What Am I Doing Wrong?

Charlotte was 5 weeks old yesterday. By this point, I figured I’d be pretty okay with leaving the house. Or having visitors. Or being any sort of a social human being in general. 

I mean, new moms do that, right? They leave the house? They visit with friends? I see lots of you doing it, so I don’t think I’m just imagining things. 

But HOW? How do you do it?

I am so overwhelmed. Between the baby and the pumping schedule and the fussiness and everything… I’m just sort of at a loss. And I’m tired. Really, really tired. 

When I imagined maternity leave, I pictured myself going for midday coffee with the baby napping in her carrier or having lunch with friends. I never imagined that I’d be struggling with my milk supply and chained to my pump. I never imagined that leaving the house would give me such horrible anxiety that I wanted back home again the minute I left. And anxiety aside, I am truly, bone-achingly exhausted. Night time is an endless string of pumping, nursing, and bottle feeding. I have even more anxiety when the sun goes down than I do when I leave the house. 

Something’s gotta give. That much I know. Every week I tell myself I’m going to do better and every week I don’t. 

It’s not that I haven’t left the house at all, but I can count my excursions alone with baby on one hand. I would love to just start by taking some walks during the day, but it was 108 here today, so anything without air conditioning is out of the question. 

And I’m tired of trying to schedule visitors in windows between pumping. It’s so awkward. “You stayed longer than I expected, so please excuse me for a bit while I go chain myself to a nipple vacuum.”

How am I supposed to function? My life revolves around my boobs. It’s awful. I LOVE nursing my baby. I adore it. But I also miss feeling even remotely human. 

It’s so discouraging. All of this work and all of these pills for an ounce and a half every 3 hours. Sometimes I get two. One beautiful night, I got three. But mostly it’s just an ounce and a half. She can nurse until I am totally empty and she’ll still need a bottle after. It complicates things. 

Please excuse my whining. This baby is my world. I adore every inch of her. But I do miss feeling like something other than a broken milk machine. I miss feeling like me. 

Cute baby pictures to distract from my complaining:

   

    
    
   

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Weeks 3 & 4

I wrote a 3-week update last week and then our internet died and my update was stuck on my computer until we replaced our router. Since she turned 4 weeks yesterday, I’m going to do a combined post for weeks 3 & 4. 

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Week 3

Charlotte is 3 weeks old today.

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It’s been a crazy week with this little one, courtesy of the 3-week growth spurt. On Friday, sleep suddenly became the exception rather than the norm, and our happy, easy going newborn suddenly turned into a hangry, hangry hippo.

Fortunately, things have improved dramatically the last two days. In fact, she is sleeping peacefully on her other mama as I write this.

We had a pediatrician appointment yesterday, where we learned that our tiny little squish is actually not so tiny. She’s measuring in the 98th percentile for height, and weighed in at 9 lbs, 10 oz. She is perfectly healthy, and is clearly thriving.

We have totally kissed her newborn wardrobe goodbye. None of the newborn clothes with feet in them ever even saw the light of day. This kid is ALL legs (and feet–she has huge feet!). Even the 3 month footy pajamas are fitting snug lengthwise.

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We’ve started joining Catch and the dogs on walks in the evening. I’m slowly testing the waters with baby wearing. I started out with a mei tai carrier that we received as a shower gift. It was okay, but I ended up ordering a Moby wrap on Amazon at the recommendation of our lactation consultant. I really love the Moby. The mei tai hurt my back a bit after a few blocks, but the Moby has been totally comfortable.

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The only catch with baby wearing is that I’m constantly afraid I’m going to trip and fall. It would be really nice if that fear could become a thing of the past, because the wrap puts her to sleep in minutes. I’d like to use it a lot more without the mental pictures my anxious mind provides when strolling uneven concrete.

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My milk supply is still a challenge, although it has actually improved. We’re now doing about 1/3 breast milk and 2/3 formula. Plus, Charlotte will nurse without needing the tube/syringe. It’s just her and me and the godsend that is the nipple shield. I still have to give her a bottle afterward, but we are both thoroughly enjoying her time on the boob. I love that we’re finding a way to make it work. Pumping is tiresome, but it’s so much easier now that my emotions have leveled out a bit.

