Gravity.

My baby is currently sleeping soundly on my chest while I sit here listening to the hum of our white noise machine.

We attempted sleep training this week as she turned 5 months old.

For the most part, I’m a pretty crunchy mama. My wife is kind of the opposite. But she acquiesces to my parenting desires a lot of the time. We cloth diaper. We occasionally co-sleep. We’re going to try baby-led weaning. But she was very adamant that we get this little lady on some kind of schedule.

She slept through the night beautifully for the first 4 months. 9-10 through about 7am for the most part. Then – at 4 months – it was as if a hellish demon took possession of my kid at 2 and 5am and turned her into a terrorist who held sleep hostage for a boob ransom.

Plus sleep routines – including bedtime – became increasingly longer and more stressful.

So we let her cry.

I cried too. I felt like the worst mom in the world.

The first night it went on for 25 minutes.

The 2nd night was about 8 minutes.

Ever since we’ve laid her down awake for bed and she fusses for a few minutes (no crying) and falls asleep.

She still wakes up at 2 and 5am (sometimes earlier, sometimes later). We tried letting her cry through those but we live in a condo so I dont think our neighbors enjoy the middle-of-the-night cacaphony so we’ve (..I..) decided to continue nursing her when she wakes at night. I suppose an easy bed routine is better than nothing!

Her naps have gotten slightly better as a result (though some days are still awful) and I am hopeful we can work that out as she is a totally different baby when she is well rested.

Right now she’s supposed to be napping in her crib. Instead shes in my arms.

The gravity of her body resting against mine sometimes feels like a metaphor for parenthood in general. The gravity of all of the decisions I make for her constantly weighs heavy on my shoulders. Am I doing this right? Is she going to be okay? Will she be confident? Happy? Well adjusted? Assertive? Intelligent?

Do I read to her enough? Am I on my phone too much? Do I spend too much time at work? Could i be doing more to try to exclusively breastfeed? Is she hitting her milestones on time? Etc. Etc.

It’s a lot.

But it’s incredible.

She’s becoming a tiny person. And I’m her mother.

I.

Am.

Her.

Mother.

I am a person’s mother. 5 months in and I still feel like a phony when I say that.

I hope we’re doing this right.

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…the Grinch’s small heart grew three sizes that day…

Today I was a Christmas Grinch.

The last few weeks have been so overwhelming at work and I’ve felt so behind on the holidays. Our gifts got wrapped this morning, I baked two desserts (one for each house we were going to today and tomorrow), made breakfast and I breastfed all day long, plus got myself and the baby dressed.

We planned to get to church 30 minutes early for a 4pm mass (we’re practicing Catholics), and instead got there 10 minutes early after racing around to let the dog out and get ourselves plus the baby ready (after finishing all of the aforementioned chores). After parking what felt like a mile away from the church (the first sign of the impending disaster), we walked into the largest crowd I’d ever seen there. We go (almost) every Sunday and had never witnessed such a crowd. It was like a Beyonce concert if Beyonce went on tour for the last time, and only announced one stop on the tour, and decided that one show should be in a closet.

Like…where were all of you every Sunday all freaking year?

And then there were the seat savers. You know, those people who leave enough room between themselves and the end of the pew to fit a small elephant and when you ask to sit down they act like you’ve asked them to sacrifice their first born.

Anyway, that’s where my Grinchy mind was going.

So there were no remaining seats, and no one seemed inclined to offer me theirs despite the 15 pound  baby in my arms, so we found some space to stand in the back of the church.

And I was huffing and puffing about the gall of my fellow parishioners for showing up after we hadn’t seen them all year before mass started. Grinchy, I know.

Then Hadley got hungry. And normally I’d breastfeed her, but I’m not quite coordinated enough to keep myself covered and set her up on my breast (especially since she’s so heavy) so I had to pull out a bottle I’d prepped for her. And I fed it to her while my arm was shaking under the weight of her head and upper body. With a Grinchy scowl of course.

