March 20, 2011

Breastfeeding ups and downs

Posted in motherhood, Uncategorized at 11:51 am by bethmillett

Photo courtesy The Indianapolis Star, Danese Kenon

I’ve been breastfeeding Evan exclusively and hope to continue for 12 months. I’ve started giving him breastmilk in a bottle, though, to give me some flexibility for feeding in public or having someone else feed him if I’m busy.

How I’d feed Evan was never a question for me — I wanted to breastfeed for all the health benefits and a few selfish ones. He gets all the nutrition and antibodies he needs, it reduces my chance of breast cancer, and it helps me burn extra calories to take off pregnancy weight (I’m now within four pounds of my pre-pregnancy weight. Granted, that is still 20 pounds over my pre-fertility treatment weight, but I’m taking it one success at a time.) Plus it’s a special bond Evan will never have with anyone else, and it’s free! (And the dirty diapers hardly smell!)  I know there are lots of reasons that moms (and dads) choose to bottle-feed, and it’s totally up to each family. There are lots of healthy formula-fed babies and adults (my sister and I are both formula-fed) out there in the world, and lots of extenuating circumstances that lead to formula-feeding.

Because Evan can come to work with me at Borshoff until he is six months old, I know I’ll be able to breastfeed easily until then. I hope that I will be able to pump sufficient milk to keep him on breastmilk until he’s a year old. But it’ll be okay if we have to stop at that point, just like it was okay that I had a c-section instead of a vaginal delivery, and like it would have been okay if I hadn’t had enough milk to sustain Evan to this point, or if we had other problems that led to formula feeding. I think too many moms beat themselves up for too many things that they think are “failures.” The only thing that matters is a happy and healthy baby, and a happy and healthy mom.

We were off to a slow start for Evan’s first couple of weeks. I met with the hospital’s lactation specialist about 18 hours after he was born, and I was still so tired and groggy from lack of food and sleep and the long-lasting effects of the various pain meds, that I’m not sure how much really sank in. Breastfeeding was one of the few things I was nervous about — I had done a lot of babysitting, which meant a lot of diaper changes, a lot of soothing, and a lot of playing and reading books. But breastfeeding isn’t really something you can practice!

Because he was a preemie, Evan was really sleepy and would rather do that than just about anything else, even eating. The lactation consultant set me up with a pump so I could start getting my colostrum flowing, and I used a needle-less syringe to shoot that down his throat to help him understand that yummy nutrition was close by. With that, and a nipple shield, I was able to get him to suck a little but it also required a lot of work on my part to keep him awake long enough to get a reasonable amount of breakfast, lunch and dinner into his tummy. I stripped him down to his diaper, tickled his feet, ran a moist washcloth down his arms and legs, and blew on his tummy to try to keep him stimulated enough to keep sucking.

I was nervous about keeping him fed when we left the hospital . He had lost about 8 percent of his body weight (very normal for newborns — they can lose up to 10 percent of their birth weight by the time they are discharged, and it can take about two weeks to put it back on), down to 5 pounds, 6 ounces. But this was Saturday, and I had a breastfeeding support group to go to on Monday morning. I figured we could handle anything for less than 48 hours. When we got there on Monday, I got lots of individual advice and help from the lactation consultants, and the fact that Evan had put on about half an ounce since we left the hospital was encouraging as well.

Evan put on a few more ounces by his two-week checkup. In his third week, he put on 10 ounces in eight days, and in his fourth week, he put on 14 ounces (for a total of 7 pounds, 4.5 ounces)! So, clearly he’s getting enough overall nutrition and with that first big weight gain, I was really able to relax about feeding. I bet he’s over eight pounds, but I’ll get to weigh him tomorrow at the breastfeeding group. Now, we need to focus on getting more into each individual feeding so I can hopefully spread the feedings out (especially the night ones).

For me, it’s been pretty easy and pretty painless, except for that first second when he latches on. But then we both relax and it amazes me to watch his little jaw work as he feeds. Even at three a.m., when I’m exhausted and ready to go back to bed, it’s an awesome experience.

To any mom considering breastfeeding, I remind them that (for me anyway) the first week was the toughest because of so many other overwhelming changes, visits from family, etc. Get away from the hubbub and focus on feeding. It’s a nice break from everything else that’s going on and you really do need to pay a lot of attention to get breastfeeding off to the right start. Then, don’t be worried if it takes a few more weeks to really get the hang of it. Take advantage of support groups, where you can talk to experts and commiserate with other moms. I was also registered for a breastfeeding class at the hospital, but canceled that since Evan was born so early and we had it pretty much mastered by early March when the class was.

