Friday, September 24, 2010

Breast feeding

For me, the most shocking thing about having a baby was how hard breast feeding was. I just assumed it would be very natural and intuitive. Put baby to breast. How hard could it be?

As it turns out, breast feeding can be exceptionally difficult. Will and I struggled with it for weeks. He would get terribly frustrated, and I was in a lot of pain. As it turns out, we couldn't seem to get a good latch. Even after multiple meetings with a lactation consultant and two La Leche League leaders, we just couldn't make it work.

Three weeks ago we stopped nursing and started bottle feeding. I felt terribly guilty about this, but then I realized it was breast milk, not breast feeding, that was important to me. I'm still a little disappointed that we can't nurse, but at least he gets my milk every time he eats.

I pump 6-7 times a day to maintain my milk supply. My goal is to give Will breast milk for at least 6 months. But pumping exclusively is a lot of work. I get a lot of plugged ducts since the pump isn't as effective as Will in draining my breasts. And yesterday I came down with a nasty case of mastitis, a breast infection. I'm on antibiotics now, but I feel terribly achy and sore all over.

Will's colic doesn't seem to be easing any, and we're starting to consider whether he's reacting to something in my breast milk. I'm off caffeine and chocolate as a test, but I'm also considering whether he could be sensitive to dairy. Some mothers report a drastic change in their child's mood when they remove certain foods from their diet. But the lactation specialist I spoke with said it's likely coincidental. Though you eliminate "trouble" foods and the baby starts to improve, it could also be that he's just grown out of it.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Mom Milestone

Baby spit-up down my back. Nice.

No one said this would be glamorous.

Monday, September 20, 2010

One Month Old

Dear Will,

It's amazing how much you've changed in just four weeks. You're growing like a weed. A mere 6 pounds 8 ounces when we left the hospital, you now weigh over 10 pounds.

You're a ferocious eater. Though I was sad we had to stop nursing, you love your bottles of breastmilk. You fold you hands on your chest and drink contently until you've drained the entire thing.

The benefit to bottle feeding is that Daddy can now help overnight. We take turns getting up, feeding you and rocking you back to sleep. Though I'm tired, I miss you when I haven't seen you for 4 or 5 hours.

You've grown out of all your tiny newborn clothes. Many of the outfits you only wore once. When Daddy and I first dressed you in the hospital to bring you home, those clothes looked so big on you. Now you easily fill out your 0-3 month stuff. When I look at the clothes for 6, 9 and 12 months, I have trouble imagining you getting that big. But you'll be there before we know it.

You have a bit of colic, which makes our evenings a little stressful. You'll grow out of it in the coming weeks, but until then we do our best to cuddle and comfort you. It can be frustrating, but more than anything I feel terrible that you're so uncomfortable.

You still wake every 2-3 hours overnight, but you settle down really well after you've eaten. Our nighttime ritual is a bottle, a bath, a book, and a lullabye. We sing, bounce and rock until you fall back to sleep. I love snuggling with you nestled between my shoulder and my neck.

At one month old, you want to be held all the time. I constantly have you in your Beco carrier or a cloth sling. I'm getting really good at doing things one handed. From cooking to laundry to typing, I've learned how to cuddle you and still cross items off my to-do list.

Our days together just fly by. You love to be one the go. We take daily trips in the stroller or the car. Target, the grocery store and the library are among our favorite destinations. You enjoy the noise and the movement, and easily snooze through all of our errands.

You make the funniest noises and faces. My favorite is your Elvis lip after you've finished eating. We started calling you "Squeaker" several weeks ago because you're always making little pops, squeaks, grunts and sighs. The other day you were moaning like a creeky door while you were sleeping. Whoever coined the term "sleeping like a baby" certainly never met a little boy like you.

Though some days are tiring, I have to remind myself that you will never be this little ever again. I never want to forget how tiny your hands are, or how small and light you are in my arms. Sometimes I just sit and marvel at how perfect you are. I'm so proud to be your mother.



Saturday, September 4, 2010

Welcoming Will

Sorry, this has taken forever to write. But there was a lot to remember!

