I had no idea what I was in for.
Sure, I knew I would be exhausted. I knew my house would be a mess. I even knew that my little darling would cry a bit.
What I didn’t know was everything else that has made these past two months so challenging.
Before you read another word, please allow me to say that I am head-over-heels in love with my little baby Mae. She is the most incredible blessing and I am just blown away that she is ours. Also, I’m sure she’s the prettiest baby ever.
However, with that said, I do feel that it is incumbent upon me to share the real story of what these first two months as a mom have entailed. There are countless misconceptions about life with a newborn and I, unfortunately, fell victim to all of them. (This article sums it up pretty well) As if being a first-time mom is not difficult enough, I was also struggling with the loss of those blissful, newborn moments I thought every mom (but me) got to enjoy. Throw in some post-partum hormones, no sleep, and Mae’s personal mix of baby issues and, you guys, I was (am) a mess.
My objective in sharing all of this is to encourage any other mammas who may be dealing with the same struggles. Also, if you are a mom who has made it to the other side of this craziness, I would love to hear what worked for you (i.e. how you survived).
It’s a long long post so I would not blame you one bit if you tap out early.
I’ll take it from the top.
Week 1: We brought Mae home on a beautiful Sunday morning but we didn’t even make it out of the hospital room without popping a pacifier in her mouth. But crying is normal right? The next two days were tough. She cried a ton. So did I. Most of the time she was inconsolable, so much so that she wouldn’t eat. If she did eat, the screaming intensified. I sent countless desperate texts to my doula and mommy friends at all hours of the night. Thankfully, a few of them even showed up to help. My well-laid plans to wait a few weeks on offering bottles went straight out the window. By the time we had our first pediatrician visit on Tuesday, I was a wreck. Then we learned that Mae had lost 14oz. That is double the normal maximum weight loss for newborns. The ped put us on a rigorous feeding schedule that involved nursing, pumping, and supplementing with formula. She was finally eating but seemingly everything she ate was coming back up. We were back at the dr’s office the next day and thankfully she gained 6oz overnight. She continued to gain steadily all week but the spitting up was not improving at all. Either was the fussiness. So the doc put her on probiotics, Simethicone (gas relief drops) and gripe water. I was also having some very serious (worse than unmedicated labor) nursing pain that I determined must have been a clogged milk duct. So I spent every free moment I had researching and trying everything I possibly could to clear the duct. Nothing worked. Over the next two weeks, I visited my OB twice as well as a specialist for help and they said that there was nothing that could be done other than my home remedies.
Week 2-3: We had one day where Mae did not sleep for 12 hours straight. So back to the doc we went. The ped said that it appeared that Mae was wired from getting an imbalance of fore-milk and hindmilk. Obviously this was all new to me. Apparently, the fore-milk is the sugary thirst-quenching milk that babies get when they begin a breastfeeding session. In order to get the high fat/protein hind milk they have to nurse long enough on one side to get through all of the fore-milk. So I made an effort to keep her on one side until she stopped drinking but I didn’t see any improvement in her symptoms. So I figured that if I pumped and gave her the milk in the bottle, it would ensure she was getting the hind milk. I shared my plan with the pediatrician and a lactation consultant and they both said that would work. Plus pumping was much less painful than nursing. So I did that for a week but I knew that exclusively pumping long-term would be a lot more work than breastfeeding. I began trying to figure out how to balance my milk content a little better so I could breastfeed as well as give her a bottle. I did some googling and it sounded like my issue was an oversupply of milk. When a mom makes too much milk, the baby fills up on the fore-milk before they ever reach the hind-milk. Made sense to me, but how could I fix it? I ended up hiring a lactation consultant to come to the house and help me problem solve. I also wanted her opinion on how in the heck I could keep a clogged milk duct for three weeks when they typically only last 2-3 days.
