Friday, August 16, 2013

The truth

I wrote the following post over a period of days a couple of weeks ago. I've tried blogging several times over the past month and just wasn't able to finish "adequately". I'm happy to say that a couple of weeks in Asher's development (and some meds for me) have made a bunch of difference, so the below is a reflection of where I have been...not where I am now (thank God!). Still, in the interest of honesty, I thought it relevant to publish, so here it is. I'll work on a more up-to-date entry (with photos of my little man!) soon.


I have had posts rattling around in my brain for weeks, but no energy, time or presence of mind to actually write them down. I decided to put Asher back down to sleep after our 4 am feeding session so I could pump, and then thought, Hell, sleep would be nice, but I'm making myself crazy with the lack of blog posting. What stays in my brain causes me stress and strife, sort of like the feng shui adage, a cluttered house is a cluttered mind.

The last six weeks have been a blur, of course. I wish I could say a blissful blur, but that would be a lie.

I know what I'm about to write is normal - and I say this because I recently was given a booklet filled with essays written by moms, and could relate to nearly all of them - but life as a new mother is painfully difficult, stressful, self-doubt-filled, and not at all the dream I always imagined.

I guess that's part of the issue; as I read on another blog recently (forgive me for being unable to remember whose, but know your words are important to me!), all these years of infertility (it would be six in October), the loss of our twins and all the heartache associated with the two led me to focus so much on getting and staying pregnant that I really wasn't prepared for what comes after (when disaster doesn't strike). The last six weeks have been filled with mind blowing exhaustion, frustration of not understanding what this crying baby needs when all the obvious issues have been addressed, the emotional and physical pain of breastfeeding problems, the complete lack of time for myself, fear that I'm doing things wrong, feeling that I - who used to be so organized and on top of things - can't manage my time to save my life, wondering if I was cut out for this at all, thinking that perhaps that's why my twins died, because I couldn't have handled them, etc.

Layered over top of all of this - and probably behind a lot of it - is postpartum depression again, with a healthy side of its bitchy sibling, postpartum anxiety. Yep, despite my best efforts (as if we have control over these things) and the frantic consumption of my dehydrated placenta capsules as per label, PPD again has clouded my mind. I thought I was ok, but I will fully admit that the feeding issues with Asher really brought me to my knees, so that one day I was ok, and the next I was telling my counselor that I was concerned about myself. She told me I have "moderate to severe"PPD/PPA, had the talk with me about intrusive thoughts (bad thoughts that aren't things I'd come up with on my own but that are pervasive and overwhelming), and encouraged me to see my naturopath (today) for drug-free support options (if there are any). I've mentioned before my history of major depression; this obviously isn't my first rodeo. What I can say with conviction is that while there are times I have no interest in things and feel completely overwhelmingly depressed, most of the time I am very functional, 100% able to care for and bond with my son (who I am so in love with!), able to (and desiring) a shower and clean clothes, etc. I have little to no appetite (a symptom), I have a hard time seeing things with a positive eye, and am glad I still have 5.5 more weeks left of my leave so that hopefully, by the time I go back to work, I will have dug myself out of this with help and can go back feeling confident in my abilities to manage my life. Right now, a lot of the time, not so much. I've found myself cursing this town I live in for being so far away from my family and friends (because, damn it, it does take a village to raise a child, but moreso for the support of the mother, I think). I do have a dear friend who lives 45 minutes away from me and is also a mom of a little (Asher's best friend!), and we spent a few hours just talking and walking in the mall yesterday, something I really needed and wouldn't have done by myself. (Wouldn't you know, this child of mine, who lately is fighting every nap during the day and is therefore prone to major, epic, turning-purple/not-making-vocal-sounds/full-body-sweat meltdowns once or twice a day - to the point where he can only be interrupted by blowing in his face - fell asleep and slept almost the entire time in his stroller.)

One thing that has had frightening and disappointing familiarity is the speed at which people - mostly other mothers - discount the feelings and experiences of those of us dealing with troubles in what should be a blissful time. From having people tell me 10,000 times that at least my child can eat (don't say this to a babyloss mom...we know all to well what the alternative could be, and it probably isn't the one these ignorant women who say things like that would even think of), that it doesn't matter whether baby is fed from the breast or bottle (believe me, for someone like me, whose body has failed in this becoming-a-parent job so many times in so many awful, terrible ways, it DOES matter!), I am reminded  (and revisited by that sick feeling in my stomach) of all the unintentionally hurtful things people (mostly women!) said to me after we lost the twins. Why is acknowledging someone's feelings and experience so difficult, so that instead we have to discount or one-up or minimize another?

