The milk wars continue

12 Oct

When Henry was about four weeks old we had a community health nurse tell us to persevere with breastfeeding. Her rationale was that breastfeeding would get easier, it’d become about a ‘2’ in effort by around 8-10 weeks. Whereas bottle feeding would always be around a ‘6’.

I didn’t believe her. And since breasfeeding was around ‘50,000’ in terms of effort, by 13 weeks I packed away the girls for good. See, when you’re sitting on 50,000, a 6 doesn’t seem so bad. And for a while there, things were good. Henry was taking a bottle relatively easily at most feedings, and both of us were happier.

Then things turned to shit.

When the little dude decided he didn’t want to breastfeed that was OK, because he would bottle feed. But when he decided he didn’t want to bottle feed things started to suck. He’d scream, arch his back and milk would be everywhere, except in his mouth. We took him to the pediatrician who said Henry had reflux. So we thickened his feeds. He got constipated. We gave him water and prune juice. He got wind. Then finally we medicated him because it was just so damn exhausting to battle with it all.

And for about a week, maybe two, we had a different child. One that would eat, happily. I got excited; we’d turned a corner! Things were slowly starting to look a bit like that ‘6’.

But apparently when you give birth you either get a kid that sleeps well or a kid that eats well*. I have a kid that sleeps well. And right about now I’d trade for one that eats well because this shit is exhausting.

The good news is that our little guy continues to thrive and is perfectly happy, so long as you’re not trying to nourish him. Put a bottle near his face and he’ll go to town on it for about two minutes, then completely lose interest. I’ve tried distracting him, feeding him while wrapped in a dark room. I’ve tried feeding him in front of the TV, in different positions, while standing, while sitting, in the car, at the park… nothing. I’ve changed his formula, changed his bottles and tried to feed him out of a cup all with no luck. I’m at my wit’s end and while I’d like to think that introducing solids is going to be a miracle cure I have a sneaking suspicion that it’s just going to be a messier battle. But it’ll be different, and that’s something.

Today our community health nurse told us what we’re dealing with is probably behavioural. Henry is used to getting food on his terms (snacking) and we’ve got to try to change it. No more top ups before naps because he hasn’t had enough; he’s got 30 minutes to finish his meal, 30 minutes to play, then come rain or shine it’s bed time. And no more ‘in between’ meals either – we’re on a four hour schedule so the thickener has some time to get out of his tummy and make him hungry enough to want to eat.

In all honesty, I didn’t think feeding a child would be this hard. Every time Henry wakes up I get anxious not knowing how the next feed is going to play out. I just want him to eat, and to enjoy it, so we can have some fun together. I’m tired of forcing a bottle into his mouth and I can’t help but think it’s doing some sort of long-term psychological damage, that all this pressure around feeding is going to make him a difficult child to feed FOREVER. Most of all I just feel terrible that I don’t know what the problem is, or how to help him, and surely as a mother that’s something I should be able to do.

But in the absence of any real solution we just have to plough on through this war and hold onto the fact with any luck, within a few months, things will be better. And try to forget that this is exactly what I’ve been telling myself for a good few months already.

*If you’re the parent of a kid that does both I’m going to hate you and tell everyone I know that you’re lying, while secretly wishing I knew your secret.

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Changes

25 Aug

Gosh, almost another month has passed. I still feel like I’ve achieved nothing, though looking at Henry it seems plenty has been going on. The Master of the house has found his smile, his hands, a cheeky giggle and a powerful kick. He’s becoming more and more like a real little boy with each day that passes and often I catch myself sitting there with him in my arms thinking I made you. For nine months I helped you grow from a microscopic little thing to something with arms and legs and hands and a nose. Those toes that I’m holding right now, you grew those inside of me. That smile, that hair, those beautiful blue eyes; all that was once living inside of me and now, here it is, out here in the world growing up right in front of me.

Some days it feels like it’s all going to quickly. I want to catch and savour every moment, I don’t want to let a single smile pass me by. Only yesterday I was in that labour ward listening to Cinematic Orchestra as Henry made his grand entrance. I can still remember every second – what it felt like, what it smelt like – and the slightest thing can take me back to that very room where he took his first breath. I can still feel him nestled on my chest, and remember what it was like to hold him with one hand.

They say it takes about six weeks to forget the pain of labour and be ready to do it all over again. I can’t say I’ve forgotten, but I can say I’ve now reached the point where it all doesn’t seem so bad. A second, and maybe even a third is certainly a possibility. Not now, not yet. There’s still so much to do and enjoy but someday, yes.

