Thursday, August 17, 2017

My New Mom Breastfeeding Essentials

Before I share the tools that have been essential to breastfeeding my son I wanted to share how our breastfeeding journey has been going so far. I was so excited to start breastfeeding my son (can you tell I like saying "my son?"). It was probably the thing I was most looking forward to after his birth. I couldn't wait to know what it felt like, to experience the closeness of it, to know that my body was providing all he needed. My mom told me that both my sister and I had no problems nursing so I had high expectations that everything would be similarly straight forward and simple. Breastfeeding is natural, which to me meant it should be relatively easy.

Tommy latched on not too long after he was born and went to town. It was like he was starving after his journey earth-side. And while it wasn't exactly hard... it didn't exactly feel easy either and my nipples started to really hurt more and more each time we went to feed. This was a sign to me that something wasn't right with his latch and I was worried about doing more damage to myself that would make breastfeeding even harder later.

After that first night of gritting my teeth through each feeding session and maybe a few tears I demanded to see a lactation consultant as soon as possible the next day. She came in and agreed that his latch was a bit shallow and that while his suck was really strong she didn't think he was getting as much as he could be which was probably why it felt like he was gnawing on my boobs. She tried to get him to have a deeper latch but my nipples were already so sore and painful that we agreed it would be best to give them a rest for a little bit. She showed me how to hand express and then helped T.J. and I spoon feed him the colostrum. Then later in the day she brought in a hospital pump to use and we filled tiny syringes with the pumped colostrum to feed him drop by drop. So during our second night there I pumped, then T.J. would slowly feed him the syringes of milk, then we'd all try to sleep and then start over again. It was a lot of work but at least we knew exactly how much he was getting to eat and he was having plenty of wet and dirty diapers which was a good sign. But it was still really overwhelming for me and I got nervous about going home and having to manage all of it on our own. I was discouraged and disappointed that I couldn't just feed him straight from the source.

Luckily after a night of rest and a bit more syringe feeding in the morning, I was feeling less pain and decided to try to breastfeed him again the next day.  And it was...better. Not great but getting there. They discharged me that day with some extra syringes just in case and while I did pump some that first night at home to have on hand we've been successfully breastfeeding ever since! It took a couple more days for it to be pain free but praise the Lord it is such a relief to have it all worked out! Especially because I know so many women who struggle long after they leave the hospital and not everyone's breastfeeding journey has the same happy ending.  But these are a few things that have made breastfeeding easier for me and have become crucial to our routine.

Medela Soft Shells- These are a game changer. The lactation consultant gave me these in the hospital and they go inside your bra to keep your clothes from sticking to your sore nipples. They let them breathe and give them a rest between feedings. They are also great during feeds for catching milk that leaks from the side you're not feeding from. I am always amazed how much comes out and am so glad it's not all over my clothes. They are discreet and I totally wear them out and about with no shame!

Baby Feed Timer app- I love this app!! You can time how long he feeds on each side and then it tracks the time between feeds and lets you know when it's time to feed again and which side to start on. During the day he is really good at letting me know when he's hungry but it's still nice to know when to expect him to feed next. And at night he would definitely sleep longer than the recommended 2-3 hours between feeds. During these early days I've been told to wake him up to feed (hardest thing ever!) since newborns will sleep through hunger cues but this app helps me to know the best time to do so.  I really just like having all the information tracked instead of trying to remember it in my sleepy state.

Nursing Bras- This soft cup bra from Storq is my favorite for during the day. I love that it doesn't scream nursing bra, it's super soft and comfortable and you don't have to deal with clipping and unclipping latches, you just pull aside the cup. At night I sleep in this bra from Kindred Bravely and again it's so comfortable and easy to use.

Earth Mama Angel Baby Nipple Butter- I lather this stuff on in between feeds before popping the soft shells into my shirt and I feel like this combined with the soft shells totally helped heal the bit of damage I did in the first days of learning how to breastfeed.

