Monday, June 2, 2014

One Year Later...

I don't know what inspired me to do so, but I checked this blog today and realized that it had been exactly a year since my last post. I'm thinking that now is the perfect time to check in again.

First of all, I decided to post a rant/tirade/empowering treatise for women with low supply that I started working on ages ago. I wrote it while I was up late one night and totally forgot to finish it. While I was going through my posts, however, I saw it and realized how much it meant to me and how much I still agreed with the sentiment. So if you see two posts from today, that's what happened.

In the past year, lots of things have changed. First of all, we are settling into life as parents pretty well. My son has had one 24-hour bug, one cold and two related, but unexplained bouts of projectile power vomiting. Otherwise, we are very fortunate that he is still very healthy.

I may be slightly biased, but he is also developing into quite a handsome young man. He is a real show-stopper at our local grocery store. The older ladies especially cannot resist a.) those cheeks! b.) those dimples! c.) those lashes! and, of course, d.) the name Charles! They love that his name is Charles because "it's a wonderful name" and they all have a son, brother, nephew, or father named Charles. What can I say -- he's a ladykiller, particularly in the AARP set.

He started walking at 11 months, which is his second favorite pastime, just before picking up gnarly crap off the floor and/or ground, and just after his best skill, eating. We have yet to find a food that Charles will not eat. The foods below are all his "favorites" and it is, in no way, an exhaustive list.

kale puffs, oatmeal, cantaloupe, strawberries, plain yogurt, plain Greek yogurt, cheese, baked beans, hummus, avocado, salsa, pizza, cake, ice cream, broccoli, banger sausages, potatoes, cereal, milk, key lime pie, lima beans, ham and bean soup, chicken, ham, turkey, beef, carnitas pork, corn, peas, green beans, turnips, rutabaga, zucchini, minestrone soup, barbeque ribs, cornbread, peaches, bananas, bread, pita...

...the list goes on and on. He has not tried chicken nuggets, hot dogs, hamburgers, macaroni and cheese, or similar items because, as I am told, I am a mean mother. Hey, if the kid will eat absolutely anything, why not give him hummus on spinach pita instead of a nugget? Right?

He is the older guy in town now, too. Because I am an only child, I have always been super close to my two maternal first cousins. We grew up together, vacationed together, and at times we even lived together. In January, my older female cousin had a daughter and my younger male cousin is expecting a daughter in October. Like all babies, he loves looking at (and poking at) his cousin and sharing the rad double stroller we bought for the whole family to share.

Just a few weeks back, we celebrated Charley's first birthday with a two-day extravaganza. We had a big party at my dad's house, then we bought a block of 20 tickets to the Phillies game the following day. He was a very good boy the whole time, he had his very first taste of cake, and he got his name up on the scoreboard for three-homer routing of the Cincinatti Reds.

Right now, I am wrapping up my first school year as a parent. So far, we were able to devise a complicated Google calendar of alternating family members so that he did not have to go to daycare in his first year, mostly because it's hella expensive. Next year, however, we will not be so lucky and he will have to go somewhere that will cost us an arm and a leg. For now, though, I am looking forward to a summer home with my little man. We're going to the beach, we're planning lots of day trips and maybe even an excursion to Michigan. He's a happy guy and I've never been happier!

A few scares... (and a guide to breastfeeding if you're like me)

Charley is now two months old and the past two months have been the most joy-filled, and yet stress-filled weeks of my life. Of course, there is always the ordinary anxiety that always accompanies motherhood -- the worrying about safety all day and watching his chest rise and fall all night, just to make sure he's still breathing. I'm not a panicky or anxious parent, so I really don't want to give that impression, but it is absolutely true that a chemical and emotional switch flips in the brain. You worry about things you had previously never considered and so many of your plans and expectations are foiled by the realities of a newborn.

I should say that before he was born, I worried about lots of things. Since the moment I got a positive test, I worried about miscarriage. Before each ultrasound, I worried about illnesses and birth defects. At delivery, I worried about caring for him. I worried about his sleeping patterns, his safety, his procedures in the hospital and his vaccines. So far, I have been incredibly fortunate that all of my worries were unfounded and I have been blessed with a healthy, safe baby who sleeps better than I could have ever expected and I, without tooting my own horn, have risen to the demands of motherhood calmly and effectively.

But that's not to say that nothing has gone awry -- just things that I never would have expected.

Charley had a few unexpected scares for us. First of all, his weight has been an issue since his first weeks. As I've explained before, Charley was supposed to be a big baby and all previous family experience suggested a big-headed chubster. He was born at 8 lbs 3 oz, however, and in the hospital, he lost the maximum amount of weight allowed. In his first week of life, I already had to become "more aggressive" about feeding him, meaning I wasn't allowed to let him fall asleep at the breast and I had to wake him at shorter intervals through the night. This was difficult as he was born with day and night rhythms already in place and he really wanted to sleep for a long interval at night.

