The prospect of summing up the past two weeks in a post is daunting, to say the least. I’ll do my best, but my mental faculties are a bit depleted from lack of sleep… The other day, I checked to see if a burner had just been used by putting my hand on it. Thankfully, it had been shut off long enough that it was only warm to the touch, but as soon as I registered what I had done, I had visions of my blistered hand palming my newborn’s head as I breastfed…
I had been forewarned. People told me that it’s not as easy as it might seem. It’s not intuitive like you might think. It hurts; it’s hard. Somehow, I thought knowing that breastfeeding would be difficult would make it easier. I guess I’m cocky like that.
Well, it’s damn difficult. Thankfully, I escaped the most horrific of nipple-wounds – blood blisters, large sores, “hamburger meat” syndrome – but I am no stranger to a bit of blood and some scabs. At first, I doctored my sore nips with cold gels that I put in the freezer. They felt like heaven. I also experimented with a couple of organic nipple butters and creams. They provided temporary relief. Now, I’m going au natural… I squeeze a drop of boob juice on the nip, let it dry, and stuff it back inside my bra.
Speaking of which. All modesty has gone out the window. I spent the first week practically shirtless. Raw nips will do that to you. Now, I’m the proud owner of two nursing tanks and two nursing bras. At first, I thought that I might be able to improvise, but I need the pressure of a bra or tank to prevent my other nip from “letting down.” So, although I didn’t buy a stitch of maternity clothing, I have now invested a bit in nursing apparel.
As for holds. I prefer the cross-hold (think Madonna and child), but everyone warns me about blocked ducts, so I am forced to switch it up. I don’t like the football hold. It’s awkward. The Boppy (a special crescent-shapped nursing pillow) is only marginally helpful. My mantra is “deep latch” and “strong jaw,” and I chant these over and over again to Lily. She’s got it on the right, but my left nip is still sore as hell, no matter how many times I make her re-latch.
Nursing goes well 70 percent of the time. The other 30 percent of the time, I’m watching the clock, wondering how long I can tolerate intense pain. Sometimes, Lily become frustrated (too much, too little, too slow? I don’t know) and cries at the breast, latching on and tearing off, bucking back and generally making me weep with misery. This usually happens very late at night after she’s already been feeding for an hour.
That’s another thing. I have no concept of how long these things should take. I would like to nurse on Lily’s demand, but she tends to oversleep. I’ve read about 10 – 15 minutes on each side every time, but Lily seems to prefer 25 – 30 minutes on each side, and she will not be rushed. No amount of tickling her feet or massaging her neck will speed her up. I squeeze each breast to speed up the flow, but that doesn’t bring down the time, either.
Even though I’m still absolutely exhausted and some feedings quickly bring me to tears, things are better now. During the first week, Lily was jaundiced and on a billi-bed. I skipped the engorged phase, and it seemed as though I didn’t have enough milk for her. I spent two days weeping. In all, we had to supplement with 6 oz. of formula over those five days. Every time she had to drink from the bottle – whether it was pumped milk or formula – I felt like a complete failure.
Now, I’m producing much more and we’ve sworn of the bottle for the time being. Lily hasn’t had formula for over five days. Today, we went to her two week appointment and she was one oz above her birth weight – 7 lbs 6 oz. This means that she has gained 6 oz in three days (double the expected amount), and 12 oz since she was 4 days old. As soon as the nurse announced her weight, I felt this huge surge of relief. I high-fived Joshua and just generally had the same feeling you get when you set a PR.
As we were leaving the hospital, the doctors gave Lily another heel-stick to check her billi levels. They were high, and we were told to take another test on Monday. We did, and our doctor prescribed a billi-bed for Lily. From Monday through Friday, Lily was confined to her blue-lit bassinet. It was crushing to not be able to hold her, and it made feeding much more difficult. I had to minimize the amount of time spent at the breast in order to maximize the amount of time spent on the bed.
Jaundiced babies are very sleepy, which makes feeding harder, but it is a form of a blessing. It would have been horrible to watch Lily cry on the bed and not be able to soothe her, but she actually cried very little. She’s a pretty calm baby to begin with, and the sleepiness had her pretty checked out.
I had no idea what the first two weeks held in store. I’ve never had so little sleep, never been so worried, never been inside the house so much. For a while, when breastfeeding was going very horribly and Lily was on the billi-bed, I felt like I was a living a nightmare: my beautiful baby girl was sick and I was unable to help her. Nothing has ever left me feeling so helpless. I worry so much. I worry about breastfeeding all the time. I worry about her gaining enough weight.
