Laughing, Weeping, Living

Life happens. You laugh about it or cry about it, sometimes both.

Seven Quick Takes: July 26

Once again I am joining Jennifer and all the fine bloggers at Conversion Diary for a Quick Takes Friday. I do it when I feel like it, okay. Don’t judge me for my sporadic linking-up.

1. I’m down to two pumping sessions! Tomorrow maybe I’ll do two again, then one on Sunday. If I’m motivated I might do one final time on Monday morning, but Agnes is coming home Monday so I probably can’t be bothered to pump after Monday morning!

2. We’re trying to get the house ready for a fragile newborn. I resurrected my trusty old housecleaning schedule and adapted it for our current house. The important thing will be to keep the carpets vacuumed and the surfaces as dust-free as possible. Agnes has some respiratory trouble. I hope we can make it clean enough for her to do okay at home! Hello, daily vacuuming! Also I need to get my life back in control. The cleaning schedule will help me stay on track and actually maybe accomplish some things around the house in the midst of caring for a toddler and a needy newborn with lots of doctors’ appointments.

3. The cats really like the changing station I set up in the guest room. I’ll probably have to kick them off the mat when it’s time to change Agnes’ diaper.

Cats (l to r): Iggi, Sashimi.

Cats (l to r): Iggi, Sashimi.

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4. My husband delivers pizzas. He gets an employee discount. Apparently as his family, I get the employee discount as well. This could be trouble. In related news, dinner tonight was delicious.

5. Yesterday I wore a pretty new skirt, put on makeup, and even styled my hair before we went to visit Agnes at the NICU. I guess my effort really paid off because one of the nurses made a special trip to Agnes’ cubby just to tell me that I looked “lovely.” That’s why we ladies do it, folks. So the NICU nurses can enjoy our put-together style. No seriously, I feel a lot better these days now that I am taking some time with my personal appearance. And since Agnes is doing so well, I’m not afraid to wear mascara, and I feel much perkier when I don’t look like I just rolled out of bed and threw on a t-shirt.

6. I had my six week postpartum appointment with my OB on Wednesday, even though I was only five and a half weeks postpartum. He’s on vacation next week. I really like several of the OBs at that practice, but it seems like every OB has one question on the brain when meeting with postpartum women: What are you doing for birth control? I always tell them we do fertility awareness, natural family planning. So far I haven’t had any trouble from docs when I give this response, though I suppose I will probably get resistance as I get older. I wish they would give me a little trouble because I would love to explain the process to them and show them that it really works!

7. I really love coffee. I also have nothing else to say for my seventh quick take. So…coffee. It’s the best. I’m a cream and sugar kind of gal. I don’t like flavored creamer because it gets too sweet by the time you add enough to make the coffee creamy. And coffee has got to be strong!

 

Head over to conversion diary for some more fun quick takes! Thanks for reading!

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Totally Boss Weaner

Let’s just be clear about one thing, unlike many of the moms whose babies are in the NICU, I am weaning from the breast pump intentionally. Many women who try to pump for an extended period of time find that the pump just doesn’t do the job at sustaining a milk supply. The milk eventually stops on its own. My supply was okay. Agnes was eating a little more than I was able to supply but I did have a two week head start, so she has eaten only maternal breast milk while in the NICU. My decision to wean from the breast pump is a totally personal decision based on my deep-seated hatred for my breast pump and the activity of using it.

Don’t think this decision has been easy for me: it hasn’t. I still feel a pang of sadness whenever I think about not nursing Agnes, which I think about at least once an hour throughout the day. But the truth is, I was pumping to supply breast milk which is the best food for newborns, but also to keep myself ready to nurse Agnes when she was ready to nurse. However, seeing how she struggles to eat by mouth made me think that perhaps it will be months before she is strong enough to nurse. I can not pump for months. I loathe pumping. In addition, I do not want to confuse Agnes by attempting to nurse in alternation with attempting to bottle feed. She is having enough trouble just succeeding at one of those! As bottle feeding is the more sustainable option, that is what I have decided to do for her. And one further thought: Agnes’ growth is of great interest to her doctors so it seems to me that it would be extremely important to know exactly how much she is eating. That would be impossible to measure if Agnes were nursing.

