Happy Halloween!

Friday, November 1, 2013

Breast Feeding Trials & Tribulations

Friday, March 22, 2013

The past four-plus months with Ossie have been wonderful. Stressful, life-changing, full of self-doubt for me...but wonderful. My main source of angst, regret, and anxiety has been breast feeding. I feel like if I recount my experiences here, maybe someone out there struggling will feel like they’re not alone. I hope so.

From the moment Ossie was born, we got off to a bit of a rough start with breast feeding. Because his blood sugar levels were high, the nurses in the delivery room told me he needed to eat immediately to regulate them, so when he didn’t latch on right away, he was whisked away from me and fed formula in the nursery. We ended up spending 18 hours only getting to see him in the NICU while he was hooked up to a sugar water drip and being fed formula every three hours. I was given the chance to try breast feeding him again during those feeding times, but it wasn’t successful. We were finally able to get Ossie to latch with the help of a lactation consultant in my hospital room once he was released from NICU. We thought our nursing woes would end there. Man, we were wrong.

Once we got home, everything was going pretty well. We downloaded a tracking app and tracked and timed all of Ossie’s nursing sessions. We were feeding him on demand at this point. At his two-week weigh in, he had gained 3 ounces from his birth weight, which is exactly what the LC had told us we were shooting for. Now we really thought we were on the right track! 

I think our demise really began at this point, because for some reason our pediatrician didn’t want to see Ossie again until he was two months. I think it’s sort of odd that he didn’t have a one-month checkup. And if he had, maybe we would’ve caught the problem sooner. But we didn’t, and we can’t go back. When we brought him in for his two-month checkup, we found out that he had barely gained any weight from when he was two weeks. The pediatrician said we should be feeding him more often, around 10 to 12 times a day. I was only nursing him around six times a day. But he was a happy, mellow, content baby, and I thought he was getting what he needed. Yes, I had noticed he was getting skinnier, but I thought it was normal since his birth weight of 9 lbs. 4 oz. seemed high to me; The Dude and I are smallish people, so we expected his growth to drop a bit. But we didn’t realize how much it had dropped. He went from the 90th percentile for weight at birth, to the 10th percentile at two months. In typing that, I feel like I am putting all of my failures as a mother out there for the internet to dissect. But that’s what happened.

So we started feeding Ossie about every two hours during the day, and then a couple of times at night. (He has been a champion nighttime sleeper since he was pretty little, so this meant waking him up at night.) We started taking him to the lactation consultants at the hospital for frequent weigh-ins. With the more frequent feedings, he was gaining weight, but not quickly enough for their comfort. So I started pumping after every feeding and feeding him that. Still wasn’t gaining fast enough. So we started adding a bit of formula at every feeding after the expressed milk. I say that so simply: we started adding formula. But at the time it was not simple for me. I was so torn and heartbroken over the idea of giving formula to my baby. We took the breast feeding class and knew all the benefits of exclusively breast feeding for as long as possible. I was afraid that by supplementing with formula, we would start down a path where my supply would dry up and I would no longer have any milk to provide to my baby. I cried in the grocery store when we bought the first canister of formula, and was too embarrassed to take it to a cashier, so we went through self checkout. I cried again when we got home and I fed Ossie his first bottle of formula since he’d been in the hospital.

But then, I started to get over it. I still didn’t love the idea of giving him formula, but I was still getting to nurse him 8 or 10 times a day, and he didn’t seem to mind switching from the boob to the bottle. And when we took him back for his first post-formula-introduction weight check, seeing how much weight he’d gained and how healthy he was made me realize it was worth it. He was getting the nutrition he needed that he for whatever reason wasn’t able to get from me.

It was still important to me that he get as much breast milk as possible, though, so I kept up a grueling routine of nurse/pump/bottle around 10 times a day for around six weeks. The 3:00 AM pumping was the first to go, and eventually we were able to let Ossie sleep through that feeding as well. I was trying everything I could to get my supply up too. “Power pumping,” where you spend an hour pumping on and off for 10 minutes; taking goat’s rue and fenugreek supplements, eating oatmeal, drinking beer. It seemed to help for a bit. I was getting a decent amount of milk out when I pumped, and for a while Ossie was getting over 50% breast milk.

