Friday, February 25, 2011


Back when I was breastfeeding and Andrew was not gaining weight -- Dr. S said we'd have to start supplementing to put some "chunk" on him. He was thin then. His little fingers and toes were sort of skinny and his legs and arms were too. Thankfully, those days are gone. Our little guy is a chunk!
I know I am biased beyond belief, but isn't he just the cutest thing ever? This afternoon, after a long week of working 12-hour shifts and hardly seeing Andrew, Greg snuck into Andrew's nursery to watch him while he napped. I snuck down the hall to watch Greg watching him. When Greg caught me watching from the door, he said "he looks like one of those dolls you see in the store. He's just perfect."
I couldn't agree more.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

If I could do this thing over...

If I could go back just two months in time, I would do a few things different. Number one, I would have read a couple of books about parenting strategies. Honestly, I was so concerned about labor and delivery and breastfeeding that I mainly spent my time studying up on these two topics. I figured I knew how to take care of a baby -- I've been around babies all my life!
As it turns out, I didn't even need all that information about labor and delivery or even breastfeeding, for that matter. What I really needed was a guide to how to make sure this new little person in my life was given all that he needs to be a happy, well-rested, well nourished baby so that I could be a happy, well-rested, well nourished mother who didn't absolutely lose her mind.
Granted, I know all new mothers go through the "baby blues" but I think my "blues" have lasted a tad too long. It seems that the waves of self-doubt and inadequacy keep crashing ashore and by the end of each week, they build to a crescendo. I had hoped to have Andrew on some sort of daily schedule by now but we've been working on it and have yet to even come close.
I talked with my doctor about it on Monday when I went for my six-week postpartum visit. He gave me a prescription for an antidepressant. I took it that day and felt nauseas the rest of the day and then was plagued with insomnia that night -- which is probably one of the worst things that can happen to a new mom because she is so tired!
So, I haven't taken it since. I felt fine yesterday. I feel OK today. But I know the end of the week is coming and I'm not sure how I'll feel on Friday.
I used to think post-partum depression was a crock of poop. Then, I had a friend who had it and wound up in the hospital and I realized that maybe there was something to it afterall. Now that I've experienced the waves of emotion and mood swings for myself, I know that it is a real condition. I'm not sure I have PPD. I think I'm suffering from the normal hormonal shifts that all women feel after having a baby -- add that to my unplanned cesarean -- factor in my failure to breasfeed -- and then layer on the "colic" problems -- pile on the lack of sleep --top it with the fact that I don't have a support system here and all my loved ones are far away and you get -- well, you get one crazy Mama.
I remember reading about PPD and the baby blues in my pregnancy books and thinking --that will never happen to me because I've waited so long for this pregnancy and I have wanted to be a mother for so long I will just be happy no matter what. I've learned that's not quite the way it works. Andrew is a miracle. He is the most precious gift I've ever been given and I love him more than I can say. I want to be the best mother I can to him, but many times I feel like I'm failing him.
In an effort to become the mother I want to be, I've busied myself during the past week or so reading books about parenting during any spare moment that I have. What I've learned is that one book will say you can't possibly spoil a newborn baby so rock your baby to sleep if you like and the next book will tell you rocking your bably to sleep is bad because you teach him he can't go to sleep any other way. According to this book, Andrew is suffering from the effects of "accidental" parenting.
What is a parent to do? I don't know. Greg, who rarely ever says a cross word to me, even when I'm at my worst, told me in a very loud voice "stop reading books and let's just figure this out on our own."
And perhaps he is right. I just wish I had entered motherhood a little more prepared to take on such challenges. My newborn care class told me how to meet the physical needs of a baby -- feeding, changing, bathing. It didn't teach me how to deal with some of the less obvious but perhaps more important facets of mothering. Maybe these things can't be learned in a class or by reading a book. Maybe it's just trial by fire.
For now, we are taking it one day at a time. I feed Andrew when he seems hungry. I try to help him go to sleep when I think he's tried. I talk to him, play with him and try to make sure he's getting all that he needs to learn and grow. But somehow it doesn't seem like enough.
It would be easier for me if we had a daily routine. I don't know if babies know anything about that. I've been trying to do things at roughly the same time every day so Andrew and I can know what's coming next, but it isn't easy. One day, he's up at 5 a.m. the next he sleeps til 6:30 a.m. and that first feeding pretty much determines how the rest of the day is going to go.
Meanwhile, I am constantly comparing Andrew to my great-nephew Wyatt who has been on a very regular schedule since he was Andrew's age and has been sleeping through the night -- by that I mean he was sleeping from 9:30 p.m. until 6 a.m. since he was two months old. Now, he's 9 months old and he sleeps from about 7:30 - 8 p.m. until 7 a.m. All his mom has to do is put him in his crib, turn out the light and walk out of the room. While, it's taking us about and hour (or more) to get Andrew down for the night. We are still waking at around 1-2 a.m. for a feeding and then we're up again between 5-6 for another. I keep telling myself that Andrew is not Wyatt and he's going to do things in his own time. I beat myself up for wishing Andrew would sleep like Wyatt or eat and nap on a routine like Wyatt.
My mom says give it time. I hope she's right.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