I fed him on demand for weeks, spending at least an hour for each nursing session. There were days when I was trapped in the room indefinitely and had trouble even making time for my own meals. No matter what I did, however, he was barely gaining weight. Information was difficult to come by, too. The websites and resources for breastfeeding are so insistent on continuing to breastfeed and not "giving up" that they give few specifics or numbers. I saw at least six different lactation nurses in those first weeks and attended breastfeeding support group meetings and I must admit, I felt somewhat duped.

They all had different excuses for why Charley was gaining so slowly and for his being in the tenth percentile for size, even though he was born above average. As nice and supportive as they all were, I felt like few would address me as an intelligent person with good instincts and legitimate concerns. They told me that breastfed babies are always a bit lighter than formula-fed babies, but should they be on the cusp of a "failure to thrive" designation? They told me that most mothers produce plenty of milk and that most fears of low milk supply are unfounded, but should it take nearly four weeks, twice the expected limit, for your baby to get back to birth weight?

I felt like all of them, and my pediatrician to some extent, were all in on the effort. It was as if they couldn't recognize how hard I really was trying. It seemed like their number one priority was making sure I didn't "give up" and surrender to the evil conveniences of formula. I just wanted them all to recognize that this problem was not caused by a lack of information or dedication and it sure as hell wasn't going to be fixed with recipes for organic brewers yeast cookies and bullshit excuses.

My breaking point was when he weighed in at 8lbs 12oz at the pediatrician's office on a Friday, then weighed exactly the same a week later at a breastfeeding support group meeting. The nurse told me he was fine. That I shouldn't compare her scale to his. Well, I say fuck that.

That night, I bought my own scale on Amazon and had it rush delivered to my house. I had also decided before to supplement with formula and at this point, I decided he can have as much formula as he wants.
I'm going to be real right now for all the moms out there who are either still expecting and thinking about how to feed, or moms with newborns struggling with breastfeeding -- both can be awesome and the most important thing is that your baby eats enough.

Breastfeeding can be great. It helps you lose the baby weight and it provides ideal nutrition and antibodies for your baby. It is also an amazing bonding experience for both of you. To this day, nothing relaxes my son like nursing. As a matter of fact, we nurse exclusively most nights after about 8pm and through the night. For Charley, breastmilk is easily digested and is rarely accompanied by burping, gas or spitting up.

Breastfeeding can also be a total pain in the ass. I have been to get-togethers in the past 9 weeks at which I spent nearly two hours in a guest room nursing. The stories you hear about overflowing chest freezers of stored breastmilk are baloney. Apparently, this is very rare for a first-timer and often those friends of yours are talking about breastfeeding their second or third child.

Pumping has its own challenges. The flange-diaphragm set-up is a pain to wash. You also might be disappointed with just how much milk is produced. If you double pump, you literally have to sit there with both hands holding set-ups. No Kindle or smartphone for you, sister. It's either a) stare at TV or b) stare at wall. I started single pumping, which takes twice as long because it's one side at a time, just to fight the minutiae and to cut set-up washing in half.

Sure, we all knew that caring for a newborn would be hectic and tedious at times, completely surrounded around feeding and diapers. What I did not expect, however, is that life with moderately low to inadequate milk supply could literally be like this:

45 - 60 minutes: nurse baby (assuming baby is satisfied with current supply)

20 - 30 minutes: pump ten minutes per side to stimulate production (you used nipple shield to nurse and that means less stimulation)

10 minutes: store meager pumped milk portion in storage bottle or bag then wash damned set-up again

By this time, it's been nearly two hours and it's almost time to nurse again! And if you're home alone with baby, what do you do with him during all that pumping and washing? Good question. For a natural practice that is supposed to promote bonding and contact with baby, you're going to spend an awful lot of time either putting him down when sleeping or passing him off to Daddy or Nana so you can make like a cow and milk yourself.

Obviously, it's not like this for everyone, but for me it was. In order to follow the lactation consultants' collective advice for producing more milk, this is basically what I would have to do. And because I got so little when I pumped, I had to nurse everywhere because I never had a full bottle of pumped milk for a feed.

If I'm being blunt and literal, I didn't have this baby so I could do nothing but feed it. I want to talk to him, play with him. I want to do everything I can to promote his development, while also taking him out and sharing him with my family. This can be totally possible with exclusive breastfeeding, but not for me.

So now let's hit formula. If you ask Dr. Google and the lactation community, the downsides of formula are as follows:

- lesser nutritional value to breastmilk
- no health benefits for mom
- it's a processed food
- no skin-to-skin contact; less bonding
- no antibodies
- no variety of nutrients and tastes from mom's diet
- producers are evil, manipulative corporate monsters who may have laced formula unintentionally or by neglect with melamine and insect parts and they inundate new moms with samples and bogus pamphlets and surveys to get money out of your pocket and make you slaves to the canister, man!

