Part 3 of the birth story is finally here! After a lot of procrastinating, I’ve finally written it and posted for all the world to read. If you haven’t read the previous posts, part 1 is here, part 2 is here, and if you enjoy a more humorous commentary, matts version part 1 is here and part 2 is here.
Ok, everyone caught up?
So we leave the hospital Sunday in our sweet ride with a little bundle of joy wedged between us in a carseat. She sleeps most of the 45 minute drive back to our house and we can’t help but comment on how surreal it is to be taking her home. It feels strange to be back in our own house, even though we’ve only been gone 2 nights. Somehow it feels like going back to our same old house and our same old stuff just doesn’t feel right because we know everything about how we live is changing. Matt’s parents drive up shortly after us (bringing both their car and ours from the hospital) and unload to stay and help us out for a few days. We get ‘settled’ (nothing felt settled at that point) and go to bed early. I’m still recovering from surgery and everything is a little labored, so I can definitely use the sleep. Matt’s mom, Lori, slept on the sofa sleeper in the nursery to stay with little Charly, change her when she woke up, then bring her in to us so we could get as much sleep as possible. Ha. Sleep. Funny.
It was nearly every 2 hours that our little girl woke up and wanted to nurse, which would take maybe 45 minutes. That equals out to a schedule sort of like this: 12 am- wake up, nurse until 12:45. Go to sleep for an hour and 15 minutes. 2 am- wake up, nurse until 2:45. Sleep for an hour and 15 minutes. Repeat. My friends, that is exhausting. So little sleep is not conducive to recovery. I took lots of meds that first little while and tried to not move too much since it was painful, but I probably over did it early on. I just hated being so stationary.
So Monday morning rolls around. Matt’s dad makes breakfast and Matt and I are in a bit of a daze. I’m not really sure what to do. One thing is for sure, I LOVE holding my baby. Matt and Steve make plans to go to Roanoke to get some supplies Steve needs to finish up the cradle he is working on for Charly (so she can sleep in our room once our help leaves) and to pick up a few other items. They leave and I decide I should probably shower, so Lori takes care of Charly. Quickly I learned that everything is a laborious process when you are recovering. I hadn’t really considered how often I use my abdominal muscles until they had been cut straight through and then reattached. Let me tell you, it is a lot.
That day, I tried to relax. Lori was wonderful and made food, refilled my drinks, and brought me my meds. We hung out on the couch most of the day while the boys were out.
Remember how Charly was awesome in the hospital? Well, she proved to be a little more difficult once we brought her home. She wouldn’t nurse as well and kept getting angry during feedings. I’d have to calm her down, then try to latch again. She also screamed a lot more. Like a lot. I was kind of beside myself. Here I am, exhausted, dazed, hurting AND drugged, with a screamy baby that I was supposed to know how to help. It didn’t seem like anything worked. Once she started screaming, she was screaming. I was nervous about giving her a pacifier because of things I had heard about nipple confusion, and I really wanted nursing to go well. She would calm down some when we let her suck on our fingers, so we used that a lot.
Monday, as Lori and I are caring for her, we keep going to change her diaper and it is dry. In the hospital they give you a sheet to chart when you feed, how long, when they have wet or poopy diapers (‘bowel movements’ and ‘voids’) etc. I, being a bit OCD in some things, took a liking to this chart and filled it out religiously. I would analyze it and review it multiple times. I probably took it a little too far, because when I eventually stopped charting this stuff it was completely liberating. So I was obsessing over this chart and noticing that all her diapers had been dry and clean. All day. Since Sunday afternoon at the hospital. I’m getting concerned about it but I’m trying not to be a crazy obsessive new mom. Matt and Steve get back that evening and I’m pretty irked that he has been gone our whole first day home with our new baby. Even though Lori was there, I felt kind of alone without my partner in crime. We try to relax that evening some more, but I’m getting more and more worried about her diaper deal. She should have a whole lotta dirty diapers this day (according to another chart they gave me) and she hasn’t had one. I’m feeling out of control- I don’t know what is going on with my screaming baby who used to be an angel, she’s angry every time we try and nurse, my husband has been gone all day, and I’m worrying that something is wrong, plus, remember, I’m tired and hurting and on drugs. Ok, so bad combo, right?
