Reflections on the birth of our son: Part one.

Contrary to what John Mayer’s lyrics say, my body is not a wonderland. While I will proudly acknowledge that it strongly, amazingly, naturally, and very capably brought forth life and love two days ago, it is now wholly wrecked and wicked.

I’m looking forward to the coming days when a trip to the bathroom no longer looks like a crime scene afterwards, and the muscles in my back and shoulders no longer ache as though they were involved in pushing Sisyphus’s boulder up a hill over and over again, instead of just pushing out a baby (albeit a nine-pounder!).

Next up to look forward to in the new mother body era: porn star-sized boobs full with good milk and lots of lots of leakage. Can’t wait.

Good sleep is hard to find. Our boy arrived late in the afternoon on his birthday. However, I’d been up since 4:00 a.m. that morning with early contractions and general restlessness.

On his first night, I logged only three sleep episodes, one lasting an hour, another forty-minutes, and the last, almost two hours. A far cry from normal.

Since our little man was born not so little, he had to undergo heel pricks every three hours to check his blood sugar levels. This happened with our girls too, but they fared fine on breastmilk alone and their numbers checked out okay.

With the boy though, the numbers kept dropping, so they had to increase checks to an hour after feedings at times. This, combined with vital checks on me and the baby, combined with the baby’s fussiness and my not being able to feed him on demand due to the blood sugar testing protocol, created an environment full of stress, crying (just baby, thankfully), and some zombied-out parents. Which segues nicely into the next revelation.

Sometimes breast is not always best? At least not in its own, as was the case with this guy. Those of you who know me well, understand my love and attachment to breadtfeeding. So, when the pediatrician and nurses were explaining to us how the frequent blood sugar checks and falling numbers were proving that my milk, or colostrum, was not enough to sustain the high caloric needs of my giant baby, you can imagine my disappointment when, after two really low sugar numbers, they insisted I start supplementing with formula. The alternative was to have him go to the NICU with an IV. At this point, even the lactation consultant was on board with using the formula, despite earlier attempts to try and advocate for us.

So, we started a new feeding routine every two-to-three hours that looked like this (and took nearly an hour to administer, start to finish):

  • Nurse the baby no more than ten minutes a side
  • Hand-express as much colostrum as possible into a pumping cylinder and syringe-feed it to baby
  • Use breast pump to try and express more colostrum, then syringe-feed this to baby
  • Syringe-feed as much formula as baby is willing to accept
  • Pray numbers go up so the heel pricking and blood squeezing and baby screaming can stop

After the first supplementation with formula, the baby’s numbers went up. After three more rounds, his numbers were finally holding steady. Hallelujah! No more stabbing and poking and squeezing blood from my baby (he probably endured about sixteen-seventeen needle sticks)!!

I was so grateful when today’s rounding pediatrician caught me getting ready to begin more formula supplementation, after seeing me syringe-feed some good quantity breastmilk, and asked shockingly, “What are you doing?”

I explained everything we’d been through up until that point, and she reassured me that the colostrum looked milky enough (a sign my milk was beginning to transition) and that hypoglycemic babies, once their levels balance out, rarely just fall back into trouble. She wanted me to quit the formula and just try to exclusively nurse and pump. Woohoo!

So that’s what we’ve been working on. And, in fact, since early this morning, we have quit the pump too. The baby is latching great and I’m hoping we will be able to round the corner soon enough. We’ve got a pediatrician appointment scheduled for tomorrow just in case.

Not quite the Club Med vacation we imagined. Yes, I know. Giving birth is hard work. But then, after the fact, there are nurses and aids who take care of you and respond to your every want and need. There is free hospital food to be eaten, TV to be watched, jacuzzi soaks to be taken, and lounging about to be done to begin the healing process.

When we woke up after our first sleepless night, we were excited about ordering enormous breakfasts and sipping on coffee (obviously we were delirious and still running on adrenaline). We talked about watching TV and reading some magazines, enjoying a break from work and parenting the two girls (my parents have had them for the past couple of days). 

And then, I don’t know where the day went or what happened to the hopeful thoughts that this hospital stay might be like some kind of mini-getaway for us. But, poof! It was gone.

We did enjoy breakfast, and some chocolate peanut butter pie, but TV turned out to be hugely unsatisyfying. And, we had a couple of family visitors, on top of round-the-clock care and feeding for the little-big man.

Around dinner time, the adrenaline had worn off. The lack of sleep had left us feeling completely wrecked, and…wait for it...we had both begun to feel as though we were getting sick with some kind of bug. 

I couldn’t eat my dinner. My tummy was gurgling and I just felt weak and exhausted. Liam, however, started with chills and aches and nausea. Basically, he became worthless from midnight until just before we were discharged this afternoon. Poor guy. Up until that point he had been an amazing partner and teammate.

Thankfully, my symptoms were less, though still aggravating. And, somebody had to care for this needy baby. So, my super-human mothering abilities kicked into high gear as I worked through the night to feed our improving son. No small feat. Thankfully, I was able to sleep better, if only slightly, than the night before. 

We are home now resting comfortably, with what I imagine is a touch of the stomach bug the girls just had. Our luck continues. Not quite how I imagined spending our last day at the hospital. Now we have to wait and see if the little guy will get it or not. Always an adventure here.

More to come another day on laboring at home with the girls and their reaction to “Baby Brother” who now, finally, has a name: Rowan James. We do love him so!

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