Monday, August 15, 2016

Every last drop

We officially quit breastfeeding 2 weeks ago. We made it 10 months and I know that is something to be proud of, but tonight I don't feel proud. I feel raw and sad and I miss my tiny little baby. My little baby that is getting bigger and older every day. My baby that has 3 teeth and LOVES chicken nuggets.

I didn't cry 2 weeks ago when my little one latched for the last time. I handled it pretty well I think. I was sad, but part of me knew that this was just part of the cycle.
Isla was never a boob-fiend like a lot of breastfed babies. She liked her food however it was given to her: bottle, boob, spoon, or preferably her own two hands. This is probably why weaning came relatively easily for us.
I decided towards the end of summer that I wouldn't pump when I went back to work. My pump and I had a very intimate relationship the past year. I spent every spare moment pumping. I woke up at 4am every day to pump before Isla woke up so I could have enough to send to daycare AND to feed her when she got up.  I planned on nursing her in the mornings for as long as I could, but I was over pumping and glad to be finished.
My body, however, had different plans. After just one day of no pumping my milk was gone. The next morning when Isla latched I could tell nothing was happening and she seemed to try to nurse forever... I knew the poor girl wasn't getting much. So just like that it was finished. No time to think about it or feel guilty. It just was what it was. I'd also built up a pretty good freezer stash over the summer so I knew she'd still be getting the good stuff for a while longer.

Tonight as I dumped the last of my frozen breastmilk into bottles for daycare I broke down. My heart ached as the last few drops slid down the sides. This was truly the end. I don't think I let myself feel it until tonight. I think I felt the frozen milk meant we weren't quite finished yet. But after tonight I won't have any part of myself to give her.
Breastfeeding was truly the hardest thing I've ever done and I never thought I'd want to go back, but tonight I think I would. I'd go back to the toe-curling pain from those first couple of weeks. I'd go back to the 2, 3, 4, and 5 am feedings. I'd go back to the cluster feedings and comfort nursing. I'd go back in an instant.

And I know that this is normal and that no baby will breastfeed forever (unless you want to end up on Dr. Phil...), but tonight I'm going to let myself cry and look at pictures and feel sorry for myself. I'm going to miss my tiny 7lb baby that wanted to nurse every hour and pray that time will start to pass a little slower.

Isla Faye's Birth Story

Even before I got pregnant with my little girl, I was mesmerized by natural birth. I watched the documentaries and read the books. I just KNEW that was what I wanted. I found an OB that was very supportive of natural birth and even looked into a birthing center (which didn’t work out due to insurance reasons) instead of a hospital. I wanted ambient lighting, a special playlist, and my husband by my side.  I’m also deathly afraid of needles, so getting to bypass all of that was a HUGE plus in my head. I was definitely more scared of getting an epidural than I was squeezing a human out of my lady parts. And besides, I didn't need pain meds anyway. I’d have my focal point, my hypnobabies CD, and whatever else I could figure out in the next 9 months- I’d be fine.

It’s important to note that this was all decided in the early, magical days of pregnancy. 

Fast forward about 9 months, when the days are not so magical and instead very uncomfortable, sleepless, and sweaty (I was fortunate to be VERY pregnant during the heat of a Texas summer). At about 36 weeks things started to change for me. I was dealing with stressful and downright dangerous situations for me and baby daily. By the time I reached 38 weeks I began praying that I wouldn’t make it to my due date. Knowing that I could potentially be pregnant for 4 more weeks was daunting and put me in a very bad place mentally. 

At 38+6 my feet began to swell, totally normal I know. By the end of the day my right leg was about twice the size of my left and I felt like I’d pulled a muscle in that calf. I figured this was a normal part of late pregnancy, but I figured I’d call my OB just in case. After describing my symptoms to a nurse she told me to come in for blood work right away because my symptoms were spot on for a blood clot. Definitely not what I expected. I kept my cool through the blood work and the waiting afterward. I even held it together when my OB explained that I failed the blood test and could possibly have a blood clot. When I asked him what we would do if I did, in fact, have a blood clot and he responded with “Well, I’m not really sure. I’ll have to get in touch with a high risk specialist and go from there”, I lost it. Hearing that from my doctor (whom I completely love and trust to this day, btw) scared me more than anything. I’d made it this far with a pretty much unicorn pregnancy, and now, so close to the finish line, my baby could be in danger. I have never been so scared in my life. 

