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An Evolution

7 Aug

I always knew I’d breastfeed. But when I set out to nurse, I think I saw breastfeeding as a static, uniform thing — you did it or you didn’t, and for those who did, it was just all the same. As a new parent, it was both enlightening and reassuring to discover that’s not true. It is, in fact, extremely nuanced, as individual as the ones doing it. But I also discovered that as soon as you find your footing, things change. Like your baby, breastfeeding and the breastfeeding relationship is a living, ever-changing creature.

So in honor of World Breastfeeding Week, I’m sharing with you the evolution of my breastfeeding experience… two and half years of the ups, downs, tears, joys, and mundane of nourishing my little one (and myself) in the process.

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Pre-birth – I suppose this started years ago when I watched my step mother nurse twins for 18 months. I’d never seen a baby breastfeed before and this seemed revolutionary to me at the time (at 15). Closer to time for z-baby’s birth, though, I took a breastfeeding class at work and attended some lunchtime discussions at work for nursing moms (led by a lactation consultant). A few days before I gave birth I started getting nervous and watched every video I could find from Dr. Jack Newman. I watched healthy newborn latches over and over and over…

Birth – Let’s just say it didn’t go as planned. I wanted to nurse right away but z-baby was in a transition nursery for over 6 hours. When I did get him, we started right away and he latched — but not a great one. I had already asked for a lactation consultant and we saw them three times before we left the hospital. Z-baby was a sleeper… he wanted to eat, but he wanted to sleep even more. So my most vivid memory of those days was stripping him down each and every time he needed to eat (so he didn’t feel too cozy) and gently nudging him awake throughout every feed. Z-baby’s papi took this very seriously, like his personal mission those first few days.

Month 1 – My milk came in quickly and plentiful and z-baby was a great eater. I loved nursing, but it was soooooo painful. But not in the way I could have imagined. I had a bit of Carpal Tunnel during the pregnancy, and it kicked into overdrive those few weeks following birth. My hands would freeze up like hooks and I was terrified I’d drop the baby. And my hands didn’t just go numb, they ached and pain shot up through to my elbows. I remember crying through several of those feedings from the pain. My mom or husband would have to either support the baby or my breast or both. It sucked (no pun intended). I couldn’t sit down to nurse without water and a towel because there was so much milk it seemed to get everywhere!
*Nursing equipment was very important: Boppy upstairs, Brest Friend downstairs, multiple towels, nipple cream, pads for the bra, nursing bra.

Months 2-3 – When the painful claw hands went away, nursing became a breeze. I loved it still, and enjoyed every minute of it. Then I had to have my gallbladder taken out and we happily fell into co-sleeping, which made the night-time nursing even better. Z-baby loved nursing and was still in that pre-wiggler phase where he’d pretty much stay put through a whole feeding and was serious about his nursing… no playing for this guy… yet!
*Equipment: We dropped the nipple cream around this time and started trying the pump and bottles. 

Nursing z-baby, 5 weeks

Months 4-9 – I went back to work after 3 months and it was hell. H-E-L-L. Z-baby refused all bottles and reversed cycled. My first day back I had an off-site meeting and tried to pump in the car, only to realize I had no batteries or charger. I got so engorged but survived. I was at a leading public health agency in the country and they had lactation rooms and pumps which were great, but it was still a challenge to find the time during the day to do it and an open time slot in the rooms. I luckily telecommuted several days a weeks and had someone watching the baby in the house, so I could just nurse those days. But on days when I wasn’t home, z-baby waited for me all day and then we nursed all night. I welcomed the nursing, but he would be so hungry that he’d overeat and puke everywhere and I could never keep up with the laundry. We introduced some solids in here but he could care less. Most of this is a blur for me because the postpartum depression set in during this time, though I wasn’t fully aware of it. But I know I worried all day about z-baby not eating and raced home to be with him and only then was I ever at ease. And in those early days of still undiagnosed postpartum depression, it was the nursing that kept me going… alive even.
*Equipment: Pump, pump, pump. And pump some more. Sometime during this time we also stopped using the nursing pillows.

