Friday, October 28, 2011

The Breastfeeding Saga

This is a beautiful moment, but I can't say that most of them have been this picture perfect.

I think you know what nursing this healthy baby meant to me--the dreams I had, how I thought it would save me. Just a few hours before we left the hospital, that dream came crashing down.

I can say that our first time was beautiful and wonderful--just Mommy, Daddy, and our newest sweetheart, Cassidy Nicole. I had no expectations. I didn't know the right way and the wrong way. I wasn't judging her latch or counting her swallows. I just put her to my breast and cherished the perfect gift we had just been given. She took my right breast and then my left. I was in awe of how easy that first time was. She was a champ. God had answered another prayer of mine by giving me a champion breastfeeding baby. 

Now, you all know I rarely get off that easily . . . 

To be fair, she was a champion breastfeeder; it was Mommy who wasn't. I just didn't realize it at first. 

The first 24 hours, Cassidy was a pooping machine (She'll really appreciate that I put that on here one of these days.) So, we thought her nursing was going really well based on her output. Also, a nurse told me that the intense contractions I was having while nursing was another sign that the nursing was going well and Cassidy was pulling milk from me. Plus, the first weight check showed only a 3 oz drop in weight, which is really good. 

Then, there was the second 24 hours . . . 

Wow! Nursing my daughter felt like slicing into my nipples with a razor sharp knife. After the big deal that I made about nursing her prior to her birth, a thick layer of guilt washed over me when I admitted to my husband while my baby was fussing that I didn't want to nurse her again. It was always time to nurse. She always latched on and appeared to be calmed by it, though. Plus, she rarely cried, so I thought she was content--even content enough to go four or five hours between feedings at this early age. Whoops! 

I started to realize that the breastfeeding wasn't going exactly perfectly since I was in a crazy amount of pain and my baby slept through every feeding. Still, I didn't ask for help. I thought I was doing okay and the pain and the sleepy baby was just a normal part of getting started. When the nurses asked me how breastfeeding was going, I told them the truth as I saw it: We were doing great. My baby wanted to nurse and latched on, but she wasn't quite opening her mouth big enough and I was hurting a lot. I said that every time they asked, but I assumed no one ever stopped in to help me because they thought I was doing a great job on my own.

Then, I was informed just a few hours before discharge that my baby had dropped 10 oz since her birth, from 7lbs 8 oz to 6 lbs 14 oz. All the mothers say this is normal, but it must not be, because my happy homecoming was tainted with a word I didn't want to hear: FORMULA.

That's right. Before I even left the hospital, I had to give my baby formula. We chose to give her formula because she had been an entire day without a wet or dirty diaper. As much as my pride did not want to give my baby that wretched concoction, I knew her dad and I had eaten a couple of times that day, but, despite my efforts, our sweet baby hadn't eaten at all. It broke my heart. I had to put my own needs to the side and do what was best for my child. She sucked the formula down and a dirty diaper was very soon to follow. 

Apparently, I have a "delayed supply." I know, how could this happen to me of all people? Because. It's me. I left the hospital with a very strict plan to keep my baby fed and my milk from drying up. Every three hours, I was to nurse the baby for 15 minutes on each side, then give her 10mL of formula, and then pump for 10 minutes. What this computed to was me nursing the baby for 15 minutes on each side, watching the clock, counting down every second of the "job" I had to do, doing everything to keep the baby awake, watching to make sure she swallowed, and enduring the agony of the first few latches. Then, I gave up my snuggle time to her dad who gave her the 10mL of formula from a syringe so I could immediately get up and bond with the breast pump for 10 minutes. 

As you can imagine, this is not what I imagined when I imagined nursing my dream girl. I didn't want to keep doing it. I thought about the freedom of switching to all formula--how I would get more sleep, more cuddle time with my baby, how feedings would go from an hour and a half to 15 minutes, how I could spend more time playing with her and dressing her up than stripping her down to keep her awake for yet another feeding. Oh, the guilt! How I told the Lord over and over again how sorry I was for the selfish way I felt after He had given me everything I ever wanted. How I told my daughter over and over again how sorry I was that I couldn't give her everything she deserved. I promised to make it better for her, to do everything I could to give her the best there was. So, I pressed on, like I always do.

