Becoming Mother

A book and a blog for first-time mothers

Category: Formula feeding

Week 9: Maternity Leave, In Pictures

12:50 a.m.

Bottle # 1

IMG_4021

I don’t usually do this feeding, but Doug is too tired tonight. So I do it.

4:30 a.m.

Exercise

IMG_4018

Now, that Henry is waking up at 6 or 6:30, I’ve been getting up at 4:00 or 4:30, just to ensure that I have a whole hour of alone time to exercise. His naps are still too unpredictable to put much hope in fitting it in later.

Laundry Load # 1

IMG_4019

5:30 a.m.

Today’s supply of formula

IMG_4020

This is when I realize that we’re just about out of Similac Soy, which is what he can eat that won’t give him diarrhea or constipation. I would buy six containers on Amazon like last time, but Amazon just increased its Prime listing to $31.50 (as opposed to $27.99, like before) and now only offers the $27.99 price through Prime Pantry. That’s a big deal for me because I can’t get that price unless I’m able to fill a “box” to make the shipping worth it. And six containers of Similac only fills 12% of the box.

So now I have to go to the store.

Horror of horrors.

It will be Henry’s first trip to Target. Yeah, it’s true. I’ve managed to avoid it this long by leaving him home with someone else or sending someone else to the store for me.

But it’s probably time.

So we’ll need a stocked diaper bag. And I’ll cross my fingers that he’s able to sleep through the entire trip.

5:40 a.m.

Breakfast

IMG_4023

Steel cut oatmeal, raspberries, and dark chocolate chips. Always have a little chocolate in the morning.  It’s good advice.

Pack Child # 1’s lunch

IMG_4024

IMG_4025

She doesn’t realize how good she has it.

Dish Load # 1

IMG_4017

IMG_4027

(I refuse to hand-dry all that plastic.)

6:30 a.m.

IMG_4029

Bottle # 2

IMG_4030

Sometimes, This Is How You Have to Shower

IMG_4031

Halfway through brushing my teeth, the baby is giving an ear-piercing scream. Why? Who knows. I abandon brushing my teeth and spend the next 35 minutes going through the list of things to calm him down. He finally sucks down the last ounce in his bottle and passes out. I swaddle him and put him back in his crib.

7:20 a.m.

Coffee # 1

IMG_4033

For ten glorious minutes, I sit down with coffee and listen to NPR’s Morning Edition.

8:00 a.m.

Child # 1’s Daycare Drop-off

IMG_4034

With some stern words after ten minutes of asking nicely, Felicity has dressed and vitamin-ed herself. When we’re in the car, she says, “Please can I have Shake My Body“? (Technotronic’s “Move This.” I know. This is completely my fault.)

8:30 a.m.

Target

(a.k.a. Why I Hate Shopping with a Newborn)

IMG_4035

The car seat occupies basically the entire cart and you have to cram your stuff in the space around it. (Nope, you can’t put the car seat on the top of the cart, near the handlebars. This is a big no-no.)

I’m sure someone is thinking, “Put him in a baby carrier!” That doesn’t work for me because every time we go out in the car, he falls asleep and ain’t no way I want to wake a baby from sleeping. Not gonna do it. If I can avoid having a cranky baby at the end of the day, I will do anything.

9:15 a.m.

Coffee # 2 + eggs

IMG_4036

10:30 a.m.

Bottle # 3

IMG_4021

Diapers

IMG_4032

IMG_4037

IMG_4038

Yes, I’m cloth diapering again. For now. We’ve both agreed that we’re going to quit earlier this time, probably once he completely transitions to solids and fighting the solid-poop smell takes too much effort.

11:00 a.m.

Walk

IMG_4042

Getting out of the house is pretty important to my mental sanity. Even if it is just for a short walk. This was a good week since he was able to fall asleep in the stroller. Sometimes, it’s just screams.

12:00 p.m.

His Nap # 3

IMG_4045

My Nap # 1 (a whole 30 minutes)

IMG_4046

When he first starts stirring, I ignore it. No, I think. He’ll go back to sleep. Then, he starts crying. I run to try to salvage the nap. I sneak into the room, slip a hand into the crib without him seeing my face, and give him “the disembodied pat-down” to try to calm him.

Nope.

Damn it.

12:45 p.m.

IMG_4047

IMG_4048

Because he chomps on his hands with his formula-coated mouth, “Cheesy Hands” needs a bath. But first, I need to pry open his Death Grip to get the soap between his fingers.

It takes time.

