From Wretch To Angel: Where’s the Angel Part? (Conclusion)
Originally published on The Calm Before the Stork.
When I sat down to write that first post-birth post, in a fit of adrenaline (post-mama’s-first-meconium, ahem), I had the story all mapped out in my head. But once I’d finished the birth part, I needed a nap.
I still need a nap.
But I must finish the story.
Suffice it to say, or rather, in summary, in short: My baby was starving.
They tell you that the baby comes into this world with about three days’ worth of fat stores. Enough to keep him going while he and you learn how to breastfeed him on the meager yet thick drips of colostrum, until your milk comes in.
I was able to get something that looked like latching going on that first night in the hospital. The night nurse, a young black woman with a thick island accent, oversaw these attempts. The baby was crying. A lot.
“Oh, he is hungry! And he is frustrated! Oh yes, he is very very frustrated,” she said, over, and over, and over, and over, about 17 times, in a singsongy voice.
I didn’t sleep that first night.
Day two, we continued to do this dance of latching, sucking, crying. He had a few quiet moments, but those were becoming more and more brief and farther between. The next nurse came in with more advice on how to latch, how to hold him. It’s all a fog now. Though I do recall that each nurse as they came through had different information. Sometimes conflicting. I took the high road. Treated it like a surprise party. You never knew what goody, what newly helpful tip or tidbit someone might bestow upon us next.
The afternoon-to-evening nurse observed that our baby was crying a lot. She decided he was gassy. She walked him around our room for at least half-an-hour, thumping him on the back. I marveled at her dedication and thanked her profusely. How giving.
He did not stop crying, however. I spent the night with him on my chest, shoving the boob in his mouth as much as possible, pulling it off to futz with the latch, shoving it back in again. Please eat. Please stop crying. I began to feel like a cartoon monster, attacking him. Boobzilla.
Night two shift change brought a very nice Chinese woman with a thick accent, who felt it was her duty to explain to me every detail of every piece of information I’d already learned in a babycare class or read in the book provided in our room or seen on the in-room video that day — all what I might need to know for the next few weeks… except it was midnight and maybe I didn’t need to review it right then?
She observed me nursing and held her hand above his head, making a kind of mouth wave suction motion in the air above his scalp with her fingers, and smiling approvingly at my baby’s fervent sucking. “This very good for his brain development.” Uh. Okay.
She refilled my jug of water (the big 32-ounce plastic jug with built-in straw that nurses were constantly refilling for me with filtered ice water every hour) but she refused to bring me ice. “Chinese people say ice water give you cramps.” Surprise! Okay.
That night I drank warm water and between feedings/torture sessions, I thumped the poor boy on his back. Believing he had a mean case of gas.
The next morning, the pediatrician arrived.
“Gas? No,” he laughs. Surprise! “And certainly not that much gas. The thumping on the back isn’t even necessary. It probably just annoys him.” Great. Two days in and I’m already a bad mother.
Ped’s solution: Let him cry it out. If you want to, supplement feedings with a little water from a dropper.
I wasn’t sure about how to get a dropper. I did ask for a lactation consultant.
LC arrived in a cloud of icky-old-lady perfume and leaned her wicked witch face in close to baby and me, stuck a finger in our latch, pronounced it just fine (everyone said I was doing it right — gold stars), and then showed me how to breastfeed while lying on my side.
The crying/nursing/abuse continued until the afternoon shift change, when Nurse Thumper came back.
She was the one who finally got it. Being the only person who had any continuity with the situation, she understood that this, really, come on people, was, rather, too much crying.
She called in a second, much more aesthetically pleasing (not that it matters) lactation consultant, who decided this baby was really hungry.
But this one, this lady, she was right. She gave us formula, and a special syringe attached to a very thin straw that slides in next to my nipple, “feeding” him while he’s breast”feeding.”
After she left, we grew fearful. Could we overfeed him? She’d told us how much (15 cc’s — about a tablespoon and a half), but she didn’t tell us how often.
That first night home, there was still quite a bit of crying — the red faced, whole body vibrating, terror-crying — as we alternated every few food-less feedings with the formula-plus kind. At one point, Scott was holding the baby, swaddled, while bouncing on the gym ball in the nursery. I stood in the center of the room, watching, helpless (certainly, I can’t bounce). The crying was killing me. I cried. Something inside my chest broke.
Not that I didn’t love this baby, but I couldn’t take the pain of loving someone who was in so much pain. I. Shut. Down.
The next morning, Scott took the baby to the pediatrician who (now finally understanding the situation — I mean, we forgive him for his earlier comment, he was trying to be supportive based on that belief about the fat stores) encouraged us to up our formula feedings.
Which we did, immediately. Our baby started to transform before our eyes. The crying stopped. He slept. He slept on my chest! He was calm. He was an ANGEL.
While the pediatrician warned us that formula supplementing might delay my milk coming in, it didn’t. Within a day we were up to 100% breast milk, and now nursing is going strong, with lots of deep heavy naps after feedings.
My friend Abby, also a recent new-mom called us that day and Scott filled her in on our recent struggles. Turns out she’d had the exact same experience. Both of our babies were 6-pounds-something, with lots of crying, leading to formula. “The small ones come out hungry!” she said.
It also occurred to me in retrospect that the 24-hour labor, the three hour pushing, might have used up those famous fat-stores.
We’re glad someone helped us finally to stop starving our baby, and the rend in my heart could heal.
Editor’s Pick by Deb at Missives From Suburbia. When I found Julie’s blog, I was impressed by her straightforward talk about the ups and downs of childbirth and motherhood. Her posts always bring to mind a phone chat with a well-spoken friend who you call when you want someone to “tell it like it is”. Visit her blog and peruse her archives. Be sure to check out the original post and the subsequent posts in her three-part series. While you’re there, don’t forget to subscribe to Julie’s feed.Edited By Megan Jordan | September 24th, 2008 | Category: BN Channel Pregnancy, Birth, Adoption, Featured 2, Wednesday 2 | 1 Comment »