Wednesday, September 12, 2007

The First Two Weeks

Maya will be two weeks old tomorrow. That's hard to believe. It feels like it's been months. This has been the most exhausting two weeks of our lives. I know everyone is overwhelmed with an infant, so that is nothing new to hear. What has made it even worse has been our struggle to breastfeed.

Maya spent her first whole day of life outside the womb in the NICU. I was far away in recovery and then in my room while my brand new baby was held hostage. It was difficult. Fortunately, Marco was able to go down and be with her often, as were my parents, sister and aunt. She got as much love and attention as possible, just not from me. It sucked. I was trapped in my bed, waiting. But the reunion was oh so sweet. I held on to her for dear life. I had thought we would put her in the nursery the first night to get some sleep, but at that point I didn't want to let her out of my sight. She needed her mom.

At that point I attempted to breastfeed for the first time. And thus began a two week long struggle of monumental proportions. She still had fluid in her stomach, and they had given her a bottle of formula in the NICU. It was an uphill battle. For two days she wasn't really hungry, so no help from the Lactation Consultants could help. I did have multiple nurses and LCs help me when she was interested, but she was pretty adamant about refusing to latch on and nurse. Everyone kept saying, "Oh, she'll catch on. Just give it time." By the time we got home we were giving her syringes of pumped colostrum. It was time consuming and heartbreaking. She still refused to latch on. I tried every time. She began crying as soon as I got her in position. She figured out early that she could get food an easier way. And we had no choice. She was jaundiced, so we had to get as much fluid in her as possible. At some point over the next couple days we started using bottles to make our lives easier and to make sure we were getting enough fluids into the girl. I was finally able to meet with a Lactation Consultant on the Wednesday following her birth (almost one week later). She put us on a rigorous schedule to see if we could get her back to square one and start breastfeeding. Every three hours we had to try her on the breast with a nipple shield. If she nursed, let her go as long as she wanted. If not, then I pumped while Marco finger fed her. This meant letting her suck on your pinkie finger while using a syringe to feed her the pumped breast milk. It was laborious and exhausting. She would latch on to the plastic nipple shield every once in a while and nurse for 30 minutes or more on each side. But then she'd still be hungry because she was doing nutritive sucking. Then I'd still have to pump and feed her. The whole process took about an hour and a half. Then you had to start it all over again 3 hours from when you started. As you can imagine, we were getting next to no sleep. And waking her up was a chore in itself. After a few days I was discouraged, exhausted and emotional. I took a log of every feeding and pumping and attempt at nursing. As my log went on I started including my feelings about it. The last day, Sunday, is filled with notes like "extreme frustration", "cried during feeding", and "Am I doing something wrong?"

I was ready to throw in the towel. I would pump and give her bottles. I knew others who did just that, and successfully. But I didn't want to be the one to quit. I didn't want that hanging over my head - if I'd just done it a little longer... On Sunday the LC called. She thought we had done all we could for now and needed to take the pressure off the whole group of us. Since her weight was up, the jaundice gone and her body a lot stronger, we were able to let her start setting her own feeding schedule. And I only have to pump every four hours. I felt a HUGE weight lifted off my shoulders. It was like someone gave me permission to be human.

Now I can actually enjoy feeding my baby. The pumping is still hard and painful and time consuming. But I know it's what's best for her. The idea of doing that for a year is rather overwhelming, so I'm just taking it a day at a time. Fortunately, my milk supply is ample. I already of an abundance in the freezer and three bottles ready in the fridge at all times. We're all much happier. And she's able to eat when she's hungry and not be forced awake. She can't talk yet, but I know she'd say thank you if she could. No more crying and frustration each time she's hungry.

Things that are great...

She's not a crier, at least not yet. She seems to be a fairly calm baby. When she's awake she just looks around with her wide eyes and takes it all in. And we pretty much stare right back, for hours on end. How could you not love looking at this kid?

Yes, she does have a head wound. I've taken to calling her Massive Headwound Harry (from SNL). The bandage came off today at the pediatrician's office though. Hopefully the wound will heal up soon. She acquired said wound upon eviction from her uterine home. She scraped her head on a clamp. Hopefully it won't scar and affect her hair growth too much. My friend, a surgeon, says babies heal without scarring, so that's good.

Marco is beside himself with joy, as am I. He loves hanging out with her and snuggling her. He feeds and changes and does everything beside pumping breast milk. I'm sure he would if he could. Right now they're sitting on the couch just looking at each other. The pediatrician told us about her eyesight and how close we need to get for her to see us and distinguish our faces. You have to be a couple inches from her face. I really like this guy I found. AND, he's been to Papua New Guinea. About nine years ago he went for a month. He even went to Wewak and on a boat up the Sepik River. It was meant to be. He's very interactive and quite a character. He was helped alleviate concerns in some areas and impressed upon us the importance of other things. One major thing was NO Television. Something about the image processing and brain development. I'm still looking for the specific information and studies, just to understand. But we were on board with that. Lord knows I don't need to watch more TV. So we've got music playing a lot. Unfortunately, she seems to like Marco's music like Dream Theater and whiny, screeching guitar solos. Boo!

Well, I don't have to pump for another two hours, so I think I'll go rest. Or maybe have a snack. I'm starving all the time. Yet, I've already lost 20 pounds. Can you believe that? Anyone want to lose weight, hook yourself up to a breast pump and get going!!


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