Breast Pads- Good thing I registered and received two big boxes of these things because holy leaking boobs!

Boppy- I plop myself down on the couch with my water bottle beside me and the boppy on my lap and we are ready to nurse! I got the cutest cover on etsy which makes it so I don't mind having it laying around the house.

All this is to say that while breastfeeding is natural and the perfect source of food for my baby, it definitely did not start as easy breezy as I hoped or thought it would. Now though, our whole day revolves around when he last ate, how long he ate on which side and when is it time for his next feeding. But it's a full time job that I am so privileged and overjoyed to have.

Monday, August 7, 2017

Our Son's Birth Story

Thomas Daley Melton was born Thursday morning at 9:06 AM on July 27, 2017! I can't believe I am his mom, that he is our son, that I get the privilege of raising him and knowing him for the rest of my life. I also cannot believe he has been in our life for over a week now. It has gone by in such a blur of baby snuggles and nursing and nursing and nursing and diaper changes. And it has been wonderful. But his birthday already feels so long ago so I am going to try to record the details of his birth story before we get too far out.

I'm glad I got in one more pregnancy update last Wednesday before I went in to labor that day. Wednesday morning I had my 39 week appointment with my midwife. At my 38 week appointment I was already 2 cm dilated and 75% effaced so I was eager to see what progress I had made that week. She checked me and I was 3cm and so she offered to sweep my membranes which was incredibly more uncomfortable that I was expecting but I was very hopeful that it would kick start my labor. After my appointment I felt crampy and had a dull ache in my back. My sister and I made one more grocery run to stock up on food for the weekend in case I went in to labor. For the rest of the afternoon I kept getting more and more uncomfortable. I'd been having braxton hicks for a few weeks but I didn't notice any real uptick in frequency or intensity in them, which I was watching for, just a painful backache that got worse and worse as the day went on.

We sat down for dinner that night and both T.J. and my sister later told me that they noticed a sort of shift in my attitude around that time - that I became snippy and was clearly uncomfortable and not myself. I went to take a hot shower around 8:30 hoping the hot water would give my back some relief. While in the shower I felt a weird pop and (WARNING TMI UP AHEAD) I lost my mucus plug. I also felt a gush of more fluid which I later learned was my water breaking but at the time I wasn't a hundred percent sure since I was in the shower. I hesitantly called for T.J. and told him that maybe, possibly,  I think this might actually be the real thing.  But I still wasn't super confident since I know you can lose your mucus plug a couple days before actual labor.

However, as soon as I got out of the shower the pain in my back ratcheted up to a whole 'nother level. I was on my hands and knees on the bathroom floor trying to find a position that would provide some relief. I was asking T.J. to push ("HARDER!") on my lower back but nothing really helped and there was no break. It didn't feel like what I expected contractions to feel like. First of all they weren't in the front of my body, it was all in my lower back. Secondly there was no real beginning/middle/end. We tried timing them on the app I had downloaded and there just wasn't a distinguishable rise and fall or a wave pattern to the pain.  It was just consistent pain with peaks of worse pain appearing every couple minutes. Everything I'd read about coping with natural labor told me to rest between contractions, to remember that you get a break between contractions, that you can rest between them, catch your breath and gear up for the next one. This was not like that. There was no break and I began to think I might not be able to do this.

And then I threw up. This was around 10:30PM and I knew that was definitely a sign that this was in fact real active labor, back labor, and things were moving fast.

And thus began a new level of intimacy between my husband and I where he would see things he could never unsee and I cared not one bit.

I hollered for my sister to help T.J. "PACK THE CAR!" and begrudginly put on a loose dress (no underwear or bra- screw that) and then hobbled to the car. Sitting in the car was awful and I was perched on the edge of the seat with a death grip on the hand rail. When we pulled into the Army base gate they didn't even bother to check my ID and just waved us on as I moaned in the front seat.

