"Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts." -Winston Churchill

Thursday, February 27, 2014

What Fresh Hell? (Or Life with a Reflux Baby)

As we continue to play catch-up of Baby J's early life....

So, Baby J and I had found what worked for us and we were doing great with the SNS! And then the spit-up came, and with it, a very fretful, inconsolable baby. He was not a happy boy. Days were spent holding, nursing, cleaning up spit up, crying with him. His poops were greenish and mucous-y. What was making my baby so unhappy?

I decided (grudgingly, but also desperately) to start on an elimination diet. But how would I know what he was reacting to in donor milk? Again, low milk supply was a slap in the face. I started seeking donor milk without the common allergens, but it wasn't always easy to come by. I stopped eating dairy, eggs, gluten, and coffee. Eventually, his poops became normal breastmilk poops, even with donor milk that contained what I was avoiding.

It took me a while to realize that I myself probably have a leaky gut and that was the reason he was reacting to the foods I ate but not the donor milk.

But still, Baby J was a difficult nut to crack. He still cried much more than my other babies had. I was exhausted. He'd been wearing an amber necklace since he was a month old, and I decided to try a hazelwood necklace, too. Within an hour, he was a markedly happier baby. I'm a hazelwood believer.
I also started him dairy-free probiotics, and that's helped him immensely, too. Slowly, the happy and charming Baby J is starting to emerge.

These short paragraphs simply can't do justice to the hell that was our life for the first several months, but the little guy is teething and I just don't have the strength to relive it all. Maybe someday. But I'd rather just forget it.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Guest Post: "What NOT to Say..."

by Brittany Sears

When I was pregnant, I saw lots of information on how to be sensitive to people who are struggling with infertility: don't ask couples when they're planning on starting a family, don't lament your 2 "oops" pregnancies to someone who can't get pregnant, etc. I've been thinking that for those of us who struggle with breastfeeding -- especially when we discover that despite our diligent research and best efforts, we will probably never make enough milk for our baby to eat -- similar information is needed for family and friends. This is a heartbreaking ordeal.

Here's a list of things I've compiled from my (online) groups. They sound like casual conversation to most people, but are actually emotional landmines for moms who thought they'd be exclusively breastfeeding for the next year. If you'd like to be sensitive to new moms whose background you don't know, or someone like me who you know to have low supply, please take heart! Please share widely if you're inspired to do so, and leave this line, which gives credit to me, Brittany Sears, for writing it.

"Are you breastfeeding?" Here is the stream of thoughts you've just inspired: Am I? Is this really breastfeeding, even though my baby would starve if I didn't add a bottle at every feeding, too? How can I really be a mom if I have to add a bottle? It's not really any of your business, whatever your intentions were when you asked.

"Oh, she's so tiny!" Such an accident, but this is a huge barb for many of us. Yes, she's smaller than your cousin's friend's 15 lb 3-week-old, but she's gained 3 lbs since the day the doctor was talking about hospitalization for failure to thrive. We really don't want to revisit the pain of that conversation.

"Breast is best..." or any other breastfeeding propaganda when you've JUST learned that we can't make enough. Formula is poison? What do you propose I do, let my baby starve?

"Everyone can breastfeed if they try hard enough." Oh REALLY? So visits to two doctors for surgery to fix Lucy's tongue tie, 11 hours with 4 lactation consultants, every supplement known to man, and innumerable books, websites, and support groups isn't trying hard enough?

Reassurance that "Formula is fine!" Yes, it is. But many moms get to CHOOSE formula. We only got to choose it in that we could choose to use formula or have a starved baby.

"How long are you going to torture yourself [by breastfeeding what little you can and adding an onerous pumping routine to your day]?" As long as I can give my baby the best I can, that's how long! Something is better than nothing until *I* decide otherwise.

"Have you tried... ?" Yes. I am forgiving about this one because people are genuinely trying to be helpful, but here's what I personally have tried with no effect. Galactogogue foods: oats, flax, brewers yeast, beer, you name it! Herbal supplements: fenugreek, blessed thistle, red raspberry leaf, goat's rue, alfalfa, chlorella... Gatorade, Emergen-C, too! And even a prescription drug, which has helped marginally. And for the love of Pete, yes, I drink enough water!

"I know it's hard." NO, you probably don't.

"Only 1% of women truly suffer from low supply." Awesome! I guess you should go buy a lottery ticket today, now that you've met me! Maybe you'll see a leprechaun later, too.

"Is that all you pumped?" or "She's still hungry!" THANKS CAPTAIN OBVIOUS.

Anything about your oversupply. You cannot imagine what any of us would give to make TOO much milk. (Personally, I don't mind hearing about it from the lovely women who are giving Lucy milk from their freezer stash!)

