Thursday, April 7, 2011

The first 4 months...Part 1

Well, I am pretty disappointed in myself for not posting the last 4 months, but all I can do is try to be better about it now. Even if it's just short posts here and there, I need to keep up. Ryan is growing and changing so fast, I'll just never remember the things that I want to if I don't get them in writing.

So where do I start? I love this kid to pieces. I can't even describe it - at all. When he goes to bed at night, I don't even want to put him down. During the day, I smother him in kisses to the point where he sometimes gets ticked off but I can't stop myself, and every day, I really do love him more. Everything about him is my favorite thing. I don't just love his smiles, his coos, his adorable face...I love his pouty lips, his stinky hands and feet, the way he yells "mah!" when he's mad, his milky baby breath and even the smell of baby puke lingering on his cheek, burp cloth, or dirty clothes. Yes, I said I love the smell of my baby's throw up (hey, it's just milk). Sometimes I am afraid I will actually eat him up because I can't contain how much I love him.

Don't get me wrong, he has his moments and I have had mine. There have been a few breakdowns, but mostly before the 6 week mark which is when I felt things really started to fall into a routine, get easier, and I "knew" my baby - what he wanted and when, what soothed him, what ticked him off. At this point in the game I can really say I am 100% comfortable with his needs and it's rare that there is a time I don't know why he's upset. He throws a curveball every now and then, but for the most part I can say he's predictable. But yes, those first few weeks were hard. It will be easier with future kids because then you know that everything (everything!) really is "just a phase" and there is light at the end of the tunnel when you feel like you'll never sleep again, or like 10pm - 2am will be a screamfest every night for the rest of your life. Everything changes, and fast. Unfortunately sometimes that means the good things are short-lived too (more on that, later).

Breastfeeding. This was originally going to be its own post - oh well. What once was a chore is now the easiest, most convenient thing in the world for us, and I am so thankful it turned out to be that way because the first few weeks, I really didn't think it would. Our problems started in the hospital. It's highly recommended that you first breastfeed your baby just minutes after their birth. I didn't go in with my heart set on this, I just knew I wanted to breastfeed. I didn't have the opportunity to nurse him right after he was born because of the "repair work" that I had to have done and if you read the birth story in my previous entry, you know why I didn't get the chance that night, either.

The next day a nurse came in and asked if I wanted to try. To be honest, I wanted to say "no, thanks." I was in so much pain and so, SO tired from the pain medication that I didn't want to do anything, let alone something with a learning curve, but I said "yes" because I knew we needed to get it figured out sooner rather than later. She brought Ryan in and tried to help him latch on, but he wouldn't, and I was useless because as it turned out, I could NOT stay awake. I kid you not, I was completely non-participatory in our first attempt to breastfeed. The pain meds I had were so strong that I literally just sat there, while the nurse tried to get him to nurse, and continually fell asleep. I tried so hard to listen to what she was saying and watch what she was showing me, but my eyes would not stay open. She tried for about 5 minutes and then said we'd try later and that she'd send one of the LCs (Lactation Consultants) to see me. When the LC came later that day, I had the same problem - I could not keep my eyes open for the life of me. After just a few minutes of trying with no luck, this LC proceeded to tell me "well, you'll probably just have to pump." Not as in "pump until he learns to latch" but as in "only pump, forever." Really? It takes some women months to get their baby to successfully breastfeed and after just 5 minutes you're already concluding it's not going to work and I should give up? She also said something to imply that it was no different than breastfeeding because he's still getting the milk. Well, there's nothing wrong with EPing (exclusively pumping), but having had to do that the first few weeks I can say it's not the same as BFing - it's harder, doubles the time it takes to feed them, and it is extremely hard to keep up with pumping enough to feed around the clock.

