Thursday, September 19, 2013

Breastfeeding Woes

Before I even get started, this post is not meant to become a debate (for all 2 of you who leave comments :)). I absolutely know and acknowledge that breastfeeding is the absolute best nutrition for a baby.

I've commented before that in 2010 I had a breast reduction surgery. It was not a hard decision for me to make. I knew that I was risking the possibility of breastfeeding one day and that was the one con that I battled with at the time. However, we went through with the surgery and it was seriously one of the best decisions I made. I had dealt with it long enough and wanted the surgery. It made such a huge difference in my life.

Now fast-forward to pregnancy... my entire pregnancy I hoped and prayed that I would be able to breastfeed, despite the decision I made to have the surgery. A few times, I found myself questioning if I had made the right decision to have the surgery and if it had been too selfish. While I decided I don't think that, I just hoped for the best. I looked into things I could do during pregnancy to help my supply and did a lot of research on it. Turns out, I really just had to wait and see what would happen. I had become okay with the idea of supplementing formula since it was very likely I would need to do this. However, I still hoped I wouldn't have to! We were armed with an app that would let us track her feedings and her diapers, which would tell us if she was getting enough food.

Now fast-forward to right after Vera's birth. She immediately latched and I was so happy. She wasn't crying, so I knew she was getting something. We met with the lactation consultant, in the hospital, who encouraged the paci as a training tool and a shield since Vera was thrusting her tongue and couldn't stay latched. It immediately fixed the problem and I was feeling really confident about things! We were tracking everything religiously and according to the amount of wet and poopy diapers, she was getting enough. After we got home, something changed. Granted, I was on pain killers and my hormones were likely all over the place, but I found myself really stressed over feeding. I was a hot mess, crying through practically every feeding. And when I wasn't nursing her, I was stressing about the next feeding. I was fortunate enough that everything was going so great. I barely had any discomfort and to the outsider looking in (which there weren't any of these since that's creepy), everything was great. However, I I felt so guilty that I hated it so much. I felt trapped. I couldn't drive so it wasn't like I was trying to go anywhere, but I felt like I was never going to be able to leave the house again, nor was I going to be able to be away from Vera ever again. I was working toward scheduling her, but those first few days are really unpredictable and sometimes she wanted to eat an hour after she had just eaten. I was for sure my life was over. And those sweet moments women talk about it that they have while they sit and nurse their babies... yeah, I didn't have that. It wasn't "sweet" to me and I dreaded each feeding. I seriously couldn't quit crying. A lot of it wasn't even feeding-induced but over the course of a few days I realized that the root of most of my crying was over feeding (and missing Derrick!). At Vera's first doctor's appointment, we talked about the feeding. I started crying and the pediatrician looked at me and said "Formula-fed babies can still go to Harvard". Of course, they recommend breastfeeding, and I wasn't questioning which was healthier. I knew that answer. But it was so nice to hear that. He let me know that if it was stressing me about to the point of not enjoying my baby that it's not worth it. Well, I wasn't really "enjoying" anything 3 days post-delivery so I decided to stick it out until Derrick and I could talk about it and until I knew my milk was in. Well, my milk came in and I still hated it. I finally told Derrick about how I was feeling and we really needed to talk about it. He gave me so much encouragement. I reached out to a few friends who gave me so much support. When I reached out to them, I honestly was expecting them to tell me it gets so much better and that it will be okay! However, what I heard was so different. Each of them told me that it is really hard and it's a job in itself. The conversations extended past that, but they all told me it was okay if I quit. Not that I needed their approval, but it was so wonderful to hear that breastfeeding moms understood and weren't judging the fact that I hated it. Some of them hated it too! We started supplementing a little after that. When we were out and about, I would give her a bottle. It was so freeing. I immediately felt relief and honestly, I felt like I could love on her a little more because she wasn't trapping me and I wasn't associating her with stress anymore. However, the issue still made me cry. I knew breast milk was the best and I was so conflicted since I had so desperately wanted to be able to. I felt guilty about the possibility of switching to formula when I was able to breastfeed. I was pumping as well, and was barely getting anything, so pumping a bottle for her wasn't an option either.