Months 10-14 – I finally started getting treatment for the postpartum depression, and while this was still a very difficult time, it did start to get a little better. Breastfeeding was still the light at the end of the tunnel each and every day. Looking down and seeing z-baby and seeing him relish the time as much as I did left me speechless. Or maybe it was from the biting, I can’t remember. No longer just a wiggler on the couch, he’s a roller during nursing, too. He nurses upside down and sideways, bouncing and swaying. I never knew my nipples were so flexible… I still overproduced and donated gallons (and gallons…) of it to a friend. But I’m finally not gushing every time I go to nurse.
*Equipment: I think I still used nursing pads when at work or separated from z-baby, and the pump, of course.

Months 14-24 – I stopped working, put away the pump, and started staying at home with z-baby full time. Life is goooooooooooooood. Nursing becomes something I do often throughout the day, but no longer think about. Z-baby became vocal about his nursing during this time and asked for it frequently. Nursing in public became both easier and more difficult. Easier because he could just sit in front of me and I could angle away from people… harder because he never stayed in one position and insisted my shirt be ALL the way up to give him total access. I struggled with the decision to wean or not so that I can get pregnant again, but it just never felt right. Z-baby went through lots of ups and downs… times when he needed to nurse a lot (usually growth and developmental spurts and teething) and periods where he didn’t nurse as much. Biting still an off and on issue, and the nipple fiddling started (playing with one while eating off the other). Momma became a serve yourself buffet during this time — z-baby would pull up my shirt and insist on his “deeta” whenever he wanted it.
*Equipment: A chair. That’s it. No pads, towels, creams, pillows, nothing. Oh, and a nursing bra. But I had to be careful somedays because he sees the act of sitting down as an open invitation.

Months 24-30 – Here we are, nursing at 2 1/2 years. Nursing is still an acrobatic act, day and night. We’ve pared it down to going down and waking up from naps and bedtime. He’s starting to respect my wishes some — needing to wait or stop during the night, for example. But he manages which side he wants and the exact position he wants it in. I also have to nurse cars and trains, and he’s even tried to push it up so I can have some, too (such a helper!). He even managed to get chocolate milk out of me one day (that’s a post for another day)!!! He had his first sleepover with grandma (our first night apart!), which was his first night ever that he didn’t nurse. And just very recently did I hit the nursing wall. I’ve finally gotten to the point where I’m ready to wean. I know I’ll miss it, and I can’t imagine motherhood without it (at first at least), but I’m ready. Is he? I don’t think so, and we’re working on potty training so I won’t do anything right away… but we’ll see what the future holds for us.
*Equipment: Nada. Except for the darn bra! There are times when he needs a quick comfort session of about 3 seconds and I don’t even sit anymore… just bend over.

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Two and half years of breastfeeding. No cracked nipples, plugged ducts, or mastisis. A little bit of yeast once. Overproduction and numb hands. Gallons of milk in my freezer. Lugging the pump to work and z-baby on a week-long business trip. Surgery and anesthesia. Postpartum depression and medication. Nursing pads, pillows, and towels. Reverse cycling and cosleeping. Nursing in bed, on the couch, at the table, typing, writing, on the phone, in the car, in public, in therapy, on planes, in meetings, standing up, sitting down, bending over. Two and half years. And I wouldn’t trade a single minute of it for anything in the world.

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The gravitational pull of balls

27 Jul

Z-baby has officially been ball crazy since before he could even walk. Soon after sitting up, he was throwing them. Later we’d hold him up by his hands and he’d stand in place, wobbling to and fro. But if you rolled a ball to him, he’d kick it nearly without fail. Even his first word was “ball.”

Los pies con America

Fútbol in the genes...

Aside from the occasional and shameless photo opp (ahem, see above), we didn’t push him towards balls… he just gravitated. He’d have nothing to do with dolls or stuffed animals, could care less about TV, and while he tolerates books most of the time, only things with wheels have recently come close to sharing the stage with balls.