Hadley fell asleep on my shoulder after her bottle, and I shifted my weight and swayed from side-to-side (you know, right? The mom shuffle? The one you do in the grocery store line even when your baby isn’t there and people look at you and you just smile because…how can you explain it? 😂)

And then Silent Nightcame on…

mother and child..Holy infant so tender and mild…sleep in heavenly peace…

And I suddenly felt so peaceful as her head nuzzled into my chest and her back rose and fell with her gentle breaths under my hand.

I remembered what I would have given to be sitting or standing anywhere with a healthy baby at this time last year.

I remembered for how long I dreamed of being a mom to a little girl. Sometimes i still cant believe she is mine.

I remember all of those amazing, strong women who are still waiting for this miracle.

And my heart is so full of gratitude that I dont have any room left to feel grumpy or upset.

Its Christmas Eve.

I’m standing next to my parents and my wife, holding my daughter.

I am blessed beyond imagination.

Anyway, that doesn’t excuse my childish assholey response to not having a seat in church. It’s just a story about how perspective can make all the difference. Sometimes I just need to really pay attention to those little reminders in my life.

Merry Christmas. Happy everything.

May 2019 bring you everything you hope for and more. ❤

4 months.

Oh, it’s been so long. So so long. How do you attempt to bridge the gap between six weeks and 16 weeks? So much has changed.

I’m back at work. (My wife is on maternity leave for another month or so).

Hadley is grabbing at things, smiling like crazy, belly laughing (mostly at me and the dog. Occasionally at me barking like a dog. You do what you have to do when your kid is freaking out 😂🤷‍♀️).

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She is about to outgrow her 3-6 month clothes since she is in the 78th percentile for height (about the 50th for weight). I both love and hate watching her grow. Every new development makes us simultaneously swell with pride and excitement, but cringe that time is slipping so quickly through our fingers like sand and our little love won’t be little forever.

We rent a storage unit for all of the things that dont fit into the closets of our small condo including her old baby gear (which we hope to reuse for another baby in 2 years or so) and her clothes (and a few of our own things) and today we upgraded to a larger unit as her belongings seem to multiply when we’re not looking. I have to admit: I’ve gotten away from the minimalist lifestyle that I longed for before she was born and need to do some purging and focus on the important things (none of which are posessions).

Motherhood is still hard. It’s honestly probably the hardest and easiest thing I’ve ever done all at once:

It’s hard to be so needed all the time.

..but it’s the single most amazing feeling to see this child smile when I talk, or walk into a room, or dance for her. Its crazy that I can stop her tears from flowing and her bottom lip from quivering when shes in an all-out screaming fit. She thinks that *I* am deserving of her trust. *I* make her feel safe and fed and secure. I do that. It’s still unbelievable to me sometimes.

It is still hard to breastfeed. I still dont quite make what she needs (we’re one bottle per day short which isnt terrible). But I have to make sure I eat enough (which isnt hard since I’m somehow always starving), and drink enough (which is as much of a struggle now as it was when I was pregnant), and pump (which is painful at times and not the easiest to make time for at work), and wash pump parts, and I’m tethered to her for much of the day because I am her source of food and comfort.

…but I am her source of food and comfort. I was grabbing something out of the fridge last night (okay, okay…I was grabbing a slice of pizza) and I thought: literally everything I eat is what she eats. This food is her food, too. I mean, maybe that’s not terribly profound. It is the same as being pregnant, afterall. But it’s overwhelming sometimes. Like: I have to get this right. I *need* to eat the right food. She deserves it. Breastfeeding is wild. It’s way more intense than I ever imagined, but I will do it for as long as my body will allow me and my daughter wants/needs it (or until we start fertility treatments again). (side note to my breastfeeding mama friends: check out the Baby Buddha pump. I found it after my last post. Portable pump about the size of a remote control. Game changing. You can find 20% off codes floating around which makes it $150 or so. Totallyyy worth it!!)

