Monday, July 25, 2011

Being a Strong Mother is Hard Work

Shortly after L. Itsababy was born they prepped a Mommy and Baby (forthwith M&B) room for me to occupy for the next 24 hours (which turned into 48, but more on that later) and Hilary wheeled my still-drugged-and-temporarily-paralyzed self down the hall to scope my new digs. The room was smaller than the L&D room, but had all the same furnishings, minus the emergency equipment. And the bed was MUCH more comfortable, though too small for me. One of the drawbacks of being over 6 feet tall is that things designed specifically for women do not fit. Even beds. But cramped as it was, it was a solid state bed, with no removable bottom half (which the L&D beds are all equipped with, for ease of delivery) to create the kind of cracks that those who have slept on two twin mattresses pushed together will recognize as both uncomfortable and, if not dangerous, then at least worrisome.

Not surprisingly, L. Itsababy and I slept. The lady came in with lunch, and I ate, and I tried to get L. Itsababy to eat, but it took only about ten minutes before he went back to sleep. I figured he'd had a big day, and went back to sleep myself. We slept. And slept. And slept. I occasionally got up to pee, which is no small feat when you're sewn together the way I was. They give you this peribottle to use, and tell you to not wipe, but just rinse and dab. They are not kidding, this is the only way to do it. Learn to love the peribottle. Take it home with you, you're going to need it. The bleeding takes a few weeks to stop fully. I am currently still waiting to stop bleeding. And they say I wasn't even that bad, so I can only imagine how bad it can get. Though I did apparently somehow manage to lacerate my urethra. So yeah, peeing was awesome. And by awesome I mean WHERE ARE THE PAIN PILLS?

Eventually the nurses came in and told me that I had to wake up L. Itsababy and feed him. But there was a problem. I couldn't wake him up. I mean, he'd wake up for a second, and his eyelids would flutter, and he'd go back to sleep almost instantly. The nurse, Kim, told me that I needed to wake him up and feed him, and then left. I tried everything. I tried rubbing his feet, tickling him, blowing raspberries on his stomach, I tried ICE CUBES on his feet, and on his face (My mother used to have to hold ice to my face to keep me awake while feeding me as a baby, this is NOT cruelty, I swear). Nothing. Poor kid was tuckered out like nothing I'd ever seen before. We knew he was getting SOME nutrition because every so often he'd wake up, poop, and then pass out again.

Then the nurse came in and told me that they needed him to eat, because they needed him to pee. If he didn't pee in the first 36 hours they were going to have to either start a pediatric catheter, to check his kidney and bladder function, or they were going to start supplementing him with formula. I kind of flipped out at the nurse at that one. My baby would NOT be put on formula, I told her. I was NOT going to be feeding my son some scientific concoction that "approximated" something my body could make very well on its own thankyouverymuch. I requested to see a lactation consultant, requested a new Ice Diaper, and sent the nurse away.

Let's take a quick moment to recap the benefits of breastfeeding. America is actually not considered a breastfeeding culture anymore, because the average breastfeeding woman does it for less than 9 months. The average worldwide is 3 years. Now a ton of women reading this (and probably some men) just recoiled in horror, thinking of social stigma, regressed development, feeding in public, and most importantly, TEETH. But breastmilk can also be administered by bottle,  if you're worried about pretty much any of those things. But of course that takes time, and I am usually not one for extra time taken, even if it is just for pumping and bottling. So I prefer the old fashioned way. The way our bodies are designed to do it. I mean cmon, ladies, they're not for decoration. If you're religious, then God gave them to you so you could feed your children. And if you're not religious, then you evolved specifically to have those particular glands whereas your partner (or sperm donor, or whoever) does not because you're supposed to use them to feed your children. It's fabulous that you love the way they look, but seriously, they're utilitarian devices. Also if you think they look nice now wait til you've been breastfeeding for a week. They get bigger. And fuller. And if you're not careful they turn into something you'd see in a fetish movie.

But I digress. The benefits of breastfeeding, for the baby: faster gut sealing time, more highly functioning immune system, easier to digest, lower chance of diabetes (types 1&2), lower chance of heart disease, lower chance of many types of cancers, lower chance of asthma, lower chance of obesity, lower incidence of ear infections, and even a lower chance of infant and childhood leukemia. Before your milk comes in fully, your body produces something called colostrum, which is essentially a specialty food for newborns. It's a clearish yellow color, and is basically pure nutrients and antibodies. You won't produce much at a sitting, just a few teaspoons or so, but that's fine. I started hand-expressing mine into a bottle as soon as it started coming in, and by the time L. Itsababy was born I had 15 mL stored in the freezer. Considering the average newborn's stomach is between the size of a hazelnut and a walnut, that's a LOT of food. It took him a few days to put it down, in collaboration with my rapidly changing milk.

The benefits of breastfeeding for the mother: quicker bonding with the baby, lower chance of postpartum depression, lower chance of ovarian and breast cancer, faster weight loss (your body burns a LOT of calories making milk) faster uterine contraction (yeah it's a bit crampy, but getting back to normal quickly is a good thing), lower chance of type 2 diabetes, saves money, saves time (you don't have to sterilize nipples and bottles all the time), breastfeeding releases oxytocin into the bloodstream, so it actually feels pretty good, more sleep (no bottles to mix and warm at 2am, just scoop the kid, feed the kid, put the kid back to bed) and less time lost at work since your baby will get sick less often.

