Thursday, December 26, 2013

managing expectations, 17 days old

Managing expectations. Remaining flexible. Keeping an open mind. Recognizing that I’m no longer in the driver’s seat. Ceding control.

This, I suppose, is parenthood.

And why not? I mean, I confronted infertility in my twenties. After ten years of birth control and the occasional terror and panic at a late period, I’m slapped with the totally non-specific and mystifying hypothalamic pituitary dysfunction, followed by a little junior varsity infertility, early miscarriage and, finally, after a shorter path than many but a longer path than I anticipated, pregnancy. Clomid and IUI and <deep breath>, pregnancy. And now, after 40 weeks 38 weeks – which I was mistakenly led to believe was only 9 months – I have this incredible human being. A beautiful, coneheaded and jaundiced little cub who we made, who I birthed, who is somehow, ours. Forever. Or at least until he’s 18 and we ship him off to military reform school college.

And now, two weeks in, another curve ball. Another – of many that are sure to come – moment in which things are not progressing as I expected. In which I am forced to step back, re-evaluate, remove judgment – of myself, of others, of my ability to parent.

Born at 7 lbs 14 oz, little Ez dropped to 7 lbs 1 oz a few days after he was born. Right on the threshold of the 10% he’s allowed to lose before TERROR! PANIC! FORMULA FEED HIM ALL OF THE DAYS! FAILURE TO THRIIIIIIIIVE!

And so, after the initial shock of labor, of being handed this incredible little infant, this strong pair of lungs connected to a diaper, this tiny creature who is completely dependent on us for his very survival and incidentally, comes with ZERO instructions, and whose only consolation prize is (approximately) 47 stitches running the length of my perineum, we fed. And fed. And fed. And fed. Twelve times a day. Every two hours. Whether he was awake or not, we woke him, he screamed, we jammed boob in his gummy little mouth. I slathered on the lanolin and APNO, dreaded the hot shower and his tiny fingernails, like daggers. We brought in two lactation consultants and a post-partum doula. Our dear, avuncular pediatrician made a house call (so quaint). We went to a breast feeding support group. We read and read and read – from everything on the ubiquitous-in-the-world-of-boobs kellymom to the trolls on Yahoo! Answers to the ivory towers of academic peer reviewed journals. The latch improved. He opened his mouth as wide as he could. I pumped and pumped in an effort to stimulate more milk production. We tried to supplement with pumped milk. C did the bottle feeds so Ez wasn’t confused. We used slow flow boob like bottle nipples. I read about galactagogues. I ate oatmeal and drank (a little) beer. I read all about fenugreek, but for fear of GI problems piled on to my Crohn’s disease, declined. Then, on someone’s advice, I stopped pumping and focused on just feeding. We did more skin to skin, carrying him around in my shirt[1] whenever I could. And then we fed him again. Our sleepy little baby whose high billirubin initially made him lethargic had woken up. Awake and alert, quiet and wide eyed, this boy wanted to eat. And I just didn’t have enough.

And then, on Friday, we went back to the pediatrician. Another naked screamy baby, another weight check. 7 lbs 3 oz. I cried. And again three days ago, 7 lbs 4.5 oz. And again, I cried.

If you had told me before giving birth that my inability to sufficiently nourish my son in the absence of formula would leave me ugly crying and sweaty – in the pediatrician’s office, in our home, on the phone with my mom, while driving to the grocery store, or anywhere in between – I would have balked. But there I was. In all of those settings and others. Ugly crying through the perceived inadequacy of my motherhood (overdramatic much?).

It’s now been two days. Two days since we began supplementing with formula – the same formula that came free in the mail during pregnancy. The same formula companies that sent me relentless, insidious emails over the last 40 weeks, seducing me with their wares[2].

My emotions have swung wildly between extremes – grateful that Ezra is here. That he and I are healthy and that I have the means to feed him, whether or not it’s the means I anticipated. Resentful that nothing goes according to plan. Lucky and guilty. Ashamed and judged. And then right back around to grateful.

The general consensus – among the lactation consultants and the pediatrician and my dear doctor husband – is low milk supply. Maybe because of insufficient glandular tissue – I do meet several of the criteria – or maybe for reasons unknown.

So we proceed. Breastfeeding and supplementing, round the clock. Like a marathon. Pumping a few times a day. Gearing up for another weight check tomorrow. And in between, just trying to enjoy this amazing little kid.

[1] Pretty much the best baby-wearing gear we own. Very marsupial.
[2] Speaking of which, we are now taking advice on whether to use organic formula and if so, which brand. Anyone?

This photo has nothing to do with this post but, you know, shark baby!

[1] Pretty much the best baby-wearing gear we own. Very marsupial.


  1. First off, as far as formula, check out Jay's recent post on this - She is a scientist and researcher at heart and has TONS of great information. She also links to this article - - which seems like a really in depth, great post. Good luck figuring out what's best for you!

    Hang in there hon -- you're doing the best you can, and that IS good enough. My Mom had insufficient milk for some reason with my sister (#4) after no problem with kids 1-3. A few weeks of supplementing with formula and continuing everything you're doing above and the issue resolved itself and her supply caught up. Maybe yours will, maybe yours won't, but we are so blessed to live in a time where formula is an option if needed.

  2. Oh, this is so, so hard. Don't apologize for being left in tears - the whole thing,in this fragile postpartum period, especially as someone used to being able to solve.all.the.problems., is a lot to deal with. Here in Canada we can get Domperidone - can you get it somehow, even illegally over the internet? I've heard of US moms doing that before. Or will that mess with the Crohn's? What about Go-Lacta - I've heard lots of good things about that, but I've never tried it.
    And as Josey said, you are doing your best, and that is good enough. Sounds like you are doing everything right.

  3. You did the right thing. Your baby needs to eat and grow. And it needs to happen in the healthiest, least anxiety-provoking way. I cannot believe how hard it is to just FEED a baby. This wa definitely the hardest thing for me to contend with. But it gets easier. You will find a rhythm and what works for you. In the meantime, Shark Baby is adorable!

  4. How have only three people commented on this? Girl, you have done all the right things -- and then a million more right things -- and Ezra will turn out to be a lovely, healthy boy, formula and all. Think of all the formula-fed babes in the '80s that turned out just as healthy as boob-fed ones... OK, maybe they have questionable taste in music now, but whatevs. Don't be hard on yourself -- there is so much to make you feel like shit for making this decision, but it really is the right one.