Friday, August 31, 2018

Exclusively Pumping is Hard

Breastfeeding is incredibly difficult. I had no idea how thoroughly challenging it is until I gave birth to my son last month.

When he was born, my son latched onto my breast within half an hour after his birth. His latch was great and there were no issues with his feedings. However, he wound up in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) when he was just twenty hours old because he was having issues with regulating his blood sugar and body temperature. To stabilize his blood sugar issues (which would help his temperature problem), the NICU had to introduce formula and a dextrose IV drip.

The hospital encouraged me to use a breast pump since I intended to breastfeed the baby. I was shown how to use the pump by a lactation consultant. In the beginning, I only got a few drops out during a pumping session. However, these small drops of colostrum were liquid gold and important to the baby's health. The NICU nurses made sure to feed my son what I had pumped, regardless of how small of an amount, before giving him any formula.

The baby was born on Monday and, by Friday, my milk had came in and I became engorged. I asked the NICU nurse what she thought while visiting our son. She called another lactation consultant who came to the NICU meet with my husband and me. The lactation consultant assisted us in getting the baby to feed on my breast with the help of a contact nipple shield. Once the baby was done eating, she showed my husband and me how to relieve the engorgement in my breasts. I was amazed at the amount of milk I pumped during that session.

The biggest struggle with the baby being in the NICU was the nurses would only let me attempt to breastfeed for a short time. If he became frustrated and cried too much, they would say he couldn't be bottle fed and would, therefore, feed him with a feeding tube which was placed through his nose to his stomach. He would be frustrated often because breastfeeding is more work for a baby. He became used to the instant feeding a bottle would allow and didn't want to work for his milk.

When we brought him home, I decided not to fight him on breastfeeding. I wanted him to eat, gain weight, and be healthy. When he would cry inconsolably each time I breastfed, I decided to exclusively pump. I wished he would have drank directly from my breast instead of pumping and bottle feeding, but it wasn't working out at that time.

While my husband was home on parental leave the first four weeks of our baby's life, pumping wasn't an issue. He could watch and console the baby if he started fussing allowing me all the time I needed for each pumping session. However, my husband has been back at work for two full weeks now and I'm at my wits end with pumping exclusively.

After some trial and error, I discovered by son would latch on and nurse if I used a nipple shield since it resembles a bottle nipple more than the nipples on my breasts. The first time, he nursed a mere five minutes. The second, closer to ten. He's nursed up to fifteen minutes a couple of times. I have fed him solely from my breast overnight twice. We've only been working on the transition into breastfeeding for about a week and it's going pretty well.

During the day, I cannot breastfeed him. This is because my supply had started to struggle when my pumping schedule became irregular. The baby would be asleep when it was time for me to pump, but I would wait for him to wake to offer him by breast first. Sometimes he would take it and sometimes he wouldn't. If he wouldn't, I would have to wait to pump until after I had bottle fed him and gotten him to sleep. There were times when it would be four to five hours between pumping sessions when I am supposed to pump every three hours or so.

My husband and I worked out a plan to work through this yesterday. When he is home, I will try to breastfeed the baby first. Once the baby is done (whether he eats or not), my husband will take the baby and see if he wants any milk from a bottle while I pump. My lactation consultant recommended  continuing to pump after breastfeeding sessions until the baby is solely eating from the breast. When I'm home alone with the baby, in order to maintain my pumping schedule so my supply is not endangered, I will exclusively pump. This would be no different than if I was working full-time and pumping at work.

Nevertheless, pumping while home alone with the baby remains a struggle. I have searched online for tips for keeping my supply up. Some of the suggestions I have located are pumping at least seven to eight times a day, pumping for at least 15-20 minutes a session, and not paying attention to my output while I pump.

Many times, when I am attempting to maintain my pumping schedule, the baby will be fussy which makes pumping nearly impossible. Today I became incredibly frustrated and informed my husband I was done with pumping. Since then I have decided I am not actually done with it yet, but it's hard and emotionally taxing to attempt to be the sole source of sustenance for your child. I am hopeful we will be able to transition into exclusively breastfeeding instead of exclusively pumping because we are already on that journey. It is going to be extremely difficult, but it will be worth it in the end.

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Wellness Wednesday #1

My weight is something I have struggled with my entire life. As a child, I remember hoarding sweets in my bedroom even though I was never without food. I overate regularly and my parents couldn't really stop it as I would sneak food without their knowledge. The summer between middle school and high school, I weighed over 200 pounds. At that point, my body hadn't matured so I wore my weight much differently than I do now.

