Friday, February 26, 2010

Lactation Frustration, Part 2: Supply and Demand

The good news: the Barefoot house is still a breast milk-only zone. The not-so-good news: we've been fighting the battle of low supply.

Over the last couple of weeks, three things have happened.

1) I've been feeling under the weather, flirting with a cold.
2) I started Weight Watchers, and have lost somewhere between 5-10 pounds.
3) The Chicklette has been sleeping through the night with increasing regularity.

Some combination of these factors has been wreaking havoc with my supply. The Chicklette was fussy and unsatisfied at the boob, and my pumping output (which I know is not a totally reliable measure of overall supply, but still) went from 3.5-4 oz per session to 2-2.5.

When I first noticed it happening, I tried to make a few tweaks -- drink more water, try to eat more nutritiously (i.e., fruit and protein instead of 1-point Weight Watchers chocolate cake), and try to go to sleep a bit earlier. None of these really seemed to work (although I did feel better overall).

Next I tried Fenugreek. 3 capsules 3 times a day. My pee started to smell like maple syrup, but my supply, while slightly improved, was still less than it had been. We were starting to dip into the freezer stash, which was stressing me out.

Finally, on a recommendation from a lactation consultant and a couple of moms in my group, I tried More Milk Plus. This stuff tastes like the worst aspects of maple syrup and black licorice multiplied by 100 (you can get it in pill form, but it costs twice as much), but I'll be works! I've also started eating oatmeal in the morning, which is supposed to help as well. Between the two of these things, I'm back to pumping 3.5-4 oz a session, sometimes more depending on the time of day. And the Chicklette is back to looking drunk when she comes off the boob, which not only means she's getting enough milk, but also amuses me greatly.

So, we're chugging along. I can't believe how much time I spend thinking about milk and boobs (and how much money I'm spending on foul herbs), and dread whatever shake-up going back to work is going to bring to the whole supply issue. But for now, things are OK. A full baby is a happy baby. A happy baby is a happy mom. Etc. etc.

And speaking of happy, I need to figure out what I'm wearing on my DINNER DATE tonight because some other crazy friend of ours is so excited to spend time with the baby that they've offered to babysit. I don't know what's wrong with these people, but I'll take it.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Happy two month birthday, pork chop!

To my dearest Chicklette:

Happy two-month birthday! I'm a day late, but I'm betting you can't tell the difference.

I can't believe it's only been two months since I pushed you through a happy epidural haze into the world. You have done so much growing and changing since then, and I honestly can barely remember what my life was like before you were in it. Kind of like in Twilight, when Bella can only hazily remember her human life. (Is it too early for me to start reading you those books? Let's discuss later.)

I'm not going to lie -- your first few weeks were not so much fun for mama. But now, I get greeted in the morning with smiles and giggles. Your big blue eyes follow me around while I make coffee and putter around the house. You gurgle in agreement with me when I comment on the morning news. You giggle in delight at all the pretty colors when we go shopping. You are, at this moment, a super-fun companion.

I look at you, and even though for the life of me I can't see either daddy or me in your face, I'm in awe that we (with the help of a very nice reproductive endocrinologist) made something so perfect. I could just explode from the cute. And the love.

I'm looking forward to every minute (well, almost every minute) of the next month we get to spend together before I go back to work.

But now, it's back to the Price is Right.

It's very educational.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Shot through the heart

Yesterday, we made our way to the pediatrician's office for the appointment I'd been dreading since I scheduled it -- the Chicklette's 2-month vaccinations.

Now, after all of the blood draws and injections of IVF, it's not like I'm squeamish about shots. In fact, I almost enjoy them now because it makes me feel like a bad-ass that they don't bother me. (I take my bad-ass where I can get it these days.) But watching your child get poked is a whole other ball game. Heck, I don't even like watching the pediatrician put a cold stethoscope on her chest. Overprotective, anyone?

So, anyway, we got to the office and had our regular appointment -- height and weight measurements (she's 9 pounds, 8 ounces!), ear and eye check, etc. -- and then we started the Shot Talk. The ped gave us a sheet with all of the things that could go wrong that we should watch for (thereby guaranteeing that I would see EVERY ONE OF THOSE THINGS), and instructions for Baby Tylenol. Then he left for what seemed like an hour to get the fun stuff.

Do any of you have pets? Do you sometimes feel really bad when you know they're about to go to the groomer or the vet, or take a long car ride (if they hate long car rides like our cats do)? Because you know what's coming and they don't? Well, this was like 100 times worse than that.