At our four-month pediatrician appointment, we were ecstatic to find that Ossie was back up in the 50th percentile for weight. I think it was a huge relief for both The Dude and me to know that Ossie was back on track and hitting all of his developmental milestones. It made me feel like “OK, we didn’t screw up anything permanently. He’s going to be fine. Happy and healthy and fine.”

A few days later, I decided to drop my 6:00 AM pumping one morning. I had no intentions of dropping it every day; I was just super tired that morning and wanted to sleep through that once and let The Dude handle Ossie’s bottle. Well, once turned into three times in one week, and by the end of that week, I was soooo engorged from skipping those sessions. I couldn’t even get any milk out when I pumped! Ossie could nurse some of it out, and that helped, as well as hot showers. By the time the engorgement went down, I could no longer get anything out with the breast pump. I’m talking literally nothing. I continued for a day and a half or so to try, but eventually decided it was time to retire the pump. From there, it was only a matter of about a week before my milk dried up and Ossie no longer could get anything out. 

Ossie during one of his last breast feeding sessions

I officially stopped breast feeding on Tuesday, March 19th, less than two weeks after Ossie’s four-month birthday. 

Am I sad about it? Hell yes. Breast feeding, even though it caused me many sleepless nights and tons of stress, was really an incredible bonding experience for me and Ossie. When I wasn’t dreading it or worrying about it, I was actually really enjoying it. And although I feel like I learned a lot, I don’t feel like I ever completely got the hang of it. I’m disappointed that our journey was cut short. But I have photos and memories that I will keep close to my heart.

And there are benefits to having a formula fed baby, at least for me. Since I was never confident in my breast feeding abilities, I never got comfortable feeding him outside our cozy little spot on the bed at home. So I wasn't able to take him places and feed him on the go. Now, we can pop our Mixie bottle into the diaper bag and he can enjoy a meal on the go. Also, now that I'm not pumping, I find that I have sooo much more time to just play with and enjoy Ossie; along those same lines, I'm not stressed about his nutrition anymore, so I'm a happier mama and I feel better equipped to take care of Ossie because of that. Since we can't go back and try to fix what went wrong, I'm trying to see the positive. Part of me is relieved that we're done breast feeding, because it was really difficult, stressful, and (emotionally) painful for me; then I feel guilty for feeling relieved. But I'm working on it.

And most importantly, I know that Ossie is well nourished, loved, happy, and healthy. He could care less where his milk is coming from.

He's Here!

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

You may have inferred by my four-week blogging absence that something big has happened. (Or maybe not. I haven't exactly been blogging consistently lately.) If so, you are right! Our baby, Ossie, was born on November 7th at approximately 2:00 PM--yep, he came on his due date. And yep, he is a HE.

Wow, just looking at this photo of him, I can tell how much he has already grown in the past two-plus weeks.

I went into labor on November 6th. I guess I was in "early labor" most of the day, but I continued to work and finish season four of The Jersey Shore throughout the day (priorities, people). Between 7:30 and 10:00 PM, my contractions were coming five minutes apart and lasting for a minute. It was getting to be time to head to the hospital! I was trying to watch the election results in between contractions but finding it very difficult to concentrate. Right before we left the house, NBC called the election for Obama. We could drive to the hospital with one less thing to worry about!

My labor went very smoothly, and though I had wanted to try for a drug-free labor/birth experience, my contractions became unbearable right after my water broke. Luckily at this point I was already six centimeters dilated and close to 100% effaced. So I asked for an epidural and got it pretty much right away. It was about 7:45 AM when I got the epidural. From there, I had about five hours of downtime to rest. (And the Dude was able to rest at this point too! He had been such a trooper but by this time he was ready to pass out.) Then it was time to push! Pushing took a little over an hour, for a total labor time of about 18 hours. Not too bad!