A fine line

A while back, in the midst of our breastfeeding woes, I mentioned that I would like to write a post about my breakdown in the greeting cards at Walgreens. As a reminder, I had left Andrew with my parents to go to the healthfood store in search of miracle herbs that would increase milk supply. On my way home, I stopped in Walgreens to purchase a card for a friend.
Months ago, I posted about how my work friend had become pregnant almost instantly after having her IUD removed. This is the friend who took me out for dessert when I found out I was pregnant because she knew Greg was away from home and I had no one here to celebrate with. She's very dear to me because she has always been so steadfast in her belief that my attempts to become pregnant would eventually work. She was so excited about my pregnancy and so excited about her own.
Tragically, in the days before my pregnancy culminated in the birth of my precious son, her pregnancy came to an end at 21 weeks. As I labored, she texted me every few hours offering her encouragement and love though she already knew her baby was dying.
In the days that followed, my friend gave birth to her stillborn son -- Chase Matthew. Meanwhile, I plunged into mothering my healthy baby. So I found myself in the sympathy card section of Walgreens that day -- I stood there and was nearly swept away by the two emotions that swirrled in my heart like two gigantic waves. I felt grief so profound and yet I also felt a tidal wave of gratitude that my own pregnancy had a happy ending and that my Andrew was safe and sound.
I cried there in the store as I read sympathy cards -- none of which were appropriate but how could they be? How could mere words and images on a piece of paper ever be adequate when someone is grieving the life of a child?
I found a card that was simply stated and made my way home. My thoughts were all over the place -- a million little things could have gone wrong and Andrew simply wouldn't exist and yet there he was when I got home, perfectly formed and perfectly healthy. I must be the luckiest woman in the world, I remember thinking.
Later, my friend texted me a message that basically said "I want to come visit and I want to meet Andrew but I can't right now. It just hurts too bad."
Yesterday, I called her for the first time. As I pushed Andrew in his stroller around our neighborhood enjoying a spring-like day and chatting with my friend, I heard the hurt and pain in her voice but there was also hope. The doctors say a future pregnancy could be successful and in three or four months, my friend says she'll probably try again.
The fact that my friend and I are experiencing the most opposite of emotions is not lost on me -- she is mired in grief over her son's death while I am overjoyed with my son's life. And perhaps even more profound in my mind is how even though these scenarios seem so opposite, it is the fact that life is so precarious that strikes me. There is the finest of lines between the life she's living and the one I'm living. The growth of a fertilized egg into a living breathing baby can be altered in an instant. I could be the one in mourning and I know that just because Andrew is healthy now doesn't mean he always will be. Each moment is so precious for that very reason. That's why each day I look at my son and try to express just how much he is loved, just how grateful we are that he exists and how every little breath he takes is a miracle to me.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Happy Valentine's Day

