Tag Archives: breastfeeding

The First Four Weeks

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(Originally written September 14, 2009)

4 weeks med
Me and Jackie at 4 weeks old

I have been writing a couple blogs in my head the last few weeks.. I am on week 7 of my newborn, Jackie. She is amazing and it’s been a lifetime of learning in a few short weeks. My first 4 weeks were amazing and hell all at once.

I hadn’t been around babies much and never a newborn. Although I was told over and over “you will know what to do” I knew better. I tend to be a realist bordering on pessimist so I wasn’t expecting happy bunnies, rainbows and butterflies when we came home. Well, butterflies, yes, but more on the anxious side.

Regarding my experience at the hospital, the Tufts staff was amazing. My labor and delivery was 12.5 hours and I couldn’t have asked for better care. I don’t know how nurses do it there. They are dealing with people in extreme pain, possibly on drugs to deaden it, and in a way, out of their minds. All I got from my head nurse was a soft tone, kindness and someone who continued to give me options without any input from her. I was able to make all my decisions on my own (along with my husband) and they had all the confidence in me when at times I didn’t.

When I made it to the postpartum floor, it was along the same lines. I did expect that nurses and staff would come in more often, but in essence, they didn’t come in to check on you unless you asked. It was kind of “tough love” in a way. You’re in the bed, your sleeping baby beside you.. you gotta figure it out. They were there with a push of a button, but basically we were on our own.

Although scary at first, I ended up liking it as it prepared me (somewhat) for being at home. At least at home I’d get a more comfortable bed–but I’d also not have a nurse to take my baby to the nursery if I wanted to get some sleep.

Overall, everything was fine when we returned home, other than some breastfeeding issues. I will tackle that in another blog, but this was an area that I did NOT research enough and I regret it. I am lucky that Jackie is resilient, didn’t have any sort of nipple confusion and ate well, but I had no idea that I would be pumping early, that I would be SO engorged that the milk almost wouldn’t flow, and that I would be dealing with these types of issues upon our return home.

If I had it to do over? I’d throw away all those “what to expect” books and focus all my energy on breastfeeding. Although I took a class, talked to people, etc., there’s only so much you can learn before you actually do it.

My first week started that way.. exhausted and feeling like a milk machine; it was all I could do to not give up. I had a couple bouts of “this was a bad idea” over the week, but thanks to my husband, I came back to Earth and kept moving forward. I had done all my research (as much as I could) prior to the baby, but it really comes down to hands on learning, as I said before.

Things were awkward for both of us in the beginning.. even just changing a diaper was a chore.. what would we unveil every time we changed her?? We just kept going, every 3 hours, and things got easier. It’s actually fairly tough though, as babies really don’t know how you are at that time and have no long-term memory, so it’s like each time they see you it’s like the first time. I found it psychologically difficult.. there’s no reaction to things you do from the baby.. you just have to trust that you are making a difference.

The following weeks were full of trying to get sleep, working on the breastfeeding and keeping myself sane. It was finally sunny here in Boston, but I was stuck in the house a lot due to just being exhausted or thinking about all I had to do just to get her out in the stroller. I later got over that, but once again, the entire thing is overwhelming. I thought that once she was born, I’d be out gallivanting around, but I forgot about the sleep, or lack of it.

Another issue we ran into is that we had a sleepy baby. I thought something was wrong with her, but later (too much later), we found out we should have been counting our blessings. The kid slept in her crib from day one and wanted to sleep. We were waking her every 3 hours, even overnight. Once again, found out thru another nurse at her pediatrician’s office that we could have let her sleep through the night. Oh well. It’s the old “live and learn” routine.

After a couple weeks of getting bombarded with advice about sleep from you name it, my husband and I decided to just follow her lead. That was my first major lesson: FOLLOW THE BABY. She knew what she needed and all we had to do was watch and listen for her cues. Once I did that, things got a lot easier and I gained a bit of confidence.

Speaking of confidence, one of my fears about having a baby was that I wouldn’t know what to do when she cried. I had an incident when I was 12 while babysitting a newborn. The kid cried, I couldn’t console him and had to call my mom. Embarrassing. From then, I swore off kids under 3. Later babysitting jobs were toddlers and older, and even working with kids once I graduated college, they were teens or I could choose who I worked with.. never with babies.