Asher is wonderful, beautiful, perfect and still, unbelievably, mine. He has started smiling and cooing this week, and it's divine (and couldn't come at a better time for me emotionally). He knows I am his mama. My heart melts when his little hand grabs my arm in the middle of the night as I burp him after a feeding, when I'm the one who can ease his crying. I know I can meet his needs, maybe not the way I want to, but in a way that satisfies him (minus the over-tired meltdowns...still trying to figure that part out, and CIO sleep training is not something that Paul and I are comfortable with, thank you). We did end up taking him to a Portland ENT on July 8th after having a private Facebook conversation with the doctor late on the evening of July 6th (a Saturday!), where Asher was diagnosed with a stage 4 upper lip tie (ULT) and stage 4 posterior tongue tie (PTT), the most restrictive kinds. Mother's intuition is alive and well. We are thrilled we pursued this so aggressively. Even if Asher and I never have a full time breastfeeding relationship when it's all said and done (we're still trying, and making some headway), Paul and I know that by having his ties laser corrected, we will avoid the awful tooth decay, speech problems and head and neck issues usually associated with ties like these. (Turns out I'm tongue tied, too, and never knew it...and I am plagued with head and neck tensions, TMJ issues, etc.) The procedure was very quick, relatively painless, and probably easier on Asher than the stretches we had to 4 times daily for the subsequent three weeks were. (He and I both cried the first time, but it got easier, and now we're done.) I took him back to Portland two Fridays ago to visit with a highly recommended lactation consultant/herbalist/craniosacral therapist, and that was super helpful. Thanks to her, we are now breastfeeding at least once a day using a nipple shield for a deeper latch (he still hurts me without a shield). I am having supply problems despite a tincture she blended for me, so I may have a drug in my future to help with that...if I decide to continue with this. It has been terribly disappointing and frustrating, and the supply issues make it really hard to not internalize this experience and beat myself with it (even though Asher's anatomical issues caused it all to begin with, and I would certainly never chastise HIM for it!).

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Time flies

Asher Paul is two weeks and one day old today (well, technically, at 10:10 tonight). I'd always heard how fast time blows by with children in the picture, but I truly had no idea. I feel like I'm living in a time warp. I labored and pushed this kid out of me two weeks ago?! How is that even possible?

I always sort of wondered why BLMs tended to disappear for a while once their rainbows arrived safely. How naive. I totally get it now. In my world, at least, time is sucked up by visitors, trying to change and feed my son (more on that below), and squeezing in minor chores where I can, etc. "Sleep when the baby sleeps"?! Yeah, right. Maybe if I had a sister wife.

Asher is doing well. He's perfect, downright gorgeous...more beautiful and precious than our wildest dreams could have imagined. I still can't believe he was in my belly! He sleeps like his daddy (hard, and with one or both arms behind his head a lot of the time), pees a LOT, only cries when he needs food or a diaper change, and sleeps for 4-5 hours overnight (thank you, baby!!). He has Paul's hair line (and a perfect little hairdo) and crease (not frown line!) above the corner of his right eyebrow (Paul said his grandpa had it, too), long fingers, kissable feet, a little outie belly button (so far), chubby cheeks, a slight chin divot, and navy blue eyes (so far) that look metallic in certain light. We love him to itty bitty pieces.

My recovery from vaginal delivery is going well, too. I had a second degree tear that my OB gave the all clear on yesterday at my 2-week postpartum visit (stitches have already dissolved, yippee!). I'm also down 40+ pounds, and my blood pressure is stabilizing (although I had a scare last Friday when I had a "visual disturbance", BP of 159/91, and fears of late onset preeclampsia). Dr. M. was right, most of my excessive weight gain was water weight (I almost wrote "precipitation"...truly, lack of sleep does some crazy stuff to the brain!). My belly is deflated and squishy, and covered in stretch marks, but I don't mind. (Actually, all those weeks of trying to prevent stretch marks by covering my skin in Palmer's Cocoa Butter lotion has made my skin freakishly soft!) My ankles are totally back and slender, and the tops of my feet are finally almost back to their former unswollen selves. (I think my feet are still wider than the narrows they started out as. I'll be interested to see how they turn out when it's time for new shoes.) I'm grateful to be off Zofran (woohoo!!), my hemorrhoid is healing (double woohoo!), and all those crazy aches and pains are gone, replaced by a daily propensity to nod off and a sore back (from holding my baby all the time?). I'm thrilled with all of these things.

