Feeding the Baby

Now, this topic is getting way more personal than I ever thought I would get on this blog, but because my last post seemed to help some people, I thought this one might, too.  I will suggest that, if you’re a dude and aren’t reading this for educational benefit, you might skip this post and catch me later.  Hey, all I can do is ask.

Before motherhood, I changed my mind a lot as to how I would feed my future children.  I thought breast feeding was disgusting for a long time, then came around to it and it became my plan when I was expecting.  My mom told me how quickly and easily she’d lost her baby weight from nursing my sister and me, so that was what decided it for me.  Of course, it being great for the baby and free (besides the cost of a breast pump and nursing bras) were big motivators, too.

During my pregnancy, I feared that breast feeding wouldn’t work for me because I wasn’t experiencing the changes women usually experience during pregnancy.  (Let’s just say I was still wearing the bras I could have worn in middle school.)  I went to a breast feeding class and asked the lactation consultant about it, and even she expressed concern that I might have problems.

So I Googled.  And Googled and Googled and Googled.  There’s a condition I’d never heard of before called “insufficient glandular tissue.”  It basically means that you may have normal-looking parts, but it turns out they’re made up of more fat than glandular tissue, which is what produces milk.  Women who have it don’t tend to realize it until they can’t breast feed.  I won’t go into detail, but I did have a couple of the symptoms (lack of changes in pregnancy being one of them).  I wondered why I’d never heard of it before, and a lot of the women I’d found online talking about it hadn’t, either.  It’s like the breast feeding world’s best kept secret.  ”Women are BUILT to breast feed; we are SUPPOSED to be able to do it; it is a MYTH that some women can’t.”  ”Did you know that only 1% of women are unable to breast feed?  Well, that’s such a small number, let’s not even address those women or the reasons they have trouble.”  I was terrified, but continued to hope against hope that I would be able to do it.

Fast forward to the day MC arrived.  As my previous post stated, I went 9 hours without her after she was born.  This was after all of the literature, childbirth classes, the Internet, and tons of other sources had been telling me my whole pregnancy how important early skin-to-skin contact is, especially to establish breast feeding.  Along with the obvious reasons I wanted my daughter with me, I was experiencing a lot of anxiety about establishing feeding, especially because those fears were already in place.  I expressed these concerns to my postpartum nurse, who was very kind but didn’t seem too concerned and told me that “as long as you pump within the first six hours, it should be fine.”  At a quarter to six, I still hadn’t had a pump brought to me, so I paged for one.  She brought me a pump and taught me how to use it.  I saved what little I got (knowing that it was normal to get a very small amount at first) in a syringe to feed to the baby when she came to be with us.

When MC got to join us, she wasn’t the least bit interested in nursing.  I fed her the colostrum I’d pumped with the syringe; she spit it out a couple of minutes later.  (When I told the nurse this and she fretted, my anxiety crept up even more.)  The nurse told me that the baby’s lack of interest in feeding was normal and that I should continue pumping.  The next morning, my doctor came by to check on me and was very cavalier about my feeding anxiety.  She told me that my baby was “full of nutrition” from the womb still and wouldn’t necessarily be hungry.  I’d never heard that before, but was so wildly emotional that I would have let any positive thing encourage me and any negative thing send me into despair.  The lactation consultant visited and helped me.  She told me to feed the baby every 2 hours.  I did my best, but she was just never interested.  The LC came back to check on me the next day and just told me to keep it up.  I was very vocal about my concerns but she was very dismissive of them.  (In my experience, it seems that a lot of the breast feeding gurus appear to believe that not acknowledging a potential for a problem will solve whatever problems there may be.  I’m not trying to make a blanket statement; again, this is just my experience and I realize not everyone is this way.)

The first two weeks of Mary Clementine’s life were awful.  I hate to say that, but it’s just the truth.  I know my body must have produced more tears than breast milk.  Ryan had two weeks off to be with me, my mom and in-laws were in town, we had friends dropping by, one of my friends came down the weekend after MC was born, and I still felt largely alone because I spent so much time camped out in MC’s room trying to get her to eat.  I cried; I prayed; I begged her; I tried every trick the LCs and the Internet had told me.  She would eat now and again, after screaming and tiring herself out, then she would fall asleep.  It would take an hour to “feed” her and I had to do it every 2 hours.  I was exhausted to the point of lunacy.  I had an LC come visit me at home.  I rented a hospital-grade pump and pumped every 2 hours, only getting about 1/2 an ounce each time but telling myself that it was because MC had gotten most of what was in there.  I rented a scale and weighed her before and after feedings.  Her weight went up only by 1/2 an ounce each time.  I brought her into her pediatrician’s office for weight checks.  I kept an exhaustive report of every feeding, every wet and dirty diaper and obsessed over it with bloodshot eyes.  I drank fennel essential oil, Mother’s Milk tea, even once gulped down a beer like a child taking castor oil (I can’t stand the stuff).  I ate oatmeal and downed water like I never had before.  Nothing was increasing my supply to a sufficient amount.

