Thursday, August 13, 2009

Changes Abound

It's been nearly three weeks since we were discharged from the hospital and life has changed drastically! There isn't a class, a book, television show, or any amount of advice out there that can adequately prepare you for the life changes that accompany bringing your little one home.

Monday was a big day for us, as Bret returned to work after taking some time off work to help us get settled. It was my first time at home with Gillian for a prolonged period of time. Although quite nervous about how the day would unfold, Gillian and I made it through the day surprisingly unscathed and learned a little more about each other along the way.

All of my preconceived ideas and knowledge regarding all things baby---feedings, sleep, general childcare, and my own postpartum health have gone by the wayside and have since been replaced with reality...

Babies don't follow schedules.

In the beginning we tried to do everything according to the "sage" advice I received from the "experts" at the hospital. Note that I used the terms sage and expert loosely. The nursery nurses advised that we feed Gillian every two to three hours, which included waking her at night for regular feedings. They also explained that it would be best not to supplement with formula unless absolutely necessary. The lactation consultant advised feeding any where between fifteen and thirty minutes---each side. Breastfeeding may be the best thing for the baby and for many moms may be a wonderful experience but for me it was nearly impossible in the beginning. Typically a mother will begin producing milk anywhere between 5-7 days after delivery. For c-section moms like myself, this process can be and was delayed. Unable to produce milk until the end of week two, Gillian struggled to latch on and I battled my own concerns about whether or not I was producing enough to sustain her. My worries only increased when, after purchasing a baby scale, we learned that she was not gaining weight and after two weeks wasn't quite up to her birth weight.

Since then we've been supplementing feedings with formula and Gillian has steadily increased her weight and has now surpassed her birth weight of 8lbs. 5 oz. At some feedings Gillian my down an extra 4 oz. of formula in addition to the breastmilk and at others she may only get down an extra 15 mL of formula. I've stopped guessing what she needs and now allow Gillian to tell me what she needs. She'll make suckling noises and motions with her lips if she's still hungry or she'll use her hands to push away the bottle or pull her head back if she's full. In addition to supplementing with formula, I've also began to use my Medela pump in the mornings so that I am able to use the stored milk during the late night feeding sessions.

Sleep, what sleep?!
Sleepless nights pack a wallop like a donkey kick! For nearly two weeks we were waking Gillian out of a sound sleep at night to conduct feedings. This was absolute torture for both of us (not to mention my mom and Bret who were often awakened to help). During the night feedings, I battled to keep myself alert while simultaneously fighting to keep her awake. Barely sleeping at night made the days almost unbearable as I fought the grogginess, refusing to give in and nap in the beginning. I'd do a load or two of laundry or just visit with Bret (the idea of napping made me feel guilty).

Now we no longer set alarms to wake us up for feedings during the night. Instead I listen for Gillian to stir and wake herself up. When she wakes in the night I've learned to first check her diaper, try to comfort her, check for signs of hunger, and then feed. The nights have gotten easier and easier. Some nights are better than others. Just last night Gillian went down at 9:30 and didn't wake until 2:45. After a diaper change and a feeding she went back down at 3:30 and slept until nearly 7:00 this morning! She's even napping as I type--- thank Heaven for the little things!

Learning the ropes of childcare
Baths, diaper changes, dressing an infant---All harder than it looks!

As many of you have seen on our blog video, Gillian actually seems to enjoy bathtime. She appears to respond to the sound of running water and likes the warm water on her body. She also likes to look out the window as she listens to Baby Einstein's Lullabies as she bathes. Keep her from pooping or peeing during bathtime...not so easy! Perhaps it's the warmth of the water or her relaxed state but like clockwork, Gillian almost always chooses to relieve herself in some capacity during her bath. Of course this almost always occurs toward the end of the bath which necessaitates that we start all over with the entire cleaning process. It's actually funny, we like to sing the theme from Top Gun when we reach her nether regions---The further on the edge, the hotter the intensity, highway to the Danger Zone, gonna take you right into the Danger Zone! That song never sounded so appropriate! We try to have bathtime after our morning feeding, which can be anytime between 7:00 a.m. and 11:00 a.m. At first I was adament about having her bathed and dressed by 8. Now, as long as she has at least one bath a day I'm one happy camper!

Diaper changes are one thing that I actually overcompensated for in my mind. I just knew I'd be gagging as I forced myself to change one dirty diaper after the another. After all, how can something so small and cute produce somethings so vile? Come to discover, diaper changes don't bother me in the slightest. I've even come to view them as a challenge as I attempt to better my time with each changing. I'm kinda like the Pit Crew at NASCAR...she zooms in for a change, I jack her up, wipe her down, lube her up, and outfit her with a new bottom and off she goes! We've learned after washing many changing pads that as soon as one diaper comes off---another goes on IMMEDIATELY!

Dressing my little girl is something I look forward to each morning after bathtime. After all, she has so many cute clothes to choose from. Her closet is better outfitted than mine and I suppose that's just a sign of things to come! Although Gillian enjoys bathtime and for the most part, tolerates diaper changes, one thing she doesn't care for is getting dressed. She does not like having anything put over her head. She will squeal and squirm making it nearly impossible to get her dressed. Dressing Gillian is a bit like putting a straightjacket on an octopus! The madder she gets, the more impossible dressing becomes! We've learned that getting her dressed on a full stomach is helpful. Her full belly induces a milk like coma that temporarily puts her out of comission allowing us to pull her onesies over her head without much of a fight.

Baby Blues
I did experience the so-called Baby Blues once returning home from the hospital. Luckily for me, they were short lived and most likely brought on by the onslaught of hormones more than anything else. One morning while showering, I just found myself crying uncontrollably. My pitiful condition worried poor Bret as he tried his best to comfort me despite my inability to actually articulate the cause of my postpartum breakdown. I cried because I missed being pregnant; I cried because I felt like a bad mother for crying; I cried because I was worried Gillian would grow up too quickly; I cried because I loved her so much; I cried thinking of all the outpouring of love and support that I'd received since Gillian's birth; I cried because I didn't know if I could do it on my own; I cried because I wasn't going back to work; I cried because Bret was going back to work...You name it, I probably cried because of it! My mom was there to comfort me as well and before I knew it, all the sadness and anxiety that I had been feeling was replaced with utter contentment and amazement at the miracle that had just befallen my entire family.

Bottom line---I've learned to trust my instincts, accept help from any and everyone, let sleeping babies lie, rest whenever possible, take one day at a time, and most importantly never forget how blessed I am!

As cliche as the previous may sound, I know it all to be true. And, I have Gillian to thank for teaching me perhaps the most important lessons in my life so far.