Things aren't smooth by any means, though. Asher and I have some pretty significant feeding challenges. When we left the hospital, we came home armed with a rented Lactina pump, a syringe and tube for supplemental feedings, a nipple shield and formula...everything I NEVER wanted. I was running on very, very little sleep (like maybe 6-8 hours total between Thursday night and Sunday night), had painful nipples and was stressed out by my son's inability or lack of desire to breastfeed. We'd heard, by discharge, many different opinions as to what was going on: small mouth, tongue thruster, biter, lower lip tucker, too smart, lazy. The lactation consultant finally saw us on Sunday afternoon (I should have called Le Leche League on Saturday!!) and sent us home with instructions to continue using the nipple shield if needed, but to try pumping to bring out my nipple so he'd latch without the shield. If that didn't work, we were to slip the feeding tube under the nipple shield and "reward" him for sucking by giving him formula. It was a three-person job: me manning the shield and providing the boob, Paul slipping the tube in and dispensing formula from the syringe, and my mom, who stayed with us during our first week home, attempting to get his lower lip flanged out. It was super frustrating and very high maintenance. I hated the pump, my nipples were killing me, and I was so, so sad that what comes easy to so many people seemed impossible for us. A few days in and we resorted to the bottle for the sake of all of us (adults, that is...Asher was well fed any way you sliced it, so he didn't care). We took Asher back to the hospital with us for an outpatient lactation consultation, where we learned that he was only "transferring" 4 mL of milk through the nipple shield (both nipples!), so were cautioned to ditch the thing all together. (I was also very, very engorged for three days, including the day of the consultation, so he wasn't getting much out of me, period.)

I suspected something more was going on, something physical. We got a referral from a pediatrician to a local ENT, who poked around his mouth and declared he had an upper lip tie (ULT), "purely cosmetic" that he'd either outgrow, or, if not, that would cause a space between his two front teeth, "like David Letterman's". After asking around and doing my own research, I've learned that ULTs often cause breastfeeding problems and tooth decay, AND, even worse, are usually accompanied by posterior tongue ties (PTTs), which DO cause feeding problems. Our pediatrician gave us a referral to Seattle Children's ENT department, but there are two specialists - one in Seattle and one in Portland - that Paul and I are considering instead. Both fully understand the significance of ULTs and PTTs in relation to successful breastfeeding relationships, so we would be taken seriously.

While we work to figure out who to see, I continue to pump. Today I'm ok with pumping; other days, I hate it with a white hot passion. Having visitors over really throws things off, so I end up skipping pumping sessions, which can hurt my supply (and pumping by itself can hurt my supply). I can only get Asher to latch onto my breast and feed about 50% of the times I try every day, and what seems to work (although not always) is feeding him a bit from a bottle (enough to take the edge off and stave off crying, but not too much that he's no longer hungry), pumping for at least 5 minutes on the side I want to try so that my nipple is primed and protruding far enough, and then trying, trying, trying to latch him on. He's chomped on me, made me bleed, caused cracks...but still I try. I'd rather have him latching poorly than not at all at this point. I'm also taking supplements to boost my milk supply - Mother's Milk Tea (I'd heard it tasted awful, but it's got fennel seed in it and reminds me of Indian food, which I love) and More Milk tincture (just started today). I'm also taking my encapsulated placenta as a supplement, more to help prevent recurrent postpartum depression, but also to help with my milk supply. I am getting about 1.5 to 2 ounces of milk with each pumping session, not quite enough for a meal for Asher, but getting close. Dr. M. took me off Lasix yesterday out of concerns for my milk supply, so we'll see what, if anything, that does to improve it.

Baby Boy is stirring. Thus begins the next feeding session...fill and warm a bottle, change diaper, feed baby, attempt the boob, finish feeding baby (likely), put baby down...and pump. But first, some pictures...

In the hospital. Look at his luscious locks!

Hanging in his favorite spot. :)

A very, very common sight in our house right now.

Another very common sight.

He is all boy! <3