Food, Sleep and Closure

When I went into Labor on 6-30-07 at 8:30am, I got a pretty good night sleep the previous night. That is to say that I sleep on the couch, in the upright position for a few hours at a time. In between the 2-4 hour bouts of rest, I was up and around the house. Usually thirsty, or having to use the bathroom. But, occasionally just wandering around the house, or reading. The last months of pregnancy were like this.

I have said in previous ruminations that this was a prep for parenthood, or so I thought while I was pregnant. What I wasn’t prepared for were the hours and days immediately following the birth of my son. From the time I went into Labor on Saturday until I left the hospital on Wednesday July 4th, I slept about 15 hours in total.
Saturday night while I labored, I of course didn’t sleep. My husband and my Doula took turns taking cat naps (which I barely noticed). I delivered on Sunday evening, and was put on Percoset, and moved to L&D to recover. That night and subsequent day, I couldn’t sleep and barely noticed the difference between day and night. I was so afraid that if I closed my eyes my son would stop breathing or choke to death on his lung fluid (when you have a c-section, even when you labor first, the child doesn’t fully benefit from traveling down the birth canal and getting the fluid squeezed out of their lungs, in the same way). Every little noise he made had me up, checking on him. This was coupled with the nurses coming in every 2 hours for stats, and every 4 hours for meds, housekeeping, food service (see below), and my doctors and the pediatricians. My doc started rounds at 5am, and I was apparently first on the list. Oh, and since UCSD is a teaching hospital, you see a student and a doc–2 separate visits.

Since I had a C-section, I couldn’t co-sleep with Elliott as I had planned and he in turn slept in a little plexi-glass crib next to my bed. The inability to co-sleep was due to a variety of valid, although frustrating reasons. The first was that I was on pain meds, the second was the bed was sooooo small, and the third is that I could barely move without assistance (the surgery, the IV, the catheter…). Had I delivered him vaginally in the Birth Center, both baby and husband all can sleep together. They have normal beds (not mechanical hospital beds), that are Queen size. They encourage baby and Mom to sleep together. UCSD is also a baby friendly hospital, and as such they don’t have a nursery. If you need to take a break from your baby, you can ask the nurses to watch them. At this point they will wheel them into the nurses station and keep an eye on them in there. I never opted for this.

I ate lunch on Saturday, at the Bar Mitvah. But, the remainder of the day I just wasn’t that hungry. Maybe it was nerves due to wondering if this was “IT”, or not. The evening only brought nausea and lack of appeal for anything food related. I did manage to eat a few lolli-pops and a bite of fruit. But, mostly I was thirsty and drank a ton of water. By the time Sunday afternoon rolled around and my labor had basically slowed to a snails pace, I was hungry! However, since I was going into surgery…there would be no food for me.

I wasn’t allowed to eat on Sunday night, nor Monday. All they gave me beginning with lunch was liquids. Broth, jello and juice. Plus, vicodin, gas pills and stool softeners. Yummy!

By the time I was allowed to eat, and I was begging the nurses for food by this point (sometime on Tuesday)-the meal that the food service people brought in was mostly wheat products (lasagna, a dinner roll, etc.), of which I am allergic. So, I was foiled again.

How are you supposed to function/parent/nurture on so little sleep, without food, and all doped up on meds? It seems counter intuitive to me. There are a lot of things about pregnancy and labor that are backwards in my opinion. Let me give a few examples.

When you get pregnant, usually you take a home pregnancy test to confirm. And if you are like me, I knew on day one of my missed period. Once you confirm, you are sooo excited (lets assume this is a planned pregnancy), that the first thing you do is schedule a doctors appointment. If you have an HMO, they wont schedule your first appointment until you are somewhere around 8-10 weeks along. Now, isn’t the first trimester the most critical as it relates to development of the baby? Why would you leave a newly pregnant person on their own, without advise or guidance during the most sensitive part of their pregnancy?

The second situation/example is during your post-partum period. Since I had a c-section, I spent 3 nights after the birth in the hospital (although they wanted to release me on the 2nd night, I declined). They removed my staples (13 of them), on the third day, and gave me instructions for caring for my incision. They also instruct you to schedule your follow up appointment for 6 weeks later. Now, I just had major abdominal surgery and a baby…wouldn’t you want to see me sooner than 6 weeks? Apparently not.

The sleep has improved since I have been home. And I suspect we are faring well compared to some. Elliott on most nights, sleeps from 9-12 or 1, eats, and then sleeps again from 1-4 or 5 am. Then he eats again, and occasionally will sleep again from 6 to 7:30am. Although, when we are struggling with the let down problem, he is less likely to sleep for such long periods, and is awake for longer time periods in between. So far I am OK with the sleep patterns, and feel good most days. I can see how the lack of sleep can be impossible to handle, especially if you have more than one child, or have to go back to work sooner rather than later, or don’t have a lot of help or support from your spouse.

