Tuesday, November 30, 2010

because I just can't stop talking about my boobs

(Side note: how many random visitors will I get for including the word "boobs' in the title of this post?)

I told my mom yesterday that I never imagined I would talk about - not to mention display - my nipples to so many people.  I'm practically at the point of whipping them out on the street and asking people, "do you think this is normal?  Does this look like a yeast infection?  What would you do in my situation?" However, I'm pretty sure this would get me arrested, and "detained for public nudity" is not something I really want in my permanent file, especially given the whole "minister" thing.

So, yesterday we went to the tongue-snipping doctor.  She was very kind, and agreed that yes, baby girl did indeed have a tongue-tie problem.  (RELIEF.)  She and her assistant checked my nipples and both felt that I probably do not have a yeast infection (BIGGER RELIEF), but that I'm suffering from "mechanical damage."  Weird term, yes?  But reflects my suspicion, that it's simply her inability to latch correctly which is the major problem.  I'd been thinking that over the past week, mostly because the nipple cream, anti-fungal stuff and ibu.profen fix I was given to address the potential yeast infection was doing absolutely no good.

So, they weighed her first, and we had good news: since the formula supplementation started, the kid had gained nearly a pound in five days.  Nine pounds, up from 7 pounds 14 ounces a week ago.  Yay!  Visions of Terrible Awful Big Bad Things Wrong began to fade from my mind.  To be replaced with a quick vision of Morbidly Obese Baby, but I think we can let that one go.  And then we talked about the tongue for a bit, and the doctor told me I could watch or leave the room, or do whatever I liked, and I was definitely going to watch until she pulled out the little scissors and I decided nope...couldn't do it.  Baby girl hated it, naturally, but it was over quickly.  I felt horrible for a moment, knowing it was painful (although not much, most likely) but I kept telling myself that it was much better to do this now than to discover she'd need this done at age 3, or 5, or 10, or whatever.

A few moments of intense screaming later, she latched right on, and we're already doing better.  Much less pain.  We'll stick with formula supplementation until we see the doctor next week, at which point we'll probably start to wean her off.

Meanwhile, she's amusing herself staring at the (apparently) fascinating yellow quilt on the couch.  Between that and light fixtures, she hardly ever needs anything else to look at.  What could be more interesting?

Wednesday, November 24, 2010


Repeat to self: do not panic.  Do not panic.  Do.  Not.  Panic.

So, we went back to the doctor today for a second weight check, since baby girl was not at her birth weight last week.  As of today, she's at - exactly the same weight as last week.  Just shy of eight pounds.  Not an ounce gained (or lost, as my husband tried to point out while I wept).

The nurse did not freak out.  I, of course, did.  For two reasons: one, I am - being a worrier and also a bit shy on sleep - convinced that this means there is something terribly, horribly wrong and that we are beginning a long slide into Something Awful And As Yet Unknown, which is the worst kind of Awful there is.  And two, because - although it is getting better by the day - breastfeeding is still definitely not painless, which means I have been feeding her eight times a day, every day, painfully, and she has not gained anything as a result.  This is depressing, to say the least.

I cried all the way home, imagining all the Bad Things and thinking about all the breast pain, and resolved not to torture myself with Dr. Google.  Which I mostly managed to avoid, although I did reassure myself by doing a little research on tongue-tied babies - who do, indeed, often have trouble gaining weight.  We have an appointment on Monday to get her frenulum clipped, so hopefully that will make a good difference for both of us.

Her physician was not available until Monday, which meant I had all weekend to worry.  But, at about 7:00pm, the physician called our home (inspiring in me lifelong devotion to this woman) to chat about it.  It turns out she had actually lost an ounce from last week (the baby, not the doctor.  I mean, maybe the doctor lost an ounce too, but she probably wouldn't call me at home to talk about this).  So, the doctor recommended supplementing with formula.

I had two reactions to this: one, profound disappointment at having to take that step.  Failing at breastfeeding (I know, I know, I'm not failing, but it feels that way) seems like Infertility Redux - yet one more thing my body is supposed to be able to do, and can't.  Or won't.  Or whatever.  One more reproductive arena in which I have given it my all and I still can't do it without intervention.  This is frustrating.

But I was also profoundly relieved: that she called, that there is something we can do, that she was concerned but not freaked out, that she was very supportive of breastfeeding and wants me to continue that, and return to exclusive breastfeeding as soon as we get some more weight on this kid.  I breastfed her tonight and gave her a bottle afterward, and she sucked down two ounces like there was no tomorrow - hopefully this will get us over the hump.