While all of this was going on I joined a breastfeeding group on facebook called the Dairy Queens. Hilarious right? I posted some of my baby dramas in the group and several of the moms thought the problem sounded like symptoms of a tongue tie/lip tie. So I started looking that up and I was floored. One hundred percent of Mae’s issues were listed as symptoms. But the lactation consultant at the hospital and my pediatrician both checked for tongue tie and said Mae did not have one so I was perplexed. I kept digging and from what I myself could see, Mae definitely had an upper lip tie and possibly a posterior tongue tie (those are harder to spot).
Week 4: The lactation consultant came, watched me nurse for 5 minutes and said that I did not have a clogged duct. Which explains why my efforts to unclog it never worked. She instead thought it might be a bit of Thrush instead. I asked her about the oversupply and milk content imbalance, she said that wasn’t my problem but that Mae did indeed have a lip tie. So first thing Monday morning, back to the ped we went. She gave us meds for thrush, determined Mae had full-blown reflux and gave us meds for that too. She agreed on the lip tie but said that it wasn’t a problem and to wait until she was four or five to have it revised.
Once we knew Mae had reflux, I cut dairy from my diet since that is a common culprit for upsetting little tummies. Which was extremely challenging with the delicious meals all my sweet girlfriends from church were dropping off. But I was willing to do anything to help my Little Baby Mae feel better. We started the thrush meds (just in case) and then started the Zantac (reflux meds) and had a horribly fussy/spitty day the next day. Assuming it had to be the meds, I pulled the Zantac.
Week 5: None of Mae’s symptoms improved so I kept digging and discovered that the intense nursing pain that I thought was a clogged duct, then thrush was probably what is called nipple blanching. What causes nipple blanching? A tongue tie. That was the last straw for me. I decided to take Mae down to a dental specialist in Ft. Lauderdale who uses a laser to revise lip and tongue ties. He took one look at her, showed me her lip AND TONGUE tie and asked me what I wanted to do. It was a small fortune to have both revised but I didn’t want to just do one and allow her issues to persist if the other was the source of her problems so I decided to go for it. Thankfully Dave’s mom was with me so she went to get baby tylenol while I cried in the waiting room. Five minutes later, Mae was done and I nursed her immediately after. She seemed to do fine. We also managed to get a few real smiles out of her for the first time!
Week 6: The nursing pain went away but the reflux did not. I was also noticing she was only nursing half as long as she was before. I became concerned that the pain from the procedure was creating an oral aversion so I texted the lactation consultant for help. She said to come down to a breastfeeding group she was hosting that day. She weighed Mae as soon as I got there, I fed her for a few minutes then we weighed her again. She had eaten like a champ. As it turned out, she had just become a more efficient nurser after the surgery. Yay! We still had the reflux to deal with so I decided to give Zantac another try as well as cut gluten from my diet.
Week 7: After cutting both dairy and gluten, I was down to eating pretty much dirt. I was living off of larabars, french fries, tater tots, meat (which I don’t love) and gluten free products. I hadn’t seen an improvement in the reflux but Mae was smiling much more and that kept me going. Plus the fact that both dairy and gluten can live in your system for two weeks made me scared to add them back in. I didn’t want to make her reflux worse for even a fraction of two weeks.
Week 8: Time for another visit to the pediatrician. Turns out my Mae is in the 7th percentile weight-wise for her length. The baby is super long and skinny! No clue where she got that from!! Hopefully she will chunk up once this reflux business goes away. (You can all put that on your prayer list for us!) They think that it should clear up by 3-4 months so I am going to try to keep on keepin on until then. Oh and if anyone reading this knows anything about MTHFR and vaccines, please get in touch with me. That’s all I am going to say about that here.
Things are still really tough but I am doing my best. I am working on getting her on a sleeping schedule but as luck would have it, we are moving homes and I start shooting again next week. Some timing huh?
But at least she’s smiling.
I would be remiss if I did not say how grateful I am for the incredible support from my amazing husband, our families and friends. You guys know who you are. I don’t know how I would’ve made it through these eight crazy weeks without you. Thank you for being there, and thanks in advance for helping me through the next eight crazy weeks. And the ones after that.
Amidst all of this, thankfully Kat, Shannon and I were miraculously able to capture a few sweet photos.