It is hard being a working mom. Work has been hard in general, lately. I wake up, pump while I brush my teeth and put on a little makeup, then quickly throw on clothes, run the straightener over my hair, throw on clothes, and run out the door (with a to-go coffee if I remembered to set it up the night before). I pump mid-morning at work, bring the pumped milk home at lunch and feed the baby (who I end up having to peel off my breast as she likes to nurse longer than I can spend at home), pump again mid-afternoon, come come around 6 (I’m done at 5 but the work has been piling up since I’ve been back), feed the baby for anywhere from 30-60 minutes (our bonding/long feed of the day), eat dinner (while feeding her usually), play with her a little, give her a bath, give her a bottle and put her to sleep. Sometimes she sleeps all night, sometimes she wakes a few times. I pick her up and nurse her back to sleep. Then I get up at 6 and start all over. Its EXHAUSTING.  I also had my first work trip away from her earlier this month. Fortunately my boss let me cut it down from the usual 5 days to 3 and I only had one FULL day without her. But I had to pack cooler bags, pump in two airport bathrooms 🤢, and spend roughly sixty painful hours away from the child I’d given birth to less than 4 months before and never spent more than 8 hours away from before.

But then we look at houses that have small yards where the baby and the puppy can stretch their legs. Houses without downstairs neighbors where we can blast our white noise machine at 3am without disturbing them, and where Hadley can run around the house without worrying that shes being too loud. A house with a garage attached to it instead of a storage unit across town. A house with enough cabinets in the kitchen that we dont have to store our dishes in the linen closet. And I remember how critical my salary is to affording that house (even though I’m 100% confident that I am underpaid by a lot). And so up I get at 6am.

So that’s a glimpse of my life as a working mama of a 4-month-old. We are getting ready for Christmas at the moment. Perhaps I’ll keep this trend going and get a Christmas-y post up. But at the moment I have a bed that needs sheets put on it so we can sleep sometime soon and a wife who is probably in the other room watching the clock as she holds the baby and is wondering what is taking me so long 😂

Happy holidays to you all. May 2019 bring you everything you’ve been dreaming of and more.

What I wish I knew: The breastfeeding edition.

So I have decided to put together s series of posts called “What I Wish I Knew” which will feature several topics that I started out very uneducated on, but now feel as though I have amassed a small amount of wisdom that I would like to be able to:

  • Recall for baby #2
  • Share with other parents who may find some value in it

I definitely don’t have all of the answers (yet…I’m working on it 😉) but I’ve encountered a few cool tricks and learned a few hard lessons that have helped to make me a stronger, happier, more efficient mama.

First up is breastfeeding.

Which has pretty much been the bane of my existence for the last 8 weeks.

My breastfeeding journey started about 2 hours after I gave birth when a lactation consultant showed up in my hospital room wheeling a hospital grade Medela pump and a roughly cut piece of stretchy fabric that she made into a makeshift hands-free nursing bra. She instructed me to put the conical breast shields over my nipples, followed by the fabric which she cut holes into so the shields would poke out and could be connected to the collection cups so I could pump without having to use my hands to hold everything up.

Lesson #1: Pack a hands-free nursing bra in my hospital bag.

While I am planning on addressing all of the “things” I have found that have proven to be wonderful and helpful in another blog post, I do absolutely love the Lanisoh Simple Wishes Hands Free Pumping Bra and actually bought two of them so that I had a backup handy for when the first was dirty.

The lactation consultant also gave me a sterile kit of brand new medela accessories which I was able to take home when I left the hospital along with two small, plastic basins to use to wash and rinse the parts, a small bottle brush, and a travel sized bottle of dish soap. It was kind of amazing. It got my wife and I used to the process of cleaning and caring for the pump parts before we left the hospital. I dont know if every hospital offers that and I dont plan on giving birth anywhere else in the future, but it may be worth checking to see what your hospital offers and packing some of that if they don’t. I dont know what we would have done without those things (probably not pumped and if we did: probably not effectively clean the parts).

