrician continued to tell us there was no way what I was eating could possibly affect O, we eliminated dairy from my diet and voila - instant improvement. Literally overnight, the problem got immensely better. We added probiotics to his diet, and those helped even more. I was off dairy for about 4 months, which was HARD (I LOVE dairy!), but so obviously well worth it, it wasn't even worth the discussion.

Then there was the clogged duct. Lucky for me, this only occurred once, and didn't get infected. Imagine being engorged and not being able to get any relief - for days.

Eventually though, we got the hang of it. It took us a good 3 months to completely get rid of the shield. It was liberating when I did. I was finally able to eat dairy again, and as O approaches his first year, he seems to be able to tolerate it as well. We continue to use the probiotics.

O gave up bottles at 7 months, and gets most of his milk through a sippy cup these days. We still have our night time routine of nursing, however. Some days, my mind ticks through all the things I need to get done before the day is over, and I wish he would hurry up and finish. But I have to continue to remind myself that this time will be over soon, and it won't be too long until O doesn't want to sit and cuddle in my lap before bed. I try to remember to enjoy that time.

I am so glad I breastfed. It wasn't always easy (the biggest plus side was having food whenever we left the house, no matter what!), but I don't think it is supposed to be. It can be a bonding experience. It's a gift I gave O for his first year of life.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Another Round

There has been a flurry of activity on the boards of women with babies less than 1 year old who are pregnant again. And happy about it. One woman actually just gave birth; her other child is not yet 1 year old.

I am curious, very, very curious, as to what makes one so ready to go again. Their babies must be incredible sleepers. Their babies must be able to entertain themselves. Their babies must have adhered to a schedule very early on, and must be very easy going about changes to their schedule now. Otherwise, how can you do it? Why would you want to do it?

I know that we want another child. But we're just now getting sleep consistently. We're just now fully enjoying O as a child; he interacts, he plays back, and we get to shower him with our love and attention and affection. I'm not sure it would be fair to him to get pregnant and need to devote so much of our attention elsewhere, when he is not yet old enough to understand why. Not to say these women will necessarily have that problem. I just don't think we're that capable of dividing ourselves in that manner. I need to find the secret to doing so. That, or the prescription these ladies are taking.

Congrats to all those expecting again, who are happy to be. You've got bigger kahunas than me. And tell your babies to call O and let him know how the game should be played, k?

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

To Sleep, Perchance to . . . Sleep

Sleep. The elusive dream.

One of the first major shocks of motherhood was just how little sleep I got. Looking back, it seems confusing, as the baby (in memory, at least) was on a 2 hour schedule. Sleep for 2 hours, wake, eat, sleep for 2 hours, wake, eat... Somehow, though, you just don't get to sleep. I guess there were plenty of times when the baby would NOT sleep, or wake up more often. There's that Momnesia again.

It doesn't necessarily get easier as they get older, either. Just more frustrating. Why can they sleep for 7 hours one night, then wake up every hour on the hour the next night? Why won't they nap when they are tired? Why do they cry when nothing is wrong? Is there something more I should be doing? What tricks am I missing out on?

The answer to these questions is one that takes some time to find. The answer is: there is no answer. There is no rhyme, reason, logic, or magic spell. You'll go crazy trying to figure it out, so give up now.

Then there is the big debate: to C.I.O., or not C.I.O. I fought C.I.O. for months, and when I finally let B administer that particular form of what I viewed as cruel and unusual punishment, I hated it, but it worked. O would still wake up, more from a wet diaper than anything, but B would change him and put him right back to bed and there was no crying. But that didn't mean we were in the clear, and it's all gone back to hell again.

Maybe I just have a crappy sleeper. Those that LOVE the Mom thing must have great sleepers, because I don't know anyone who can go 9 months on no sleep and be happy. I've been driven to the brink of insanity by sleep deprivation. It is physically, mentally, and emotionally exhausting to fight a baby over a nap or bedtime. I could just let O stay up, but then he'd be even more over tired and less likely to go down.

I just keep hoping that at some point during the fight, he'll just pass out from exhaustion. And SOME DAY, he will sleep through the night. Right? RIGHT??!