But for now our days are slowly slipping into a predictable routine. There’s mothers group and nap times, play dates and story books. Cakes are being baked, rugs are being sewn and knitted and the odd job is being picked up here and there. There are good days and bad ones, days where everything clicks and days where nothing makes sense. But I’ve reached that point where I feel I know this tiny new little human being, so when things aren’t going to plan I know it’s not forever.

As for today? It’s a mixed bag of smiles and tears. But it’s nothing a slice of birthday cake and an afternoon nap won’t fix.

Besties with God

7 Aug

Today Henry became BFF with God. Everything went well – the service was perfect, Henry was better behaved than an angel, and it was so lovely to spend some time with friends. We even managed a public breastfeed and the little dude was so hungry he latched himself on piranha style the second we sat down. Success!

And now we’re home, enjoying the rest of our Sunday in our PJ’s. Perfect way to spend a wintery day. All in all it feels like we’ve reached a turning point, a time when life is starting to become more normal. A time when we can actually start to do stuff and go places without everything falling to pieces. And if nothing else this Sunday that’s certainly something we can thank God for.

Breast is best

7 Aug

It’s funny, all through your pregnancy you think about the labour. What it’s going to be like, how you’ll handle the pain, what you need to learn to get through what’s supposed to be the toughest four, twelve, twenty hours of your life. Typically, I didn’t think about it that much. I figured it was going to suck, that I’d beg for pain relief within seconds, and that it was only one day out of a life of thousands. And that’s pretty much how it panned out.

What no-one really talks about, and what I certainly didn’t think about, was the weeks and months after labour. How much a third degree tear really does hurt once the epidural has worn off. What it feels like to have your nipples ripped to shreds by something that looks all innocence but really has the sucking power of an industrial strength vacuum. How much it hurts to put your all into something for hours and hours each day only to have it not work, for absolutely no reason. How guilty you’ll feel giving your baby formula. And how terrified you’ll be that you’re stuffing absolutely everything up.

I’ve never been the most confident girl in the class. But I always figured I’d be a good mum. I’d love my kid to bits, I’d give him everything he needed, and I’d breastfeed because ‘Breast is Best’. I never thought that we’d struggle with something that’s supposed to be so natural, or that I’d reach the point where I just wanted to leave, run away, because I was completely unable to do the one thing I was supposed to be able to do – feed my child – in the way I thought I had to.

Seven weeks later and it still hurts. Every time I think I’m ready to just suck it up and pack it in I feel guilty for giving up so easily. I still think that by eight weeks, ten weeks, twelve weeks something will magically change and we’ll get it – there’ll be no more tears and screaming. And then there are the days when I wonder why I’m still plugging away at something that feels like it’s ruining the bond I have with my baby.

We’ve had help and lots of it. Our community health nurse has been fantastic, we’ve been to Tresillian to learn how to settle Henry and recognise the difference between hungry and tired. I’ve seen lactation consultants, I’ve been medicated, I’ve pumped till my nipples were purple. The supply has improved, slightly, but it’s still not where it should be. In a word, it’s heartbreaking.

But it’s time to move on. Henry will be two months old on Thursday and the time is simply flying by. He’s smiling now, holding his head up and pouting, becoming his own little person. Each day it’s something new, some little thing that becomes absurdly exciting when you’re a new parent – and I don’t want to miss a second of it.

It’s a new world

26 Jul

Everyone tells you your life changes when you have a baby. I never really believed it. Sure, I knew that there would be this other little being we’d have to factor into our lives, that it’d take more time to get ready to go out, that we’d have someone else other than ourselves to think about. But in the back of my mind I always questioned those people who said we’d have no time to shower, or eat, or do anything other than care for eight pounds of flesh that would wail at all hours for love and nourishment. I didn’t believe that could possibly be the case. But now, almost two months since my last post on here, I get it. That eight pounds of flesh sure takes up a lot of time and even when he’s sleeping it’s incredibly hard to draw my eyes away from his perfect little face.