I was recently interviewed for an article about breastfeeding that appeared in today’s Indianapolis Star. Read it here.

Evan’s waking up from his latest nap, and I can feel my milk coming in (a bizarre tingly feeling), so it’s time for me to go to work!

March 14, 2011

Today is — I mean was supposed to be — the day!

Posted in motherhood, Uncategorized at 12:37 pm by bethmillett

March 14 was Evan’s due date. Instead of eagerly waiting for his arrival (and at this point, probably trying all kinds of old wives’ tales, like spicy foods, car rides on bumpy roads, etc., to induce labor), I find myself with almost five weeks of motherhood under my belt. It’s been the most amazing experience, and in many ways, I’m glad he came early.

  • My parents were able to be here.
  • I was getting crazy excited about meeting him, and I know the last five weeks would have just dragged by. (Who, me, impatient?)
  • I was starting to second guess all my decisions, like name, nursery decor, ability to be a single mom, etc. Having him early immediately put all of that out of my mind.
  • I was just about done with all the home improvement projects. (While Dad was here right after Evan was born, he spent some time on finish work on the new staircase.)
  • The nursery, clothing and major supplies (diapers, wipes, car seat, etc.) were all in place.
  • The new car was in the garage. (A car seat and stroller just wouldn’t have fit in the Cabrio.)

So, while it was certainly a surprise to have Evan arrive on February 9, it has, I think, worked out just fine.

In the last five weeks, I’ve settled into the concept of motherhood and am loving it. His needs come first, and the fact that he’s so helpless and so reliant on me for all his needs and comfort makes it easy for me to set aside my own needs (like a full night’s sleep) in order to take care of him. Of course, it helps that I’m on maternity leave and not worried about getting myself ready for the office, or tired after a full day’s work on a partial night’s sleep. While I feel pretty well recovered from the surgery, there’s a huge benefit to taking off as much time as possible, just to continue bonding with Evan and being able to take care of him without a 40-hour a week “distraction.” He and I will never be able to get a mulligan on the first three months of his life, so we’re making the most of it. I have tended to be focused on the destination, not the journey, but from here on out, it is always the journey that I have to learn to sit back and savor.

Here are a few other things that I have learned/experienced/observed many weeks earlier than I expected I would:

  • Evan gets the hiccups just as often as he did before he was born (at least once a day), but it seems to bother him a lot less than it did me before he was born.
  • While there were a few times just after he was born that I was flashing forward to his high school graduation and wedding and freaking out, I now think about my life in two-hour chunks. That’s about the amount of time I get between feedings, so it all boils down to what I can accomplish while he’s asleep. For those who know my list-making, task-completing mania, this is a pretty big change in my life.
  • There is still plenty to learn, and Evan changes the game every once in a while. I’m not focused on making anything perfect, but instead on just learning what works and what doesn’t and moving forward. This is another pretty big change in my approach to life!
  • The generosity of friends and family is truly astounding. The gifts of time, food and support are priceless and exceed my expectations. And we have so many wonderful clothes, toys and gear from friends near and far!
  • Nothing elicits a smile from a stranger like a tiny baby. When I am out with Evan, everyone loves to comment on how precious he is. I can’t help but agree!

March 7, 2011

My chance to be a supermodel

Posted in pregnancy, Uncategorized at 9:08 am by bethmillett

One of the things I wanted to do during my pregnancy was have some maternity portraits taken. I wanted to be able to document this awesome part of my life (better than the iPhone self-portraits I’ve posted here), and I also wanted to give my mom some nice photos for her collections. She has lots and lots of pictures of our growing family on the walls, and her birthday is in late February, so it would be a great birthday present.

My friend Zach Dobson is a professional photographer, so there was no question about who to ask. I was about 30 weeks pregnant — late enough to look really pregnant, but not so late that I was bloated or super tired. (And of course, now I’m really glad we didn’t wait until, say, 36 weeks!) And I’ve set up a portrait session for late March, when Evan is about six weeks old. I’m already excited about it!

Here’s a link to the gallery of photos he took. Mom hasn’t decided yet which one(s) she wants for her birthday. Contact him today for your own chance to be a supermodel!