Laundry Load # 2

IMG_4049

It’s all ready to fold and then…

Crying.

2:00 p.m.

Bottle # 4

IMG_4021

2:30 p.m.

IMG_4051

Today is a hard day to get him to nap by himself. After several attempts to get him to sleep in the bouncer, I settle in for an hour and hold him. I watch Frontline’s “Divided States of America.” It’s excellent, of course. I love PBS. I’m glad we donate to them. After an hour or so, I manage to slip him onto the sofa on his back without completely waking him up.

Good enough.

IMG_4052

3:45 p.m.

Dish Load # 2

IMG_4053

IMG_4054

I leave the bottles for a thorough scrubbing later, with the rest of the day’s bottles.

4:00 p.m.

Dinner preparation

IMG_4055

This is the pretty part of the dinner. The rest is scrambled eggs and some oranges.

Yep.

5:00 p.m.

Bottle # 5

IMG_4021

5:45 p.m.

IMG_4056

IMG_4057

Today was a great day for her. She even washes her hands when she comes in the door without the All-Out Meltdown. She impresses me with the sentence, “Be careful. It’s delicate.”

Who is this kid? Can we keep her?

6:30 p.m.

Dish Load # 3

IMG_4058

IMG_4059

IMG_4060

7:30 p.m.

Nap # 5

IMG_4062

Today is an interesting day. He decides to go to bed for the night at 7:30. He doesn’t wake up for his next bottle until 2:00 a.m. Nice stretch, but can’t we have it from 11:00 p.m. to 6:00 a.m.? Maybe next week.

8:00 p.m.

Trash Night

IMG_4066

IMG_4067

A few stories, a trip to the bathroom, (“No, you don’t need any more water.”), and some snuggling. Don’t let her fool you. She’ll leave her room at least three more times before she falls asleep, just to make sure that no one is doing anything fun. In her mind, I know she thinks we’re downstairs enjoying episode after episode of Paw Patrol while she’s doing nothing but boring sleeping.

9:00 p.m.

Making Memories

IMG_4068

IMG_4069

(Not pictured: Nine diaper changes. Do you really want to see that anyway?)

***

Obviously, maternity leave isn’t a vacation. It’s not all baby smiles and cute clothes (although those are nice…)  It’s also not like other medical leave. You don’t have weeks and weeks to take it easy and recover. If anything, it’s like a marathon that you run for months.

When I go back to work full-time when he’s about three months old, it will be the first time since January when I’ve had eight straight hours completely to myself. (Kind of.)

Eight hours to think by myself.

Eight hours to not be a mother.

Time with your children is valuable. Time with your baby is priceless.

But as all mothers know, so is time by yourself.

The First Week: In Pictures (Pt. 2, How We Eat and Sleep)

Day 5

My postpartum belly continues to slowly shrink. And if you’re wondering what it looks like to wear cabbage leaves inside of your bra, look no further. A little lumpy, but not too bad. I wore the leaves for two days to relieve the pressure and pain.

img_3794

img_3786

Everyone has different sleeping arrangements that work for them. I’m in favor of whatever works for the parents.

Because if the parents have lost their minds, it doesn’t matter whatever positive benefits studies show.

We are following pretty closely to what we did last time. One parent sleeps apart from the baby and gets a full night’s sleep and the other parent sleeps next to the baby in the baby’s room. During the week, Doug gets to sleep in our bedroom without the baby (since he is working full-time.) Then, I take the night watch. During the weekend, I get to sleep in our bedroom and Doug takes the night watch.

I haven’t dreaded being the night watch parent so far. In fact, I think my hormones are demanding it. On Day 4, I thought I could just knock myself out with some Zzquil and sleep for eight hours and be totally caught up on sleep.

Ha. Ha.

My mind had other ideas. It kept playing and replaying images from the birth. Over and over again. And when I wasn’t remembering the visuals, my mind would nurse on the songs on the playlist that accompanied all of the visuals from the birth that will remain with me forever.

Honestly, how could my mind do anything else after experiencing birth?

Birth is such a tremendously life-changing event. In my experience, it far surpasses other milestones like graduations or even my wedding. The only times in my life that approach this level of preoccupation were the times I fell in love. That’s it.

So what does all of this mean?

I basically didn’t fully descend into a deep sleep from birth to Day 5 (February 1st, the last day that I got a full night’s sleep, until February 6th). I “rested.” But during that rest, my senses were amplified. Everything was on high alert. I noticed everything, as if my mind were logging all of the possible noises that could come from my baby and what they meant.

Oh, that snort is okay. He’s fine. 