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Why Vaginal Childbirth Cannot be Considered a "Bonding Moment"

I have had a number of mothers who had C-sections bemoan to me how they felt shafted that they didn't have a beautiful birth experience wherein they bonded with their new baby through a vaginal delivery. Let me tell you sister - there is neither beauty nor bonding with that particular experience. The most beautiful thing about it is the epidural.

I don't know if I had a terrible labor or if I am just a wimp, but that ordeal was nearly unbearable. I was in labor for 44 hours. I went to the hospital when the contractions were 7 minutes apart, and after 4 hours with no change, they sent me home to suffer. Now, I laugh at my first trip - I was still able to smile and laugh when I arrived. And talk. And I wasn't crying. B tried to get me to eat dinner, but everything tasted like cardboard and truly, I had no appetite. We timed the contractions, and while they were getting more and more painful, they were not getting much closer together. I found that if I walked around, the contractions were less painful, but also more spread out. If I laid on the couch, they were closer together but also more painful. Eventually, after much crying and screaming in agony (poor B didn't know what to do and was scared witless), we decided to go back to the hospital. I may not have been ready to have the baby, but they had to do something. I had been in labor for roughly 29 hours at that point. Or maybe longer - my "Braxton-Hicks" contractions had gotten "really bad" about 29 hours earlier. Har har, joke's on me.

When we arrived, the nurse was taking me back to the maternity triage center, and I felt another contraction coming on. I stopped, grabbed the hand rail along the wall, bent over, and just started crying. Having not slept much at all the night before due to those really bad "Braxton-Hicks" nor sleeping at all that same night, I was too tired and could not take it anymore. They gave me a shot of morphine, which did precisely nothing. I still wasn't progressing, but I think the nurse took pity and said they would admit me. Once they got me into a room, they gave me a dose of something (Stadol, I believe), which the nurse equated to feeling very, very drunk. I was finally able to sleep, so I was happy. I do recall waking up at various points, either knowing that I was having a contraction and not caring, or feeling the full force of one but then falling right back asleep.

Sometime later (the timeline is a little fuzzy at this point), the pain medication began wearing off and it didn't take me that long to decide I most definitely wanted an epidural (there wasn't ever a real question, truly). Unfortunately (for both me and B, who had to put up with my screams), the anesthesiologist was busy, and so I had to wait. And wait. And scream. My room was right outside the nurses' station, and I bet they probably were pretty sick of hearing me yell. Finally, he came, and after 5 tries and some possible permanent nerve damage, I had an epidural. Hallelujah, I felt like a million bucks. I don't recall if they broke my water on the first pain med or the epidural, but at some point they did that. Did I mention I was also getting Pitocin? I don't recall when they started that, but I did have that all day as well.

I slept most of the day. I'd only wake to have the nurses switch me from side to side (the epidural settles to the bottom). Late that afternoon, the epidural began to wear off, so they gave me some more. Seriously, where can I get some of that stuff? Besides the very odd sensation of not being able to feel your lower half *what*so*ever* it was the greatest thing ever. Anyways, it was AFTER they gave me dose #2 that they decided to check me and found I was fully dilated. And I found out what they mean when they say that when you need to push, you NEED TO PUSH. It was a very distinct feeling. Due to the fresh dose of epidural, I pushed for about 2 minutes before I became very nauseous. So every other push, I got to throw up in one of those yellow plastic tubs. That was not fun. On the other hand, since I was fully drugged up, I felt nothing.

At 4:18pm, after 44 hours of knowing I was in labor, we had our beautiful baby boy. I admit, though, that I had a hard time concentrating on him, since the doctor was letting the resident (I think) stitch things up, and had to keep saying "No... No, don't do it like that... No, go over here and... No..." Um, please be careful with that, ok??

So no, I don't feel like I bonded in some special way by having a vaginal birth. I think carrying him inside of me for 9 months was way more of a bonding experience. And we all have that, so some degree. I do know that I will most definitely be requesting that epidural next time as well.

Friday, July 4, 2008

I Love You But...

A thread was started on the message board entitled "I Love You But..." There are some fantastic responses!