Of course, the plan was to feed baby directly from by breasts, but her NICU stay threw a wrench in those plans.

I wasn’t able to hold my daughter for the first 13 hours of her life, let alone feed her. So I did the next best thing: I pumped:

  • 15 minutes
  • Every two hours
  • On the highest setting

 

Which brings me to lessons two and three:

Lesson #2: Power Pump

Lesson #3: Chill on the crazy high pump settings. This isn’t 50 Shades of Grey. Your nipples will thank you.

So I didn’t find out about power pumping until my daughter was about a week old. The premise is: you pump several times throughout a one hour period with breaks in between (the schedule I found and used is: pump 20 minutes, rest 10, pump 10, rest 10, pump 10). The idea is that it tricks your body into thinking that baby is cluster feeding so you produce more milk. I wish I knew that in the early few days so I could have worked on boosting my supply a little sooner. I don’t know when you’re SUPPOSED to introduce power pumping, but since I didn’t have access to my own little cluster feeder I’d imagine it would have helped.

Instead, I pumped every 2 hours…scraping the insides of the cones and cups when I was finished with a spongy swab to make little colostrum-sicles to rub inside of my daughter’s mouth because I didnt make enough drops to even fill a silicone nipple, let alone a bottle.

I also wish I had relaxed a bit on the pump settings. In the first few days, I could pump on the highest settings with no problems. I don’t know if I was working on adrenaline and didn’t feel the pain, or if perhaps my nipples were just too naive to know what was coming, but after the first few days I began to get blanched nipples after each pumping session and I was in pretty intense pain. I even had to stop nursing temporarily because the pain of my daughter’s mouth touching my nipples was enough to make me cry.

I thought the issue was a poor latch, but after multiple meetings with a lactation consultant, we realized that she was latching fine and I learned that I was pumping at too high a setting (though “too high” is different for everyone. Bottom line: do what FEELS right. Not what you think you are obligated to do).

For what it’s worth, I use a Spectra S2 pump and operate it on Cycle 54, Level 5 for the most part. I switch it around a little and start it out on Cycle 70 Level 3 (its the “massage” mode that is supposed to encourage your “let down” (milk release) but I don’t really think I have a “let down”. Milk never really flows freely: my pump has to work for it.

Which brings me to:

Lesson #4: Boosting your supply by finding the right foods/supplements

My sister in law gifted me with Mother’s Milk Tea and some Munchkin Milkmakers Lactation Bars (in the mixed berry flavor if you’re wondering). The tea was…meh. The bars were not my favorite (they tasted like something I’ve eaten before…maybe some kind of cereal bar). And neither seemed to increase my milk supply.

Then I tried lactation cookies: Munchkin Milkmakers Chocolate Chip cookies. While they tasted PHENOMENAL (for store bought cookies) I also didn’t notice a big change in my supply.

Then I tried a homemade recipe that I found online:

https://www.howsweeteats.com/2015/02/lactation-cookies/

A few changes I made were to use two full eggs (something a reviewer suggested), I used a flax/chia blend in place of the flax seed (only because it was all I had on hand), I cut the sugar down by 1/4 cup, and I swapped Whole Wheat Pastry Flour in place of the white flour (it’s all I really bake with anymore, and it swaps pretty beautifully into almost any recipe that calls for white flour in my opinion). The cookies are delicious and they are probably more nutritionally dense than a lot of store bought sweets, so I’ve decided to keep making them to keep around when a craving hits, even though I also haven’t noticed a big difference with them. I figured: it can’t hurt.

I also eat oatmeal for breakfast. (no change)

Quinoa for lunch (also nope)

I occasionally enjoy a dark beer as a treat (nada).

Salmon, spinach, blueberries (no, no, no)

Then I tried fenugreek/blessed thistle supplements. I *MAY* have had a slight increase from them. Jury is out. Still working on finishing the bottle.