The shots themselves went quickly, but not so quickly that the Chicklette didn't start shrieking immediately. Poor little pumpkin. We calmed her down (the Mr. took a day off yesterday to come with me to the doctor -- how awesome is he?), and she was asleep in her carseat by the time we left the parking lot. She slept for 4 hours (!), and then woke up and proceeded to howl for 90 minutes. Then she went back to sleep, and woke up and starting howling again. Then she went down for the night -- 12 hours with one short break for food at 4 a.m. -- and woke up my normal happy baby again.

(Oh, and how I know she's my kid and the clinic didn't grab the wrong petri dish? During her relatively brief but traumatic moments of alertness last night, she put down about 15 ounces of milk. Like her mother, only an act of God could kill that appetite.)

So, all's well that ends well, but I think I aged about 5 years last night. Such a wimp. How I'm going to survive the next 18 years is beyond me.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

IComLeaveWe: All apologies, and where do I go from here?

(For the short version of my history, please visit the sidebar. And be forewarned: lots of baby talk in these here parts.)

I had a quiet moment the other day while the Chicklette was napping, and I didn't have anything urgent to do (translation: I had nowhere to be that day so didn't have to race to the shower/fold a load of laundry/pump frantically), so I hopped onto Stirrup Queens to check in. And realized that I hadn't done so in, oh, the amount of time between that moment and when I checked into the hospital three days before Christmas. And then I realized how behind I am on news from around the ALI blogosphere, outside of the folks whose blogs I hurriedly check via my Google reader.

And I felt horrible. And selfish. How much support did I get from this community during my infertility struggles? A TON. How much did it mean to me to feel connected with other people who understood our screwed up little world? More than I can express. And now I sit here and basically complain about how hard it is to have a baby. Nice, hunh?

And so, I offer an apology. Without excuses. I'm just sorry.

And then I got to thinking -- where does this blog go from here? I imagine at some point it will detail the fun world of secondary infertility, but until then I have a feeling that anything I write will be pretty singularly focused on those things which consume my days -- diapers, boobs, crying jags, and the occasional glimpse of cute, happy baby. In a couple of months, I'll write about going back to work. I know that there are many, many people for whom this is either too painful or uninteresting to read. But I'll likely still plug away. I'll keep signing up for IComLeaveWe, with fair warning about the content of my blog. But I know that on some level I'll continue to suck, and occasionally (or more than occasionally) rub someone the wrong way when the annoying mom lady comments on their blog.

So. I've tweaked the name of my blog, and made a few changes here and there, but I'll still be around in some form or another. And will try harder to do more than just talk about myself.

And with that wonderful introduction....welcome! And happy ICLW! I look forward to getting to know more of you and your blogs this week.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Valentine's Day + 8-week-old = not a whole lot of romance, but I'll take it

Ah, the three-day weekend. Is there anything it can't do?

Fellow new moms (or soon-to-be moms who are up every hour peeing), don't hate me, but I am feeling SUPREMELY well-rested today. The Chicklette slept for a total of 13 (!!) hours last night, with one feeding at 4:00 which my awesome valentine of a husband took. Which means I slept for about 10 broken hours, with breaks every 3 hours or so for pumping (I'm having supply issues post-cold, so am trying to be diligent about having something regularly sucking on my boobs). And she's finally sleeping in her crib, which means that.....drum roll please....the Mr. and I slept in the same bed this weekend for the first time in 8 weeks. A regular miracle.

(Now, I don't want to misrepresent the miracle -- we were just sleeping, not SLEEPING. We've yet to, um, resume marital relations. I have to admit I'm kind of terrified, as everyone loves to tell me how painful it is the first few times. Why do they do this? In any event, I'm sure I'll have a TMI post at some point about that whole experience. But anyway.)

In other news, we had our first post-baby date on Saturday night, during which we managed to limit baby-related conversation to about 20 minutes. And I had 2 glasses of wine! And raw fish! And a big headache the next morning! But it was so, so worth it.

So, a good weekend. I'm in such a good mood, I let the Mr. go and play 9 holes of golf. I don't really expect any of this goodness to last (particularly the sleeping part), so I'm just trying to soak it all in and appreciate it. And write it down so that I remember the next time Ms. Fussypants is on a tear.

Happy Valentine's weekend!

(Oh, and for those of you in the two week wait -- I'm thinking of you and silently sending good vibes your way. Stick stick stick!!)

Friday, February 12, 2010

The time has come

Well, I finally succumbed to the waves of junk mail hitting my various mailboxes and went to a Weight Watchers meeting today.

My weight has definitely plateaued over the last couple of weeks, and I think I've reached the limit of where childbirth and breastfeeding can take me. Also, I'm already starting to fall into some bad habits -- drive-thru lunches and quick but carby dinners -- that I'm starting to blame on "the baby." If I don't stop now, I'll probably find some way to extend my visit to Fatland until I get pregnant again (assuming, of course, that I can).

