Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Heaven & Hell

I think the baby fell asleep!
During my 5 days in the hospital after my daughter was born, I was amazed to see how readily the staff gave formula to the babies. I did not want my baby to have that garbage when I hadn't even tried nursing yet! This wasn't just me trying to be super mom. Formula looks and smells yucky! The nursing staff sort of helped me learn how to nurse, but my milk hadn't come in yet, so they were literally helping me squeeze out some colostrum which really hurt! Also, they are incredibly understaffed with maternity ward nurses at Hadassah hospital, so I was lucky if I got a few minutes of help.

There was one amazing lactation consultant who helped me learn how to position and hold the baby properly using my nursing pillow, but of course everything worked great when I sat with the lactation consultant but as soon as I tried nursing alone, it all went down the drain!

I'm a very determined person, so I don't give up easily. I looked at formula as my enemy. I also wanted to nurse right away so that I wouldn't lose the baby to the bottle. Having that bonding time with my baby that nursing provides was very important to me. Even though I was in pain from the C section, from which I had stitches and staples to deal with, I got up in the middle of the night to get my baby and feed her so she wouldn't be given formula by the nurses. My husband stayed with me the first two nights in the hospital so he was able to help me with nursing, but once he left it got harder. Obviously my baby needed to eat, so I gave in a few times and took formula from the nursery, but thankfully my baby didn't eat very much of the stuff!

I tried nursing my daughter as best I could every 3 hours but it wasn't easy and the baby wasn't latching on all the time. I also had problems positioning my daughter because one side of my body is weaker than the other. I couldn't nurse her on the right side because I can't hold her in a comfortable position so that she latches on and strangely I just can't cradle her the way I do on my left side. It's almost like I become someone who can't use their arms when I tried holding her so she could nurse from my right side which is my stronger side. I was also afraid to switch the baby from side to side because I was afraid of dropping her or hurting her since the spasticity from the Cerebral Palsy doesn't give me the gentlest grip. When I have lifted babies before, they all cried.

The other thing that held me back with nursing successfully was the inability to lift or carry the baby from the bassinet to my lap because I lack the balance and strength required. One day I went into the nursing room intending to nurse my baby. I asked one of the nurses to hand me the baby from her bassinet. The answer I got shocked me. "We aren't qualified to help you," was what one nurse said to me. "Really?! You aren't qualified to at least HAND me my baby?!" I think she was uncomfortable with my disability, but my response got her moving=) She came over and handed me the baby from the bassinet. She even helped me position the baby before making a very quick exit.

When I would go into the nursing room, whether it was to nurse or to listen to a lecture/demonstration on baby care, I would see the other mothers lift their babies from their bassinets with ease and either nurse or bottle feed like it was the easiest thing in the world. I was very jealous and sad that I couldn't even LIFT my baby out of her bassinet. One day, the lactation consultant was giving a lecture to all the new moms while babies were in bassinets or nursing. My baby was in her bassinet. When she started to get fussy, I just rocked her hoping she would quiet down, but her fussiness soon turned into a wail and there was nothing I could do for her. I felt horrible and was on the verge of tears. I had to interrupt the lecture. "ummm I need help to take my baby out of her bassinet please." The lactation consultant stopped and put my baby in my arms before continuing with her lecture.

Knowing that I wasn't going to get the help and attention I needed from the nurses, I quickly learned how I could nurse my baby mainly on my own once she was put in my arms. I was able to cradle her and nurse properly on my left side, and just pump from my right side. I would then have my husband or the nurses feed her from the bottle. I was afraid to bottle feed her because even though she was cradled in my left arm and I could bottle feed her with my right hand, which is my stronger hand, I was afraid of her taking in too much milk and choking which happened once or twice when I bottle fed her.
Me bottle feeding Naama

At home
Once we came home, I was very nervous as to how I was going to manage nursing, but using my system, it more or less worked. Often times I pulled double duty by pumping and nursing at the same time, but here is nothing more precious and innocent than feeding your baby from your body. I love those moments that just belong to me and my baby....the way she will look into my eyes, give a smile or two (even if it is gas related)!! and the way she will sometimes wrap all 5 of her tiny little fingers around one of my fingers as she nurses contently.

Pumping is time consuming but at least I know the milk is coming from me instead of being toxic smelling formula! I call formula kaka formula=) When I wasn't able to pump, I tried to nurse Naama on my right side. The peaceful moments we just shared ended and I felt like I was in hell, which was extremely frustrating for both me and baby. She would get all upset, scrunch up her little face and start wailing. It totally killed me that I couldn't give her what she wanted. Often it made me cry too. Since I recently found out that a baby will take more from the breast than what I could expel with a pump, the nanny and I did a little tryout with nursing help and it works. The nanny will hold the baby in a football position so the baby can nurse from the right side peacefully. I'm the one who feels awkward because the nanny literally has to place my boob in the baby's mouth and hold it so the baby can feed well. I've tried to do it myself and the majority of the time it wasn't working, but lately, I see that I need less assistance nursing from the right side. On some days, I can actually hold the nipple in her mouth and she rests fine on the nursing pillow, but I still need help getting the baby to latch on so I've resigned myself to the fact that I need help to nurse at least for now. I hate having a stranger's hands on me, so I hope I can nurse completely independently one day.

