Baby Hab.: Month One in Review
April 4, 2012 § 4 Comments
My six-week-old infant woke me at 4 a.m. to nurse after an already restless night. Two restless nights in a row, to be precise. I am exhausted; my body feels used up. But I nurse her anyway. By 5 a.m., she is fed and changed, but she is also awake and alert. I put her in her Fisher Price swing, a gift we inherited from a couple whose daughters have outgrown it, and whisper a prayer under my breath. She won’t fall asleep in spite of the click-clacking motor of the swing and the side-to-side motion designed to imitate Mommy’s swaying.
Now is the perfect time to share with you her development from Month One. I have been wanting to write this entry for a long time, at least since March 16th. But with no time to devote to sitting in front of the laptop (much to my dismay and to the detriment of my dissertation’s progress), I have resorted to jotting down notes in my phone so that I wouldn’t forget important milestones. They say this baby thing gets easier with time. After six weeks, I’m beginning to think “they” are wrong. Or that maybe I’ve done something wrong. But I’m still holding out hope.
During the first four weeks of Melanie’s life, I underwent my own developmental shifts. I plan to write more detailed posts about my issues later, but in short my changes from February 16 to March 16 were:
1. Sudden and total weight loss. Don’t be jealous of me, friends. This contributed to the second item on my list. Throughout my pregnancy, I gained a total of 27 pounds. My weight gain was deliberate because I am an obese woman, and everything I had read recommended that obese women not gain more than 30 pounds. This recommendation is in order to prevent gestational diabetes (although I later found out that if you are going to get gestational diabetes, you’ll get it regardless of your weight gain and diet) and in order to assure that the baby develops well. So, I gained 27 pounds, and I was proud of that number. Two weeks later, I went to my postpartum check-up and discovered I had lost 29 pounds. I did nothing extreme. I ate like I had always eaten, and there has been no time for exercise. I literally did nothing to lose the weight. And here’s why you should be neither impressed nor jealous by my unintended weight loss.
2. Poor milk production. I have been breastfeeding Melanie, which likely contributes a great deal to my weight loss. But because I was no longer eating like I was pregnant (again, not intentionally…I literally had lost my appetite and struggled to consume the same quantities I had only two weeks previous), I was not taking in the amount of calories I needed, yet I was burning more calories than ever before. My body could not keep up with the demands of my precious baby because I was not fueling it with calories in order to produce milk. So my milk failed to come in…until Day 16. I spent those first 15 days sobbing, feeling like an utter failure, like a terrible and inadequate mother. What kind of mother can’t even go into labor or feed her baby? I’ll address these issues later, but suffice to say, those first two weeks were particularly difficult for me. But not everything was bad news for the brand-new Mama Hab.
3. The distinction between cries. Speaking to my friends who had newborns and infants, they all swore up and down that babies’ cries are distinguishable from one another. Good news for a little one who is as of yet nonverbal! As with most things in my early days of parenthood, my insecurities did not allow me to believe my friends’ claims. But sure enough, within a few days, I had mastered Melaniese. “A-wah, a-wah, wah wah wah” was hunger. “Ehhhh-uh-ehhhh” was a wet diaper. “Aaaaaahhh” was boredom or general dissatisfaction with the state of her limited world. Now that we are going into her second month, Melanie has even developed a tired cry which sounds similar to the hungry cry except that it tapers off into a whine rather than crescendoing into ear-piercing shrieks.
As far as my development was concerned, Month One was filled with tears and insecurities. Month Two has been an improvement so far, but there are still those tearful and insecure moments.
Melanie, of course, grew by leaps in bounds in that too-short month.
Melanie’s weight fluctuated wildly. She was born at 8 pounds 15 ounces, all of it in her long long legs. By the time we were discharged 48 hours later (Saturday), she was down to 8 pounds 5 ounces (normal). By the time we went in for her five-day check on Monday (where they check weight and jaundice levels), Melanie was down to 7 pounds 10 ounces. She had lost more than a pound. This was not normal, and she was technically classified as “failure to thrive.” We returned to the hospital on Tuesday for another weight check. She had gained 4 ounces after receiving both breast milk and formula supplement with each feeding. I felt like I was failing, too, even though a gain was good news. Two days later, when she was a full week old, she was only at 8 pounds. Most babies have at least returned to their birth weight within seven days.