When I had my first encounter with Jackie crying, I found myself anxious, but with tons of patience and peace. I wasn’t sure if I was just so exhausted or if something transformed. But after a few bouts of her crying, I actually consoled her, she stopped crying and that incident was “complete.” My husband was shocked. It was amazing to experience a completion in the moment, but I knew at that moment I could take care of her and everything would be OK.

From there, all I had to do was focus on the breastfeeding issues and not quit. If it weren’t for my husband, the book “The Nursing Mother’s Companion,” other breastfeeding mom friends, and our amazing Lactation Consultant, Beth, I know I would have quit. It just goes to show “it takes a village.”

Slowly but surely, we started to see changes in Jackie each week. She initially started sleeping in her crib, was fairly quiet and then it started to ramp up where she wanted to be around us a lot, she was sleeping in with us (or us with her), and she was getting more vocal. I found with babies that nothing really goes in chronological order. 🙂 What we expected at the beginning didn’t happen and it seems to be going backwards, but really, it’s not.

Basically, what we found was that she just wanted to be around us more. She was getting to know us, trust us and wanted to be touched, held and loved. We had, and have, no problem doing that. 🙂

The fussiness also started to ramp up, but as we left week 4 and headed out to week 6-7, that tended to subside. I also have been seeing a recent reaction to my food now (going into week 7) where I didn’t before. Again, it’s a learning experience every day.. every week.

All in all, the first 4 weeks were the hardest 4 weeks of my life and also the most transformative. I was in a situation that I could not get out of and throughout my life I have always had an out in things. It pushed me to the limits of what I thought was possible with myself, and I overcame it. Yet again, I couldn’t have done it without the help of family, a very close friend (thanks Babs!), my loving and attentive husband and several patient professionals. I’m sure I will be calling on all of them (and more) over the weeks, months, and years.

I’m creating my “mom-hood” and it can actually be pretty cool. I have been able to do things I’ve wanted to do, and some I’ve had to restructure, but overall, I’m still me. I really don’t want to lose myself in all of this.. I just want “mom” to be an additional way of being and not have it take over my identity. My hope and stand in the matter is that it makes me a better person.

Jackie has already turned out to be extraordinary and it brings tears to my eyes to think about where she is now in comparison to the IUI procedure we had back in November of ’08. How literal cells can get transformed into an actual human being with emotions, wants, needs, thoughts, etc. is amazing and miraculous.

As I am ending this, my little one is starting to “ask” for food so I will end here. 🙂

More to come…

Advice.. or not

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(Couple notes: Note 1: I’m starting to re-post my pregnancy/mom stuff here so these initial posts will be from last year. Note 2: I ended up going into labor the day after I started writing this entry 🙂 I am updating it now, September 14, almost 7 weeks after Jackie was born.)

July 27, 2009

I am writing this blog 5 days before my due date. I’m not sure when I will actually post this as I have thoughts now, but I’m sure I will have other thoughts to share after the baby is born. Although this blog is not necessarily for “advice,” I have had a few friends ask me about my experiences now that the baby’s almost here. I feel that I have had a “non-traditional” pregnancy, meaning that at least with all the books, newsletters, blogs I have read, I seem to have had it easier, or at least different than what I have read.

My goal here is not to inflict my own advice as gospel, but to offer insights on my own journey. I can’t say my pregnancy was easy, but it definitely wasn’t hard (if I had to compare myself to others I know and I have read about). All I know is that I found myself concerned about many things I shouldn’t have been concerned about over time and worried too much at certain times. Although I wouldn’t change anything as it was my own road to travel, I also feel I could have enjoyed a few more weeks without the anxiety and concern if I knew what I know now.

If you’re interested in learning about my journey, please read on.

Overall thoughts
*Have an OB-GYN you trust, admire and love.

-I was very lucky to have had a referral regarding my current OB. The first one I had when we moved into the Boston area I literally hated. She was very cold and I found her way to busy and overbooked most of the time. When I first went to my current OB, I felt like his only patient. He is kind, smart and understood what I was dealing with. When it ended up that I needed to see a specialist due to my irregular periods and possible fertility issues, he had 2 highly esteemed doctors in the area that he personally worked with. To this day, I don’t know how to thank him for his referral to our specialist, Dr. Penzias, at Boston IVF and his constant care. Even though I was with Boston IVF for over a year, he always wanted to know what was going on with me and I felt the urge to update him when necessary.