I’ve always struggled with a poor self concept, but these first two weeks were easily the worst I have ever, ever felt about myself in my life.  Of course, I was dealing with hormones and I knew I’d be emotional.  Getting personal yet again, I deal with anxiety and depression already so I knew that I was especially at risk for feeling down after giving birth.  I sobbed to Ryan, “My daughter needs me and I can’t give her what she needs.”  ”I’m such a failure.”  ”If I could feed her on my tears, she’d be the healthiest baby in the world.”  (Ridiculously dramatic, but 100% sincere.)  I always knew formula was there for me to turn to, but I equated that with personal failure.  (I absolutely DO NOT feel this way about moms who formula feed; again, this is coming from my postpartum, hard-on-myself, off-the-wall irrational self.)  I told myself that 100 years ago, my baby would have died of starvation.  I had no idea how parents had multiple children.  Going through this once was more than I thought my heart could bear.  So much of those two weeks were spent awake, anxious, depressed, overwhelmed, and devastated that the time seemed to expand and encompass a lot more than it actually did.  That probably doesn’t make sense, but there it is.

At the baby’s two week visit, she hadn’t gained the weight she was expected to.  I knew that I had to face that I simply was not able to feed my baby as much as she needed to survive.  Between the nurse weighing the baby and the doctor coming in, I cried the miserable tears of utter defeat.  Ryan, God love him, tried to comfort me the same way he had been the whole time.  I wasn’t having it.  The doctor came in and asked me how I was feeling.  He listened to me.  He was very kind, patient, and reasonable.  He told me that, yes, breast milk is best, but formula isn’t the poisonous substance it’s made out to be.  He told me that his own children were fed on breast milk and formula.  When we realized we had no choice but to start supplementing, I had built myself up to be in the pits of despair…but I surprised myself by actually feeling free.  Yes, I was still hard on myself and disappointed that I hadn’t been able to feed her by myself.  But I knew that there was a way my baby could get enough to eat.  I would give it to her and she would grow, thrive.

Difficulties continued.  MC got used to formula from a bottle and became increasingly impatient with nursing.  When she was a little over a month old, I made the decision to pump my milk and give it to her in a bottle so she would drink it.  That’s what I’ve been doing ever since.  She gets about 2 ounces of milk, then 4 ounces of formula at every feeding.

Now, these are MY opinions from MY experience/research/arduous emotional journey and are not at all meant to be a declaration for everyone to live by.  So here we go.  The mothering world, especially now that the government is paying hospitals so much to promote breast feeding, makes breast milk vs. formula into a “black and white” battle.  One is good; the other evil.  One is the best thing you can do for your baby; the other is the easy way out.  One is natural; the other, toxic.  If I can reach ONE mother who may be reading this and finding herself fighting the personal battle that I continue to fight, please know this: it is NOT black and white.  Maybe grey and white.  Maybe two semi-contrasting shades of grey.  It is, however, “right” or “wrong.”  Huh?  I mean simply this:  It is what turns out to be RIGHT for you and your baby versus what is wrong.  This is different for every mother and child out there.  ”Breast milk is best,” yes.  It contains the perfect nutrition your baby needs.  However, some moms may not be able to give breast milk to their babies, whether for physiological reasons, lifestyle reasons, or both.  Thank God, there is this stuff out there called formula that is getting better and better with more research and development, and many, many perfectly healthy, brilliant, amazing people in the world have been formula-fed and/or formula-feed their children.  Breast milk boosts your baby’s immune system, it decreases your risk for cancer, etc.  There are so many wonderful benefits.  However, what we are led to believe is that breast fed babies are healthy; formula-fed babies are sick.  Mothers who breast feed won’t get cancer; mothers who formula-feed will.  This is just not how it works.  YOUR journey is unique to you; please don’t apologize to anyone for it.