The past six weeks have been the biggest learning curve of my life. Henry was born on the 16th of June weighing in at a healthy 3.68 kilos. He was perfect. Labour wasn’t exactly a breeze but it wasn’t a horror story either. The recovery was tough, tougher than I expected, but it was breastfeeding that really threw me. The one thing that was supposed to be completely natural, the one thing that I was supposed to be able to do for my son, just hasn’t happened. And for no real reason. The one thing I really wanted to do, and the one thing that I didn’t prepare a worst case scenario for, has failed. I think this is probably the first thing in my life that I haven’t succeeded at. It’s certainly the one thing I’ve put the most effort into so it’s hard to come to terms with the fact that it just hasn’t worked for us.

But now I’m finally seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. I’m sitting here, next to my little guy, enjoying a cup of tea in the sun and realising for the first time that we have a beautiful baby boy who’s healthy and happy, no matter how he’s being fed. And it feels so good.

The sperm that just won’t die

6 Jun

A few years ago, The Boy got himself a needle-stick from an HIV positive patient. After the initial freak out he decided to do what any caring and considerate guy would do when faced with the prospect of becoming a potential HIV carrier – he froze his sperm. You see, The Boy knew he wanted to be a Dad some day but obviously didn’t want to expose his wife or kid to his hypothetical HIV. Kudos to him for his exemplary foresight.

Luckily The Boy didn’t get HIV. He met me, we got married, then pregnant, and The Sperm continued to live its quiet life frozen in some upmarket Sydney lab. Until The Boy decided that he no longer needed said sperm and stopped paying the storage bill.

A few months went by. A reminder letter was sent and The Boy informed The Keepers of The Sperm that he no longer wanted his cup of half-made offspring. He told them to dispose of it. A new letter was sent with very detailed instructions for The Boy to follow in regards to requesting the termination of his sperm. He didn’t follow them. This then resulted in another letter being sent requesting he provide a copy of suitable photo ID, which necessitated the use of our piece of crap printer/scanner. Of course it was at this precise moment that our piece of crap printer/scanner decided to give up the ghost completely. So after spending $100 on replacement ink that didn’t work we decided to mail off a copy of The Boy’s old hospital ID in the hope that this would be enough to get rid of The Sperm.

It wasn’t.

The Sperm did not want to die. And I have to say, both of us were fast becoming quite impressed with The Sperm’s robustness.

The Boy was sent another letter that detailed, again, what he needed to do if he wanted to allow his sperm to ‘succumb’. By this point, despite The Sperm being ‘in excess of our current reproductive needs’, we kind of wanted to see the little dudes fight on. They’d come this far. It was only fair. And after a number of ridiculous letters and phone calls, jerking The Keepers of The Sperm around had become a pretty fun way to spend our downtime. Who knew sperm would be this hard to get rid of?

Anyway, last week we got another letter alongside a call from a debt collector, indicating that we should probably take this situation a bit more seriously. The last letter came with a post-paid envelope and it looked like game over until The Boy came up with the perfect reply.

A tissue.

Now, I want to be the person who actually mails that envelope with a tissue in it SO BAD, but unfortunately the rational side of my brain is putting up a pretty fierce argument against spending what would be approximately $300 on five minutes of entertainment. With a baby on the way, I’m not entirely convinced it’d be worth it. Pretty damn close though.

The point of no return

29 May

Today was a pretty good day. I got up early, stared down the almighty cold sore that is threatening to take over my face (that’s one for every trimester! YAY.), bought the last things I needed for my hospital bag (breast pads, maternity pads, overnight pads… I’m more than slightly concerned about the number of pads I’ve been told I’ll need), made a lasagna that only required three trips to the supermarket, had a nap, and finished off another late assignment. I even went to the newsagent in the pouring rain and got paper and ink for The Boy because that’s the kind of loving wife I am. You know, the one that occasionally does that thing that her husband has asked her to do three times already, then expects praise for finally getting around to it.

Anyway, cold sore aside, I was feeling pretty superhuman. That was until I got to the supermarket for the second time and the check-out chic started to look at me like I’d just grown a second head. I figured the cold sore had finally decided to stake its claim on my upper lip by lighting a neon flare or something. Then, as I was crossing the road to go home a lady stopped in her car and asked if I needed a lift. I explained that I was less than 10 metres from my driveway but she didn’t look at all convinced and actually waited in her car to watch me totter down the path. The final straw came when I was at the newsagent picking up The Boy’s supplies. The husband and wife team that run the place were horrified that I wasn’t driving home. The paper was too heavy, they said, was I sure I was going to be alright? Umm… yes?