One aspect I will never forget is his love and professionalism when we lost our first baby after the first IUI attempt. He called several times just to check in and make sure I was OK. I’m still floored by his professionalism and humanness. It was something he didn’t have to do, but something I so appreciate and it made that difficult process a bit more bearable.

I have found from my reading and talking to people that many women don’t have a GYN before they get pregnant (they use their general practitioner) and then have to run around trying to find a decent OB. I say, if your insurance covers it, just find a great OB/GYN and stick with them. Don’t be afraid to ask friends or even call hospitals and ask the GYN Department nurses who they use. It’s the best way to find someone if you are new to an area or don’t feel comfortable talking to friends.

*Be sure you are truly ready to start a family.

-I know this sounds fairly basic, but the idea of being pregnant and actually starting a family are very different. Some people have the expectation that pregnancy will be amazing, easy and you’ll be in love with what’s ahead. If that doesn’t happen, fear and anxiety set in, maybe even being resentful of the situation. Bottom line is that you have no idea how your pregnancy will be and you have to be ready for anything. You could have the easiest pregnancy in the world, or be on bedrest for 10 weeks. You never know until you go thru the process.

So, although you don’t have to have everything figured out, one thing to know is if you are ready.

My situation was extremely confusing at times as I have always known I wanted a family, but that “ticking of the biological clock” I never heard. I had several people tell me “you’ll know” but even now, 5 days before I am scheduled to give birth, that clock alarm never went off. This is not to say that it’s a myth. I have several friends that have shared the yearning to have a child and that the alarm finally rang for them, but for me, all I can do is nod and try to get what they are feeling.

This is not to say that I don’t want a family, but yet again, this is another piece of being a woman and pregnancy that people really don’t share. You can want a family and not have an alarm go off. I was looking so hard for it and when it wasn’t ringing for me I kept saying I must not be ready. Maybe that was the case, but I feel I may have waited a few years longer than I would have if the proverbial “clock” wasn’t even on my radar.

So I say have a kid if you want one. Don’t wait for the alarm to go off, but definitely know when you are ready. For me, I had to do my partying, going out to shows 3-4 times a week, and enjoy my marriage for a few years before I was ready. I knew I was ready, not due to my alarm going off, but due to my lifestyle changing. I was enjoying being around the house more, not yearning to drink every weekend and enjoyed my solitude. Once that hit me I knew that I would be fully ready to be a mother, even though the fear of “not doing it right” was still there. Some things you just have to do, even if your mind tells you not to.

*Take any advice with a grain of salt.

-I was lucky that I didn’t get much of the unsolicited advice from family and friends. I asked when I needed to, but asked most of my questions to my doc. My doc even told me: “Don’t research on the internet, don’t read the ‘What to Expect’ type books and don’t get scared if someone tells you something about their own pregnancy.” I do have to say he was right.

I got the “What to Expect” book before I had my first appointment with him and the first few chapters really scared me. In my opinion, that particular book is not written well. There’s a lot of information, but it’s written by several people so the “feel” of the book is not consistent. Sometimes information is given in a soft, understanding way, and others it’s thrown in your face. Sometimes less is more and that is not the context of that book. Don’t get me wrong, I did have the book and used it as a reference tool, but not as gospel. If I had any questions, I’d check there and then check in with my doc. The first trimester can be one of the most stressful and adding additional information that may or may not happen to you can freak some people out. My advice? Just check in with your doctor. Even friends and family can give you wrong or misleading information.

First Trimester Thoughts
-Know that every pregnancy is different, yours included. Sometimes I felt like an anomaly.
-Some people are sick for 12 weeks, others not. Some don’t even know they are pregnant.. I’m not sure how that’s possible, but there’s now a TV show on the subject.
-Just listen to your body and don’t get freaked out by one thing. I had a scare as I started feeling dizzy one day during week 7 and thought I’d be dealing with dizziness for another 5 weeks. Came to find out, it was only that day and I stressed for nothing.
-Create a context that you are building a human being. That takes work and this first part of the pregnancy is what counts the most. There will be stress on your body and it’s just what needs to happen.
-Create a good support system.
-You WILL have mood swings. Expect it and let people know.
-Ask for what you need no matter how small.
-Don’t try to do it all yourself. You don’t get a medal for being a super pregnant woman.
-Eat well, drink a lot of water.
-Share your news only with close friends, family and people you trust. There’s a reason they say to wait til week 12.. I learned the hard way with my first pregnancy.
-“Eating for two” is a myth. This is not the time to tell yourself you can have a banana split every day or three hamburgers for dinner. Eat how you would normally, and if your body wants more, she will tell you.
-Remember: This too shall pass.

