Wednesday, July 29, 2009
Tuesday, July 14, 2009
The Sweetest Surprise
Before Claire was born, I knew that I would nurse. I really didn't know if I would last long and set a goal of making it through the summer, perhaps a little longer. I wasn't sure that I was in love with the idea. I knew that I was anxious about modesty and worried that I would never truly be comfortable with it. However, I was determined to do it for a bit and really give it a chance.
In the hospital, Claire latched the first time and I thought, 'okay, she's going to be good at this- that's a start'. Still, I worried that this may not be for me. After all, I felt a little silly doing it and I certainly did not want to do it in front of anybody! When I tried to latch her again later, she seemed disinterested and was difficult to feed. I was immediately concerned! I couldn't feed my baby! I felt I may not last with nursing in the long run, but I was definitely not ready to start bottles of formula in the hospital! I wanted to exclusive nurse for a couple of months at least! It didn't seem like my milk had fully come in yet, but I thought that she would naturally desire to nurse already. The nurses tried glucose water (which is a joke), a nipple shield, varying positions, and even an informative video. I had nurses and doctors shoving my breast into my baby's face, which felt awkward and strange, but hey, I'd just given birth! Maybe it was time to put my inhibitions aside in light of the fact that I just had an entire medical team and entourage all up in my business! When it was time to leave the hospital, I still felt some panic that she had not eaten, but was reassured that she still had plenty of nutrients from the womb and would NOT starve. I was told that she would eat when she was hungry and sent on my way.
The first night home, she still seemed disinterested. Five days later, I finally had milk! Boy did I have milk! My goodness! Finally, she began to partake. Relief! My baby was eating! It was just an incredibly difficult adjustment for me. People would come over and I would feel like I had to run and hide in the bedroom every time she seemed hungry. I was embarrassed if certain people came over and I was nursing, even with a cover, completely unexposed. I don't know why, but I felt completely weird about what I was doing and other people knowing what was going on under that blanket. Ridiculous, in retrospect, but hind sight is 20/20. Meanwhile, it felt like Claire was hungry all the time. I was the only feeder for that time period and I felt completely consumed and exhausted. I was raw and irritated and latching sent a sharp pain through me. I was hating this. I felt so conflicted. I hated the idea of giving up because I truly thought it was best for Claire, but I could not stand the idea of going on any longer. I began to have constant and intense breast pain. I screamed when Claire latched. Then, I felt guilty when I screamed. After all, my poor baby had no idea how awful I felt. She just knew that she was hungry and needed me.
I started searching for answers as to why I was in so much pain and secretly praying that God would dry up my milk so I would be free from this chore without any guilt. Luckily, God had other things in mind. Everyone kept telling me that it got better, so I was afraid quitting then would be like dropping out of high school in the twelfth grade. If it was going to get better, I would be a fool to quit right before! My friend, Maggie, also a nursing mom, suggested I check out the forums on the La Leche League website. I headed to and read away. (note, I appreciated the information, but do not endorse all ideas as stated by the La Leche League). I decided to log on and post what I was going through. While I may not feel like I completely fit in with the LLL moms, they were a total blessing and Godsend in their replies to my post. They suggested that I may have thrush and should seek medical attention right away. I called my obstetrician, told the nurse everything and got a prescription and recommendation to try the nipple shield I received in the hospital. Giving both a try, I finally started to feel relief. The pain subsided and I felt accomplished in my goal of continuing on in the journey.
I was still struggling with constant feeding and modesty, but I was not ready to make a decision about starting formula, so I kept going. I was thrilled that my medicine and the shield had saved me from having to make a rash decision. I pumped and bottled when going out in public to avoid having to nurse in public. I seemed to have created a rhythm for myself and felt like I could make it to my goal of continuing through the summer.
Slowly, I started expanding my horizons by beginning to nurse in front of close friends instead of running and hiding in the other room. I began to feel like pumping and bottling was a pain. I would become engorged and have to pump immediately upon going home and Claire was sloppy with a bottle- milk everywhere! Why am I doing this? Why should I feel stupid about nursing my baby where ever I am? I started to feel empowered to begin nursing in public. It is a process, so I cannot say I am really fully there yet, but I am ready to be so bold! I have slowly started to do so and I am proud of the baby steps I have taken.
Initially, I had scoffed at the idea that nursing was a bonding experience. That is always the first thing people say when you tell them you are nursing. When the going was rough, I resented the suggestion. It just made me feel worse about my already negative opinion of nursing.
Finally, I understood. If you read my blog titled 'She Needs Me', it is explained that I was able to calm my sweet girl by nursing. After that, I began to have Michael bring her in to me in the morning and I nurse her lying down in my bed. Often, she (and I) fall asleep for her first nap of the day. She is so sweet when she sleeps! This time is my favorite of the day and will be sorely missed when I have to return to work.