Having said all this, I would just like to brag that I am an extremely successful weaner. I have been gradually reducing my time with the pump for about a week, and my milk is almost totally done. This is exciting for me because I won’t have to pump anymore and I can focus my time on my children where it belongs. But this is also sad for me because it really means I will never nurse Agnes.

A great time to relax and enjoy a machine sucking on your boobs. Not. And it is actually not possible to do one-handed.

Here are my tricks for successfully weaning from a breast pump.

First, rent the pump from the hospital that is so ineffective that it is borderline broken. That’s the one I rented and I have a feeling it played a large role in developing my hatred for pumping. I tried telling the lactation consultant that one side of the pump doesn’t suck as well as the other, and her solution was to give me new tubing to connect the pump to the collection containers. I actually think it worked even worse after I put on the new tubing, but that may be an error in my observation. Also, an ineffective pump really helps the weaning go quicker! [Note: it was my individual unit that probably needed repair. The unit I used at the hospital worked just fine! I am not maligning this brand of breast pump! k thx]

Second, gradually add more time in between pumping sessions. Go for three hours in between, then four and a half, then six. It might be uncomfortable to start, but your body will adjust.

Third, try to pump only to ease the pressure a bit. This is hard to do; for my own experience, once I sat down to pump I wanted to make it worth my while. But it is important to leave milk behind to signal your body to stop making more milk.

Fourth, remind yourself how wonderful it will be to not have to pump throughout the day! Think of how much time you will have to spend with your family, accomplish things around the house, and run errands that don’t have to fit in a two-hour window.

My goal is to be totally weaned by Monday. Agnes is coming home on Monday! She will come home with an n/g tube because she is still not ready to totally feed from a bottle, but she will not have any other medical/equipment needs besides the feeding tube! I’m pretty excited about that. I’m looking forward to hanging out with my two kids at home together, playing with toys and reading stories. And all that other baby stuff. And feeling like a real family for the first time since Agnes was born.

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Time to Eat

Agnes has been doing well the past couple days. On Monday we pinned down the doctor and got her to say Agnes would be coming home in “one to two weeks.” Late Monday night/early Tuesday morning Agnes was moved back in the NICU to the sub-intensive care section, which means everyone thinks she is stable and getting closer to going home. Also on Monday we started trying to feed her from a bottle. She did really well the very first time, but every time after that she has not done well at all. She sucks a couple times, dribbles almost all of the milk out, spits up a lot, then gives up and won’t take the bottle any more. She is starting to do okay with a pacifier, so maybe she just needs a lot of practice with sucking. Babies need a lot of coordination to get the sucking and swallowing together well enough to actually eat. Plus Agnes was in a drug-induced stupor for the first two weeks of her life, so she really is like a newly born infant learning to eat. Plus we know Agnes is going to have developmental delays, and this is probably our first real observable delay.

She is also back in the isolette. She only stayed in the crib for a day before the docs put her back. She couldn’t hold her temperature. They are gradually turning down the heat in her bed, so maybe they are thinking to try her in a crib again soon.

There are really no more medical interventions they can do to get Agnes home sooner. It’s all up to her. She needs to hold her temperature and eat from a bottle. The docs have talked about sending her home with a feeding tube just to get her home sooner, and I am pretty sure I don’t want to fuss with that! But after watching Agnes struggle for three days to get hardly anything from a bottle, I think it might be a reality for her to come home with a feeding tube. She may still get the bottle thing–the last feeding I was around to see today went a bit better with Agnes drinking about 10 ml from the bottle before she quit. That’s up from the usual 3 or 5 ml that she was doing before.

In other news, I have decided to quit pumping for breast milk. Honestly, it is the main thing that stresses me out and makes me break down crying. I also worked out that I spend about 5 hours a day on pumping and pumping-related activities. That adds up to be equivalent to a full-time job. I feel like the pumping is stealing time away from Agnes, time away from Stephen, and time away from my other duties as a housewife. Sometimes I think I go to the hospital to pump my breasts, not to see Agnes. I usually only have a few hours at a time to spend at the hospital, and by the time I get there and get down to the NICU, it’s almost time to pump so there’s no point in getting Agnes out to hold since I have to leave so soon. Then whenever I do have time to visit Agnes, the nurses need to do stuff to her, or the physical therapist wants to work with her, or whatever. I can’t keep pumping when it causes me so much stress and heartache. I know “breast is best” and the milk is much better for Agnes than formula, but she may not be able to nurse for months, if ever. I can’t keep pumping for months just to be ready for her when she is ready. I don’t have that kind of time to spend with a machine that takes me away from my children.

