Monday, August 5, 2013

I'm too fat for all these hurdles!

The first week with Chris home was a nice change. Now we both slept in the living room for the most part. Chris kept me fed and hydrated. He got me anything I needed. He propped my swollen feet up. He consoled the baby when I was too overwhelmed to do anything but cry. Xander seemed to always be hungry or grumpy or fussy. We got okayed to try gas drops but they didn't seem to help. We tried gripe water...still no real difference. I was scared to death that he had colic (I saw it as karma for being a difficult child). A couple days after our doctor visit, we met our home health nurse. She was a nice lady. She was very passionate about babies and breastfeeding. She checked me and Xander out. (I was super puffy in the feet and ankles...worse than when I was at the end of my pregnancy.) After filling out a bunch of paperwork and talking about the same stuff we talked to everyone about, she said she would see us next week.

The next week was the same. Feedings, fussiness, hardly no sleep, fussiness, feeding, swollen ankles, eating with one hand. The nurse noted that Xander had lost an ounce since she weighed him last. She got concerned. I told her I was breastfeeding every 2-3 hours and for 30 minutes plus on each side. She warned us that if he lost more next week, we may have to go to the doctor...or worse, the hospital. I got worried again. Please, please, not now! I just got my baby out of the hospital! What could be wrong now?

In the middle of all this, my best friend from California was coming to visit with her new husband. I tried to be as hospitable as I could. I geared up for leaving the house with my baby for the first time. All while Chris had to work (naturally). We went to restaurants. The first time didn't go so smoothly. We went to Steak N Shake and Xander was sleeping peacefully...once I was almost done eating, he woke up and was hungry. And he wanted to eat RIGHT NOW. So, I got to finagle a crying newborn baby onto my boob while hiding behind a blanket being held up by my husband (thankfully, Chris got to come to that meal). I'm sure it was amusing to anyone with a kid that understood and I'm sure it was annoying to everyone else. Chris and I took it in stride though. First time parent experiences are always the most stressful. The next day, we went to the Indiana State Museum. I got to use my Moby wrap for the first time ever and it was awesome! Xander was close to me and slept almost the entire time we were there. He didn't start to cry until we were leaving. Then he was hungry and wanted to eat RIGHT NOW, yet again...but alas we were driving. So he got to suck on my finger until we got home. Another new mommy stressful moment brought to you by hunger.

One of the few times he was swaddled

Milk coma

Moby wrap momma!

One night while eating dinner with Kelly and her husband and my mother-in-law, we got seated on the main walkway at one of our favorite family restaurants (a local diner ran by an awesome Greek family). This was a terrible idea as we were eating around the same time every old person in the planet eats dinner. For those of you that didn't know it, the senior community LOVES BABIES. Every single person that walked by went "Aww! LOOK AT THE BABY!" Which is fine. I will let you look at my newborn baby in passing and ask me how old he is, but a couple of these older ladies got a little creepy. One of them got a little too close in his face and I almost had a heart attack. Then, there was another lady who got so close I was afraid she was going to try to take him out of his car seat that he was sleeping in comfortably... She lingered so long (while I had my sandwich in my hand inches from my mouth - mind you) that her poor husband had to literally drag her away from us. Lesson learned...old ladies love babies.

After Kelly and her husband went back home to California, we got another visit from our home nurse. She brought a lactation consultant with her to make sure I was doing everything I could to help Xander gain weight. The lactation consultant watched me feed him and was very impressed with my breastfeeding skills (yay for nerdy research!) Unfortunately, Xander had lost yet another ounce. Then, the lactation consultant and the nurse said the words I was dreading for the last 2 weeks. Formula supplementation. They decided that I wasn't producing enough milk and that is why my baby was losing weight. Best guess, he was a sleepy eater and would fall asleep so soon after starting to feed that he wasn't taking in enough milk and was mostly just using me as a pacifier.

