Sunday, June 27, 2010

Battling the Blues

Well, it's one week after the birth of the Frog (our new name for the Bean - mostly based on the way he curls his legs up like a wee tree frog when he sits against your front).

On the day following the birth, I felt surprisingly good.  I was ravenous right after labour, so before I even left the delivery suite, I was knocking back toast and milo with the best appetite I've had in ages.  The Frog and I slept pretty well that first day - I think we were both exhausted by the night's events.  Fortunately, the midwives came by regularly to check on us, as I certainly wasn't in any condition to be paying attention to any little grizzles coming from the cot next to my bed.  Hubs also took the opportunity to go home and sleep for a while, as it quickly became apparent that there really wasn't anything exciting going on in terms of Frog development in the first 24 hours of life.  He came back bearing Thai for dinner (and after I'd seen what was on offer for the hospital lunch, I was sincerely grateful!).

The Frog was beautifully behaved (read: he slept all the time) until Hubs left for the night.  At which point, he finally discovered these two little air sacs in his chest, and put them to excellent use.   It took me most of the night to work out how to manage the screaming (plug mouth with nipple.  repeat other side. continue until colostrum-induced coma occurs).  I was also pretty pleased that I didn't have to resort to pressing the panic button next to my bed - though at one point, a midwife doing the rounds noted that I had fallen asleep with the Frog clumsily cradled on my lap.  She basically then just tucked us both into bed a lot more comfortably, and we got on with the all-important business of catching z's.

The next day, after some basic checks on the Frog's and my anatomy, we pronounced ourselves ready to go home.  I was - at this point - a little frazzled, as I'd been up for the vast majority of the night, early morning and late morning on colostrum duty.  Additionally, the physical effects of labour were starting to make themselves obvious.  I felt like I'd been riding a horse bare-back for the past week, then run over repeatedly by a homicidal freak in an SUV.  A lot of that I'm assuming is due to the whole-body clench during each contraction.  My, what a good muscle work-out!   Anyway, we decided to take my sad and sorry body home, and we got to try out our car seat (going in and coming out involved a lot of screeching - not on my part for a change - but once on the road, the Frog seemed content to blink myopically at his hand).

There followed about 4 or 5 days of hormonally induced bliss (or about as much bliss as you can feel when you're on about 2-3 hours sleep per 24 hour stretch).  We goggled at the marvel that was the Frog.  Each fingernail and toenail was cooed over.  If he crossed his eyes in our general direction, we pronounced him amazingly precocious.  We footled with each of his tiny limbs, and patted his crazy hair into even crazier spikes.  And I wept.  Hoo-boy was there weeping.  This wasn't unhappy weeping, mind you.  Hubby sat there in a state of bemusement, as I became a saline fountain for the umpteenth time that day.  He'd pat me, and ask me what was wrong - at which point, I'd try to articulate between gulping sobs that I thought our little Frog was tiny and perfect.  Rational?  Undoubtedly not.

And then the feeding problems started.  I'd thought that the Frog and I had been doing fairly well - he had an awesome hungry latch, and I had extremely sore and bruised nipples.  Problem was that I didn't appear to be getting the milk in, so the poor Frog was feeding as often as he could for the meagre helpings of colostrum in my breasts.  At some point, my midwife decided that for the good of all he should be supplemented with a bit of formula - and so began the cycle of wash/sterilise/express/feed that I'd really hoped to avoid.

The expressing was something to be done after each feed to try to stimulate more milk production - and believe me, there's nothing more entertaining than watching your nipples being sucked rhythmically down into little plastic funnels.  If you're really lucky, you get to see little jets of milk squirting out with each pump action.  Amazing what is riveting to the sleep-deprived mind.  Anyway, while the Frog got everything I managed to express, it wasn't really close to the amount he needed to top-up a regular feed.   Annoying, but not end-of-the-world stuff.  But then the Frog started to have trouble latching on for his regular feeds.  He'd be desperate for food - hyperventilating, and shaking his little head - he'd even gape his mouth like before, but when I pulled him into position, he'd just hold the nipple and then drop it - no sucking or latching behaviour at all.  The more we tried this, the more frustrated he got, so a normal feed turned into 40 minutes of both of us crying desperately while he was unable to manage the couple of sucks that would draw the nipple into place, and give both of us 15 minutes of peace and comfort.

I had two days of this, and by the end of the second I was desperate and miserable.  Irritation levels were through the roof, and half-full rolls of loo paper graced every room, in the event I needed to sop up my copious out-pourings of grief and frustration.  And then hubby did some internet research to try to work out what was going on.  Turns out it's likely to be something called 'nipple confusion' - and it's very common in young babies who are given a bottle.  Essentially, they get confused about how to suck - the bottle just hands them the milk on a silver platter, while on the breast (well, on mine at least), they need to work for every droplet.  Once I had a name for the issue, I felt about a million times better (conservative estimate).  It's a known problem, and while it's tough to deal with, there are things you can do to try to avoid the worst of it - starting with feeding the bub before he gets really hungry - or giving him an interim feed with plenty of skin-to-skin contact, so that he associates you with positive feelings, not the frustration of being able to smell the food, but not being able to get to it.  I'm a bit annoyed the midwife didn't warn me about this effect. If it's so common, some kind of heads up would have been nice.  However, I know now that I can probably get some help with a lactation consultant at the hospital, so I no longer feel as frustrated and hopeless as I have the past couple of nights.

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