After a long wait in the ER and a doppler of my leg, we found out that I didn’t have a clot. I was relieved, but also so very very done. I was done being pregnant and all of the unknown. I wanted her safe in my arms. So after discussing it with my OB and him reassuring me of it’s safety, we scheduled my induction for later that week. I was happy to have an end in sight and excited that I’d get to hold my baby girl so soon. And my type-A-ness was very excited to have a plan in place. 

But I also felt a lot of guilt. Being in induced was on the very bottom of my birth with list, especially an elective induction. I was so set on my un-medicalized birth, that I felt guilty for changing my mind. I truly felt like I was making the right decision for me and my baby, but I also felt ashamed. There was a voice in my head telling that I was taking the easy way out, that I was a bad mother before even becoming a mother. I was torn, but I had the support of my husband and my OB (I’m serious when I say that I trust that man!) and that was all I needed.

When we checked into the hospital at about 8am I was at 2 and about 50% effaced (what I’d been for about a week). 
*8:30 am- I got my first dose of cytotec Nothing really happened
*noon- I was checked again- still at a 2, so we did another dose of cytotec. After this 2nd dose I finally started to feel mild menstrual like cramps… surely I was making some progress.
*4pm (they checked me every 4 hours) I was between a 2-3 (I think he was being generous at this point) and I felt pretty defeated. I was so scared they’d send me home. My OB told me I had a few options- do a 3rd dose of cytotec, try a foley balloon  (which sounded terrifying), or do nothing and wait it out. I was determined to get this show on the road by this point so I opted to do option 1 and 2. My OB explained that the Foley would be “pretty uncomfortable”. After the foley balloon was inserted I turned to my husband and told him through gritted teeth that if this was “pretty uncomfortable”, then I would definitely be needing that epidural”. Turns out my pain tolerance is virtually non-existant. Oh well. This was when my original birth plan went completely out of the window. And I could not care less. I wanted my baby and that’s about the only thing I cared about. 
*5pm my foley balloon fell out and I was finally at a 4! We started pitocin and I asked for my epidural :) 
*6pm I got my magical epidural- this was so much better than expected BTW! The entire process took about 20 minutes and didn’t hurt at all. (5 stars, would definitely recommend). The best part was the catheter… I didn’t have to get up to pee! Talk about my dream come true. The only part of this entire process that was slightly miserable was the nausea. I’m sure it was all of the medicine I had flowing through my veins, but I wanted to throw up almost the whole time I was in labor. I spent the rest of the night sleeping, coping with nausea, and watching Netflix with my husband. The nurses kept asking me if I had “an urge to push”, to which I always replied “I don’t think so?” and they’d tell that I’d KNOW when I needed to, so I left it at that. The truth is, I never did.
10pm I felt a tightening in my stomach beginning which lasted throughout the next few hours. I told the nurse about 2am that the tightening in my stomach was getting more intense- I still didn't think I needed to push though. However, when my OB checked I was at a 10! Turns out I didn't know after all.  

I pushed for about 45 minutes before my beautiful baby girl came into the world screaming at about 4 a.m. She quieted as soon as they laid her on my chest. I remember being relieved and tired and shocked that she was actually there. 
I did have a tear (between a 1-2, I believe), but thanks to that magical epidural I didn’t really care. My doc sewed me up while me and baby had our skin-skin time.

Other info/tips

I thought I’d want 3 people in the room the whole time- my husband, my mom, and my mother in law. Turns out I only wanted my husband for 98% of the process. He was my rock and the only thing I needed to get through birth. Once I was ready to push I brought my mom and MIL in.

I regret not using a mirror. I thought it’d be weird/gross seeing all that up close an personal, but  I am the only one in the room that didn’t get to see the instant my little girl came into the world. 

You will not care about pooping, one damn bit. 

Justin made a playlist of our music for me to listen to during labor. This ended up being one of the only things from my birth plan that I kept, and I am so glad I did. Our baby girl entered the world to an Avett Brothers song, and if you know us, that is pretty stinking perfect. 

And there you have it. My completely medicalized, so very hospital birth. I wouldn’t have done it any other way. 

Also, I hope I don’t come across as bashing natural birth, it just didn’t work out for me, this time anyway. I still totally support it and my inner hippie still would love to hang out with Ina May on the farm. And nothing gets my ovaries working like a natural birth story!

