You may, or may not, know we have been getting into the swing of parenthood in the Not Quite Gourmet home. I wanted to take a moment to share with you the incredible journey we have been on from our delivery until today. I want to share this in a way which may help others but also keeping some things personal – for just us. Have the past 17 days been easy peasy? Not quite! Have there been moments of pure blissed out goodness? Absolutely! Read on for a story about a beautiful time and one of the most difficult times I have weathered in a few years.
The day NQGBebe arrived was surreal from start to finish. The supermoon had recently passed but the waning moon was still brilliant in the wee small hours of morning as Sweet Z and I drove to the hospital. This was the last time we would be in a car as the two of us. The smell of his coffee and blueberry muffin from my Mom taunted me as I gazed out the window, my own stomach grumbling, and breathed deeply. I needed to keep calm and face the fact that in two short hours I would be undergoing a major surgery and we would be meeting our child. Would a baby girl or boy greet us? Would he or she be healthy? What if something went wrong and my body didn’t respond well? What if there was something wrong with the baby? I took another deep breath and gazed at the moon while quietly talking with Sweet Z for the next 25 minutes.
I had a planned cesarean birth due to previous medical issues. I had plenty of time to get used to this fact, making it my own reality, but I did not feel 100% comfortable that it would go flawlessly. We arrived at the hospital and I checked in. I now had 2 bracelets to identify me. We made our way to the maternal and child wing. The sweet night nurse, Bobbi, continued to check me in and get me all set. Her accent reminded me of someone from Wisconsin. Her mannerisms reminded me of a friend of mine from graduate school who was also from Wisconsin. This girl was always happy. Does Wisconsin know something we do not? Hmm. I changed into a gorgeous hospital gown, and was poked and prodded with needles, blood pressure checks and the like. I kept breathing deeply. Strangely, I felt calm and almost at peace. I was trying to remain positive, confident and not think about the ‘what ifs’. My Mom arrived, our doula arrived…my shoulders relaxed. The anesthesiologist arrived, was matter of fact, and raring to go for his first surgery of the day. I suppose I was the lucky one with the first spot of the day. Bobbi was so happy to see this particular anesthesiologist…apparently he was ‘the best.’ I quietly breathed a sigh of relief that he was on my team! I signed a lot of papers, made idle chit chat, my doctor came in and signed my stomach where she was going to make the incision. Hospital procedure. And then? I walked down to the OR, with the anesthesiologist and maybe a nurse. I left behind my husband, Mom and doula. I walked in and met ‘my team’ in the brightly lit, cold OR. I was now in the hands of the hospital team…breathing deeply.
I literally could do nothing from this point forward. I felt like I wanted to help this team – not that I could really do more than turn on my side to get the spinal block put in. A kind nurse was by my side the whole time calmly explaining what was happening and holding my hand. It felt nearly like I could have been at the end of my life in a strange and weird way vs. about to welcome another life into this world. My doctor arrived all scrubbed up and gowned. Everyone had their job to do and was busily doing it while bantering about. Someone mentioned their recent vacation, another about the food they ate. I did not have the energy to chime in about food, strangely enough. It was so surreal. So unreal. Time? I had no clue how much time passed. The spinal block was injected, I felt a burning and tingling sensation that quickly worked its way down my body. It felt hot, and like my entire lower body was ‘going to sleep’ with a million-bajillion needle pricks everywhere. I felt like I could not take as deep a breath as I wanted but assured myself I could still breathe. Must keep breathing. The medication man was by my side making sure I was holding steady and monitoring my stats.
A sheet was put up and I knew that the time was near. I was checked for numbness – yes, I couldn’t feel a thing. The team began and Sweet Z and the doula arrived by my side. We chatted as the team went to work. The team chatted quietly on their side all calm and businesslike, I chatted with Sweet Z and the doula quietly. I heard tools clinking, Sweet Z stopped talking and was overcome with emotion. I had seen this before nearly a year prior at our wedding. He was overcome with emotion at the ceremony – I wondered if he wanted to run away! Clearly, he did not! I carried on talking with the doula. I was still feeling calm.
The nurse by my side said they are getting close. She said this is not like you see on tv – it is not quick. The doctor is making sure she is being careful to make this easier for the baby and myself. They said there would be a some tugging and pulling, a herd of elephants, as they brought forth our baby into this world. I mentally braced myself for I could do nothing of the physical sort. I heard a cry…our child’s first cry! Sweet Z was asked to peek over the curtain to see this little one and tell us what we had waited to find out for 9 months. With tears in his eyes, he looked down at me and said, “It’s a boy!” The nurse, Darlene, brought this tiny, naked, crying baby boy around the curtain to show me. He was beautiful! We had special permission to hold him for a few extra minutes before he was whisked away to the nursery to finish his checks. He calmed immediately when placed on my body. It was amazing to finally meet this little baby who was inside, squirming away and dancing away for all of those months. I still could not (cannot) get over the fact that we created this little one. I still cannot believe how beautiful, peaceful and calm this birth was. It helped that our doula had such calm and reassuring presence. She was able to provide emotional support during, and since, the birth. Do not believe the stories you see on tv (Baby Story, anyone?). A cesarean birth can be a beautiful thing!