Well, after all of that typing…I am not sure what the summation of my thoughts are. But, I wanted to share what was on my mind anyway. I am all for closure, but for this post, there is no closure… to my dismay.
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Breastfeeding Woes

I am having a really hard time breastfeeding (and think that by pumping those few times in the beginning sabotaged myself), and have thought about giving it up completely over the last week. It is causing me serious amounts of pain and tears, and making me upset at Elliott (when I clearly know it isn’t his fault).

My problem is that I have an over-active let down. The milk flows out too fast for the baby to handle, and he has taken to clamping down on my nipples (often times not letting go even with my finger totally inserted into his mouth), fighting me when feeding, and has a serious amount of gas. The large amount of foremilk that he is forced to ingest has a lot of lactose, that his system has difficulty digesting effectively. He is spitting up often and fussing due to the substantial amount of gas and intestinal discomfort caused by the over abundance of lactose.

I feel horrible for him, and want to comfort him. But, it seems the very thing that would give him comfort (the breast) is the thing that is causing him (and me) the most grief. This hurts my heart to no end, and the guilt associated with not being able to give him what he needs is eating away at my innards.

I went to a breastfeeding support group last week. I called La Leche League twice and didn’t get a call back (and their schedule is posted on-line but with no address or email address), I called UCSD to speak with someone and didn’t get a return call. I am thinking about contacting a lactation consultant. But, at $60/hour…it seems a little pricey. But, I am desperate. I don’t want to sabotage our breastfeeding relationship.

The best website and info I found so far was below and on the WIC site. I bought some contraption to help heal my nipples. I am going to try nursing on one side for several feedings and try the modified feeding position as well. If all else fails, I am going to contact a lactation consultant. I promise not to give up at least for another couple of weeks.

Summary of Strategies to Reduce Rate of Milk Production and Force of Milk Ejection:
Nurse on one side for a each feeding, continuing to offer that same side for at least two hours until the next full feeding
Gradually increase the length of time feeding from one breast if necessary
If this strategy is not effective, try the method of thoroughly pumping breasts and then feeding on one breast until unbearably full (described in detail above)
If the other breast feels unbearably full before you are ready to nurse on it, pump or hand express for a few moments to relieve some of the pressure
Use cold raw green cabbage leaves or a bag of frozen peas to reduce discomfort and swelling
Feed baby before he becomes overly hungry to minimize aggressive sucking
Try alternate nursing positions
Mother leaning far back
Side-lying (letting milk dribble out)
Use scissors hold or the side of your hand to compress ducts to reduce the force of the milk ejection
If baby chokes or sputters, unlatch him and let the excess milk spray into a towel or cloth
Allow baby to come on and off the breast at will
Burp frequently if baby is gassy
Certain herbs and drugs, used judiciously, may be helpful in reducing milk production

10 Things I didnt know before

1. Stretch marks hurt when they are healing

2. Nursing/Breastfeeding is not intuitive (more on this later)

3. Motherhood is awesome (and trying)

4. Babies generate a TON of laundry

5. Everyday I learn something new about parenting, about myself and about Elliott

6. When Elliott cries, the dog looks stressed out

7. Healing from a C-Section is difficult, in ways that Mom’s don’t have time to talk about

8. I always wondered why Mom’s, after they gave birth, didn’t talk about their recovery and their personal struggles. It is because they don’t have time to worry about it, and even less time to blog about it

9. Everyone thinks their opinion is right

10. One yawn means-I need a nap RIGHT NOW (or else)

Our first solo outing

Elliott and I made our first solo mission out of the house together today. We went to UCSD, and attended a Breastfeeding Support Group. It wasn’t really a support group in the classic sense, it was more like a hands on with a lactation consultant, where other Mom’s are too. There were 3 Mom’s there, including me. One was there with her husband and Mom, and 4 day old baby. The other was there with her Mom and her 9 day old babe. Elliott and I were there together. He is 3 weeks and 2 days old today. I cant believe how fast the time is going.

We didn’t learn too much, except that we are doing pretty well compared with some other folks. But, I think that is just a matter of time. With time you learn about positioning and your babies preferences. Plus, when one thing hurts–you change it and try something else. That was basically the take home message for me. Keep at it, and keep trying…it will get easier. And from the looks of the gals in the group, it has already gotten easier for us. The let down has improved. We are nursing on each side for several feedings in a row, before we switch over to the other side. That has made a huge difference. Now, if only we could get our latch worked out.

Elliott got weighed again today, and weighs 11 lbs and .02 ounces. No wonder my back is killing me! I think he is growing faster than my muscles are. Everyone is amazed at his weight gain.

I am enjoying being home with him. And I am already beginning to worry about having to go back to work. I keep trying to think of ways to get out of it. I am slowly trying to plant the seed with my hubby about me staying home. But, financially I just don’t know if it is possible.

