Saturday, January 29, 2011

Small steps

I can't say no one told me how exhausting having a newborn can be. I guess at some point one of my sisters, cousins or friends must have given me a glimpse into the total and utter exhaustion that has come over me in the past week. But I probably wasn't paying a lot of attention back then. Maybe I should have. Maybe then I would have been more prepared for this new life. Or perhaps you can't prepare for something so absolutely different from what you knew before.
Last night was the worst so far. We woke Andrew to nurse at midnight and despite all my coaxing and a couple of feedings, he did not go back to sleep until 4 a.m. He slept exactly one hour. I am a zombie today. I don't even know what I'm doing writing this post. Disregard anything I write!
We did get some welcome news yesterday when we met once again with Brandy, the lactation consultant, and Andrew weighed in at 8 lbs. 12 oz., his birth weight. We were thrilled.
Yesterday morning, I had decided to give up on breastfeeding. Andrew seems hungry all the time, he eats constantly and I'm exasperated much of the time. I cry when I think of him being hungry. Yet I also cry when I think of giving up breastfeeding. There are no easy answers here. Though I had made my decision and I felt OK with it, we still went to have him weighed because Tuesday, when we go see our pediatrician again, seemed so far away. The weight gain, which was substantial -- 9 ounces from Tuesday to Friday -- was enough to make me continue on with breastfeeding. Next Thursday, Andrew will be one month old and I feel like I can at least make it until then. I'm not sure what I will decide to do at that point, but one month of breast milk is better than none and I feel good about being able to give him that. And, I feel like I've given 110 percent in my attempt.
In other news, Liz brought over our birth pictures on CD yesterday. The photos are so beautiful and tender. I can't describe the emotions they stir in me. So, I thought I'd share one of my favorites here with you. This was taken while I was in recovery and Andrew is at my breast for the first time.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

My little monkey

Here is a picture from our newborn photo session. Isn't it beautiful? But don't let this peaceful sleeping little monkey fool you -- this one was taken at the very end of our three-hour in home photo shoot. Poor Liz did everything she knew to do and I did all the soothing and rocking and nursing I could do and he still refused to go to sleep. And, he peed on every blanket she put him on and then, he pooped! Andrew was awake from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. that day. I don't know how he was still holding on but he was. Andrew finally gave up and Liz got some beautiful shots. She even took some with my parents.
You can see more pictures from our session on the photographer's blog.
My parents left on Sunday and I think I speak for all of us when I say it was time for them to go home. Not that it wasn't nice having them here, it was. My mom cooked nearly all our meals while they were here and that was a big help. But, at the same time, having two extra people in the house was a little unnerving. Greg is at home with us this week and though we miss Granny and Papa, it is nice to be back to "normal."
I put that word in quotation marks because nothing is normal at our house anymore. Andrew has changed everything. Life as we knew it is over and a new life has started. We are still trying to work out our feeding problems. Andrew has gained up to 8 lbs 3 oz as of today. We were hoping for bigger numbers, but we will take whatever progress we can get. The herbs and tea may have made a slight difference in milk production, but not enough. So, when I went for my check up with Dr. Carter yeseterday, we discussed my options and I've decided to take Reglan to try to get to where I need to be.
My little hungry hungry hippo is still eating very often, but today seems a little better as he's gone for two three-hour spans already. That means I got to take a nap and write this post.
Every morning I wake up (after several night feedings) and feel like I can do this -- I can wait for my milk to catch up. I can continue nursing him every two hours (or less) and I will win this battle! Then, by late in the evening, when only an hour after a feeding my son is hungry again, I feel so defeated and I want nothing more than to wave the white flag in surrender. I feel like I need to set some sort of deadline -- perhaps another week or two and if Andrew is still hungry all the time, and his mommy is still absolutely exhausted, we will have to make the decision to give up on our goal of breast feeding. I hate to do it, but I am so weary and my boy needs more than what I am able to give right now. Here's hoping the medicine works and it won't come to that.
Though exhausting, life with Andrew is a million times better than life without Andrew. Every day I look at his little face, his hands, his feet, his tiny little ears and I marvel at the miracle of it all. He makes us laugh every day with his funny little faces or his funny actions. Just yeseterday he managed to pee over his body and the changing table into the trash can sitting on the floor. Greg was so proud.
It is hard to believe that on Thursday, Andrew will be three weeks old. It seems like we just brought him home from the hospital. I think I am beginning to understand that wistful look my mother sometimes gets when she says to me, "honey, it seems like only yesterday when you were born."