Will's birth story really begins on Friday, August 6, when my mom arrived for a quick weekend visit. From the moment she got here, we were working. I was a task master... we got my car washed and detailed, went shopping for postpartum clothes, installed the car seat, washed windows, weeded the garden, pruned bushes, hung artwork and cleaned the house. Looking back now, this was most certainly my last "burst of energy" before labor. I remember feeling a little tired, but I just wanted to keep working.

At 12:30 a.m. on Sunday, August 8, I woke up with what felt like mild menstrual cramps. I didn't think much of them, and went back to sleep.

By 3:30 a.m. the "cramps" were more intense. I couldn't lay down comfortably anymore, so I snuck out of bed and went downstairs to watch some TV. Since I was up and watching the clock, I realized the pains were coming about every 10 minutes. They didn't feel like what I imagined contractions would be like, so I still didn't believe I was in labor. I slept on and off on the couch, until about 7:30 a.m. when my mom and Ben got up.

We ate breakfast, and I continued to monitor the pains. At this point, I was pacing the living room during contractions. They weren't terribly painful if I was moving, but hurt like hell if I was sitting or laying down. We timed them for an hour or so, and then decided to take a walk and run to the grocery store.

By 12:30 the contractions hurt even when I was moving around. They were now coming every 5-7 minutes, lasting about 45 seconds in length. The nurse on call at our OB's office told me to keep monitoring the contractions for another hour or so. By the end of the hour, they were coming every 4-5 minutes, lasting about 60 seconds. The nurse suggested we head up to the hospital. It was 2:00 p.m.

Our bag was already packed, so we just had to grab it and go. As Ben was pulling the car out of the garage, I started crying as I hugged my mom goodbye. "My whole life is going to change." "Yes," she said, "But in the most amazing way possible."

I was so terrified that we'd get to the hospital and I would be barely dilated. I was in a fair amount of pain, and starting to doubt my ability to labor without drugs. I was so relieved when the nurse said I was 3 centimeters along. They moved us to our permanent room and hooked me up to monitor my contractions and the baby's heartbeat for 30 minutes.

We met Sally, our labor nurse, who was really supportive and excited about our natural birth plan. Since I was declining an epidural and everything looked good on the monitor, I was free to labor out of bed. Ben and I walked the halls of the labor and delivery ward, pausing to sway my hips when a contraction hit. After about an hour, I started to get really tired. It was 4:00 p.m., and I had been up for over 12 hours.

I laid down in bed and tried to rest in between contractions. After a little while, Sally came in and suggested I keep walking to move labor along. We got back out of bed and kept pacing the halls.

Around 5:00, the contractions were so intense that my knees buckled. I had so much pressure in my bottom. Sally checked me and I was already 9.5 centimeters. I had only been laboring at the hospital for 2 1/2 hours. Sally called the doctor and asked me if I felt like pushing. I didn't yet, but I was in a ton of pain. I couldn't find a comfortable position, and the contractions were constant. I was kneeling on all fours on my hospital bed when my water finally broke.

The doctor got to our room at 5:35 p.m., but I still had a small lip of my cervix remaining. I now had the urge to push, so the doctor pulled on my cervix to help me dilate the last little bit (this hurt like hell).

Since I didn't have an epidural, the doctor had my hold my own legs and curl my upper body around my belly. I remember thinking that I just wanted someone to help me hold my legs! I was exausted, but it was the most effective position to get the baby out.

Though pushing was tiring, there were breaks between contractions so I could rest. As I would start feeling the next contraction ramp up, I would almost start to cry. It was always hard to start pushing, but once I got going it wasn't so bad. Even without drugs, I couldn't feel the baby coming down, so I had no concept of the progress I was making. I remember thinking that the pushing wasn't doing anything. It just hurt.

The nurse and the doctor both said I was doing great, but I didn't believe them. It felt like I'd been pushing forever and it seemed like nothing was happening. Then I felt the "ring of fire", an intense burning and stretching as the baby crowns. Ben said he could see the baby's head... we were almost done! The doctor asked me if I wanted to touch the baby or use a mirror to see him coming out. Um, hell no. That was just one more step between the pain I was feeling and getting him out.