Happy Sweetheart's Day from me and my little sweetheart.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Beautiful Day

On Saturday, I celebrated my 34th birthday. Other than the fact that I am so far away from my family and friends, it was a perfect day.
I remember my birthday last year -- right after our third failed IVF -- when Greg tried his best to make it special for me. We went to Dallas for the weekend and right there in the Stonebriar Center mall, I saw a T-shirt in the window at the Motherhood store and burst into tears.
But this year, I only have tears of joy. I have spent birthdays in London and Paris and Florence. I've seen wonderful shows, gone to fabulous concerts, dined in gourmet restaurants, shopped til I dropped. Over ther years, I've been treated to scrumptous desserts, breathtaking views and been surrounded by family and friends, I've been given thoughtful gifts and spoiled rotten with pampering. Still, this birthday was the best of my life -- though we didn't do anything extravagant or even anything out of the ordinary. We went to breakfast at Cracker Barrel and we did a little shopping. But, it was a great day spent with my loving husband and our precious son.
Greg asked me last week what I wanted for my birthday. I told him I didn't want any gifts, but a full night's sleep would be nice. So, Friday night, after feeding Andrew and settling him in his little bed, Greg tucked me into our bed and went to the guest room down the hall, where he pulled night duty with Andrew.
I would say I slept like a baby, but I've learned that babies tend to be restless sometimes -- making all kinds of noises and movements in their sleep. So, I'll say I slept like a dog -- because Brody can sleep anywhere through anything. I awoke around 7:30 a.m. feeling like a new woman.
Greg had made it through the night relatively unscathed. When I opened the guest bedroom door, Andrew was lying on Greg's chest being a little wiggle worm and poor Greg was trying to keep his eyes open. I took Andrew and got him to sleep and spent the morning dozing in my husband's arms. It was a great way to start my birthday.
The miracle is that last night, after a great day, Greg decided to do the whole thing over again. And I let him. I figure I've got five long nights ahead of me. I should take advantage of Super Dad while I can. So I got another full night's sleep. What a difference!
My birthday was filled with so much love -- phone calls and e-mails and facebook messages from friends and family -- gifts from my family (my sister got me a Nook!), flowers from my dear cousin, a visit from my neighbor Sara, and at the end of the day -- my very first card that said "Mommy" and a sweet gift from Andrew. I told Greg -- I said no gifts! His response was that the gift wasn't from him it was from Andrew.
I had a personality bead necklace and bracelet when we lived in Italy, long before they became so popular here in the states. I filled them with charms that I purchased on our travels -- there's a Union Jack flag for our trip to London, the boot of Italy, a bunch of grapes, the Eiffel tower, a German edelweiss flower, an abstract one that represents the wave in Malta that nearly swallowed Greg and took him out to sea, a lemon representing Sorrento and there are many others -- all special and all reminders of wonderful memories. When Andrew was born, Greg gave me a new charm -- a mother and child -- and last night, Andrew gave me another. It's a heart that says "best mom." Of all the charms on my bracelet, these are the most precious.
Since Andrew was born, I've spent a lot of posts talking about the practical things -- like feeding problems and fussiness. Perhaps I've failed to give voice to the tender small moments that are so filled with joy and love. Everyday, I look at Andrew and something will jump out to me -- the perfect little peaks of his top lip, the two dimples that dance around his mouth or the yummy little folds of skin on his neck.
I held Andrew in my arms last night as he drifted off to sleep. I tried again to memorize his tiny little face. I was paying particular attention to his tiny little eyebrows and eyelashes -- most of the time they are so blonde that you can hardly see them. But last night the light was hitting his face in a way that made his eyebrows and eyelashes look like shiny threads of copper. My Rowan -- literally meaning "little red one" -- lying there in my arms. Complete joy. My cup runneth over.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Colic schmolic