High school gave me such high anxiety. Shortly after I started my high school career, I acquired a compulsion to not eat in front of other people. I couldn't eat breakfast because I wasn't up long enough and it made me nauseated. I couldn't eat lunch because I was at school and my classmates were there. I didn't eat dinner because I had marching band practice, color guard practice, rifle team practice, National Youth Coalition meetings, etc. Without making a conscious effort, I basically became anorexic. With the lack of eating and activity from marching band, I started my freshman year around 200 pounds. By Christmas, I weighed 130.

During my sophomore year, I hit rock bottom with my lack of eating. I remember a one week period where I consumed one single package of Nutrigrain bites which were about 200 calories. Around this time, I was in my JROTC (Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps - intro into the military) class reciting the Pledge of Allegiance when I almost fainted. My instructor had a classmate take me to the nurse who called my mom. She picked me up, drove me home, and forced me to eat two grilled cheese sandwiches. That situation scared me and my parents. I slowly began eating better with my parents monitoring my food intake. My weight began to creep back up and, by the end of my sophomore year, I had gained 35 pounds and became overweight again.

My weight increased and decreased often throughout the rest of high school and into my early 20s when I had my first serious long-term relationship. The comfortableness of that relationship caused my weight to bloom. After about ten years in the relationship, things started to go downhill and we were no longer happy. I became depressed to the point of obtaining a compulsive overeating disorder. I would sit on the couch watching hours of television and stuffing my face until I felt sick and disgusted in myself. I saw my primary care physician who prescribed an anti-anxiety medication which helped me break the compulsive binge eating episodes. I only took the medication for nine months. My relationship ended. I was forced to move back in with my parents at 30 at my highest weight ever.

Since then, I have become more active and lost some weight. My weight went from 253 pounds to around 215 pounds by the time I met my husband. Once we met, my weight rose slightly due to being happy and comfortable in our relationship. Then I became pregnant and had a high aversion to most foods. I was eating whatever I could in order to consume enough to sustain my growing child. I gained around fourteen pounds during my pregnancy which was within the range of what was acceptable per my obstetrician.

Now that I'm no longer pregnant, I plan on focusing on my own health and wellness again. I was overweight when I became pregnant. I am still overweight, though at a lower weight than I've seen in years due to breastfeeding. I don't want to solely concentrate on weight loss. I would like to also concentrate on mental and emotional health.

Years ago, I ran a weight loss support group on another blogging site. While running that group, we had goals each week of a twelve week round. I am going to review and possibly change a few of those goals, but use the same format as it seemed to really help motivate my weight loss back then. Feel free to participate along with me!

Week One: 
  • Mental/Emotion: Get enough rest. Most people need at least seven or eight hours of sleep per night for optimal functionality. Getting enough sleep also aids in weight loss. 
  • Physical/Nutrition: Drink enough water. Most people don't drink enough water. Water is very important to your physical self. Use this website to determine how much water you should drink each day.
The mental or emotional goal is going to be hard for me. I have a six week old infant whose sleep determines mine. I will definitely strive to get the most sleep possible overnight. I normally drink a lot during the day as breastfeeding makes you thirsty. However, I've been drinking a lot of chocolate milk, cranberry juice, orange juice, and Sprite. I will focus on drinking more water and less of other liquids.

So, my official first weigh in for this twelve week wellness challenge is:

If you're interested, here is a log of my "important" weights for this challenge. I am also posting these on the Weight Loss page on my blog here. Again, join me if you wish! The more, the merrier!

Weigh In Date Weight Note
January 1, 2014
Highest Ever
November 27, 2017
July 13, 2018
Last Pregnancy
July 25, 2018
First Post Pregnancy 
August 18, 2018
Lowest Post Pregnancy
August 28, 2018
Wellness Starting

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Hey, it's Okay

Hey, it's okay...

... to be excited my son is growing! We had his one month appointment last week at five weeks and one day. His last appointment was exactly four weeks previously. His weight went from 7 pounds 2 ounces (20th percentile) to 10 pounds 6.5 ounces (55th percentile). He went from 19.75 inches (30th percentile) to 21.5 inches (45th percentile). His head circumference went from 13 inches (4th percentile) to 14.75 inches (60th percentile).