So I buckled down and pushed with everything I had. The burning got worse and worse. I thought it was never going to end, and then I felt a great release. As Will's head, shoulders and body emerged, all of my pain vanished. It was 6:02 p.m. Will was born after a mere 26 minutes of pushing (for the record, it felt like way longer).

Will started screaming immediately and the doctor put him on my chest. I couldn't believe I was holding my son. He was tiny, pink and perfect.

Ben and I had a few names we liked, but wanted to wait until he was born to pick one. As I was holding our tiny boy, Ben looked at me and said, "I think he looks like a William." And he did. It was who he was meant to be.

After a few minutes Ben cut the cord, and they took Will to the warmer to check his vitals. He had a 1 minute Apgar score of 9 and a 5 minute Apgar score of 10. As Ben and the nurses looked after Will, the doctor delivered the placenta and stitched up my small first-degree tear (with Will out, I happily took pain meds for this). I started thanking Sally and the doctor profusely. I couldn't believe it was over and that I had really done it.

Soon Will was returned to me to try nursing. He had little interest in breastfeeding right away, but snuggled up into my chest and fell asleep. It was amazing to feel his tiny chest rising and falling on my own. All seven pounds of him seemed to melt right back into me.

When I tell anyone that we delivered naturally, they always want to know if I'd do it again. And truthfully, I would. I felt so empowered by my delivery, and I'm really proud of my body.

That being said, I would have never been able to do a natural birth without our Bradley birth class. Labor and delivery is overwhelming and scary. Even with all our Bradley training, I had moments of fear and self-doubt. I can't imagine trying to do this without an informed birth partner and an implicit understanding of the stages of labor.

A million thanks to the team of people that helped us bring Will into the world. I feel very fortunate that we were given the opportunity to have the birth that we wanted. I'm far from an expert, but if I can answer any questions about my experience or give any encouragement to those seeking a natural birth, I'd love to.

Worth a thousand words...

Since I don't have any time to blog, photos will just have to do.

The day I found my thumb!

Mom and I are both tired.

My big sister Stella is a little jealous.

My first bottle.

Bright eyed.

Tummy time.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

What no one talks about

Confession: We've had a really rough couple of weeks. I've had a pretty severe case of the baby blues. It got so bad, that Ben had to take time off work on Tuesday to take me to the doctor.

Though I love my son, I haven't felt like myself since he was born. It's more than being tired or overhwhelmed. I can't sleep. I'm anxious. I hardly eat. There have been times when I've felt like a terrible mother, and that I shouldn't have had a baby. I've been profoundly sad, and even had some self-destructive thoughts.

I was so scared to admit this all to the doctor. But it felt better to get everything off my chest. He wasn't shocked or appalled. He didn't call child services. He listened and sympathized. He helped Ben and I develop an action plan on how to start feeling better.

The first step is to get my sleep back on track. Though every new mom is sleep deprived, we're working on a schedule that will help me get 3-4 hours of uninterupted sleep a night. It's OK (and expected) to be tired, but I shouldn't feel unhinged or unstable.

We started bottle feeding breast milk to help ease the nighttime burden. I'm fortunate that I have an exceptional support system in my husband and family. I'm learning to accept their help with a glad heart (whereas before I felt it was my responsibility to just do it all).

My doctor agreed that working on my sleep might be enough to lift me out of my depression. But if it's not, I may have to consider taking anti-depressants. And that's OK. Postpartum depression is normal and nothing to ashamed of.

Before yesterday, I felt like the only person who has ever felt this way. I was shocked by the number of women who have come forward with their own stories of depression, detachment and anxiety after birth. Though it felt better to hear other women had been though it too, it was also very frustrating to know more people can't talk openly about it.

It's my pledge to be very candid about how I'm feeling. I don't want anyone in my life to feel as alone as I did. Baby blues happen to many women, but when that sadness starts to affect how you relate to your family, your baby or yourself, it's time to seek help.

With help from Ben and my mom, I stayed in bed for 11 hours last night. I didn't sleep that entire time, but I rested. And today, I feel more like myself. I still have some anxiety that I'm working on, but things aren't so bleak anymore. I know there will still be hard days. I will be tired and I will be overwhelmed at times. But things don't feel as desperate. And I'm starting to see glimmers of myself again.