Tuesday, September 23, 2008

this must be a joke.....

this past week or two have been a little crazy b/c my inlaws have been in my little crazy house to sit around and stare at my little crazy kid.

and now that the inlaws have left, my own family arrives to stay for 10 days.

not gonna cry myself to sleep when it's just me and isaac again.
well...and chad, too. ;)

we've had a revolving door for the past month with visitors and immediate family and they've all been very helpful, most specifically, in allowing me to sleep!

but without further ado, i'm going to explicitly describe (complain?) my breastfeeding hell. people, you can NEVER understand how complicated breastfeeding can be until you have a preemie. i'm sorry, but when you bottlefeed a child for the first 2 weeks of his life (with breastmilk, no worries!) and then attempt to transition to breastfeeding -- IT IS NOT EASY!!!

when isaac was born, he was tube-fed for a day and then they started taking my breastmilk and putting it in these ITTY BITTY bottles that looked as though they'd more perfectly fit in my cabbage patch kid's mouth -- not my REAL baby's! they were so small, but fortunately, he handled the milk very well and we were able to increase his milk "doses" every day!!!

by the time he was a week old, they encouraged me to attempt breastfeeding, if i was in fact, going to pursue that path. i felt incredibly intimidated by the entire ordeal and frankly, i felt too modest to try such a thing in the presence of all the NICU staff. but thank GOD i did. they gave me little tricks on how to get isaac to open his mouth, on how to best hold him, on how to get him to swallow, on how to keep him awake....it was one-on-one training, every day, in breastfeeding!

but still, we continued to hit snags....34-35 week old babies just don't really understand the "suck" ordeal. they try, and it's just ALOT easier for babies to drink from bottles, particularly ones that have massive holes in the nipples to allow the milk to drip effortlessly down their throats. and of course, since weight gain was PARAMOUNT for isaac -- and because he was so little -- we did NOT want him burning calories trying to fight through breastfeeding.

did you know that breastfeeding burns more calories than bottlefeeding? and had we forced him (if we even COULD have) to breastfeed, he'd burn more than he'd consume. SO....bottle was the way to go!!!! each day i'd sit in the NICU room and pump with this FANTASTIC hospital-grade pump and hand the milk over to the staff and they'd freeze/refridgerate it for me for his feedings every 3 hours.

as his discharge drew closer, we tried breastfeeding daily, and it was frustrating b/c i was being told my boobs had issues. they were "flat." hmm. interesting. i had never HEARD of such a thing...but apparently my puppies are particularly difficult for a newborn to latch on to. awwwesome. so we started using THIS:

a "nipple" shield.
IT WORKED WONDERS!!! if you've ever contemplated using one of these, please be encouraged to do so!!! my little preemie was able to latch on immediately and pull the milk out -- but it SUCKED having to keep it on standby for every feeding. and they're CLEAR so they're easily lost around the house. WHY couldn't they design a flourescent...or BETTER YET...a glow in the dark nipple shield. chad would have LOVED that......HA!

so anyhow, that helped up big time...
as did THIS:

the milk i was able to bring home with me from the NICU!!! i had pumped so much and he was drinking soooo little, that they kept it in a freezer for me and sent me home with it. my little treasure chest of goodness.....

and to think -- it's still in the freezer! both moms got a big kick out of it and i feel sad that it'll probably go to waste :( anybody need some colostrum/milk? ew....

so i'm finally home.....and i wake up one morning feeling....cold.
i jump out of bed to get ready for the day and stare at myself in the bathroom mirror and MY T-SHIRT IS SOAKED!? i run back to the bed and MY SHEETS are SOAKED?! why did NOBODY tell me that your boobs explode in your sleep on day...oh...5, after the baby's birth??? holy crap! my boobs were on FIRE and my shirt and sheets were covered with milk!!! it was then that i decided it was time to get serious about nursing bras and nursing pads!!! or i was going to be in a milky mess all the time!

collection of nursing bras/tanks:

i'm sorry, but WHAT SIZE do i need?

last year i was fitted at victoria's secret as a 32A.
that's just gross.

but let me just 'sidebar' for a second.
i felt HOT the first week after isaac was born.
i was limping around in pain, and trying to figure out if my world had really gone upside down as i expected....but i felt HOT. my stomach was WAY lighter and smaller than the week prior, and my boobs were HUGE!!! and by huge -- i mean OUT OF THIS WORLD big!