... to already be going through Hammer's dresser. He has outgrown most of his newborn clothes and even some of his 0-3 months. He has started wearing some 3 month clothing at 6 weeks old!!! We're going to take out everything we know is too small and evaluate what we have in the 0-3 month and 3 month size. We may need to get some more onesies and sleepers. Again, he's a growing boy!

Hammer at 1 month
... to be failing at blogging... Again, you're only a new mom once. I tend to focus on my little man when he's awake so I'm only on the computer when he's sleeping and I'm not doing anything around the house. It's not much because, at six weeks, he's awake a lot more than he was a few weeks ago. He's more fun though because he grins at his mama all the time and it makes my heart happy.

... to want to get out of the house, but also not want to get out of the house. I've been a stay-at-home mom for six weeks now. Other than my in-laws and my great aunts, we've had no visitors which is weird to me. I figured more people would want to come by and meet the baby. While I would be fine with that on days like today, some days I just want to be left alone.

... to be ready to try to get back in some shape. I have my six week postpartum appointment this week. I'm hopeful my OB will tell me I can return to regular activities. Once we get out of this heat wave, I would like to start taking my baby for walks a few times a week. It would be good for both of us. Eating healthier would also be better for us all around.
... to be trying to relaunch my Usborne Books & More business. I took about two months off with the birth of my son and now I have to win back all of my customers. Usborne is books which are both educational and fun. The books are for children from infant to teenager. They're really awesome and I love them so much. Let me know if you have any questions about them!

... for the majority of these to be related to the baby. Haha!

Friday, August 17, 2018

Hammer's Birth Story

Disclaimer: Hammer is the nickname my son has had since I was 8 weeks pregnant. Also, this will be long so bear with me!

I gave birth to my first child a month ago yesterday. I really want to have his birth story somewhere so I can remember it in detail when mom-brain makes me forget. Let's see what I can remember...

On Sunday the 15th of July, I began having pretty regular contractions. They weren’t very strong or close together. My husband and I worked on finishing up Hammer's nursery that weekend. I had a scheduled obstetrician appointment on the 16th. At my appointment the previous week, my OB had said we would need to schedule an induction if I hadn't gone into labor by the 16th. I wanted the nursery to be ready for the baby to come home should I be induced.

Around 11:00 PM, my contractions became closer together, but were still around 7-8 minutes apart. They were lasting a minute or longer, though. In order to be sent to labor and delivery (L&D), the contractions needed to be five minutes apart lasting a minute or longer for an hour or more. I was able to fall asleep for a bit.

I woke up around 1:00 AM with stronger contractions. I couldn't sleep through them anymore. I began timing them with an app on my phone. They were ranging from 4-6 minutes apart and lasted over a minute each. Around 1:30 AM, I woke my husband because I needed him to help me breathe through them. They were getting closer and closer together. Some were only 2-3 minutes apart! We decided to wait until 2:00 AM to call the after hours number for my OB's office. When I called, the OB said to head to L&D so we gathered our things and did. Let me just say, contractions while riding in a car for forty minutes are not fun.

We arrived at the hospital just before 3:00 AM and got situated in our room. The room just happened to be the same room I delivered my sleeping twins in back in September... I guess the universe was giving us a way to replace sad memories in that room with happy ones. At this point, I was two centimeters dilated and 50% effaced with the baby's head at -3 station. (For information on what I mean by station, please click here.)

Just before 5:00 AM, my nurse said the on call doctor told him if I hadn't had any cervical changes they would be sending me home. Nothing had changed. He came back within about half an hour and let us know they would be keeping me for observation for another two hours. Since I live forty minutes from the hospital and baby was at an A- on the monitor and not an A+, they weren't confident with discharging me. We later learned his heart rate was flat and didn't have the peaks and dips most babies have, but it wasn't a huge concern at that point. My mom had arrived by this point.

Another cervical check was completed around 7:30 AM. The nurse declared I was now three centimeters dilated and 50% effaced with baby at -2 station. The doctor came in shortly after this and said since my labor was progressing and I would probably be induced that day anyway, they wanted to augment my labor. We agreed.

She used a Foley balloon and pitocin on the lowest setting. I asked for an epidural immediately because I know how painful the contractions are with pitocin. I experienced a few of these intense contractions while waiting for the epidural. When a nurse tried to adjust my Foley balloon around 10:00 AM, it came right out which meant I was dilated to at least four centimeters. About fifteen minutes later, the anesthesiologist came in and did my epidural.

