Friday, April 4, 2014

The Truth about the First Month

Can you believe it has already been a month!? I cannot. The past few weeks have seemed like the longest yet the quickest month I've ever experienced. If this is your first time over here, check out this post to be filled in on how I gave birth to our son Evan a month ago!

Disclaimer: This is a long post where I will be bearing my soul and my experience with breastfeeding.

First of all, let me say that I absolutely love being a mom. There is nothing better than staring into your child's eyes, watching his every expression, and wondering how in the world I am lucky enough to be blessed with a son. However, I'd be lying if I said this past month was cake.

It. Was. Not.

Nobody really adequately explains the intense emotional, physical, and spiritual difficulty that is required to have a child. Nobody. I mean, I've heard the horror stories about no sleep and colic and that breastfeeding is "hard". Hard? No...let's try a better more accurate word. How about demanding, exhausting, debilitating, draining, and the most challenging thing I've ever done in my entire life. Don't get me wrong. I wanted to breastfeed and it can also be the most calming, beautiful and intimate gift as well. But when people say that it can be hard for some people, I did not even come close to imagining the reality of what that meant.

When Evan was born, because of the c-section, Frank went straight to the nursery with him while I was recovering. This part of the c-section was probably the most difficult for me. I absolutely hated waiting in my recovery room, feeling perfectly fine, knowing that my precious baby was down the hall and I didn't even get to hold him. I had to wait almost 2 hours to see him and even then I only got to hold him for about 15 minutes before they grabbed him back again for more assessments. Luckily Frank was able to do some skin to skin contact with Evan which I am so grateful for, but that first hour to two hours of time with your newborn is so important, and I missed out. Once I did get to hold him we tried breast feeding. He was able to latch, but not properly and it was very painful. After a day of struggling to feed my baby a lactation consultant informed me that Evan was tongue tied. This means that the little string of skin holding his tongue to the floor of his mouth was too long and preventing him from sucking correctly and potentially could cause him to have severe speech difficulties when he got older. After discussing the issue with a specialist, we were able to have Evan's tongue snipped and he was allowed to return to breastfeeding immediately after.

However, for the remainder of the hospital stay I felt extreme pressure from the nursery nurses and pediatricians about how much milk I was producing and how many wet diapers Evan was producing. This caused me, and I believe Evan as well, a great deal of stress. I felt like people were constantly peeking at me when I was trying to breastfeed and inquiring about how much milk I was pumping. Coupled with the intense emotions I was feeling in general along with the stress of Evan having surgery that day, I was a wreck. Once I got home things improved briefly until the doctor noticed the Evan was not gaining any weight. He gained his birth weight back but then did not gain weight for 5 days after that. The pediatrician was putting pressure on me saying that my milk was not coming in properly and demanded that I start supplementing my breast milk with formula.

When I say that the 5 days I supplemented were some of the worst days of my life I really don't think I am exaggerating. First of all, it was extremely emotional for me to give my baby formula after fighting so hard to prevent supplementation from being necessary. I felt like a failure as a mom for not being able to give my baby what he needed and desperately missed being able to breast feed him. I had to pump my milk, put it in a bottle and add formula to it. Evan immediately became more fussy, more gassy, and spit up what seemed like constantly. He was uncomfortable and it broke my heart. I knew it was best for him though and pushed forward feeding him every two hours, even at night, and handing him off to Frank immediately after each feeding so I could try to pump enough milk for the next feeding. When I wasn't able to produce enough for the next feeding I had to give formula to Evan which I desperately tried to avoid. I had to rent a hospital grade breast pump and was a slave to it during that time since I had to pump about two times in between each feeding to produce enough milk for the next feeding.

During this time I barely slept, sometimes didn't have time to eat enough, probably lost 2 pounds of weight in tears, and was constantly crying out to God "why? why me? why Evan? why can't this just be easier?" There were several times I considered giving up, but Frank continued to support me and push me to keep going. When I said breast feeding was difficult, I meant it was something I had to fight for harder than I've ever fought for something in my life. By the end of those few days my milk started to come back in and we had to check Evan's weight. When I saw that Evan gained 4oz I burst into tears in the doctor's office.

We did several weight checks after that and eventually the pediatrician allowed me to return to breast feeding full time. Evan gained 7oz last week which is fantastic and things are much, much better now, but for a few weeks I was seriously in a dark, lonely, emotional place where I really thought it might never get better. If I didn't cling on to the inspiring promising verses I kept on my breast pump and read each morning during the 1:30am, 3:30 am and 5:30 am feedings I don't think I would have gotten through it the same.

Now, I look forward to breast feeding (usually) and Evan is more alert, growing stronger, and becoming quite expressive! I feel like we climbed up a huge mountain and we have finally reached the valley. It took a ton of courage, determination, constant prayer and support from Frank and my family and friends, and an intensely strong belief that breast feeding could still work for Evan and I. I don't know what is ahead and I''m not sure how long I will continue to breastfeed, but I do know that the turmoil I went through was totally worth it to have a happy and healthy baby at the end of it...and a more happy and healthy me!

