Archive for the ‘Labor Through 1st Month’ Category

I’ll be honest. I didn’t know if I could get back here!

It’s been six very short months since I gave birth to the  most beautiful little girl. She is gorgeous, I”m tellin’ you.

Birth was, as I feared, the most gruesome experience known to mankind. People outside my room commented later that it sure sounded painful. Yea, thank you!

I can only compare it to the image of a large heifer pushing out that calf at the county fair—with her heaving belly, drooling mouth, and agonized moo’s of disbelief as the greatest pain on earth envelopes her body. THAT is birth.

So how can I summarize the last six months?

I’ll tell you: Sleep-deprivation.

And I dare say, there is no preparation for sleep deprivation like sleep deprivation.

Take today for example.

We are both (Ava and I) on the mend from a 10-day hell-cold that put us OUT. She had to sleep in her car seat to breath. So,we’re a little tired. Clint wakes up early and rested and goes to take a shower, saying he’ll be back in an hour. He kisses me goodbye.

I sleep. I sleep. Baby sleeps. I sleep.

HA! When I awaken I come to find out that when he kissed me ‘goodbye’ that was his hello kiss, he’d been gone for an hour and a half and to me, it felt like mere moments.

Ah, I have so much more to say!


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“Ooh, let’s go!” cried Irene, the bespectacled labor and delivery nurse/miracle worker who had quickly endeared herself to me during a traumatic 20-plus hour labor and emergency C-section. “We don’t want to lose this great feeding reflex.”

Irene set down the video camera she was pointing at my husband and newborn daughter, whose tiny lips were anxiously pursing. She took Sarah from Dan’s arms, and positioned the swaddled baby at my chest.

As I tried to steady myself from the physical and emotional shock of the last several hours and two days without sleep, I tried to help Sarah latch on. Again. And again. And again. And again. I fumbled with her little mouth, trying different positions that might encourage her to nurse. (The traditional cradle is hard to manage just after a C-section.)

What happened to my boobs over the course of the next few days was, well, painful. Bleeding. Cracking. Scabbing. Soreness. Adjectives no woman – or man, for that matter – ever hopes will be associated with her nipples.

I was introduced to products I’d never heard of (nipple shields, anyone?) and had many kind women (all nurses and lactation consultants – I hope) alternately squeezing and pressing on my breasts to encourage that new milk, a.k.a. colostrum, to debut. I learned that my right side flowed much faster than my left, often causing Sarah to choke on all that milky goodness. I diligently charted every feeding on my hospital clipboard – how long she nursed, and on which side.

It was work. Challenging and exhausting work at first, and it extended from the few days postpartum in the hospital to the few weeks recovering at home. But I kept at it, knowing that breastfeeding was good for Sarah and good for me, physically and emotionally.

What I didn’t know was how much I would come to rely on breastfeeding, and how those boobs would soon become my baby’s best friends and arguably THE most important resource I had as a new mother.

Sarah and I became experts at the nursing game, especially since she’d never take a bottle (a different story for a different day). I could nurse while I was loading the dishwasher, nurse while eating dinner out, nurse while watching “The Sopranos” every night on Netflix with Dan for the first three months after Sarah’s birth. Heck, I could nurse while I was sleeping. Awesome.

I also found that nursing could calm almost any physical or psychological ailment Sarah suffered. Sore gums? Boob. Feverish? Boob. Just got vaccine shots? Boob. Got weirdly freaked out by the octopus on TV and couldn’t stop crying? Boob.

Breastfeeding became my best friend, too. The fact that Sarah wouldn’t take a bottle was honestly only an occasional inconvenience. I nursed her happily, and well into her second year. She was 18 months old when we found out I was pregnant again, and even then I nursed (with my OBGYN’s blessing) into my second trimester.

When our second daughter, Rachel, was born almost eight months ago, nursing again was a breeze. Sure, she and I had a brief learning curve together, but it didn’t last more than a day or two. Lactation consultants stopped into my room this time, but would smile and say it looked like we were doing just great.

I’m reading a book right now by psychologist Robert Karen. It’s called “Becoming Attached,” and in it Karen describes an early child development psychologist named Melanie Klein who studied babies’ relationship with those miraculous breasts.

“Klein assumed that during early infancy the most fundamental ‘being’ in the infant’s world is the mother’s breast,” he wrote, also noting that “in the early months, before whole persons exist for the child, the breast is felt to be omnipotent and the cause for all that’s good and bad in the baby’s world.”*

I laughed reading that, but I think it’s probably true. I’ve studied my newborns’ faces as they got closer to the boob, and seen that look. “Ahhhh, here it is. Here it is. Everything is going to be okaaaay.” Shortly followed, of course, by the serenely closed eyes, and the mouth that’s smiling even as it’s nursing.

To be fair, breastfeeding can’t fix EVERYTHING. Rachel had terrible gas pains and screaming bouts in the hospital that were slightly relieved by the boob but only truly solved when she finally took a giant poop. We had a rough night last week, when her poor, swollen gums just hurt too much. She didn’t want anything, not even to nurse. Just needed Mama to hold her and sway and sing for a few hours.

Still, I have to hand it to people like Nurse Irene, the parade of lactation consultants, the lady who taught my breastfeeding class, my mom, and even Dan, who supported me through the rough patches when I was crying and tired and beyond frustrated with the whole thing. They knew the work would be worth it, and helped me realize that two of the most valuable tools of my new trade were right there under my shirt.

*Karen, Robert. Becoming Attached: Unfolding the Mystery of the Infant-Mother Bond and Its Impact on Later Life. New York: Warner Books, Inc., 1994.

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