Conveniently, I had a package from Similac with a bottle and a can of sample formula. I cried as the lactation consultant helped me get it ready. Formula was the last thing I wanted my baby to have. I knew he had a rough start and I knew breast milk was the best thing for him and his little body right now...but it wasn't enough for my little guy. Looking back at pictures of this time, you can really tell how thin he got. At first, I thought it was just the IV fluids getting out of his system, but he did get very thin.

My hungry guy.

I, once again, felt defeated as a mother because I couldn't provide enough food for my baby. I cried as I gave him his first bottle, telling myself it was for the best and my baby needed it. Xander sucked that 2 oz bottle down so fast. My poor baby was starving. He threw half of it back up because he ate it so fast and I freaked out and cried more. Seeing your baby throw up is terrifying and stressful (and I still hate it, although it doesn't happen very often anymore). I cleaned him up and he went right to sleep. He was finally full and content and I was at a total loss. My mind was spinning. I fought the sadness I felt of not being able to provide my child the nutrition he needed.

This was another moment where the universe just kicked me in the ass and told me to stop trying to control every thing. Apparently, I wasn't listening before. I HEAR YOU NOW UNIVERSE. Xander had to go to the doctor that afternoon to verify the home nurse's decision. Our doctor agreed. Breastfeeding then formula feeding. I was scared to death the bottle would ruin his latch and I would fail completely at breastfeeding. I just remembered everything I had read about how formula was awful compared to breast milk and how much happier breast fed babies were. Now, I was one of those people I said I would never be*...but it wasn't by choice.

Xander's new feeding schedule changed him completely. He was suddenly a happy baby. When he was awake, he wasn't screaming. When he fell asleep, he would sleep in his bassinet until he was hungry again. When he was hungry, he did not scream bloody murder. We finally had a baby that really did just eat, sleep, and poop...and it was glorious. His latch, I'm happy to report, is still good. He had a bit of nipple confusion in the beginning and gets a little lazy from time to time, but it's nothing that I can't handle.

* I have nothing against people who feed their babies with formula! I know formula-fed babies are just as healthy, smart, happy as breastfed babies...I just saw it as a personal failure because I was so determined to exclusively breastfeed.


So, here we are, almost 3 months in. I'm back to work. (That day sucked! But I'm doing better!) I've learned a lot about myself and about life, I've been humbled by kindness, and I've had some realizations. I've learned that my nerdy research can be really bad for your sanity. Ultimately, all of these hurdles that Xander faced turned me into The Girl Who Knew Too Much. My over-abundance of education on all of these little things, while seeming like a good idea at the time to be prepared, ended up causing me a lot of anxiety. I learned all of these possible scenarios, then picked the one I wanted and the one I absolutely did not want...then I got the one I absolutely did not want and ended up feeling like a failure. Thankfully, I don't really have time to do a ton of research on the little things anymore. Don't get me wrong, I will still look something up if I question something, but I take it all with a a grain of salt. I remind myself that just because something is thought to be the best way, does not mean doing it differently is the end of the world or wrong by any means. It's just different. As long as my baby is happy and healthy in the long-run, then I'm okay with that.

I've also learned how little sleep I can function on. Where I used to NEED 8-9 hours a night, I am THRILLED to get 4-5 now. I've learned a smile from my little guy melts my heart and makes me forget how exhausted I am. His coos and giggles mesmerize me. Every time he does something new I am amazed. It blows my mind when I realize he is experiencing things and doing things for the first time ever. He is the first thing I think about when I wake up (aside from "What time is it?") and the last thing I think about when I go to bed (aside from "Please sleep until 5:30!"). I have never felt so many emotions at once before I had him. I am so thankful for everything and everyone in my life right now. My husband is an amazing dad. He watches him while I'm at work. He is hands on, and Xander smiles at the mere sound of his voice. It melts my heart (and makes me a little jealous). I am truly happy. Broke and fat (only down 20 of the 60 lbs I gained during pregnancy), but happy. Once Xander hits 3 months on August 13th, I will be getting back on the bandwagon. I haven't decided how all that is going to go yet (in terms of when to get a fill and whatnot), but I will let you all know when I figure it out.