Then as a last resort I tried a supplement called Goat’s Rue. I think I have finally had an increase, but not like the photos online depict. I didn’t go from pumping 1 ounce to 4 ounces. I went from pumping maybe half to 3/4 an ounce per hour to *maybe* a full ounce an hour during certain pumping sessions. Nothing major.

I’m going to finish the bottle and decide whether I want to continue using it.

Long story short: I don’t have a miracle suggestion for anyone looking for one. Rather, I can say with relative certainty that NOTHING is really a miracle for everyone. My sister-in-law drank the tea and ate the bars and pumped 4 ounces per sitting usually. I am lucky to get 2 ounces in a pump session (which I assume is what my daughter consumes when she breastfeeds directly. I just mention pumping as I can measure it).

So we have elected to supplement with formula as my daughter was not gaining weight quickly initially and was constantly crying. Once we began supplementing and feeding her more, the crying dramatically decreased and she seemed like a much happier baby once we started it.

I still have a lot of guilt about the fact that she isn’t surviving on breastmilk alone. When I encounter people with freezer stashes of breastmilk I get so jealous.

Before I gave birth, I was researching stand alone freezers for my breastmilk reserves. I just assumed everyone’s body worked like that.

I think my late intro to feeding my daughter coupled with a significant blood loss during childbirth may have decreased my supply (I found out later that I had a pretty bad hemmorage and I needed two iron transfusions while in the hospital).

Which leads us to our final lesson:

Lesson #5: Stop Comparing Yourself to Others, Dum Dum.

I grew a human. Then I pushed it out of a tiny hold in my body. And now my body makes food for it.

I mean, that’s pretty amazing.

So it doesn’t make enough food. Fortunately we have science and people figured out how to make a processed alternative to my food and my baby is gaining weight and not constantly crying from hunger.

Some people don’t make enough food. Some people don’t make any food. Some people can’t get the baby out on their own. Some people can’t keep the baby in as long as they would like. Some people have problems while baby is growing.

Making a baby isn’t easy. I think that everyone who cares enough to worry (or who cares but doesn’t worry…God bless those women. I hope to be among their ranks, one day) is doing a good job.

We care.

We are trying.

Our babies are loved.

The rest will work itself out.

Happy breastfeeding, mamas.

 

 

Mommy guilt.

So the last few days have gotten somewhat better. With each day that passes, I feel like my daughter drops us a few more breadcrumbs about who she is and what she wants.

 

….and then we still have nights like last night when she wailed for two hours and pulled so hard on my nipple while I was breastfeeding her that I thought she was going tear part of it off, and she furiously shook her head and scratched at her face and my chest despite the fact that I did everything I could think of to soothe her. Then she promptly fell asleep at 1:30 am and slept until 6am. A gift, perhaps, for the terror she subjected us to the night before?

Those nights are impossible when I am living them and I get so frustrated and I verbalize how frustrated I am with her (I dont yell, but I definitely talk in an angry voice). Then afterward when the dust settles I feel so guilty for being upset in the moment and just want to love and cuddle her and help her to understand that I was never mad…just frustrated, tired, and afraid that it would never end – or worse: that something was wrong with her.

Part of the reason why she slept so long last night was that my wife and I invested in a soothing baby bassinet called a “Snoo”. Its way overpriced (though I suppose that is subjective), and we used my wife’s accrued credit card reward points plus as gift that her Godmother gave us to cover 3/4 of the cost. The bassinet senses when baby is fussing and adjusts its white noise and rocking to calm the baby down (and it’s all controlled by an app). She slept well last night, took a 2 hour nap in it earlier today, and has been asleep now since 9 pm or so (it’s currently 10:30 pm). While I thought I’d feel elation after last night’s pre-bed debacle, I just feel guilty that shes sleeping. I’m not soothing her or feeding her – in fact, she slept through a feeding last night (and I did too since I was so tired) and I just feel bad that I’m not holding and feeding her now (when I typically would be).