A couple of weeks ago, I started to think about feeding Mary Clementine exclusively formula.  I had been spending a total of 2.5 hours a day pumping.  I either have to do it while she’s sleeping (she rarely naps for longer than half an hour at a time so I can’t do other nap time things like laundry, cleaning, etc) or when she’s awake and staring at me from her rocker or swing because I can’t hold her.  For the past few days, I’ve gone down to pumping three times a day.  I pump in the morning when she’s been fed and is napping, once in the afternoon, and once right before I go to bed.  The freedom I have felt is awesome.  I realize my supply will diminish and I am okay with that.  For me, it came down to asking myself a question.  What is more important for me to give my daughter: my breast milk or myself at my best?  Unfortunately, for ME, these choices are mutually exclusive.  I decided that myself at my best was more important than my breast milk accompanied by my fatigue/crankiness/anxiety that comes from feeling like I never get anything done, be it chores or just things that I enjoy doing for a morale boost.  Maybe it will be a completely different story with my other babies, but I am giving myself the freedom to cross that bridge when I come to it.

Bottom line, here is my take.  Let’s stop screaming “Breast milk is best” as if you can only be “the best” if you give your baby breast milk.  If only something like, “Breast milk contains the best nutrition, but formula is nutritionally great, too” were quicker and easier to say.  I have found out the hard way (understatement of the year) that for me, “the best” I can do for my baby is pray for her without ceasing, cuddle her, hold her, change her diapers, play with her, engage her, feed her – formula, in my case – and strive to set a good example of an emotionally healthy woman for her to follow.

 

Our Daughter

Our daughter was born on September 24th, 2013.  I know that this is old news; therefore, I’m posting this not as an announcement for the public’s sake, but as a way of documenting the events and my thoughts about them.

I won’t go into details that I deem too personal (read: gross, anatomical/physiological details), but I’ll share the biggies of her birth story.  I hadn’t ever experienced false labor (or, if I had, I hadn’t realized it) so when I started having contractions late at night on the 23rd, I didn’t let myself think “this is it!” even though she was due on the 27th.  Thankfully, I found a free contraction timer app, because my contractions were so bearable that I know I would have dismissed them if I hadn’t had the app to tell me that I had seventeen contractions the first hour!  Needless to say, after a phone call to the doctor, we were admitted to the hospital around 4am.  I had an epidural just before 5am.

Side topic: the epidural.  I had planned from the beginning to allow myself to have one if I felt like I needed one.  As a nurse, I’m of the mindset that if an effective intervention exists and the pros outweigh the cons, why not go for it?  Just my opinion and I certainly would never judge others for theirs.  By the time I was admitted, I was in enough pain that I was arching my back, which was significantly more bothersome to me than the actual labor.  I have had back problems before and had to lie still for days in order to make them “go away” (for the time being), so the reason I opted for the epidural was not the contraction pain, but the back pain I was causing myself by reacting to the contractions.  Make sense?  Anyway, getting the epidural was the single weirdest sensation I have ever experienced.  I had to tell myself that it wasn’t painful, because it wasn’t, but I was registering it as pain because it was just such a foreign, unsettling sensation.  (Side note within a side note: if you have a needle in your hand, NEVER tell your patient, “I’m just iiiiinching my way in….just iiiiinching my way in…”  No.  Just don’t.  Nope.)

Labor progressed normally for the most part, but I did “have” to be put on Pitocin for about an hour.  (I question whether this actually had to happen or whether my doctor was simply growing impatient, but it happened either way and I will be switching doctors for multiple reasons.)  MC’s heart began to react, so they stopped it and everything was fine again.  Toward the end, I was threatened with a C-section and a vacuum-assisted delivery, but thankfully, neither had to happen.  My doctor told me that she thought the baby’s cord might be wrapped around her neck, so I knew to expect to be on extra alert when she was born.

She entered the world at 12:01 pm.  No one said, “She’s here!”  ”It’s a girl!”  ”Congratulations!”  ”You did it!” or anything like that.  She was immediately taken by some NICU nurses.  I heard no cries, but after a few seconds I heard a pitiful little whimper.  I’m sure a lot of you know this, but babies are ideally born red and angry.  MC was bluish and lethargic.  After awhile, the nurses thought they had solved the problem, and I got to hold my daughter for a few seconds.

The first thing I noticed was a set of wide, beautiful blue eyes.  Then I noticed sweet little puffy cheeks going from pink to purple and lips turning blue.  The nurse took her back and, long story short, I didn’t get to hold her again until 9:00 that night.

This part of the story remains incredibly difficult for me to deal with.  As a woman, and especially as one who has wanted with all her heart to be a mother, I had pictured the moment my child was born as a pinnacle  - a flood of happiness that would be near the top of the highlight reel of my life.  Instead, it was shocking in the apparent nonchalance of my doctor, the lack of communication/updates from the nurses on her condition, and my feelings of overwhelming concern, confusion, and loneliness.  I theorize that this has deeply affected my self concept and how things like bonding, feeding, etc have gone, but that’s all I’ll say about that here.

