Wednesday, June 9, 2010

A Tale of Two Boobs

(Do you mind if I just say boob? Saying breast makes me feel like I'm someone I'm not and we all know what they are anyways. Boob, boob, boob. Is it demeaning? I don't think so. I hope you don't either...)

Disclaimer: I don't know if this even needs to be said, but this really is a post about boobs. Mine in particular. And their newest function. So if me saying boob or reading that breast milk really comes out of them makes you squeamish, I'd advice you not continue. :)

I can truly say I never thought I would write an entire blog post on my boobs. I knew they would become a much more integral part of my life once we had children; that they would sustain said children for over a year. I didn't know our first child would be head over heals in love with them, requesting them vehemently as often as every few minutes whether she needed to eat or not. I didn't know I could love and hate them so much; loving the bond they allow between my child and me, hating the leak stains they leave on the bed sheets, my shirts, the couches. So as much apart of my life that my boobs are now, it seems only fitting they get their 15 minutes of fame on our family blog. So without further adieu, A Tale of Two Boobs.

One of my biggest fears of having a baby was knowing that people would see my boobs. I'm a very modest girl and prefer to keep them nice and covered up where they belong. But knowing the basics of how child rearing tends to work, I knew eventually people would see them. And see them they did.

The second Reagan was born I ripped open my gown. I wanted her directly on my chest and I couldn't have cared less at the time if someone saw anything. My mom laughed at me for my sudden lack of modesty. I had a goal, though, and modesty played no part in it. Reagan had latched within the first 5 minutes of life. It didn't last long, but I felt success! Breast feeding was something I was extremely passionate about, but I had my concerns. I have known many people that struggled with it, and I wanted to give my daughter and me the best chance at succeeding as possible. I desperately longed for the bond of breast feeding, to be able to sustain our child from my own body, to experience such a natural thing.

Our first actual feeding a couple hours after she was born must have been extremely annoying for Reagan as I tried to put everything I had read into practice. No one showed me what to do, so Reagan and I just went off of what little experience I had and winged it. She fussed, squirmed and complained greatly in newborn fashion, but I pushed forward. I was determined! She wasn't latching well but fortunately I had what they told me was a 'great supply' and I could literally leak colostrum into her furiously rooting mouth. I was not discouraged.

We were up most of the first full night in the hospital. She had decided she really was hungry and was desperate to eat, but still couldn't quite latch. She would seemingly get a good latch here and there, only to loose it after a few sucks. After numerous attempts and fails, I finally manned up and asked for help.

Let me tell you- having someone, albiet a nurse, handle my exposed boobs is just as awkward as I imagined it would be.

Between about four different nurses from the remainder of our hospital stay, I got a lot of advice. Sandwich your nipple, make sure she gets enough boob in her mouth, make sure her chin is down, make sure her head and neck are aligned with her spine. Reagan and I managed. She still struggled with latching but between the hours she would spend nursing and me just leaking into her mouth, she ate.

Our Pediatrician (who is amazing and comes to our house! But more on that in a later post...) is also a lactation consultant and really worked with us to find out what our issue was. Turns out our sweet little girl sucks in her bottom lip. She does it so often that while she is nursing, most of the time she will suck her lip in with my nipple which leaves little to hold the nipple in her mouth, thus she would loose the latch. We began literally opening her bottom lip with our fingers when she would go to latch and it has worked wonders!

Reagan got down to 7 lbs, 2 oz which was as low as our pediatrician wanted to see her get, especially since she was jaundiced. So we nursed and nursed and nursed. Reagan was seemingly satisfied between feedings, was peeing and pooping us out of our savings account, and wasn't overly groggy or tired. All the signs that she was getting enough. She was gaining weight slowly, but she was gaining.

I really do enjoy breastfeeding. Even when she wasn't latching well, I didn't get too stressed. When we had learned that her jaundice had gotten worse towards the tail end of our struggles with nursing, however, I did stress out. I had just read that breast milk is the best way to remove jaundice and that if her bilirubin got to a certain level she could get BRAIN DAMAGE or DIE. And here we are told that our 3 day old baby's, who is struggling with nursing, bilicubin levels are even more elevated! And she wasn't gaining weight as fast as she should be. Three strikes against us! My stressing out did nothing but lessen my milk supply, which stressed me out further, yada, yada, yada, insert catch 22 here, my milk supply retreated. Our pediatrician told me breast feeding was 99% head game, and I needed to just trust that my body would do it's job. So I did. And then it did.

It hasn't been a walk in the park but it certainly hasn't been a walk through hell either. The most stressful part about breast feeding, to which I'm sure most mom's will agree, is not knowing how much she's getting. How do I know if it's enough? Well, I just have to trust that my body us doing it's job. And Reagan is a pretty good indicator, too. She is 100% jaundice free, has been gaining about half an ounce a day, and is up over 8 pounds! She (usually) is a happy camper between feedings and still pees and poops like a champion. Through our nursing session, I listen to make sure I hear swallowing, and watch to make sure her jaw is moving as she sucks.

It isn't the sit back, relax and nurse like I expected it would be. But you know what? I am sustaining a human being with milk that I make on my own. What's YOUR super power?

One Month

Dear Reagan-

As we (all too) quickly approach your one month birthday, I can't help but think about how fast time has flown. Truly it was just yesterday that we met you for the first time, excited beyond tears to finally see you, touch you, hold you. Yet the calendar swears you're nearing that four week mark, and I can't call it's bluff.

