Baby

My breastfeeding story

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Being a survivor of getting pregnant, morning sickness, evolving into a whale, contractions, labor and then the whole dewhaling process, I have experienced many things that have left me thinking, “why didn’t anyone tell me this??”.

Breastfeeding is on that list.

I’ve always known that I wanted to breastfeed, that wasn’t a big decision for me. Throughout my childhood I’ve watched my mom breastfeed my four younger siblings and heard her speak of what a wonderful thing it was. So, naturally, I wanted to do it too.

I say that there were things that I wish someone had told me. I wish I’d known or at least to some extent been more prepared for how hard breastfeeding would be. Having said that, I don’t think my mother lied to me or tried to keep the truth from me. But I really think that mothers are designed to focus on the beautiful things and to forget a little about just how hard the hard times were (thank goodness for that!).

So, I’m writing it all down – putting it all out there while it’s still fresh in my memory, to any expecting mama out there who wants to read a true story.

Here is my true breastfeeding story.

I think the first question I asked after I became a mom was to my mother just a few minutes after giving birth, “should I just try to feed her right away?”. It wasn’t asking permission so much as asking for a confirmation that my instinct was correct. Our newborn baby seemed to latch on pretty perfectly right away, and I leaned back, exhausted, and soaked up that first real moment of motherhood.

Other than bringing on a bit of pain in my healing abdomen, breastfeeding proceeded quite effortlessly the next couple of days. In the evening of the third day we were having take-out with both of our parents and I started noticing that my breasts were hurting a bit. After they left we went to bed and one of the hardest nights of my life began. My milk was coming in – fast! My breasts were swelling to the size of melons and they were so sore that I couldn’t even lie on my side. By morning they looked like balloons that had been blow up way more than they were supposed to and they just hurt so bad. I quickly found out that the nipples were stretched so tight that the baby was having a hard time getting it far enough into her mouth to eat.

That and the next couple of days I had to call my mom and midwives several times to help me feed my baby. After trying several techniques, the best one we found required me to use both of my hands to squeeze the tip of my boob into a more pointy shape, and someone else to jam the baby’s open mouth onto the nipple until she latched. Once she had latched, all there was to do was keep her on there and endure the burning pain from my now bleeding nipples. – I’m very sorry for being so bold and illustrative, but it really hurt so bad that I shut my eyes, let the tears run down my face and rocked backwards and forwards rapidly to keep from crying out.

It was really bad like that for about two weeks. Then it was only bad. After about a month it was painless.

Those first weeks were tough. I don’t think I hardly wore a bra – or a shirt. I remember getting out of bed at night when the baby woke up and doing the two-man breastfeeding maneuver on the couch in the livingroom where there was more light. I would always wake up in a puddle of milk – nursing pads are pretty useless when you leak about a cup of milk at night, I slept wrapped in a cloth diaper. I felt pretty weak in those days and there was only so much I could do to not start crying or knock someone silly when they said, “make sure to enjoy these first weeks!”.

Then it got better. Do not underestimate nipple butter, or the element of time. And for goodness sakes, trust the annoying women who keep telling you that it’ll get easier than breathing if you just hang in there!

Because they’re right. A good month after giving birth it was over. And painless.

Then came all the figuring out how to integrate breastfeeding in my daily routines. I had to make sure to have a cloth diaper on me at all times, and a blanket to cover up, I had to wear practical clothes (which meant no dresses in church) and develop a skill for locating corners and secluded areas in public places.

I really tried to enjoy breastfeeding. But I realize now that I was a bit traumatized from those first weeks. Breastfeeding wasn’t fun, it was a chore. About a month in, our doctor informed us that Baby hadn’t put on enough weight in here first month and suggested that I supplement with formula until she gained her weight back. It was a little discouraging. I’d slaved for weeks to get food into this child and now it seemed it hadn’t been enough. I wasn’t about to give up though. I asked the doctor if we could have another week to try to get her weight up on my own. She said that was okay and we scheduled a weigh in the week after. For that next week I felt like I fed her more than not. When in doubt of what to do, feed the baby. Up until then I’d been bad at keeping her on the boob for very long at a time due to pain, so I did my best to keep her on for as long as possible to make sure she got the fat milk. Also, I’m not a huge fan of feeding schedules. If I learned anything back then it was that newborns don’t have routines. If she wanted food, I fed her.

The week after she was back to a normal weight and we haven’t had any major problems since.