We decide to put Charly in our room in a pack and play that night. I don’t remember why, but I remember that it was what I felt like I needed. Nursing gets more and more frustrating as she latches less and less and screams more and more. Up until this point I felt like I held it together, but that night I break down and I sob. I feel like a terrible mother. I don’t know what to do. I feel helpless. I don’t remember how long I cried, but I remember that I used a lot of tissues. I don’t think you can fully comprehend the emotional state of a new mother unless you have been through it, but I was a complete wreck. I think I cried more that night than I have in the past 3 years combined. Matt and I talked and cried and, eventually decided we needed to take some sort of action. He suggested I call the hospital. I call Labor and Delivery and ask if they have any record of her peeing and pooping after about noon on Sunday. The nurse who answered snippily said “uh- you mean voids and bowel movements?” Yes that is what I mean! Hello! Who actually says that on a regular basis who isn’t in the medical profession? And really, you want to pretend you aren’t sure that’s what “pee and poop” means? Let’s be serious. Her snippy-ness was almost enough to send me into tears again. She transferred me to a nurse in the nursery and she said she had the same record I did- noon Sunday. When I told her why I was wondering she got really concerned. In a way that was completely validating. I had been so worried about it and it seemed like everyone was downplaying that- probably because I was such a wreck and they were trying to calm me down. She asked a lot of questions. She said she thought that Charly wasn’t getting enough milk. I told her my milk hadn’t come in and that someone in the hospital (can’t remember who) told me it could be up to 5 days. She said that it should be in by now and if it wasn’t we needed to get her something soon. We had some free formula samples on hand but I was still worried about nipple confusion. She was totally reassuring. She said she breastfed all 3 of her children until they were a year old, so she totally supports it, but that if it were her she would prepare some formula and give it to her from a medicine dropper to avoid the nipple confusion risk. If I knew who she was I would send her flowers. I felt so much better after I talked to her. I didn’t want to supplement, but this was a serious thing. She told me to continue to try breastfeeding and then pump if she wouldn’t latch so that my milk would still come in. Although it made for even longer feedings (try to nurse, then formula feed and pump) I felt a lot better doing something.
The next day we had a visit with the pediatrician. We explained what had been going on and she too was very concerned. She told us though that it would be ok to go ahead and give her the formula in a bottle and to go get some lab work done so they could make sure everything else was ok. At this point she had one small wet diaper, but still no poop.
We headed over to the local hospital to get the lab work. I was on the verge of tears from the moment we walked our 4 day-old through the hospital doors. Something about being there made the whole situation seem so much more dire. When we took her back for her labs I lost it again. They put that tourniquet around her tiny little arm and I just couldn’t handle it. I was already in such a fragile state. Charly screamed but then calmed down as Matt comforted her. She didn’t even make a peep when they put the needle in to her tiny veins and drew a few vials of blood, but I silently sobbed. It hurt so much to see her like that, and it hurt even more that I was in such a state that I couldn’t even be there to comfort her. I had to walk out of the doorway. I didn’t know how Matt was so strong, but I felt yet again like a failed mother as my child cried in the room next to me.
We went home knowing that we would get a call when the results were in. Less than an hour later the pediatrician called and said that her electrolyte levels were low and she was dehydrated and that we needed to go to the hospital- either Roanoke or Augusta (both 45 minutes away-our local hospital is pretty small-town and limited) and take her to the ER. We chose Augusta, where she was born, packed a few things and left. Matt’s parents left shortly after us. I cried a whole lot more- on the way there, while we were checking her in, and each time I explained to a nurse what was going on. As emergency room visits usually go, it took a long time. They ordered more blood work, then determined she needed an IV. The nurses were fabulous with her, and the doctor was very kind and efficient. We were there for over four hours, most of which was waiting. The IV itself only took 10 or so minutes, since a body as small as hers only needs a little fluid to make it healthy, comparatively. She took it like a champ and slept the entire time she had the IV in. We thought we would be released shortly after that, but the nurses said something about the doctor being worried about ‘failure to thrive’ and needing to check things little more. Hearing those words just about sent me back over the edge, but if I remember right I didn’t have enough in me to even cry again. The doctor checked her out and asked another ER nurse, a woman who worked for 15 years in labor and delivery, to come and check her out. She was wonderful. We were feeding at the time so she watched as I nursed and said I was doing everything right and hopefully my milk would be in soon. She was very encouraging. While she was in with us Charly finally ‘voided’, and as I was changing her we had an explosion of meconium. Never in my life had I been so happy to see so much poop!
Charly with the IV in her arm. Doesn't that just break your heart?!
At her suggestion the doc said they would go ahead and release us and that we should check back with our pediatrician shortly to follow up. Finally, we left the ER, grabbed some Wendy’s on the way home (it was already about 7pm) and tried again to get some sleep. Lori was great and prepped all of the bottles, washed them, and again had Charly sleep in her room so she could wake up with her. We continued to try to breastfeed then someone else would supplement with formula while I pumped. The difference in her was night and day- she was a calm baby again! She still got pretty upset while we were trying to nurse, but the rest of the time she wasn’t screaming that screeching pterodactyl scream from her dehydrated days.
