PART TWO: THURSDAY- SATURDAY: THE FIRST FEW DAYS
I ended off the first post on Nicholas’ birth by saying that it is a bit of a shock to find that the little one you have been carrying inside you for so long is now a real live baby that you have to care for.
Lulu put it really well:
Here is how I feel about parenting for the first 6 days. It’s like you won a billion dollars in the lottery. All of your dreams have come true! You feel ecstatic and on top of the world. Everyone is happy for you. The only catch is that you have to carry the one billion dollars, in cash, on you at all times, and let’s just say that you live in the inner city, in a high crime area, and let’s also say that you have to wear a sign that flashes neon that says “I have a billion dollars cash on my person.” It’s the most incredible feeling, but it also leaves you feeling very vulnerable. Or maybe that’s just the hormones?
For anyone who watches Desperate Housewives, this week’s episode (in South Africa) was especially pertinent. Julie (Susan’s child) is pregnant and the reaction of the grandmothers is chalk and cheese. Susan is the one with her head in the clouds. She is very idealistic and wants Julie to keep the baby. She sabotages Julie’s adoption efforts and starts putting together a nursery. Lynette, the mother of the father of the child, who has brought up many children of her own and lately had a surprise pregnancy (“laat lammetjie”) to whom she is still attending – I think the kid must be about 3?- she knows the harsh realities of raising a child – how exhausting it is in every way. She is not keen to have another little one.
I was thinking how infertility has made me see motherhood with a certain amount of rose coloured glasses. Yes, I know it will be tough, but having reached that elusive treasure at the end of the rainbow, that part that was missing from my life for so long, there is a part of me that feels, yay, I should have “arrived” now. In fact it is just another journey to “survive and thrive”; that I am sure I will be writing about for many blogs to come.
Anyway let’s get back to my story.
What makes me so philosophical with regard to this path is that the first week of parenthood is extremely tough.
I think each person will have their individual challenges, but for me it was feeding Nicholas.
All of a sudden I was responsible for getting food inside him.
It was somewhere in between my boobs being shoved in every direction inside a chewing little mouth mutilating my nipples and being told very seriously from the pediatrician that if he did not get enough food he would land up being brain damaged, that I officially lost my sense of self. In fact by Saturday there was very little of “me” left.
But let me start at the beginning.
Every morning at the hospital Nicholas would get taken off to the nursery to get some tests done. (This is when I would grab the chance to have a shower quick) I would also get visits from both the gynae and the pead.
On Thursday morning his blood glucose was tested at 1.2 which was very low. While I was waiting for my peeps (mom and DH) I was sitting there trying to feed him and the pediatrician was telling me about how he could get brain damaged if we didn’t give him more food. Eventually my mom arrived (and we had to fight to get her in!) and we tried to feed him. Nic was really struggling to latch and suckle. Even now he can get on the boob, do some limited sucking but not a lot of drinking.
In any case we had to give him formula. And try as best we could the rest of the day to get him fed. This proved very frustrating. It is emotional enough going through the process of having just given birth, but now with the added pressure to get him to latch etc. I was a bit of a basket case. My dearest hubby stood up for me when I needed a break. And Nic had a nice nap. They went home to let the maid out while I had some friend visitors and it was good to chat and vent to them. They came back to sit with me during the evening. We did some limited feeding.
What’s nice about being in hospital is that very handy thing you press when you need help. And I sure made use of it. I would try and latch Nicholas. Quite a few times. Eventually we would both get so frustrated. The difference between a frustrated adult and baby is simple: babies can scream. He literally got red all over and bellowed his little lungs out. I really felt embarrassed for the people that had to share the ward with me and a screaming baby. But the solution was simple: press the button for the nurse to come and help us latch. And this worked very well. There was one particular night nurse who was just wonderful. She would simply scoop him up and place him like a football alongside me and get him sucking. It all looked so simple but to actually do it independently of help – I just didn’t seem to get it right. All the nurses were pretty wonderful actually, and I was so lucky to have them at my beck and call. I also spoke to one who had Bell’s palsy for a period of six months and over her wedding! After that I really felt very lucky – after all, Nicholas doesn’t really care what my face looks like.