I know this list makes it sound like there's nothing you CAN say that isn't an emotional firestorm. And maybe that's true, and it's probably true of any new mom. So what is a good thing to say? Just stick to the positive! "Your baby is beautiful," "You're doing a wonderful job," and "What do you like most about being a mom?" are all much better options than asking a stranger if she's breastfeeding.

About Brittany:

I’m 29 years old and I just finished my PhD in Biology at the University of South Florida here in Tampa, FL. In fact, I held my 11-day-old daughter throughout the graduation ceremony! Lucy was born just a smidge early, at 36w6d, au natural and 7.0 lbs. After losing a pound in the first 5 days after birth, she did not regain ANY weight in the next two weeks. Our pediatrician then found a tongue tie, which we had corrected. Fast forward 5 weeks of still-poor latches, a second opinion from a wonderful pediatric dentist revealed that she was still tongue-tied, which we had corrected again. Whether due to missing a narrower-than-usual hormonal window, her continued poor latch, or some degree of IGT, I make 6-7 oz per day, including what my daughter gets on the breast. I am only now, at 12 weeks postpartum, settling into a routine and beginning to accept what is our normal. I credit my wonderful husband and family for support, the Freemies pump (so I can pump and hold my baby), and the IGT group for bringing me to terms with everything.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Low Milk Supply, Take 4!

So, after our lovely, natural home birth, the stage was set for a great start to breastfeeding.

While I still hoped for a slightly better supply this time, I had no illusions that I would somehow be blessed with a full milk supply. I had prepared. I had syringes, supplemental nursing systems, and a freezer full of donor milk. I was ready for this!

Baby J, one day old.
The first few hours went well. Baby J had a big, blow out diaper full of meconium.Yay! But, as the day went on, it became clear that he wasn't being satisfied by the amount of colostrum I was making. Having gone down the starving baby route before, I wasn't going to let that happen again, and I broke out the syringe and bottle of frozen colostrum. I gave him a few milliliters and popped him back on the breast. Continued ad nauseum.

We brought him to meet his pediatrician when he was 2 days old, and he had lost a pound. Even knowing what I know (different scales, different weights, some weight loss is normal for newborns), it was a very traumatizing visit for me. As a low supply mom, it brought back all the tearful visits of the past with sick and hungry babies. When we got home from his appointment, I offered him a whole ounce of colostrum in the starter SNS. He ate it all.
First SNS feeding.
I waited, not so patiently, for my milk to come in. Eventually, I felt the telltale hormonal shivers that signaled that my milk was beginning to come in, and come in it did. Slowly. Baby J started actually gulping and swallowing from the breast alone. But the gulping didn't last long, and there continued to be signs that he wasn't getting quite enough. He would "wet" diapers, but his urine was dark and there wasn't much of it. And he wasn't pooping the way he should have been. He was falling asleep before finishing an ounce with the SNS. He was starting down that dangerous road.

How could this be happening? I was prepared? I knew what I was doing, didn't I? Hadn't I walked this path before? How could I still be screwing this up so badly?

All the old feelings of inadequacy came flooding back. My body was a failure, and I was a failure as a mother. Even with all the things I'd done to prepare, I was still failing my baby.

Baby J was 5 days old, and I'd already failed him.

 I was lucky enough to have my dear friend (and IBCLC) be the voice of reason for me. He was working too hard with the starter SNS to get too little milk. It was time to try something else. I tried a bottle. No luck. He couldn't latch. I tried finger feeding. No luck. I went back to syringe-feeding. Still no luck. Could I BE any more of a failure?

Frustrated and terrified at the thought of another sick, dehydrated newborn, I cried. I raged. I mourned. I thought I'd been prepared, but I wasn't. I wasn't prepared for the emotional rollercoaster insufficient glandular tissue had dragged me onto, despite all my prior experiences.

I lay in our hammock in the sunshine, crying, and nursing my baby boy.
I cried for a long time while he slept on my chest. And then I looked around. I saw my three happy and healthy children, and I knew J would be okay. I'd made it work before, I could do it again.

When he woke, I decided to try the full-size SNS, the same kind I'd used for 20 months with Lola.
It worked. He got the milk he needed without using more energy than he was taking in. Hallelujah!

There were still bumps in the road, for sure. Using an SNS isn't quite the same as riding a bike. I still had to figure out how best to position the tubing, and where to place the bottle so the milk didn't flow too fast or too slow, but together, we learned to make it work.

Next Post: "What Fresh Hell?" or "Living with a Reflux-y, Colic-y, Food Sensitive, Unhappy Baby"

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Baby J's Beginning

I'm back! A few weeks before giving birth to my son, our old computer died and I just finally got a new one (Thank you, Taxreturnmas!).

So, new nursling, new story. So, let's start at the beginning.

Baby J's Beginning
(Photo by Lindsay Lee Photography)
At 6 p.m., September 28th, 2013, I tracked my first real labor contraction. The kids and I had just gotten in the van to head to the park. About 40 minutes later, I had my second labor contraction, and I decided it was time to head to Daddy's work, have dinner, and then go home and have a baby!