We started her on solids about two months ago and I’m still figuring out how to balance that with breastfeeding. My plan is to keep breastfeeding till her first birthday. Since she turned 6 months I’ve started to dread that day. When I won’t be nursing anymore. Because yes, now I love breastfeeding. I think I just had to learn to enjoy it despite all the hard times. I realize it’s probably like that with many things with your first baby. I expect that things will be much more enjoyable with the second when I know what is coming and how I and my body will react.

These days I actually mostly breastfeed lying down when possible. I find that Baby can better relax and get comfortable that way? She often puts a hand on my face or squeezes one of my fingers while she eats. I love it. I feel like those are our own little special moments just for us.

I’m not gonna lie. There have been so many times when I’ve wished I had chosen to bottle-feed instead. The freedom of leaving her with someone else for more than a couple of hours or even letting Marcus feed her for a change. It would certainly have made my first month less dramatic. But now that I’m on the other side I can truly say that I’m glad I hung in there. Glad that I don’t have to drag bottles and formula around everywhere I go. I’m also really thankful that I haven’t had trouble lactating or had any major latching problems.

I’m sorry for rambling on for so long, and if you made it to this part I’m truly thankful that you let me finish. Breastfeeding is a wonderful thing and I just wish to encourage anyone who wants to or is struggling to stick with it.

Because it really gets better. 

Baby girl is 7 months!

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It feels more like we’re the parents of a kid than a baby lately!

She’s crawling! Or.. army crawling. The point is that she can get from A to B on her own, and that she’s pretty fired up about it. And so are we! Most of the time.. Just the other day she ventured into the kitchen for the first time. She was so excited that she was breathing like a sweaty dog, before I snatched her up and away from all the dangerous objects.

It’s like I see danger everywhere now.

It won’t be long before she’ll be pulling herself up to a standing position on her own either. In the meantime she has figured out that if she can manage to grab someone’s fingers in each of her hands, she’ll be able to pull herself up. I figured that one out just the other day when I was sitting with her in our bed and she started patting my arms in search for my hands. Once she had a finger tight in each of her fists she clenched her abs, grunted, and stood herself up with a triumphant “Ah!”.

She inspires me! I wish I was as eager to learn and get stronger as she is.

It’s so much fun to observe her little baby logic. If she wants to get to an object she’ll look around to see if someone is standing close and raise her little arms to make them pick her up (she’ll move from arm to arm to get close to my parents’ oven). If the object is however too far away, she’ll see reason and settle for an alternative.

All this moving around makes it hard for her to stay asleep in her own bed. She rolls over a lot and especially pushes herself “upward” and when she reaches the head of the bed she’ll wake herself up every time she moves.

She hardly ever sleeps on her back anymore. She’s almost always on her belly with a face plant in the mattress that worries her parents sick.

So far, it seems that her favorite food is avocado.

No teeth yet! I’m not even sure we’re getting close. She hardly ever drools and I expect her to get a lot more whiny when that time comes.

Her vocabulary has now stretched to “Ah”, “Mah”, and “Bah”. Marcus and I both get really excited about “Mah-mah” and “Bah-bah”.

I do miss having a tiny little baby but I’m not really sad that she’s growing so fast. I’m way more excited to see what kind of person our little girl is going to be!

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Mounting the shopping cart

For a small carless student family, borrowing a car for even a day is pretty much the coolest thing. We have had one all week and it’s been the best! A couple of days ago we went big time shopping in the biggest store in town, just because we could. It worked out nicely since we’d also been looking forward to Baby’s debut sitting by herself in a shopping cart. Exciting stuff, I know! As we don’t have a car, most of Baby’s shopping trips are experienced from the stroller or from an arm.

So we all jumped in the car in high spirits. I told you that Baby has been more happy about car rides lately.. so we enjoyed a nice quiet drive to Bilka and found Baby happy and excited to get out. I wheeled around a cart, put in her baby duvet for support and finally dropped Baby into the seat. And she sat up straight and tall with an excited grin on her face!

It was the happiest and easiest shopping trip we’d ever done! We could take all the time we needed without breaking our backs from carrying Baby or having to rush out because she’d had enough. She enjoyed the entire ride looking at all the colorful groceries and fellow shoppers. I felt so grown up pushing my kid in a cart like that.

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Baby Girl is 6 months

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Made it to the half year mark! Can’t believe it! A year ago I had only just announced that I was pregnant and had just posted my first weekly pregnancy update!

Our little girl is getting so big! Right now, she’s fast asleep taking her first nap of the day in our bed. She strongly prefers to have me breastfeed her lying down. Not sure why. But she gets all fidgety when I lay her down in my lap. So I lie down and she’ll snuggle up close to my body and she falls asleep almost right away.