Evan and I are finally just now working into more of a routine and I am actually able to take a shower most days and I am even writing this post as he naps which seemed like such an impossibility about a week ago. This whole past month has been such a roller coaster and has literally pushed me to the absolute edge of what I am capable of and what I am only capable of with God and support systems around me. I've learned so much about how He works and how much I seriously cling onto my false sense of control. I think I will always be learning this lesson over and over again, but I think I've started to see how letting go of control is sometimes exactly what needs to happen to gain clarity and sanity and renewed strength.

So, all that being said...the first month was not a piece of cake. It was the most challenging, grueling, and the most beautiful and rewarding lesson I think I've ever learned so far. I am so thankful that I had to go through this challenge and I hope one day I can be an inspiration and a support to someone else who has to endure a similar struggle.

If you are pregnant and planning to breastfeed or a new mother struggling to breastfeed, here is what I've learned:

1. Breastfeeding is extremely challenging and draining. Drink tons of water and eat lots of food. Before you even have the baby stock up on high protein foods that are easily stashed on a table next to where you'll feed your baby. Things like: granola bars, trail mix, grapes, apple slices, crackers, etc. Keep a water bottle next to you at all times.

       1a. When people visit don't hesitate to ask them to fill your water for you or grab you more snacks since        you will likely have a hard time getting things on your own for the first couple weeks until you get the              hang of things.

2. You are doing a great job! It's true that not everyone can breastfeed, but if you really want to, you can do a ton of things to help you to fight the battle the best you can. Don't be too hard on yourself and keep pushing through--there is light at the end of the tunnel in the form of either being able to breastfeed or making the decision that formula is the better way to go and knowing you fought the good fight.

3. During my struggle I found an excellent website that totally educated me and encouraged me. Check out KellyMom for tons of evidence-based tips and information about breastfeeding.

4. Don't underestimate your instincts. I've only been a mom for a month and I've learned if you really tune into your baby you can learn so much about him/her. This whole experience really taught me about listening to Evan and tuning into his needs and also listening to my own motherly instincts that I really believe God gives to us to help us know what our babies need.

5. Don't underestimate the power of a nap. The whole time I was struggling I got hardly any sleep. I tried to avoid using a bottle with Evan out of fear of "nipple confusion" and instead drove my body into the ground by neglecting my own needs for food, water and sleep. No wonder my milk was dwindling! The day I allowed Frank to feed Evan a bottle of my expressed milk, let go and trusted that if Evan was crying Frank could handle it and took a two hour nap, that was the day I started to notice my milk production increasing and my energy renewed.

6. Accept help. It is so hard for me to accept help sometimes and I think it is the same for many other people as well. But, simply, do it. If someone offers to clean your bathroom, get over the fact that it's probably got toothpaste caked on the sink and the wastebasket is overflowing and just say yes! Thank you so much! People want to help and although letting go of your pride can be challenging, having a nice clean bathroom and one less thing to worry about is so worth it. Plus, if the person really cares about you, they will not think any less of you for the chores you've allowed them to help you with.

7. Breastfeeding is one of the most rewarding things I've done. There's nothing like spending that close, intimate time with your baby, looking into his eyes and holding him close and seeing him calm and relaxed when he's all fed. There's nothing like knowing that my baby is full and satisfied from food that my body specially produced for him. If you want to breastfeed, keep fighting! Don't let people make you feel like you shouldn't. There are circumstances that prevent some women from breastfeeding, but if you can, fight the battle as long as you can, because the reward is amazing.

***I am completely aware that not everyone can breastfeed nor does everyone choose to breastfeed. I don't think there is anything wrong with feeding a baby formula. Many, many people do it and there's nothing wrong with it. I just felt very strongly that breast feeding was the right thing for Evan and I and I wanted to do anything I could in my power to make that happen.***

I hope to be making a few more appearances here in the next week or so and then hopefully I will be getting back into some projects as long as little Mr. Evan continues to be such a great napper! In the meantime...keep in touch!

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1 comment:

slydegirll said...

Well said. I think our more "natural" embracing culture sometimes has the unintentional outcome that we try, as moms, to cling to what we have decided is best or right, when sometimes that can lead us into worse situations. I also tried not to have to give formula to my kids, I enjoy breastfeeding, but its demoralizing in when you're covered in spitup and poop and trying to pump and haven't slept more than 45 minutes at a time in days. and that little break of someone else giving your little one a bottle (or cleaning your bathroom, or giving your baby a bath so you can nap, etc.) can be SO rejuvenating. It's hard to remember sometimes that it's not really about what I want, but about what's best for my baby AND myself. And often, that's hard to adjust to. Glad you made it through :)