And the upside? My son finally started to gain weight and he digested it just fine with absolutely no problems. I also found a lot of security in knowing exactly how much he was getting and learning how much was enough for him.

And the most unpopular statement of all? The one that can get me figuratively burned at the stake via web comments? The day when I decided to become an exclusive formula mom was the single most liberating day of my life. It was like graduating college, paying off a car loan, and finally finishing that home improvement project all rolled into one. I got freedom and my life back and I got to do all of it with the best damn two-ringer-chubby-thighed guy I know.

My husband and family members could now be part of the feeding and caring process. I didn't have to worry about leaking through a shirt or finding places to nurse. That little container of powder could go with us anywhere, refrigeration or no refrigeration, and nothing was going to stop us now! We went to parties and the mall and the zoo and friends' houses -- I was finally sharing my baby with the world and this was something I had wanted to do for years.

So if breastmilk was the most natural, affectionate, nurturing experience of your life and your baby weight just fell off while you filled dozens of bags with pumped milk, good for you. Go blog about it. But if you are like me and it was just so hard and your baby wasn't gaining weight, stop listening to the hype and do what is right for you and your family. Sure, it's a little expensive, but even for a budget-every-penny teacher like me, it was the best money I ever spent.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Charley settles in...

So far, everything has been pretty great. Charley has been nursing well and sleeping through much of the night. My family has been fantastic about visiting often and helping with chores.

He's been to the pediatrician twice and has done well both times. His cord finally fell off this morning, which was a huge relief because it was worrying me with some minor bleeding.

Being a mom, however, is filled with so much stress, anxiety and terror about him! We had originally put the bassinet napper in our bedroom, but once he was home, even that wasn't close enough. He sleeps about a foot from my face each night and I wake up constantly just to hear him breathing. I worry about him constantly and as everyone tells me, I will never stop worrying about him, even when he's a grown adult!

Caring for him has been a pleasure, but our dogs are making for a stressful situation. They are having a hard time adjusting to Charley's presence and don't behave themselves very well around him, especially when he cries. Right now, we are keeping them on one floor of the house and only exposing them to the baby in limited doses. They are both visibly stressed and one of my dogs isn't eating much. They are also my babies, so we will continue to work with them, but they sure aren't making things easy!

I'm sure Charley is saving some fussing and sleepless nights for us, but for now, he's making this newborn business pretty easy for Mommy and Daddy!

Friday, May 24, 2013


Charles Everett was born at 1:31pm on Monday, May 20 via scheduled c-section! Here's his birthday story:

On Monday, May 13, I called out sick from work with abdominal pains and nausea. I really thought labor might be coming, I felt crappy and I had an appointment for an ultrasound and would have been leaving early anyway. At the ultrasound, everything looked good with Charley and he was measuring "around 9 pounds." As I posted before, this was right on the cusp of the decision to wait for labor, induce labor, or schedule a c-section.

I worked Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday all feeling great and with no signs of labor. Thursday was another OB appointment -- decision day. The OB decided to schedule a c-section for Monday morning because of his size and my blood pressure. It was only slightly elevated, but there was a trace of protein in my urine, so they didn't want me to stay pregnant much longer.

I stayed home again from work on Friday for my non-stress test and other appointments, and also because it was dreaded Field Day at work and I wouldn't be missing much. C had to work, but I spent the day with my mom getting groceries and making last minute preparations. C and I had a nice weekend just hanging out with family and friends and straightening up the house for Charley's arrival.

On Monday morning, we got to the hospital at 8am and began the process of bloodwork, vital signs, gathering the team of personnel which was expected to last two hours. The actual procedure was planned for around 10am. During their examination, they found some sores on my skin, which are pretty common for me. They were concerned, however, about their proximity to the injection and decided to take cultures for MRSA.

After waiting around for various specialists and the infectious disease doctor, we were seriously delayed for surgery. They even threatened to postpone until Tuesday. Finally, when the decision was made to proceed, the anesthesiologist had moved on to a routine thyroid surgery on another floor, so then we had to wait for her to return. All the while, I hadn't had so much as a sip of water since 9:30 on Sunday night.

When we finally headed into the OR, it was after 1pm. I was incredibly nervous, but decided to hunker down and show no fear, just like I did during the egg retrieval procedure. They performed the spinal before C was allowed in the OR and it really wasn't as bad as I had feared. It really didn't hurt going in and the doctor who held me in the "curled" position couldn't have been nicer and more reassuring.

As soon as it was done, they must quickly move you into a laying position and I was immediately really nauseous, which is expected. The anesthesiologist put something in my IV that stopped the nausea almost immediately. Then we were ready.