Nearly had a nervous breakdown earlier this week, when after three horrible no good very bad days, Andrew had slept hardly a wink and neither had I. I started writing down all his symptoms -- dry skin around his eyebrows, baby acne, screaming in apparent tummy pain, redness on his little hiney, infreqent bowel movements and the inability to sleep soundly and I decided that my little guy couldn't take the formula he was on. He would also fall asleep while eating so that he rarely finished a bottle, but then would wake up a few minutes later very hungry and very upset only to repeat the cycle when offered another bottle. So I called his doctor and the nurse I spoke with said to switch him to a different one made for fussiness and gas for a week to see if it would help. If he became unbearable, call her back.
So, on Wednesday morning after another terrible night of Andrew sleeping in fits and starts -- crying out in pain in his sleep and being a very unhappy boy -- I called back in what must have sounded like total desperation, asking if there was anything they could suggest to help my son sleep.
The nurse called back and said it probably wasn't the formula making my boy so cranky -- and told me that he probably had colic and there's not really anything you can do to fix it and that it usually doesn't last past the two or three month mark. Are you freaking kidding me? I was at the end of my rope, exhausted from the previous three days and trying to figure out how in the world I would survive until the two or three month mark when these symptoms are supposed to magically disappear.
Greg came home from work early that day so that he could take care of Andrew and I could try to rest. But I didn't really rest because I was so upset over the prospect of trying to cope with a colic baby and thinking how absolutely miserable Andrew must be. While I was trying to rest, my dear husband fed and changed Andrew and figured out that the new bottles I had bought were simply not working. Andrew was sucking so hard for hardly any reward -- so he would tire and fall asleep before finishing his milk. Greg switched him back to his old bottles and he drank it all down and promptly went to sleep and slept soundly.
So we think the nurse was wrong. Since we changed his formula and went back to the old bottles, Andrew has been relatively happy. He sleeps well without crying out and his other symptoms have disappeared.
So this week, we learned that despite their best intentions, those in the medical profession don't always know best. Mom and Dad know a thing or two as well.
I don't want to speak too soon, but I don't think our boy has colic. Thank goodness!

Friday, February 4, 2011

Reality bites

Here's Andrew at four weeks. I cannot believe my little guy is a month old already. Sometimes it seems like it's been a very short time since we came home from the hospital, but other times it seems like it's been a very long and difficult four weeks.
There were times in the past four weeks that I felt like I was losing my mind, when I had thoughts that I would not dare give a real voice to by writing them here. Suffice it to say that I have grieved both for the carefree, easy life we left behind. And, I have grieved the loss of the fantasy I had in my mind of what life with baby would really be like.
Because I spent so many years longing and aching to be a mother, I had created a whole picture in my mind of what kind of mother I would be and what my life would be like. It was all warm and fuzzy and I had endless amounts of patience and my wee little one was a perfect baby.
Reality bites.
The reality is -- I'm not as patient as I want to be but I'm working on it. My baby is perfect, but not in the way I'd fantasized and my warm and fuzzy life I'd anticipated has included a lot of frustration, tears and even anger along with all those warm and fuzzy moments. Reality is that the cloth diapers I planned to use leak and disposables are so much easier. Reality is breast might be best but not for every one. The reality is nighttime feedings suck (no pun intended). The reality is showering is now a luxury. The reality is motherhood is mind bendingly difficult and completely foreign from anything I've ever known. The reality is I still sometimes wonder if life will ever feel "normal" again.
Finally, I feel like I'm turning a corner. Since we began to feed Andrew formula, life has become much easier. I am getting more rest. Andrew doesn't cry nearly as often and sleeps more sound. Instead of 12 or more feedings in a day, we're down to about 6 or 8. That makes a huge difference. I can finally see a bit of his personality beginning to emerge. After all those weeks of watching him dissolve into ear piercing screams hour after hour and not wanting to believe it was because he was simply hungry, I continued to try to breastfeed and wore myself down to a nub. And, in the process, I sort of started to wonder if this little red and purple faced screaming being would always be so cranky and irritable.
In the first days after we brought Andrew home, I would stare at him and cry -- overwhelmed by the miracle that he actually existed and was there in my arms. Last week, after feeding and then pumping for 48 hours straight, I looked at him and cried because I felt like I was failing him, because I didn't know how to make him happy and because it was just so damn hard.
Even now, I feel like I'm guessing at this mother thing much of the time. My mom told me that's normal -- it is a guessing game, she said, and it's a lot of trial and error.
I feel like I've made so many errors already. Thankfully, Andrew seems to be a very forgiving little soul. Every morning, I begin again -- determined to do it better than I did yesterday and excited to see what surprises the day might hold. Earlier this week, Andrew laughed out loud in his sleep. It was the most beautiful sound in the world.
I can imagine if I had read a post like this in the midst of our infertility struggle, I would have been angry at the writer. Just be thankful you have a screaming baby, you ungrateful hussy! And, who knows, some of you who read this might feel that way too. But, I think it's important for me to be honest in my writing and this is the reality. I guess no matter how long you waited to meet your baby or how desperately you wanted to be a mother, the reality is that motherhood is difficult and I think that is a truth that is universal -- whether your baby was conceived through an unplanned pregnancy or a modern day medical miracle.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