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Week 4

char 4ablog

We hit 4 weeks yesterday, and as usual, I can’t believe how the days are just flying by. I wish she could stay tiny forever, but this little munchkin just keeps growing and growing.

This week has had its challenges. My poor little monkey is having some real struggles with gas. Her tummy gets hard and she gets so upset. Eventually the burps and farts will come–loud enough to be heard throughout the house! We’ve tried gripe water and gas drops, but nothing is really helping. Evening is the absolute worst. I started to eliminate dairy from my diet yesterday, so it’ll be some time before we see whether that helps. She’s already on sensitive tummy formula, so I don’t know if it’s worth it to change that yet. My gut is telling me it’s the breastmilk that’s doing us in. Everything else related to my body and this baby girl has been a challenge, so why should my milk be any different, right?

We also seem to have a bit of a case of cradle cap on our hands. My poor baby lost all of the hair on the front of her head, leaving her with a hairline that resembles a balding old man. All of the skin in that area is scaly, rough, and dry. I really hope it doesn’t stay like this for months like some of the things I’ve read online indicate. I don’t care about the bald spot, but the dry skin is just awful. It can’t be comfortable.

We toured a day care center this week. It’s expensive, but close to home and a beautiful facility. They have one available spot for exactly when we need it. The director even gave Charlotte a bottle as she answered our questions. When we got in the car, I started to cry. Then Catch started to cry. We spent a good portion of the next several days trying to figure out how one of us could stay home, but it’s just impossible. After some further discussion with my parents, we’ve decided to explore the possibility of a part-time nanny. There’s no way we can afford it on our own, but my mom is offering to help. We’ll see what happens. Right now, I just can’t stand the thought of leaving our 3-month old baby in a big day care center.

I will leave you with some outtakes from this week’s photo:

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(I’m picturing her slurring, “Aaand another thing…!”)

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This kid. Every time I think I couldn’t possibly love her any more, I do.

Pump Expertise Wanted

I have to give back my hospital grade Medela Symphony next week. They gave me an Ameda, but compared to the Symphony, the Ameda is a joke. 

Since I have supply issues and I’m pumping around the clock, I really want a decent, comfortable pump. The Symphony is a great pump, and if I’m going to keep up the pumping, I can’t make things harder for myself. I have FSA money, so I’m just going to go for it. 

I’m leaning toward the Spectra S1. I know a few of you have it. What are your thoughts? 

(PS-Breastfeeding is still hard. My supply has improved, but not enough to EBF. We’re at about 50/50 now. Sometimes the supplements and the pumping make me want to quit so, so badly. Then I have a moment like this where she’s passed out after nursing with breast milk dribbling out her mouth. It has taken us 4 weeks to get to the point where anything dribbles, and I am ridiculously proud of myself for making it here.)

  

The small things 

This morning, I got an unexpected extra 2 hours of sleep (and baby snuggles) when Charlotte and I fell asleep together on the couch. I also got an uninterrupted shower AND a hot lunch AND I am wearing my pre-pregnancy running pants. 

This probably means that the evening is going to be hell, but boy did this mama need a morning / afternoon like this!

   
   

Hi

I had eye surgery as a baby that left me with a very lazy left eye despite years of patching and glasses. My lazy eye is most pronounced when I’m tired, and let’s face it–I have never experienced tired like this before. I’m afraid that this is what all of Charlotte’s childhood pictures with her mom are going to look like:

  

YAWN

Catch went back to work today. We had 5 weeks off together, which feels monumental considering that the longest we’ve both been off of work at the same time is generally about a week. It breaks my heart that she only had 2 1/2 weeks with Charlotte, but the school year just won’t wait, unfortunately. 

I’m spending the day adjusting to my new normal, which mostly involves catering to the whimpers of an infant and trying to keep myself from eating all of the chocolate chip cookies.

I ventured out to a breastfeeding support group this morning, which felt like a huge accomplishment. I wanted to go, but I didn’t want to go. As we were leaving the house, I was totally overcome with social anxiety. I hate meeting new people. I really do. But I forced myself. 