And then a month or so ago, he watched a soccer game with sig-o. Now he asks to watch it all. the. time. “¿Ver fútbol?” (watch soccer?) is something I hear regularly throughout the day now. So as a treat, I’ve started letting him watch the sports channel for short bits during the day. It’s a channel that literally has some sports on all day without annoying commentary shows. Just sports. And they’re alternative sports, I guess you could say — no baseball, basketball, or football. And some don’t even use balls…

So the first evening we watched track and field. After watching a race and some high jumping for a few minutes, he stood up and declared, “Bebé unning!” and took off and completed about 7 laps through the house. His finale was to run full force towards the couch and jump up onto it, landing on his back. When pole vaulting came on TV I leapt on the remote control and found something else for us to do.

Then it was ping pong. It’s one thing to make your child laugh by tickling them or making faces. It’s entirely another to hear them laugh independently at things all on their own. And z-baby thought the slow-motion replays in ping pong were hi-larious. He laughed and laughed and I couldn’t help but joining in.

Swimming was next. It was a replay of all of Michael Phelps’ Olympic races in Beijing. Z-baby was mesmerized. He kept shouting, “Big agua!” and swinging his arms around. When we next went to the pool, he went under and popped up repeatedly all on his own in the kiddie pool, taking big breaths each time. And in the big pool he swam with his arms in addition to his normal kicking.

And then there were the gymnastics. We recently put z-baby in a gymnastics class, so he recognized it right away. He studied them walking on the balance beam and practiced his forward rolls in front of the TV. He jumped (lots of knee bending and then hops on one leg) and threw his arms up in the air as if he’d just completed a triple back handspring and sang “Ta-da!”

It took z-baby time to warm up to his gymnastics class. The first day he just stood there, looking around, as if he was trying to figure out where all the balls were and exactly what they were supposed to do since there weren’t any. But now he loves his gymnastics class, and while he’s the lone boy and shorter than all the girls in there, his balance and coordination are spot on. He likes his class so much that we can’t talk about it at home because he runs and puts his shoes on and tries to get out the front door. When we were getting ready for class the other morning he was jumping on the bed and doing forward rolls. I asked him if he could do his backwards roll and he looked at me for a minute, then ran to the headboard on our bed and sat backwards on my pillow and rolled back, trying to fling his legs over his head. When that didn’t work, he tried two pillows.

Gymnastics class

I’m sometimes amazed at how much he gravitates towards all things typically “boy.”

But then there are moments when I’m reassured that he’s much more than that. Like when he asks me to nurse his cars. And like the other day when he came into my bedroom carrying a blanket up by his head. I asked him what he was doing (I don’t think I’ve ever seen him carry a blanket) and he replied, “Bebé carga, choo choo night night,” which is his bilingual Toddler-ese for, “I’m carrying and rocking my trains to sleep.” And then he proceeded to bounce them, to pace the floor with them, and to shhhhhhsh them, as if he’d studied the Happiest Baby on the Block.

Amongst the chaos of all the jumping, running, and kicking, it’s a side of him I don’t get to see very often. But when I do, I drop everything and just watch, soaking in every drop.

Birth Story

26 Feb

Well, it’s official — z-baby is one! I thought there’s no better time to reflect on how this year started and share my birth story.

A little background: This was our second pregnancy. I lost the first at 14 weeks. We were devastated and it took us well over a year to recoup some from the experience. We had planned on trying to get pregnant again in the fall 2008, but z-baby surprised us in July (I was on the pill!). It was a long, very anxious pregnancy. We were nearly paralyzed until we got past week 14, then we relaxed a little, but not much. We had a doppler like the ones they use at the ob and listened to the baby every night. Every night. We were with a specialist due to severe bleeding I had at around 17 weeks, and then I was put on partial bed rest for several weeks off and on. The worst part of the pregnancy, though, was the morning sickness. OMG. From about week 8 to the delivery room. I had to go to the ER for fluids, and I stayed sick. We took Hypnobirthing classes early on to help us manage the anxiety and get us ready for the birth. That was probably the best thing we did the whole pregnancy — the hypno practice made a huge difference for me. I was due March 4, but we didn’t make it that far…