Right now our bed consists of two mattresses pushed together right on the floor. And they fit neatly into a small corner of the room, so it naturally becomes the perfect playpen and napping place for a baby that is getting more mobile every day. She hasn’t quite figured out crawling yet, but we think it’s getting close. So far her favorite ways of getting from A to B is rolling over, rotating by pushing herself to the sides and rolling over on her back and pushing herself “upward” with her legs. I can’t blame her for getting a little frustrated with herself.

She gets bananas and sweet potatoes every day now. Not quite sure if she likes anything yet, since she makes the same scrunched up facial expression each time, but she swallows and wants more, which I consider a good sign.

The latest tricks include making “mamamama”-sounds – not sure that they’re actually due to me trying to teach her to say “mama” though. Just a few days ago we discovered that she has begun to reach for us. We enjoyed this phenomenon for a few minutes yesterday passing her back and forth and getting excited every time she raised her little chubby arms and leaned forward. Such a tiny little gesture, yet so rewarding! Also, one of the best games we’ve played yet is touching our foreheads to one another’s. Silly, but it’s a game that she understands just as well as we do.  I’ll lean my head close to hers and she’ll giggle and come the last few centimeters and knock her forehead on mine. Seriously, best game ever! I’ll gladly play it with her till the day I die!

She is learning to let go of most of her fears! She almost never cries in the car anymore and as soon as we introduced the rubber duck to bath time she has completely abandoned any need to cling to the sides of the tub and she’ll sit in there for as long as we want – as long as that duck can be in her chubby hands squished into her mouth.

To my surprise, I almost feel more protective of her now than ever. I can’t quite figure out why. Whether it’s the rewarding moments of seeing her appreciation for my love for her or simply the element of time, I don’t know. But someway I feel much more like a real mom these days.

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Baby girl is 5 months!

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5 months. Is that all? and already?

She’s lying on her belly here on the couch next to me, staring me down. I guess she’s waiting for me to turn around and make a funny sound or something. At least right now she is. In a minuteshe’ll have rolled back on her back. Then she’ll get sad that her toys are so far away and she’ll crunch up and try to roll back to her tummy. And eventually she will and she’ll get that surprised look on her face, like she still can’t believe she can do that.

We just gave her an evening bath before bed time. She still really doesn’t like the water, but we’re trying our best to go slow and take our time to play with her and splash around. We’re also still working on car rides. Really hope she gets over that one soon.

Those are however just about the only things besides being hungry that she cries about. She’s the happiest little baby most of the time and has learned that it doesn’t take more than a few calls to get her parents’ attention if she needs something. Which is niiice! On the other hand, now she’ll call us for just about anything. I can’t reach my toy! I want more milk! Keep talking to me!

She’s becoming her own little person more than ever. She loves talking and being social. She doesn’t really seem to mind being with people she doesn’t know either. She has started giving us “kisses” (snarling and attacking our faces if we get too close). She has begun to laugh a little too. Sometimes if she’s in the right mood and we’re being REALLY funny she’ll scrunch up her face as if she’s about to burst with happiness, only she doesn’t quite know how to express it. Eventually a tiny squeak or even a giggle will escape. She wants to touch everything, especially faces. Whenever we carry her around now she’ll keep one hand on our faces or grab my hair as if to make sure we’re still there.

I like to think she’s learning to bond in other ways than through nursing now. I love watching her touch and examine Marcus’ face. I’m glad that he gets to feel a lot closer to her now that she’s responding more to him. As social as she can be in crowds, we can tell a huge difference when we come home and it’s just the three of us again. She clearly shows how comfortable she is by either going straight to sleep or lighting up and starting the party. It’s the best thing ever to feel that we are truly a little family and that she loves being with us as much as we love being with her.

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Baby girl is 4 months!

PicMonkey Collage (2) It sounds terrible but I’m just going to go ahead and say it anyway…

Having a newborn and having a 3 month old is night and day. It is not until the last few weeks that parenting has really become FUN! It’s not until then that I’ve started to realize that having children truly is the greatest joy in life. I honestly go to bed every night as excited as a little child to wake up next morning and play with my baby!

Yes! She can play now! She has a couple of toys that usually follow her around the house. So far we have had to hand them to her but last night she leaned over and picked one up herself. She hasn’t quite figured out yet that the noises comes when she shakes them but she’ll hold them close and suck as hard on them as only a baby can.