It took approximately 30 minutes for us to walk the 10 feet from the car, into the hospital lobby and up the elevator to Labor and Delivery as I had to stop every few minutes to drop into a squat or get down on my hands and knees (flashing everyone we passed along the way) to breathe through the peaks. When we finally got to L&D they led me to a triage room to get me and baby boy hooked up to the monitors and to check me. I was mildly hopeful that they were going to say I was already fully dilated but I was just at 6cm. While this was definitely considerable progress in a short period of time I immediately started crying and said I wanted an epidural, I was done.

This was not what I had planned or hoped to do. I wanted an unmedicated labor, my reasons being that I hoped to avoid the cascade of interventions that sometimes follow an epidural like pitocin, forceps, episiotomies and emergency c-sections. But again, at that point I was out of my mind and I did not care one bit! I'm glad I didn't cling to stubbornly to my "plan" because it all ended up happening just how it was supposed to and I have no regrets. Plus, I also think T.J. was relieved that I was going to get some relief.

They moved me to my room and gave me a bag of fluids that I had to have before they could place the epidural. While I waited I leaned over the bed, squatted, moaned, went back and forth to sitting on the toilet, squeezed the heck out of T.J.'s hands and annoyingly answered all the questions and signed the paperwork in a haze of pain.

Finally around 1AM the anesthesiologist came in and where a few days ago I would have hesitated about this decision, that night I was just counting down the seconds until my back would stop feeling like it was being broken in half.

Sweet relief came soon after and once the epidural was placed they checked me again and said I was already at an 8.5cm and fully effaced. They told me to rest while I could because it surely wouldn't be too much longer until we'd be meeting our son.
Hah. Not so much. T.J and I slept restlessley on and off for the next couple hours. It's so surreal just sitting round waiting for your baby to arrive. The nurse said I was most likely complete already but that they would let me wait to start pushing until I felt a strong urge and my body told me it was ready, so that I wouldn't wear myself out too soon. So we tried to rest some more until finally around 7AM I said I thought I was feeling a lot of pressure down there. The nurse came in and got me situated and she and T.J. helped me hold my totally numb legs so I could do a couple practice pushes before the midwife arrived. She immediately said she could see that baby boy had tons of hair which I was so excited and surprised to hear. 7AM was also the shift change so the new midwife came on and happened to be the one I'd seen the day before at my appointment. I really liked her and was excited to have her there for my delivery.

This is getting really long now so basically the rest of this story involved 2 hours of pushing and more pushing and trying to get baby boy's head past whatever he was stuck on, which made me really grateful for the epidural. Luckily he handled all the contractions and stress and pushing like a champ and there was never any concern for his heart rate so they just let me keep on trucking. T.J. put on music, Needtobreathe and Eric Church, and gave me sips of water and held my legs and rubbed my back and was such an awesome support for me. The midwife and nurse were so encouraging and gave great feedback on which pushes were most effective. They rolled out a mirror so I could see the progress I was slowly making and that really helped. And even though I had an epidural and my legs felt like they weighed 100lbs I could still feel when a new contraction was starting, though it just felt like pressure not pain, so I knew when to push and I got to see baby boy moving further down.

And then finally  his head was out and then the rest of his body and all of a sudden there was a whole new person in the room being laid on my chest. And I was crying in relief and joy. He was whole and perfect with a full cone-head of dark hair, and he was mine.
After about an hour of skin to skin they got him cleaned up and measured. He weighed 8lbs 1oz, which was honestly a shock to me (and thank goodness he came early and not late), and was 20.5 inches long. Then we were moved to the Mother Baby wing where we spent the next couple days figuring out breastfeeding and diaper changes and started getting to know our new little guy. 
They finally let us leave on Saturday afternoon and we were so excited to bring our son home and introduce him to our pup and also excited to sleep in our own bed with our little bundle of joy beside us. To say we are obsessed is an understatement. I have about 500 pictures from this past week that I could share but I'll end here because I've got a hungry little boy who's ready for his next mealtime. 
I mean have you ever seen a more perfect little sweet baby boy??