Dear Mamas

Only three more shifts remain before the powers that be unleash me on to unsuspecting families and babies in the Postpartum unit. Am I ready? I think so. I mean, there’s really only one way to be sure, and that shift will come on Monday, September 7th, 2015.

In my very brief time on the Postpartum unit, I have made some observations. Some you may agree with and some you may not. I’ll share them anyway.

Safe Sleep

Now, let me preface this post by saying that while I am a co-sleeping, bed-sharing mama, I must beseech you new mamas to please be safe while in the hospital. Being safe means you put your new bundle of joy in their open crib/bassinet when you’re not cuddling, cooing, sharing time skin-to-skin, breastfeeding, bottlefeeding, or otherwise staring in awe at the new human being you just pushed out of your nether regions.

Why?

Because moms drop babies.

Yes. They drop their own babies. Moms are exhausted from the trials and tribulations of labor or surgery or the hormonal shift that begins in the postpartum period, along with medications. You may think you would never in a million years drop your baby, but yes, people do. And it’s sad. And it’s preventable. So, do your nurses a big favor: when you feel exhausted and your partner is across the room snoring in his/her fold out chair or bed, please put your baby safely into the confines of the open crib/bassinet, or better yet? Call your nurse. We will be happy to do it for you.

Not only do moms drop their babies, but they fall asleep with them in their beds. Hospital beds. Beds filled with unsafe linen, quilted pads, sheets, pillows, blankets. Babies can become trapped between mom and the side rail, mom and excessive sheets, and yes, mom and her breasts. Bottom line: please, PLEASE take care when you feel sleepy and tired. When in doubt, take them out…….of YOUR bed and into their own.

As your nurse, I implore you: be safe. Be cautious. Be mindful. When you get home and you can provide a safe family sleeping environment, go for it.

The Milk Maid Cometh

No, mama, you don’t have any mature milk right now. I can’t tell you how many new moms, young and old, experienced and new think that milk is coming immediately after the birth of their baby. Nope. That’s not how it works. That is a fact. I know it may seem that you are putting this newborn to breast for no discernable reason, but believe me when I tell you the importance of it. Every time you bring your baby near, let your baby nuzzle you, let your baby sleep doze safely skin-to-skin, you are sending your milk makers some serious messages. Those boobs are waking up, mama, and before long you will channel your inner Bessie and be the milk maid. It WILL happen. Trust me. I pull up a chair to your bedside at 0300, hold your hand, guide your baby to breast, show you hand expression, gently explaining that this liquid gold you are now producing (colostrum) is all your baby needs right now. No. Really. I promise. Don’t be discouraged. I am here for you. Put your call light on every time you wish to bring that new squish to breast, and I will help you. Why? Because I won’t let you give up quite yet. I’ll look you in your tired eyes and tell you to take it one nursing session at a time. Make it to two weeks, then make it to a month, and you’ll see the elusive breastfeeding silver lining. I know you can do it, and sometimes in the middle of the night when it seems the whole world is sleeping, you just need reassurance that you’re doing ok. And you know what?

You’re doing ok, mom.

Safe Transport

Do your Postpartum nurse a big favor. When you pack for the hospital, please do NOT bring the car seat base. Really. We don’t need to see it. We DO need to see the seat in which you will be transporting your baby, but the base? Leave it in the car. Better yet, make sure it is installed correctly by visiting a local fire station, AAA, or car seat technician. But, please, don’t bring it up to the hospital. Yes, this means you’ll actually have to take it out of the box after the baby shower.

Rooming In

As a newer mother myself, I was amazed at how much had changed from the time I had my son 16 years ago. Back then, rooming in didn’t exist. Now, it has become the norm. Why is rooming in so important? Well, if you’re breastfeeding, the best thing you can do is keep your baby close by to initiate feeding, learning to read their subtle cues. Rooming in promotes bonding as well. Now, all this aside, please don’t be afraid to put on your call light and tell me that you are absolutely exhausted and need a break. Just an hour or two. Sleep is elusive in the hospital. You’ll never get the opportunity to have a break like this when you go home, and in my humble new Postpartum nurse opinion, a couple of hours away from your baby while you sleep isn’t going to make or break your bonding experience and likely won’t mean costly therapy for your child, either. It’s ok, mom. Need a break? Put on your call light. Don’t worry. We WILL bring your baby back to you when your precious bundle begins to root at your nurse’s breasts or tries to eat their hands.

I’m sure that as I make my way down the Postpartum road, I’ll have other nuggets to share, but for now, these are the big ones. Most of all, new families, be kind to yourselves. Allow yourselves to take a collective cleansing deep breath. Slow down. Rest. Tell the rest of the world you’ll see them later. You just built a family and that takes a lot of energy.