Also to be taken into consideration is the affect breastfeeding has on society. I'm not going to get all super-preachy (well, no more than usual) nor am I going to turn into a propaganda film, but it is important to note that since breastfeeding decreases the risk of so many illnesses that there is in fact an impact on society, in the amount of medical care and provision a mother and baby will need, if nothing else.Of course there ARE other things (environmental impact, workforce impact, etc) but the one you're probably not going to think of is the medical provision, so there you go.

Unfortunately, once a baby is given formula from a bottle it can be very hard to get the child back to breastfeeding, since bottle feeding can be so much easier for the baby (it's hard work to use those jaw muscles for the first time!) and can take so much less time (though that also makes babies gassy, and then they spit up when they overflow) so it's important to be consistent.

Now that we've covered why I will be attempting to exclusively breastfeed, let's cover something else I said really quickly. Ice diaper. OMG ice diaper. My cousin K, who last year also had a beautiful little boy, told me about these fabulous inventions. They involve taking a newborn diaper, ripping it open, stuffing crushed ice between the desiccant and the fluff, and then stuffing them in your hospital-approved undies. It doesn't sound pleasant, but when you're swollen, bleeding, stitched together, and sitting on two maxi pads and a folded up chuck anyway, (those blue thingies, remember?) it's pretty appealing. The numbing sensation is fabulous, and since the diaper is designed to absorb, you don't have any uncomfortable wetness other than what your body is producing on its own. Cassandra, the nurse I dubbed "some sort of magical Sookie Stackhouse half-fairy" makes the best ice diapers at Kaiser Santa Clara, from my experience. She never over-fills them, never forgets to crush the ice, and always keeps the diaper tabs tucked away so they don't scratch.

When Kim came back with my ice diaper she reminded me that if they hadn't seen a wet diaper within 36 hours of birth, they'd be calling a doctor. I reminded her that I did not want my baby on formula. I then grumbled at length to myself and my mother-in-law, who was visiting, about how I knew the baby was eating, I knew I was producing enough food, and that if it came to 36 hours without him producing a wet diaper I would prefer them to catheterize, thank you, since eating wasn't the problem and I'd like to know what the problem really WAS.

But wait, you may exclaim, how DID you know your baby was eating enough? If he was still producing meconium, and he wasn't peeing, how could you know? Easy. I took choir. Therefore I know how to count beats. L. Itsababy at that point was sucking about 5 times before swallowing, which was audible, then resting for five to ten seconds, then repeating. He'd fall asleep after about 5-10 minutes of that. I'd be sure to try to wake him up every hour to feed him a little more, letting him pass out when he was tired. At that point (almost 24 hours in) he would wake up when his feet and arms were rubbed, or when he had a thermometer placed in his armpit, which happened just about every 7-8 hours, in keeping with hospital protocol. He also would get fed after he came back from any of his myriad tests, or whenever the pediatrician would come visit, or when the nurse would come to see if he'd peed yet. Which he had not.

We were just rolling into 30 hours when the lactation consultant showed up. Janice, a lovely woman who referred to L. Itsababy as "Mr. Baby" and continued to lead him through extensive "waking up exercises" during our session. When even she could not convince him to stay awake she taught me how to cup-feed, which involved hand expressing into a small medicine cup (she commented on how I didn't seem to have any supply issues) and then letting L. Itsababy half-drink half-lap the milk to make sure he was getting enough. I was right, he was. Just two hours or so after my meeting with Janice, L. Itsababy gave us the wet diaper we had been waiting for. He actually completely soaked it. It was like someone had taken a Super Soaker to that thing. However, I was slightly frightened to see that there was some blood in his urine, and called the nurse immediately to tell her. Turns out that blood in the urine is completely normal for the first wet diaper. Babies had a tendency to swallow some of their mother's blood during delivery, since they're all covered in it and stuff, and they don't process it so well.

After being reassured, we both fell asleep. Again.

And now it's time to feed the little piglet himself, so the rest of this story shall have to wait a little longer.

1 comment:

  1. I'm definitely all for exclusive breastfeeding and I was really disappointed at first when I couldn't get Kaelynn to latch on. There were so many tears (from the both of us) and I had to succumb to formula because she was way past the point of frustration and I didn't want the whole breastfeeding thing to be something she associated with that. Luckily, Kaiser here has a lactation center and and I was able to go almost once a week to have a lactation consultant work privately with us. I tried nipple shields and everything. I pumped breastmilk for her her, but it wasn't enough to sustain her appetite. She finally figured out the whole latching on equals delicious milk around month three, but I had to go back to work and by then my body wasn't used to making enough milk for her. Anyway, Kaelynn was half formula, half breastmilk, mostly. Now, sadly, I think she is weaning herself off of the boob. :( Makes me sad especially because I feel like she just figured it out! But she's moving on to the brighter world of sippy cups and they come out a lot faster than booby milk does. Anyway, the point of this was, if it turns out that you do have to supplement with formula (even though you don't want to, like I did), there are these AMAZING bottles that mimic the breast, and are perfect for babies who go from breast to bottle. I think these bottles are the reason that Kaelynn figured out how to latch on. And we just discovered that they make sippy cup nipples in the same style of the regular bottle nipple, so the transition to sippy cup is going fabulously! Anyway, the bottle system is called Tommee Tippee and they sell them at Babies R Us. I wish you so much luck in your breastfeeding journey. Unfortunately, it isn't in the cards for all of us.