Unfortunately, I felt like exactly as much of a fish out of water as I feared. Charlotte was the youngest baby in the room by at least a month, and I was the only mom with messy hair, no makeup and a desperate need for a pedicure. What I thought would be a discussion about breastfeeding (?) ended up being a conversation about baby modeling, and who had been on an audition for Disney. Silly me thought newborn photos were enough, but apparently newborns also need headshots and an agent. 

Welcome to Los Angeles. 

Also… Am I the only one who doesn’t want to put gigantic bows on my tiny baby’s head?

Needless to say, I probably won’t be going back to that particular group. I love the LC who suggested it, but if I’m going to go to a breastfeeding group that doesn’t really talk about breastfeeding, I’d like the content to at least be a bit less plastic. Maybe there’s a group out there for women who are so tired that they brushed their teeth when they meant to wash their hands (I did that yesterday) and we could all sit around and share knitting patterns and cookie recipes (that we don’t have time to make) and make fun of Donald Trump. That’s probably more my scene. 

Breastfeeding is still incredibly difficult. I’m trying to get her to the breast twice a day, but I’m using a nipple shield and a syringe of formula attached to a tube. Sort of like an SNS, except I have more control over the flow of formula. The rest of the time, I’m just popping herbal supplements and pumping my life away. My supply has increased significantly (still not close to enough, but better than before), so something is working. 

2 Weeks – A Letter to my Daughter

I wrote this yesterday, but never posted it. Better late than never!

  

My Beautiful Charlotte,

2 weeks ago, you fought your way into this world and made us mothers. I was afraid that mothering you would be difficult or that I wouldn’t know what to do with you once you were here, but I couldn’t have been more wrong. Being your mama feels more natural to me than anything I’ve ever done. 

You are my dream come true, sweet girl. Sometimes, I look at you and I can hardly believe that you’re real. I knew I would love you, but I had no idea it would be like this. I can’t get enough of you. I would spend all day snuggling you and kissing your head if your mama didn’t insist that I eat and sleep, too. 

You’ve already met at least a dozen people in your two short weeks and they all adore you. Your nana cried when she found out you were named after her. Your uncle has never hugged me tighter than he did after he held you. You are loved so fiercely by so many people. You will never be alone as long as you let that love in. 

I want so much for you in this life, my girl. Health, education, security, adventure… Mostly though, I just want you to be as happy as you’ve made me. Let’s both try to remember that as you grow up faster than my heart can handle. 

All my love,

Mama 

   

    
   

What day is it today?

I have to ask myself that question constantly. Thanks to the alarms on my phone, I always know what time it is, but the days and the hours all seem to melt together. 

  

My Sister in Law left this morning after spending 4 days with us. Given everything I was experiencing when she arrived, the absolute last thing in the world I wanted was company, but it ended up being ok. I certainly don’t recommend house guests 1 week post partum, but my SIL was pretty fantastic. Her gift to her new niece was a deep freeze for the garage, and she spent her entire visit cooking and filling it with food. Enchiladas, stuffed peppers, breakfast burritos, chicken pasta, calzones… The girl cooked her heart out. It is amazing. Color me surprised. 

Nursing-wise, things just suck. And not in the good way. The mastitis is better and my poor nipples have mostly healed, but I’m just not producing milk. I get just under an ounce every 3 hours, mostly from my left breast. Righty had the worst of the mastitis and isn’t showing any interest in cooperating. I started on fenugreek yesterday, and today the lactation nurse asked me to add brewer’s yeast, blessed thistle, and goat’s rue. We’re going to try that for a week and see how it goes. The next step after that will be a course of Reglan if I can convince my doctor. They are attributing my supply issues to PCOS. The gift that keeps on giving. 

This is what 25 minutes of pumping with a hospital grade pump (Medela Symphony) gets me from righty. Talk about depressing.   
I’ll be honest. I don’t know how much longer I’m going to be willing to keep trying if I don’t start seeing some improvement. I can’t decide what hurts more–throwing in the towel, or being reminded every 3 hours that my body isn’t good enough to sustain my baby girl. 

I will say this: My medical group spent my entire pregnancy drilling the benefits of breastfeeding into my head. It was inescapable. They never once said, “Some people can’t breastfeed, and that’s okay.” I wish they had. I wish they’d taken just a brief moment in all of that breastfeeding education to discuss what happens when your body just won’t cooperate. This breastfeeding guilt is like an open door that leads straight to post partum depression and anxiety. I barely get the chance to sleep as it is, and now in the moments when I can, I either lie there awake on the verge of tears or I am so riddled with anxiety that I can’t sleep. 