The next few days were spent dealing with recovery and learning the do’s and don’ts of breastfeeding. I was pretty sore and slow moving for a bit. I knew walking was good for recovery and so I walked the halls with my Mom or with Sweet Z and the baby. I grabbed chunks of sleep when I could, in between difficult nursing sessions, and kept my strength up with food that my Mom would make and deliver. That helped me recover a bit quicker, I am sure of it! I had moments of pure joy, sadness, happiness, exhaustion, all coursing through my body. Doing typical things like showering was (and still is) a challenge. I am reminded daily by slight burning feelings in my lower abdomen that I am still recovering. I cannot bend over very far or down to the ground if I drop something. This is particularly frustrating because I have had butter fingers lately. Getting up from the chair or couch has taken some getting used to, as has getting out of bed gingerly. I have lost my ability to sneeze and coughing hurts, a lot! I know if I have pushed it a bit too far – and I do almost daily – and am forced to rest. Orange is the New Black has helped me through this period.
Breastfeeding. Has breastfeeding been the picture of perfection? Do you picture the Mom gazing down at her new baby and smiling while the baby is perfectly latched on and happily eating away? I did. I had read a few books, taken a class and really thought I could do this. I did not take to this easily. We had varying amounts of help while in the hospital but in the end I came home so sore, swollen, cracked, blistered and red I could not even attempt to feed my son in the traditional way. We had started the journey of pumping and syringe and finger feeding for 48 hours. Feeding every 2 hours, rousing a sleepy baby, needing 2 people to do this feeding was taking a huge toll on all of us. Emotions ran high, there were moments of tension, we were running on empty and all the while I thought I really could not continue like this. It was not the picture I had painted in my head. I would go to sleep, for a few hours at least, and eventually the next day would dawn. With the sun, came a renewed sense of hope.
I was recovered enough to try to feed again. Over the next few days we met up with lactation consultants and introduced new tools – a shield in conjunction with a supplementer. The baby was re-learning to latch on, suck vigorously and would still get instant gratification via the supplementer which would simultaneously drip my milk into his mouth. I was still pumping and feeding around the clock. It was endless and I was depleted. At the end of every night I would swear I could not go on – it was so incredibly hard, emotions continued to run high, the days blurred together and we kept going. NQGBebe’s weight was slowly rising and we took away the supplementer. We were still using the shield but now I felt a glimmer of hope. We were one step closer to getting it. He was one step closer to latching.
Day 14 arrived and we had a pediatrician appointment. He continued to show progress gaining weight. Success! We met with another lactation consultant and we tried, again, to breastfeed with no tools. It worked!!!! I couldn’t believe this little guy was actually feeding – skin to skin! She expertly and efficiently coached me through on the various ins and outs of hand placement, technique, tips, as the baby continued to happily eat. I went into this session ready to start supplementing with formula, anything, to get this baby’s weight up. But he latched like a dream. He fed like a prince. He was transferring milk like a boss from the bare breast vs. the shield. We went home much happier and were able to tuck away the shields with the supplementer. Our journey has continued to today and we are learning more at every feeding session. The next goal? Regaining birth weight. We are so close and when that happens I will finally feel as though we have cleared a major, major hurdle.
The reason why I wanted to tell my tale of breastfeeding woe is because no one talks about their trouble with breastfeeding. Yet, I am hearing more and more stories of people who have similar issues as well – and some persevere and some throw in the towel. It is like a secret club of unsuccessful first attempts at breastfeeding. But it has lasted for days, weeks even. That, for me, was the most frustrating. I wanted answers after the first week! It was hard to face each day knowing we may or may not be one step closer to reaching our goal. And the advice…oh, the advice. It comes from everywhere and everyone wants to share their tales of successful stories, offer more suggestions and add more stuff to the already full plate. I know, now, that it is all coming from a loving, caring place. But when I am ‘in the moment’ of utter frustration and not seeing the light at the end of the tunnel? It is hard to really listen and hear what a person is saying when you are in that moment. Accept the advice and tuck it away in the memory bank for a better time to fully process it through and maybe even take action. Find a great lactation consultant(s) who can help you through and trust your instincts.
What have I learned so far?
Patience. I reigned in every ounce of patience I had and kept trying. It probably helps that I have a stubborn streak and really wanted to make this work for us! When I was exhausted I knew I had to just let the situation just ‘be’ until I had an hour or two of sleep. Running on fumes is difficult enough. Running on fumes and trying to feed a baby? Whoa.
Accepting help and asking for help. This is hard for me and always has been. I like to do things for myself. I have learned in this process to ask for what I need. My Mom was great at anticipating what I needed when she was helping out. I would make a motion to move – intending to refill a water bottle – bam. She knew what I was going for and made it happen. Is this a Mom instinct? Will I develop this, too? It is like a superpower! But then she left. And I realized that Sweet Z doesn’t have that same ability. I have learned to specifically ask for what I need. He has had the patience of a saint.
This entire experience, so far, has also made us work as a team. It has made us stronger. It has also made us realize that we have the same goal and outcome in mind but we will often take different approaches. That is ok as long as we are on the same page in terms of outcome. It takes a village…
Tomorrow we have another weight check. Keep your fingers crossed for us, friends!!! Thanks for reading!