Saturday, March 31, 2007

Week 5: Shutterbugs & Smiles

Everyone always says that there's no better feeling than when you baby looks you in the eye and smiles. Well, they're right! Daniel has been smiling in his sleep for a while, and last week we started to see more of the awake quick smiles that seem more like nervous twitches than actual emotion.

But this week the smiles are picking up ... they aren't consistent, but more and more we can "make him" smile by doing silly things, or tickling him, or whatever. I know it will become even more exciting in the next few weeks as he figures out that he can make grown-ups do just about anything for a smile :) But already the few times he's locked eyes with me and bust out into a grin have melted my heart. His reciprocation of happiness is so incredibly rewarding - especially after a fussy hour, or a very messy diaper. (And speaking of diapers ... the shades of green coming out of my son are absolutely impressive. Who knew teal could smell so bad?!)

I know that as Daniel develops his "social smile" my photography habit is going to fly out of control - it's already pretty insane (I have already taken well over 1,000 pictures of him). Kind of sad that Daniel is already used to the sound of the shutter, and how Mommy's face looks with a big ole camera stuck to the front of it.

But we realized this week that we have almost zero pictures of all 3 of us! So we asked a friend take some family pictures - our first ever. Daniel behaved himself, and the portraits actually came out pretty good! The picture in this blog is one of those shots - our happy little trio.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Weeks 3 & 4: Life Outside the Cave

After having a baby, it's unbelievable how time ceases to function as it did before. The first month felt like one continuous day, broken up into very small intervals. At times it felt depressingly like a terrible cycle of sleep deprivation with no relief in sight.

But somehow, near the one month mark, things improved drastically. The same schedule that felt constraining a few days ago suddenly feels normal and comfortable. And by the way - I highly recommend the book Babywise to any first time parents - it has been an incredibly helpful tool in helping Daniel get on a schedule that's beneficial both to his growth and to his parents' sanity!

Lately, Daniel's cycles are generally as follows: waking up from the nap, eating right away (he's still very passionate about his food :), diaper change, then some play time. Right now he can only stay awake for about 30 minutes of awake time after eating, but we manage to get in some different types of play: tummy time (he actually seems to enjoy this), cuddle time (Mommy's favorite...), funny face time (he just stares at my face for surprisingly long stretches of time!), mirror time (he loves looking at his own face too), reading time (he can tolerate a few minutes of staring at a book or two), and dance time (we just crank the tunes and party away... current favorites are "Creepin on In" - Norah Jones, "Smooth" - Santana/Rob Thomas, "Bananaphone" - Rhonda Vincent, "The Bowling Song" - Asleep at the Wheel, "Miss Mary Mack" - Johnny Bregar, "Cachito" - Mana, and ironically, "Who Needs Sleep" - Barenaked Ladies.

Something else we've done that has been super helpful is to make a bunch of black and white drawings - just sharpie on white computer paper - he loves staring at them! I did all kinds of geometric patterns - think Venn diagrams for newborns :) I read that high contrast is best for him right now, so we taped some in his crib and by his changing table, and sure enough, he loves to focus on them any chance he gets.

These two weeks have been full of lots of "firsts" for Daniel - first tub bath (see picture), first shower, first time to a restaurant, first St. Patrick's Day (making Daniel our family's first Mexican Irishman :). This whole "having a baby" thing is becoming a lot more fun by the day as Daniel's personality starts to take shape. And what's funny is that as he seems to trust us more, we trust ourselves more. It took a few weeks, but now that we can take a deep breath and relax a little, we're finding out that this whole parenting thing is a blast :)

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Weeks 1 & 2: The Nursing Nightmare

Having survived pregnancy and delivery in tact, I was ready to conquer the next big hurdle: nursing! I had done all my homework on nursing positions, correct latch-ons, feeding schedules, and so on and so forth. This was going to be a breeze - I just knew it! After all, that's what boobs were made to do, right? :)

It never once crossed my mind that it wouldn't work for me. Not once. Being such a big baby, Daniel came out, well, starving! I had 3 different lactation consultants come in and watch me nurse only to tell me we were doing everything right. They said I had very flat nipples (too much information, I know... but this post is about nursing... you should have expected it...) and they gave me a shield to wear to help "draw them out". It worked, a little, but also taught him to bite hard with his gums. Ouch.

Starting on day two, I couldn't help but feel something wasn't right. He was screaming during latch-on (sometimes for 20-30 minutes solid), and was nursing for very long periods of time. Like, 50 minutes at a time. I was bleeding significantly (so much so that he would spit up milk AND blood) and he was losing weight fast. He ended up losing more than 10% of his body weight in the hospital, and they started supplementing with formula.

After we went home, the nursing got significantly worse... he seemed hungry all the time, still cried during latch-on, wasn't gaining weight, and I wound up with clogged ducts and 2 severe cases of mastitis - half of each breast was beet red. I cried all the time, feeling like a failure for not being able to feed my own son, and hating the fact that I dreaded seeing him... he had become a source of pain... a mini torture machine. My nipples were long gone by this point - I won't even describe the grotesque disfiguration.

After a few weeks, (yes, I post-dated this entry!) he had gained only one ounce, my tear ducts were shot, and the bonding was definitely not where it should have been. The pediatrician told us in no uncertain terms to switch to formula immediately - and to quit breast-feeding - that my stress level was not good for Daniel. And I have to tell you, I have never been more relieved. I continued to pump so he had some breast milk through the first month, but then I quit (pumping was one of the most objectifying experiences of my life... I hated it!). Daniel started gaining tons of weight, and caught right back up. His energy level increased, and there were no more mealtime tears.

So here's the kicker. Two weeks after I quit everything, I look down and notice that his tongue is decidedly heart-shaped. I had noticed before, but this time, it triggered a memory of something I had read somewhere. I googled it and learned about a condition called "tongue-tie" for newborns, where the skin that connects the tongue to the lower mouth plate is too short. I read the list of symptoms for baby and mother - and discovered that this was definitely our problem. Every single detail lined up - even the graphic description of the extreme nipple damage was right on. The part that hit home was the emotional strain on the mom - it said that the level of pain was so severe for the nursing mom that they almost always have to quit breastfeeding in order to maintain positive feelings towards their baby.

I finally felt vindicated. Nursing didn't work for us, but not because I was doing something wrong. Not because I wasn't strong enough to handle the pain. There was an actual physiological reason. Why the pediatrician or lactation consultants didn't catch it is something else entirely. Apparently 5% of infants have this condition, and the procedure to fix it is short and painless.

Anyway... it's over now, and my body is once again pain-free. I have never been happier :) Daniel is thriving on formula, and our bond is alive and well - I couldn't love him more. Crazy as it sounds, I love feeding him. I even like the middle of the night feeding, where I get to gaze into his beautiful brown eyes, just the two of us, surrounded by the peace and quiet of night, as he greedily takes in a full meal. After all, I am his mom. I am the one that gets to nourish him. And while it's in a different way than I expected, it's no less fulfilling. :)