Sunday, December 30, 2007

Love is all around

I have always wanted a spring baby. There is something so natural and so symbolic about bringing a new life into the world at the time when the whole world is reborn: new buds appear on the trees, the first flowers are blooming, the birds return, the people come out of winter hibernation. But there are also practical reasons. You don't have to be pregnant in the summer--and where I live, being pregnant in the summer is quite miserable. Around the holidays, you are safely out of your first trimester, so you don't feel like crap every minute of every day, and yet you are not so far along that you can't travel to see family. Plus, you don't have to worry about putting on those holiday pounds. When the baby is born, you can take him or her out for a walk without bundling up in layers and layers of clothing or go to the store without worrying about the flu.

This was back when I thought it would take just a couple of months to get pregnant. As months went by, I realized that what I wanted was a baby, not a birth date.

Now I have my two winter babies. (OK, so late October and early December are officially fall, but it is darn close to winter.) The other night, as I was baking some holiday cookies,* with my two boys all tucked in and sound asleep upstairs, my husband sitting at the kitchen island across from me doing some online holiday shopping, Christmas carols playing on the stereo, the smell of melted chocolate wafting through the house, I was completely overcome by the feeling of peacefulness. This feeling was so intense and so comforting. Over the last few years, there was always some turmoil in my heart--worry, disappointment, uncertainty, frustration, sadness... And it is against the backdrop of these last few years and particularly the miserable Christmas of a year ago, that I find myself so blissfully happy and peaceful this holiday season. Sure, there are plenty rough moments, like when Baby refuses to sleep and screams bloody murder for no apparent reason, when I am so tired I physically can't get out of bed in the morning, when Child exhibits such stubbornness it makes me want to scream... But on the large picture, when I take a step back from being overwhelmed by the minutiae of everyday life, I feel at peace. My heart is full love. My wishes have come true in the form of two absolutely perfect winter babies. Love is all around.**

I wish this same feeling of peace to you. If your heart is far from peaceful, I know how much you long for it. And I really, really hope and pray that it will come soon.

*What kind of cookies? Well, I am glad you asked. I actually made eight different kinds this season (with various degrees of success). But on that particular evening, I was making these Black Forest Cookies, replacing semisweet chocolate with bittersweet and cherries with craisins. Oh. My. God. These were heaven. (they don't freeze well though, just FYI).

**This is a line from Dave Matthews' "Christmas Song." If you haven't heard it, you should.

Friday, December 07, 2007

The first month

Where did the month go? On one hand, it feels like we left for the hospital just yesterday. On the other hand, Baby has become such a part of the family that it feels like he’s been here for a very, very long time. Life is busier than ever—what with our constant visitors, holiday shopping, holiday baking, holiday decorating, birthday party planning (Child will be turning four at the end of this week), not to mention this whole round-the-clock taking care of the baby. So here is a quick week-by-week recap of Baby’s first month. I am afraid that if I don’t write it down now, exhaustion will wipe my memory slate clean.

Week 1.
I am not sure if I actually made this point clear in my birth story post, but labor was a piece of cake. I highly recommend having the second labor first. Quick. Easy. Anxiety-free (except for that whole “it may be too late for epidural” business). Margie the midwife and Kate the nurse should definitely be on Santa’s “extra-nice” list this year. The postpartum floor staff and the hospital cafeteria—not so much. I was SOOO ready to go home on the third day. However, it took hours to get discharged, even though we had discharge notices from both the pediatrician and the midwives. When we mentioned that we have been waiting for several hours, the nurse said, “Oh, I saw that you were feeding the baby, so I figured you weren’t ready.” Ummm, if that was the case, no one would ever get discharged from the postpartum floor because newborns, as far as I know, pretty much eat around the clock…

Anyway, being home was wonderful. I was on such an emotional high the first week. I was tired, but the adrenalin kept me going. Breastfeeding was painful, but I knew it would be. Breastfeeding Child was the most physically painful experience I have ever had, so I was prepared for it this time. My parents were staying with us, and they were so, so very helpful in terms of household chores. Husband took a week off from work and was entertaining Child, so all I had to do was take care of Baby. To all of my pregnant and soon-to-be pregnant friends out there, this is how it should be: in those first few weeks, you don’t really need anyone to help you take care of the baby—you just need someone to take care of you and everything else. I was so lucky to have this help, both when Child was born and now when Baby was born.