Don’t worry. Your mother-in-law will be waiting when you get home to remind you of all the things you need to do. Until then?

Put on your call light if you need me.

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Birthday Blues

Normally, I am pretty excited about all things related to the anniversary of my birth, but this year is a bit different. Today, my 18-month old daughter went off to attend her first day of child care. The tears in my eyes this morning stung so hard as they rolled down my face like a waterfall. I made a valiant effort to keep it together for all of us, but failed miserably. I turned away after daddy strapped her into her carseat. She reached out for me, but I just couldn’t bear the look she gave me as she realized that I wasn’t coming with her.

Fuck. This sucks. This really sucks. I’ve already had to step away from this keyboard twice to grab more kleenex.

I return to night shift tonight as well. Some birthday celebration, eh? Whatever. I don’t mind that part at all. I’ll be glad to get back to my darkened hours.

I sit here with my coffee by my side, an eerily quiet home, and the prospect of having the entire day without a small human tugging at my pants or nursing at my bosom. To say it feels surreal is a complete understatement.

I have to admit, I do feel lucky, fortunate, dare I say even ‘blessed’ that we were able to keep J here at home with us, surrounded by family as her caregivers for the first 18 months of her life. After the first epic failure of our babysitter (I’m still bitter, by the way), it’s been a bit of a journey to find trust in another provider. Luckily, my employer has a fantastic child care center on the campus of the hospital where I work. I feel confident in their abilities, their experience, and I know that our daughter will likely thrive under their watchful eye.

I realize that some of you moms who have utilized group child care are probably laughing at me, and that’s ok. I admit it: I’m a complete amateur here, and I likely will never get into the groove of a daily child care routine. This morning was a joke as I carefully measured out equal amounts of expressed breastmilk into two sippy cups labeled with my daughter’s name. I couldn’t find lids to match cups and vice versa. I almost decided on a thermal carafe filled with coffee instead. My daughter woke up on her own, so after a brief breastfeeding session and snuggle, I did my best to tame her wild bedhead before I handed her off to daddy.

Damn. I miss her. I miss her already. It’s only been two hours, and I’m at a loss here. The house feels empty, sad, devoid of any real activity, which just makes it easier to grab another kleenex and cry.

How the FUCK do you mamas do it? This is all new territory for me, and I can only assume that with time, it becomes easier. All of it becomes easier. It has to, otherwise, nobody would EVER do it.

Is it 5 o’clock yet?

As if this isn’t enough, yesterday at the pediatrician’s office during J’s well child visit, we were greeted with a few concerns. J isn’t walking full time quite yet, although she has walked independently for almost a week now. The doctor didn’t seem overly alarmed, but did classify her as ‘delayed’ as far as gross motor skills are concerned. She will refer us to EI (Early Intervention) for an evaluation and we’ll go from there. Sigh….

The doctor also noted a tongue tie. I have had ZERO issues breastfeeding, so there was no indication that she even had one prior. With J also not saying much in the way of vocabulary, it was discussed that an option we have is to revise the tie via laser procedure. Needless to say, I spent a good chunk of yesterday researching this topic. The doctor said there was zero pressure to do the procedure at all, and based on discussion and research, we have opted to wait and leave this alone. There’s just not enough credible evidence linking tie revisions and improved speech. Whew. Ok. That’s easy enough to deal with.

But, then there’s the mommy guilt. Of course, the logical and rational part of me realizes that there is NOTHING I could have done differently or done to prevent any possible delays, but does that make me feel any better?

No.

Mommy guilt is a strong and powerful enemy. I would be lying if I said that I didn’t get a little twinge of jealousy when I see pictures and videos of other children J’s age or younger, walking, talking, singing songs, reciting full sentences. What the actual fuck did I do wrong? Why doesn’t our daughter get with the damn program?

My son was a late-talker as well. He chose not to speak much until he approached his third birthday. It was a time filled with speech evaluations, hearing tests, and waiting. I hated that time. The entire period was spent asking myself why he didn’t talk, and what I could have done to help him. When you realize the answer is likely nothing, it just doesn’t make you feel better at all. While the logical side of you knows that all children progress at their own pace, the emotional side of you knows that children are cruel and yeah, sometimes so are their parents, and when your kid stands out for reasons that aren’t too positive, it gets overwhelming and sad.

I hate thinking we are going down that same road again….

I smile and congratulate friends with babies and toddlers who are passing J in these milestones, but deep down I’m bummed and sad that we haven’t experienced these things yet. Call me superficial, call me shallow, but  I’m honest in these feelings, and I look forward to the day I can put them away.