 It took a couple of months or so for me to deal with my feelings of guilt surrounding Isla’s birth. I can finally look back on it and see the beauty, but it took a lot of tears and time for that to happen. If any mamas or future mamas are reading this and have that weight of guilt surrounding your births, whether it was your decision or not- IT'S OKAY. You did it! Or you’re going to do it, and you’ll have your baby. Yes, I CHOSE my induction. I scheduled that sucker and it was great. I’ll probably end up scheduling my next one. I knew what was right for me, and you'll know what is right for you. Do you research and listen to your support team, but in the end it's just you and your baby. And that is all that matters

Dear Brand New Mama, it gets better. I promise.

I debated for a long time on whether or not to write this post. It’s taken me 7 months to sort through my feelings from my daughters birth and realize exactly what I was feeling. 

I’m in that wonderful part of life where everyone I know is popping out babies, so my feed is chocked full of brand new, sparkly mommy & baby photos. I found myself, more often than not, puzzled over these photos. Instead of being in awe of their beautiful pictures, I wondered how the moms could be so perfectly happy. Seriously, how in the heck was she wearing makeup after labor?! I didn’t have the energy to shower for days after birth. Gross, I know. 
We didn’t get a cute “going home” picture if front of the car either. I cried the entire way home from the hospital… and I didn’t really stop until my daughter was a few days old. 
My overwhelming emotion wasn't warm and fuzzy. It was fear. I was terrified of how our lives were about to change, that this little life was completely in our hands. 
Once we were home and the blissful (insert sarcasm) newborn days ensued, I only became more scared and guilt ridden. 
I felt guilty that I wasn’t one of the smiley, happy moms on Facebook. I was scared I wasn’t going to love this tiny baby enough. I was scared this fear would never go away. 

The first few days home from the hospital were my worst. I’ve struggled with depression and anxiety since I was a teenager, and our 2nd night home from the hospital I truly thought I was losing my mind. I remember giving my baby to my mother in law and having my husband walk me outside. My fight or flight instinct in full effect. He stayed outside with me for a long time. He relentlessly assured me that we would get through this. He told me over and over that this overwhelming fear I had would eventually pass- that my body was flushing out hormones. That it had gone through a traumatic experience… I’d just pushed a human out of my body, after all.  

I thought once I held my little one in my arms that every feeling would snap into place. I thought we’d share a magical perfect bond. That didn’t exactly happen. I just knew something was wrong, broken. 
Looking back, I can see that I wasn’t broken. I wasn’t losing my mind or going crazy. I was experiencing postpartum depression. I am truly blessed to have an amazing support system. My husband held me and the baby as we cried. He assured me that this was temporary. Most importantly, he urged me to get help. My sweet mother in law saw me break down and lose it and never held it against me. I remember her sitting in front of me one night, while I held my baby and silently sobbed so I wouldn't wake my husband. She held and told that I wasn't crazy. I probably didn't show it very well then, but those words meant a lot. My mom and dad were amazing as well. They stayed over through some rough, colicky nights so that we could get some much needed rest- as much as I could while breast feeding. Their gift of support and sleep was truly precious. 
I reluctantly told my OB what was happening and got on some meds, which I’d been on in the past. The meds combined with being open and honest with my husband about my ups and downs helped a ton.

Thankfully my experience with postpartum depression only lasted a few weeks. Slowly, but surely, I started to form a bond with this tiny little human I created. I gave myself grace and time to figure out how I was going to do this whole mom-thing. Although it wasn't immediate, it did come naturally. 

The newborn days were tough for me, but it got better. TONS better. I can confidently say that being a mom is the best thing I’ve done. Everyone will tell you and at the time you won’t believe them (you will probably want to smack them), but you will miss those newborn days. You might not miss the screaming and lack of sleep, but you will miss the cuddles and the squishy, squinty-eyed, tiny-ness.

I’m writing this for any mom who might find themselves where I was as a new mom. Terrified that this part will never end. Scared that you're a freak, or broken, or not cut out to be a mom.
What you’re feeling is OKAY and it does get better. It gets better with work and help and time.
Those colicky nights WILL end. Your baby will eventually sleep (even at night!). 
If your breastfeeding, your nipples aren’t going to fall off. If you’re struggling with breastfeeding, but want to keep going, don’t let anyone force you into supplementing- unless you want to! Conversely, if you’re struggling with breastfeeding, and it’s ruining your life- buy that baby some formula and move on. Your baby will be fine.
Most importantly, if you don’t feel that magical perfect feeling from the beginning, it’s OKAY. Just like any relationship with someone you have never met, it takes time. You have to find your groove, even with a baby. 
Even more importantly, if you feel something may be off, get help. I’m not saying you have to go get on medication, but talk to your doctor. Talk to someone.
You’re not broken, or a freak. 

You’re a mom and you’ll get through it.