Fast forward to her 2 week check up. She still wasn't to birth weight and wasn't close enough. Not a huge deal, but something to watch out for. I kept breastfeeding and was giving a bottle sometimes. However, she also started sleeping a lot better this week! We had to go back after a week, and she still wasn't there. Supplementing was now something we needed to do. We did so and I also was trying some things to help increase my supply. It started working almost immediately and I was excited!! Now that I knew I could give her a bottle when I wanted to, I suddenly wanted to be able to breastfeed. Just being able to be out and about and not have to go sit in the car or in a bathroom was fabulous. I know some people are cool with whipping it out wherever they are, but I wasn't. Not even with a cover. There's an art to using that cover and I don't think brand new moms have that down just yet. So anyways... as you can tell, I couldn't make up my mind about anything. We were back at the doctor to check her weight again. Still.not.there. So now, we had to give her a certain amount at each feeding to make sure she was getting 2.5-3 ounces at every feeding. I was still breastfeeding at each feeding. I would breastfeed, give bottle, and then pump. It was a terribly long ordeal but I committed to it to see what would happen. Her sleep also turned glorious this week! At her next appointment, we finally had her to birth weight! That was just last week, so it's been such a battle! But we're there. After multiple attempts to increase my supply, it seemed like it was only getting smaller. It took me about a week to pump 3 ounces for her. Any mom knows that's insane. That should be one feeding. She was spitting up, and we were switching formula weekly to help with it. Because the possibility of acid reflux was coming up, I wanted to be able to breastfeed even more, since she never spit up that. But that's also likely because she was barely getting anything. However, the right formula has seemed to really help that issue although she does seem to be a happy spitter! Still praying it doesn't turn into reflux. Last weekend, we decided to quit fighting the battle. I truly did not have enough for her and the process of feeding, pumping, bottle was exhausting, especially when she was barely getting anything from me. At 5.5 weeks, we decided to go formula only. Which is basically what it was before that but I felt better knowing she was getting a little from me. I truly do hate that it turned out the way it did, even though in the beginning I desperately wanted to quit, but I'm just so happy to finally have a set plan! I was able to quit cold turkey, which also says a lot. I never had to pump or wean it and I never hurt or got uncomfortable.

I write all of this so that other moms know breastfeeding isn't the picture perfect scenario it seems to be. I surely thought it was! I knew it could hurt but that it was temporary. I didn't know how trapping it felt and I had NO idea other moms felt that, too! For myself, I found that after the baby blues started to disappear, it didn't seem as bad. I still didn't get the warm fuzzies from it, but I could do it and be okay with it. I'm glad I pushed through and can have good thought about it now, and with (possible) future babies, I'll try again, but right now, I'm thankful for formula, and that's okay!

and that's the last mommy post on my list.... (for now :))

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

The First 2 Weeks

When I was still pregnant, I was getting so tired of all the comments from people... "Enjoy your sleep now", "your life is about to change", "enjoy time with your husband, it'll never be the same", etc. It was frustrating and no one really had anything good to say. I often rolled my eyes (after they weren't looking) at the comments. Now that I'm on the other side, I get what they were saying. The sleep is different, our lives have changed, and my time with Derrick is definitely limited. No one can fully prepare you for what you are about to embark on. I thought the sleep I was already lacking while pregnant wouldn't be any different, but I was wrong. There are nights I would gladly go back to that constantly-interrupted, have-to-pee sleep. I would love to have more alone time with Derrick. In those first 2 weeks, honestly, I wondered what the heck we had done. Before I go further, I want to acknowledge that I am only speaking about the first 2 week of sweet Vera's little life. Well, really a week and a half. Everything at the hospital was totally fine! Things have gotten SO much better and so many of the things I was feeling no longer hold true.

As mentioned 74 times before, Vera came at a really bad time in terms of work schedules, specifically Derrick's. RA training is his only real time to get to to know the new RAs and that's of great value. We had decided early on that I would go and stay with my parents while he did RA training. I could have stayed at home, but his hours are very long during these 2 weeks and he's exhausted. I didn't want Vera to be keeping him up at night and I didn't want to do it alone all day. Luckily, my parents were thrilled at the idea of us being there :) As anyone who follows me on social media knows, I couldn't wait for Vera to come. After she did (late, I might add), I saw why she didn't come early. I would not have made it 2 full weeks without Derrick.