This isn't how I thought things would go.  I really thought my sheer willpower would make breastfeeding work.  (I also thought sheer willpower would get me pregnant; apparently I am a slow learner.)  I'm still a little fragile about this, so if you have rooted objections to formula, please don't let me know.  Sometimes, you do what you have to do.  You make the best decision you can and trust that even your mistakes will get worked into something okay in the end.

Either that, or my kid can blame a brief period of formula supplementation for her problems when she goes on Oprah in twenty years.  

Friday, November 19, 2010

well, that explains it.

The breastfeeding saga continues...

Two nights ago - the dark night of the soul - I was about ready to give up.  The pain was only getting worse; I cried before (and during) every feeding, knowing how badly it would hurt.  Baby girl seemed to be getting enough to eat, although she wasn't gaining as much weight as we'd like; still a few ounces shy of her birth weight after two weeks.

Mostly, though, it was the pain.  I could pump just fine, but latch that baby on and holyfreakingmotherofgodandalltheangelsinheaven it could have been used as a torture device for getting information out of suspected terrorists.  I would have given you every secret I knew if it would stop the pain.

So, back to the lactation consultant yesterday.  It turns out that I have a.) a yeast infection.  About which I was freakishly delighted; I know they're a bitch to get rid of, but at least it was something real.  An actual problem.  Not just me.  I always thought I had a reasonable level of pain tolerance, but after barely being able to handle contractions at 2cm dilated and then weeping through breastfeeding, I was beginning to think I might be a closet wimp.  But no!  "Wow," said the consultant after looking at my nipples, "I bet that really hurts."  I practically wept with thanksgiving that she acknowledged it.

But wait!  There's more.  I also have b.) a baby with a short tongue who may need to have her frenulum clipped.  ("Tongue-tied," in other words.)  This probably explains half the pain, because she really can't latch on correctly.  No matter how much of my boob I stuff in her mouth, she still ends up on the tip of the nipple because her tongue can't get around it as it should.

At one point, the consultant stopped in the middle of a sentence and said, "I'm giving you a lot of information here - is it too much?"  "No," I said, because it was such a relief to know that there are actual problems, and that it's not just me - it's not that I have no pain tolerance, or that I can't breastfeed correctly, or that I don't have enough milk.  The tongue problem also explains the tepid weight gain: she's not getting as much as she should at each feeding.  And the yeast infection explains why my breasts hurt all the time, all day long, not just when she eats.

I have never been so relieved to have problems with names.  For the yeast infection, I have a prescription nipple cream and the instruction to take ibu.profen every four hours for at least a week.  "Can you be religious about this?" asked the consultant, which made me giggle a bit; "I specialize in being religious," I thought, but all I said was, "absolutely."  For the tongue problem, we have an appointment with an occupational therapist on Monday; she'll either give us some exercises to do by pushing down on her tongue, or she'll tell us we need to get the frenulum clipped, which freaks me out a bit but is apparently not a big deal and a quick recovery for her.  She also taught us a slightly different sort of latch, which is already relieving a great deal of the pain.

Last night, she was eating on the less-sore side, and I suddenly panicked.  I worried that she wasn't getting enough.  And then I realized why I was panicking: because it didn't hurt.  At all.  For the first time.  She was happily sucking away, and neither of us was crying, and it finally felt like we might be able to do this.

I realize that "intact nipples" is not necessarily the thing I should mention at the dinner table when we go around the circle on Thanksgiving and mention the things for which we are grateful.  But believe me, my Thanksgiving list this year is specific and simple:

Thank God for this beautiful child.
Thank God for lactation consultants.
And thank you, God, for intact nipples.

Amen to that.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010


The truth is, I think we've finally turned a corner. (Note that I did not say, THE corner. Fate laughs at those who make such claims.) Things are improving on the breastfeeding front, but I believe it is no coincidence that today, in the mail, I received a free sample of infant formula. They just know, don't they - those formula people - that women whose children are about 10 days old and who are weeping with nipple pain are ripe for the "oh, screw it, this formula arrived in the mail and I think my nipples are about to fall off" reaction.

I'm on to you, Formula People. And I WILL NOT BE DEFEATED.

I know there are legitimate reasons why people choose not to, or cannot, breastfeed, so this is mostly definitely not a post judging anyone's choice. I really wanted to breastfeed, so I went to the class (I even dragged my husband along, who admitted later that it actually was pretty helpful). I researched pumps, so I could keep breastfeeding when I went back to work. I stocked up on lanolin (thank God) and I bought a box of breast pads for my newly-purchased nursing bra. I was set.