My Mom came to visit this past weekend. She arrived on Saturday around 4pm. We hung out on Saturday night, went out to dinner and then she left around 8pm. They came back on Sunday morning around 11am to say goodbye. It was a quick visit, but it was nice to see her, and to get a few photos of her and Elliott. She seemed happy and glad to meet him.

Over Active Let Down…

I thought it was weird that when I nurse lately, my son and I (or should that say me?) are covered in milk. He hasn’t been latching on well, and has been pretty fussy. He also has had a lot of gas, and tummy distress. All things that weren’t present the first 2 weeks of his life. He was angelic the first couple of weeks. Not so much lately-he more resembles colicky.

So, I spoke with a girlfriend, and did some searching on the WWW, and discovered what appears to be my problem. I have an Over Active Let Down… We fit all of the criteria.

So, tomorrow I am going to call UCSD and make an appointment with a lactation consultant. I may also consider attending a La Leche League meeting or a breastfeeding support group. They meet on Tuesday and Thursday in my hood. I didn’t think that breastfeeding would be so difficult…

It seems like it should be intuitive, and a natural organic process. But, there is a big learning curve that I was completely oblivious to. Which is a theme that I am encountering often these days. I discovered a little nub of info about myself lately. In the past, when it came to other people and their kids…I always turned a blind eye, and tuned all things kid and parent out.

To all my friends who I didn’t pay attention to when you were pregnant, nursing, struggling, parenting…I am sorry. This is hard work and I should have been a better friend.

Power to the single people

Come Monday, my hubby goes back to work. And so ends his 3 weeks of paternity leave. I am not sure how I would have done it with out him. Between recovering from surgery and trying to take care of a newborn, and a household… I am lucky to have survived (insert light drama here). Or how I am going to fare when he goes back to work. Having him home is a little like having a safety net for me as a mom. I am looking forward to being on my own, and having our own routine, but I am also a wee bit nervous about being alone, and not having someone to hand off to.

Hubby and I in the course of my pregnancy, and even more so now (since Elliott’s been born) are reminded about how lucky we are. Lucky to be a married couple with a new baby, and not single. Lucky to work so well together as a team, lucky that we both welcome the changes and the challenges.

We are grateful not to be single parents. We often talk about how difficult it must be for single parents to cope, to get anything and everything done, and to be good parents on top of it. I personally can not even imagine one day as a single parent (or pregnant person).

I have a tremendous amount of respect and new found understanding for folks that go at it alone. I wonder how my Mom did it with 2 girls. She was married off and on, but spent a while being single, or in between marriages. Power to the single peeps.

The contents of my refer

I pumped milk for the first time today. While I am taking 12 weeks off for maternity leave (the max allowed in CA, while still getting paid and having your job protected), I want to be ready for when I go back to work with a strong milk supply built up in the freezer. I was only able to pump on one side due to my little snick-snack wanting to eat off of the other. But, I think I did pretty good for only one side, and it being my first time. I hope it isnt too early to start pumping. I am going to wait to give him a bottle for a couple of more weeks if I can. I am still having a few challanges with breastfeeding, and I want to ensure that we have those out of the way before I bring a bottle into the mix.

The tightrope

I often feel bitter about the fact that women bear the brunt of the ‘burden’ of child rearing (please don’t read this as regret or anger towards my son or my decision to have children). From their conception, we as women are limited in our activities (food restrictions, medication, alcohol), our mobility (exercise, movement, sleep), our consumption, and our freedom. After the pregnancy, we are further tied to them via breastfeeding, diaper changes and the endless soothing and nurturing that is required. Later we are bound by morality and lessons, school schedules, and play dates.

In a moment of frustration and bitterness at my husbands freedom to do whatever he wanted (he spent the majority of the day on the computer working, and the evening watching baseball–although in all fairness he did take the dog to get washed), but get nothing done (I asked for a couple of simple tasks-my honey-do list was small and had carried over from several days ago). I asked him for one day to sit with me, and not move every time I had to breastfeed. I wanted him to know what it felt like to be constrained (perhaps he would be less frustrated when I asked him for something). He basically laughed in my face, and said no. Just as well. Who would get me water if he was tied to the couch too. But, then again who is going to get me water come Monday when he is back at work?

I do not want to imply that I these things aren’t done willingly or with love for my son. I just want to bring to light the great amount of sacrifice and selflessness that it takes to be a good mother. I wonder with all that we give up, why it is also accompanied by such vast amounts of guilt and grief.

Are we giving enough time to our child, did we handle that situation correctly, could I have done something different, given more, shown more patience, love, or guidance…The list is endless and the guilt never ending for some. It is a tight rope to walk, and unless we all find balance both in parenting and in our marriages, we are bound to fall.

Who gives to Mom’s? Who makes sure we are alright? Who nurtures us? Who takes care of us when we are sick, or sad, or lonely? I am working the details out now, and hopefully will be able to find my balance soon.