Monday, July 9, 2012

Bringing Baby Home - Month 1

So we had the baby… now what do we do? A big mistake many women make is they prepare for the pregnancy and birth, and forget to plan for when the baby comes home. Sure, you’ve decorated the nursery, and you know what outfit your baby is going to come home in from the hospital, and you’ve got 300 cases of diapers and wipes… but bringing baby home requires a lot of options, an open mind, a ton of patience (mostly with yourself) and loads of help (because you can’t do everything by yourself!). We thought we were prepared for anything, but once again we were blinded by the limits in our planning.

I was very excited the first time I put on the breast pump and liquid gold began to drip from my nipples. I had breast reduction surgery 4 years prior to pregnancy, and it was one of my biggest fears (besides a c-section) that I would not be able to breastfeed due to the amount of tissue and milk ducts that had to be removed in the process. I pumped about every 2-3 hours while in recovery and was very optimistic about breastfeeding. Honestly, it was the greatest feeling ever when Tuff latched on for the first time. It’s completely indescribable and something only a mother can truly appreciate. Just looking down at that sweet face suckling, and the feeling you get from knowing you are providing your baby with something that is made just for him by your body and is impossible to reproduce… it’s absolutely incredible. His little hands lightly rested around my breast and it all felt so natural and wonderful. Breastfeeding is truly a remarkable experience.

By the second day in recovery, I was sick to my stomach. I was so excited that our baby was finally in the room with us, but with the excitement came anxiety and tension. I couldn’t eat or even stand food to be around me because it would make me nauseous. All the medication and antibiotics that were pumped through my system for 2 days had me all jacked up. My stomach ached and burned from all the morphine and pain killers, my throat and shoulders were terribly sore from all the heaving caused by the Nubain and epidural, and I could smell the antibiotics seeping through my pores (yuck!). My appetite was non-existent and I was exhausted. My husband and family would try to get me to eat, but at the time, I just couldn’t stomach anything. All I wanted to do was hold my precious baby close to me, and try to make up for all the time we had missed together.

A couple of things about breastfeeding that are good to know:
1)      1800-2000 calories daily are needed in order to produce and maintain a healthy milk supply.
2)      Many medications are passed through the milk glands to baby, so double and triple check all medications with your doctor and pharmacist before taking.
3)      The food you eat may cause your baby to have an upset stomach and even reflux, so find out what foods you should stay clear from when breastfeeding. It can take up to 7 days after you cut the culprit from your diet to see results in your baby’s temperment.
4)      Request a lactation consultant be present with almost every feeding in the hospital so she can observe  and give pointers on technique, baby’s latch and comfortable positions to be in while nursing (especially after a c-section). It is also helpful to get advice from more than just one lactation consultant as each may have different ways of helping your particular situation. If they are available, take advantage – you are paying for it anyways!

All of these things I already knew, but it didn’t register in the moment. My guilt and disappointment clouded every thought for the first week. And what’s terrible is when you know exactly how to help yourself, but you can’t do it. It is the first time in my life that I had a taste of what real depression feels like. I was so caught up in trying to take care of my baby, and making sure he had the attention he needed, and trying to push those feelings of remorse to the back of my head, that I didn’t take care of myself. Although I refused to admit it to then, I see now that I mourned my birthing experience and it affected me tremendously. After we came home, I was overflowing with anxiety. I would be looking at my son sleeping and become overwhelmed with feelings. I would have to go in the back room and just cry hysterically.  

It was a bad case of the “baby blues”.  And you know what you get if you mix a non-existent appetite with a few cups of anxiety and top it off with some crème de’ depression… a skimpy milk supply! The Saturday after we got home, one of the lactation consultants called to check on us. I told her that we were having some issues with Tuff fighting the boob, and that he was still passing meconium. So we went in to get him weighed and were hit with another blow… Tuff had lost 15% of his birth weight and we had to check back into the NICU immediately. I couldn’t get any lower. This was supposed to be the happiest time of my life… what the hell was wrong with me!!! I finally broke down when packing our bags to head back to the hospital.

We got back to the hospital and met with the pediatrician on call. He said Tuff was perfectly healthy, except it looked like we put him on a strict diet and it was time to introduce a supplement.  Formula! This scared me terribly, I knew breast was best. I wanted to just pull out my boobs and tell them to pump until the cows come home. We attached the nipple to the formula feeder and inserted into baby’s wide open mouth. With his first gulp, his eyes opened big and wide and you could tell this is what he had been waiting for. By the end of his first ounce, his eyebrows had softened and you could tell he was truly content. This was bittersweet for me, but it was in this moment that I started seeing clearly. This is what my baby needed and moving forward is all we needed to focus on. It was the first time we both enjoyed feeding time since we had gone home.

We stayed in the NICU for 24 hours, and boy did he rebound. He went from 7 pounds 9 ounces, to 8 pounds 2 ounces. Yeah buddy, it was no looking back now. I pumped for the next few days and then dried up completely. By the time we got home, my head was in a completely different place. I thought I was letting my son down by not being able to breastfeed, but that guilt soon past. He was happy, content, smiling and pooping normal! Never have you been so interested in a turd as you are when you are a new parent. Eeb and I would call each other in the room and cheer for baby when he would have a poopoo diaper. And he was gaining his weight back. I threw in the white flag by the end of the 3rd month, and accepted that there could be no planning this trip. We would have to go along for the ride and see where it took us.

The first month was a huge challenge, personally for me. No one ever talks about the first month… all people have to offer in advice is how you should be ready for sleepless nights and how your days of being free are over , or how completely wonderful and easy it is. I was definitely overwhelmed with feelings of fear and anxiety, but those were things I created and put emphasis on. It was in accepting my shortcomings and talking about them honestly with my husband (and eventually other moms) that helped me realize that I was completely normal. I mean, my specific situation may have been unique, but I came to understand that all those feelings are a typical coming home present to most first time mothers. It is the experience of that stage of tremendous panic that I now recognize when I need to take a step back, breathe deeply and count to 10.

We got passed the first month and the party was just getting started! We have a totally awesome baby boy and we thank the stars every day for how healthy and beautiful he is. We all just kind of complete each other and I can’t imagine my days without him. By week 4 he is making all kinds of facial expressions, and cooing loudly at his monkey, and sleeping longer stretches at night, and discovering new things (like the ceiling fan). I wonder every day what it would be like to look through those eyes, seeing everything for the first time. We take so many things for granted, it’s refreshing to be brought back down to this level and remember where it all comes from… our passion and desire and what makes us happy!

4 week stats: 22 inches, 11 lbs 2 oz, 15.6 head CC