Here are mine:

I love you but... 4:30 am is NOT time to wake up.

I love you but... you have razor sharp claws, and I would appreciate it if you didn't use them to claw my face off.

I love you but... why do you nap 2 hours at day care, 3 hours at Nana's, and I'm lucky to get 1 full hour from you at home?

I love you but... if you'd just sleep at night, then we wouldn't have to do this whole cio thing.

I love you but... Daddy does too, so quit yelling if I leave you alone with him.

I love you but... the laptop power cable is not a chew toy. You have plenty of other toys you can chew on. And Daddy's $300 remote isn't one of them.

I love you but... I am not Mt. Everest. Please stop trying to climb me when we should be rocking and eating calmly before bed.

I love you but... your car seat is not a torture device. It's actually a very nice model with lots of cushions. There is no need to scream like I placed you on a spike when I strap you in. And I'm about 4 inches from you. You can see me if you turn your head. You don't need to writhe around like if you don't have both eyes on me, you'll die.

I love you but... you're growing up too fast. You have 6 teeth, can crawl, and are so close to talking it's scary. You're practically not a baby anymore. Cut it out with the big kid stuff already.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Why Am I Here?

Ok, we're just getting started, and I'll fess up completely - I didn't actually want to get pregnant at first.

When I was a kid, I always knew I wanted to be a mother. I had countless baby dolls that I dragged all over the place. Then I became a young adult and decided that going out at night and sleeping in sounded waaaaay more fun than being a parent, so I decided to stick with that for awhile. Then I met B, who knew he wanted more kids (his daughter H was 2 at the time), so in the haze of love I agreed that sounded divine. I felt I had plenty of time, though, and we could talk about it later (I was 22 when we were married; he: 32). Fast forward to 2006 - I was turning 27, B was turning 37, and I realized I didn't exactly fall into that "20-somethings" category anymore. I may have been 27, but the ubiquitous "they" were definitely referring to the other end of the decade spectrum when using that label. It was time to get crackin'.

Still, I was nervous. Did we want to do this? I had gotten used to our life. I liked bumming around town with B & H on the weekends. B and I no longer went out partying anymore, but if we wanted to go down to the pub for a pint after dinner, we could. I knew that much would change. As 2006 turned to 2007, I decided there was no more running. I stashed the birth control pills in the back of the linen closet, took a deep breath, and we got to work.

Much to B's disappointment, we got pregnant almost immediately. Well, of course he was happy, but he was hoping it would take a *little* more work. We were definitely blessed in that regard. The soon-to-be grandparents on both sides were ecstatic; and we took to readying the nursery and taking out a second mortgage to buy the 10 tons of baby gear I just had to have.

I was lucky to have a very easy pregnancy: no morning sickness, no hemorrhoids, no complications, not even heartburn, which I had very badly before the pregnancy - oddly, it got better. The only complaint, other than weighing 40 extra pounds, was that the baby had his foot wedged in my diaphragm the last 2 months, which made moving, breathing, and sleeping excruciatingly painful. Other than that, and suspecting that I had sacks of rocks tied to my ankles (I couldn't see them to verify this) when attempting to climb stairs, I really enjoyed being pregnant. I'll freely admit, though, that may be the Momnesia talking.

It was after we came home with our darling little bundle of joy (the cutest baby ever, by the way), that I suddenly realized I had no idea what to do with him. The kid wanted to eat all the time, and while he needed to nap ever 1 1/2 - 2 hours, I was somehow getting NO SLEEP. I didn't know it was possible to get literally no sleep. Was I anything other than a feeding machine? Anyways, more on all that later. Can't give away all the goods in one go.

It was not until a few months into this did I find a message board online where a like-minded group of ladies were "meeting" to discuss just how much this Mom thing was not how they envisioned it, and - gasp! - it wasn't their favorite thing in the world. In fact, quite often, it sucked. We all love our babies, no mistaking that, we just wonder sometimes how much we could get for them on eBay. These were my kind of ladies.

Next up: I'll shatter all the dreamy illusions of you pregnant FTMs out there with the birth story.