The end

Sadly, we're nearing the end of our breastfeeding journey. Somewhere between my last post on Saturday and Sunday morning, the thought struck me that Andrew's existence had been reduced to three modes of operation -- eating, sleeping or screaming. My life had warped into a state of such utter and total exhaustion that I cried on the phone with my mom, my sister, my best friend. I was so completely drained that I didn't even brush my teeth on Saturday and the sad thing is I didn't realize it until I fell into bed that night still wearing the same clothes I had on the night before. And, I was simply to tired to get up and brush my teeth.
Somewhere in the night, I decided that I was not being fair to my son. Unless he had some sort of stomach disorder (reflux or colic maybe?) it was not normal for him to cry so much for so long. He should be cooing and staring at lights, not screaming until his face looked purple and his cry morphed from simple crying into something Greg was calling "the goat." So I got out of bed Sunday morning with one goal -- to feed my baby.
I nursed him like normal and then I presented him with a four ounce bottle of formula. He guzzled it down and then the most amazing thing happened. Our babe was content. He wasn't sleeping, eating or crying -- he was just happy to be in my arms, listening to me talk. He even started to coo.
So we started giving him two ounces of supplemental formula not just at three feedings like we'd been doing, but at every feeding. The result is that we got our baby back. Andrew emerged from his hunger a satisfied, happy baby. He is now content to sit in his bouncy seat and stare out the window. He likes to watch his mobile. He stares at my face as I sing or talk to him without a trace of discomfort. He is finally happy.
Today, we saw Dr. S and told her about our choice. She is a very comforting presence. Instead of chastising me for giving up -- she said something like "you have done everything you could possibly do to nurse this baby. There comes a point when it's just not working and you need to take care of yourself so that you can take care of him."
So, that's where we are. I am still breastfeeding and then giving Andrew a bottle, but I can tell already that my milk is dissapearing. And, that makes me sad.
But, it's OK because Andrew is happy and content and finally satisfied.
I remember during my pregnancy, thinking how if only I were determined enough I would be successful at breastfeeding. While determination is certainly a part of the breastfeeding puzzle, there are many other factors that play a role in whether a mother will be successful. They say it's simple supply and demand and I believed every word that I read. I now know that simply isn't always true. I may never know why my body didn't produce enough milk for my son. I do know that even though it brought me to the point of utter exhaustion, I wouldn't trade those tender moments with my son for anything in the world (except maybe the ability to keep breastfeeding). But it's time to move on, however heartbreaking it might be for me.
Each time I nurse my son now, I wonder if it is the last time and I try to fix the picture of him at my breast in my mind -- his little face, his wispy baby hair, his tiny hand on my chest. I try to memorize that feeling because I know that it is unique in this world and I am not likely to ever experience that particular type of joy again.