They hung a huge drape in front of me and brought C back in. The sat on a stool next to my head and held my hands, which were strapped down to the table. They began the procedure and I never knew exactly what was going on. I didn't even know whether or not I had been cut open until I heard the gurgling and crying of my son.
The second we heard him, we both just looked at each other with tears streaming down our cheeks. He was finally here. Four years of planning, waiting, trying, anticipating -- and finally one perfect little boy. They allowed C to bring in a camera and start taking pictures as he was weighed, cleaned, prepped and assessed. C held him there next to me for a few minutes, but I could barely see Charley. When we was on the warmer, I couldn't see much other than his foot beyond the drape.

Charley still had one big surprise for us -- his weight. All indications were that he would be huge. He measured 9 lbs, 4 oz at 39w and now he was late and still growing. His charts called him macrosomic and he was predicted to be nearly 9lbs 11oz. We all know that ultrasound measurements can be off by as much as a pound, but we were in for quite a surprise. When they plopped Charley down on the warmer, the scale said just 8lbs 3oz. A perfect little peanut, more than a pound under predictions.

He also had hair! Not a ton, but much more than the fuzz that C and I both had!

With all of his little surprises, he is absolutely perfect. We're all just crazy about him. He's nursing well, sleeping well and being his mom is better than I could have ever imagined. :-)

Sunday, May 19, 2013

The Final Countdown

...and I hope you are all hearing Europe's epic synth solo in your heads as you read this...

Today is the last day. C is finally off from work and we both finally have that kick-in-the-ass to get things done as time ticks away. Every piece of laundry in the house, present attire excluded, is clean and ready. The whole house is vacuumed and Swiffered. The toilet is scrubbed and the sheets changed. Now as C finishes straightening up the basement, we're debating what to do in our final hours.

We'll definitely run some errands and get lunch. Maybe we'll see the new Star Trek movie because otherwise, we'll miss it in theaters. Maybe a trip to the library is in order for some reading material. We have a lot of sitting-around-the-hospital time to kill, not to mention the home recovery time.

Well, here goes nothing... I got the Blogger app for my phone, so I am hoping to post from there with updates and pics tomorrow or Tuesday. Here we go!

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Eviction Notice!

Let's be real - we all knew this kid would be a c-section. It's official after today's OB appointment and I'm fine with it, but it did really hit me earlier today and I had a strange reaction.

At my appointment today, my cervix is still completely closed and the head is still sitting high. My blood pressure, however, was slightly elevated, but was completely normal when laying on my side. (Apparently this means something...) There was some protein in my urine specimen, though, and that is cause for some concern. They decided that it would be best to schedule a c-section for Monday.

I have a Non Stress Test tomorrow back at the OB to make sure that everything is still OK with Charley, then we'll just be taking it easy, tying up loose ends and waiting around for Monday!

When they first told me, I took the news just fine. As I wandered back out into the waiting room, however, I had an overwhelming urge to just cry. Not out of fear or disappointment, but just pure shock that this is really happening. I have been so comfortable waiting that labor always seemed so distant. Especially after hearing today that there was no dilation, it just seemed like there would be more endless waiting. But no! I allowed myself a few minutes to breathe in the car, then I told C the news. Now I am just excited that this guy is finally coming!

Monday, May 13, 2013

Good News, Unanswered Questions

Today was our last ultrasound for the 40w mark, though today is actually 39w4d. As I posted before, this scan was intended to make some last minute decisions about delivery. I knew that the ultrasound technician wouldn't be able to tell us much, but I thought that today's appointment would at least give me enough information to make some assumptions and mentally prepare myself for delivery.

I was pretty confident that he would be measuring well over nine pounds and thus fulfilling my OB's elective c-section rule. I didn't really want this outcome, but I very much expected it. My OB said, however, that we would still wait and hold out for a vaginal delivery if he was under nine. Family history and previous measurements definitely suggested that he would be big. Really big.

I still had a feeling, given the fact that my bump isn't that big, that he might not be quite as large as our family's previous generation (all 9 lbs, 12 oz and over). Well, of course, today was full of ambiguity. How much did he measure? "Around nine pounds." So, he's not too big, but he's not quite small enough either.

I'm still holding out some hope for a natural delivery and to go into labor soon. I know, however, that it really isn't in my control and I'm not going to fixate on details.

I have been having lots of irregular contractions today and several waves of nausea. I actually stayed home from work today because the nausea was really bad in the morning when I woke up and I was inexplicably exhausted. Throughout the day, I had everything from the same old painless but tight BHs up to rewlly tight and quite painful cramping contractions lower down in my abdomen. At a few points, I have had a bit of lower back soreness, too. I hope this is a sign that he's coming soon!