My main motivation at this point? It's so shallow I'm almost embarrassed to admit it. I confirmed yesterday that I'll be heading back to work in six weeks, and I really want to go back and have people think "Wow, she looks great!" I know it's probably ambitious, but I'd like to have lost another 15 pounds by then. I think I can do it.

So, I'll update here periodically on my progress. Not because I expect it will be all that thrilling to read, but because it will help keep me honest and motivated.

Oh, and the best part of today's meeting? The Chicklette blew a serious load in her diaper about midway through, complete with pre-show grunts and post-show farts. Heads were turned.

I've never been so proud!

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Lactation frustration (or, how I learned to stop feeling guilty and make my own damn decisions)

So. Breastfeeding. I've been wanting to write about it for a while, but my feelings about it change pretty much with every feeding. But I wanted to throw some thoughts out there, because I felt SO ALONE trying to figure things out for the first 2-3 weeks, which coincidentally was also the period of time when I was strapped on the crazy postpartum hormone train. And a disclaimer: these are just my thoughts. I am a pretty judgmental person, but I honestly have NO JUDGEMENT about the choices people make on the feeding front. Not after living through the process myself.

I came to the decision to breastfeed pretty haphazardly. It's encouraged by, well, pretty much everyone, and seemed to me, in the limited amount of time I spent thinking about it, to make sense. The natural order of things and all that. I took the prenatal breastfeeding class, which seemed at the time to be long on evangelizing about the wonders of breastfeeding and short on actual breastfeeding instruction. I read a little bit about it in my library of pregnancy tomes, but basically just thought I would figure it out when I got there. I mean, it's what nature intended, so how complicated could it be, right?

WRONG. Well, at least for me. I think breastfeeding can be pretty easy for some women, but I've only met a handful of these women. Every other new mom I've talked to falls into the "wow, this is way harder than I expected" camp.

Here's how things went for us during the first couple of weeks:

1. My first couple of breastfeeding sessions were completely unsupervised. A nurse basically dropped her off with me about an hour after I gave birth and said "you want to try breastfeeding?" and left. So, I hazily put her to the breast, and figured that even though it didn't feel very good, that probably was because I'd never had someone sucking on my boob that vigorously before.
2. When I finally got some guidance from a couple of different nurses, the message from both was basically "smash her face into your nipple, and she'll latch on eventually." By the end of day one, I had 3 blood blisters on my areolae, due to the Chicklette frantically latching wherever she could, with no meaningful guidance from me.
3. On the second day, a lactation consultant came by. She was appalled that the Chicklette hadn't "eaten" anything, diagnosed her with a "disorganized suck" (you think?) and immediately put us on a schedule of 5 minutes per side, pumping, and finger-feeding formula as a supplement. Which meant that each feeding session took about an hour and fifteen minutes, maybe a little less if the Mr. did the formula feeding.
4. On the third day, we went home, and then ended up back in the pediatric wing 3 hours later (due to a breathing issue completely unrelated to his whole feeding mess). The Chicklette didn't eat for most of that day, since we were in the ER getting ignored for a good chunk of it. We ended up back in the hospital under observation for three days, during which time I slept at home while the Mr. stayed with her at night. We only had time to try and get on the breast a few times during the day. Another lactation consultant visited us there, and pointed out (finally!) that she was only really taking the nipple and not any other part of the breast, and thus wasn't getting milk and was also damaging my nipples. I continued to pump after every "feeding," and my milk finally came in. We were able to finger-feed mostly breastmilk to her after a few days, which was nice.
5. We kept trying once we got back home again. When it got to the point where I had two significant, pus-y cracks on both nipples and my baby had swallowed enough of my blood that she was pooping it out in her diapers, I made an appointment with another lactation consultant, who showed me some techniques for achieving proper latch. She also told us to ditch the finger feeding and just use a bottle. After a few more days, a tube of Polysporin, and one more consult, we seemed to be on the right track. I might only feed her at the breast a couple of times per day, but they were good feeds and weren't damaging my nips any further.

Every day since then has gotten a little easier. I breastfeed her about 4 times per day, and we bottle feed pumped breastmilk the rest of the time. I pump about every 3 hours throughout the day and night, although sometimes I go a bit longer if she's had a good feed at the boob, or it's nighttime and I don't wake up. I'm not planning to try and get her breastfeeding exclusively, as it seems silly to do that, only to have to go back to what we're doing now once I go back to work. I don't really mind the pumping, and my supply seems fine (and seems to be increasing with her growth spurts, which I try to encourage through more frequent pumping during these periods).