And that ladies and gents, the final installment of "life with a far"

Enjoying fresh air!

Smiling for Daddy

Thursday, August 1, 2013

The last thing a new mom wants to hear...

So we arrived at our postpartum room, happy to get settled and finally sleep. We had to get a cot for Chris because the chair-bed was broken horribly. That took about an hour or more. I don't really remember because I was way out of it and holding our new baby.

Once Chris was settled, Xander was asleep at my breast, and we thought it would be a good time to try to sleep (since I kept falling asleep anyway). But of course, as soon as I would put baby Xander into his bassinet he would wake up and cry. So I would pick him up and he would cry and cry until he was back on my breast. Then he would fall asleep either using me as a pacifier or just lying next to me, still in a breastfeeding "football" position (off to my side with his feet towards my back). This went on all night. Chris and I were terrified to fall asleep with him in bed with me. My nipples were getting really raw and sore. Chris would try to take him and soothe him. We were determined to not use a pacifier. All 3 of us cried at one point or another in pure frustration. I knew my baby was tired, but he wouldn't sleep anywhere but on my boob. This of course made me think a million things at once. Can we handle this? Will it always be like this? Does he have colic? Is it gas? What am I doing wrong?! You know, typical first time parent freak-outs.

Around 8 am the next morning, a doctor came in to check on Xander. The nurse that checked on us the night before noticed he was still breathing a bit fast when she took his stats.The doctor said he seemed okay, he was just breathing a little fast. He didn't seem super concerned, so neither were we. I ordered breakfast after that - ready for visitors and a full day of no sleep again. My mother-in-law came and kept Xander company for a while and let me sleep for an hour or 2 and Chris went home for the first time in 3 days to shower and change his clothes. We had more visitors that day. My dad and step-mom and my sister all came to see us. The woman who was encapsulating my placenta also came.

Baby: Day 1
I think they might have taken Xander at some point to do a test or two. I really can't remember. What I do remember, is that night. It was another awful night of no sleep and a crying baby unless he was on my boob. Chris and I were both just at a loss. The lovely nurse working that night even tried to calm him so I could sleep. He did not want to be anywhere but next to me. The nurse took him to do his hearing test overnight and she said as soon as he left the room, he was a sleep. You have got to be kidding me! I was at a loss. By 5 or 6 am, I was a hot mess, crying, and utterly exhausted. The nurse offered to take him to the nursery to sleep and so we could sleep. I cried again, I wanted to sleep but I didn't want leave my baby alone. I finally, tearfully, agreed to let her take him for a couple hours so I could sleep a little. I have never felt so guilty in my life as I did when they rolled him out of there.

A couple hours later, the doctor that checked him out the previous morning came in. I can't remember if he woke me up or not. He told Chris and I that Xander's breathing had still not improved and he was growing concerned that he had swallowed some of the meconium in his fluid when he came out. He also speculated that it might have been because of my only 20 minutes of pushing, he may not have had sufficient compression of his lungs to push all the fluid out. Either way, he told me he sent my baby to the NICU for some tests. My heart broke into a million tiny pieces. The doctor said he was okay, but he wanted to be safe. He said a nurse would tell us when we could go see him and my heart broke into a million more tiny pieces.

As soon as he left, I started to bawl. The guilt I felt this morning for letting him to go the nursery to sleep had just quadrupled because now my baby was in the NICU and I wasn't there to comfort him, to say goodbye, to say I loved him...nothing. I felt utterly lost and helpless. I cannot imagine what other people who have babies in the NICU for more serious reasons go through because I was dying inside. The nurse on the shift change came in to talk to us and comfort us. She was very sweet and helpful. Every hour, we called the nurse to ask her what was going on and when we could see Xander. They got me a breast pump because they knew I did not want him on formula. We had to wait 3-4 agonizing hours before we could go see our baby. I was still shaky on my feet, so Chris wheeled me into the NICU. I cried the entire way there.