Her favorite toy however seems to be her own voice. She loves talking to us. If we lean down and give her a long kiss on the cheek she’ll start purring in long ‘aaaaah’s. She’ll stop in the middle of a meal to give me a smile and share a few remarks. She’ll stare at us in deep fascination when we make new sounds that she doesn’t know how to do yet. She’ll even have long conversations with herself if she wakes up from a nap or is left alone during dinner. I love her sweet little voice! I completely fell in love with it just a few hours after she was born (when she’d stopped crying), and her high-pitched squeals are just hilarious!

We’re still waiting for that first roll-over! So far she doesn’t seem very ambitious. In fact I’m not sure it has even occurred to her that that might be fun. I guess she doesn’t see her roomies roll around much… maybe that would help. She will however try as hard as her tiny abs can to sit up. 8 times out of 10 when she cries it’s because she wants to sit up, stand up, be picked up, get a new view or do something else.

Actually she doesn’t cry very much at all these days. It’s wonderful to have a somewhat more diplomatic baby. If she’s bored or in a bad mood she can most often be persuaded to enjoy a pleasant conversation, game or meal.

I am starting to miss the tininess of when she was a newborn (she’s growing soooo fast!) but I have to admit that this has been my favorite age so far!

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This facial expression completely melts my heart!

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It’s just a big scary needle, Mommy

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For the last few days I’ve been thinking about the phrase, “I’m sorry but do you have children” that is so often used on TV by concerned parents. It has always confused me a little. It didn’t seem very powerful, and surely anyone whether parents or not can relate to and have feelings for small children. Nevertheless, the people on TV always seemed to instantly understand that that phrase ended the argument.

It fascinates me how quickly you can get feelings like that for someone. It hit me the first time when I was dating Marcus, and even more so after we got married, that I had developed such deep feelings for a person that I hadn’t known existed a year earlier. I realized that learning to love someone truly comes through hard work and effort. Those feelings had come from actively spending time together, trying to see one another from our best sides, living together, learning to overlook faults and going through difficulties and solving problems together.

Again this September I experienced this. I gave birth to a tiny little baby who cried a lot, kept me awake at night and gave me a lot of nasty diapers to change. But still I found that I loved her so much. The difference was that I had already gone through a lot of the hard work with her – nine hard months of pregnancy, not to mention labor itself.

Since then every day has brought more hard work and difficulties, only teaching me to love her more and more.

Today we took Baby to the doctor to have two shots. And I got to feel just how much I loved her! She had had one shot before – the day she was born – but back then I mainly remember being exhausted and Baby didn’t seem to mind much. Today was slightly different.

The nurse was very very nice and made us all feel very comfortable. I undressed Baby, who got really happy and excited – loves being naked! When I was done, the nurse asked me, “Are you the one who will be holding her?”. I said that I was, but her question suddenly made me realize that the situation might be about to get unpleasant. She informed us that she was going to give Baby two shots and that she would do the one that stung the most last. We took our positions. I started rubbing Baby’s tummy, Marcus started talking to her and stroking her face, and the nurse raised the needle and pierced my baby’s skin. For a few seconds there was silence and Baby didn’t even blink. Then she closed her eyes, took the deepest breath that seemed to last hours and let out the loudest scream she could muster.

It was the saddest sound I had ever heard. And there was nothing I could do. Marcus and I both burst out, “It’s okay, Baby” “You’re alright”, “It’s almost over”. I looked up just in time to see the second needle disappear into my baby’s leg. This time the reaction was instant. Baby jumped a foot into the air and tears rolled down her cheeks as she screamed, if possible, even louder. It hurt my very soul. All of my instincts were yelling at me to pull out a boob and pull her close and never let go. Marcus seemed to be feeling the same cause he snatched her up as soon as the nurse had slapped on the band-aids.

A couple of minutes later the nurse held open the door for our traumatized little family.

The nurse said the next vaccinations are in two months. I was seriously considering not showing up. That I’d rather take my chances with measles and polio than go through that again.

(I need to go change my nursing pads)

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Baby girl is 3 months!

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It is safe to say that every month of Baby’s life has been more fun than the previous one. This last month has easily been the most eventful so far.

This was the month when she slept through the night for the first time! It happened out of the blue a couple of weeks ago. It only worked after we seriously started trying to put her to sleep in her own bed. I wasn’t too excited about this – because of mommy feelings – but I realized it was the safer way. So I started to feed her more in the evening and kept her sleeping in my lap for about an hour till she was deeply asleep enough that we could quietly walk her to the bedroom and put her down. This took some nights to get right. Many times we’d put her down and had to pick her back up an hour later cause she woke up. But then one night I woke up and it was 5.30 and I knew we had arrived. Our sleepless days were over.