In the wee hours of February 22, I got up one of the many times that night and went to bathroom and lost my mucous plug. I was so excited I woke my husband up and made him look at it. Poor guy. I went to work that day and had a normal day at the office, but I noticed in the afternoon that z-baby wasn’t moving as much. They told me his movements would slow down, but this seemed like too much (he was a very active baby throughout the pregnancy). So I called the doc as soon as I got home and they told me to drink a glass of orange juice and lay on my side and count his movements. They wanted at least 4 and he moved 3. They said I could come in or keep and eye on it. Sig-o was working that night and my gut said he was ok, so I stayed home in bed with my dog and listened to hypno tracks on continuous play. The next morning I did the same orange juice test and again only 3 movements. So I called and got an appointment for 1pm.

We had a new doctor at our appointment and she first had a hard time picking up the heartbeat so they did a brief non-stress test. Not good — every time I had a contraction, his heart rate would dip significantly. So they sent me on over to the hospital and told me they’d likely induce me today. I called family and told them to stand by. We went to labor and delivery and it took forever to get through all the paperwork. They started another non-stress test which was supposed to last 3 hours, but the doc and midwife on call came back in 20 minutes and said it was to be a c-section — now. Sig-o was out in the hall talking to family and had no idea what was going on. They said if they could get there fast enough I could have an epidural, but after 10 minutes I was going in regardless. The doc got there fast enough and brought in the loudest team of assistants I’d ever heard. I finally had to yell to get them to stop talking and tell them “I’m trying to do hypnobirthing, here, damn it!” I don’t think that was in the scripts… By that time my mother-in-law had come in but still no sig-o. I sent her out to get him as they started my epidural and he raced in at some point like the classic dad-to-be, flipping out. They wheeled me out and he was trying to do a script with me but he was so bad at it that I had him stop and did it on my own instead.

I was sick in the delivery room (true to the pregnancy til the end!), and then it all went very fast. They had the baby out quickly (though they had a hard time and had to cut me open even more to get him) and he wasn’t moving his arms or legs. He was “floppy” with a low Apgar score (sig-o kept telling me he was “sloppy” — so cute). I couldn’t see him because there were so many people around him. Finally they brought him to me and let me kiss his head and they all ran out. I sent sig-o with z-baby to the transition nursery. He visited me once or twice during recovery, but I was in there alone almost the whole time. I didn’t even mind though, I just wanted updates on the baby.

As it turned out he was fine. His face was pressing up against my cervix and so every time I had even a mild contraction, the strain was putting him into distress. In the nursery, his blood sugar did drop and they gave him formula which made my husband go into a blind rage, I’m told (z-baby wouldn’t take a bottle [shocker — he still won’t] so they put a tube down his throat). But everyone hid all this from me at the time. By the time I made it to my room, there was a room full of people waiting on me. They would take turns going to see the baby and I would look at the pictures on their cameras. He was in the nursery for over 6 hours and then I finally got to hold him. As they wheeled him in, I stripped down and told them to undress him and we nursed and it was wonderful and none of the other stuff mattered.

In the hospital I didn’t sleep. For like 4 days. Then I slept a little, but not much. Both my husband and I were delirious (both happiness and sleep deprivation). Everyone camped out in my room (there were 4 people in there all night long besides the baby, sig-o and me!) and I couldn’t get rid of them, though I tried!!!! I got off to recovery on a bad note because of that but was still so happy that my baby had made it into this world without a problem. I was in awe and still am…he’s already a year old and the awe doesn’t diminish. It may change and different things amaze me, but it’s still there.

Happy Birthday!

Down with rubber duckies

30 Jan

Had a bit of a meltdown this evening over a rubber ducky. Yep, Ernie’s best damn friend got the best of me. I usually think they’re great — in fact, we have a whole song about a pirate ducky that I made up for z-baby — but not tonight.