So, today I sit here celebrating my 47th birthday with a cup of coffee and the knowledge that I can likely vacuum the entire house without interruption, and shop online with my son’s wonderful gift card for Amazon without distraction. And with the new watch my husband bought me, I’ll count the hours, minutes and seconds until I see my baby girl again.

Savor and Sip

Coffee. Computer. Music. Sitting down. Relaxing.

It’s 10:15 a.m., and this is the best part of the day.

I just laid my boss down for her first nap, and with nary a protest, all is silent. Thus begins the elusive ‘me’ time. A time in the day that all stay-at-home-parents cherish and savor.

I’ll be honest, I don’t usually accomplish much during this time except for social media and perhaps a bit of reading. On occasion, I’ll get really motivated and start the laundry, dust or clean some random item, but usually?

You’ll find me right here.

mecoffee

Doing nothing, and making zero apologies for it.

Call it my union break.

Goodbye, Milk. Hello Babies.

I have come to a big decision.

I am donating ALL of my frozen breastmilk. All of it. Every single ounce.

Liquid gold.

            486.75 ounces of liquid gold

This photo represents countless hours of pumping both at home, while traveling, and at work. I have dedicated the past year to this effort, and I can’t help but beam with pride every time I look at it. It’s hard work. It’s necessary work. It’s the best job I have ever had, and I am proud that I have not only helped my daughter with my efforts, but countless NICU and preemie babies via 1,000 ounces to Prolacta Bioscience. I have also donated locally to fellow mamas who had difficulties providing their own babies with breastmilk. All tallied, I have likely donated close to 2,000 ounces to others.

I now will make my final donation this week.

I came to the realization that I don’t need this milk as much as others do. I will be home with my daughter where she can drink her milk straight from the tap. Rather than risk this precious cargo being lost or damaged en route, I have decided to put it where it can do the most good in the growing bellies of other babies.

My very last donation will go to a local same sex couple who had twins via a surrogate and they are doing their very best to provide breastmilk for them. Being so moved by their dedication, I decided that this would be a great way to end this chapter of breastfeeding.

I’m not even sad. I’m really not. I’m so happy right now. I feel relieved. I feel happy. I feel fulfilled.

In a few days’ time my deep freezer will be empty, but my heart will be full.

Flying Solo

Daddy left for St. Louis today for work, and that leaves us gals here at home. First things first. Julia and I took a trip to Whole Foods for some essentials during daddy’s absence:

essentials

Wine for mommy’s sippy cup.

Now then, I believe we will be just fine. Looking forward to spending some one-on-one time with my best gal. It goes without saying that we will miss daddy, but Friday will be here before we know it. In the meantime, we will binge-watch some Scandal, spend an afternoon at the Bay Area Discovery Museum, head to the Farmer’s Market, and perhaps even walk the Civic Center loop and say hello to the local ducks and geese.

We will be VERY busy indeed.

And if things get stressful or my small, but mighty companion gets fussy, there’s always mommy’s sippy cup….

Cheers!

Golden Slumbers

If anyone has seen our previously sweet sleeping baby, could you please return her? No questions asked. There may even be a small reward for her safe return. The baby left in her place has now decided that night waking will be her new M.O. for the foreseeable future. This has gone on for the past month with no end in sight. I have reached for all the excuses and reasons I can manage: teething (three teeth almost simultaneously), developmental milestones, getting over her first cold, hunger, boredom, and whatever else I think of that day.

Whatever.

Let’s talk about sleep, shall we?

As a NOC shift nurse, I am used to getting less than the ideal 7-8 hours of sleep per night, and while these latest nighttime shenanigans by our beautiful daughter have left me sleepy, it is absolutely no match for the immediate postpartum newborn days and nights. This is nothing. That was a fucking nightmare.

If there is one piece of advice I would give to pregnant women, it’s this: be ready for the bone-crushing, soul-stealing lack of sleep. If you breastfeed, it will be even more magnified. You will wonder how you don’t fall asleep standing up or you don’t kill your baby from lack of rest. It is an amazing Darwinian development. I am still in awe of it. Seriously, though. Lack of sleep is one of those topics that nobody seems to talk about. It is quite possibly more potentially damaging than any physical postpartum change I can recall.

Maybe it’s just me? Maybe I just had a more rough time than others? Who knows. What I DO know is that lack of sleep will fuck with you in the most subtle of ways. Your relationship with your partner will suffer. Your relationship with your baby will suffer. Your relationship with friends and family will suffer. Until you sleep uninterrupted for at least a few hours, buckle yourself in. Lack of sleep is a bumpy ride. I’m convinced that a lack of sleep contributed negatively to my PPD. I am absolutely convinced that a lack of sleep contributes to many mamas developing a touch of PPD/PPA. It’s okay to talk about it. It’s okay to treat it. Hell, if we don’t treat it, the alternative is beyond comprehension.