Clearly, my body is just not a fan of this baby making business. It didn’t want to get pregnant. It didn’t want to let me keep both of my babies. Birth did not agree with my body. Post partum does not agree with my body. At some point, I’m going to have to make peace with that. 

Charlotte, though… Oh, our beautiful baby girl is thriving. That’s really all that matters. She is amazing. She is so happy and cuddly. She hardly ever cries. We are so, so lucky to be her mothers. 

   
    
    
    
   

Charlotte’s Birth

My baby girl was a week old on Thursday. I cried. All over her. Even with double mastitis and this damn UTI, I would pretty much kill to just stop the clock and stay here forever.

  

   
   

  
I figured since we’re already at the one week mark, it’s probably time to sit down and write her birth story before I forget all of it.  It’s a total jumble in my head as it is. Fair warning, this is probably the longest post I’ve ever written and I’m doing it while sleep deprived and hormonal. 

Twix gets a bit clingy as I’m having some contractions on the ball

 
Labor started for me in the very early hours of the morning on July 22nd.  I woke up feeling pretty lousy and having mildly painful contractions. I went back to sleep, figuring I’d know in a few hours if this was the real deal or not. When I woke around 7 am, contractions were still mild, but happening consistently about 5 minutes apart. Catch and I settled in for what we anticipated would be many hours of laboring at home.

Around 10 am, I got up to use the bathroom and there was a small gush. Our midwife and OB had both said to go straight to labor & delivery at any sign of fluid, but I really didn’t want to go so soon. I just wasn’t convinced.  We decided to give it a bit more time and see if I had any more signs of fluid. 20 minutes later, I was sitting on the exercise ball and there was another small but undeniable gush. We headed to the hospital.

In the hospital, the nurse basically stopped short of rolling her eyes at us. She told us that she wished people would stay home longer and not rush to the hospital the moment their water breaks. She didn’t seem to believe me that I’d had a gush of fluid, and insisted that they would likely be sending me home. Conflicting information, much? Sheesh. I was seriously annoyed. It’s not like I wanted to be in the hospital any longer than I needed to be. I was only doing what all of my care team had told me to do.

Eventually, a midwife came in and examined me. I was 3 cm dilated, fully effaced, and there was a leak in my bag of waters, but it was small and high. They were keeping me. I was admitted, and after a bit of baby monitoring, they unhooked me and sent us off to walk around for an hour. When I stood up to get dressed, my water broke in a gigantic, bloody/watery insanely messy pool all over the floor of my little hospital room. It was just me and Catch, and we both stood there laughing as it just kept coming and coming and coming. Talk about a bizarre experience.

After our hour long walk, I was really ready to lie down again for a bit. Contractions were more painful, but still manageable, and I figured it would be a good chance to get some rest.

Around 5pm, I was really hurting. They unhooked me from the monitors again and wanted me to go walk, but I barely made it to the end of the hall before I had to turn back. When I got back to my room (after hugging the walls the whole time), I told the nurse I think it’s time for an epidural. I think she wanted to roll her eyes at me again.

Sometime before 7, the anesthesiologists arrived to do my epidural. It was right around then that I started shivering. I couldn’t stop my body from shaking. I told my nurse, but she wasn’t concerned. Catch was asked to leave, and I wanted to cry. I was so scared of the epidural, I just wanted her to be there with me holding my hand. Fortunately, the nurse could see that I was falling apart a bit and she stepped up her game, holding my shoulder and reassuring me the entire time. The epidural was finally in and they were testing it. I still felt EVERYTHING. Epidural number one was a total flop.

They pulled everything out, and tried placing epidural number two in the same place. All the while, I was terrified and shaking. I tried to focus on the reassuring grip my nurse had on my shoulder. After much fidgeting, it was determined that epidural number two was also a flop.