Sig-o is working a double shift today and I knew it wouldn’t be an easy day. So I planned ahead and scheduled time outside of the house to go walking to get a change of scenery and let the world entertain z-baby for while. Things were going fine. Then my suegra called (mother-in-law). Just to check on me. So I told her the truth. “You know, it’s a bad day, but we’re at the mall walking since it’s raining and that helps some.” So she and my sister-in-law invited me to dinner, which was very nice and a welcome reprieve. I let them fight over who got to hold the baby and who got to hold him down in the high chair while I munched away. I didn’t feel like being alone at the house so I invited them over…but they didn’t come. Now, usually I would think I’d narrowly escaped a natural disaster, but I really did want them to come over tonight. So I got in my car with a screaming baby who finally fell asleep three blocks from the house.

Z-baby had been breathing heavy all day so I surmised that he must have a massive boogie up his nose and decided to give him a steam bath to try and loosen up the monster boog. We headed into the bathroom and I let the water start to warm up and then I realized that the fireman ducky that supposedly protects the baby’s head from faucet doom had to come off to pull up the thingy to turn the shower on. This is a forever annoying task, but not a hard one. So I don’t know what came over that f’ing duck but he would NOT come off. I started pulling and twisting until I actually turned the faucet head and then I just started yanking as I cussed a blue streak at the poor guy (the ducky, not the baby, who was across the way in the bathroom playing with a flash drive he confiscated earlier in the day). My dog just stood there looking at me with her ears up and head cocked, like she wasn’t sure what had gotten into me or where this was going. I stopped just short of yanking the whole thing out of the wall because I realized that would really send me over the edge. I thought about calling sig-o and asking him to come home early, that I give up and need some help. But just then the little pecker popped off the faucet and all was well. We finished our steam bath, and I felt a small sense of accomplishment since I gave the baby some kind of bath and could truthfully answer “yes” when tomorrow sig-o asks me if he got a bath last night. Guess that’s cheating, but who cares.  Only the baby, the dog, and that f’ing duck know the real truth.

Static guard for babies?

29 Jan

You know that stuff you can spray on your clothes so your skirts don’t cling to your legs? Do they make that for babies? I’d so buy it in bulk right now if they did. For real. I mean, I’m an advocate for attachment parenting and all, but sometimes it’s so exhausting and I just need a break. Little z-baby won’t let me out of his sight, I can’t walk away from him, I can’t turn my back to him…cling, cling, cling.

This has been going on for a while now. I try to wear him, but he’s such an active little guy that’s he’s not always cool with that. But it’s not just mindless activity — no walker or  johnny jump up for this kid. It’s all about exploration (with me near, of course) and getting into everything. And I mean everything. We call him “el pulpo” (the octopus) because we’re sure he can’t be doing all that he does with just two hands. Just a typical almost one-year old, I’m sure, but the cumulative effect on me is that, well, I’m just plain worn out.

And today sucked. I spent half of it on the phone dealing with all the stuff I didn’t want to deal with — insurance, work, mortgage. And sig-o did not get the job we thought he had in the bag. It’s rainy and cold and I just feel like crap today. I even cried today, which is saying a lot because I’ve been this stone-cold vacant blob for weeks. Real tears. I couldn’t believe it. So with all of that, the cling has just been too much today. Sig-o is working a double shift tomorrow so I’m home alone all day with baby and not sure how I’m going to deal with the cling tomorrow. Hopefully I’ll get some rest tonight and we’ll get out of the house and spend part of the day out and about. That should help some. Ah, time’s up — the cling is calling…

Mama a la crapola

7 Jan

There are moments every day when I see my little z-baby do something absolutely amazing — take a tiny step, shoot me a big grin, or fill his diaper — and I feel like I’m on a total mom high. In those moments I feel like I could conquer the world.

Then there are moments when I can’t seem to get anything right in the motherhood department — I can’t understand what it is he needs or wants, can’t console him when the teething gets rough, can’t seem to stay awake even. It’s in those moments that I feel like a finalist for the world’s crappiest mom.

