Monday, April 5

No one said it would be easy.

It's funny sometimes how you really just don't know what you don't know.

Before Milo was born, one of the biggest things I was anxious to find out was the color of his hair. I wondered if he would be a redhead like me or if he would have dark hair like his daddy. I don't really know why it was such a big deal. It was almost as if his hair color alone would determine his entire personality. And then he was born. The moment I first saw him, I thought he had dark hair like Andrew's. Later, though, once he was cleaned up a bit, I realized that the dark hair was actually just wet hair. He actually had rather light hair. But it wasn't red, exactly. Now, two weeks later, I still can't tell what color hair this boy has. In some lights, it glows strawberry blond. From some angles, it seems to be a medium brown shade. Other times, it just looks blond. But who really cares?

I've been a mom for just a couple of weeks, and I pretty much feel like I have no idea what I'm doing. Why is he so fussy? Is it better to change his diaper before or after a feeding? How long should I let him feed on one boob before switching him to the other? Why does he eat for nearly an hour and then still act hungry five minutes later? Is breastfeeding supposed to be this hard? Why won't he just fall asleep already? What kinds of things am I supposed to be doing to help him developmentally? Why does Mommy suddenly refer to herself in the third person? And how am I going to manage by myself once Andrew goes back to work?

It's been the most amazing time of my life, yet also the most challenging. By far. The biggest challenge we've faced has been breastfeeding. (FYI, if you don't want to know the details of my breastfeeding experience, you may safely skip the next few paragraphs.) Andrew and I are both dedicated to breastfeeding. We feel it's the most beneficial thing for Milo's health, and I was looking forward to the bonding aspect of breastfeeding. But at our first pediatrician's appointment, just four days after his birth, we found out that Milo had lost way too much weight. He was down from 8 lbs, 5 oz. to just 7 lbs., 6 oz. It seemed that my milk was especially slow to come in, so we needed to do something to get it going. There was also a possibility that I just had low supply, and if that was the case, we'd need to supplement with formula. The doctor put Milo on a strict feeding schedule: nurse him every two hours, then I would need to pump afterward, then feed him the expressed milk through a dropper.

We were super disappointed. We thought we had done everything we could to ensure a strong start to breastfeeding—immediate skin-to-skin contact after birth, attempting to feed within the first hour after birth—all that good stuff. When we were in the hospital, Milo seemed to latch on just fine. But as the days went by, he began to fight it, pulling away and screaming every time I tried to nurse him. It basically took two of us to get him to feed: one person to hold his hands out of the way (Milo preferred to suck on his fists instead) and one to hold his mouth open and shove him on. Not exactly the bonding experience I had imagined. Plus, the entire nursing/pumping process took about an hour, so we only had an hour between feedings. This was very tiresome. But the thought of having to supplement with formula just crushed me. Of course I want to do what is best for Milo and if he lost too much weight and needed formula, so be it, but there is such a stigma around formula that I already felt like I had failed. And on top of that, we questioned the pediatrician's advice to feed him through a dropper. The dropper meant he didn't have to work at all for the food, and his latch seemed to be even worse as a result.

The second night of this horrible experience, we called a lactation consultant and made an appointment for the next day. Our meeting with the lactation consultant was extremely helpful. She watched me attempt to feed and saw how Milo struggled. She recommended that we use a nipple shield, both to help with the latch and to give my sore, cracked nipples a break. She took us down to feeding every two hours during the day and every three hours at night, with no more pumping. By this point, he had already gained a couple of ounces, so we were on the right track.

And for a couple of days, things were really looking up. He didn't fight me every time, and as for the latching, it was as if a switch had been flipped. Suddenly he just got it. But apparently it was a dimmer switch, because he has forgotten how to latch. Again. Fortunately, he's still gaining weight. As of last Saturday, he was back up to 8 lbs., 3 oz., just a couple of ounces shy of his birth weight. And once he reaches his birth weight, the pediatrician and lactation consultant agree that we can quit waking him up for feedings, and just let him tell us when he's hungry.

