The Latest / Old Habits Die Hard

Okay, I’m going to knock on wood as soon as I say this (please do the same for me!), but I think I might have the easiest newborn on the planet.  When I referenced him being fussy and difficult in my last post, it turns out that it was literally just some kind of stomach upset that was making him so hard to handle.  He was up half the night screaming from gas pains, but as it turns out, that’s not his norm.  As soon as that passed about 24 hours later, he went back to being almost exclusively sleepy and happy no less than 90% of the time.  I am not sure what got to him on that particular day (could have been germs he picked up at one of our two Thanksgiving dinners, or a bad reaction to the formula we had to supplement with for the first couple of days) but he’s been really great ever since.  He’s even stopped being fussy about being held/touched constantly and will sleep through the night in his crib without complaint with 3-4 wakes for feedings.  I honestly feel so blessed; I almost feel like he knows that I need him to be easy for my sanity’s sake because I have so much emotional baggage, especially with Brock’s birthday coming up on Friday.  I really feel we’re finding a rhythm and I am so grateful for it, even though I realize it might change at any time… for now, it’s great.

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One decision I’ve made that has caused mild to moderate controversy is the decision I made, after a week or so of trying, to give up on attempts to breastfeed and instead transition to exclusively pumping.  I have several reasons for it that I think are perfectly valid, but none of them seem to be good enough for most people.

Our issues began on day one before he was even born, unbeknownst to me at the time: because I ended up delivering him sunny side up and a vacuum was used, his head really hurt for the first couple days of his life (go figure).  It makes it hard to encourage a good latch when you can’t touch your baby’s head at all lest they start screaming bloody murder.  He was too distracted by the pain to be able to focus on trying to eat, and every attempt to get him to ended in both of us crying tears of pain and frustration.  When I was dispatched the day after his delivery, I was sent home with very little information on what I was doing after only one sort of successful latch – he tried to eat, which was the goal, but my milk wasn’t in yet and it was extremely painful for me. He has a high palate and a slight tongue tie, which, in combination with the vacuum aftershock and some significant lethargy because of slight jaundice, didn’t really instill faith out of the starting gate, but I tried to remain optimistic.

I resolved to keep working on it at home, but we continued to have issues.  His hunger finally kicked in shortly after we got home from the hospital, and, since my milk wasn’t in and we couldn’t get him to latch, we had to supplement the first couple of days with formula while I kept trying to get him to latch and pumped to stimulate my supply.  The couple of times where I got him to latch on my own still ended badly because he was still so groggy and lazy (and, perhaps, already spoiled by the bottle at this point) that he got mad when the milk didn’t immediately flow freely – he was not interested in working for it – so he’d give up and start crying again in a big hurry.  Around this point, I was pumping enough to feed him and get off of the formula, but pumping for 30 minutes every 3 hours with a single manual breastpump was getting tedious, and picking up an electric pump was getting more and more tantalizing.  I decided to grab one on Saturday night, figuring that it would at least come in handy for occasional bottle feeds in the future.  I still kept trying to get him to latch once in a while, but admittedly probably not as often as I should have; the stress bothered both of us immensely, so I usually just went for the bottle because it saved us a lot of heartache.

On Sunday afternoon, we met with a pediatrician to double-check his bilirubin levels, weigh him, and discuss our other questions and concerns.  At this point, I met with a really fabulous nurse who asked about his eating habits.  I explained that I wasn’t having luck with breastfeeding and I didn’t feel I’d been given enough information to be successful at it, and she spent a good 45 minutes helping us work on our latch and explaining what I could do to have more success.  She empathized with the lack of information that new moms often get about breastfeeding, and how, a few decades ago, women would stay in the hospital for a full week after delivery and get much more direct, hands-on help from the staff to make sure they were well-equipped to deal with new parenthood.  She also said that one of the few benefits that she had observed as a NICU nurse was that there was no shortage of time for the mothers of NICU babies to get professional, hands-on help with breastfeeding; there was always someone available to help them out if they were having issues while they were there.  She ended our short little class (the only time where I managed to get him to successfully latch and eat [a little] at my breast) by explaining that she didn’t mind what path I chose, and that they were all perfectly valid, as long as I felt I had the ability and knowledge to choose for myself rather than feeling like I was forced into one, or that I had ‘failed’ at breastfeeding.