Week 2.
Breastfeeding is getting tougher, and I am starting to feel down about it. I was really hoping for an easier time this time around. He is eating well, peeing well, pooping well, his latch-on looks perfect, and yet I am in incredible amount of pain. I learned my lesson with Child not to wait a month to seek help with breastfeeding. So I make an appointment with the nurse practitioner at the pediatrician’s office who specializes in lactation. During the weight check, it turns out that Baby is loosing weight. He was born at 8.15, discharged on day 3 at 8.7, was at 8.6 on day 4, and now is down to 8.2 on day 10. Ideally, he is supposed to be at 8.15 by day 14, and that is clearly not happening. Huge surprise for me as he seemed to be doing all the things the book says well-fed babies should be doing (number of wet/soiled diapers, etc.). On top of it all, it appears that one of his newborn screening tests came back with low levels, indicating that there may potentially be a serious disorder, which could be an explanation for why he is not gaining weight. So we are sent back to the hospital to rerun the newborn screening test (which takes a whole week to get results), check the bilirubin and also do a full chemistry panel of blood work. Of course, at that point, my raw nipples are the last thing on my mind. Three hours and three heel pricks later, we are back home. For the next 24 hours, Baby is supposed to be on strict two-hour feeding schedule, and I am also supposed to pump after each feeding to help boost my supply. It was a miserable 24 hours and I did not sleep a wink, but at the end of it, Baby did gain 2 ounces. However, the pediatrician was hoping for a more significant increase, so I am instructed to start supplementing with formula due to low milk supply. Also, the hospital lab lost the chemistry panel blood sample, so we had to do it again, in addition to another bilirubin check. Holding your screaming newborn while someone sticks needles in his little feet is not my idea of fun time.

Week 3.
Breastfeeding still sucks. It hurts like hell, and my supply is not increasing despite what seems like round-the-clock nursing and pumping. I finally see the lactation consultant. This has been the best decision I have made so far in this motherhood experience. She immediately diagnoses Baby with tongue tie. I asked the pediatrician who discharged us from the hospital about this (Child had the same issue, so I was familiar with it), and--just like when Child was a baby--was told that it does not interfere with breastfeeding. When I tell this to the lactation consultant, she simply shakes her head in disbelief. She recommends that we get the frenulum clipped right away. I spend the next day trying to schedule an appointment with an ENT--the earliest openings are a month away. I finally find a practice that can get me in within a week. The procedure goes well, but I don't feel immediate relief. Two days go by, and I am in tears again. I put all my hope in the fact that frenotomy would help with the pain. But on the third day, things begin to improve. I now realize that it must have taken Baby a few days to figure out how to use his "new" tongue. We also hear from the pediatrician's office again. The repeat newborn screening test comes back normal. Beautifully normal. I cry with relief.

Week 4.
Things are improving on all fronts. It is the week of Thanksgiving holiday here in the U.S. I have so much to be thankful for.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007


I had a particularly difficult day yesterday. The lack of sleep was really catching up with me. I have been sleeping for four hours a night and have not had an opportunity to take a nap during the day in more than a week. I was exhausted and cranky. All I wanted to accomplish yesterday was a nap.

But Baby had a different agenda. He decided that the only way he was going to sleep was on the breast. He would fall sound asleep—so asleep that I could not wake him up to continue feeding, no matter how hard I tried. But as soon as I would move him off my lap and into his bassinet, he would wake up and begin wailing—either immediately or within a few minutes. I tried swaddling, rocking, swaying, bouncing, putting him the car seat, putting him in the bouncy chair, putting him in the front carrier. Nothing worked. I spent so much time trying to get him to sleep that eventually it would be time for the next feeding and he would immediately fall asleep nursing. Eventually I dozed off in the glider and woke up with a horrible head and neck ache from my head falling forward when I slept.

“This has been the worst day,” I thought to myself.

Some time later, I turned on the computer and noticed the date. December 4. I felt a pit in my stomach. Exactly a year ago, we found out that we lost the baby that I was carrying, the baby that it took us a year and a half to conceive. A year later, I still feel sick to my stomach when I think of that day. I feel such overwhelming sadness. That was the worst day.

Today, I hold a beautiful boy in my arms. My little miracle. How we ever got so lucky to conceive him on the first regular cycle after that loss, I will never know. But I am so, so grateful for him. And every day with him is a blessing, even if he refuses to sleep or demands to always be held. Every day is a great day when you put it in perspective.