Monday, December 31, 2012

4 weeks - Getting Started

It's hard to believe little Everett was born almost a month ago already! We have spent our time together with cuddles, smiles, screaming, and eating. The last four weeks have been great, and really flew by. These days can also be summed up in the following statement: nipple confusion is REAL. I will update this blog with other information about our new lives, but for now this fact has been dominating my whole world.

Nipple confusion. Pediatricians will tell you this little phenomena hasn't been proven, that it is something made up by lactation specialists to scare women away from formula and pacifiers. However, I would like to have them visit my home and witness my son attempt to breastfeed after a series of terrible advice given to us by medical professionals.

This blog could exclusively be about breastfeeding now. So much has happened in the last four weeks, but honestly most of my time has been spent on the couch attempting to master the art of latching, let down, and "lefty". Without further ado, I shall give you a rundown of my new life as a breastfeeding couch potato.

Day 1

Shortly after Everett was born, we attempted our first breastfeeding adventure. When the nurse tried to help me latch him she observed, "You have flat nipples. You'll need to wear a nipple shield." I assure you I had no idea what she was talking about. What are flat nipples? Then I looked down. "What the hell happened to my nipples?! I swear they used to be here!" During pregnancy I had porn star nipples. Seriously, it was embarrassing. To have giant DDD knockers nipping out even in the hottest of weather was a source of constant embarrassment for me. Apparently when one gives birth, one also loses her nipples. Seriously, even my areolas disappeared. It was weird.

Anyhow, a nipple shield was put in my possession, and things went downhill from there.

Day 3

Jeff and I took Everett to his first visit with the pediatrician on day 3. I mentioned earlier that he lost 11% of his birth weight, and we were encouraged to supplement with a bottle after each feeding. The pediatrician encouraged me to continue using the nipple shield, and also told me to limit Everett's time at each breast to 10 minutes, then offer a bottle of pumped breast milk.

A few observations in retrospect: the hospital gives nursing women laxatives, which are then passed to newborns via breast milk. The hospital also gives new mothers high doses of pain medication, which also pass to baby and make her/him even sleepier than usual. So you have a sleepy baby that is on wonder Everett lost so much weight. He wasn't eating because he was drugged, and he had laxatives in his system cleansing any bit of milk I could get to him.

Anyway, we followed the peditrician's advice and moved on with life.

Day 4

Everett was taking a bottle like a champ. You hear about babies hating bottles after breastfeeding is established, so I was pleased he was doing so well. This will make it convenient when we need someone to watch him. However, he also stopped latching completely, despite the fact that I was wearing a nipple shield. He would scream at me, kick his legs, and move his face away every time I brought him close to my chest. Since I was instructed to only have him at each breast for 10 minutes at a time, the only food he was taking came from the bottle.

Day 5

My mom's friend, a lactation specialist, came to our house to get Everett to latch with the nipple shield. It turns out getting milk from a bottle is 100x easier than sucking it from a human. Our goal was to get him on the breast and at least suck a few times. To do this, we had to take his screaming, flailing body, put his mouth close to the edge of the shield, then squirt pumped breast milk into his mouth with a syringe. It worked. Once he "latched" to the shield, we had to squirt more milk into the corner of his mouth to get his sucking reflexes started. He eventually discovered that being on the shield had some minor rewards. BUT he would fall asleep after only a couple minutes of sucking.

Here's where people offer advice on how to keep him awake...we tried EVERYTHING. I stripped off all his clothes, changed his diaper, tickled him, and even put cold wash cloths on him. The little bugger knew that if he just waited it out we'd eventually give him food in a bottle. They may be young, but they sure are clever.

Day 6

I was having difficulties getting Everett to have any interest in Ol' Lefty. He did minimal amounts of activity on the right side, but once Ol' Lefty was introduced to his face, he either screamed bloody murder, or fell asleep. I couldn't even trick him into thinking he was on the right side. He just hated everything about poor Ol' Lefty.

Day 8

Everett was gaining weight, but slowly. I thought maybe there was something wrong with me, my milk supply, or maybe his mouth. Jeff and I drove across town to see a lactation specialist at the hospital (not the same one who gave us the nipple shield). When we arrived, she asked why we were still using the nipple shield.

"Well the other lactation specialist told me I'd need to use it all the time because I have flat nipples."
"No you don't."

So we tried latching Everett without the shield. Oh my, I have never heard the child scream with such terror. Even after he was born, a sound so sullen had never passed his lips. I put the shield on because it was well past his scheduled feeding time and he immediately latched. The nurse was dumbfounded.

Yup...nipple confusion is real.

FYI my milk supply is fine. It was literally dripping all over the hospital bed. The nurse commented on how thankful she was that the pillows were made of plastic.

Day 9

The pediatrician (while I was out of the room) asked Jeff why I was making breastfeeding so hard on myself...asshole should try it himself.

Day 14

I threw the nipple shield across the living room, yelled "F*** YOU!" to it, and got Everett to latch to my actual nipple for the first time. I was so excited that I texted a few people, cried, and rewarded myself with two glasses of wine.

Day 15

Having had enough, I stopped offering Everett bottles after feedings. The pediatrician is not aware of this fact, but I really want breastfeeding to work. I paid another lactation specialist (our 4th) to come to our home and assess our situation. She gave me advice on how to slowly wean off the shield, and spent a good 3 hours staring at my chest, Everett's mouth, the latch, and our positioning. Everett literally fed for 2 hours straight, and he even refused a bottle afterwards. Victory!!! However, we were still battling with that darned shield.


I am pleased to announce that as of 3 days ago, we are completely weened from the nipple shield. Everett is feeding exclusively from the breast, and has finally established his own pattern. He will be weighed again this week, so I will keep you all posted on his progress. I'm keeping my fingers crossed that the worst is behind us.

He did establish some pretty bad habits with the shield. He did not have to work too hard to latch to the silicone. He could basically suck the shield into his mouth like a straw, and real nipples do not work quite the same way. I'm incredibly sore from our learning curve handicaps, but am hoping this will all be worth it in a few days.

For now, me and my nipples will have to endure the adjustments to our new life.

Top 10 reasons I hate nipple shields:

  1. It took twice as long to feed Everett as it does now.
  2. They are easy to lose, which presents a challenge when your son won't eat without it.
  3. It is impossible to nurse discreetly with a shield.
  4. Milk drips out the bottom and all over your clothes/the couch.
  5. They get knocked off the breast during feedings if Baby is at all active - which Everett is.
  6. They are clear, and therefore impossible to find when they get knocked off.
  7. According to my research, they are almost always unnecessary.
  8. They can lower milk production since Baby is not adequately stimulating the nipples.
  9. Less skin on skin contact with Baby; in fact he would often lose the ability to breathe when the silicone got stuck to his nostrils.
  10. Teaches babies that the feel of plastic yields unnatural.

And I shall now leave you with a Christmas photo of Everett:

Monday, December 17, 2012

On the Day You Were Born

"Oh Come, Divine Messiah!"

It was just an ordinary Sunday. I woke up and went to church. It felt somewhat surreal walking through the church doors. I knew everyone was anxiously awaiting news of our little one's birth, and seeing the shocked expressions on their faces when I waddled in was comical and frustrating all at once. Before our choir sang our opening hymn, we said prayers to bless our Advent celebration, and our piano player, the OB/GYN, said the following:

"This baby we have here is like our divine Messiah. He is a blessing and a miracle. When we sing the words 'Oh Come, Divine Messiah' we are singing to this baby to make his appearance tonight." 

And the day went on. I took a nap on my mom's couch - something I hadn't done in years. My mom and I went to Costco (my mom said she went to Costco the day she went into labor...well she was married to my dad, and he goes to Costco almost every day, so I was not too sure how legitimate the Costco claim was). I came home, put my groceries away, had some orange juice and went about my business. I prepared a frozen dish I got from Costco, and enjoyed a nice, relaxing dinner with Jeff.

Around 5:00pm, my best friend and her boyfriend came over for a quick visit before they caught their flight back to Seattle. We had some wine, ate peppermint bark (an impulse buy from Costco I will never regret), and found out they got engaged over the weekend! This was incredibly exciting news and I was bouncing up and down with joy. They left our house at 6:00, and I made my way to the couch to watch Gossip Girl.

At around 7:30, I started feeling strange cramps. I thought I needed to go to the bathroom, but soon realized the cramping was coming regularly at 5-6 minute intervals, and lasted about 1 minute each. "Ummm Jeff??? I think something's happening." Jeff drew me a bubble bath to see if the cramping would calm down. I sat down and immediately felt relief

Then suddenly the cramping became more intense. Jeff was sitting by the tub reminding me to breathe, and timing my contractions. They were 2 minutes apart and I started bleeding. "I'm going to call the hospital." We were instructed to come in immediately, so Jeff scrambled to finish packing our hospital bags while I attempted to get dressed. 

The drive to the hospital was excruciating. Every pot hole and every sewer made me want to vomit. Each red light meant I had to wait longer to get there. At one point Jeff started accelerating at the same time a contraction started; that was an interesting feeling. I texted a few people a quick message, and called my parents with the following message, "WE ARE GOING TO THE HOSPITAL AND THAT'S ALL I CAN SAY RIGHT NOW BYE." 

The walk from the car to the ER was a blur. I remember someone standing behind me with a wheelchair, but I was basically contracting nonstop and could not muster up the energy to sit down. Whoever pushed me up to the maternity ward was incredibly kind. He/she (can't even remember) was so calm and friendly, and it was a good way to start my hospital stay. Despite my blinding contractions, I did have the mental capacity to say, "Jeff, I think you're dragging my Marc Jacobs on the floor." My wonderful husband was carrying all our belongings.

I was checked into room 212. I remember signing some things, I somehow ended up hooked to a monitor, and the next thing I knew my hands were latched to the bars of the hospital bed while I was contracting with no breaks. The nurse checked me and said, "Honey you're already dilated to a 6! No wonder! Are you sure this is your first?" My mom and sister showed up, and I am so glad they did. A nurse was asking me my family's medical history, and I did not have the brainpower to answer any of her questions. I think I just kept shaking my head, and my mom was eventually able to step in to answer the annoying lady's questions. My white knuckling the side of the bed should have been a clear indication to her to shut the F up. She didn't.

I was asked if I wanted an epidural. 

My answer was "Yes." I wanted to have an all natural birth. I also knew enough about the birthing process to know that I was in transition, and transition can last from 4-6 hours. If I had to experience this for the next 4 hours of my life, I was either going to die or break something. As a result, a nurse with huge bangs attempted to put an IV in my arm, then my hand, then my other arm, then my other hand. I almost killed her. But by the time she was done I had already dilated to a 9. The doctor was called immediately.  No time for drugs, and they wouldn't even give me a Tylenol.

"You guys...something's happening." I was still on my side and I felt a small urge to push. I also felt a small urge to vomit, so my mom stood by me with a bucket. I only dry-heaved, and thank goodness because that bucket was what they gave our baby his first bath in. 

There really is nothing like the sensation of needing to push when you are in labor. If you have an epidural and they tell you to push, you may be missing out on what I am talking about. There is pushing, and then there is pushing. When a contraction came, I would bear down just to get the nurses to shut up and stop telling me to push harder (this was my body, my birth, and I'm going to tune you out and do this my way). Then as I felt the contraction peak, I felt this amazing urge to bear down. It is hard to explain the physical sensation, but the pushing comes from completely different places in your body.  

I felt his head move further down my birth canal with every push; I felt the ring of fire; I felt the baby's head turn; I felt the amazing release when my water broke; I felt the nurses and Jeff holding my legs up, and my mom wiping my forehead with a cold washcloth; I felt his head emerge and his body quickly follow; I felt the release of the placenta. I felt everything and loved every minute of it. They say I pushed for almost 2 hours. To me it felt like 20 minutes.


Everett Simon Wirth was born at 12:48am on December 3, 2012. He was 7 lbs 4 oz, 20 inches long, healthy, and perfect.

You were placed on my chest immediately. You were so strong, so perfect, so warm. You stopped crying the moment I placed a kiss on your forehead, and I hugged you tight. I never wanted to let you go, so instead I stared in awe at your face, fingernails, ears. We knew everything and nothing about each other. 

I watched in wonder as you were bathed and measured. They swaddled you and placed a soft white cap on your head. I requested that you sleep in my bed rather than in the crib on the other side of the room, and I put my head on yours when you were placed next to me. We slept together this way all night and for much of the following day. You still fall asleep like this in my arms. Looking back on my time in the hospital, I remember you clutching me in your sleep, seeing your peaceful face, and I know these were some of the best moments of my life. 

And I recognize you from that other, distant time. That kick, that punch. I have felt them before. But rather than feeling them deep within the recesses of my belly, you lay with your heart beating on top of mine. As we hold each other close, I can feel us floating away from this world, drifting together alone on a sea. Neither time or space exist, only this deep, pure, and unconditional love.

Together you bond.
Each one defined as three;
All three connected as one...
A Celebration of Life.


The next day my OB/GYN piano friend texted our church choir members: "Oh Come, Divine Messiah 00:48!"   

Here is my one plug: Hypnobirthing. The average labor for a woman practicing hypnobirthing is 6 hours. My labor was 5 hours, and it was my first baby (labor for first-time moms usually lasts between 16 and 24 hours).  Jeff and I read the Hypnobirthing book together and it was one of the best things we could have done.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Crying Over Spilled Milk

Sorry to leave you all hanging! I do have a birth story I'm working on, but am waiting for some final touches (aka pictures). So in the meantime, I shall relate to you the last week or so of our new lives.

Keeping you healthy

Our little guy was born at a healthy 7lbs 4oz. He was perfect, healthy, and happy. Everyone tells you breastfeeding is about the hardest thing in the world. Immediately after he was put on my chest, I knew we were ready to start the journey.

Here's the thing about hospitals: they are terrible, awful places. You are constantly interrupted by nurses pushing on your stomach with all their might, poking the baby with needles and cold thermometers, and there is a constant beeping coming from other patients using their call buttons. Not to mention the fact that our hospital was under major renovation during our banging and pounding all day. I have a few prego friends who read this blog, so ladies don't forget to pack ear plugs for you and dad/coaches in your hospital bag!

The other thing about hospitals is that they are these wonderful, magical places. A fantasy land where nurses change your baby's dirty diaper for you. You have consant access to help with breastfeeding. Nurses swaddle your little one tightly and keep him/her warm and comfortable. If you need a break for a shower, someone is always there and willing to watch your baby. This is so easy! We were ready to take our baby out into the world and bring him home!

Until Day 2.

On Day 2 babies have serious tummy issues. Their stomachs have been filled with amniotic fluid and mom has been providing all nutrition for 9 months (or in my case 10 months). When you start introducing foods, it is no wonder their little tummies start acting up. Not to mention the fact that colostrum (first milk before the actual breast milk comes in) has a laxative effect. On day 2, Little Everett was so sick and fussy that I couldn't get him to eat ANYTHING. The poor little guy was so famished that my heart was breaking. He was crying and fussy all day, and by 9:00pm Jeff and I were upset ourselves. I put water on a pacifier and put it in his mouth over and over again because his little mouth was dry as a bone. The pediatrician in the hospital gave us a bit of formula for "just in case" moments, and we made the executive decision to give him an ounce or so. I was afraid he would not want to drink out of a bottle. However, my little Piglet drank up the liquid willingly and immediately calmed down. My heart skipped a beat!

"Jeff, is this why people give up on breastfeeding?"

My hungry little guy at the end of Day 2. Is your heart breaking yet?

The next morning we had our first checkup with the pediatrcian. She weighed him and was immediatly concerned. He was obviously dehydrated: not urinating, dry mouth, jaundiced, had red liquid instead of urine (they call this chalk dust urine). On top of that he had lost 11% of his birth weight (10% is when doctors start getting concerned). In addition, immediately after delivery, all my pregnancy symptoms went away (YAY!). This included my attrocious appetite. Not only was Everett not getting enough nutrition, but neither was I getting enough to make feeding a success. I won't complain about a doctor telling me to eat more so...We were instructed that after each feeding, we needed to feed him an extra ounce to get him back up to birth weight. This meant I was either to pump or offer formula after every breastfeeding session.

Okay, so I guess I need to start pumping immediately! Since there need to be 8-10 feedings in a day, here is what my schedule looked like:
  • Breastfeed Everett
  • Change his diaper
  • Offer 1oz of pumped milk
  • Pump breasts
  • Frantically get something to feed myself while Everett sleeps
  • Clean pump parts and bottles
  • Go to the bathroom (if there's time)
  • Wake up Everett and change his diaper
  • Start over again
Sleep when your baby is sleeping? Sure.

Now let's talk about pumping. Since my milk hadn't come in, I could only get an ounce or so of colostrum during each pump. After 20 minutes of humiliating work, this was immediately used during the next feeding. There is nothing worse than sitting up by yourself in the middle of the night pumping, thinking to yourself how inadequate of a mother you are because you cannot give your baby what he needs, the pump shouting at you "let-down. let-down. let-down. let-down. let-down." I wish my milk would let down!

After a couple days on this schedule, Everett started getting used to how easy it is to take a bottle. He got fussy at each feeding. Whenever I tried to latch him on, he would kick his legs and flail his arms around, knocking off my nipple shield (google it if you want to know) and screaming at the top of his lungs. My middle-of-the-night pumping sessions turned into me sitting on the couch alone with the sound of "latch-on. latch-on. latch-on. latch-on. latch-on." Our patience and sanity quickly started to deteriorate.

When my milk finally came in, I was incredibly excited because this meant I only had to pump twice a day rather than after every feeding. But Everett was still incredibly fussy when I tried to latch him. He wiggled out of his swaddle, pounded himself in the face with his fists, and scratched at my chest with his little nails. With the pump on a higher setting I began to hear "wig-gle-worm. wig-gle-worm. wig-gle-worm. wig-gle-worm. wig-gle-worm."

After a week of all this, I can assure you it HAS gotten easier. I've consulted with 2 lactation specialists since we left the hospital, kept on the schedule diligently, and worked hard to show Everett that my titties are a happy place. We are quickly getting to know each other. He likes being swaddled, but likes his hands to be free. He likes it when I hold his bottom close to my chest while he's feeding. He does better during night feedings if I let him wake me up to eat, and not the other way around. He loves being cuddled and feeling my skin against his. Now about 50%-75% of our feedings are a resounding success. Still not good enough odds to risk nursing in public, but definitely an improvement. At his second weigh-in, his condition improved markedly. The pediatrician suggested we continue our current schedule for at least another week (dammit!), and told us to keep up the good work. So in week 2, we can focus on keeping Piglet happy.

Despite the hard work, I never really minded all the sacrifices we made over this last week. I would do anything for Everett, including fighting a battle to give him what he needs and deserves.
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