and then the explosion happened in my sleep all over my sheets and it wasn't as cool anymore. HA! but i know alot of women feel like crap after their baby is born, but i felt really attractive and beautiful. i felt accomplished. i felt ....very content and happy with myself in a way that i never had before...

anyhoo, i made the crucial mistake of pumping and pouring the milk into bottles and feeding isaac through a bottle during his first 2 weeks home (36-38 weeks). he was still a wee wittle bebe, and we still needed some significant weight gain, so i felt it was best to make his life easy. LITTLE DID I KNOW i was shooting myself in the foot! he would gobble up the bottles and i would pump (time consuming, but worth it!)....

and then i'd have to wash all the parts on a daily basis.
and there...were...alot...of parts.
you figure you're pumping 8-12 times a day -- and that adds up!!!
i have a freaking medela factory in my kitchen!!!

and a medela factory in my FRIDGE.....

but then things went downhill.
my milk supply started to dwindle.
apparently, pumping exclusively for 4 weeks, takes it's toll on your milk.
breasts dont like the pump.
they like BABY.
and isaac hadn't been properly trained on how to latch (minus breast shield) so.....i was eeking out ounces at a time....and my fridge was starting to take a hit on my milk reserves.

i frrrrreaked out.
and called a lactation consultant and IMMEDIATELY got an appt for the next day.
i decided i needed to revert back to my hospital grade pump.....so i rented one from them. you can pay by month -- and BOY this puppy works!!!! it's the same one i used in the NICU and i may NEVER give it back!!!! :)

then the consultant put me on a crazy "suppliment" schedule!!!
Fenugreek capsules = three pills, three times a day.
Mother's Milk Tea = THREE CUPS A DAY! (and it tastes like S***)
Mother's Milk Plus drops = 1ML mixed in water, three times a day

oh...and a bowl of oatmeal a day.

then she wanted me to pump 12 times a day.
EVEN if he breastfed for a feeding -- i was still ordered to pump after he ate, regardless.
i did this at 11pm, 2am, 4am, 6am, 8am.....etc etc.

and stored it in these bags....


this is my freezer now:

yep...more milk hiding behind the ice cream!

it's HARD WORK, but it IS POSSIBLE to restore your milk flow if you're willing to COMPLETELY sacrifice your sanity, sleep, and social life.

i have been doing this for the past 5 weeks.
i have cried while pumping out of INSANE boredom.
each feeding would take an hour and a half.
try to get him to breastfeed.
then suppliment with a bottle of breastmilk.
then pump the rest out.
put it in bags....
change his diaper.
and do it all over again in about....oh....10 minutes.

there was one day where i did not leave his nursery for EIGHT HOURS.
this vicious cycle just trapped me that day and by the end of the day i was in tears.
staring out his nursery window.
wondering HOW LONG a tortured day can last.
you figure each feeding took at least an hour.
and you do that 8-12 x a day....

i have to admit, i'm shocked anybody in our generation would do this. our generation is GO GO GO...and all about convenience...and this cycle was STOP STOP STOP and UTTERLY inconvenient....

but isaac was worth it.
maybe it was my way of making it up to him.
my way of offerring him something i felt he deserved after being so short-changed because of my body.

i INSISTED on this working and nearly killed myself doing it.

i decided to eventually "cheat" and skip his 6am feeding, so that chad could feed him and let me sleep from 4-8am. and i'd skip the 6am pumping session.

it really helped restore SOME of my mental energy.
but then we had to buy stuff for CHAD to be able to do so....
new bottles that most closely resembled "the breast."

and bottle heaters:

and our little system was....at least, established.
life got EVEN MORE complicated b/c i contracted YEAST/THRUSH infection in my breastmilk.

i noticed the pain involved with breastfeeding made EVERYTHING WORSE. i had NO IDEA breastfeeding could BE SO EFFING PAINFUL. i would hold my breath, break a sweat, get nauseous when he'd latch on. i would cry, i would want to throw isaac across the room, i would GO MAD each time he was leaning in to latch on......

my boobs would shrivel up and DIE at the thought of feeding isaac.
i went to my OB and then to my primary doctor and then to my pediatricia...


if you thought my breastfeeding regimin was bad before -- YOU NEVER WANT TO GET THRUSH!!!!!

it involved the following items:

MORE nursing pads b/c you can NEVER reuse one, once it's used...b/c of the spread of yeast.
then it involved cream for isaac's bum.
cream for my boobs.
drops for his mouth.
vinigar/hot water.
steam bags.