That first week at my mom's house was terrible. I had all the support I could imagine. My mom was willing to be up all hours of the night to help me, she cooked for me, and listened to my constant complaints and concerns. However, it was still awful. Like I said, no one can fully prepare you for what it about to happen. I was tired, excited, and overwhelmed. More importantly, I missed Derrick fiercely. That was new for me. Sure, I love him to pieces, but I have never been the needy type and I was miserable being away from him. The baby blues kicked in right when we left the hospital and I would cry at the drop of a hat. I pretty much cried through 90% of her feedings (more on that later!), anytime I would think about her eating, and anytime I thought of Derrick. As a new mom, you're thinking about feedings a lot. And when I wasn't, I was thinking of Derrick. And when I wasn't doing either of those, I was likely sleeping. So pretty much, I cried and slept for 2 weeks. I can't really put into words what it was that was so terrible. Mostly, I think I was experiencing some serious hormonal changes, the Lortab was making me slightly crazy, I had a brand new baby that I didn't know what to do with, and I was away from my husband. I so desperately wanted her on a schedule. I think a lot of it stemmed from that, too. I had read Babywise (I know it's controversial, you can hold the comments!) and was ready to go. I thought I would be able to train her in her first week of life. Any parent reading this is likely smiling right now. It probably took me those 2 weeks to realize (with the support of family and friends) that those schedules are goals, and not something I can force immediately. I was still hanging onto it though and anytime she would veer from it, I would cry, thinking how am I ever going to do anything again? I was seriously convinced I'd never be able to work again (since I work from home) and that she would never be on a schedule. In my mind, my life was over. I need a schedule and I definitely needed my child on one! Derrick would call me and I would just starts bawling. It was pitiful!

When I was home with Derrick, things got better, but I was weaning from the pain meds and I was getting a little more used to things. However, it was still tough. Feeding was a huge stressor for me (again, more on that soon!), and we were still just trying to figure her out. All of our conversations revolved around her and her eating and sleeping and it was overwhelming. I thought we would never be able to have normal conversations again and we would never be able to just lie on the couch together and watch TV again. Sure, those things are limited now, but they do happen! And I cherish them so much more! We have to make a conscious effort for our conversations not to be all about her. It's taking time but it's getting there. 

People tell you all babies do is eat, sleep, and poop. This is true. But what those people don't tell you is that while your baby is eating, you're stressing out about it. While your baby is sleeping, you're wondering how long it might be before they wake up or why they won't sleep more than 30 minutes or why they want to be held all the time. While your baby is pooping or not pooping, you're worrying about why it's so much or why they haven't pooped in 4 days, examining it for color, consistency, and amount. Which by the way, who knows if it's a small, medium, or large amount as a new parent. Who defines that anyways?! It's poop and it's disgusting whether it's small, medium, or large. ugh! (by the way, I definitely know if it's small, medium, or large now:) ).

I write this as a reminder to myself that the beginning is awful. I've already forgotten everything it entailed, but I don't want to forget that it was the hardest 2 weeks of my life. IF we decide on more children in the (very distant) future, I need to remember that it gets better.... so much better... but I also need to remember that it was so difficult. I admit that a lot of it was my expectations. I wasn't fully prepared to deal with all the emotions, as I thought all that babies did was eat, sleep, and poop, so how hard could it be?

Derrick and I have real conversations about life now, we lie on the couch together, we go out alone, I get out alone, I'm not trapped, I get sleep, I don't do laundry all day, and while we are still working to figure out Vera's schedule, it's definitely much more defined than it was. I am sane again and I don't just sit around and cry anymore. Whew! I thought that would never end! Sure there have been a couple days where I was brought to tears by her neediness, but that's so much different than thinking my life was over.

To all the new moms out there and soon-to-be moms, don't be fooled by all the negative comments. Sure, things are about to change, and I'll be the first to tell you how terribly difficult and draining those first 2 weeks are, but I'll also be the first to tell you that it gets better and for me, all the changes have been good. I value my marriage so much more, I treasure the moments alone with Derrick, I have a compassion for people I didn't have before, I live in the moment more than ever before, I'm realizing life isn't all about schedules (although I will get her on one!), and most importantly, I survived the first 2 weeks and I couldn't be more in love with our baby girl.