It was only a few days into the regime before I thought for sure my milk was coming in and my baby was getting full. So, I took it upon myself to stop the supplements. You guessed it. Her weight dropped even more, down to 6lbs 10oz, and she was still having very few poops. We upped her formula intake.

At three weeks of age, (She's 3 weeks 2 days as of this posting.) I've still been nursing, pumping, and supplementing 8 times a day, everyday. I have done that around the clock for the first three weeks of her life. All I've felt is guilt and exhaustion. Guilt that I don't want to be doing that, then guilt that she doesn't weigh enough. I went from taking her off the supplement to giving her way too much. Yesterday, at 3 weeks 1 day, she finally made it back to her birth weight, BUT that was an 11 oz gain in one week! Whoops again. Now I'm going to have to back off the supplement a little, let my baby tell me what she needs instead of everyone else telling me what she should be having. 

I'm going at this week by week now. I can't continue to devote almost three hours a day to my breast pump any longer. So, I'm still going to nurse her 8 times a day (She gets 1 to 1 1/2 ounces of breast milk at a feeding.), and I'll supplement her with an ounce and a half of formula, but I'm only going to pump three times a day. Hopefully, I'll be able to maintain enough milk doing this to continue nursing her and giving her some of the benefits of breast milk. But, it is what it is, and I do have to go back to work. So, I'm going to try to let this go. If she has to go all formula, then so be it. What matters most is that we hit the baby jackpot. She is the definition of perfect. We both got to nurse. I know what the experience is like, and she is close to Mommy because of it. I look down at her on my breast and see that I am making everything right for her in that moment. And I look down at her and catch a glimpse of him (Really, they look so much alike), and I get to know what it would have been like to nurse him, too. 

I just can't ask for anymore than that.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Cassidy Nicole James: A Dream Birth Story

Cassidy Nicole James
    October 5, 2011
    7 lbs 8.8 oz, 20 1/4 inches

Yes, we had the dream birth . . . and we got the dream girl.
We arrived at St. Mary's Medical Center at 7:30PM on Tuesday, October 4, 2011 to start the induction. Room #3520 was reserved for us. I've spent so much time thinking about the moments in my life that occurred in that room, about how I'd like to be in there again and re-experience the miracle, about how I'd like to feel what it was like to have him again and how that room must be the place to do it. But, when I walked in, it seemed different somehow. I studied the bed, trying to mentally put myself back in that place and time, but I couldn't get there. We weren't waiting for him. We came for someone else.

Our room, Room #3520
Our birth experience started out with Taco Tierra. 

The doctor told us to go to dinner before we arrived at the hospital. We took that to mean get your dinner before you come to the hospital. So we did. First we got our dinner, then we brought it to the hospital. Sounds simple enough, but the nurse informed us that I better hurry up and eat it because I was not allowed any food after I was officially admitted. I scarfed down my sancho and nachos before anyone could come and confiscate them. Of all nights, they put the wrong sauce on my food. I ate the spicy sauce anyway (You don't turn your back on Taco Tierra!) and spent the rest of my sleepless night finishing up my bottle of Tums.

I went into the induction 1 1/2 centimeters dilated and 50% effaced. Every time they checked me during the night and early morning, I had not changed. I really feared the induction was not going to work. A C-section was not in my dream birth plan. I was the only one that was worried about this. I don't know if you've noticed, but I've spent plenty of time worrying about this pregnancy. Why stop when there are only a few hours left?

The doctor broke my water and started me on Pitocin at around 8:30 AM. The epidural was soon to follow. As is the way things tend to go with us and my doctors, Skyler and the anesthesiologist talked about football while I was receiving the epidural. Ugh!

Mom and Dad look forward to the new addition!