I'm not a quitter and even though it's a pain to always have to have someone help me nurse the baby, I refuse to just give up and give her formula on a permanent basis, no matter how many times I have to get up at night. That said, we have given her formula on the rare occasion when I don't have more to feed her or I'm too exhausted to get up again at night, but mainly her nourishment is coming from me and it shows!! She was born weighing 2.48 kilos (5.5 lbs) and she is now over 3.4 kilos. (7 lbs) I felt such a sense of accomplishment at her last weigh in, I thought so what if I think of myself as just her boobies? its working!

For years I dreamed of nursing our baby and now when I look down and see that little face nursing contently, I couldn't be happier.


Because I occasionally fall and also have balance issues, I can't be alone with my baby which is the reason we have live in help. I won't lift my baby from surface to surface or carry her while walking. I won't take the chance that I may trip and fall, or just lose my grip on the baby and drop her. If I do it's goodbye Charlie. I've already fallen around her a few times. Imagine if I was holding my baby when I tripped and fell? I'd never forgive myself, so as annoying as it is having to have someone be with me and the baby at all times, I can't have it be otherwise.

My reality check came while we were still in the hospital. My father went out for a few minutes, leaving me with the baby asleep in the bassinet. My father called my cell and I went to answer it. My hand was resting on the bar of the bassinet holder. When I hung up and started to walk away, I guess I slipped. Instinctively, I let go of the bassinet holder as I flew backwards. Because I had stitches and staples in me, I couldn't even attempt to get off the floor. Thankfully, the door to the room was open. One of the nurses saw me and came to lift me up and help me into the chair. The nurse's facial expression said she was scared to leave me alone with the baby. I told her I was fine. As soon as the nurse left, I started crying hysterically. If I hadn't let go of the bassinet, I could've pulled my baby down with me! My father walked in as I was crying. "What happened?!" my father asked. I couldn't even speak I was crying so hard. After a few minutes, I was able to tell him what happened. The next day I told my father that falling while alone with the baby was a good thing in a way because it was a HUGE wake up call that I can't be alone with the baby. My father agreed.

Being unable to carry my baby makes late night feedings quite hard. When the baby cries, my husband has to get out of bed to lift her from the bassinet and take her into the nursery where I get ready to nurse her. When it's a late night feeding, my husband will carry her into the nursery, plop her down on the nursing pillow and mumble "call me when you need me", as he stumbles back to our bedroom which is literally steps from the nursery. If only calling him when I needed him were that simple! Often times, my husband sleeps so deeply that even when I yelled his name several times, he didn't come back in to get the baby. One night I was yelling for him so loudly that the nanny who was asleep upstairs heard me before my husband did and she came down to help me. How sad is that? It gets even sadder. At the start of a 3AM feeding, my husband gave me my cell phone and said I should call his phone if he doesn't answer when I yelled his name. Sure enough, after yelling for a few minutes, I call his phone even though I feel like a complete idiot for calling someone who is sleeping just a few feet away from where I'm sitting, but the baby needed to burp and she was getting fussy, so I called my husband and no answer! I tried again a few times until he finally stumbled back in to the nursery to help me. Clearly what we were doing wasn't a safe or smart option for any of us and being that the nanny usually went to bed late each night because she would be helping with the baby until my husband got back from work, I didn't want to wake her for the middle of the night feedings, so what I try and do is pump before I go to bed so when the baby gets up in the wee hours of the morning, my husband can bottle feed her and I can sleep longer=)

It's not just the act of nursing I need help with. I can't burp my baby either. I'm afraid to raise her to switch positions because I feel her little bones kind of straining under my touch when I lift her. also, the few times someone positioned her for me, she kept squirming or crying and was uncomfortable on me. It really bothers me that my own baby whom I love so much and whom I want to give everything to is uncomfortable on me. However, there has been once or twice where having the baby rest on me while I burped her worked and it's THE best feeling in the world. Her small, warm body cuddled next to me, the sound and feel of her warm breath on my cheek. I'm in heaven in those moments.

When the nanny burps the baby, I hate that those delicious moments are taken from me, but my baby's comfort comes first.

Baby care is another thing I can't do. My husband or the nanny dress, bathe and change the baby's diapers. Maybe when she gets older and bigger it will be easier to change her clothing and diapers. I do clean her butt occasionally but am afraid to do much else. I'm basically her food source and of course lots of love and kisses! Although I just realized now the reason I feel sad. I haveva feeling of failure bc I can't carry or lift her so I can't fully care for her. Failure is an unusual feeling for me because I usually overcome physical challenges.

I spent a lot of time during my pregnancy looking for adaptive equipment to help me lift and carry the baby, but I didn't really find things that would be suitable, though I am looking again at resources online. I'm the mother and I want to be caring for my baby as much as possible. Some may think I'm crazy that I want to be the one to carry her, change her and bathe when I have help to do those things. Occasionally yes it's nice to pass it off to someone else, but caring for her should mainly be my responsibility.