Basically, it's been difficult. I wish I'd known how hard it could be. for some naive reason, I thought everything would just be sort of easy. Sure, it's hard for some people, but surely not me. The entire parenting experience is different than I thought it would be. I had no idea what to expect, and somehow this still defies my expectations. Thinking back to my last few weeks of pregnancy, I wish more of my mom friends had really told me how tough this is. Maybe they forget when their babies get to be more fun and more rewarding. I wish I'd been able to prepare for this, to know what it was going to be like. It seems so silly, to think how much I wondered what color Milo's hair would be. I guess it just figures that I still don't really know.

I do know that I sure love this little boy. And that we'll figure all the other stuff out eventually.


Erika Jackson said...

Thanks for posting about this, Megan. I think people do tend to forget about how hard it was once things are easier so it's great to hear the real deal while you're in the midst of it. But because people forget, I trust that better days are on the horizon. Thinking about you guys.

Emoly said...

Sounds like you are giving it your all for that wonderful little boy of yours. He is very lucky to have such a great mommy.

Sheryl said...

I remember breastfeeding to be difficult. Ryan had a voracious appetite and I had to supplement because I just couldn't satisfy him. It worked—he was always over the 100th percentile in growth. Someone told me that my milk supply might be lower because I was so tired (which may be your situation too). Now Meghan was the opposite... she'd fall asleep every time she nursed and lost weight. So it's different with every baby. Hang in there. By the way, LOVED the video (may use that song for our mother/son dance at Ryan's wedding).

katy said...

oh dear do I ever know about breastfeeding trouble, and the horrendous guilt that comes with thinking you must be doing something wrong. it's awful but trust me, you're doing everything you can.

I've actually been thinking a lot about the "newborn" days and what and why I wrote about on *our* blog... I intentionally left off most of the challenging bits because I didn't want to seem like a failure. ridiculous I know. now I look back and really wish I'd been more honest. I was deceiving all my poor readers (sorry)

babies are hard. parenting is hard. but newborns are ESPECIALLY hard. if it makes you feel better I still have no idea what I'm doing. ever. you just kind of keep on keeping on. you guys are doing great.

Aimee said...

Hi there! I'm a friend of Courtney's from CA and every once in a while I hop over to your blog from hers...
Congratulations on Milo! He's adorable! I think the last time I checked your blog you had just returned from meeting Austin for the first time...clearly it has been a while since my last blog visit! Anyway, I just wanted to encourage you with the nursing issues...I had a really challenging time with my first baby. He struggled terribly to latch on, he was jaundice and because he wasn't nursing well they wanted me to supplement with formula. Like you I didn't want to do that and stuck to the nursing. He had reflux and would spit up (what seemed to be) his entire meal, my boobs hurt like crazy and I was discouraged. Many tears were shed over the matter. Anyway, I kept at it, my son started to get the hang of it and I clearly remember feeling like 6 weeks was the magic week. My chest started to feel more normal, he was finally able to latch on, etc. and I ended up nursing him until two weeks before his first birthday. My second son was a piece of cake. He figured it out immediately and I never once felt even the slightest discomfort with nursing. It was wonderful! You can imagine my surprise when my daughter was born last September and I found nursing her to be incredibly painful!? For two to three weeks I would hold my breath and gasp in pain every time the girl would nurse. She was like a vacuum and it was miserable! But, I hung in there and after 2-3 weeks all was well! I tell you all of this to give you hope that it will get better! Just take it one feeding at a time and I have a feeling you'll be over this hump before you know it!

Briana said...

Milo has a wonderful Mommy and Daddy. I'm thinking about you, Megan! Cha Cha Cha

Briana said...

Milo has a wonderful Mommy and Daddy. I'm thinking about you, Megan! Cha Cha Cha

Mary said...

Finally catching up on your blog. I think this post is one of the sweetest pieces on new motherhood I have ever read.