When Bean finally made it out and they placed him on my chest, the Dude and I immediately agreed that he was an "Ossie." It was one of the names we'd been throwing around, and we both just knew it was perfect for him. We weren't expecting his barrel chest or his big chubby cheeks at all!

Nor were we expecting him to weigh in at nine pounds four ounces. Holy shit! I pushed a nine-plus pound baby out? If I've known he was that big, I would've been terrified of labor (even more than I was).

Due to his size, the nurses tested him immediately for hypoglycemia, and it turned out that he did have it. It was a scary whirlwind of trying to get him to breast feed, and when it didn't work right away he was whisked away from me and fed formula in the nursery. :( I can't even being to explain how awful this made me feel. We had planned on rooming in with our baby 100% of the time we were in the hospital, and now they were telling us if his blood sugar didn't come up quickly enough they were going to hook him up to an IV in the neonatal intensive care unit.

After several attempted feedings (some successful, some not), the hospital made the call that he would need to go to NICU to get his blood sugar up. A nurse showed up in our room at 2:00 AM the morning after I gave birth to let us know and to take Ossie away from us once again...

The next 18 hours went by painfully slowly for us, as we trekked back and forth to the NICU every three hours to see Ossie and try and feed him. But finally, his blood sugar levels evened out and he was released back to our room. It was such a happy moment for us! The next day I was released and we were able to bring him home on time. It was such a sweet feeling of relief. I know now that in the grand scheme of things the hypoglycemia was not a big deal and it just needed to get regulated quickly so that he didn't suffer any issues like brain damage. Now he is happily eating nothing but breast milk and he's doing great.

Above are a couple outtakes from the birth announcement photo shoot we did a couple days ago.

The three of us on Thanksgiving

And just for fun, here is my last belly shot, taken at 39 weeks:

And here I am at 41 weeks, when Ossie was one week old:

We are so happy and in love with this little guy. Now just when it feels like we're starting to get the hang of things, the Dude has to go back to work tomorrow. Boo. I wish he could be a stay-at-home dad and I could somehow pay all of our bills with my work-from-home gig. 

Happy Halloween!

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

The Dude and I are anxiously awaiting the arrival of our little guy or gal. The nursery is set up, the house is clean, our freezer is stocked, and we've both made our final "boy or girl" guesses. (You think I'm going to share them with you? Nah.) And today marks 39 weeks, so just one to go until my official due date.

Over the weekend, Bean-o decided they'd had enough of my dancing, staying out late (at a wedding!), and walking all over the outlet mall, and the baby dropped a bit. At my doctor's appointment yesterday, I confirmed this fact, and found out that I am 60% effaced and dilated 1/2 inch. For those of you not down with the lingo, the bottom line is my body is getting ready for labor. I'm so excited!

Tonight we'll go for another walk and then head over to our friends' house to hand out trick-or-treat candy (our neighborhood doesn't see much traffic). And hopefully my body will continue to make progress. I'll keep you updated!

Until then, Happy Halloween from me and Bean-o!

38 weeks, 4 days

Ridiculously small maternity shirt

A Long Overdue Update

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

I've been avoiding writing here until I had some photos worth sharing with you guys, but now I've got them.

First a quick pregnancy recap. I'm now at 37 weeks, 6 days, which means this baby is due in 15 days. Cannot believe that's possible. My to-do list is pretty small at this point. It mainly consists of cleaning and making lots of lists (labor playlists, hospital contact list, last-minute "to pack" list), but also we (and by "we" I mean the Dude) need to hang the curtains in the nursery. Then it will be DONE and I can take photos for you guys!

We're just hoping that Bean-o (after the VP debate where Paul Ryan stated that he and his wife called their firstborn "Bean," I am having trouble using that as our little one's nickname) stays put for a few more days so that we can make it to our friends', Amy and Cody's, wedding this weekend. The Dude is a groomsman and Cody is one of his best friends of all time, so we really want to be there! Plus, it's at the place where we got married and we haven't been back there since, so we're excited about that, as well as a chance to see our wedding photographers again, as they're shooting this wedding too! (Love them!)