Now, he’s smacking his lips and eating his fingers. He’s hungry.

He’s whimpering. He needs to be held close.

Oh, he startled himself awake when his arms flinched. He needs to be swaddled more tightly.

It’s a little easier this time to understand what the sounds mean because I know a range of possibilities of why babies wake up. But obviously, this is a new baby and this is an entirely new inventory of sounds. It’s taking my mind time to acquire this new language.

From Day 5-7, I was able to establish a passable sleeping pattern for myself. At least, one that steers me off the road to psychosis. I was able to sleep in one-hour increments and still reach a deep enough level of sleep for my body to partially restore itself. During the night, I was even able to dream in one-hour increments between feedings.

Nevertheless, I’m still not close to being able to drive safely. Would you want someone like this on the road?

screenshot_20170210-084705

So, you’re welcome.

This is markedly different from my first child, when I went on a 12-day bender with nearly no sleep at all. Not only did my hormones keep me awake, but so did all of the breastfeeding challenges that grew worse over time and never improved.

So this is what is working for us right now. Me, sleeping on the inflatable mattress in the baby’s room, close enough to calm my mind, but far enough away to still sleep somewhat soundly. Maybe it’s just me, but I actually sleep with earplugs in my ears. That’s how heightened my senses are. I can still hear him through the earplugs when something’s wrong.

Nature. Just wow.

img_3801

Best friend, “Bear,” holds the first boy among our Monday Night Dinner friends. After six girls. (Just means we’re raising a legion of strong women.)

img_3803

We bought these tiny 2-ounce bottles, thinking we would use them for a few weeks. Of course, he outgrows them in two days. Now, we’re on to 4-ounce bottles. I guess it *does* make a difference that he stayed in the womb for an extra week.

Day 6
img_3806

Nasty? Yep. After this birth, I’ve forever crossed into the realm of “badass-dom.”

img_3810

Collecting things for the baby book

img_3811

You know you have amazing friends when this is the card they get you.

I saw this card one night as I was preparing for the night watch and I had to smile. My friend, Suzy, gave me this card for my birthday last Thanksgiving (yep, same day), and it was such an encouragement. I was 32 weeks pregnant and already feeling massive. Wondering how much larger I was going to be at the end. (Thank God, I don’t have the gift of foresight.)

I think she knew I needed to hear that.

img_3812

The night watch supplies. Not pictured: Stephen Colbert videos via smartphone.

img_3818

When I see his legs crossed like this, I think, “Oh. That makes sense. Now I understand what I was feeling for the last month.”

img_3823

3:30 a.m.

img_20170208_071220

Wide awake, studying my face.

img_3832

The “old man” face

Day 7

img_3838

img_3845

Just before I lie down for another 1-hour nap, I see that it’s Henry’s 1-week birthday, right down to the minute.

img_3847

For how much walking I did to get labor going, you would think that I would not miss it. Especially some of these mornings have been so cold. But, of course, I do. I haven’t really been outside since the birth (except to take H to the pediatrician).

img_20170209_115633

Can I just say, this page of the baby book is uniquely challenging. Although, when I posed this challenge to the Facebook hive mind, I got some great ideas for how to inject humor into the bleak and unforgiving reality of the time in which we are living.

My favorite? Use “Donald Trump language” to fill out the whole page.

So that is where we are so far.

And now I’m going to do something daring.

img_3836

Here I am, in full postpartum glory.

Exhausted. Imperfect, but authentic. Continuously putting faith in the idea that I have all I need, even though I feel short on everything.

There’s a cliche saying that I grew up hearing in the Southern Baptist church. God, I really hated it when people said it. But I cannot deny the truth of it in this moment.

They would say, His grace is sufficient for me.

In other words, Trust that God will give you what you need to pull through.

I’m doing just that.

The First Week: In Pictures

As can be expected, my ability to write is greatly diminished right now. And that’s totally fine with me. Self-care first. Instead of putting effort into writing, I’d like to just show you around my world in the last five days.

The Last Day of Pregnancy: February 1, 2017, 41 weeks and 3 days

img_20170201_173926

Birth: February 2, 2017, 1:27 p.m.

henry_glass_february_2_2

Minutes old. Skin to skin.

img_3756

Life-saver. I suffered a postpartum hemorrhage, but my midwife and nurses were able to control the bleeding within the first hour of delivery. Thank God for modern medicine. 

img_3764

Putting on my Warrior hat to breastfeed after the birth.

img_3757

 

Day 1

img_3759

Getting ready to leave Family Beginnings, a natural birthing center attached to Miami Valley Hospital in Dayton, Ohio. They. Are. Marvelous.

img_3761

Temporary living quarters while Doug finishes the baby’s room. 

img_3762

img_3765

Self-care ain’t pretty sometimes.