I appreciated all her help immensely, and it got me to start thinking seriously about what it was that I actually wanted to do.  Did I want to breastfeed, or did I want to bottle feed?  Either way, I knew I wanted him to get milk, and both methods have their benefits.  Bottle feeding would give me the freedom to share feeds with others and not be tied to our son 24/7, whereas breastfeeding was ‘natural’ and would, presumably, strengthen our bond.  We kept trying to get a latch over the next few days, but it continued to be really hard for us to figure out , especially while I was so sleep deprived.  When you’re exhausted after 2 hours of sleep and you wake up to the cries of a hungry baby, it’s hard to not want to just go to the fridge and grab a prepared bottle when you’re still trying to figure out the logistics of breastfeeding and it’s a complicated science to both of you (especially because, if I waited until he cried of hunger, he lacked the patience to give latching any real effort).

By day 7 of his life, my husband confided that he loved the system we had worked out – not only could he share the bonding time by taking some feeds, but I was less stressed when I wasn’t trying to fight with breastfeeding, Nate seemed to prefer cold milk anyway, and I was functioning better with the freedom to step out for an hour or two here and there – and we made the mutual decision to stop trying to force it.  I might still give it the occasional attempt over the next few months, and, who knows, maybe it will eventually ‘click’ for us… however, in the meantime, I’m happy with the system we have going.  I’m currently a little bit concerned about my supply (I’m only about 50 oz ahead, which is maybe a day and a half of food) but I’m really working hard to improve it, and even if I find I need to start supplementing somewhere along the way, some is better than nothing, right?  This is the best solution I can come up with for now, and it’s what works for us, so I am trying to hold my head high and be proud even when others seem to think I should feel shame.  I think the best response I’ve got so far, from people who seem to think it’s their business, is ‘at least he’s getting breastmilk’.  Ah, so judgemental.

Anyway, that’s enough out of me for now.  I’m sure I’ll be back to post on Friday, which will be a doozy of a day.

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Anxiety

I’m not gonna sugar-coat this: I’m not doing very well.

A lot has been going on lately.  (I know, I know – is my life ever actually simple?  Perhaps it will be someday, but I rather doubt it.)  The biggest development has been that we have made the difficult decision to move… again.  When we moved into this place at the start of November 2014, we thought we were going to be grounded for at least a few years here, but it’s become less and less convenient over time and we’re now realizing that we have absolutely no space and privacy where we are now.  It’s time to go, so we’re moving in with a family member who will charge us a bare minimum of rent so we can save up and meet some of our financial goals in a much timelier fashion and, very hopefully, get somewhere worth being before too long.

With that aside, Nathan is doing very well, for the most part.  At my 30-week visit, we found out that he was nice enough to flip head-down for me, and although he is still measuring quite large, it’s not as drastic as it was before (he dropped from the 90th percentile to the 75th).  We’re hoping he continues to do a bit of a backslide.  His kidneys are also still a little dilated, but not as badly as they were before.  Also, my water levels are now in a normal range!

While they were doing the scan and taking all the measurements and pictures, he was squirming around like crazy and giving the poor ultrasound tech a hard time in getting the shots she wanted.  She couldn’t get a good angle on his kidneys, despite her best efforts, so she ended up calling in another tech to see if they could give her advice on how to get the right angle.  Both of them were very sweet and attentive, and they shared a good laugh with us about the fact that, every time they got close to getting what they wanted, Nathan would move again (I don’t think he likes the ultrasound probe – he always seems to be trying to get away from it).  Both remarked on how ‘happy’ he seemed to be, and his report stated he was ‘very active’.