basically, lets go through this again:

cry through breastfeeding scenario: isaac fights to latch (so complicated), then i cry through pain, then he gets frustrated b/c he's confused as to why he's not drinking from a BOTTLE
then i make bottle of breastmilk.
then i change his diaper.
then i pump.
then i take a dropper and cutip and swab his mouth with medicine.
he screams.
spits it out.
then i wash his hands with hot soapy water b/c babies spread yeast by sucking on their hands.
then i mix 1 part vinigar to 3 parts water...and wash boobs.
air dry.
(baby still screaming)
then put ointment all over boobs.
then take oral antibiotic.

then daily STEAM all those bottle/pumping parts we discussed earlier to disinfect EVERYTHING he touches.

then cry more.
and do it all over again.

i was lucky to eat a granola bar...lucky to catch my VMs days too late...lucky to get to my emails....lucky to DO ANYTHING for myself.

but that was only for 10 days.

then i headed back to the lactation consultant's office.
follow up appointment to weight my baby and discuss our course of FUTURE action.
she weighed him.
i breastfed him.
and weighed him again.

he didn't eat enough.
which meant, i was sent home with a scale to do this myself at each feeding to ensure he's getting enough and to suppliment each meal with the difference in a bottle.

SO NOW, in addition to ALL the aforementioned crap....i had to do MATH!?
weight x 2.5 divided by 8 = ounces per feeding.

weigh, feed, weigh, bottle, pump, ointments, creams, washing, vinigar, steam, medicine...

they put horses under for far less misery than this....

but guess what?
he's now over ten pounds.
he now exclusively breastfeeds :)
he now sleeps 4 hour stretches through night.
he now GETS IT and I DID IT!!!!!!

it was ALL worth it!!!!! i feel SO SO SO proud of MYSELF and of ISAAC for making this work!!! we have had some tearful late nights and some insanely long days....but he's almost 8 weeks old (1.5 WEEKS adjusted age--one and a half weeks past his due date) and weighs 10+ pounds!!!!!!!

and the pain is FINALLY GONE....and i feel the worst is behind us!!!!!
i've spent a fortune....i've tearfully rocked my baby for HOURS and HOURS.....and the end was SO SO SO worth the means...!!!!!

this is what my boys do while i'm slaving away, at the end of the day :)
SO not fair!!!

my husband is great....
he did feel REALLY bad for me on those long days....
it was torturous for him to witness....

and he left me this next to my pump, in the baby's nursery....
a love letter....
i looooove my husband! he makes my job as mother SO much easier, through his careful support and loving care of me!!

and these :)

all to say -- IF I CAN DO IT -- anybody can do it.
if you have limitless numbers of hours to kill....and a great support system!



Julie Nickerson said...

Love this post!

It should go in a breastfeeding magazine...well, maybe not....we don't want to scare new mommies.

I am so proud of you! I am glad you feel that it is all worth it. That is how I felt. It sucked so bad for 6 weeks, but then one day it didn't hurt and he was sleeping better and you feel like you can breathe a little easier. I would do it all over again in a heartbeat. :)

Isaac actually looks chubby in that picture with Chad. SO CUTE!!! I need to hold him again. He soon will be out of the newborn stage.

Every day gets better and better (sure, there will be bad days) but you start to understand them more and more.

YOU ARE A GREAT MOM!!! Be proud of yourself. YOU DID IT!!!

The Dixons said...

You-are-a-ma-zing!! I had a early baby, my first, and I was not sure who was more clueless about the breastfeeding, she or I. I know it can be frustrating, but you are doing it and Isaac is loving it and he is growing and he will be brilliant because he was a breast baby!!! I have never seen someone go through so much to breast feed. You deserve an A+, a gold star and a pat on the back! Keep it up, you will never regret all you went through. Oh what I would give to be able to have my baby at my breast just one last time...

ps, never, never, never throw out breast milk. YOU WILL USE IT! and if you don't you can donate it or sell it.

Anonymous said...

You did and are doing a wonderful job! Keep up the great work...you will not regret it. Breastfeeding is one of the most important "gifts" you can give your baby.

JimandApril said...

wow...that was an amazing post on breastfeeding with great pics...i almost want to save this for when I have children incase I have the same problems as you have had! your amazing! btw...wow...that love letter your husband wrote you....so beautiful!

Katie (baby4ztarx3) said...

way to go! Minus the yeast/thrush part this is a page out of my book... times two. Frustrating but worth it!