Day 2

img_3767

Day 2 profile

img_3768

My viewpoint, post “nap.” So hard to sleep soundly.

img_3769

Day 3

img_3770

Day 3 Profile: Breasts actually feeling milk come in this time. Feeling a bit hopeful in this moment.

img_20170205_131419

Can you see it? Just barely? That is what 20 minutes of pumping yields. It won’t even drain into the vials. Baby has a good latch, but I have to use a shield to get a good latch. But he gets frustrated when hardly anything comes out. Can’t really blame him. Poor guy.

img_3771

How small, he starts.

img_3772

Yawn.

img_3774

img_3775

Stork bite on right thigh.

img_3776

Looks just like his sister in the first week. I will show a side-by-side comparison someday.

Day 4

img_3777

Day 4: Weaning. As my breasts fill and ache, latching is more difficult and the pump won’t relieve it. I try having him latch without the shield. Awful. So awful. Baby is doing well with formula, and I’m tired of working to overcome these barriers. So I am utterly done with breastfeeding forever. And you know what? That’s okay with me. We’re not having any more kids after this one, so it’s time to stop stressing and just enjoy having a baby.

img_3778

Day 4 Profile

img_3780

Nipple shield with last bits of milk still on it. 

Day 5

img_3781

First doctor’s appointment. Henry receives an excellent bill of health. “You look pale,” says the pediatrician. “You should take iron to help with the breastfeeding.” I tell her that I started the weaning process yesterday and he’s exclusively on formula. “Well, he’s doing great. Can I get you some free cans of formula?” Thank God for choices and supportive pediatricians. I leave without the same feelings of guilt that I had with my first child. 

What’s not in these pictures?

All the people who are supporting me.

My husband, who has spent the last month painting and installing lights and shelving in not one, not two, but three bedrooms.

My mother, who has been watching the baby during the day while I have been sleeping and recovering from the blood loss. (I’ve got the night shift.)

My friends, who brought over bagels and scones and muffins on Day 2 and sat with me. Small reassurances that even though crazy things like birth and recovery happen, life goes on. And it’s all beautiful and holy.

My church, who lifted me with their prayers.

The postpartum period can be incredibly isolating and lonely, but all this help has made it just a little easier.

16427290_1859779354297519_1932147826037401289_n

So much beauty in the world.

Book Club Discussion # 2: Who should intervene when women have trouble breastfeeding?

In this post, I include an excerpt from my forthcoming book, “Becoming Mother: A Journey of Identity,” (coming in August 2015) followed by commentary. I intend this post to be a springboard for a book-club-like discussion, so feel free to contribute!

From the chapter entitled, “Feeding”:

“So…” the pediatrician looks at the computer screen before she turns back to me. “Your daughter has lost eleven percent of her body weight in four days. That’s cause for concern,” she nods as she says this.

I am so relieved. I’m not crazy. I knew that she was hungry. I’m not crazy.

“Do you have any idea how much milk you’re producing?” she asks.

I shake my head. “We’ve just been trying to keep our heads above water, so I haven’t even tried pumping.”

“Okay… okay.” She is quiet for a moment. “Have you tried hand expressing any milk?”

“The lactation consultant said that I have flat and inverted nipples, so that’s why I wasn’t able to do that.”

“Okay… So I’d go ahead and try pumping just to get an idea of what you’re producing. It’s not going to be as much as what your baby can pull out, but it will do a few things. It will give you an idea of what you’re producing. It will give you a break from these marathon nursing sessions. And it will keep stimulating milk production.”

She stands up to examine Felicity. She looks into her eyes and feels her belly. “She’s pretty jaundiced, too. We’ll need to follow up on that.”

“Can I ask a question about me?”

She turns to look at me. “I’ve gained eleven pounds of fluid, and it’s all in my legs. And I can’t sleep. I keep trying to go to sleep between feedings, and I just can’t. I’m afraid that if this continues, it’s going to affect my milk coming in.”

“Okay, so that’s something that I’d talk with your OB about.”

Oh, wonderful, I think. Her.

“Great. She’s in Italy,” I say.

“Oh… She’s in a practice by herself?”

“Yeah.”

“Maybe the nurses there, then… But really your OB should be the one to consult about those kinds of issues.”