I don't remember much after that in regards to time. I know I napped some. I know the nurses turned off my pitocin and reduced my epidural because baby's heart rate would drop with my contractions and stay low for too long. I remember my contractions came back really strong and I had to get a bolus from the anesthesiologist. The bolus made everything more numb than the original epidural did. I know the doctor came in and broke my water because my labor had stalled with them shutting off the pitocin.

My doctor was getting ready to recommend a c-section, but I told my nurse I felt a lot of pressure and pain with each contraction. She did another check and determined I was ready to push. I pushed for 30 minutes, but was getting worn out. The nurse let me "rest" for about 30 minutes. Her hope was the baby would work his way down on his own. I was sobbing through each contraction and telling my husband I wasn't sure how I was supposed to rest when the pain was so bad. My mom was massaging my back while my husband attempted to help me breathe through the pain.

The nurse came back and told me to push again. The pain was terrible with each contraction. I kept having to stop because I felt like I was going to throw up. I cried almost the whole time saying I didn't know if I could push him out. I remember saying over and over I never wanted a natural childbirth and the pain was too bad. I know I said at least once I was never wanted to go through labor again. Eventually, I did throw up due to the pain. I'm not sure how, though, because I hadn't had anything to eat in over 24 hours. Throwing up helped me though because I was able to push harder after that.

The doctor came back and said she could see the baby's head coming out. She said it looked like he was stuck under my pelvic bone and, if I could get his head under it, he would come out really easily. Baby appeared to be under distress. There was a lot of movement once she said this; the bed was raised high, the end was taken off, and stirrups were brought out. Once I was in the stirrups, pushing was so much easier. I wish they would have set the bed up like that to begin with!

With the next few contractions, the doctor tried to use a vacuum while I was pushing. Unfortunately, it popped off the baby's head twice. The next time I pushed, she pulled and the baby's head came out.  I pushed once more and felt immediate relief! I heard a little squeak and my husband asked if I had heard the baby. My husband had planned to cut the umbilical cord, but I heard the doctor say, "Sorry, Dad. I had to cut the cord. We need to take care of him." 

The nurses took the baby to the warmer and began working on him. He starting crying loudly. My mom and husband went to see the baby while I was laying there getting my second degree tear stitched up. I heard the doctor say he came out sunny side up which is why my contractions were so intense and why he got stuck under my pelvic bone. The nurse the doctor was talking to said my epidural had failed, too.

My mom asked if I wanted to see a picture of the baby. I told her no because I wanted to see him. A few moments later, a nurse brought him over to me and I got to see my beautiful baby boy. He was born at 9:50 PM on July 16th which is also his paternal grandfather's birthday. He weighed 6 pounds and 15.5 ounces and was 19.5 inches long.

I later learned from my mom that, when he was born, he was very limp. The nurse would pick up his arm and drop it, and his arm would fall to his side. My mom was very worried, but the nurses kept telling her he would be okay.

I held him for a minute or two and the nurses took him to the nursery to give him some fluids. Shortly after, he was brought back to breastfeed for the first time. They took him back to the nursery when he was done and the L&D nurse finished with my post-delivery checklist and moved me to the postpartum floor around 11:30 PM.

I will write soon about our first night together and Hammer's stay in the NICU.

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Hey, It's Okay

Hey, it's okay...

... to have missed a ton of writing. It's not every day you become a mom for the first time. Look for the birth story of my son soon! I'll also be writing a lot of entries about my experiences with being a new mom.

... to be uncertain of what to do with a four week old. My husband returned to work yesterday so I am now home alone with the baby and the pets.

... to not want company this week. Getting used to being home alone with the baby has made things a little difficult. When my husband was on parental leave, we would split the time we were up overnight. Now I do most of the overnight wake ups so he can sleep for work. I am running on little sleep and haven't even showered today... and it's almost 6:00 PM.

... to love all of the rerun marathons shown on ion. I love most of the shows on there. NCIS: Los Angeles, Criminal Minds, Law & Order, CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, and Law & Order: SVU. They show Leverage in the early mornings and I'm starting to like that show. I'm not a fan of Blue Bloods though.

... to be excited we're in the middle of August. Autumn is my favorite season and I cannot wait for the weather to cool down some. It hasn't been as hot as normal here lately, but it's still been too hot for me!