I’m sure that all moms have these crapola moments — but are the lows usually this crappy feeling?

Let’s take the lead up to New Years, for example. We ran some errands together, he was happy in the car, and we had a good time. We went to the grocery during the middle of a weekday (I simultaneously felt like such a delinquent and totally at peace), and baked a giant cookie for the big family dinner. He was content playing at my feet as I packed our bags for our traditional sleep over at the in-law’s, when he fell down the stairs. We’ve been looking for a gate that fits our upstairs’ hall (we have like 4 that haven’t worked), so in the meantime we just have a rule that we shut all doors upstairs when we’re in a room and the baby isn’t allowed to crawl in the hall. But this super-mom didn’t push the door all the way to and either the baby or the dog opened it and little z-baby bee-lined for the stairs. Now, these are some really steep stairs. I don’t know how the hell he survived. I’m not just exaggerating because I had already been obsessing about the baby getting hurt by falling from a balcony. By the time I got to the stairs he was about a quarter of the way down and I couldn’t catch him. I screamed his name twice, and the pitch of those screams still ring in my ears. We rushed to the children’s hospital and he thankfully had no injuries because of the way he rolled down the stairs. Not a bump. Not a bruise. We’ll see in a few years how bad it messed him up psychologically… And I will never get that image out of my head. Not ever. Even the dog was disturbed — she was so upset she had the runs and raunchy gas the rest of the night. My poor babies.

Everyone says this was an accident, but I will never forgive myself for not being more vigilant. Now, it’s not every day that something this extreme happens, but sometimes I feel just about as bad for other not-so-egregious failures as a mother. But maybe I’m not crazy, after all. I mean, this is a person we’re talking about. A little, helpless, dependent-on-ME person. So how do you find the middle of the road and deal with the constant and extreme ups and downs? Or is that just what parenting is about? If so (and I’m guessing it is…) parenting sucks ass! How will I ever kick this depression and get off these meds like this? I mean, really???

What tipped the scales?

18 Dec

In a previous post I mentioned that I resisted getting treatment for the postpartum depression for several months, primarily due to breastfeeding. So what tipped the scales and sent me running to the doc?

At some point I started thinking, “Things would be so much better if I could just disappear for a while to regroup. But not until I wean.”

Then it went to, “Things would be so much better if I could just disappear forever. But not until I wean.”

Then, “Things would be so much better for everyone if I just didn’t exist. But not until I wean.”

Then, “If the train by my house derailed and hit me, that would be ok. But not until I wean.”

Then, “What if I just accidently drove my car into the train? But not until I wean.”

Then one day without warning (um, that I could put together at that time, at least), “I’m ready to just be gone now. And I don’t have it in me to hold out until after I wean.”

Now, I always thought I would be the pill type. I don’t like blood, or pain, or guns. I just wanted to go to sleep. But when it came right down to it, I found myself… lusting after ledges. I would walk over a bridge on campus at work and walk a little slower while I contemplated the height and it’s possibilities. I identified prime candidates, like balconies and stairs. The irony here is that much of my anxiety recently has been about balconies and ledges! I’ve been terrified that the baby will fall off of one.

So I’ve been thinking about this chicken and egg scenario: was I leaning towards ledges (literally) because I was already convinced something bad was going to happen at one, or was I obsessing over them in the first place because a part of me already knew I was thinking about ending my own life with one?

Again, another question I’ll probably never know the answer to, and I’m ok with that. I’m happy — genuinely happy — to say that I haven’t had these thoughts for a few weeks now. They didn’t last long, because as soon as they surfaced, I got help. It scared the ever-loving crap out of me. Deep down I really didn’t want to do anything so drastic…but things were so dark and I could feel myself slowly grinding to a halt. For the first time I understood mothers that you read about in the news — jumping off bridges, driving into things. I needed a huge time-out, and sometimes that just seemed like the quickest way to get it.

But perhaps what helped most of all was a dear friend and my sister who both listened to me process a lot of the loca in my head and recognized it for what it was. So to them, I say, “Thank you.”