So, the biggest news for this month is that she is starting to show some routines!

Also, she has found her hands and sucks away on them whenever she is bored. Oh what a blessing that she can entertain herself for a few minutes like that now! So excited for her to start grabbing and reaching for stuff too!

She still really likes listening to Marcus playing the guitar. That is his number one way to distract and cheer her up when I’m gone. She goes completely quiet and just stares at him in fascination. We’re hoping that’s a sign!

I hadn’t really thought about it before but she really seems to like having her diaper changed. I guess I can’t blame her.

The biggest challenge this month has been a few fussy days last week. She was just really grumpy and not even the boob could not make her stop complaining. She has also started drooling a lot so we’re guessing teething?

Another challenge is bath time. Since she seems ready we thought we’d try to especially focus on establishing a bedtime routine that includes bath time. So far Baby has not been a big fan of this particular activity. So yesterday we tried doing it a little differently. Instead of laying her down in the water at once we tried just dipping her feet at first and just letting her tap the surface a bit. We made sure to keep talking to her as we slowly sat her down and began to bathe her. It went pretty painlessly!

Our favorite time of day is still early morning when we all lie awake in bed and talk and play. Those moments really make me extra thankful for my little family.

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Baby, what are you looking at?

Baby and I had a few hours to ourselves tonight. Since she was happy I thought why not put on Pride and Prejudice and have our first mother-daughter movie night. It was glorious for the first half hour but then she fell asleep and so I’m seizing this rare opportunity of being alone on a quiet evening to write a blog post.

It’s incredible how enchanting the feeling is to sit here calmly, the only sounds being the ticking of the clock on the wall and my baby’s soft snores in my lap. That’s where she fell asleep during her third dinner with drop of milk stopped in its tracks on her bulging cheek. She has grown about 10cm in the last two months since she was born. I can’t believe how much she’s changed already.

Sometimes I find it hard to believe that she is just a newborn child with only two months of experience. I’ve never had an actual conversation with her and still I feel like I know her personality and to some extent even her thoughts. But when she gazes up at me with those big eyes I can’t help but sense that there’s some deeper wisdom in them, a depth that extends far beyond the time that she has been part of my life. Sometimes I even feel a little intimidated, like she is the one teaching me and overseeing my every move and not the other way around. As if she is here to teach me of things that are yet unknown to me.

I remember when she was only a few days old and we were so desperately excited that we would try for several minutes at a time to even catch her eye. But she never seemed to find us interesting enough. As if there was something else in the room that was far more worth her attention. And it made me wonder. Cause I found it hard to imagine that she could be focusing so intently on something meaningless when I, her mother, was so near. What thoughts could be passing through that inexperienced mind?

Even now when she is lying deep asleep in my lap I watch her little face closely. I see different moods flash across her face. Furrowed eyebrows with pursed lips, to the biggest most beautiful smile, to a heartbreaking trembling lower lip. What pictures is she dreaming? What memories are inspiring her subconsciousness? Is she thinking about the last time her dad pulled a funny expression or do they belong to a time previous even to the first time she first saw his face?

I have learned so much since she joined our family. Not because I’m acquiring skills relating to changing diapers and breastfeeding, but I feel that I somehow am filled with a deeper knowledge of life. Almost as if I understand myself better and even the meaning of my existence – maybe because I better understand my own priorities and goals in life. To have a happy family. There is really nothing I want more. And she teaches me that that is possible.

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Baby girl is 2 months!

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Two months have passed and a lot has happened since the last update!

The unresponsive reserved baby is gone! Every day she rewards our sleepless nights and sore arms with long curious looks and smiles. It is day and night compared to how she was a month ago. The other day I was trying to keep busy with my work on the laptop at the same time as I was breastfeeding. While I was typing I noticed that she had stopped sucking and I braced myself and waited for the crying to begin. When I looked down however I was caught by two huge blue eyes and a big smile. And she started cooing. I put down the laptop and we spent the next ten minutes chatting away. It just melts my heart every time I see those small signs of appreciation – not that they’re necessary, but they’re absolutely magical!

She becomes still more alert every day, and it seems that she also gets more different moods and emotions every day than the two she had when she was born.

Also (to her parents’ great appreciation) she actually enjoys lying on her tummy now. She’ll lie on a blanket and do her little push-ups and look around until she falls asleep for an hour or two. – which means her mom gets the opportunity to blog a tiny bit!

Her favorite things to do are: eating, sleeping and having her butt blow-dried after a diaper change or bath.

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