Thursday, March 29, 2012

Confession Time...

Warning: I talk a lot about boobs in this post. And not in the fun way.

...So, my baby is formula fed. I know... The La Leche League is clutching their pearls and tearing out their hair over this. Is it wrong/sad that I feel so much guilt about this?  I never thought the simple act of feeding a baby would be so difficult. Giving birth without meds was supposed to be the hard part! Little did I know what a struggle it would be.

My plan was to breastfeed exclusively, on demand, for the first six weeks and then slowly introduce bottles of pumped breast milk after that so he would get used to taking a bottle and used to taking a bottle from other people when he goes to daycare.

But Judah had other plans. He latched on to the breast shortly after birth but hadn't quite figured out the sucking part of it yet. Which is common, so we figured we'd just keep trying until he got the hang of it. However, when he was born he was Coombs positive because of our competing blood types, which led to jaundice.  After he still wouldn't latch on and suck, the situation was becoming pretty complicated, as the only way to avoid a NICU stay was to get him to poop out all the excess bilirubin in his system. But without food, there's no way to poop. So supplementing with formula was recommended until his jaundice cleared. At that point, we just wanted to avoid him staying in the NICU and his jaundice getting worse, so we did what we had to do and started feeding him formula. Luckily, this worked and his jaundice got much better after about a week. I continued to pump to get my supply up in hopes he would eventually latch on.

My little yellow baby.

I think after that point though, the damage was done. He was used to getting nourishment right away from a bottle and in quite a large amount, and was already used to the feel of a bottle nipple. I don't know who makes bottle nipples, but I've never seen a woman with nipples like that. Needless to say, he didn't really know what to do with a breast after that. We would try to breastfeed and he would literally scream and cry and push me away because he was so hungry, and he could smell the breast milk but just did not know how to get it out! 

That first week was so stressful and made me feel like such a failure for not being able to feed my baby like I'd always wanted. My husband would walk by the nursery and see Judah crying and screaming and me crying at the same time. No one was having a good bonding time here, which is what nursing is supposed to be about. We met with a lactation consultant, tried extended skin-to-skin contact, nipple shields..the whole nine yards. Feeding got to a point where I would prepare a bottle of pumped milk, feed him a little so he wasn't starving, try skin-to-skin contact, breastfeed for 30 minutes using nipple shields, and then supplement with the rest of the bottle, THEN pump to keep my supply up.  By the time this process was done, it would be time to start it all over again. It was physically and emotionally exhausting for both of us.

After a month of this, I said, "I'm done. We're doing formula only from here on out." And he seems to be happy now that we can just feed him and the process is not so drawn out and complicated. And I'm much happier not stressing out about it. Although I do feel like I have to justify myself whenever someone asks if I'm breastfeeding. I don't mind talking about it, but I do think it's weird when strangers ask me. Isn't that kind of a personal question? It was something I am still sensitive about and extremely disappointed that it didn't work out - not only for the bonding aspect but the financial one as well. I never wanted to deal with buying formula, washing bottles, preparing bottles in the middle of the night, etc. But if that's what's going to feed my baby, then so be it.

I'm already learning as a mother that there's so many things I'm doing that I said I would never formula feeding. And I'm sure this won't be the only thing I do that I said I never would. I just have to be ok with that.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

40 Week Update and Birth Story

So we didn't quite make it to 40 weeks. Judah Scott Reece arrived on 2/26/2012 at 8 lbs. 10 oz. I went into labor at exactly 39 weeks and would love to share my birth story with you.

It was very important to me to have a completely natural labor. This isn't something I discussed with many people as it seems everyone has an opinion on why, when, and how you should give birth, so I kept it to myself aside from some close friends and family. After all, if it didn't work out, I really didn't want to hear any "I told you so's."  But luckily it did...

On the morning of the 25th, I woke up and felt pretty good for being so huge... just tired mostly and experiencing a few more braxton hicks contractions than usual. We went to my nephew's birthday party after getting me a large iced chai tea latte from Starbucks. I was noticing a lot of discomfort throughout the day but just chalked it up to carrying around an extra 47 pounds of weight that I'd gained.

At around 6 pm we headed out to Chili's for my husband's birthday dinner with his family, but upon discovering there was an hour wait, I asked to be taken home while they ate at a local bbq place. While they were away I watched the first half of The Bodyguard and was really starting to notice that I might be having actual contractions. My husband brought me home a pulled pork sandwich at around 8pm and I ate the entire thing... at that point I estimate I'd been in active labor since about 7:30. I was having contractions every 5 minutes, although they were pretty mild.  At around 8:30pm I walked into the office to tell my husband I was pretty sure I was in labor.  He called our Doula, Catherine, and the hospital to let them know. I got in the shower and when I got out Catherine arrived shortly after. My contractions were moving right along and were consistently every 3-5 minutes. I labored at home for as long as possible before deciding to head to the hospital at around 11:00 pm.

We got to the hospital to check in and I had to stop every few feet on the way to the room to have another contraction. When they did their initial check I am dilated to a 4 and 90% effaced... progress from my dr's appointment the day before where I had been at a 1 for three weeks.  As soon as their initial monitoring was done, and my hep lock inserted, I was allowed to move around the room, get in the tub, and labor in any position I wanted.

The nurses were so respectful of my wishes and didn't offer me any pain medication. They were very supportive and encouraging. I couldn't hear any of the other women in labor, but I'm sure they could hear me. I continued to progress and dilate at a fairly normal rate over the next few hours and things were really starting to get intense. I don't know what I would have done without Scott and Catherine as they really moved into action with every contraction to massage my back, my feet, get me water, and just generally do whatever was necessary to get me though each one.

And then I got to an 8....and stalled out. I was stuck at an 8 forever and finally asked to have my water broken. I immediately regretted it because although I wanted things to get moving along, I was not prepared for the waves of pain the next couple hours would bring. Once my water was broken, my body was like, "Let's crank this up to 11!" I remember saying things like, "I can't do this," "I don't want to do this anymore," and "I'm not getting any relief." It literally felt like my body was breaking in half. This is transition, and apparently, I had an extra long one. Baby was sunny side up and a little high. Luckily, since I didn't have an epidural, I was able to move into a different position and he flipped the correct way (face down) shortly after. I was ready to push at 8:00 am...finally. Although the labor itself was fairly short and routine, it felt like an eternity.

They say pushing is such a relief...and it is...but only from contractions. I felt everything. Again, all my wishes were respected as far as pushing goes and I was not coached in any way or put in any time frame to push for a certain amount of time. It was completely mother-led and instinctual. I'm pretty sure I was roaring like a lion, but at 8:37, Judah was born. The most wonderful thing anyone said at that moment was when my husband looked at me and said, "You are amazing." Nothing could have meant more in that moment. I got the birth I wanted - no pain medication, fairly quick, and most importantly, a healthy alert baby and mother.

I had a small second degree tear (it's true, you can't feel that happening when it does), but my recovery has been so easy. I was up and moving around later that day and was able to take a shower by myself that night. A week later and I feel almost like it never even happened (physically). It's nice to be able to bend over and pick things up off the ground again and to have normal human sized ankles.

It is amazing to see this life my husband and I have created together and to never realize you could immediately love something so much.

If you've stuck with me this far, congratulations. This was a long one, but one of the most important stories of my life.  And I can safely say, I'm never doing that again... More on Judah and jaundice and breastfeeding woes to come in the next couple posts...