Sunday, August 23, 2009

Got Breast Milk!

Lucas is now just over a month old, and while the first weeks have been really tough, it’s true that it does get easier as the weeks go on. My little guy is sleeping 4 hours straight, and last night slept for 5 hours without making a peep.

The one thing I kept hearing when I was pregnant and now as a new mom is that you will not get much sleep, but that you soon learn to adapt and function regardless. What they don’t tell you is how difficult breastfeeding is, how much time it consumes and how hard it is to avoid feeling guilty when you’re not producing enough …at least that’s how it is for me.

At the hospital, I was in so much pain after the delivery that I had the nurse’s supplement with formula at night, this way I could get my rest and recuperate faster and be able to devote all my time and energy to my newborn. Lucas would often fall asleep while breastfeeding, and there was no way to wake him up or know exactly how much milk he was getting. He definitely wasn’t getting enough, since he was up every hour or so crying for some more. It was then that I realized I wasn’t producing enough milk for his enormous appetite, so it was inevitable that I would have to continue to supplement with formula to ensure he was getting enough to eat. He had difficulty latching on and I couldn’t breastfeed without a nipple shield, which made the process even trickier since he doesn’t stay still while he’s eating. That’s when I realized that I had to pump as often as possible throughout the day (yup, that includes in remote places such as public I did last weekend waiting for the Fire Island ferry and I had nowhere else to PUMP…your boobs feel like they’re about to explode and you’ve got no time to wait/waste) to ensure he was getting as much of my milk as possible and that I would continue producing as much as my little engine could.

Never mind the soar nipple syndrome – that’s a subject for another time, but when you feel you’re nipples are under a burning flame and cannot take the pain any longer, there are always a few solutions that could help...Medela nipple shield and another great invention my husband discovered, Medela soar nipple soft shells saved me.What surprised me the most is how much patience you realize you have when you become a mom, and that no matter how little sleep and time you have to yourself, it doesn’t bother you one bit. BUT when you realize you’re newborn is sleeping at least 2-3 hours straight and you’re only getting 45 minutes of sleep, something has to be wrong. This is when I started to recap what a typical night looked like for me…I’d wake up, change his diaper, warm the bottle, feed him, burp him, put him back to sleep, wash the bottles and the pump accessories, pump for 20 minutes and then store the pumped milk in the fridge before going back to sleep. This process took me about an hour to an hour and a half, and that’s if Lucas wouldn’t wake up again in the process. CRAZY…at this rate I was sure I’d go insane or give up breastfeeding before his first month. I didn’t want that, so I found a few solutions that made my life a bit easier…I put my multitasking skills to work. If you’re pumping, I definitely recommend the Medela pump wipes – they come in handy and save you a few extra washes (approximately 15 extra minutes of sleep). I’ve also mastered the bottle balancing act and can feed Lucas his bottle while pumping (approximately 20 extra minutes of sleep). If I was able to drive stick, drink a coffee and talk on the phone all at the same time, this was a piece of cake. Last but not least, no matter what they tell you NEVER wake up a sleeping baby (approximately 30-45 minutes of extra sleep). That meant that I was basically getting back over an hour of sleep, and it made quite the difference.

I would have never imagined breastfeeding to be such a time consuming, daunting and painful task, but it is what it is. I’m just grateful I produce at least some boob milk to feed my little man. I’m only hoping it gets a bit easier over time, whether I produce enough to store at least a day’s supply or my boobies start cooperating for a change.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Lucas Gabriel is born!

Today is just over two weeks since little Lucas Gabriel decided to make his big brave entrance into the world. I’m finally getting a few minutes to catch my breath and update my blog with the exciting news. There is so much to tell, and I really don’t know where to start.

Today I’m finally feeling much better after 18 hours of labor and 2.5 hours of pushing. It has been a traumatic yet exciting experience – and I’m grateful I’m able to share it with you. All in all, I’d do it again in a heartbeat! It’s truly amazing and all worth the big reward in the end.

I had finally reached my 40th week (full term) and the next few days felt longer then my entire pregnancy. Everyone around me seemed anxious, including me, especially after my last doctor’s appointment, since I learned that my fluids were low and it could potentially be harmful to the baby.

On July 21st, 3 days after my due date and a day after my previous appointment, I had only dilated 1 cm and my blood pressure was really high. I was told to admit myself to the LIJ hospital in New Hyde Park that evening to be induced and help start the delivery process. By the time I reached the hospital, I had dilated on my own another 2 centimeters and also began to feel minor contractions. It seemed Lucas was ready to come out on his own either that evening or the next day. A few hours later my contractions began to get stronger and without thinking twice, I requested an epidural. Was I glad I asked for it when I did! Kudos to the brave women out there who have an all natural birth!
The epidural takes about 40 minutes or so to administer. During painful contractions you have to stay really still while they place the needle in the itty bitty epidural space of the spinal cord, so I’d recommend not waiting to ask for it when you cannot take the pain any longer. It instantly kicks in and all sensation is lost from your waist down. While it’s an instant relief, it’s a scary feeling when you realize that you have complete paralysis in the lower half of your body. A number of times it did cross my mind…”what if I stay like this forever?”

Eighteen hours later and a good night sleep I was dilating about 1 centimeter every couple of hours or so with the help of massive amounts of Pottosin. The Pottosin was also causing my legs and ankles to swell beyond recognition, and the swelling only goes down about a week post partum. Unfortunately, after 8 centimeters or so I wasn’t dilating further. It had been over 4 hours and there weren’t any signs of progress, and my little Lucas’ heart beat was dropping. I was also told that I had a temperature of 100.8 and there was no doubt in my doctor’s mind that we were going in for a c-section in a couple of hours. It was at that point that I learned if your temperature during labor is over 100.4, your newborn is taken automatically to Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) for 48 hours when he/she is born. I was devastated! Not only would I not deliver Lucas naturally, but I would not be able to have him sleep in my room. I felt like a complete failure and couldn’t stop my tears! Of course in hindsight, c-sections are performed all the time and often to prevent complications, but I soon realized my case was debatable. The nurses felt I could easily deliver naturally, but they were getting a bit of resistance from my doctor. That’s when I insisted that she give me a couple of hours to dilate 2 more centimeters, and if I didn’t succeed, then of course we would proceed with the c-section. With the amazing help of no less than a football team of nurses, who only had my interests at heart and were determined to help me dilate in order to avoid surgery, and my sister and husband, I went from 8.5 centimeters to 10 in about an hour.

It was then that the nurses asked me to start pushing. The epidural had worn off completely and my contractions were unbearable. I was determined to deliver Lucas without a cesarean one way or another, no matter how difficult and painful the pushing was after 2.5 hours or so. Right when I was about to give up and felt I didn’t have the strength to push any more, my sister yelled “feel his head it's right there”, and I did. It gave me the last bit of strength & motivation I needed to push Lucas out.

Lucas was born at 6:44 PM on daddy’s birthday, weighing 8.8 lbs and 21 inches long. While I was still sad that my little man would not be able to spend the night with me, I couldn’t have been happier with my healthy baby boy. I knew that the staff at NICU would take good care of him, and I’d be able to visit him as often as I wanted while in intensive care. We were released on Friday, July 24th, and that night I gratefully welcomed my first sleepless night. The three of us were finally home.

I will forever be grateful to the amazing nurses and staff at North Shore LIJ, and to my little sister and husband (who pushed so hard with me that he woke up the next morning with a migraine). I don’t think I would have pulled through without their support and encouragement!