Unfortunately, they do not sell extra nipples at the Baby Industrial Complex Store. Now THAT would come in handy.

So far, our breastfeeding diary looks something like this:

Day 1: baby is born. Nurse helps us breastfeed within an hour of birth. Recommends the "football hold," which feels a little odd at first but works fairly well. All seems okay.

Day 2: go home with baby. No nurse to help. Husband and self manage to maneuver baby into football hold with relative success, six pillows, and four towels. Kind of time-consuming, especially at 2:00am. But baby seems happy.

Day 3: downhill slide begins. Baby does not want to latch on. Husband is worried that I am not producing enough milk. I am worried that I might kill husband for such suggestion at 2:00am. Milk has not yet arrived. Maybe child is starving to death? Panic. Burst into tears. Also, nipples start hurting. A. LOT. Post-partum appointment nurse says I have "short nipples." What to do about this? Can one elongate one's nipples? Sounds like medieval torture. Or Bush-era interrogation technique. Perhaps should call WikiLeaks for help.

Day 4: child seems to have developed allergy to left boob. Problem. Milk is now arriving and child is not adjusting to increased volume. Call hospital nurse line at 1:30am when child simply refuses to latch. Suggested that we should dribble sugar water on nipple to entice child. This works, although results in extremely sticky child and breast. Possibly we have glued child's eyes shut with glucose water. Oops.

Day 5: child seems to have recovered from glucose water incident but is still not a fan of left boob. Visit world's nicest lactation consultant (thank heavens for these people) who weighs child after feeding and assures panicky parents that child is, in fact, getting enough to eat. Consultant says short nipples are quite common (relief) and child will probably learn to latch just fine. Nipples, however, register routine complaint of EXTREME PAIN.

Day 6: "pain" now relative term, as nipples hurt like SONOFABITCH for the first few seconds and then pain subsides. Realize must stop swearing in front of child at some point but, fortunately, child does not understand that mother is whispering "fuckfuckfuckfuck" during midnight feedings instead of sweet lullaby.

Day 7: lanolin cream seems to be helping. Also, changing breast pads each time (huh: should have read directions earlier) is definitely good idea.

Day 8: if child could just eat every three hours instead of 2, nipples would be much happier. Also, milk is now flowing freely and child is gulping like piglet, probably to save herself from drowning. Results in much gas pain for poor baby. Fortunately, daddy has excellent child-burp-inducing skills.

Day 9: late-night scream-fest probably due to left-boob-over-production-gulping phenomenon. Decide to feed from left breast first and then right. Seems to help.

Day 10: pediatrician appointment confirms that child is gaining appropriate amount of weight. Nipples sigh with relief, as are willing to take one for the team as long as there is progress. First public breastfeeding in doctor's office reception area goes well, thanks to handy stylish boob cover. Very cool. Feel like chic mom. But would chic mom wince with pain and use labor-style breathing techniques to survive latch? Who cares. Screw chic mom.

It really is getting better. But it's hard. And "it doesn't hurt if you do it right" is up there in my book with, "early labor is characterized by contractions which are generally painless." I'm happy that my kid seems to have the sucking reflex of a Dy.son vacuum cleaner, but I also understand why people give up on this. We're just taking it one day at a time. One nipple at a time.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

a birth story

I have a few minutes to myself - baby girl is currently sleeping on her daddy's chest (one of her favorite spots, and where she sleeps best) and I actually got a few hours sleep last night, so it may be possible for me to string a few sentences together. We'll see.

At any rate, I know if I don't write down this story soon, much of it will disappear from my mind, lost in a haze of "how many times has she pooped today?" (general answer: A LOT) and "how much more can my nipples hurt?" (general answer: A LOT).

Last Saturday, I woke up at 2:00am with what felt like really strong menstrual cramps. I was two days overdue and had decided, that night before bed, that I was possibly the first woman in the history of the world who would stay pregnant the rest of her life and never actually give birth. It sounds silly now, to be so impatient after only two days (well, nine months and two days) (four years, nine months and two days), but seriously: this pregnancy felt like it would never end.

We'd had more sex that last week than in the previous nine months combined, and yes, we did on Friday night - maybe that did it, or maybe she was just ready, but by 2:30am I had woken up my husband and told him it might be time to pay attention. I got up then and started walking around during the contractions, which were surprisingly (to me) strong and painful. That whole, "early labor is characterized by contractions which are generally painless" thing? Crock. Of. Shit.

