Wednesday, June 25, 2014

being a mama - getting home, failing boobs and it really does take a village

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so excited that our most awesomely cool nifty250 prints arrived yesterday! i'm so pumped to frame them up and hang them in bears bedroom for her. our very lovely friend gareth gave lila this super thoughtful gift for her birthday. thanks gareth, they are just so cool.

i wanted to share a bit more of my mama story with you all today. so let's just dive in, yes?

our first night home was terrible. we were so nervous! lila picked up on it, of course, and she cried the entire night... it was terrifying. exhausting. I remember so clearly, in the early hours of the morning, gary and i looking at each other, fear etched on our faces, beyond not saying “what the hell have we done?”… we did. we were so freaked out we spoke those words. aaahahaha! a moment of pure terror.

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we had exactly one hour sleep that night... the photo above is most gorgeously deceptive- gary and lila snuggling the next morning. take the filter off and the glorious truth is revealed… tired, black shadows under her papas eyes. i’m happy to report we found our way through it and if us then could see us know, i swear we wouldn’t have believed it.

as parents we can sit and sprout off all the info and advice in the world but each families experience is unique and if i can give one bit of advice it's that i promise, you'll figure it out some how. you're doing it right! even though it really doesn't feel that way ninety five percent of the time : )

i did not get the baby blues. i didn't even have a teary day. i cried when she was born but that was pure joy. i feel guilty admitting this. isn't it like, a right of passage or something? i know it’s a very real thing for a lot of moms out there and can turn into postpartum depression very quickly. i had even had the talk with gary, warning him about the imminent “attack of the hormones” but they did not come... perhaps they stole through me in the night, i don’t know. maybe i was so high on happiness i didn't notice… the only tears i shed in those first few days were from excruciating pain. they we more precisely not tears, they we’re tinny rivers flooding and crashing down my cheeks. ugly silent flooding and crashing sobs caused from exquisite pain… self-inflicted pain. radiating from my gosh darn nipples.

i over did the nipple cream. in my defense i was only following what we were taught in antenatal classes… nipple cream. nipple cream. nipple cream! i literally made one of the most sensitive parts of my body even more sensitive! the poor girls… i spent two whole days in agony, silently sobbing, face scrunched up in pain through every forty minute feed… my mom walked in and found me sitting on my bed hunched over my baby, tears silently streaming down my face, trying desperately to get through a feed. she sat next me and soft talked me through it, urging me to not concentrate on the pain but instead to try push it aside and find my happy place. once we were done, she took lila from me and gave her to my step mom, she walked me gently to the bathroom and helped me wash and gently massage my aching swollen boobes under soothing warm water. she told me to lay off the nipple cream and try to dry my nipples out - i needed to toughen those bad boys up! i sat after each feed with giant ice cold cabbage leaves over each radiating boob – i had those schmoozie little boob shaped ice packs but the cabbage just did a better job. i also sat topless a lot of the time and even tanned them a bit in a patch of sun on my bed. 

sure, i had knockers to start off with but boy when your milk comes in do those puppies double in size. rock hard, veiny and full of tiny hard lumps that need to be gently massaged out during a hot shower. if i remember correctly my milk came in around the same time i left hospital, around day four.

if there was one thing i wanted to do the natural way (seeing as we opted for a ceasar) it was breastfeed and so i did. lila latched beautifully in hospital and we soon had the hang of it. i loved feeding her. there is such an intimacy about feeding your baby, a bond only the two of you will ever share. all was well and good. one evening i wanted to give the old breast pump a whirl and managed to express a full one hundred and fifty ml bottle in twenty minutes flat. from one boob! i hand an abundance of milk and it was the good nourishing kind. my baby was happy and putting on weight at an amazing rate. i found it incredible how in tune my boobs became with my babies feeding routine. my nipples would tingle and i would feel that unmistakable pull from inside whichever boob she was to feed from and it would start to leak seconds before she would wake. the first time i went to the shop without her, she was about three weeks old, ga and i had just popped to the baby store to get some odds and ends and i was thoroughly looking forward to an outing. what blew my mind was how my boobies behaved the entire forty five min we were away! they pulsed their protest at being separated from their baby! such a strange sensation - who knew? my mom did. but it's so hard to comprehend these kinds of things when you haven't experienced them yourself.

just a warning, when you get out of a hot bath or shower have a breast pad at the ready because they spray. literally. also you have to sleep in a bra. as well as being constantly leaky, he girls are gonna be pretty swollen and sore - you’re gonna want strap ‘em down. i found the most comfy bra to sleep in was this one. no clips, no adjustable straps, just a plain and simple cross over “crop” if you will with pretty lace detail. i also purchase a couple of these for day time and outings.

stock up on button downs, cross over and low v-neck shirts & dresses. it's much easier and more discreet to just unbutton and pop one out rather than having to lift your entire dress/shirt to feed you little.

at about three months i started to notice that lila would cry continuously in the evenings, her little tummy would rumble and her feeds were becoming increasing shorter… the midwife at the clinic assured me that it was quite normal for her to feed for shorter time periods as she grew because she was getting stronger and so better at sucking down her meal. the rumbling tummy was assumed to be wind. and the crying? well we blamed the wind. i dunno, something was off and i could feel it. she was such a chilled little human. it was totally out of character for her to cry. i knew in my gut something was up. i was still on maternity leave so there was no need for me to express and i was exclusively breast feeding her. but the crying persisted. we thought colic? we tried colic drops but nothing? her little tummy continued to grumble all the time. i really watched what i ate encase it was making her windy and drank a lot of water every day. no change. i even took her to see a chiropractor who assured me she was all in alignment. one evening, and i have no idea what spurred me to do it but i sat down on my bed with my breast pump and pumped. i pumped and pumped for two hours and do you know what?  i only got about fifty ml from both breasts... i thought my pump was faulty. turns out it was the old breasticles that were faulty! shock-freaking-horror!!! do you know how guilty i felt? my baby was starving and it was my fault! how could i have not known? why had i not picked this up sooner? thank god i thought to pump? why had it taken me so long to do this? i had failed her. the next morning i rang my doctor and got a script for some pills to help my milk production. i picked them up on the way to the clinic, i needed to know she was okay and that i hadn't done too much damage… 

the mid wife was very sweet and reassuring. lila had lost weight since our last weigh in but she assured me she was fine and as long as i substituted with a bottle while i got my milk production back to where it should be, she would continue to grow and develop. she assured me we would get my milk back and lila exclusively breastfeeding in no time at all. the plan was to express from both breasts, bottle feed her the expressed milk and give the balance of seventy five ml feed in formula. we would increase feeds by twenty five ml per week to allow her tummy time to stretch. i would need to express every three hours, mimicking our routine, until my milk was back to where i needed it to be. i did it and it was exhausting! getting up two – three times a night to feed your newborn is bad enough now i had to spend a good hour or more, sterilizing and then expressing after i had fed her. but i did it. for as long as i could. you see i got so paranoid that she would refuse my boobs after feeding from a bottle, sucking boob is harder work than sucking bottle. i started to feed her first on the boob and top her up with a bottle. it worked for a while but then she started to refuse my boob, which was heart breaking for me. she started to only accept boob at her first feed in the morning, i guess because that’s when my milk was at its highest. i eventually came to terms with a once a day feed – hell, one was better than none.

as more and more time passed the more she would refuse the boob. i remember the feeling of failure, how often i would cry to my mom and ga. i would beg lila to please, just bear with me a little longer, that i was trying. eventually,  i was so exhausted, sad, drained, tired and defeated that i took my mom’s advice and gave up after two months of trying to get it all right. it has, to date, been the hardest decision i’ve ever made. i had my heart so set on a full year of breastfeeding. it’s gotten a bit better as time has passed and i try to focus on the positive things; my baby is well fed and healthy and i am wiser for it. we had 4 months of breastfeeding and bonding. most importantly we still have each other. it doesn't matter that much, does it? i gave it my best shot. i really did. we are happy and healthy, lila is growing and developing and it’s given the other people in her life the chance to feed her too. i so still long for it. i still feel so guilty that i couldn't give her just one year. i still feel that stab of jealousy when i see other mamas feeding their tiny babies from their bosom. it sucks. but there is sweet nothing i can do about it now. i just hope that this post maybe helps another struggling mama. maybe you’ll see some similarities in what you’re going through and i hope it pushes you to express, if only for the “express” (hehe) reason of checking that your milk flow is where it should be. my doctor didn't pick it up, my mid wife didn't pick it up, lila’s pediatrician didn't pick it up and neither did google. i followed my gut in the end. 

if i can just add one last little bit to this post, having my mama's support, guidance, reassurance and encouragement at my disposal was one of the best life experiences i've had. i know some people view having a baby as "their" experience but for me/us it was a family experience. i am just so grateful that my mama and i are so exceptionally close. i adore her and wont make any sort of big decision in life without considering her council. i'm also so grateful that my mama is the woman she is, gentle and wise and internally loving. what can i say, she is the epitome of a mama ; ) even garrels calls her when he needs to talk about something. i just adore how close they are.  as a woman going through a lot of changes, having just given birth via cesarean section (a pretty major operation) for the very first time, it was so great to have her knowing reassurance (having born three of her own children by the same method) and gentle support. my family were all around us really, dad, step mom, brother, uncle, aunts and cousins. i am also so grateful for all of them. all of these incredible people allowed me to lavish in my new baby and cocoon away. we leaned on them and it was most certainly necessary at times. my mom would make me breakfast, lunch and endless cups of tea everyday, take lila after feeds and let me nap. she would advise us when ever we had questions or were unsure. we would sit and gush over our new little person and be all gooey-in love together. it was beautiful and real and profound. you know they say, "it takes a village to raise a child", well i believe.


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