 After breaking the water and starting the pitocin, things progressed quickly. For the next couple of hours, it seemed like everyone just stood around watching me, as if they didn't want to take their eyes off me and risk missing the next centimeter of dilation (not that they were exactly watching THAT, but you know what I mean). The doctor expected a 5:00 PM birth, but I was ready shortly after lunch time. Electricity filled the room when the nurse announced I had reached 10 centimeters and she would be calling the doctor. My eyes filled with tears in the knowledge that I was only minutes (I hoped!) away from a miracle years in the making. 

Just like before, my husband stood at my left and my sister stood at my right. With just a few short pushes, the room exploded with excitement as a very hairy head began to emerge. The nurse asked me if I wanted to touch my baby's head; I think I only had the guts to do it because I was so completely numb. I reached my hand down and felt my daughter's long hair. That is a miraculous thing.

Just a couple more pushes and she comes down so quickly that the doctor tells me to stop, take a breath, and get ready for the last push (this has all been only about 10 minutes I'm guessing, very much like it was with Gabe's delivery). I push one more time, as hard as I can, and a grand celebration ensues. Cassidy is here! And it is even more than I prayed for, everything I dreamed of, but so much more. More, because my mind and my heart did not know how to take it past that moment, to all the other moments, to the ones where she screamed endlessly at the top of her lungs announcing to us that she really is here and she really is healthy and I really do get to keep her. 


Daddy's Bears Girl

This, I can honestly say, was my second dream birth experience; God loves me like that. This was different, of course. I don't mean all the ways you all know it was different. I mean the atmosphere. When Gabriel was born, aside from the one tear that steamed down my cheek in the first few moments he was in my arms, I didn't cry. Partly because I refused to show weakness, and partly, mostly, because the Holy Spirit gave us such an inexplicable calmness that kept us from wasting our few precious hours. This time, when little sister Cassidy arrived in our incredible dream birth moment, I bawled my eyes out in joyous celebration and gratitude to her Creator and my Savior. It was a release--a release of the agony the last two years has brought me. 

Oh, and one more thing . . . she looks just like him. God loves me like that, too.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

38 Weeks 4 Days: A Word to Her Adoring Fans

Only three days until her birth! I can barely wrap my mind around it, even as she does her signature booty shake inside me while my fingers type this message. As the day and the hour draw so near, I can't help but think, A tiny part of him is coming back to me. 

I think those thoughts with no regret or shameful feelings. I tell you those thoughts without worrying that you'll think I don't appreciate her for who she is or that you will think I expect her to be someone she can never be. I do, however, think some will think it or have already thought it. But, since only a couple of my readers have walked in my shoes, I don't mind telling you that, as Little Sister's birth draws nearer with every moment, I dream of seeing just a glimpse of him in her and of feeling that impossible love that I felt all over again. I dream that the empty space in my arms will be perfectly filled by the one cut from the same mold.

Now, I'll let you in on a little secret--something I might not need to tell you, but it will help me explain something a little better. I literally dream of nursing--not Little Sister, but Gabriel. In the few months following his birth, I used to dream of finding a way to get him back so I could nurse him. In my dreams, though, I never got to nurse my living, breathing, beautiful baby boy. I would dig him back up, take him however I could get him, just to hold him close to me one more time. Since I've been pregnant with this little girl, I have dreamed of him again--dreamed that I would have milk again, milk I could give to him. I dreamed that I dug him up and tried to nurse him. It's because my milk came in after his funeral. Even after he was dead and buried, in another state, far away from me and out of my sight, my mind could not convince my body that he was gone. My body didn't know for a long time. 

So what I want to tell you is, for those of you who live near us, that we would absolutely love for you to come visit us and see and love the beautiful child that you so faithfully prayed into our arms over the last two years. She wouldn't be here without you. BUT, you should be prepared to wait. I'm not going to let anyone but her daddy hold her or come in to see her in the first couple of hours after her birth. It will be just Mommy, Daddy, and Baby Girl until after we nurse. I need this. I've waited for it. I feel like my life depends on it.

The great thing about this sweet girl is she'll be here the next day and the next day and the next day after that. Even next week and next month and next year. I'll try really hard not to be one of those neurotic moms who doesn't let anyone hold her baby . . . when the time is right, of course . . . and if you've scrubbed in like a doctor before you touch her. Ha!

Three days! Three days! Three days!