Again, everything was pulled out and they decided to try a higher position on my spine. My shaking was getting worse, and the contractions were getting harder to cope with. I was not in very good shape at that point. This time, though, they pulled through. I could feel the numbness starting to spread throughout my body. I was also starting to feel really weak. Catch was allowed back into the room just in time to see me turn ghostly white as both my heart rate and Charlotte’s heart rate plummeted. In a matter of moments, I was throwing up over the side of the bed. Catch stood there looking terrified and helpless. The anesthesiologists jumped into action, injecting something into my IV, and after a few minutes, my blood pressure was back up and things were okay again. It was a very scary couple of minutes, though.

As soon as the anesthesiologists cleared out, the midwife came in to do another cervical check and to place my catheter. I was 5 cm dilated at that point, which made me feel a bit better about the epidural. For whatever reason, 5 cm was the goal I’d given myself.

After that exam, my mom showed up. She was worried sick, so we allowed her to come in and sit with us for a little while just to show her that I was okay. Mom left sometime around 10 pm, and shortly after that, the midwife appeared again. I was informed that my temperature had been climbing ever since I was admitted and it had reached 100.3, which was the last chance to treat it with Tylenol and ice before I would be forced to start IV antibiotics. They gave me the Tylenol and packed me with ice packs.

I was also informed at this point that the baby’s heart rate had been consistently high, and they couldn’t explain it. I was told that they don’t generally worry unless it’s over the 160s, but that Charlotte had been hovering at 160 the entire time. They asked for permission to put an internal monitor on the baby so that they could get a better feel for what was going on.

Once that was settled, I was told that the epidural had stalled my contractions. This wasn’t news to me–we’d noticed on the monitor that my regular contractions had bottomed out and become totally irregular. They hooked me up to the lowest dose of pitocin and added an internal monitor for contractions. 

I now have the following tubes & wires attached:

  1. Catheter
  2. Baby’s heart rate
  3. Contractions
  4. Epidural
  5. IV Saline 
  6. IV Pitocin
  7. Blood pressure
  8. Pulse oximeter

But who’s counting, right?

This was the point where I started to realize that I was feeling my contractions. Next, I could feel my legs. Soon, my third and final epidural had failed completely. Just in time for the pitocin. 

Over the next several hours, my nurse turned up the pitocin as frequently as she took my temperature (thankfully, the Tylenol & ice packs were working).  I was miserable. When the pitocin was increased to the max dose, I was pretty sure death was a better option than the pain I was feeling. 

I started feeling pressure along with the pain around 4 am on Thursday. A cervical check revealed that I was at 9 cm. At 5:30 am, I was wheeled into a delivery room and started pushing. 

My memory of pushing is sketchy. Contractions were coming hard and fast, and I was in so much pain that I couldn’t focus. I almost passed out several times. The nurse did turn down the pitocin at some point, thank god. 

Our nurse was incredible. She’d been with me all night and she was determined to see Charlotte’s birth. Her shift was over at 7, and she told me that I was having this baby by 7 no matter what. Her coaching and Catch’s encouragement and excitement were all that kept me going for the 90 minutes I was pushing. The nurse kept telling me she could see red hair. Catch, who had sworn for months that she would be an over-the-shoulder coach was helping to pour mineral oil as the nurse massaged my perineum. They were both rock stars. 

Just before 7, the doctor was called in and suddenly the delivery room was a flurry of activity. The next thing I knew, her head was out and our nurse was on top of me pushing my stomach with her elbow. At 7:02 am, I felt a gush and heard a very weak little cry. Charlotte was placed on my belly for the shortest moment before I realized that my baby was blue and floppy and being rushed away from me. I couldn’t see them working on her, but Catch could. I kept my eyes on Catch, watching for signs that everything was ok, and she tried to reassure me. I heard a few more weak cries before the pediatrician arrived and she started yelling as loud as she could. 

I have never been so relieved. The doctor said he saw no need to take her to the NICU, so she was placed back on my chest. 

   
 The OB finished stitching up my second degree tear, and then we spent the next hour snuggling our perfect little girl. I have honestly never felt anything like it. I was in awe of what my body had done. I was in awe of my wife, who was my rock through all those long hours. I was especially in awe of the miraculous little creature in my arms. 

   
 She is perfection. Absolute perfection. We are so in love. I cannot stop kissing and smelling her little head. I cannot believe she is ours. 

   

 

The two Charlottes. (My Nana)

   

heading home from the hospital