 Everyone pitched in, straightening up the house, and setting up the birth pool while Daddy ran to the store for a few last minute supplies.

After the pool was set up, it was time to get the girls to bed. I nursed Lola down to sleep with Lulu snuggled up behind me.
Once Lola fell asleep, my contractions really intensified thanks to the oxytocin her nursing released. I got into the shower and my contractions were already overwhelmingly strong. I got out, told Daddy it was time to fill up the pool and called my midwife.

I turned on some Dave Matthews Band and danced between contractions while I waited for the tub to fill up. Just as the pool finished filling, my midwife arrived. She checked Baby J's heart rate, took my blood pressure, and settled in. Soon, my two photographer friends, my aunt and cousins, and my dad and step-mom arrived, too.

(Photo by Lindsay Lee Photography)

After relaxing in the tub for a while, my contractions slowed down a bit, and my midwife suggested I get out for a little while to get them going again. I went outside for a few minutes and Daddy went to wake up Lulu. It didn't take long for my contractions to pick back up again and I soon retreated back to the warmth of the tub, this time with Rio and Lulu in tow.

(Photo by Lindsay Lee Photography)
(Photo by Lindsay Lee Photography)
Little Lulu was the perfect little doula. (Photo by Jessica Adkins Photography)
(Photo by Lindsay Lee Photography)

I labored long into the night with my family by my side. (Photo by Jessica Adkins Photography)
 I was really surprised by the intensity of my labor this time. Laid-back Lola's labor had been so gentle and sweet, I'd only had one contraction that really overwhelmed me, and that was right before I'd enter transition. And even transition with Lola was blissfully brief.
This time, my contractions required my full attention from much earlier on. Little did I know that the intensity of my labor was an indication of the intensity of my soon-to-be-born son.

(Photo by Lindsay Lee Photography)

The pain was intense, and I vocalized loudly through each contraction. Although it felt like an eternity, soon enough there came the first contraction where I felt pushy at the peak. It was almost time to meet my baby!

Then, the first full pushing contraction came and it felt SO GOOD! Oh, so good to push! I roared through the undeniable, unavoidable, un-ignorable (yes, I made that word up) urge to PUSH and it felt amazing. As intense as my labor contractions were, my pushing contractions were even more so, but what a powerful feeling! My midwife checked quickly to feel where the baby's head was, and it was just a few inches inside. She had me reach in to feel, and I held my fingers there and felt as he moved lower and lower with each push. Soon, more of his head was out than in, and I was holding the top of his head in the palm of my hand.
I just love Daddy's face here. Baby J's head was in my hand. (Photo by Jessica Adkins Photography.)


After experiencing a 4th degree tear with Lola, I was really concentrating on breathing this baby out, with little bumps of pushing. Slowly, slowly, his head emerged. And then his head was out! I expected to do a lot more work pushing out his shoulders (because Lola was a giant 9lb, 14 ouncer), but instead WHOOSH! With just a little push, he was out.

 3:55 am, September 29th, 2013
 (Photo by Jessica Adkins Photography.)
(Photo by Lindsay Lee Photography)
 "Grab your baby, Nyssa!" And I pulled my tiny new one out of the water. Immediately, he was crying at the top of his lungs and Daddy remarked, "He's the loudest one, yet!" (Again, an omen of what was to come? But more of that in a later post.)

                                                                (Photo by Jessica Adkins Photography.)
                                                                  (Photo by Jessica Adkins Photography.)
                                                                  (Photo by Jessica Adkins Photography.)
 (Photo by Jessica Adkins Photography.)
 Big brother Rio cut the cord after it had stopped pulsing. My placenta didn't detach right away and it was hard to see in the murky pool, so I handed the baby to his daddy and went to shower off.

                                                                (Photo by Jessica Adkins Photography.)
 (Photo by Jessica Adkins Photography.)
 After a few stitches (I had a very manageable 2nd degree tear this time), and baby J was weighed (8lbs, 8oz, just like big brother Rio!) and measured (20 inches!) and examined, I was put to bed to meet my new little boy.
 (Photo by Lindsay Lee Photography)
(Photo by Lindsay Lee Photography)
                                                               (Photo by Jessica Adkins Photography.)

(Photo by Jessica Adkins Photography.) 
Just before the sun came up, I nursed my big girl Lola and my newborn together for the first time, and we all fell asleep as a family of 6.

A few hours later, I woke up to use the bathroom, and Big Brother and Little Brother snuggled together as I made myself something to eat.

Here are the links to the slideshows my darling photographer friends made for me:

Jessica Adkins Photography's Slideshow

Lindsay Lee Photography's Slideshow
(These are really beautiful! I just love them so much!)