And that’s when I realised that I have clearly reached that point where I look ridiculously pregnant. Too pregnant to be roaming the streets. Way too pregnant to be shopping and carrying things on my own. This wasn’t helped by the fact that I was wearing The Boy’s rain jacket which makes me look somewhat like a barrel on garden stake legs, nor the fact that my hair was, by this point, well on its way to afro thanks to a full on day of rain.

Needless to say I’ve decided I’m not going anywhere for the rest of the week. Which is perfectly fine because I have nowhere to go, and it’s raining so hard I’m expecting Noah to turn up any second with his Ark. Lucky my bags are packed.

Just relax…

28 May

There’s a girl at our church who is currently trying to get pregnant. She’s got a husband so there’s half the battle won, but other than that she’s not having much luck just yet.

Anyway, today this girl starts asking me about early pregnancy symptoms. And how long it took The Boy and I to get pregnant. And what worked. Because I wasn’t all that keen on explaining the mechanics of exactly how The Boy and I made Henry while standing in God’s house, I, in all seriousness, told her to just relax and that it’ll happen soon. The Boy then sticks his head into our conversation, I tell him what I’ve recommended, and his head very nearly explodes as he remembers just how relaxed I was when we were trying to conceive. Then he got this twitch in his eye as his brain waged war with his body to try to prevent the snort that it knew could very likely be his last. Lucky for him I do realise I wasn’t exactly the most easy-going person pre-pregnancy, and even luckier his brain won.

Of course now I can look back and see how ridiculously stressed I was about getting pregnant. I have a flock of friends who like to remind me  just how insane I got. And even if they didn’t, I sure remember it. I remember waking up at 6am EVERY DAY to take my temperature to watch for the slightest sign that I was ovulating. I was popping more pills than your average geriatric. I stopped eating pineapple, drinking tea, and taking hot baths. I was on the verge of crushing Manivit vitamins into The Boy’s morning coffee. I was a complete and utter bore to everyone who had to patiently listen to every little whine I had about how unfair it was that I was NEVER EVER going to get pregnant, and I’m pretty sure I turned sex into a chore faster than Usain Bolt ran the 100 metres in Beijing.

Thankfully – for both my husband and my friends – this crap only lasted a couple of months. And that couple of months flashed before my eyes when I told this girl to take a chill pill and wait it out. So much easier said than done but thankfully for the majority of people these things have a way of working out. Thankfully, for us, they did. Because I would not make a pleasant infertile. Those two months – one, really – felt like the longest in my life. And there are people out there who have been trying for YEARS to get pregnant. I don’t think I could do it. I truly don’t. I have trouble waiting for my toast to pop up – I’m one of those people who will compulsively watch it every second until it shoots out right in my face (somehow, despite this being a morning routine for over a decade now, the fact that the toast DOES pop out still surprises me). Why do I do this? Because one day that toast won’t pop out, and it will burn, and then catch fire, and then we’ll all die because we’ve been really slack with replacing the batteries in our smoke alarm. Just saying.

Anyway, I guess the moral of this story is that patience is a virtue (one I don’t happen to have, though I can definitely see its appeal). And that I’m a total hypocrite. And that these last few weeks of pregnancy are exactly like those first few when you’re all crazy with excitement and impatience and waiting for something to happen already. And when it does, boy am I going to be excited.

Stages of pregnancy

28 May

Since I’m getting pretty close to the end now, this is what I remember. Those three trimesters they give you don’t mean squat when your iPhone pregnancy tracker counts everything by week.

Week 4 – two pink lines appear on a stick. You’re pregnant! OMG you’re PREGNANT. Mentally revise your activities over the last four weeks and chow down on a handful of pre-natal vitamins to cancel out the effects of last Saturday’s late night bender.

Week 6 – start exercise regime. Exercise is good for the baby, right? And surely a good walk will counter the effects of those four cheeseburgers you just ate.

Week 8 – nausea? Heartburn? Get used to it. Feeling bad is good anyway. Embrace it. Eat more cheeseburgers to settle your stomach.

Week 9 – panic hits. Despite the fact you’ve had an ultrasound and have seen your little bean’s beating heart, you convince yourself something is wrong. Something must be wrong. Something always goes wrong. Surely the stress alone is enough to make something go wrong.

Week 12 – you made it! You always knew 12 weeks would be the miracle turning point and now you’re there. Everything looks great. Except now you’ve seen what looks a lot like an actual baby growing in side of you and all of a sudden you’re a parent and a lot more things can go wrong. You’re pretty sure you should be feeling movement now and you’re not, what’s up with that?

