Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Dread Pirate Robert takes no prisoners

Alternate title: Nothing goes as planned, does it?

Breastfeeding: simply the hardest thing I've ever done, after giving birth. We have the Murphy's Law version of a breastfeeding relationship: everything that can go wrong, will. It started with Robert's extra days in the hospital, the resultant use of the breast pump, WRONG use of breast pump (who knew?) combined with barracuda of a son leading to severe nipple damage, screaming FUCKING HELL every time he latched on (in front of my mom, no less), repeated trips to the lactation consultant, overactive letdown and too much milk, switching to pumping (the right way, this time) and giving bottles of expressed milk, and now a raging thrush infection. Because nothing says "bonding!" like matching anti-fungal prescriptions!

Pumping doesn't really hurt anymore, but it is so time consuming. Every three hours, pump. It takes at least fifteen minutes, usually more. It's hard to determine when to stop pumping. If I do too little, I risk Robert not getting "the good stuff"-- the high-fat, high-protein hind-milk, that comes at the end of a nursing session-- and also risk getting engorged again, or getting a blocked duct; because there is just SO MUCH MILK. If I pump too much or for too long, I risk overstimulating my supply again. I don't know how much the early pumping has to do with my supply problems, because there's no way to know what it would have been like had Robert and I had a normal, mouth-to-boob beginning, but I suspect it did a good deal of harm. So every three hours, pump; bottle-feed the baby; and wash or sanitize all of the pump equipment and bottles. It usually takes at least half an hour, generally longer, to do this. So if I start pumping at eleven at night, go to bed at 11:45, get up at 2:00, get up again at 5:00am. Never sleeping more than two hours at a time, and that's assuming that Robert falls asleep again shortly after being fed.

Everybody says, take naps during the day! Sleep when the baby sleeps! But not everybody can just lay down for a nap anytime, you know? Sometimes, I'm tired but I can't sleep. Sometimes there's just other stuff I have to do (like pump. Again. Or boil the bottles.)-- or want to do. Everybody says, let the house go! Let everything go, just concentrate on taking care of the baby! Nobody discusses whether seeing the same pile of dirty laundry on the floor for three days might be too much for the fragile, post-partum mental state to handle, and that it's honestly better to just run it through the wash than to look at it and cry.

It's funny, when Robert was in the hospital and I was bringing in milk (and pre-milk, at first), it seemed like such a precious commodity. I'd stayed up most of the night pumping, and carefully transported it to the Special Care nursery; "I brought him some milk, is this good? Is it enough?" Now, I see it more as a biological contaminate... whatever doesn't make it into a bottle or into my son just makes a mess: soaking towels, shirts, bras, pads (Don calls the breast pads "boob diapers"); dripping onto my pants, onto my desk where I keep the pump. And it's a lot better than it was a few weeks ago. I am no longer sleeping on a folded towel, for instance. Pity the fool that tells me, "At least you have enough! Too much is better than too little!" They have not seen my poor baby gag and choke at the breast, trying to deal with a flow that's like drinking from a fire hose, or felt him clamp down as hard as he can on the nipple, to momentarily stop the spray. They haven't seen the screaming, gassy stomachaches that follow a feeding, and that happen less often and less severely when he drinks from the bottle, a fact that makes me want to cry. Oversupply and forceful letdown are not "a blessing in disguise", they're a serious problem and a real pain in the ass.

We have not even put a cloth diaper on him, yet. I hardly ever carry him in the sling or front-pack. At first this was because he was so heavy, and I was so weak and tired. Now, it's because the thrush has made my breasts so sore that nothing can rest upon them, definitely not the straps of the Baby Bjorn. He does not look comfortable in the Hotsling, and seems so precariously perched in it that I wrap one arm around the sling anyway, defeating the purpose. I think what we need is one of those big wrap-type slings with lots of fabric, but I don't have one yet. So far, he's been in the stroller more than anything. He spends about equal time at night in his bassinet, and in our bed; I thought we'd co-sleep more. He sleeps better with Don than with me; Don thinks this is because I smell like food to Robert and make him hungry, but it's still slightly disheartening. I spend a lot of every day, just surviving.


cara lou said...

Oh wow -- you poor thing! You're having a lot of struggles that I never had to deal with, and I commend you for keeping on! So many people would have given up the breastfeeding all together. Even though it's hard right now, I PROMISE it'll get easier!

We had a bit of a struggle at the beginning with breastfeeding and the constant leaking of milk nearly drove me nuts. But I had heard, and found it to be true, that the first 40 days are the hardest. After that it gets soooo much easier.

So good luck! Keep taking it one day at a time. :)

ayla said...

my son STILL sleeps better with his daddy than he does with me. I miss the cuddling, for sure, but I'm so happy that they have that bond together.

the breastfeeding will get better, I promise. Sometimes babies just have to get bigger before they can handle their mamas. I know it can be frustrating and I'm so proud of you for everything you're doing.

Laura said...

And survive you will. It has been such a lesson in "surrender" having things "not go the way I planned". I think it took us a good month to feel up to using the cloth diapers (just too much damn work!)...so, I'm sure you'll get there. And I have so rarely used my beautiful Moby that I was so excited about finally being able to use. These first few weeks are beasts. And, yes, it's impossible to find time b/w feedings to do anything. It will get better!! (that's what everyone told me...and low and behold it did!)

Bella said...

oh Mara - if ever you had friends that could sympathize, it is definitely now!

Breastfeeding IS hard, no lie there but sticking with it for as long as you and your baby both agree it's the best stuff ever, is good. I had the opposite problem - I could not for the life of me, produce enough milk to fill my son's tummy.

I felt like a total failure and when the postpartum kicked in it was hells bells "I can't even feed my own child, HOW am I going to be a good mother!?!?!?" Insert crying and serious self doubt with moments of brash ferocity that said "I can do this!" ...it sucked, for sure.

I think the worst thing was hearing folks give you the whole "just sleep when the baby sleeps" nonsense. Seriously? Some of us have OCD issues!!! And it was damned hard to nap when after finally falling asleep for 15 min, I would be woken not by the sounds of my baby, but the THROBBING pain that were my boobs. I'd lay down a reasonable size and wake up 2 cups larger, leaking everywhere, and so tender the sheet was more like an iron curtain of nails than soft cotton!

Just like anything else, it takes some practice and routine. You're in the home stretch for having an honest to goodness routine down. It will change as he gets older but you'll find that you know what to expect, and that makes all the difference!

Zephyr and I struggled too... and Jordan used to hold my hand while I cried during the first few weeks of nursing, it was so painful. And there's nothing like yelling out "Bloody Hell!!!" the min they latch on, is there? :D

You're doing great - keep taking deep breaths and try to remind yourself that you and Robert both are greenhorns, you're in it together and you'll both get your groove before you know it.

Call anytime if you want to vent, or are in the mood to hear me reminisce for hours on our struggles too!!

Steph said...

I had the same breastfeeding pain death spiral with my first son! And my second. The good news was that my boobs finally wised up by my third. It was like they finally figured out what to do. I went through hell and back bf'ing the first two but the second two were a breeze! Go figure. Keep on keepin' on. You are doing great!