It seems strange to me how we’re talking about all of these issues: Felicity’s weight loss, my lack of sleep and fluid retention, and my milk production. It’s all related, but the pediatrician is responsible for addressing Felicity’s weight loss, not any issues with me. But the issues with me are causing Felicity’s weight loss. It seems to me that someone—I don’t know who—should be treating this problem holistically. This is the time and place where I need someone to help me first so that I can help Felicity. I thought maybe this doctor—my family doctor—would be able to help. After all, she’s also Felicity’s pediatrician. But perhaps there are some legal issues here to consider? Who knows.

“So because of her rapid weight loss,” the doctor explains, “she really needs to have formula as a supplement until your milk comes in.”

There it is. All the on-line breastfeeding forums have cautioned me about this: the dreaded supplementation discussion at the first visit to the pediatrician. But I gather all of their dire warnings about supplementing in the first week and throw them to the wind. I’ll do what I need to do in this moment—regardless of the shame that I know will befall me.

The doctor pulls a starter kit of formula from a cabinet and opens the box. She unscrews the cap of a premade bottle. For a moment, I cringe. But when my doctor hands it to me, I take it. I push aside all my thoughts about the most natural option being the best decision in this moment. Today, living off something synthetic is better than dying from the lack of something natural.

I nestle the nipple of the bottle between Felicity’s lips and she starts guzzling. Her eyes flip open in surprise.

“You want to give her breaks, every half ounce or so,” the doctor advises. “She needs some time for her stomach to realize how much she’s eaten. If you let her eat too quickly, it could come straight back up.”

“So… I should just take it away and check every now and then?”

“Yeah, until you get the hang of it.”

The bottle has useful measurement marks to keep track of how much Felicity has eaten. I pull the bottle away after every half of an ounce. Then, I burp her, and we resume the feeding. Once Felicity has finished the bottle, she is fast asleep in my arms.

“Thank you,” I say. “Just… um…” I shake my head, the heat of my tears stinging as they rise. “This means a lot.” I wish there were stronger words than thank you, but I’m too emotional to find them.

Author Commentary

Even as I share this excerpt, I know that there are plenty of mothers who had a similar experience at their child’s first pediatrician visit. What I write about here is hotly debated among mothers–to supplement or not to supplement?

There are plenty of women who can share an experience of their milk fully coming in after the first pediatrician’s visit–and then feeling like the doctors suggested supplementing too soon. And if they did supplement in the first days of life and suffered from low milk supply later on, they may blame themselves for not having faith in their bodies to do the job. Or they may blame the doctors for not trusting in the strength of women’s bodies.

In my case, I wouldn’t realize until six months postpartum that–while at was at that first visit to the pediatrician–my body was experiencing postpartum thyroiditis. This condition caused me to make about 10% of the amount of breast milk that my daughter needed to survive every day. But I didn’t know this. I could have chosen to say, “No, I’ll keep exclusively nursing.”

But I didn’t. Something just didn’t feel right. Maybe it was the way my daughter looked as she strained and strained to eat, as if trying to draw water from a rock.

Before becoming a mother, I was never one to really trust my intuition. I relied mostly on facts, observations, and research to make decisions. But something shifted in those first days of motherhood and I couldn’t ignore what my intuition was telling me.

We could get tangled up in this messy web of whether or not to supplement while nursing, but I think there is a much bigger question that goes undiscussed far too often when we talk about breastfeeding troubles.

Who should be responsible for intervening when a mother has trouble breastfeeding? 

Right now in the United States, the pediatrician is the first medical professional that a new mother and baby typically encounter after they are discharged from the hospital. But as you can see from the excerpt above, pediatricians don’t always frame their advice and suggestions based on the assumption that the mother and baby are still one unit. They are thinking about the baby–not the mother. But this neglects the fact that the new mother and baby are still so integrally tied to each other in those first few weeks. They still exist in symbiosis. What affects the baby affects the mother–and what affects the mother affects the baby.

After the first pediatrician visit, mothers typically shoulder the responsibility for seeking out help if they are experiencing problems with breastfeeding. They might call a lactation consultant (if their insurance covers the expense.) But lactation consultants (LC) can offer wildly different advice–which leads mothers to calling LC after LC after LC.

So here’s a broad question that I’ll just put out there for you to think about and respond as you feel fit:

What kind of support system do mothers need when they are experiencing troubles with breastfeeding? Who should be involved? And how should they help?

I look forward to hearing from you!

(Want to join other Book Club Discussions? Click here.)

%d bloggers like this: