ur doin it rong

The thing about parenting is that there are so many, many ways to do it wrong.

I’m not even talking about, like, wrongity-wrong (by which I mean abusive); I just mean the banal, everyday, non-stop knowledge that I am fucking doing this wrong. I am addicted to advice, to data, and to rules; and there are so many, and they are so contradictory, and it’s amazing that there is so much to fuck up with a kid who basically still just eats and sleeps. Here is what I’m thinking much more often than is healthy:

  • If he cries for more than 90 seconds his cortisol levels will rise.
  • If my milk supply is too low, he won’t get enough nutrition.
  • If my milk supply is too high, he won’t get enough hindmilk.*
  • If I don’t swaddle him, his startle reflex will wake him up.
  • If I keep swaddling him his hips won’t develop properly.
  • If he is awake for more than 90 minutes at a time he is sleep deprived and his brain won’t develop properly.
  • It goes without saying that I am slowly poisoning him, as well as wantonly ensuring that by the time he grows up the world will pretty much just be a giant landfill, by using disposable diapers and not making my own soap and diaper rash cream.
  • And let’s not even think about the damage I will be doing in three months when I drop him off at fucking day care.

At a certain point it just becomes noise.

I think the lesson I need to learn, and right quick, is once again upekkha: equanimity. Calm. Trusting myself that I do know what to do, that when we hit that 91st second of crying he won’t actually explode, and that he, and I, will come out the other side intact.

Because most of the time I am loving this. And I’m not doing it wrongity-wrong. And even when I’m wrong I’m doing it with love, and the very best of intentions, and he seems to be doing OK so far.

The brahma-viharas are no joke. Metta to everyone. Karuna to those still slogging up Infertility Mountain. Mudita to everyone who’s feeling joy (shout out to Daryl!). Upekkha to the whole fucking world.

*Can we get a moratorium on the phrase “the thick, rich hindmilk?” It’s on every breastfeeding site, usually followed by a cutesy-poo reference to “dessert.”

eat

Thank you to everyone who stopped by from LFCA. I appreciate your taking the time! And thank you to the person who submitted my posts.

I have so much to say about breastfeeding. So much. I live in an area where formula feeding is common, and as I mentioned before I was very nervous about breastfeeding since my body had let me down so many times before. I wanted to do it, though, and I had been assured by my OBGYN that the hospital staff would help me get established with nursing.

The first thing Cayenne ate was sugar water via a tube down his throat. This was while he was getting supplemental oxygen, and the idea was to get him some nutrients while working on the more acute problems.

The second thing Cayenne ate was formula. A NICU nurse gave him a bottle when he was 15 hours old. He drank an ounce; I watched it happen from my wheelchair. I was not consulted on whether this was a good idea. (I actually think it was, considering how difficult it would have been to nurse him from a wheelchair in the NICU — but I did find it a little strange that no one even asked me.)

I started pumping the night he was born. The nurse wheeled a pump into my room, turned it on, and handed the flanges to me. She said “10 minutes every 3 hours” and left. I didn’t know until two days later that the reason I wasn’t getting anything from the left side was that the tubing wasn’t attached properly. I also didn’t know what to do with the colostrum I pumped — I had no way to get it to him in the NICU, as I couldn’t walk, and I had no refrigerator. I ended up throwing out most of the colostrum I pumped.*

When he was released from the NICU he came to stay in my hospital room, and suddenly everything I did was wrong. He ate very little over the next few days, which I later found out was common behavior for a late-preterm gentleman like himself, but I didn’t know that at the time. I was panicking and I asked every shift nurse for help.** These are all things I was told by the people who were supposed to be providing care for me and Cayenne.

  • “He’ll eat when he’s ready. Just keep trying.”
  • “You really shouldn’t try to feed him so often — he burns more calories trying to eat than he takes in.”
  • “Don’t worry. You’re going to be able to do this. You’ve got great breasts.” (I appreciate that she was trying to encourage me, but seriously, what does that even mean?)
  • “You can always feed him pumped milk from a bottle if he’s not ready to latch.”
  • “Don’t pump. You will end up with oversupply and he won’t be able to latch because you’ll be too engorged.”
  • “Don’t pump. You can’t build supply by pumping, and besides you don’t want to cause nipple confusion. Just keep putting him to the breast.”
  • “You need to prime your breasts by pumping a little before you try to feed him.”
  • “You need to put a little pumped milk on the nipple to encourage him to latch on.”
  • “No, really, you shouldn’t be pumping. You should stop now.” (When a nurse came into the room while I was pumping.)
  • “You should supplement with formula until he’s ready to nurse.”
  • “Of course he won’t nurse! You gave him formula. That stuff just sits in his stomach like glue, you know.”
  • “He’s lost a lot of weight. Keep supplementing until he starts gaining again.”
  • “Oh, people are too concerned about a specific percentage of weight loss. Don’t give him any more formula.”
  • (about my Boppy) “You won’t be able to use that. They’re made for super skinny people.”

By the time we were discharged from the hospital I was a wreck. I felt like a total failure — I couldn’t conceive him, I couldn’t carry him to term, I couldn’t deliver him, and now I couldn’t feed him either. I didn’t know what to do, and as usual my husband was the voice of reason. I tearfully asked him how I could possibly know what advice to listen to, and he said “I’m going with the one who fed my child” (the lactation consultant we finally saw, who looked at how he was behaving and how long it had been since he’d eaten, and immediately fed him some formula). Yes. Of course.

When we got home I kept pumping and kept attempting to nurse. It was over a week, two pediatrician visits, and an additional lactation consultant visit before he got the hang of nursing, and if I didn’t have a completely supportive spouse I know I would have given up long before he learned how to eat. Nearly five weeks in and he is gaining weight, nursing on demand, and taking an occasional bottle of pumped milk from Daddy.

What I’m trying not to lose sight of is that this is Not About Me. It’s not about my feelings, it’s not about whether I get my Exclusively Breastfeeding Merit Badge, it’s not about how I feel when he does or does not nurse, does or does not take a bottle, does or does not eventually need supplemental formula. It’s about my son, and whether or not he is getting enough to eat, and whether or not he is growing. I don’t get some kind of cosmic brownie points for feeding him only from the breast, and I don’t get demerits when my husband gives him a bottle.

* Clearly this is a problem I could have solved by advocating for Cayenne better. I could have insisted a nurse take the colostrum to him, or I could have insisted someone wheel me over to see him more frequently, or I could have asked again for some nipples so I could feed him what I was pumping after he came to our room. I certainly don’t blame the hospital for my failure to think of these obvious solutions. When I finally saw the lactation consultant she looked absolutely stricken to hear that I had thrown out colostrum — she said it was “liquid gold.”

** I asked for a lactation consultant right away, but unfortunately Cayenne was born on a Friday, so that wasn’t possible till the following Monday. When I finally saw her, she told me part of the problem with the conflicting advice I’d been getting was that the nurses had been treating Cayenne like a term baby and not like the preemie he was proving himself to be.

 

shallow

Yes, I am shallow. It is absolutely making my day that Cayenne is 4 weeks old and I am wearing pre-pregnancy (which means pre-IVF) jeans.

miracle, part 4

Later the surgeon told me it was a miracle I ever got pregnant.

Apparently the scarring from the myomectomy had taken over my abdomen, forming adhesions with my tubes and my bowel. It confirms my RE’s suspicions, and it certainly explains why lefty wouldn’t come out.

The adhesions with the bowel were particularly bad, and according to the surgeon he spent some time trying to repair that area. He claims I am now “more anatomically correct.” He wasn’t able to do anything about the scarring on my tubes; I’m not sure if that’s because he had to get out quickly once the anesthesia started to wear off, or if it is actually irreparable.

According to him, it is likely that more adhesions will result from the C-section. He also noted that the appearance of my myomectomy scar should have been a clue that the healing on the inside was not going well. I never knew there was anything wrong with my scar, but apparently they’re not supposed to look like that….I had to ask him to explain “keloiding” to me, and he was really surprised I didn’t know that it was a problem. Live and learn, I guess?

But now we know — because my tubes, while open, were basically pasted to my uterus in inconvenient locations, there is no way those IUIs were ever going to work.

I heard the word “miracle” over and over again while we were in the hospital. Cayenne is truly a miracle and I am so grateful that he is here with us.

miracle, part 3

Cayenne spent less than 24 hours in the NICU. While he was there I got to see him twice: the first night I was wheeled in on my hospital bed, and the following day my husband brought me over in a wheelchair.

Seeing him there was such a complex thing. It was at once the happiest and the saddest thing I had ever seen. On the one hand, there was my child, hooked up to god-knows-what that goes beep in the night, with an IV stuck into his tiny foot and a tube down his throat and a ridiculous helmet on for his oxygen, and I couldn’t even hold him. On the other hand, there was my child. He was finally here and I was just overflowing with love.

He is so beautiful.

DSC05164

miracle, part 2

(Content note: my C-section did not go as planned. If you’re about to have one, or if you don’t like reading about scary medical stuff, maybe skip this post. I’ll give you the ending up front: Cayenne is doing great after a very rough start.)

Apparently I am a hot mess, inside and out.

Everything I had read seemed to indicate that C-sections are relatively fast, and that the baby is born quickly, with most of the time in the operating room spent stitching up the mother. The anesthesiologist told me the same thing while we were waiting for the spinal to take effect. He was really very nice, and made a great effort to explain things to me. (“Now you’re going to feel some pressure.” “We just put a Foley catheter in.”) Unfortunately he was wrong.