March 1, 2011

Not quite according to plan

Posted in motherhood, pregnancy, Uncategorized at 5:37 pm by bethmillett

Tuesday, February 8, I posted an update on the pregnancy, commenting that I had five weeks left and I hoped to use that time (now that the home improvements were complete and there were only a few loose ends for the nursery, etc.) to write a few more blog entries about becoming a single mom by choice.

Little did I know that in less than 24 hours, I was going to be a single mom by choice! Here are all the gory details…

Wednesday morning, my alarm went off at 5 a.m. When I rolled over to turn it off, I felt a little pop and some moisture. It wasn’t enough to worry me, though, because I ended up hitting the snooze button three times. I remember thinking “Oh, maybe that was my mucus plug,” which can fall out early but isn’t necessarily a certain predictor of impending birth. Or, maybe my bladder had leaked, which happens sometimes when I sneeze or laugh too hard.

So, when I did get out of bed and go to the bathroom, I said “Oh, wow!” when I saw how wet my pajama pants were. Then I looked in the toilet and saw blood. (I said something a little stronger than “Oh, wow!”) There were a few minutes where I acted like a chicken with my head cut off — there wasn’t enough blood that I was worried I was hemmorhaging and needed to call 911, but I knew I would need to be checked out. It never occurred to me that my water had broken.

I called the doctor’s office and talked to the on-call service. While I waited for the doctor to call back, I gathered up a few toiletries, but my brain was racing and I couldn’t quite decide what clothes or other items I might need to bring. I also texted my friend/birth coach Angela to let her know that there might be some action today. The nurse called back very quickly — the doctor was already in the OR doing a c-section — and I described what had happened. She said what I knew she would, which is that I should come in and get checked out. So, I grabbed my laptop, my purse, and a book and drove myself to the hospital.

While I was in the car, Buster woke up and started kicking around, the way he always had been, so I knew he was doing okay. I also called my mom and left her a message. Just the night before we had talked about the time window during which I should call versus e-mail or text to let her know what was going on, and we had decided that I would call if it was after 6 a.m. It was 6:07. She didn’t answer, so I left a message, trying to sound as calm as I could.

At the hospital, they checked me into triage. When I changed into the gown, I noticed that the blood had slowed down a lot, so that was a relief. The nurse asked lots of questions, hooked me up to monitors, took my vitals, and waited very patiently when Mom called back and I filled her in on what little I knew. I told her I’d call back when I knew more. The doctor arrived and said he’d do an exam to see if 1) I was in labor (he doubted it) 2) my water had broken (he suspected it) and 3) how everything felt. He wasn’t worried about the baby, since they were watching his heart rate closely, and he was doing just fine. So, after an exam, the doctor knew the answers — no labor, but yes, my water had broken, which meant Buster was on his way. They would hook me up to Pitocin to move the contractions along and monitor us both closely. He suggested that the bleeding was a result of my cervix trying to get ready. He reassured me that 35-week babies are technically preemies but often do very, very well. So, everyone was very calm about it, although I started to cry (with joy and excitement) when he said that today would be the day.

Mom and I reconnected and I told her the good news. She and Dad had already been looking at flights and getting themselves organized. Then I was moved into a labor and delivery room where I got hooked up to all kinds of IVs and things, while I also fired up my laptop and starting sending e-mails to the office and people. I updated my Facebook page and the good wishes and congratulations started flying in.

Angela called me around 7:30 or 8:00, amazed and excited. (She had missed my two texts and voice mail and instead had first seen my Facebook update!) I assured her I was fine and that she should take her time putting her daughter on the bus and gathering up her things. (She of course, had not packed her bag either!) Then, she would stop at my house and pick up things we would need for labor (these are called “comfort measures,” like heating pads, massage devices, hard candy, etc.) and come to the hospital. The contractions were steady, every few minutes, but very weak and very tolerable. I was mostly worried about how long this would take, given that my body was not showing any signs of being interested in labor. I also hadn’t eaten anything since the night before, and I hadn’t had my precious diet Coke that morning. I knew I was going to get pretty bored and pretty cranky.

Angela arrived around 11:30ish. The nurse was turning up the Pitocin every half an hour, until we reached the max. I caught Angela up on everything, and we started watching a movie. Every once in a while, Angela would look over at me, and then the monitor. I’d say, yup, just had a contraction, but on a scale of one to 10, it was probably a two. I could definitely feel them, but there was no need for any comfort measures, distraction or pain meds. It was going to be a long day (and maybe night).

Around 3:00, the nurse came in to check my vitals and Angela stepped out to eat a snack. (So nice of her not to eat in front of me!) I reclined the bed a little bit, to find a new position since my butt was going numb in the uncomfortable bed. I felt a gush of fluid and buzzed the nurse back to the room. She took a look and said, “Yes, that was blood. I’m going to call the doctor now.” Now that I knew I was still bleeding, and that things weren’t progressing, I began hoping we could just get it all over with by doing a c-section. I had heard from a lot of people that they weren’t a big deal and recovery had been just fine.

At some point, the nurse mentioned that the doctor who examined me when I first arrived had found a blood clot the size of his fist. That sounded a little alarming, and I was glad he hadn’t mentioned it to me at the time! But she reassured me that Buster was doing fine, and this was my blood, not anything from the placenta.

So, Dr. Richardson arrived about 4 p.m. and did a quick exam (ooh, very uncomfortable). He said I was only one centimeter dilated, which did not make me happy. Then he said, very gently, that given that I was still bleeding and had so far to go, it might be time to consider a c-section. I think I blurted out something like, “Dude, I’ve been thinking about that for a couple of hours. Let’s do it!” No one seemed in an incredible rush, so I pointed out that my parents would be arriving in about an hour and a half — did he think we could wait? He said he’d rather not, and I said no problem, let’s go!

The anesthesiologist came in and ran through the process and the spinal block he’d be given me. He spoke at the speed of light and was bouncing all over the room, looking at my IV, checking my charts, etc. When he left, Angela said, “Wow, think he has ADD?” I left my sister and my mom voicemail messages. Mom and Dad were still in the air, and I had arranged for my friend Marie to pick them up.

In the next half an hour or so, they ran more fluids into me, got me into a surgical cap and gave Angela her scrubs (which were large enough to hold several people). She’d be able to join after I had my spinal and was all settled in. As Dr. Richardson and my great nurse Jen rolled me into the OR, there was a lot of joking and giggling. I couldn’t believe it was all happening so fast.

The 10 minutes after the spinal was administers were the worst part of the whole process. The drugs cause your blood pressure to plummet (hence the extra fluids earlier) and I threw up a whole bunch. The anesthesiologist had prepared me for all this, so I knew it wasn’t a bad thing, and he was really nice during the whole thing, suctioning out my mouth and wiping off my face. But I remember thinking, “If this is what I’m going to feel like the whole time, I’d rather they just put me under.” Thankfully, it passed, and Angela came in to sit by my head and soothe me. As soon as the surgery started, I began crying, again out of joy and excitement. I couldn’t believe that something I had wanted for so long was about to happen!

I’m not sure what time the cutting started, but I didn’t feel a thing and at 4:59 p.m., out came Buster! Angela, who is a nurse, peeked around the curtain a few times to see what was going on, but I was just as happy not to see what was going on. Apparently, all my innards were out on my tummy.

He weighed 5 pounds, 15 ounces. Because he was a preemie, there were staff from the special care nursery who cleaned him up and checked him over. He started crying a moment or two after he came out, and Angela hovered taking pictures. The doctor came over and explained that he seemed to be in really good shape but that they were going to keep an eye on his breathing for a little while.

I double-checked that he was really a boy and everyone laughed. They wrapped him up and Angela brought him over to me while Dr. Richardson finished sewing me up.

The doctor did find a dead fibroid in my uterus, and removed it for pathology to check out. When I met with him a week later at my checkup, he confirmed that’s what it was, and that he suspected that is what caused the abruption and my water to break. It’s not a big deal, apparently, and not something I need to worry about much in the future.

We returned to the labor and delivery room, and Angela went to bring my mom back to meet Evan. I was still pretty loopy, but I remember that Mom and Dad and Marie each came back to the room to say hi, and I threw up in my water pitcher as some point. Then, the nurse told me that they were still a little nervous about Evan’s breathing, so they were taking him up to the special care nursery. While he was up there, my parents left (or they may have left before he went upstairs — I’m not sure), and Angela packed up all our stuff and I was moved to a recovery room on the third floor.

Evan was in the special care nursery for about two hours and when they brought him to me, explained that everything had settled down with his breathing. He hadn’t needed any intervention or supplemental oxygen, but they had wanted to have him close to all those things in case he had. From that point on, he was fine, and stayed in my room for the whole stay.

I will try to do a better job of keeping the blog updated, now that we’ve settled in at home. (Evan turns three weeks tomorrow and is already up to six pounds, six ounces!

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