So… with so much good news, why am I anxious?  Because they always used to say the exact same things about Brock.  At every ultrasound and checkup I had with him (except for the last scan before he passed), I always got the same news: that he was happy and healthy, everything was normal, and I had no reason for concern.  That didn’t work out for me so well the first time, so now that the whole thing seems to be repeating itself almost verbatim, I’m particularly afraid that the ending will be the same, too.  I have actually grown to hate movement, especially when he is active for long stretches of time.  I end up paralyzed with fear that all his wiggling around and cartwheeling is going to get him caught in the cord, too.  I’m pretty sure I just outright wouldn’t survive another loss, and I would certainly give up on my pursuit of children if something happened at this point; I’d just assume that it wasn’t meant to be, and I definitely wouldn’t have the heart to try again at this point.  Maybe I’d adopt?

I was actually doing quite well in the anxiety department until 24 weeks, and it has just been going downhill from there.  I think it’s because, as soon as I hit viability, I realized he had a reasonable chance of surviving out here, even if he showed up way too early… whereas, at this point, being inside of me feels like a death sentence because I’ve yet to have a live birth.  I feel like, given enough time inside, he’s going to find a way to die, too… and it is stressing me right out.  It’s truly depressing how many times a day I touch my belly and beg him not to die on me.

I have another 7 weeks and 2 days (or 50 days) to go before my induction starts, and I don’t know how I’m going to make it!  I feel like such a basket case already.  I miss that self-assured feeling I had at the beginning, when I felt blindly convinced that everything would work out fine. :/

“Do you have any kids?”

I keep finding myself at a loss for things to write… and while I definitely don’t condone just writing for the sake of it, I just wanted to chime in with another quick update.  I apologize that  I haven’t been terribly active lately, but between nausea, fatigue, and trying to wrap up schoolwork, I’m feeling pretty exhausted.  My mind has been pretty quiet at a result, and I’m kind of just coasting through the days.  I really can’t wait for my energy to pick back up, whenever that happens to be.

I’m now 13 weeks and 4 days into my pregnancy with our second baby.  On Thursday, it will be 6 months since Brock’s birthday, and I will also be 14 weeks pregnant.  It’s hard to handle because now that I’m not afraid to let my pregnancy be common knowledge, I keep getting sucked into the same awkward conversations with people.

Person, after finding out I’m pregnant: Oh, congratulations!  How far along are you!

Me: about 13 weeks.

Them: Do you have any other kids?

Me: Yes – one.

Them: Boy or girl?

Me:  Boy.

Here’s where things get tricky.  Some people stop there.  Others barrel on and say…

Them: How old is he?

Me: He would be six months.

Sometimes they get it – but most of the time, not so much.  Some people give me this look of bewilderment and go, “Wow, you’re going to have a lot on your plate with two little ones at home!” and most of the time, in situations like that, I feel the need to correct them.  I had this awkward moment at a volunteer event where I had to shake my head and say, “No, he would have been… but he passed away.”  The girl asking questions felt so bad and I, in turn, felt bad for putting her in that situation, but after much soul searching, I have decided I can’t feel right about lying about my son.

So, regardless of who asks me, when they ask if I have any kids, I say yes.  Because I have a son.  He passed away, but he still existed, and he still deserves to be acknowledged.  With more time, I might change how I handle these situations, but right now I just know I wouldn’t feel right if I didn’t mention him.

With this said, I’m kind of living in active fear of Mother’s Day right now.  I can foresee it bringing up a whole bushel of resentment and bad feelings because I know I should be celebrating it with my baby, but I won’t be.  I have this odd feeling that most people I know probably don’t really consider me to be a mother, and I think that being overlooked on that day is just going to rub even more salt in the wound.  Then again, I have another three weeks until we get there, so hopefully it won’t be as bad as I’m expecting.

Fingers crossed, anyway!