Things that I also feel guilt for:

-My poor breastmilk supply (I’ve been pumping an ounce or so every 2 hours which hasn’t been nearly enough to accommodate what she wants to eat)

-The fact that we bottle feed her the breastmilk often (which started when she was in the hospital as that was the only option initially in the NICU, and then they wanted me to monitor her intake in order to help reduce her jaundice. They encouraged us to syringe or bottle feed my colostrum along with donor breastmilk – which we chose over formula – so we knew how much she was eating. We continued that at home to help us better understand her weight gain, and just got into that habit).

-Her naps (I feel like I should be holding and cuddling her, but enjoy napping and/or preparing dinner or catching up on chores when she falls asleep and I can rest her in the Rock N Play or now the Snoo).

-The fact that she is already growing and changing and I WISHED FOR IT, because I desperately want to understand her…but at the same time, I want her to be little forever. I feel like I dont spend nearly enough time just staring at her and cementing her sweet little coos and expressions in my heart before she stops doing them.

I don’t know, I suppose that some of this guilt is just sadness that time is already passing and my tiny newborn is already going to be a month old and I should have enjoyed it all so much more.

In the meantime, I’m going to resolve to try to capitalize on every moment that I can, and try not to get frustrated as easily and just love on this sweet little babe for as long as I can before she becomes a bigger crawling babe, then a walking and talking babe…

No matter what, time will pass exactly the same way so I might as well enjoy this ride. 😊💜

Motherhood is hard.

The last 24 hours have been HARD.

I mean, really freaking hard.

I’ve only known my daughter for about 3 weeks now, but sometimes it feels like we have a rhythm established. I feel like I have some semblance of a clue why she is crying.

Then she throws us off. It’s not a diaper change, food, or seemingly comfort she’s after.  And in those moments – when she is shrieking so loudly and violently that she sends herself into a coughing fit – I feel like the most inadequate parent. I feel like some dummy in a slapstick  comedy who cant react quickly enough and fumbles around until something works by chance.

And then I cry.

I cant even say that no one told me that it would be this hard.

Everyone did.

But everyone also told me pregnancy was hard, and I skated through it effortlessly with only a few small bumps in the road, so I guess I (mistakenly) figured I’d have this “mom thing” on lock down as well. (Spoiler alert: I was wrong.)

Motherhood is the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do (which says a lot because work through me quite a few curveballs this year and made me question my career choice and sanity at times).

But unlike work when my boss says, “I’m sorry you had to take on this really tough task. I’m sorry your day sucked. You’re doing a good job,” my daughter just cries.

It doesn’t matter if I pumped enough for her to feel full two hours ago if I cant do it again now.

It doesn’t matter if she nurses on one side: if its empty she wants the other which is sore and raw from her poor latch and I can barely put a cotton bra over it sometimes, let alone allow my child to try to extract food from it.

It doesn’t matter if I just changed her diaper 30 seconds before she noisily asserts that she’ll be needing a new clean one (ugh…that one gets me every time).

It doesn’t matter if I’m brushing my teeth for the first time of the day at 4pm…if she needs me, she needs me now…not after the timer on my sonicare says my teeth are clean.

It doesn’t matter if every intention in my body is good: she doesn’t know that and she still needs whatever she needs: usually faster than I can react to provide it which cues the blood curdling cries.

Other people keep telling me that it gets easier. They understand. The beginning is tough.

All I want is for my daughter to understand that I’m trying. I’m trying really hard and her cries break my heart everytime and make me feel like my efforts are never enough.

I long for the day when she can articulate her needs. I look forward to being able to tell her how much I love her and have her understand.

For now it’s just hard.

 

 

The rest of our hospital stay.

The last two weeks have been a whirlwind. I’m sitting here writing listening to the soundtrack of my breast pump churning and wheezing and the little peanut is across the room cooing in her Rock N’ Play (which has been a Godsend since this child won’t sleep in many other places). I’m hoping that her little chirps are just indicators of sweet dreams and not the signs of her waking as I’m not even close to being done everything I intended to work on this afternoon.