So, onto some photos:

This is me at 34 weeks, right before we went to a wedding.

Here I am at 37 weeks. These jeans are starting to get really uncomfortable. 

And now for the REALLY good ones. We did a maternity shoot with our wedding photographer, Jennifer Nichols (of The Nichols--her husband co-shot our wedding with her), and we could not be more excited about the teasers she posted this morning! I'll just share a couple here and link to their blog if you want to see the rest.

Eeep! I love these so much.

I had envisioned a lovely fall, rustic-y photo shoot, and despite the weather not cooperating (it was really effing hot), I was determined that's what we'd have! I was so tired and sweaty and my hair was so limp by the end of it, but I think it was totally worth it! I'm so glad we've got these lovely professional photos to document the pregnancy. By the way, these were taken when I was 36 weeks pregnant. I'm writing that here mostly so I can remember it later. To see the rest of our photos, click here. Can't wait to get the disc with all of our edited images a little bit later!

By the way, on a sort of unrelated note, I'm starting to think I want to aim for a drug-free labor/birth. Exciting and terrifying at the same time! I'm trying my best not to set expectations too high and to just go with the flow. I am so ready to do this thing!

Week 32

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Sorry I haven't been keeping you guys updated with the pregnancy and nursery progress (or anything at all, really). Life has gotten somewhat stressful over the past couple of weeks. The Dude was out of town on a baseball trip to the East Coast with his dad for the entire last week of August. Then, we had our shower, which my mom and I basically did all the work for (and the Dude baked an AMAZING cake). It was a really exhausting two days of planning and getting everything ready, and by the time guests arrived I was so so wiped and I felt crampy the whole time. I didn't get a single photo, which is a shame because my hair looked awesome. Probably the best it will look until well after I give birth, haha.

Then, a series of unfortunate events happened, including me getting a bit behind on a freelance project, our bed breaking and then breaking again, the second time when I was sitting on it (scary!), some fraudulent charges on our main credit card, and some more work-related sticky-ickiness that I don't need to elaborate on here. Not to mention me feeling like our house is falling apart because I cannot keep up with the housework in my very very pregnant and exhaustion-prone state. And did I mention we're sleeping in our guest room, which has a double bed? Not exactly my idea of a restful, third-trimester night's sleep. (In fact, the Dude has a pallet on the floor in case I need to kick him out of bed in the middle of the night, heh.)

But my amazing sister-in-law came to the rescue with a pre-natal massage gift certificate, which I cashed in last week, and it completely rejuvenated me. So we're back to being productive and trucking through our list of to-dos before Bean gets here. Up next on the list is to finish painting Bean's dresser, assemble the Pack and Play, which Bean will be sleeping on the first couple of months in our bedroom (after we take care of the broken-bed situation, obviously), and pack our hospital bag(s). Oh, did I mention that TSA broke our one and only suitcase when the Dude was on vacation last month? So in addition to all the new baby stuff and bed stuff we've been having to buy, we can add a new suitcase to our list!

Since I haven't shared a photo since week 28 (wow!), here I am the week before last at 31 weeks. I'm starting to feel HUGE. I've gained around 20 pounds total at this point.

Guesses are starting to come in as to what sex Bean is. I can be honest and say that I have no idea. But the majority of people keep telling me it's a boy. OK, don't know what makes you say that, but whatever! 

I don't want to share full on nursery shots quite yet, because I want to get a couple more things ready first, but here's a sneak peek:

Oh, and we started our childbirth classes this past weekend. It's all starting to feel more real!

Featured on Lean & Loaf!

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Lean & Loaf, an amazing new blog penned by my friend and fellow Weddingbee contributor, Liz, is doing a series on writers' spaces. She's featuring my humble home office today, so head over and check it out!

Don't forget to stay for a while and read her other posts, which always make me wish I was a PhD student and teacher living in New England. Thanks again, Liz!