October 4th, 3pm, the phone rings and a secretary from Greenville Memorial Hospital, tells me that they are cancelling my induction for tonight. The moon is full, the beds are all occupied and basically there is no room in the inn. I’m paraphrasing of course. I was instructed to wait for a call from my doctor for further instructions. Dr. Bradley, the one obstetrician in the practice I hadn’t met face to face and who’s ego preceded him called 4 hours later saying there is room at St. Francis Women’s and Family Hospital on the Eastside of Greenville if my bag is packed and I want to change locations. It is, I do and we stop for a snap of the last moment of my heart residing within me in the door frame and head out the door. I arrive, get settled in with an Ambien, a turkey sandwich, a kiss and wish for good rest from Lovey and a carefully placed cervidil. We drift off to the sound of my and Zuzu’s heartbeats entwined and amplified through their monitors. The next day she made her grand entrance at 1pm. I spent the next 9 hours attempting to nurse her. At 10 pm that night the angel of a lactation consultant arrives and starts arranging pillows, hands and the baby. By that point I already had severely traumatized myself and was in tears and tears. So a pump was brought in to try to harvest the colostrum and give me a little relief. The next morning, Carrie the LC came back to us to check on our progress. She commented that nowadays it seems to be mostly the teenage mothers that instinctively know how to nurse without instruction. That the rest of us, ahem, slightly older, more mature mommies tend to need more help, positioning and training. Over thinking it perhaps?
We went home from the hospital 48 hours afer the birth with a feeding plan reminiscent of the one mentioned yesterday. A big challenge was keeping our little snuggled bundle awake. I remember crying through the failed attempts at latching, the pain of engorgement, the fear and paranoia of the hourly pee/poop/nurse/supplement checklists. I called the warmline at STF Lactation Center at all hours far more than my pediatrician during those first weeks. Although we spent our fair share of time there as well. Along with new nursing came thrush, then reflux, then a dawning realization that Zuzu did not want to be set, let alone laid down to sleep. Part of that was the reflux- it physically pained her to lay flat and she would jerk and arch her small back away from the bottle or my breast as often as she would take it.
Part of that was new parent jitters, hormones and frayed nerves. She’s crying, why is she crying, when will she stop, how do we make her stop? I remember distinctly fretting each and every time I walked in the room where the baby was. If she was laying down I fussed about why no one would hold her. If someone was holding her, I fussed about how she would never learn to put herself to sleep. I am blessed to have ever patient grandparents for the girls on both sides as well as an extremely connected, patient and accepting husband. They all watched my postpartum hormone shifts with just the right amount of disconnect to tolerate being with me and enough responsiveness to save me and Zuzu from them.
At the time I worried I wasn’t bonding enough and my new- mother-wings were leaving me flapping alone in midair with only a crash landing in my sight when I finally tired of treading air. I was shakey, sad, unable to lay down myself or hold Zuzu on my chest for any length of time. I needed sleep desperately but could not contain the onslaught of hormones enough to feel an ouce of mellowness necessary to snooze. After 3 calls to my OB over the next week and a half indicating I wasn’t doing well hormonally I was prescribed a low dose of Lexapro and assured it would help me relax and not harm Zuzu. It was sweet relief to hear the sound of help on its way and validation that once the hormone levels settled things would ease up and we would settle int a comfortable and caring routine. That this is not uncommon or foreshadowing of terrible inept parenting on my part to come.
The grandmothers were so kind to each in turn extend their stays to help care for us, our home and this sweet baby. It was boot camp that first few weeks and fortunately for me everyone who came in tern to stay at the house was more than willing to step in for holding duty. Friends and family alike. Lovey, Zuzu and I are eternally grateful to you all. It really is a time like this that illustrates how you can’t and shouldn’t go through life alone. It is so very necessary to be able to reach out to those around you and let them care for you. It only serves to strengthen you and the bonds around you. Those first 3 weeks Lovey, Nana, Gramma and I took shifts at night with Zuzu using the SNS and later a bottle of pumped breastmilk during the night. I picture it now and everyone trying to stay up and hold Zuzu upright so she wouldn’t cry and can see the red flag that she clearly needed reflux medications at the time when she slept propped upright against our softly snoring selves.
Around 3 weeks into our new lives I was still fretting over my new responsibilities. I remember dear Julie talking to me late at night and early in the morning and validating that if one bottle a day wouldn’t hurt Zuzu then do a second bottle so I can get some rest. Our pediatrician at the time, also a young nursing mother but miraculously full of energy and strength validated the same and also that if we needed to hold the baby or co-sleep we should do whatever works, safely, but whatever works. I struggled with the decision to co-sleep and still do, but that’s another story entirely. My dear mother sat down with us; and as I write this with the wisdom and distance of 3 years of having my own heart living outside of my body I can smile at her concern and desire to stop her own small one’s pain and struggle. She helped formulate a schedule of bottles versus nursing to try to ease some of the pressure off of a sobbing me. That is all it took a little hormone control, a little easing of the pressure, validation and caring from my own mother and suddenly it was fine. I didn’t need the schedule and I was fine nursing Zuzu night and day with just one feeding done by Lovey and a bottle. I still believe that was a large part of securing their strong bond. By this point I had physically healed some, the reflux medications started to ease off Zuzu’s pain and my own medication helped to start regulating my hormones so that I could see that life would go on one day at a time, not just one feeding to the next. Zuzu started to smile and respond to us and light up our worlds.
18 months later she started to wake every 2 hours to nurse. At that point I hit my second wall and I did actively nightwean her. It took one night of telling her no and some perspective in my phrasing. We changed to an explanation that the neh-neh’s were sleeping and they would wake in the morning to nurse her. She cried that first night for an hour, the 2nd night she woke to ask if the neh-neh’s were sleeping, if the TV was sleeping and then settled back in between Lovey and I herself till morning. This went on for a week and then she ceased to wake during the night.
It was a few months later that the Quail was conceived and we struggled again with further weaning. At the beginning of the year when I told Dr. Bradley of our plans to conceive he had instructed me to wean first since there was a connection to miscarriage and nursing due to the contraction of the uterus it caused. I was in need of progesterone to sustain the pregnancy and he instructed me to call him back when Zuzu was weaned and we would go from there. I did the nightweaning but felt like I needed to try from there. In June that same year the Quail began to gestate within us. Lovey and I talked about weaning, both for the Quail’s sake and also unsure of what it would do to Zuzu to have to share her neh-neh’s and the responsibility, energy and effort it might take to tandem nurse. I started reading La Leche Leagues book on Tandem nursing and it calmed me and let me to the decision to not actively wean Zuzu. Midway through the pregnancy when the milk dried up I figured she would stop anyway. I remember those early summer nights lying in bed nursing Zuzu after we had transitioned her to her big girl bed and hearing the small cheaps and chirps of a family of wrens building their nest and expanding their own family in the nursery window. I would read Zuzu three small stories of her choosing and then we would lie side by side listening to a collection of lullabies while she rubbed my belly and drifted off and I reread Catherine Newman’s, “Waiting for Birdy”.
Time passed, further weaning ceased to exist and the Quail’s arrival was upon us on that frosty February morning. My mother, after multiple rearrangements of her plans, due to my naive “planning” of the birth of the Quail arrived less than 24 hours before labor began and the next chapter of our lives opened up before us.
oh, how i love hearing birth stories and nursing stories. always so interesting, that moment when you become a mother for the first or second (or 18th?) time. thank you so much for sharing these with us.