After all this time, I finally began to view nursing as an experience and a journey, instead of an obligation and a chore. God answered my prayers. I began to feel like I could exceed my initial goal of 4-6 months. My husband, who has served as an amazing cheerleader through all the ups and downs, told me to 'go for it' as I told him of my desire to nurse through the first year. I CAN do it and I WILL figure out how to keep it up through my work schedule. Luckily, I feel that I have supportive bosses.
I have experienced naysaying and people who are sure I will fail or even prepared for me to fail, but I am too strong to let it get me down. I am determined.
Meanwhile, I appreciate any prayers in this journey. I know that I am placing my success in God's hands.
My sincerest thanks to Jill, Maggie, Mindy, and several others who gave me great advice and encouragement! I love you all! A special thanks to my husband for believing in me, feeling that I can and will succeed and supporting me when the going was rough.
(note- This is purely my perspective of my experience and is not meant to hurt anyone who made other decisions or were unable to nurse for whatever reason. I would be devastated if anyone was upset or felt judged. There is more than one way to be a great mom!)
ps- Above is a newborn pic of my baby girl and a recent pic. Look how big she's getting! She can roll from back to belly now!
Thursday, July 9, 2009
Today, I was lucky enough to finally visit with my friend, Mindy. Mindy's son, Isaac, is 2 months older than Miss Claire, and Mindy is a phenomenal mom. I was eager to visit with her, hoping it would rub off on me. Luckily, when I talked to Mindy, she assured me that so much of what I have experienced and tried was common. What a lovely revelation, to be respected and encouraged by someone you respect. Yes, it is true that I am too critical of myself. A perfectionist even. Today, I just thought to myself, I am a real mom. In this blog, I am not putting on any pretentious heirs. I will never claim that my child does things perfectly or that I know exactly what I am doing. Perhaps some moms feel the need to perpetuate an image, but I prefer to take the human approach. Being a mother is the hardest job, though worth it, and I am doing a beautifully flawed job. That is the best I could ask for, truly.
Claire and Isaac had a great time together- I am not just saying that. Claire and Isaac, aged 3 months and 5 months, actually cooed, smiled, looked at, engaged, laughed, and studied each other! It was the first time I ever saw my sweet girl interact with another baby. I couldn't believe the joy! I wish I had it on video!
Thank you for the beautiful visit, Mindy! Doesn't it seem amazing that 6 years ago we were getting together in the dorms and I was bring delicious ice cream, in our typical fashion? Today, I think I definitely brought a sweeter treat! How wonderful that our children were able to meet! Hope we see you again soon!
Lindsay and Claire
Sunday, July 5, 2009
Sweet dreams, Sweet Pea
The time has come and I have accepted it. There are varying opinions on when and how this should occur, or if it should occur at all, but for some parents, it is necessary. We are among those parents.
It is no secret that Claire has been an awful sleeper since birth. In the early days, I remember her refusal to sleep combined with her refusal to be put down being taxing to the point of tears and causing me to exist in an out of body state where I met all of Claire's needs, but realized quickly that I was emotionally missing, not interacting with her and hating myself. That is truly what life on thirty minutes sleep is like. There were days that I realized she'd spent 20 of 24 hours in my arms! Michael and I were up all night offering food, diapers, and comfort every hour, on the hour. What was wrong with this kid? Why wouldn't she sleep- even for an hour!? I called the pediatrician frantically. Suggestions: let her sleep in her car seat, sleep in her bouncy chair, in her swing, anything except her stomach! My God, just thinking about stomach sleeping is a SIDS risk! Nothing was working. Swaddling? She made us think the Babies R Us pre-made swaddle blankets were working for a couple of nights. Could I actually start to feel human again? Sleep in my own bed? At the same time as my husband, no less?! Oh glorious 2 hour stretches of sleep! I was in heaven! Too good to be true? Absolutely. Our little fighter figured out how to bust right out of the swaddler and any swaddle we tried to make. I was devestated. Back to square one. Where did we end up from there? On the couch. We took shift sleeping with her on the couch. Awful! Uncomfortable and scary as she became increasingly wiggly. I was bound and determined to get her into her own bed and my husband and I back into ours.
After careful research, I stumbled upon The Miracle Blanket- 100% money back guarantee if your kid won't sleep in it! Anything is worth a shot. My mom and I ordered it ASAP with express shipping. Finally, it arrived. I carefully placed our sweet infant in her 'baby straight jacket' and promptly rocked her to sleep. Eureka! Four solid hours of sleep, on her back, in her crib! Would it last? Night after night, things had improved. I felt a little human again. I started to be able to enjoy my baby instead of resenting her and envying my friends with less high maintenance babies. (note- know that I love and have always loved my baby and wouldn't trade her.) This worked for several glorious weeks and my sweet girl, thriving and maturing, began to a) figure out how to bust out in the morning- oh no, could it hold her during the night still? b) the pouch started to become too short for her long legs. Crap! This has to keep working! I can't go back to sleeping on the couch! I can't do it!
