Thursday, September 4, 2008

Shutting out the noise

Warning: female stuff below. And, this may not be terribly interesting to anyone but me. Sorry.

Matthew is now 17 days old, and I can't say that it's been an easy 17 days, but it hasn't been as difficult as I thought it might be. Part of this, I think, is because after losing Catherine last year, I decided with this most recent pregnancy to eat as well as I could, take my vitamins, and rest, and just forget about everything else. I had been told, during Matthew's pregnancy, that caring for a newborn is hard, and since I'm too polite or non-confrontational or know that most people don't mean to hurt others, or whatever, I'd usually just smile and offer thanks for the tidbit; but inside, my guts would be churning. I could imagine that caring for a newborn would be work, but I know firsthand, that not caring for one after fully expecting to care for one, is about the hardest, and most unimaginable thing to ever endure. And I endured it, but I have no idea how, even though I lived through it.

While I was pregnant with Catherine, I read EVERYTHING about pregnancy and childbirth and childrearing that I could get my hands on; and with this pregnancy, I blotted out all that I had learned previously, partially as a means of self-preservation, and partially because I know there are a zillion ways to successfully be pregnant, give birth, and bring up children, and that maybe too much information just doesn't help. But here we are, about to hit the three week mark with Matthew safe and sound; we saw the pediatrician for the second time Tuesday, and we have a third appointment scheduled next week, as well. I'm more than happy to do this for him, but I hear the grumblings of my logical side getting irritated by all of these appointments, which have been brought on by his weight loss.

Matthew's first weigh-in

Matthew was a very big boy when he was born, especially for me — I'm on the short side of average, and wasn't a large baby myself. He was 8 pounds, 15 ounces, and within 24 hours, he was down to 8 pounds, 4 ounces. A week later, he came in at 7 pounds, 12 ounces, which is the reason we saw the doctor again Tuesday. On Tuesday, he was back at 8 pounds, 4 ounces, which is great, but the doctor wants Matthew to be back at his birth weight by next week.

I don't think this should be too much trouble, though I suspect a small amount of bullshit at play. The way I figure, the kid was full-up of amniotic fluid at birth, which was factored into his first weigh-in. He promptly peed, pooped, and spit that stuff out; couple that with the fact that breast milk generally doesn't come in until day 3, and most breast-fed babies will lose weight. I was induced and I've heard that this can delay the milk's arrival, which seemed to be the case for me: mine came in at day 5. Also, I forgot about this until just now, but in looking at the picture above, I see that there's a blanket in the scale with him, and he's got a clamp, and an alarm on his umbilical cord knot (the hospital puts an alarm on all newborns, so if they leave the maternity ward, sirens go off), as well as a couple of ankle bands (which don't weigh much, I know). I wonder if those items added any significant weight (like an ounce or more) on his birthday? He's been weighed buck nekkid at the pediatrician's office, atop of a very flimsy piece of paper.

As evidenced by his weight loss, it's obvious that feeding him has been a learning experience, for both of us, since (go figure) he doesn't seem to follow the rules. I was given a load of literature on breast feeding, along with details about how to get the baby to latch on, and the four or five acceptable positions. But Matthew is finding his own way. Rather than the "Cradle Hold," he prefers the "Face Plant." Instead of the orderly "Football Hold," Matthew splays himself on my leg to eat. He's to the point where he knows where the food is coming from, and knows what to do: he opens wide, and prepares to latch, but in the last second, he gets a devilish look in his eye, and he'll locate one of his own fists (which I thought I had tucked out of reach), and will jam it in his mouth.

He recently started eating ravenously, too: intensely for 15 minutes, resting for 15 minutes, back on for 15 minutes, resting for 15 minutes...this goes on for hours, starting around 5:30 in the morning, until about 9 a.m.; he takes a nap for about an hour, and we're back on the feeding cycle until nearly bedtime. The plus side to this crazy schedule is that he's been sleeping very nearly through the whole night. But, it's a lot of work to be a cow — and a huge change from my life just a couple of weeks ago — but I am grateful to be getting a full night's sleep, and I am very happy he's eating. I want a chubby boy. I know this particular phase — the pediatrician calls it "cluster feeding" — won't last forever, either.