Friday, January 21, 2011

Welcome to the island

I have so many ideas for posts floating around in my head, but so little time to actually sit down and write them. I barely have time to bathe. Since my last post, things have changed a lot in the breastfeeding department. Andrew went from nursing every three hours to every two and now it seems we're down to one and a half. For those of you who aren't familiar with how this works, it means that from the time a feeding starts until the next one begins is an hour and a half, which might sound like enough time to pound out a brief post or take a shower, but believe me it's not. When a feeding takes 30 minutes at least and then another few minutes to settle Andrew down in his bed for a cat nap, well, I find myself looking at the clock and wanting to cry.
We went back to the pediatrician yesterday. I was hopeful, since Andrew has been in this feeding frenzy mode since last weekend, that he would show a remarkable weight gain. I undressed him and placed him on that scale and waited for my reward -- the weight gain that would show that all my hard work and sleepless nights were paying off. My heart sank when I saw that he still weighed 8 pounds. That means he had not gained even one ounce over the past week.
While last week if Dr. S had told me to start giving Andrew a bottle, I would have probably cried my eyeballs out -- yesterday, her advice to add two bottles a day came as somewhat of a relief. It doesn't get me out of any feedings, mind you. We give him the bottles after a regular feeding. But, it does mean that my baby will finally be satisfied and perhaps he will begin to "thrive."
It's more heartbreaking for me to think that he has been suffering from hunger all this time than it is for me to think of the possibility that I may not be able to continue breastfeeding. I just want him to be full and content and to grow.
Dr. S thinks I have a supply problem. And contrary to all the books I've read, this problem is not related to demand. We have plenty of demand. But, it seems I'm just not making enough milk to meet the demand -- despite my best efforts to guzzle lots of water and eat healthy.
So, she sent me to the health foods store for some herbal supplements which have been known to increase milk supply and told me that if those don't work, Dr. Carter could call in a script for Reglan. But I wanted to try the natural route first.
So after Andrew settled in for a nap yesterday, I left him with my parents and ventured out into the world for the very first time without him.
I was only gone a few minutes -- the health foods store is just outside of our subdivision. And, when I got back home he was sleeping like a rock. But, I felt so lonely out there without him -- like I'd left part of my body at home.
Later, my mother presented Andrew with a bottle of formula and my son guzzled the milk down like a little pig -- a pig who didn't care that the nipple was different. My mother was possibly the happiest grandma on earth at that moment. I, on the other hand, had to leave the room. Last night, Greg fed him another bottle and once again, I couldn't bear to watch. Dad and baby seemed to both enjoy their time together, though, and I know it's a blessing that Andrew took so readily to those Medela bottles. Welcome to the island, Daddy and Granny.
I want to write another post about my outing -- to tell you about the breakdown I had at Walgreens in the greeting cards. But that will have to wait, because the clock is ticking and I need to try to shower at some point today.
If anyone has any advice for how to increase milk supply, I'm all ears.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