Then, I saw my little baby. Under a warming...thing, in only a diaper, with oxygen on and an IV in his little arm, sleeping. (I found out later that his IV fluids had some type of nutritional value in it that made him not hungry.) Chris and I were both a mess. I didn't know how much more I could handle at this point. We met the NICU doctor, a nice man from Africa, who's name I still cannot spell or pronounce. He said Xander's x-rays did show a bit of fluid still in his lungs. They had to start antibiotics immediately. The NICU team was truly amazing. They were very sympathetic and reassuring. They said we could come and go whenever we wanted. We could have 3 visitors at a time. Honestly, this entire day is a bit of blur still. It all seemed to happen so fast and not seem real. My baby was fine just yesterday and now I am a NICU parent. How does that happen?

We went back to our room because I needed to eat and learn how to use my breast pump. Even though Xander didn't need to eat right now, they wanted me to get my milk to come in so I could feed him. I told my family and friends what was going on. I asked my mom to come because I needed her terribly. I asked other people to not come until we knew more of what was going on. I also found out that even though I would be discharged on Wednesday, they got a complimentary NICU parent room for me so I could say in the hospital for as long as Xander was there (unless someone with a more serious problem came). This was a true blessing! I didn't have to go home and worry about my baby. If i wanted to see him, I could just walk down the hall. I will be forever grateful for Methodist Hospital for the amazing hospitality during the entire time I was there.

Later that day, they agreed to let me do skin to skin and breastfeed. They turned down Xander's IV fluids so he would be awake and hungry enough to eat. Seeing him in his little incubator with an IV line in his arm and oxygen on his face was the most upsetting thing I have ever experienced in my life. It breaks my heart over and over again every time I think about it. I tried my best to keep it together, but I still cried constantly. Guilt, sadness, fear, pain, emptiness - I felt it all...all at once. But when they put him on my chest and buttoned my shirt around him, I cried again - this time out of happiness. I finally felt complete again. I had my baby in my arms. I ignored the stupid cords and wires and tried to be okay with the oxygen smushed on his little face and I just enjoyed my baby.

This is the best feeling ever.

So. NICU plan. Since they were letting me breastfeed, I would come ever 2-4 hours to feed him or the nurses would call me if he was hungry and I wasn't there. They all knew I did not want him to have a pacifier except for when doing things that hurt him (needle sticks, etc.). By the next day, his breathing was already improved and he got the okay to take off his oxygen. He still had to get another 24 hours of his antibiotics though. Now that he was a NICU baby, he had to reach certain milestones before he could go home. Steady oxygen levels, all of his medicine, eating so much a day, peeing and pooing so much a day. I was now a mother on a mission.

My little Cabbage Patch Kid, all puffy from IV fluids

My mom and I spent most of our time in the NICU. I only left to eat and sleep. All of the parents and nurses in the NICU were always commenting how big Xander was compared to the other babies there. It was true. My baby didn't look like a normal NICU baby. Most of those babies were a lot sicker than mine. I felt very fortunate for that reason. It could be a lot worse, and I constantly reminded myself of that. No one treated us differently though. Chris spent his time going back and forth. He doesn't like hospitals in the first place. He came and went, having a hard time seeing Xander like he was. So instead, Chris focused on super cleaning our house and getting it ready for Xander's homecoming...whenever that might be.

Every morning, my mom and I were in the NICU by 9 am for the doctor's rounds. We were always present when they would talk about Xander's progress, his goals for the day, and the treatment plan. I took notes on my phone to share with everyone else and so I knew what we needed to achieve. The doctor was very impressed the morning after letting him eat when the nurse said "breast fed for 30 minutes each side every 3 hours. 9 pee diapers, and 6 poos". This guy knew I meant business and I wanted my baby the heck out of the NICU. I don't mess around or do stuff half-assed!