I couldn’t see what was going on behind the screen, of course, but I could tell from the doctors’ conversation that it was taking longer than usual. They were talking about scarring and adhesions, but they did not seem too concerned.

Then everything changed.

Suddenly they were shouting and swearing, I was being pushed in all directions, and the mood in the room changed utterly from calm to something almost like panic. I didn’t know what was going on, of course, but I was getting good and scared. I heard someone say “Delivered, 8:12 p.m.”

I didn’t hear a cry.

The kindly anesthesiologist peeked over the screen, then jumped up and ran out of the room to where they were taking the baby. It was still very tense behind the screen.

What I didn’t know till later: when my bag of waters was broken, Cayenne moved, making it impossible for them to get at his head through the incision they had made in my uterus. He wasn’t getting any oxygen* and I was losing blood fast, so speed was critical. They had to make an additional, vertical incision in my uterus as well as extend the incision on my skin, and were still not able to get at his head. He ended up being pulled out by his shoulders, which resulted in some serious bruising on his arms and legs.

His first Apgar score was 2. His second score, a few minutes later after he had been given some oxygen, was 7. My husband was called away to hold him for a few minutes before he was taken to the NICU, and they even brought him in so I could see him for a moment.

And still the surgery continued. The doctors were trying to repair some of the adhesions while stitching me up, and it went on so long that my spinal started to wear off. I was worried about Cayenne, worried about how long this was going on, and then all of a sudden I could feel them cutting me. It was Not. OK. I was freaking out, and Kindly Anesthesiologist came to the rescue with some drugs.

I found out later that they gave me Ketamine. At the time I only knew that all of a sudden the ceiling tiles were floating down to me one by one. My husband told me that this was one of the scariest parts for him — he said that all of a sudden he could see the change in my eyes, like I wasn’t there anymore. Kindly Anesthesiologist tried to reassure him by saying “The lights are on but nobody’s home.”

The next non-hallucinatory thing I remember is my husband reading to me in the recovery room as I woke up.

* I’m still not really clear on why this should be. To the best of my understanding, once my uterus was cut, the placenta stopped providing for Cayenne, but I’m not at all sure why this should be.

miracle, part 1

(I see my husband has already spilled the beans, if a little obscurely.)

Cayenne is here, and he is the most beautiful thing I have ever seen.

His birth story starts three weeks before he was born.

At 34 weeks pregnant I came home from yoga class, had dinner, and started feeling … wrong. I didn’t know it was contractions — there weren’t any waves of feeling, there wasn’t any pain, and my belly just felt consistently tight. I actually thought it was a digestive problem. I went to bed, and in the morning when it hadn’t gotten any better I called my OBGYN. They sent me to the hospital, and I checked in feeling very silly — surely they were going to examine me and send me home with instructions to keep taking Colace, right?

They put me on the monitors and asked if I was feeling any contractions. I wasn’t, but they kept me on the monitors and as the morning went on I did start to feel discrete contractions, about five minutes apart, and not very painful. I was dilated to 2 cm. They gave me Procardia to stop the contractions and steroid shots to help Cayenne’s lungs in case things should progress. They kept me overnight and then sent me home when it was clear the Procardia was working.

Three days later I was back — painful contractions, less than 5 minutes apart. Because I wasn’t any more dilated they sent me home. No drugs this time, and the contractions did not stop. I was put on restricted activity — I went to work, then came home and went to bed. No yoga, no music, no housework, no shopping. I continued contracting for the next two weeks.

When I went in for my 35-week OB appointment I asked for some clarification: throughout the pregnancy I had been told that it would be dangerous for me to have contractions, which is why the C-section was scheduled for 37 weeks. But there I was, contracting regularly, and no one seemed to be concerned. I figured one of two things must be true:

  • Either what was happening was dangerous, in which case we should get the baby out, or
  • It wasn’t actually dangerous for me to have contractions after all, in which case we should push the C-section back to 39 or 40 weeks.

It was explained to me kindly that I am an idiot.

Apparently 37 weeks was still the point at which the risk to me from the contractions intersected with the risk to Cayenne’s lung development. The answer was still to wait it out and keep contracting.

Then I went back for my 36-week appointment. They did another non-stress test and noted with surprise that I was having contractions.* Three minutes apart by this point. I still don’t really know what made this so different from what had been going on for the past two weeks, but this particular doctor was definitely not of the opinion that I should go home and wait it out. She had the nurse walk me directly over to the labor & delivery section, I was admitted, and I had the C-section that night.

*I don’t want to malign any of the doctors I saw throughout this process, but really, would it have killed any of them to have read my chart? Every time I saw someone new (which was often) we had to start from the beginning.