The magical, maddening island of two

Our first meeting was far too short. After a few minutes of me talking to him and kissing his face, Greg had to take him away while I was stitched up. The drugs had caused me to tremble all over during surgery and this continued into recovery. In fact, during my surgery, Greg assumed I was trembling out of fear or because I was cold. He kept rubbing my arm, my face telling me it would all be alright.
I was in recovery when Greg and Liz, our birth photographer, came to tell me about our small wonder. Greg was at a loss for words. He just kept saying "he's awesome." Liz, showed me pictures she had taken and repeatedly told me how beautiful Andrew was. Then, my labor and delivery nurse asked if I wanted to nurse.
They brought Andrew to me and even though I was still trembling to the point of my teeth chattering, I held him in my arms and my son began to suckle at my breast. And, in a few moments, the trembling stopped.
Thus began this new relationship that is so different than any I've ever experienced. Inside the womb, Andrew was solely dependent on my body for all his needs and oddly enough this remains true even though he is no longer inside of me. It is a seemingly overwhelming task, but one that I feel like I can achieve. While some women cringe at the thought of their baby nursing, I find breast feeding to be completely natural. When I was pregnant, I would dream of nursing my son. Now that he is here, the reality of being my baby's sole source of nutrition has set in. The responsibility is so great.
The breast feeding is at times magical -- sometimes it seems my son and I are the only two people in the world. It's as if we are on an island of two, floating along on a wave of joy and love and comfort. And, then there are moments when worry takes over, when I fear my body isn't providing what he needs -- when the doubts and the exhaustion seem insurmountable. There are times when I feel like surrendering, days like today, after a sleepless night and a difficult day -- when I feel like giving him a bottle might be better for both of us. But we just try to take these days one feeding at a time. When I look down at my precious boy at my breast I am sometimes moved to tears.
For a woman who has never particularly been fond of her breasts -- they are far too small and lopsided and not particularly special in any way -- I am simply amazed that they are doing what they are supposed to. I feel a sense of pride and deep emotion that my body -- despite it's flaws -- is working as it should.
In those first days in the hospital, I lovingly nursed Andrew until he fell away from my breast or went to sleep. But my nipples became so sore and we started to worry he wasn't being satisfied. On the day he had his circumcision, I could only convince him to take my breast twice and that night, he screamed in hunger. A nurse showed us how to use a tiny syringe to drop formula into his mouth. He lapped it up like a puppy or a small bird. That is when the doubt began to set in. When we left the hospital, Andrew weighed 8 pounds 2 ounces, down from his 8 pound 12 ounce birth weight. We came home that Saturday without having met with a lactation consultant because she wasn't at work on Friday. By Monday, my concern had grown because my milk still hadn't come in. Even though I've read all the books that say colostrum is enough to sustain and satisfy your baby, I wasn't sure. Andrew seemed hungry, his eyes looked weak and perhaps more telling, his last dirty diaper was at 5 a.m. on Sunday.
I called the hospital and the consultant told me to come over so that she could weight Andrew and take a look at our technique. Once we got there, we learned that Andrew weighed even less. I was upset, but Brandy, the lactation consultant, said my technique and his latch were good and the only thing I could do was wait for my milk to come in. She told me it would be like I had gotten implants overnight and that my breasts would be engorged and I would have a great desire to nurse Andrew to relieve the pressure and pain.
I went to bed Monday night praying that I would awaken Tuesday morning to a new and improved bust line. It didn't happen.
I cried that morning because we were heading to the pediatrician and I thought for sure she would tell me to start supplementing with formula or even worse, switch to formula all together.
Andrew was down to 7 pounds 13 ounces when they weighed him at the pediatrician's office. While we waited in the little exam room, I cried again, angry with my body for letting my child down and mourning what I was sure would be the loss of my breast feeding experience.
But our doctor wasn't really phased by the weight loss. She said it was still within range and that in a couple of days we'd come back to have him weighed. If his weight hadn't started to go up by then, we would revisit our plan but for now, she wanted me to continue feeding him. And, then, she told me a most amazing thing -- my milk was in. Relief rushed over me. I felt stupid for not already knowing this, but Dr. S said that some women don't experience engorgement and that I was doing everything right. By Thursday, Andrew was up to 8 pounds and we go back later this week to make sure he is still gaining.
The poopy diapers haven't been as frequent as the books say they should, but our doctor said that sometimes, breast milk is so nutritious it is eliminated from the body as urine because there is so little waste. I am still nervous that I'm not giving him what he needs. My mom is here and she is watching him like a hawk -- trying to keep her thoughts to herself, but not doing such a good job. I know she thinks he is in a constant state of hunger. My sister, on the other hand, is also here and she is the angel on my shoulder telling me to keep going, that my body is providing enough and that Andrew is just fine.
My desire to continue to nurture my son through breast feeding has not waned. At the same time, I want him to thrive. So there is nothing else to do but continue to feed him when he's hungry, eat healthy, drink lots of fluids and wait for the doctor to tell us where we stand on Thursday.
Either way, it has been an honor to nurse my son since his birth. I can't describe the feeling of love that comes over me when I look down at his precious face as he suckles. And, the joy and satisfaction when he falls away and puts his arms over his head like he's just scored a touchdown. These are the moments I will treasure always.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