By 6:00am, I was facing two problems: one, the contractions were PAINFUL and no longer the kind I could talk through; and two, I was throwing up absolutely everything which hit my stomach, including water. Given that "nausea" has been the hallmark of this pregnancy, it seemed appropriate to go out with a vomiting bang, but I was worried about being dehydrated. And, throwing up while having a contraction is every bit as unpleasant as you'd imagine.

My worst fear was getting to the hospital and having them tell me, after all that pain and vomiting, that I was only 2cm dilated. We got there. They examined me. I was 2cm dilated. SONOFABITCH. So, they sent me to walk around the hospital for an hour. I came back. I was "slightly over" 2 cm dilated (and I have a feeling she put in the "slightly over" to keep me from bursting into tears). So, they recommended we go home until the contractions were 2-3 minutes apart, or my water broke. They gave me a shot of morphine to take the edge off, which also had an anti-nausea component, and thankfully, that did end the vomiting.

We got home at 9:00am. The morphine was having no effect whatsoever, but I decided to lay in bed and try to rest between contractions (HAHAHAHAHA). At 9:24am, while my husband was making himself breakfast, my water broke. So, back to the hospital - where they admitted me, and where, at 11:00am, the anesthesiologist gave me the blessed epidural. That man must hear, "I love you," more than any other staff at the hospital.

After that, things progressed well. I was about 5cm dilated when I got the epidural, and although I could feel some sensations now and then - and every once in awhile the epidural started to wear off a bit on my right side - the pain was gone. We had two scares with her heartbeat; one in particular got 6 labor nurses in the room to quickly flip me onto my hands and knees until everything went back to normal. A scary few moments, but thankfully, all it required was that I laid on my side from then on.

By 5:30pm, I was completely dilated on one side, but not quite on the other. (Weird. Never heard of that.) We tried a few other positions, but finally, the doctor decided I would just have to start pushing and she would try to maneuever the baby around the very small lip of cervix remaining. By then, I could definitely feel the need to push - no pain, but a lot of pressure. One big push and she was past the cervix, and then another 45 minutes of pushing and...baby!

Because we didn't know the gender, the nurses had told my husband they would hold the baby up to him and let him announce it. Keep in mind that this is a man who gets lightheaded when discussing blood (and who has to keep his eyes shut during certain portions of Grey's Anatomy), so we were a little concerned about his ability to hang in there, but he was amazing. He held my right leg and watched the whole thing - and, when she was born, he cried, "it's a girl!" paused, and then said quizically, "isn't it?" because, let's face it, there's a lot of stuff going on there - cord, blood, nurses' hands, tears, relief. But he was right. She was here. Finally.

She cried at first, but they laid her on my chest immediately and then she stopped crying and stared at her parents, who were crying enough for everyone anyway. It was, as everyone says, the most amazing moment of my life so far. I know the doctor kept working down there, but I didn't pay any attention. I had two small tears, so I have a few stitches - but she could have been tattooing her name on my hoo-ha and I wouldn't have cared. All we could look at was this little girl. Haven't stopped staring at her since.

She is one week old today. At this time last Saturday, we were eagerly awaiting the anesthesiologist. And the week has been something of a blur - but wonderful. She eats every few hours, and mostly sleeps inbetween. When she's awake, she makes funny faces and stares at us as if she is trying to memorize our features (this could be because we stare right back). Apart from some bumps in the road regarding breastfeeding (separate post on that later), we are doing remarkably well.

For those who are still on the waiting end of infertility, all I know is that I will pray until the end of my days that a child enters your life - through adoption, or birth, or fostering, or however - in just the right way. The privilege of being here is so enormous. Her first name will remain private, but her middle name is Grace - and that she is, a gift we don't deserve, and could never earn.

For all those who followed our journey to and through pregnancy, thank you. I'm sure my posting here will continue, though less frequently. I keep getting interrupted, you see.

But that was the only thing I ever wanted anyway.

Monday, November 1, 2010

at long last: the baby interrupts

Our beautiful daughter was born at 7:15pm on Saturday, October 30. 8 pounds, 5 ounces of sheer cuteness (and, until her foolish mother proclaims this over the web, marvelous zen calm).

For privacy, we're keeping her name off the internets. But I'll share one photo, because seriously: the cuteness is hard to verbalize.

I'll post birth story details in the next week or so for those who are interested. Short version: all went very well. And I believe the epidural is the best invention of all time.

Thank you, more than words can say, for all your support along this journey. Now, for the next big adventure...