I wanted to post a long long long time ago but somehow the energy was missing… now random missives from the front.
The first week with the little one (who we will call here the Nushka) was super totally 100% awesome (if you ignore the severe pain in the nether regions). We feel like we hit the lottery with our little one, she is a super mellow, alert, happy baby, easy to keep content, very interested from her very first day in what is going on around her and likes to keep us company throughout the day. We are also lucky that she came at a slack time for Mr. Nishkanu’s work so that he can stay at home for a few weeks with me and we can split the parenting 50/50. Being born late and large, she sleeps pretty well through the night, 4 hours at a stretch. We spent the first week just enjoying her, introducing her to new experiences like her first ex utero music which she listened to with rapt newborn attention, and marvelling at how absolutely awesome it is to finally be parents to our beloved daughter.
Then breastfeeding hell began. Apparently my nipples are “semi-inverted” and in an attempt to get them latch-onable my first night nurse applied a manual pump to them which caused the nipples to crack and start bleeding. Learning to latch on the next few days aggravated matters until my nipples were a bloody, scabby mess (sorry for the TMI). The nurse gave me a nipple shield to protect them and things seemed to straighten out.
Until a week later when the Nushka started getting fussy, very different from her default mellow personality. We thought at first it was gas or a reaction to something I was eating. Then Mr. Nishkanu read in one of our books that nipple shields can interfere with milk production. We tossed the shield and I gingerly latched her on to my scabby nipples (this provided excellent motivation to work on a good latch….). She ate quickly and happily, covered in breastmilk by the end of a short feed and then good-bye fussiness.
Problem solved until that night, where she started fussing again and then wanted to be fed continuously from midnight until 4 AM… and beyond, but my nipples hurt so badly I woke Mr. Nishkanu and asked him to give me a half hour respite… What were we doing wrong? Were we misreading her hunger signals?
The next day we called a lactation consultant. Fortunately she could come by the same day. When she did, she told us that our baby was underfed and dehydrated. That seemed weird given how much she was feeding. In retrospect it seems like the nipple shield had interfered with my milk production and I was no longer producing enough milk to feed her. The consultant recommended we start supplementing with formula immediately to get her rehydrated. S*ck! Was this the beginning of the end of breastfeeding?
To put this in context, before I had the Nushka I figured that I would try breastfeeding, if it didn’t work I would bottle feed and that would be that. But once I had the Nushka… once I knew what it was like to snuggle up to a little being you have waited so long to meet, and to be able to fill her needs with what your body produces… well, I didn’t want that to stop. Like, I guess, so many other things about parenting, I had massively changed my tune. So, this felt like a huge loss. But bigger than that loss was the blow to our parenting confidence… we thought we were getting the hang of it but we were starving our baby without even realizing it. So much for parenting instincts.
For the next week we fed her a bottle after every feeding, and while Mr. Nishkanu gave her the bottle, I pumped to get my milk supply back up. It was a drag – all the overhead of bottles, plus breastfeeding, plus pumping, and I can tell you that after a 3AM feed the last thing a person feels like doing is getting out of bed to sit in a chair and pump and then carefully wash the various pumping parts… but it would be worth it if it restored my supply. Except my supply wasn’t being restored, it wasn’t getting worse but it didn’ t seem to get better either.
Finally, we decided to go cold turkey. We cut the formula out altogether during the day, only using it for two feeds at night so we would get some sleep. Now finally something seems to be working. The first day she nursed continuously the entire day. The second day she took two one-hour breaks. The third day she started to take breaks more often, between 10 and 45 minutes a piece, though she still nurses continuously in the late afternoon and evening. Today when I got up there was actually milk leaking from my breasts, and she is taking a break after every feed, though not always a very long break. We may be back in total breastfeeding business soon… I hope!!
In the mean time I have a couple of random thoughts to note down before they are gone in a haze of breastfeeding sleeplessness about labor and delivery…
It was not really a transcendental experience, just really really long and hard. At the time, I thought to myself “People want to remember their birthing stories. But why would anyone want to remember this?” I was in fact forgetting it even while it was happening… but now I too would like to remember it…
I can not recommend strongly enough for people to have a doula accompany them for labor. Our doula was fantastic. I truly believe that without her I would have ended up with a c-section. And the whole experience would have been really, really traumatic (or at least, really much more traumatic than it already was).
I thought that giving birth would be this amazing experience of meeting your child. Instead (maybe because of the length…) it was a lot more like taking the worst, most horribly painful poo of your entire life. At the end, they then hand you this baby and say “here, this is what came out.” And you think, “who the heck is this baby and where did it come from?” It is hard to connect the experience with the outcome.
And when we first saw the little one, really she was just a stranger to us. But it did not take long for us to fall in love with her. After a day with her we couldn’t imagine having a different baby. When they checked her ID before letting us take her home we said, “well, if there has been a mistake, we would still like to have this baby…”
What I learned from this experience is, you don’t love a baby because it came out of your vagina. And you don’t love a baby because it is genetically related to you or your sweetie. You love a baby because you take care of it. And you love it for its own nature, for its own way of being. The fact that the Nushka is a DE baby is irrelevant to our love for her. She is not a second-best baby, she is our miracle and our precious daughter. We would not trade her in for anything. The DE aspect does add a dimension to the experience, it means there is a stranger somewhere in this country who gave us this amazing gift. She is a miracle of science and of the human heart. We are unbelievably lucky to have her.