Week 13 – is that a bump? My god you look huge. Are you sure you’re not having twins?

Week 16 – the nausea has stopped, finally. You’ve got a cute bump. Your boobs are getting bigger. Your husband is stoked. You’re getting impatient. And there’s something moving around in there that you’re pretty sure is not gas. Or at least not all gas. No-one believes you.

Week 20 – now you’re definitely feeling something. Even if it is just wet pants. You quickly realise pregnancy is actually pretty gross. Your obstetrician quickly realises you’re a total hypochondriac. Your husband realises that this is probably a good time to just suck up whatever it was he was going to say, and replace it with a ‘you’re right. And I think you’re gorgeous and I love you, honey’.

Week 24 – you realise your fetus is viable! You’ve come this far with no problems, except an overwhelming feeling of anxiety. You always knew you’d be able to relax once you hit this point. Except you can’t, because the thought of your little baby hooked up to all those machines for months on end has you curled into a protective fetal position.

Week 26 – is it time for prenatal classes yet? Probably. Because god only knows when you’re going to go into labour. You book yourself in and flaunt your bump because surely it can’t get any bigger now.

Week 30 – you ask your obstetrician whether your uterus stops growing now since you can barely breathe or fit into a regular sized bra thanks to your expanding ribs. She looks at you like you’re the dumbest patient she’s ever had and tells you that yes, funnily enough as the baby keeps growing, so do you.

Week 32 – this week, you ask your obstetrician what that big lump in your middle is when you lean backwards. She makes a note in your file to check your child for any sign of mental retardation because seriously, with genes like these, he’s got to be kind of slow. She informs you that what you are seeing is, in fact, your baby. Duh.

Week 34 – you’re over it. You’re Googling labour signs and symptoms every day now, and you’ve kick started that exercise regime you’ve let slip through your fingers over the past four months because you figure that walking now will help move things down a bit. You find out pretty quickly that yes, things do move, and cause excruciating pain in your lady parts as your pelvis makes room for that grapefruit sized head that’s pushing against your bladder.

Week 35 – you waddle. You’ve been waddling for months, but now you’ve got this side sway thing going as well that makes people stop, stare, and ask if you need to sit down. People are surprised when you tell them you’ve got five weeks to go and aren’t having twins. So you start telling them that you’re due any day now, are disappointed that your uterus only managed to support two eggs and that Octomum is your hero. Everyone is happy.

Week 36 – you’re over it. Really. This time you’re really done. The braxton hicks, the stabbing pain in your vagina, the cramps, the heartburn, the back pain and the foot in your ribs has you drinking raspberry leaf tea and eating chicken masala to get things moving. Every time you pee you wonder if that was really your water breaking or just wishful thinking. You ask your obstetrician how you’re going to know when you actually go into labour. By this point she is used to your ridiculous questions and does her best to reassure that you’ll ‘just know’. You swear she looks at your husband and rolls her eyes. You cry uncontrollably at every image or thought of a baby and all of a sudden it’s just not OK that the house is dusty. Your husband realises that at this point if he doesn’t help clean you may actually stab him in his sleep and really pulls out all the stops. Well done husband.

The big easy…

27 May

… or not.

So I’ve been on maternity leave for a week now and I can honestly say I’ve been much busier than when I was at work. Mostly because I’m actually doing stuff now, as opposed to sitting at my desk making lists of baby stuff and Googling ‘pre-term labour’.

In fact, The Boy and I have been living it up. We had a friends 30th last Saturday which saw me out until 3am (3am people! This from the girl who turns into a pumpkin after 10pm and vomits when the clock strikes 12), drove to the coast on Monday to visit The Boy’s grandma, finally got the car seat fitted, cleaned the house and caught up on a bunch of study. It was a productive week.

So now, after busting my guts sweeping the floor and trying to break my waters on a long walk, I’m having a well deserved sleep-in. Just without the shut-eye because between the braxton hicks and the heartburn that’s been moved to the too hard basket.

Anyway… we’re in week 36 now. Only one week to go til term, three and a bit weeks all up. Four weeks max and this little guy will be all snuggled up in the cot beside me, squealing his little lungs out and pooping all over everything. As for being ready, I guess we’re as ready as can be! There’s still a dozen things I’d like to do – sew curtains and cushion covers, paint the house, make up a freezer full of food, pack a hospital bag – but for now what’s done is done and anything that miraculously gets done over the next few weeks is just gravy.