On Day 3, a different LC came in - Nurse Lawrence. Just a few hours earlier, they had started Ryan under the bili lights, but they brought him in with this LC. The timing couldn't have been any worse; I had JUST been given another dose of my pain meds in the IV and I knew that meant about 22.7 seconds before I crashed. Todd told them it wasn't a good time because he knew what those meds did to me, but I couldn't pass up this chance because he was already 3 days old and hadn't nursed and we [thought we] would be going home the next day, and then I'd have to figure it out completely on my own. Somehow, I was able to fight through the meds (the dosage was lower than the first 2 days) and this LC was AWESOME. She spent so much time showing us exactly how to put the pillows/blankets for the right support (PSA to any moms-to-be, just buy the My Brest Friend pillow, it takes the work out of positioning), undressed Ryan to his diaper for skin-to-skin contact, and showed me exactly what to do, and it worked! He nursed for about 15 minutes which was great, and a really amazing experience. She then showed me exactly how to pump and how often (every other hour) to establish a supply since I couldn't have Ryan with me. She gave me a chart to keep track and I pumped around the clock like it was my job and Todd washed and prepped the parts and delivered the milk to the nursery for Ryan every other hour like it was his. It's basically all we did for 3 days (and nights). The the next day Nurse Lawrence came back to check on us and gave me a hug when she looked at my chart - apparently a lot of women say "eff that" to all that pumping.

Unfortunately, after that first time, I couldn't get him on again myself. I only had a couple opportunities to try in the hospital and couldn't make it work. The main problem is I was in SO much pain, still, that I couldn't get myself into a good position, or set up the pillows/blankets the way the LC had for me. By probably about day 4, my milk had come in and I was able to send more and more to the nursery for him, so when we went home, they had a few bottles for us to bring home with us. As soon as we got home, I pulled out my pump and hit the ground running. For the next 3 weeks, and the majority of the 2 weeks after that, I pumped around the clock to have enough milk for every feeding. It was tiring at times, especially the times when, despite my best efforts, I couldn't get enough bottles lined up for his nightime feedings and would have to wake up, heat up a bottle, feed him, put him down after 1/2 hour or he'd throw up, then get everything together and pump a bottle for his next feeding. By the time I'd finally get back to sleep it was almost time for him to eat again. My nights were on repeat - feed, pump, feed, pump, feed, pump. I was exhausted. Eventually I got to the point where I'd have enough bottles lined up for the night, and a couple servings frozen, so I finally felt "safe." I was proud of myself for not having to supplement.

During those first few weeks, as much as I wanted to be able to nurse him, I hardly ever wanted to try. Every time I tried, it just ended up with a screaming baby and was so frustrating that I dreaded the attempts. Don't get me wrong, I actually never once considered giving up and I didn't think it would never work. I assumed it had to work at some point because, well, it's supposed to work, and because we had had the one successful feeding at the hospital. I guess I was just OK with dragging out the learning curve. What I had to do was force myself at least once every day to just try to get him latched on. I would always assume it wasn't going to work and I'd have a bottle ready, but I would try. I used the My Brest Friend pillow to position him and I really wish I'd had it in the hospital, it was a lifesaver and completely eliminated the work of positioning him right (I was still in severe pain). At around 3 weeks was when I started being able to get him on sometimes. At 5 weeks, after seeing that he had gained enough weight at his 1 month appointment, was when I tipped the scale and started nursing him more than bottlefeeding. Before I knew it, I was nursing him around the clock and he only had bottles when necessary.

Now, I can't even imagine getting up in the middle of the night and heating up a bottle again. I hated that. I love how easy it is to just pull him out of his cosleeper and nurse him, not to mention it's a great way to comfort/calm, not just feed. The only thing we haven't really been able to do is nurse under a cover in public because he hates being covered up, and he is pretty fidgety and constantly needs to be relatched, so it's just more hassle than it's worth and I bring bottles of pumped milk when we go out. He's never had a problem taking a bottle since that's what he was first accustomed to. I still pump anywhere between 2 and 4 times a day and have a freezer stash of close to 400 oz. right now. I bank way more than I pull from the stash so I should probably reevaluate how much I need to be pumping sometime soon, but I am trying to keep supply up now that I am back to work 3 days per week and on those days, can only pump once during working hours. We recently got a deep freezer to put in the garage to store it all. I know a lot of women hate the pump, but I guess because I got used to doing it so much at first, I don't mind it. I think my brain still equates pumping with having enough to provide for him, because of those first few weeks, so I'm afraid to cut back. In the end, I may just end up having to donate some of it.

(To Be Continued...4 months is just too much to cover in one post!)

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