I poured over infant sleep books. I subjected Michael to every suggestion and felt the walls close in. Had I failed? Had I done something that made her this way? My self esteem plummeted as Claire seemed to revert to old ways and wake frequently during the night. This was not healthy for any of us. After all, Claire was sleeping considerably less than the minimum recommended by pediatricians. She must be exhausted too! Michael and I argued over who should have to go comfort her when she awoke. We both swore as we stumbled out of the bedroom and down the hall. It seemed a far too common occurance that we would spend 20 plus minutes soothing her and laying her carefully in her crib, only to have her eyes pop wide wide open as she hit the mattress or worse, the second we climbed back into bed and thought we were in the clear. Foiled again!
Early on, the concept of letting her cry came up, only to be met with the cruel realization that she was too young. It felt things would never change. Slowly, I started to think she was getting old enough, smart enough, and mature enough to handle. I began to fear that if it did not take place sometime soon, we would end up two angry zombies with no time for each other and a fussy diva for a child. Finally, the other night, she woke up time after time, and I told Michael- she's ready. I was determined and formed a plan. Her bedtime routine would consist of a bath, diaper, feeding, comfort, and placing her (unswaddled) in her crib drowsy, but awake. She fussed and talked seemingly endlessly and finally began to cry. I hate this! Why couldn't something have worked so we wouldn't have to do this? I comforted her by going in, rubbing her tummy, kissing her and assuring her that I love her. I checked on her in intervals- every 3 minutes, twice, followed by 5, 10, 15 and at last! We did not make it to 20! I could not believe the sudden silence and went in to investigate. Fast asleep! No twisted swaddle, no eyes popping wide open, no walking on egg shells! She did it! I beamed with pride as I realized my fussy little girl had soothed herself! I walked back to my bed feeling a tremendous sense of relief. This was the right thing to do and she was ready. She went on to sleep 8 hours with only one 10 minute soothing session. Definately her record! She didn't even awake for her typical middle of the night feeding! I did not miss my time catching Family Matters and Fresh Prince runs on Nick at Night.
The next morning, I worried. What if she doesn't like me because I am the mean lady that wouldn't pick her up and rock her. She reassured me with a sweet smile. I figured, if nothing else, she has to like me! I have the milk!
Though it is hard, we are continuing on. Hopefully, it continue to go well. Soon, we will work on applying the technique to naps.
There are probably people out there that would try to make me feel guilty for this choice, however, it was the right choice for us and for our child.
If you have any insight, encouragement, or stories to share, I would love any comments. Above is a picture of Claire busting out of the 'straight jacket' swaddler with the money back guarantee! At least it worked for awhile! Usually, she broke her arms free too. Stinker! Total Stinker!
Friday, July 3, 2009
She needs me
It is easy, as a mother, to doubt yourself and fear that you are not doing things right. Unfortunately, I tend to fall into that category- particularly when I am really tired (anyone who reads this blog recognizes that that is most of the time...).
The other day, I brought Claire home from her tour of Uncle Dan's new house. She had not napped well, so I figured she was becoming overtired when she suddenly burst into hysterics. Anyone who has held a screaming baby can attest to the helplessness you feel and when you are exhausted, it just feels like a punch in the face. I walked her, I rocked her, I made every attempt at soothing and caring I could think of. Still, she screamed. I held her as she cried and actually cried with her. Desperate, I brought her to bed with me and snuggled her close as we both sobbed. Though it was a little early, I figured I would offer her milk and see if it calmed her down. She choked down the offering between occasional sobs and slowly began to calm down. Finally, we both fell asleep. A sleep we both desperately needed. When I awoke, she was still peacefully nuzzled against me. Her sleeping face is one of the single most indescribably lovely things I have ever seen. Though I was wake and less than comfortable, I was not going to move a muscle. I was just lying there, gazing at her. Suddenly, all the self doubt and my own personal assault of my mothering abilities just melted away. She just needed me. She didn't need me to do everything right, she didn't need me to have a perfect gasp of infant care from a famed author, she just needed me.
I feel, too often, mothers throw themselves under a bus. Motherhood is filled with complicated decisions and praying that these decisions will culminate in the best possible result for your child. There is much judgment surrounding- should you nurse or bottle feed, is it okay to let your baby cry, and on and on and on. I am planning to read this book sometime soon:
It is actually by the wife of Michael's favorite author, Michael Chabon. I saw her speak on television the other day and felt like she had channeled my thoughts.
From here on out, I need to remember that it is impossible and unnecessary to do everything just right. I need to know that, even though many of my friends who are also mothers appear to have it alltogether, they struggle too and it is okay. They are wonderful mothers and I pray that they realize it.
Meanwhile, regardless of shortcomings or my strengths, she needs me and that is all I really need.