I’m so sick of TV. I’ve tapped everything above average on Netflix as I breastfeed, and now I’m definitely venturing into the land of terrible, horrible cinema and television. With the healing from labor, exhaustion, and discomfort breastfeeding, I feel rather locked to my living room. I have a doughnut pillow and a remote, and I spend a lot of time with them. Every day, we try to make at least one outing. I try to go for a small walk, and we’ve gone out to eat, to the doctor, to the lactation consultant, and to the grocery store. Every other day, I shower and change clothes. I listen to a lot music. I talk to Stacy and Kyle when they come home from work. Reading is difficult, because I haven’t quite mastered breastfeeding with one hand.
On March 30, Stacy and Kyle moved into our basement. The poor souls have been waiting to close on their house for a ridiculous amount of time. The hold up? Apparently, there’s a piece of paper sitting somewhere on someone’s desk at the Bank of America that needs a signature. F***ers.
Anyway, what seemed to be poor timing (new baby and all), actually turned out to be a windfall for the As. Having a newborn could be pretty isolating, but we’ve got a live-in social outlet and fabulous cooks, to boot.
We joke that Lily is being raised in a commune, and really, it’s a bit of a dream come true 🙂 We’re working on our manifesto, but the youtube video, “Shit Barefoot Runners Say,” beat Kyle and Joshua to the punch.
Note: if you are squeemish or have modest sensibilities, proceed with caution. I’m about to do some real talk.
I have a bone to pick with mothers. Yeah you. In general. There are some gaps in knowledge that you failed to pass on, and I refuse to be a part of this conspiracy. Let me illuminate:
1. It is possible, after a vaginal delivery (coupled with an episiotomy, third degree tear, and some serious labia-wrestling on behalf of the midwife), for your crotch to swell to the size of four bananas in your underpants. I call this “growing a cup size in your underpants” or the “crotch-sling phenomenon.” I had to be told at least a dozen times that all of my insides wouldn’t fall out SPLAT on the floor when I stood up. Going to the bathroom was terrifying. I’m still trying to coin a term for the vagina/anus.
Suffice it to say that I wear a diaper like my daughter and lived in fear of bowel movements, but I am happy to report that I’m finally convinced that I won’t be ripping a stitch when I… errrr… and I can sit without my doughnut pillow.
2. Numb knees. From pushing for four hours with my knees behind my ears. Walking 200 meters at first felt like running a fast 5 k for the first two days. Yesterday, I walked a mile and a half without looking like I had ridden bareback for a few hours beforehand.
3. I get cold again.
4. I have no appetite. Seriously. I’ve had to brainstorm ways to get enough calories. My answer? Oatmeal, Full Whipping Cream, Raw Food Energy Bars, Full Fat Yoghurt, Cheese, and Protein Powder. Even then, I counted calories (to prove Joshua wrong) and realized that I top 1600 on a good day (effectively, proving him right). I’ve considered drinking straight coconut oil (which would have the bonus of being a laxative).
5. I drink like a camel. True story. I have a camel back (hands free, baby) and I drink almost 140 oz every day.
6. Everything looks different. My hips, my legs, my belly, my arms, my boobs, my face. Today, I weighed myself at Hen’s two week appointment. I weigh exactly what I weighed at my first midwife’s appointment. I’m being cannabalized. On the up side, I don’t have to wear maternity clothes anymore 🙂
7. You’ve already been told about the nips.
8. I’m pretty sure I’m going to need a chiropractor after sitting for hours breastfeeding…
Lily has a grip on my heart. I’m so in love. I’m in fear. Every movie, every song has an added layer of meaning. I’ve been listening to Natalie Merchant and Sarah Mclachlan, and each song is sung with the new identity of a mother. I stroke Lily’s soft, downy hair and gaze into her dark blue eyes. I trace the outline of her shell-like ears. I touch the tip of her button nose. I feel my heart squeeze with each coo of her heart shaped mouth. I smile at her graceful hand movements. I feel like holding onto Joshua for dear life, holding onto her, and never letting go.
I’ve watched a couple of worthwhile movies in the past couple of weeks: the first is The Rebound. Although it sounds like a terrible chic flick, it’s actually absolutely wonderful and quirky and made both Joshua and I cry. I guess we’re soppy new parents. The other is Then She Found Me. It’s a strange movie, but at one point, the main character is about to be artificially inseminated and her mother tells her to pray. I’ve sung the sh’ma a hundred times before, but I never knew what the words meant. When she tells her mother the meaning, I’m stunned. I’ve sung this to Lily over and over again since we brought her home: “Hear O Israel my prayer. God of fear and god of love.”
To me, this is what being a parent feel like. It feels like love and fear, like they’re the same thing.