It's bitter sweet, you growing up. Your breath has changed. From birth it was an amazing scent best described as sweet nail polish remover. People laughed at me when I described it as such, but it was true! I know it sounds crazy but I could sit and breathe it in for hours at a time- your breath just smelled that good; sweet, warm and alive. It has since moved on to a sour milky scent, still comforting to a needy mom, but it's just not quite the same.

Your cry has grown up, too. While you still do my ever loved (and laughed at, sorry, dear...) "uh-wah! uh-wah!" cry, you have mostly moved on from your squeaky bird cry. It was such a sweet, sincere, tired sounding cry. It sounded as though you put forth little effort, or almost as if you were hoarse. You have, however, perfected your anger cry. It hasn't been coined "Reagan Rage" for nothing.

Fortunately, for my poor breaking heart, you haven't lost you spastic, 'aerobic' movements. If you're awake and not nursing, you are constantly, without ceasing, moving. Your limbs have yet to look attached to your body. Your legs flail out between kicking, bicycling and Lord only knows what else. Your hands are constantly moving back and forth to your mouth, and if startled to any extent, they shoot outward as if you are triumphant in your winning of some award. Your face rotates between umpteen different expressions; the root of many of our laughter outbreaks.

Watching you wake up is my most coveted time these days. You do not wake up crying. You wake very slowly, starting with quiet grunting, squinting your eyes without opening them, and then begins the stretching. You stretch your arms straight out in all directions. You stretch the full length of your body, quite often arching your back off the mattress. Though you're swaddled from your armpits down (Lord help the man who inhibits movement of your arms and hands) you usually manage to stretch out of your blanket. Blinking a few times, you open your eyes and are bright eyed and alert. The last week or so, I've been able to squeeze a few smiles out of you at this time. You're quiet and content until you realize that feeling, and OH-MY-GOODNESS-WOMAN-FEED-ME-ALREADY!

It must be pretty confusing because I laugh at you almost through our whole nursing session. You are so predictable and funny. Realizing you're hungry is always such a sudden event and you do not take to the situation lightly. You are instantly furious, writhing and screaming lest I get you to my breast immediately. You can be mid-shriek as I lay you on my lap to pull up my shirt, and you know enough to know whats coming to quiet down. But I only have about .34 seconds before you start wailing again. As I bring you to my breast you inhale and exhale 3 to 4 times very quickly, from impatience or excitement I'm not quite sure. You rooting for my breast cracks me up; you are so ferocious about it. Apparently, nursing is an extremely serious task. Once latched, you almost always make a few little guttural noises as you exhale that almost sound like snickering. It is definitely a noise of success. When you first latch, you always suck so fast, as if you haven't eaten in days, all while scrunching your forehead and squinting your eyes. This is most definitely one of my favorite faces you make. While nursing you rotate between holding my hand, breast, or trying to poke your eye out.

But my favorite part about nursing, hands down, is if you break the latch before you intend to. I call you my little Velociraptor; you are all business. You usually let out one quick cry of frustration, scrunch up your little forehead (which wrinkles up for effect quite nicely) and begin wildly thrashing for my breast, upon which you thrust your head forward like a chicken on steroids pecking at the ground. It really is quite the site. If I wasn't so modest I'd take a video to have forever, but you'd probably think that I am crazy by the time you'd be old enough to find it funny anyways.

It's hard to believe we ever struggled with nursing in the beginning, what with you sucking in your bottom lip. You and I, kid, we're pros now. You're even finally gaining what you're supposed to (at least half an ounce a day) and you're chunking up to where those tiny little newborn outfits are actually starting to look a tad small on you. You were back up to your birth weight right around the 3-week mark, and at 3 weeks 3 days, you weighed 8lbs 1oz. I'm proud of you and glad you're healthy and growing like you're supposed to be, but I've gotta tell you; it breaks my heart.

Save for the first few nights home from the hospital and those AWFUL days and nights of having to be on/under the bili-lights, you have been an All Star in the sleep department. We go to bed around 11:30 and you sleep for four to five hours, nurse, and go right back to sleep for, get this, another four hours! This means I get 8 (not consecutive, but still!) hours of sleep a night. I have yet to really feel the 'new parent exhaustion'. But I'm not complaining! Okay, so I probably don't quite get eight hours because half the time you're asleep I spend just looking at you. It truly can't be helped, though. You are too darn adorable! You almost always have the cutest  little frown face on while sleeping, and the part that melts my cold, cold heart is your hold your tiny little hands right up by your face. Even in your ultrasound pictures, you did this. It is too sweet for words.

This first month has been a whirlwind of falling in love with you. From meeting you for the first time to already seeing big changes as you grow, I'm not sure how much more I can handle. But I'll be the first to tell you I can't wait to see what next month brings.
I love you more than I knew I ever could.

Love, Your Mommy

Your Favorite Things:

  1. Boobs. Seriously, though. You could eat and eat and eat. There hasn't been a problem yet a boob couldn't fix.
  2. The changing table. You LOVE being on the changing table. This is where you smiled the first smile that I count. (You were two and a half weeks. :)
  3. Your hands. You are always holding your hands, sucking on your hands, or just keeping them right next to your face.
  4. The ceiling fan. We lay you on the coffee table and you'll just gaze up at the fan (whether its moving or not) for quite a while.
  5. Being held. You really aren't that big of a fan of being put down, except every once in awhile, you love to just stretch out on your back. (Like on the coffee table to stare at the fan or on your changing table.)
  6. You have started to really enjoy hanging toys. On your play-mat or in your bouncer, you will sit and stare them down. A few times it looks like you're attempting to reach for them, but I'm still pretty sure its accidental. Soon, though!