Second Trimester Thoughts
-As just about everything you read will tell you, ENJOY THE NEXT 12 WEEKS!
-You’ll never be so happy to have your energy back.
-Relax a bit and start sharing more with family, work colleagues and friends.
-Continue to eat well, drink a lot of water.. and don’t be afraid to eat what you want!
-Keep an eye on your weight, but don’t stress over it.
-If you are a very independent woman, the fear of being vulnerable WILL come up. Talk to people about it, don’t be afraid of it and know that it’s part of the gig. Also know that your power is not all physical. Mental power can get you farther than any physical power you think you have.
-If you have a history of anxiety, depression and the like, keep an eye on it in the second trimester. If you have any concerns, let your doc know.
-Start to create a plan for the baby, nursery, etc. Time will fly and it takes more time, energy and money than you think–even if you don’t have a lot to do.
-Schedule child prep classes early.
-If you haven’t felt any bonding with your baby, generally now would be the time. I had no idea that our baby would have a daily rhythm and I would get to know it. This also gave me confidence that I’d be able to take care of her when she was physically here.

Third Trimester Thoughts
-Expect to be tired.. again.
-Continue to watch your weight, but don’t stress over it.
-Continue to build your support system and spend time with people you love.
-Keep your stress level down and don’t be afraid to let people know you need space.
-DO take as many child prep classes you think you need and take them all before week 36 (we took: Infant CPR, Childprep class, Newborn Basics, Breastfeeding class). We found these invaluable and it increases your confidence–even if the information you are given you already know.
-Give yourself 1-2 months to find a good pediatrician. Ask friends and family in the area for referrals (this was one of the hardest tasks for me that I thought would be easy).
-Plan to have the nursery completed, projects around the house completed, etc. at LEAST 1-2 months before you are due. You will NOT want to do much in the last month and this also puts a buffer in for breakdowns and unexpected things (i.e., being sick, not being in the mood, last minute work requests, etc.).
-If you are married/dating, LOVE them as much as possible, continue to create your relationship and don’t forget that the two of you are the most important. If you are single, find friends and family that will support you and continue to create those relationships.
-Create a birth plan but know that your labor and delivery may not go as planned.
-Bonding will continue at a faster rate than you may expect. No one told me that I’d be able to calm my baby in the womb. But from singing, humming or just saying her name, I learned what worked to calm her down if needed.
-Rest, rest, rest!
-If you are breastfeeding, GET ALL YOUR INFORMATION NOW! This was the one place I lacked in research and I paid for it. I will be writing another blog on the subject, but the best bet is to ask other mom’s what their experience was/is. You will find that 95% of the people you speak to had some sort of problem. It’s better to be ready NOW in case you need to be prepared.. with that being said: BUY A BREASTPUMP!! I was lucky to have one at home ready to go.. not assuming I would even use it for a few weeks, but had to as soon as we got home from the hospital. There’s nothing worse than coming home late or not being able to run out and get one when you come home. It’s worth the money and time NOW.

Other thoughts or questions I’ve been asked
No, I never had weird cravings.
Although I have read that many women have the “pickles and ice cream” cravings, I never did (nor do I know anyone that has). I did have cravings for individual foods, but I didn’t have cravings for foods I already hated and basically wanted more of foods that I had deprived myself prior or ate already. Oddly, I never thought I would crave fruit in my third trimester. My body obviously wanted the vitamins and I gave it what is asked for.

I didn’t love being pregnant, but I didn’t hate it either.
I was comfortable most of my pregnancy, didn’t have many sleep issues, didn’t go pee every hour, my ankles only swelled now and again, etc.
I did, however, have to deal with my anxiety issues, some bouts of depression, carpel tunnel, and concerns about being a mom. These were tough things to deal with, but it all worked out in the end. Once I had a support system and a plan, all I could do was try to enjoy the ride.

Yes, we did want to know the sex of the baby.
I had too many other things to worry about. It was still a surprise either way as there’s never 100% assurance. My first question once Jackie “arrived” was “Is it a girl?!”

For any of you that got this far, feel free to ask ANY other questions you may have and I can add them here!