Finally, on Thursday, they let me take Xander back to my hospitality room (aka an unused, older, labor and delivery room) so he could spend the night on no machines and see how he did. I had to note every feed, every diaper, and take his temperature regularly. I was totally cool with that. Anything to have my baby next to me. I put Xander in a sleep shirt we brought from home with a cow on it...because I have a slight thing for cows. He looked adorable in real baby clothes and finally no cords! I was thrilled. We were one step closer to going home! As evening got closer, Xander got more agitated, unfortunately. He went right back to only wanting to be at my breast. That's the only place he was happy. I was so upset I couldn't eat anything. What is wrong? What am I doing wrong?! That night, after crying in the shower as my mom consoled my crying baby; after singing him songs I was playing on my phone (Backstreet Boys if you're curious!), and after leaving the room to cry alone int he hallway, a nurse saw me and reassured me again this was all normal and babies do this. I finally broke down and asked for a stupid pacifier*.

The nurse wrapped Xander up tightly in his blanket and stuck that little green pacifier in his mouth...and he finally fell asleep. I was relieved, but I felt totally defeated. I slept as good as a new mom can sleep (what with waking up at every sound he made, or waking up when he didn't make a sound to make sure he was still breathing). The next day, we waited anxiously for the NICU doctor to do a final assessment of Xander. We got many hospital visitors (amazing lactation consultants, discharge people, nurses). After what seemed like forever (3 hours) Xander was cleared to go home around 11 am on Friday morning. After 6 long days in the hospital, Xander and I were finally going home! 

The Ref, happy to get cleared to go home!

Going home in his too-big outfit

Since we had a NICU baby, we got a lot of extra care. They helped us set up his first doctor appointment, which had to be the following Monday to get his oxygen levels checked. We also were going to get weekly home visits from a nurse from the Health Department. This actually made me feel a lot better. We were thrilled to go home, but nervous too. Chris had to leave after we took Xander home for the entire weekend. It was just going to be me and Xander for his first 3 days home. Thankfully, my mother-in-law was there to help me! If not for her, I probably would not have eaten at all.

That first weekend was such a blur. It was mostly feedings and fighting sleep, and falling asleep sitting up, and waking up every few minutes when he did sleep in his bassinet (without a pacifier, I should add) to make sure he was okay, or waking up every time he made a peep, or moved at all. (He was a really noisy sleeper!) I didn't leave my living room except to use the bathroom. I'm fairly certain I didn't shower at all that weekend. I sent Chris pictures constantly. I missed him terribly. I was glad to have 3 days to bond with my baby, but I wanted his daddy to be there too. I barely saw Chris at all while I was at the hospital and now he was gone for another 3 days. It was very hard on my heart, that's for sure.

Chris got home on Monday morning around 7 am. Xander's first doctor's appointment was at 9 am. I was super nervous about leaving the house with him. I sat in the back of the car with Xander and held his little head up...because wobbly baby heads are scary! We got to the office and had to check in for the first time. It took, what seemed like, forever. Everyone who walked by Xander would comment on the little baby and ask how old. All I wanted to do was say "STAY AWAY FROM MY BABY!" But I held my tongue! This was a new anxiety like no other. Sick people seemed to be every where and I had a newborn fresh out of the NICU. Thankfully, the rest of the appointment was fine. We met our young, fresh out of med school pediatrician, and they took his stats and everything was good. We breathed a big sigh of relief and went home as soon as possible to get our baby away from all of these contagious people!

We were finally in the clear! Or so we thought....TO BE CONTINUED.

*I know some people think I'm crazy for not wanting to use a pacifier right away, but it can really mess with breastfeeding, and I wanted to avoid that at all costs! The one thing I was really determined to do well, was breastfeed...or so I hoped. 


This NICU experience was, by far, the hardest thing I have ever endured. The labor and delivery was nothing compared to the pain I felt seeing my baby hooked up to machines and wires and having to be apart from him. I am thankful every day for the staff at my hospital. This was just the universe showing me, yet again, that I was not in control and I needed to just let go and go with the flow. It also helped me see how strong and determined I could be. And, in hindsight, I think staying in the hospital for an entire week was very helping in teaching me how to take care of my baby...I probably would have lost it trying to care for a baby 2 days after pushing him out.