Plans.

Go.

Out.

The.

Window.

When you have a newborn.

I mean, I knew that. People told me that.  But – I still thought my child might be different.

I can’t believe she has been out of my body for more than two weeks. Three weeks ago, I would have struggled to recall what life was like before my big belly. I didn’t remember what it was like to be able to paint my toenails, or shave in the shower, sleep on my stomach, or savor the rich taste of a glass of merlot. Now I’m struggling to recall what those tiny kicks felt like, or the weekly drives to the doctor’s office for my nonstress tests, or the round fullness of my pregnant belly.

I miss it SO much, sometimes.

Don’t get me wrong: I love that she is lying across from me. I love her tiny noises, the way her mouth curls up into a smile randomly (and then uncurls just as I grab my phone to take a picture), or the way she purses her lips with milk dripping from the corners when I pull her away from my breast.

I love how she wags her head and shakes her fists when she doesn’t get food fast enough: it’s like she is already demanding a space for herself in the world…asserting her needs…helping me to understand life on her terms.

But its not the same as when she was inside. She’ll never be as safe and secure. I’ll never be quite as full of life. We’ll never be physically connected ever again. And that made me just a little sad when it all finally set in.

The first night home from the hospital was hard.

Well, the hospital itself was hard.

Hadley was born at 7am, and I didn’t get to hold her until about 6pm that evening (I think…everything was a blur at that point due to the sheer exhaustion of having been awake for almost two days straight with short cat naps in between). They wheeled me in to see her in the NICU for the first time around 9am, I think. I watched her through the glass dome of her incubator and was only able to hold her hand and push her pacifier back in when she began to cry (which made ME cry). The soundtrack of our first official meeting was the bubbling noise of her CPAP machine, and all of the beeps from the monitors she was hooked up to. She had a tiny bruise on one hand from where they tried to insert an IV but failed (and she had one to match on the other hand once they finally removed her IV).

I asked if I could hold her and the NICU nurse scolded me: reminding me that she needed that time in the incubator and that the doctor would tell me when I could hold her.

That was so hard. She was MINE – just mine – for nine months. I knew her rhythmic kicks and she knew my heartbeat. And all of the sudden she belonged to a NICU nurse and I was simply a visitor.

I had a really tough time with that entire experience. I felt like I didnt know my child when she came home from the hospital and it hit me like a ton of bricks when I finally considered how traumatic her departure from me was after her birth.

My labor was so fast and intense and she came rocketing into this world quicker than I had a chance to process. Then she was whirled away to be measured and assessed while I delivered the placenta and got stitched up.

I was so bone tired that I didnt really process what was happening:

That we didn’t get to delay her cord clamping to give her a few extra minutes to build up her iron supply.

We didnt get skin-to-skin right away to give us a chance to bond and get to know each other.

I didnt get to feed her right away to help us bond and help my milk supply to come in faster.

I really didn’t “meet” my daughter until much later.

I joked that they could have taken my baby and given me back another and I wouldnt have known the difference.

That sounds horrible, doesn’t it? What mother doesn’t instinctively know her baby. But I felt like I didn’t. And that made me very sad.

I know everything was done in her best interest. I know she is healthy and more importantly – alive – because of the efforts of that medical staff. But it was still hard and emotional.

Before she was released from the NICU, I was able to see her four more times. That evening around 6 they allowed me to feed her after a lactation consultant visited me in my room earlier in the day for a lesson on breast feeding and pumping (thank God for that woman because breastfeeding is harder than it looks….more on that, later).

We went back with both sets of our parents later that night and again in the middle of the night to breastfeed. We went back for one final visit the following morning to feed her and give her a bath. I thought I knew how to bath a baby, but apparently there was more to it than I knew (like: wash the face first and dont use the same part of the cloth to wipe their eyes twice).