Physically, there's no more pain, which has made a big difference. But the bigger difference? My mental and emotional outlook towards the whole thing. Once I was out of the post-partum blues (at about 3.5 weeks), I was able to utilize my own common sense and get over the guilt of not loving breastfeeding and trying to feed her at the breast exclusively. It wasn't enjoyable for me, it didn't seem to be all that for her either, and most importantly, the frustration of struggling with her 8-10x per day was almost completely eliminating any joyful time for us to spend together. And killing my sleep. Now, my husband can feed her once or twice during the night, and I can get a solid block of 5 hours or so, plus other naps between feedings.

(Oh, and my husband actually likes to be able to participate with feeding. Which is great for him, but also, in my opinion, fair. One of the other little things they don't tell you about the exclusively breastfeeding route is that it means that mom essentially has a baby tethered to her boob for half of the day and night. Which some women love, but it's not for everyone.)

Some of the women (including the lactation consultant) who facilitates one of my mom's groups discreetly roll their eyes at my feeding arrangement. Why am I not willing to go that extra mile to breastfeed her at every feeding? It's what's best for my baby!

To which I respectfully disagree. The Chicklette is gaining weight, occasionally sleeping through the night, and eating exclusively breastmilk. And even if she had to have a couple of formula supplements, that would be fine with me as well. She is thriving. And so am I. We enjoy our days together, and I'm able to focus on the parts of raising her that aren't just about feeding. And now that I'm sleeping more and feeling more rational and sane, I know that this balance is just as important as all of the other stuff. My daughter needs a mom who is not constantly at the end of her rope.

So, anyway. There it is. My breastfeeding manifesto. My advice for anyone getting ready to embark on this journey: do the best you can, use your common sense, digest the information that's out there (no pun intended), and make the decision that is right for you and your baby.

Oh, and invest in some Soothies.

Friday, February 5, 2010

The things we do....

One of the funny things about pregnancy and parenthood is that you get to cross a lot of things off of the "oh, I would/could NEVER do that" list. You know, things like giving birth, kissing your kid after she spits up, etc. etc.

Last night, we crossed an item off the list which has scared me ever since I started reading about baby care. Something I never thought I could do. Something that makes me cringe every time it happens to our cats at the vet. That's right, folks: the rectal temperature.

The Chicklette was super-fussy and miserable yesterday, and felt a little warm to me. I knew if we called the doctor they'd ask if we'd taken a rectal temp, so we had to suck it up. And you know what? It was easy! Easier than breastfeeding! Or changing a diaper! And the baby didn't care! (She did have a temp, by the way, but it seems to be gone this morning. And how do I know that? Because we took her butt temperature again! It was just that easy!)

Why do I post about this, you ask? C'mon, there have got to be other people out there just as terrified about sticking a foreign object in their baby's butt. And I'm here to tell you: YOU CAN DO IT.

(Sorry about all of the exclamation points. I think I might have put a little too much caf in my half-caf coffee this morning.....)

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

6 weeks

Despite pushing a small bowling ball out of my hoo-hah six weeks ago, I was still VERY WOUND UP about my 6-week postpartum OB/GYN appointment yesterday. You'd think that after all my lady bits had been through, the prospect of a speculum and maybe a finger or two would be no big deal. But, nevertheless, I was scared. What if I was scarred for life down there?

The good news is that I'm not. Things are healed up just fine, and the exam didn't hurt a bit. (Which of course then made me worry that I've been stretched to infinity and will never feel anything -- good or bad -- down there again, but I'm not prepared to really think about that yet.)

And then we commenced the birth control conversation, which I found highly amusing. I mean, seriously? But, because my infertility urban legend friend is expecting in June, I listened. My choices are basically the mini-pill (which concerns me because of the milk supply issue -- the doctor says it shouldn't affect things, but I know a handful of people who had trouble), condoms (which honestly would be fine with me, but not with my husband), and a whole host of other options that don't really appeal to me for various reasons (sticking things up the chute right before trying to get romantic doesn't really do it for me).

So, I don't know. Maybe we'll strike a compromise and use condoms for a couple of months until I go back to work, and then try the pill since I'll probably have to supplement with formula at that point anyway.

Part of me is just tempted to throw caution to the wind -- I mean, really? We're going to get pregnant? And if we did, would that be so bad? We want to have another, and it's not like we're going to let non-ideal timing get in our way after waiting so long for #1.

What holds me back is the embie in the freezer. We need to give that little guy a chance, and then suddenly we're looking at the possibility of three kids. Would that be OK? Yeah, probably, but it's just not something we've ever seriously considered.

Yes, yes, I'm getting way ahead of myself. The chances of our one embie surviving a thaw and a transfer are not great, and the chances of us getting knocked up the old-fashioned way are even less great. Chances are, we'll decide to start trying, go through the whole rigamarole again, and probably not be lucky enough to be successful on the first try of IVF. But these are the things I think about, waiting for the Chicklette to fall asleep at 4 in the morning with "19 Kids and Counting" on in the background.

Maybe I should just stick to SportsCenter.