At last we meet

This is the moment I'd waited for all my life. My earliest memory of wanting to be a mother is from kindergarten when we had to dress up for career day. What did I want to be when I grew up at the tender age of five -- that's right, a mommy. So off I went to school with my hair in a bun and a baby doll in my arms. Twenty-eight years later, I find myself with a real baby in my arms.
This picture doesn't look the way I'd planned it in my mind. In the hundreds of times I imagined what Andrew's birth would look like, this picture never occurred to me. But Andrew is here and nothing else seems to matter.
In this moment, I was overwhelmed with emotion. I want to remember this moment forever, to tuck it away in my heart so that I can always visit it, always cherish it. But it is hard to find the words. Sometimes, there are not enough words, or perhaps the words I have are inadequate. How do you describe the moment when you first see your child -- this little being that has been growing inside of you for all those months -- a baby you've dreamed about, yearned for and hurdled unimaginable obstacles to create.
I remember feeling relief wash over me in that moment -- relief that Andrew was healthy, relief that after what seemed like an eternity to me I was finally getting to see my boy.
More than that, I remember feeling indsecribable joy. It's a happiness I am not likely to experience again in this lifetime. I looked at Greg, tears running down his cheeks and I knew that for us, this was it -- the pinnacle of happiness. Our long awaited child was no longer an abstract idea or a wish or a dream or even a flutter in my belly. He was a real. I remember thinking "he's real. He's real," over and over in my mind.
But the feeling that I want to remember most from that moment was the sense of knowing. For me, when I looked at Andrew for the first time, with his blue eyes looking back at me and his funny little squishy face with his wrinkled forhead and his pink skin, I felt like I was meeting someone I had known all my life. "It's you," my heart said. "Of course, it's you. Who else would it be?"

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Andrew Carter Pierce

Our son, Andrew Carter Pierce, was born Thursday, Jan. 6 at 4:39 p.m. weighing in at a hefty 8 lbs. 12 oz. and measuring 21 inches long.
He is everything I ever dreamed and so much more. I am absolutely head over heels in love.
His birth didn't go as I or anyone else had planned and he was born via c-section after a series of extremely scary episodes where his heart rate plummeted and it seemed nothing could be done to stabilize it. Andrew's little head, which was in the birth canal for so long that he was born with quite the cone, was positioned wrong and the cesarean became the best option for ensuring Andrew had a happy birth day. As disappointed as I was at not being able to push my baby out into the world (and believe me, my heart was broken and I cried and cried) the only important thing now is that he did arrive and he's happy and healthy.
The one thing that did go as planned, our photographer (who I will now refer to as my friend because she certainly acted with the love and kindness of a friend during the heartbreaking and joyous moments of that day) was there to document Andrew's arrival. Her talent amazes me. Here is a link to her blog where you can see some of the photos she took.
We came home yesterday and are as happy as clams.