Robert was still on paternity leave, and I was still struggling with a lack of sufficient milk. I was pumping and feeding around the clock. My breasts felt normal–I had no engorgement. I felt like the worst, most incapable mother in the world. My baby continued to hover around the 8 pound mark. Robert returned to work 14 days after Melanie was born, and I returned to the hospital for an updated weight check. She had only gained an ounce in a week, according to the machine. Newborns are supposed to gain an ounce to two ounces a day when they are very young. I called my mom, sobbing uncontrollably, and she fervently encouraged me to stop going to the lactation specialist at the hospital and take Melanie to her pediatrician instead. I called the pediatrician and made an appointment to be seen the next morning.
On Friday, March 2, I took Melanie to see her pediatrician. I was exhausted–Melanie had nursed relentlessly the night before and was still begging for more food. I forgot to bring a bottle with me (still learning, at that point, how to pack my diaper bag), so I ended up nursing her in the exam room while I waited to be seen. A pediatric nurse weighed Mel, and we were delighted to see that she weighed 8 pounds 8 ounces. This was still not the ideal weight, and she was still classified as “failure to thrive,” so the pediatrician gave her a good physical exam. Our pediatrician is the kindest, most encouraging, supportive doctor I have ever met. I must have looked harried, haggard, and worn. He made eye contact with me every time he said, “You are doing great.” I asked him how she could have gained seven ounces in a single day, and he assured me that there was probably a problem with the machine at the hospital. Although he still had to classify Melanie as “failure to thrive,” he promised that it was just a medical classification and that he believed Melanie was surviving well. He encouraged me to focus on the upward trend of her weight gain and not on the specific numbers themselves. In two weeks, she had gone from 7 pounds 10 ounces to 8 pounds 8 ounces. That was a victory in his book.
The next day, my milk finally came in. I awoke that morning feeling like I had just gone through puberty again–my breasts were tender (not painful, though) and there were a couple of small wet spots on my shirt. Robert and I celebrated–I nursed the hungriest baby in the world and Robert went out to get us a delicious breakfast. I pumped an incredible 4 ounces, an impressive improvement from the ounce and a half I would normally manage to produce. That same day, my mom (who is also a pediatric nurse) came to stay for an extended time (seven days). She cleaned our house top to bottom, and it needed it. I cried three of the four days she cleaned the house, just out of sheer exhaustion and embarrassment. But my mom was incredibly sweet about it and encouraged me to focus on my daughter, while she took care of her own daughter. Every moment I felt like giving up on breastfeeding, she was there to support me and tell me to keep trying. “The more you nurse, the more your milk will come in. You’re telling your body that it needs to produce milk through the physical stimulation that Melanie provides.” She was right. And I was so grateful for her encouragement.
Mom and I took Melanie to the pediatrician for her next weight check the following Friday, March 9th. This day was such a victory. Melanie weighed 9 pounds 4 ounces! Mom and I did the happy dance with Melanie right there in the doctor’s office. She wasn’t quite in the range that a baby with her birthweight would be in at 22 days, but she had certainly improved greatly. It was better than we could have hoped for. I called Robert while he was at work, and we shared one of the most heartfelt laughs we had shared since she was born. Mom went back home the next day, and I sobbed again. Robert suggested we go to my parents’ house the next weekend, which is exactly what we did. Mom mobilized the family (most of whom had not yet met the baby), and we were able to have a little party on St. Patrick’s Day…but that was the beginning of Month Two, so more on that later. The day Melanie turned one month old, her umbilical stump fell off–this was a milestone I was relieved to meet. No more yucky sponge baths on the kitchen counter. Now my baby could actually sit in her infant tub (which has a little sling for newborns who aren’t yet holding up their heads) and enjoy a bath with more water. For the first time in her short life, Melanie was able to have a bath without shrieking and tears.
Although the majority of Month One was focused on Melanie’s weight, here are some of the great little milestones she reached:
1. Lifts and turns her head side-to-side (week two)
2. Makes eye contact and spends more time alert (week three)
3. Reaches for nearby objects like toys, glasses, and hair (week three)
4. Begins cooing to toys (weeks three/four)
5. Umbilical stump falls off (week four, 3.16.12)
As I have composed this blog post, I have been aware that I have done so on borrowed time. I have put the post down three times and picked it up four times. At 10 a.m., more than 24 hours after beginning it, I have finally finished this post…right on time for Melanie to complain of a wet diaper.
In spite of the sheer and utter exhaustion, the strain raising a baby puts on my body, my psyche, and my marriage…in spite of it all, I couldn’t be any happier than I am right now. And who could blame me?