Around 4pm that next day (Sunday as I would later learn…what a blur of a stay) they brought her back to my room. She was all bundled up in the standard hospital blanket with a purple knit hat. I still wonder who made that – it gave me some comfort that she was adorned with something cozy and personal during part of her NICU stay.

They let us know that night that her bilirubin levels were high (which means that she had some jaundice) and they recommended phototherapy which commenced on Monday and earned us an extra day in the hospital. Fortunately, they allowed us to “room in” with Hadley so we didnt have to leave her and we were all able to go home together on Tuesday.

If you’ve never experienced phototherapy for a newborn: it looks cool but is actually torture. She had to lay on the equivalent of a bright tanning bed with foam goggles and she had to be naked (sans a diaper) and be swaddled down to the surface of the light board.

She hated it and cried hysterically all day, which led to us frequently picking her up to feed and comfort her which led to an extra 12 hours with the light when they came to re-test her later that night. In the middle of the night she was pretty much over the whole ordeal and cried hysterically at which point I said, “screw it” and swaddled her (against the rules since her swaddled skin wasnt exposed to the light). She slept soundly for two hours at which point I woke up in a sweat, terrified that I hadn’t heard her in two hours (the longest we’d gone with silence before that on the light treatment was about 20 minutes) and I was to find her not breathing. Both she and my wife (who was sleeping on a cot next to her) were sound asleep. Evidently the swaddle session helped her to reset and I was able to get her to sleep for the rest of the night without any major issues. No more two hour stretches but I think she slept for an hour at a time which was great.

I was super nervous for her morning blood test after basically removing her from the light for two hours, but I wasnt torturing the kid any more than she needed to be: we all needed that sleep and she desperately needed that comfort after the rough start to her life.

Fortunately she passed both that as well as the following blood test and we were discharged that afternoon.

That Monday (the day of the phototherapy) was HARD. I didnt leave the room all day and it rained so it just left me feeling very down. It was also tough because we had almost hourly checks from various hospital staff throughout our weekend stay, but that stopped on Monday when I was discharged and just “roomed in” with my daughter. The peace was nice, but when you have a newborn (especially a sick one) it is nice to just talk to other people. It helped me maintain sanity and normalcy: even though I didn’t know any of the staff particularly well.

When I got home from the hospital I cried a lot the first few days. I thought I would transition gracefully into motherhood: I’ve wanted this my ENTIRE life. But everything made me cry. Signs of my pregnancy like the big U-shaped pillow on the bed that had been my best friend for the prior two months. Or the look of my deflated belly in the bathroom mirror complete with stretch marks that I hadn’t really seen as they were on the underside of my belly prior to Hadley’s birth. It looked like a basketball that had been used too hard in its final game and was now deflated – sitting on the sidelines.

Even the sight of Hadley’s bedroom made me sad. We decorated it in hopeful anticipation and having her home was so scary: I didnt know what she wanted or needed in those first few days, and everything was so overwhelming.

I also wasnt making enough for her to eat which was nerve wracking, and likely was related to the fact that I didnt feed her for the first 12 hours of her life. I’m still struggling with breastfeeding, but I think that warrants it’s own blog entry.

Despite all of these challenges and the hecticness with which her life started, the love I feel for this child is indescribable. Even though I get so overwhelmed when she cries (mostly because I never truly know the reason), I know that the reasons are so basic: food, sleep (or lack thereof) and comfort. That’s basically it. She is so innocent and full of possibility and hope and I want to keep that alive in her forever. I want to meet any need that she ever has before she has it. I want her to see the world as beautiful, and kind, and loving. I want to ensure that she never knows hunger or pain or heartache. I want to wrap her in my love every day for the rest of her life.

I guess that’s what  being a parent is, right? Loving and supporting your child through everything, and taking the bad moments on the chin: knowing there are more good ones to come.

If that’s not it: let me know when you figure out the secret, will you? 😊

In the interim: some pictures of our little love: