My lovely friend (and amazing jewelry artist) Nancy made these matching bracelets for Thea and I. She suggested that I could wear my bracelet to help me with breastfeeding - the bracelet could be moved from wrist to wrist to remind me which breast to start nursing on during Thea's next feeding. This thoughtful and beautiful gift has been especially helpful. Feeding Thea - or some aspect of breastfeeding - has been just about all I've been able to manage this week.
Monday, we met with Thea's pediatrician for her first appointment. She gave us the green light to stop supplementing with formula and to try exclusively breastfeeding. So we did. Tuesday afternoon, we met with a lactation consultant. She promptly informed me that the bright red areas and soreness on my breasts were NOT normal and that I was on the verge of mastitis, a breast infection. She walked us through the basics of positions, latch, and a feeding routine. I had been having difficulty getting Thea to latch on to my nipple while Thea was in the progressive care nursery, and the hospital's lactation consultant got us started using a nipple shield. The LC we met with on Tuesday suggested that we continue using the shield until Thea is a bit stronger and able to latch on and suck a little better - probably another two weeks. We'll then go back for a follow-up to work on the transition to bare breast.
Because I'm using the shield, and because of my crazy milk production and the inflammation, she advised me to pump after each feeding session. Halfway through pumping, I am to apply a warm compress and massage to help empty my breasts. We finished our consultation with a lesson on pumping. I had been doing it all wrong (using the wrong settings on the pump) AND the folks at the hospital had gotten me started using the wrong size attachments, which were not allowing me to completely empty my breasts, leading to the clogged ducts and inflammation. After Thea's feeding session (where she drank two ounces), I pumped another 5 ounces. And at one point I was worried about producing enough milk!
So, now we're following Thea's feeding cues, which means she generally wants to eat every 2-3 hours. With the nursing, pumping, and settling down of little Thea afterwards, I'm getting very little sleep. It seems like all I'm doing is feeding her or pumping, and it's starting to get a little old (the pumping, not the feeding). I keep telling myself that it's only for a couple more weeks, but it's exhausting. Last night, John got up with me at 3 am and gave her a bottle while I pumped. Then he stayed up with her while she settled down, and I got to go back to bed. It was heavenly. I'm trying not to feel guilty about giving her the bottle, and I keep reminding myself that a bottle a day is not going to ruin her learning to breastfeed, and that a healthy and rested mama is good for baby.
And, at our follow up appointment and weight check with the pediatrician today, Thea had gained 4 ounces since Monday - so we must be doing something right.
I can hardly believe that she's finally here. I have never been more in love - both with her and with John (who, by the way, continues to prove himself to be the most amazing husband and father). I want to hold her pretty much all of the time, and I can't stop staring at her - it's like I need a constant visual reminder that she is finally here.
This post will surely be scattered because there's no other way to describe the state of my brain right now. I forget what I'm saying mid-sentence at least 5 times an hour.
Thea's birth story will follow, but not any time soon, I'm sure. I have a feeling I'll have to write it in bits and pieces.
I'm thankful that John has been keeping everyone updated on Thea through his weblog, because up until now, I just haven't been able to sit down long enough to type a complete post. Even though I live in the same house with him, I'm not quite sure how he manages it.
Thea is great - perfect, in fact. Our first couple of days home went very smoothly, although I continued to question the strict feeding schedule prescribed by the NICU. One good thing about it was that Thea always finished her feedings with an extremely full belly which ensured that she usually slept quite soundly until her next feeding three hours later. As nice as it was to get a bit of sleep, I worried that we were over feeding her and not responding to her natural feeding cues.
Then, last night, she decided that the schedule had to go, and kept me up for almost the whole night. Our baby who had been able to sleep pretty much ANYWHERE for the past 9 days decided that the only suitable place to sleep was curled up against my chest. Which is actually fine with me, except that I didn't feel comfortable falling asleep with her like this, so I was up for pretty much the entire night.
This morning, we made our way to the pediatrician. Thea has gained 2 oz since Friday, and our pedi gave us the green light to quit the "schedule" and formula and to start working off of Thea's cues for feeding. So far, it looks like she's feeding for about 5-10 minutes every hour. I feel like tonight might be another long night. But we've done much better than I expected (although I feel like I'm doing a pretty good job of not having expectations these days). Having Thea in my life makes it much easier to stay in the moment. With a newborn, it seems there's not much else you can do.
As for me, I'm doing well. I'm still taking the pain medicine, much to my dismay, but I'm trying to be patient with myself in my recovery. Surprisingly, my muscle issues have gone back to my pre-pregnancy state, and I am very thankful for that. I'm feeling stronger each day, looking much less anemic, and hoping I can sneak in a haircut sometime in the next couple of weeks. And I've already lost over 10 pounds. I'm sure most of it is water weight - I had tremendous swelling in my legs, ankles, and feet starting right after birth. I guess that's what I get for not having any swelling during my pregnancy. Thankfully, that is subsiding too.
So, for those of you who might be willing to share, I'm curious to know:
-If you had a cesarean birth, how long was your recovery? How long did the pain last for you?
-What was your early breast feeding schedule? How long did your baby feed? How long did your baby go between feedings?
And, without further delay...here's what I know you really came here looking for...