Since the kid is eating in a way that wasn't described as either correct or incorrect in the literature, yesterday I dug out one of the more comprehensive books, The Nursing Mother's Companion, by Kathleen Huggins, RN, MS, I had read during my pregnancy with Catherine. I wanted a refresher; I was hoping for some insight as to what to expect with Matthew's unique eating habits; I had hoped to find Matthew's style described, mostly, to know we aren't alone in this phase, but also maybe to find some helpful little tidbit to get us through the next little while.

Instead, the book is full of horror stories and condemnation. There are dire, dire warnings about formula-fed babies, about their impeding growth delays, and motor impairment, and obesity, and mental dullness, and emotional detachment, and, last but not least, the stench of their shit. Formula-fed babies put down some stinky tracks, if nothing else. And, oh yeah, they supposedly puke more. Breast feeding, according to the author, is the only way. However, she offers page after page of the hell ahead for women who breast feed, like traumatized nipples, and blocked milk ducts, and thrush, and lopsided boobies, and lumps, and breast abscesses, and leaking, and mastitis.

I don't know about you, but I may have a slight addiction to forensics shows on TV. I don't really think about them when they're not on, but if they are, I can't pull myself away. I always feel sullied after watching them, though. The Nursing Mother's Companion has the same qualities, and I easily consumed nearly half of the 280+ manifesto during Matthew's morning nap yesterday. He woke up, hungry as hell, and suddenly, I was hit by doubt. What if I get infected ducts or traumatized nipples? What if we pass thrush back and forth? I decided that my own health was secondary to my kid's, since, at least according to the book, formula will screw him up BAD, and if nothing else, make his shit really stinky. So, I nursed him. And can't say nursing isn't challenging — there's a learning curve, and it's not exactly smooth sailing yet, but it is easier than it was two weeks ago. And other than getting over my own ideas, and some minor discomfort, so far (knock wood), my nipples haven't fallen off.

It just seems to me that so many people just like to scare the bejesus out of pregnant women and new mothers, and I don't know why. It's not just the authors of these books, either. There are the women who ask you all about your intended birth plan, and when you mention you'd like to do it drug-free, they laugh at you, or worse, attack your ideas, making you feel stupid for not jumping on the epidural bandwagon. There are the breast feeding bullies who don't encourage, but rather, try to strong arm you into going to the La Leche League meetings, even before your baby is born, because you wonder out loud if your husband will ever be able to enjoy your boobs again. These bullies bark at you: "breasts are made for babies, not your partner, dumbass!" (I don't agree.) There are the snide comments and judgmental looks when you mention your thoughts on diapering and circumcision, and it comes from all camps: the cloth diaper people, the disposable diaper people; the pro-circumcision folks, and the anti-circumcision folks. And, dear God, there is SO much debate over pacifiers, too.

What happened to Catherine, interestingly, is barely mentioned in any of the books I have on pregnancy and childbirth. After her death, I went back through all of those books, to see what was written about cord accidents, placenta problems, low fluid, and infant death; it was precious little. What happened to us was rare, but not THAT rare — full-term stillbirth occurs once in about 1,000 births. I can't help but wonder if it's far more common than mastitis and lopsided boobies or ear infections caused by pacifiers? Maybe, maybe not. Even so, her death has made it reasonably easy for me to shut off the noise of the scare tactics and bullies. It's a huge responsibility to care for a little baby, and I do have some questions, but mostly, I trust my instincts with Matthew. We're keeping open minds, because we know THE most important thing is a live, healthy, baby. Philosophy is secondary. I'm thankful we live in an era where we can feed him with formula, if the need arises. I'm glad I can choose between cloth or disposable diapers, and appreciate that these days, circumcision is optional. Two weeks ago, the only pacifiers to come into our home were traveling in the mouth of my little niece, Emma. Now, we have a small arsenal, standing by, if for some reason, we decide to use one, which we might. Or might not.

If I'm lucky, I might have another 15 minutes before Matthew wakes up from his morning nap. I'm going to put the Nursing Mother's Companion, along with all of the other books I have on pregnancy and childbirth, in a box for the thrift store. We'll be fine without them.


Elise said...

Where can I get a belly-button tag? I'd like to set off alarms any time someone tries to take me out of the house!

Anonymous said...

Taking care of a newborn baby is hard, there's no doubt about it. No two babies, or people are alike. I am not an expert, but it sounds like you have everything under control. You are letting the baby come first and following your instincts! pbaman