The NICU operation really pushes moms to pump breast milk for their sick babies, which is fine. I get that they want to set babies up for nursing. But for long term patients, it is so hard on the moms to sustain pumping. I was talking with some other NICU moms who are having the same experience. We all feel pressured to keep pumping at the expense of time spent with our babies. Except there are folks talking to us from the other side saying we need to be doing “kangaroo care” every day for as long as possible. I’m sorry, but how exactly am I supposed to hold my baby for at least 90 minutes and still pump every two hours? Not possible. Not possible. No wonder I feel like crying all the time. So I’m going to quit and Agnes will just have to get used to the taste of formula when the breast milk runs out.

So, in case you missed it amidst my rambling, what I really hope and pray for right now is for Agnes to start being successful at eating from a bottle. That’s the most important thing right now.

stephen at hospitalAnd in conclusion, here is a picture of Stephen, lest he be forgotten. Isn’t he adorable? He is a little parrot these days, mimicking everything we say including tone of voice. He knows some colors which is apparently very precocious. His animal sounds are the cutest ever. He also has recently learned a very advanced concept. To illustrate, he will walk up to me and point at my face and say “no glasses” even if there are no glasses-wearing people around for comparison. He also pointed to my wrist and said “no clock” because I wear my watch on the other arm, which he couldn’t see at the time. He’s a genius, adorable child!

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A Hard Day

IMAG0150Nothing really major happened today with Agnes, and maybe that was the problem.

She’s back under the photo-therapy lights for more biliruben treatment, so she’s wearing her foamy black aviator goggles. So we can’t see her eyes. And even if we could, they would be closed because the nurses have been giving her morphine as needed to cope with the massive irritation of having a breathing tube, feeding tube, scalp-installed I.V., recovering from gut reorganization surgery, and having recently endured a camera snaking up and down her throat several times to get a real good look. Agnes has been super pissed off the past day and apparently narcotic pain killers are the only way to deal with it. So now she’s addicted to narcotics. I know this because when it’s been a while since the last dose, she starts jerking and flailing her arms around, crying, foaming at the lips, and she won’t tolerate anyone touching her, not even me or Jeremy. The nurse said she’s not addicted, but I’m pretty sure I heard one of the other nurses earlier this week say Agnes is touchy because of withdrawal. If you’re not addicted, you can’t suffer withdrawal. Amiright? So I’m definitely not crazy about the fact that she’s getting more doses, but what can they do? She freaks out so hard the monitors stop working, her oxygen saturations suffer, and her heart and respiration rates hit the roof. They have to do something to calm her, and soothing touch isn’t going to cut it with little miss Agnes the addict.

Not to mention I can’t stop dwelling on the fact that I’ve only held her in my arms for a total of three or four hours the whole twelve days she’s been born. So I can’t hold her, and I can’t even touch her, I can’t look into her eyes, and she’s not even really eating the breast milk I’m slaving away at pumping for her. Her guts are still sleepy from the surgery combined with spending more than a week doped up on narcotics. She is now receiving a measly 1 ml of milk per hour. The nurse said that’s 10 drops per hour. I guess she wasn’t digesting the full 3 ml they gave at one time, so they’re trying this slow drip approach. It’s going to take a long time to work through the collection of milk jars in the NICU freezer at this rate. What am I even supposed to do? All I can do is sit by the bed like a lump on a log. Maybe it helps. Agnes even seems to get mad when I talk to her, so I don’t even know about that.

Plus I talked to the lactation consultant today and apparently milk supply suffers when you’re tired. Or stressed. Or not getting enough to eat and drink. Great. So I have to pump every two hours to build up my supply, which means I have time for precious little besides the endless cycle of pumping, cleaning up my pump, using the little girls’ room, resting for 20 or 30 minutes, then repeat.

So at this point I’m feeling pretty useless as a parent to both my children, with no awesome news today to bolster my resolve to persevere. Hopefully tomorrow will be a better day, and on Monday Agnes will hopefully have the breathing tube removed. If we can both make it that long.

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