Friday rolled around and fortunately his blood sugar had improved to 2.8. Yay!
Also the news came through that the car was giving trouble. Sometimes when you exit my car the lights get flicked on, but in any case they had been left on Thursday night and mom and DH did not want to worry me about it. So it needed to be towed and the battery properly charged. So my mom popped in briefly and then had to go and sort out the car. My DH had to work because there is certain stuff he has to do on a Friday.
However my mom had scheduled a lactation consultant to come and spend time with me and this turned out to be a great time to learn a bit more about the mysteries of this breastfeeding challenge.
She brought a huge cushion that straps to your body. But at home I have a nice curved one I am also using that works nicely as well. You place the baby against your body so his legs go over your other boob and his nose lines up with the nipple on the other side. Then you put your hand behind his ears and put a lot of pressure so that he is crushed against the boob – a nice big wide mouth. Oh yes – due to all the bad latches, by this point my nipples were very cracked and sore. So now I became more aware of how I was letting him on my nipple and how crucial that wide mouth was.
Anyway she got him sucking nicely and it gave me a bit more confidence.
My mom and DH came and spent the evening again with me, pretty uneventful.
Of course once they left the wheels fell off again. Red faced Nicholas was yelling the ward down. So I got some help latching again, had a rest, and later he wanted to feed again. This time he was really struggling to drink. Although we got him latched and going for a while, the nurses said he would have to have a top up formula to have enough food inside him. I mean, I really wanted to go home the next day. So it was a pretty exhausting night.
The next day I got mostly packed up and ready to go. DH and Mom had to do the grocery shopping and also figure out how to put the car seat in.
I got seen by both Dr K’s stand in and Dr G’s stand in and Nicholas passed the test, thank goodness. His weight had gone down to 2.9, but at least we know that is normal and they would let me go home. I sat and phoned my friends while I waited. I went and got my pain killers from the pharmacy. And then I was also waiting for the breast pump lady my mom knew that would help this feeding situation.
I have to say that by this point I was very tired and emotional. I was not up to making any sort of decisions. She came in and demonstrated the machine, and it was just another person man-handling my boobs and chatting to my mom the breastfeeding expert. I started to feel more like a cow and less like a human being. They were asking me stuff and I think I landed up being quite rude. I remember saying “I don’t really care at this point” and being on the verge of tears. I did apologise to her afterwards and she said she understood having had kids herself that this was Day 4 and I was entitled to lose it. I just wanted to get out of there. We landed up hiring something called the “Medela Symphony” – even though you can pump two at a time I’ve found one is just enough to keep track of without leaking everywhere! Next week we will go and buy a suitable pump for real.
But once we were home the problems didn’t go away. My mom was convinced Nicholas had tongue tie (when your tongue is tied back in a way that prevents you from latching properly) so she sterilized some equipment and cut the offending part. After that he fed for almost an hour and a half. This was great and very encouraging. But Saturday night turned out to be very long. And there was no button to press. Yes my mom was there to help, but there was only so much we could do.
By Sunday we knew that the best thing to do was to use the pump and just make the priority to get milk inside of Nicholas, and not worry about whether he was getting it from the boob or not. I was still breastfeeding him in between but this time using a nipple shield to protect my damaged nipples.
The great thing about a pump is that it is a reliable mechanical thing – you switch it on and it works. I am getting pretty good now at pumping and giving him a reliable source of food and that feels so good!! And we can get to bed at a decent time (well, 1am is better than some other time). We are using a bottle called “Tommee Tippee” which is quite cool because it has the shape of a breast. I also found out that it has a small hole on one side to prevent that suction noise (after changing two of his outfits because we thought it was leaking!) and it is working quite well.
So that is my first few days of being a mother, folks. I don’t mean to be bitter about breasts: they are actually producing lots of milk. It’s just a tough journey to get everything to work as it should, and like most things in life, I just have to do what works.
I’ll leave you with a special smile. It’s like he knows something I don’t: a wisdom beyond his years. I wish you could share that secret with me, Nicholas