For hours that seemed to slug much more slowly than my labor, I ached for my daughter.  Ryan went back and forth between my side and the unit in which she was being kept, giving me whatever updates he’d been given (which, for my taste, were far too few).  I couldn’t go to see her for a long time because my legs were still numb from the epidural that I was now kicking myself for getting.  Friends and my mother arrived in the afternoon and sat with me, which I believe was the only thing that kept me sane.  Just a couple of weeks ago, my mom shared with me that it was all she could do to not break down when she walked into my room and saw me holding a stuffed animal instead of my baby.  Finally, I lied and said I had regained the feeling in my legs so that they would let me get into a wheelchair to go see my daughter.  I did my best to hide the complete numbness of my left leg.  I was taken down the hall, introduced to her nurse (who barely acknowledged us or even smiled), and allowed to see her.  I don’t really want to say much about that except that it was really hard to return to my room without her.  Once she came to us that night, she was perfect.

Once in awhile, we are asked if she has any remaining trouble breathing – it was an event during her birth that gave her that trouble; it’s not a congenital, ongoing thing, thankfully.  We know how very much worse it could have been and we are so thankful that, now, it’s like nothing ever happened.  At least, to her.

Mary Clementine (yes, that is what she goes by – if you call her Mary I probably won’t say anything because I’m too nice but on the inside I will be sad) is a happy, healthy, beautiful little girl.  We are blessed beyond measure and I am constantly in awe of her, and of how well things have gone overall.  She is a wonderful baby who eats (mostly formula – another story that I may or may not ever post) well, sleeps well, smiles, laughs, and obviously enjoys looking around at this world in wonder.  Well-meaning people have told us, “It goes by so fast” since the day she was born, but I am very blessed that, for us, it hasn’t flown so far.  I try my best to take in every moment as much as I can and ENJOY her instead of focusing on mourning how things used to be when she was smaller.

Thanks for reading!  Typing this out has been surprisingly healing for me.

To Blog or Not to Blog?

If you are reading this, you probably have known for awhile now that my daughter was born in September. You’ve probably seen tons of pictures of her. You may or may not have guessed that my three-month-long absence on this blog is due to having a new sweetie pie to take care of.

I’ve been wondering whether to continue to blog – simply because I’m not sure I can commit to regular posting. I couldn’t even do that before Mary Clementine was here; how in the world can I say I’ll do it now?

And yet, I already have thoughts each and every day of how much I regret not making time to document little things, my thoughts, etc from her first days here.

I’m not really sure what the point of this post is other than to say that I haven’t totally abandoned this blog – yet, anyway. I might be posting some more very soon, if for no other reason than I don’t want to forget this special time. I definitely have some thoughts about MC’s birth story that I want to get down, but I haven’t decided yet whether it’s too personal to me to share in this venue.

Thanks for reading!

My Family Baby Shower

This post is almost two months late, but better late than never!  :)  In July, my sister threw me an amazing shower in our hometown with a lot of our family and friends.  It was in a tearoom and was so charming and fun!  Here are some (okay, a lot of:)) pics of the day.

Creme brulee cupcakes!  I requested them from Kristina, one of my sister’s best friends and our cupcake connoisseur;) They were out of this world!

Beautiful ladies!  L to R: Kristina, Tracey and my sister, Mary

The favors were so adorable!  Fitz’s is a St. Louis company famous for their root beer and other delicious sodas.  Such a great idea!

I love these ladies!  Josey, Jennifer and Denise, to whom I lovingly refer as “Yemma V” since she’s my second mom:)

My lovely grandma!  She rocked heels very shortly after knee surgery and looked so pretty!

Yay for sisters – or “bruthers”;)

 

We played a hilarious game with these babies!  Have you heard of the “my water broke” game?  Each baby was frozen in an ice cube and the first person to get theirs out shouted “My water broke!” and won a prize.  Haha!

Kristina gave me the left over creme brulee from the cupcakes, haha.  I was rather excited.

My Aunt Jean loves to sing.  She sang “Oh my Darling Clementine” for little Mary Clementine at the end of the shower:)

Just a fraction of the maternal side of my family:) Love them!

This was such a special day with some of our nearest and dearest and I will always treasure the memory:)

Maternity Photos

My wonderful husband took some photos of me last week so we could capture this precious time before our daughter is born.  I’m so thankful for his willingness (and skill)!  And for golden hour and the horse farm across from his work;)

 

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