Wednesday we went for a follow up with the pediatrician. The visit went well and she said Charlotte looked good (aside from her jaundice that was lingering, which apparently exits the body through bowel movements) and asked us to do more follow up blood work and to come back Saturday for another check. We again headed to the lab at the local hospital, but this time I held it together. The results came back later that day and everything looked good. I called a lactation consultant that I had met at a health fair I worked while I was pregnant. She wasn’t there that day but a breastfeeding peer counselor was. I detailed everything we had been through and why we needed help. Her response was disheartening. She was very focused on why my milk hadn’t come in and why everything was fine until we left the hospital, instead of focusing on what we could do to help now. She said they must have been giving her something else in the hospital before we left and had a very judgmental tone when I told her we were supplementing. I didn’t set up an appointment with her.
Thursday we finally got some time to relax. I called and talked to the lactation consultant I had originally tried to call and set up an appointment for the next day for her to come to our house. Finally, we had a day with no doctor visits. We continued our feeding routine, which was very time consuming, and painful for me. Pumping and breastfeeding at each 3 hour interval hurts.
Friday the lactation consultant, Marcia, came and she was fabulous. It was a difficult time for me, having been so set on breastfeeding, to be giving her a bottle. I was a little bit ashamed of it, even though I knew that we really didn’t have an option. My milk was just starting to come in, but there wasn’t nearly enough of it to feed Charly. She still required about 2 ounces per feeding after I breastfed her. Marcia gave us some great tools and a lot of encouragement. She wasn’t belittling at all. She was so totally supportive, and it was exactly what I needed. We tried some things to help wean her off of the bottle, or at least get her used to nursing better, but they weren’t very successful. She did suggest some things to help increase my milk supply, and some of those were more successful. She followed up with me though, and continued to validate my efforts, which was exactly what I needed.
The next day my mom came in from Utah and was able to help so much while she was here. She was here for 2 weeks and we kept her busy with feedings, laundry, meals and errands! I don’t know how we could have done everything without all the help we had.
Our feedings went pretty much the same for the next month. Breastfeed, bottle and pump. It was exhausting, but I didn’t want to give up. It meant so much to me to be able to breastfeed, to have that bond and to give my child the best nutrition possible. Eventually though, I knew I needed to head back to work and that I couldn’t spend an hour at each feeding. I started exclude breastfeeding because I felt that was the least effective part. She wasn’t getting much food when she nursed, but if I continued to pump she could at least get some breast milk. The first time I excluded breastfeeding and I gave her the bottle (which someone else usually did while I pumped) I realized I had been missing out. Each feeding I was trying, unsuccessfully, to get her to nurse. She would be upset, sometimes I would get frustrated, and then I would pass her to someone else who would satisfy her needs. It felt so good that first time I bottle fed her to finally have her calm and happy. For us, because of the issues we were having, breastfeeding hadn’t been a bonding experience. Bottle feeding was.
During all this hullabaloo, Matt received a call to interview for a job he hadn’t applied for. That was Friday, while the lactation consultant was at our house. A week later he went to Northern Virginia for the interview. Two weeks later, the day I returned to work (when Charly was exactly one month old) he received the job offer. We commenced packing with the help of my sister Erin (who had flown in to help with the baby) and two weeks later, with a six week old, we moved to Leesburg. It was crazy and hectic, but I feel so blessed. Matt’s 2 year job hunt ended a month after our sweet girl joined our family, and I get to be a stay-at-home mom. God’s plan for us may not be our own, but it is so much better!
Now she is exclusively bottle fed. I found that being home with her (which I now get to do because of the move and new job) it was difficult to continue to pump in addition to taking care of her. It was still so little milk that it didn’t make it worth it to me. I am still an absolute advocate for breastfeeding- and I’ll try again with my next child- but I am at peace with the way things have worked out. I do not feel bad that Charly is bottle fed. I don’t feel like a terrible mother. I tried my hardest, for a lot of hours, to make breastfeeding work. Do I wish it would have? Absolutely. But I have a happy healthy baby, and that is priceless.
I certainly didn’t want to have a cesarean birth, but I am at peace with that too. It was traumatic, it was painful, and it made it difficult to care for my newborn, but in the end, I have a happy healthy baby, and that is priceless.
I have learned so much from this experience. It was the most trying time of my life. It was the hardest, most emotional thing I’ve been through. But I made it. I made it, despite all the bumps in the road, despite doubting myself like I’ve never doubted myself before, and I am a darn good mother. Whether I had my natural birth or a surgical one, whether I breastfeed or bottlefeed, I am a darn good mother.
Today, Charly is an absolute joy. I’d do it all again if I had to, every last part. I have a happy healthy baby, and that is priceless.
img by BMW Photography