Sleep is a beautiful, delicious, life-giving thing. Once our babies achieve some semblance of sleeping, we all rejoice. We all sleep!

Then, a regression happens.

Suddenly, our beautiful daughter, who turns 8 months old today, as a matter of fact, has decided for the past month that her wonderful 10-12 hour stretches of uninterrupted slumber were just plain boring. She is choosing to mix it up a bit. She wakes anywhere from once per night now to six. No rhyme. No reason. No clue. No sleep. She has had needs that were met with the breast, or a diaper change, but the vast majority of wakeful periods, she is simply awake.

And sometimes, she’s ready to party.

Fuck.

I know, I know. She’s at a point in her little life where the whole world is new and exciting and wonderful. She is learning so many new things almost daily, and I can almost see the synapses firing in her brain, watching those connections as she discovers something today she didn’t know about yesterday. I have to believe that this is a huge part of our nighttime woes.

Now, you’re probably asking me, “Well, why not sleep train?”

That’s another post. Suffice it to say, I’m not in the sleep train fan club. I simply don’t believe that babies have the capacity to ‘manipulate’ us adults or to be ‘bad’ babies. It simply makes no sense. Since they can’t talk, they cry. How many nights as an adult have you had difficulty sleeping? It happens. And I think it probably happens to children and babies as well. Until they gain the ability to truly self-soothe, they cry. Is it inconvenient? Well, sure. Are they doing it on purpose? No. I can cite study after study to bolster my position, but I won’t. It’s as simple as typing ‘sleep training’ into Google, and I trust you can all do that yourselves. This isn’t meant as debate, because I am certain there are others reading this on the other side of the sleep fence who swear by it. Hell, I did sleep training with my son 15 years ago. Did it work? Yep. Do I feel good about it? Nope.

Here’s my philosophy: this too shall pass. I am also lucky to have the gift of hindsight. I remember this phase all too well. I went through it with my son to an extent, and you know what? He eventually got older, time passed, and yes, he slept all night and continues to do so at the ripe old age of 15. Babies don’t stay babies forever. They grow. They evolve. And I know you sleepless mommies are cursing me right now, thinking, “Well, fuck, that’s great and all, but I want to sleep right now!”

My answer? You can’t right now. You will sleep again someday, but that day wasn’t last night, and it might not be tonight. You signed up for parenthood, all the ups, and all the downs, and everything in between. Sleep is a gift, and sometimes, sleep is a luxury. And sleep is just one aspect of parenting. I wonder if people were forced to sign a contract during attempts to conceive that listed all the shitty things you’ll go through in the first few years if people would actually sign on the dotted line. I’m sure they would. Then when all these things happen, they’ll still complain. Get what sleep you can when you can, and know that it WILL get better.

And buy a fuckton of coffee in the meantime.

I remember the conversation with my husband that led to two lines on a pregnancy test. We knew it wouldn’t be easy, but we wanted it so bad. And after a night of waking six times, I see this face, and I get happy tears.

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I’m typing this during J’s beautiful 90-minute nap, and guess what?

She’s still sleeping.

Odds and Ends

Wow. October already. Jesus, where does the time go?

We are gliding into Halloween, then it will be time to carve the turkey, and then J’s first Christmas will be upon us.

Did I already say wow?

It’s Tuesday morning. J is napping while I enjoy some down time, coffee, internet, and of course, I figured it would be a great time to blog a little. I need to remind myself that blogging doesn’t have to be an epic entry. I can also bore you with the mundane.

Swim lessons have gone better than I could have ever expected. We went with Infant Swim Resource, where the focus is on RESCUE, and while it’s not cheap ($600 for six weeks), how can  you put a price on water safety? I refuse to think about what might happen if J were ever exposed to water and didn’t have these skills. We are in the final week, and the progress is amazing. We have watched J go from initial curiosity, crying and protesting each lesson, to silence and actual SMILES during her float. I’ll admit, I beam with pride after each lesson.

As for me, work is work. I could complain, but I won’t. It’s two nights per week and allows me the luxury of being home with J during the week. We’ll just leave it at that.

Looking forward to Christmas. Tyler will be here. My boy will be with me for the holiday. This will be the first Christmas we have spent together since I moved in 2010. To say I am excited is a ridiculous understatement. We are going to do it all up right. A tree, trimming, the requisite holiday tv shows, presents. Hell, I might even try some egg nog this year. It’s gonna be great….

Okay. That’s enough for today. Plus, I need to go refill my coffee.