Thursday, April 25, 2013

The Amazing Thing About Breasts

Piper's first latch, right out of the womb!
One thing I was determined to accomplish once Piper arrived was breastfeeding.  Over the years I have heard many a horror story (along with many positive stories too, I might add) regarding breastfeeding.  I've heard reasons for not doing it that covered just about every scenario...milk not coming in, it was too painful, inverted nipples, baby couldn't latch, boobs were too big and smothered the baby, boobs were too small, didn't want boobs to sag later, etc, etc.  Regardless of the reason and/or the dramatic story behind each, I never once considered not breastfeeding as an option.  The stories I always focused on were the positive ones...the way the baby looks at you with absolute love while nursing, the strong bond formed during breastfeeding, it helps you lose weight and tightens everything back up, the nutritional value cannot be beat nor store bought, it gives all the necessary immunizations to your baby, it makes your boobs bigger, etc, etc. Regardless if one has had a positive or negative experience when trying to breastfeed, in the end we all know it is best for baby.  That right there was my absolute deciding factor in the matter.

She was a natural from the get-go!
Even though breastfeeding is the most natural thing on the planet, there seems to be a great issue with babies not being able to figure things out.  Properly latching onto the nipple seems to be the biggest issue.
After a hospital birth, if you decide to breastfeed, you now have a lactation consultant who comes in to help you get the ball rolling, so to speak.  I have to admit that my inner idea of such a consultant fell more along the lines of angry Catholic nun.  I imagined a stern woman with a bad attitude that would rap my knuckles with a ruler and tell me I'm doing it wrong at every turn.  I'm not Catholic, so of course this imagery was implanted into my brain via Hollywood.  Nonetheless, this is the type of individual I imagined the lactation consultant to be.  Boy was I wrong!

It's such a natural thing!
Sharon, my lactation consultant, was an absolute delight.  When she first popped her head into my hospital room I was like oh no, here it comes (eye roll).  But I was way too quick to judge and immediately my attitude changed once we started talking.  She didn't talk down to me and tell me how I was doing everything wrong, like I expected.  Instead she was very positive, telling me what I was doing right, while offering up information on new techniques that the experts on breastfeeding were currently recommending.  I didn't feel looked down upon, threatened, shy, confused, frustrated, none of those awful emotions.  I felt encouraged, positive I could succeed, enlightened, and relaxed.  I was sure when she asked me to whip out my boobs and get naked from the waist up that I would feel uncomfy at best.  Instead it felt oh so natural.  As a matter of fact, I haven't once encountered feeling uncomfortable whipping out my boobs for nursing.  I have never been the type of girl who liked to walk around in just a bra or has felt comfortable even dressing/undressing in front of other women.  But the whole breastfeeding thing has changed my view on how I feel about showing some boobage when necessary...they are just breasts, after all.  It may be that they are such exquisite breasts right now, with all their fullness, so that could possibly contribute to my not caring who sees them.  I am not saying I would go down to the local pub and whip them out for all to see, I'm not that comfy yet!  However, I don't feel it necessary to run off to another room if needing to nurse Piper while I have company.  They can turn their heads to avoid the immediate onslaught of boobage in the room, but that is their choice and not mine to make.

She sleeps so soundly after a good meal!
Anyway, where was I?

Back to the consultation.  The new idea regarding breastfeeding, one that I was already familiar with, was the skin-to-skin method of nursing and bonding with your new baby.  Basically, it requires both the baby and yourself to be naked (except for the diaper).  You place the wee one on your bare chest and let let them root around for your nipple.  The baby will take it upon themselves to try and find where to go for milk.  Of course you can help them along, but they hold a natural instinct for survival.  The skin-on-skin contact helps not only bond you to your child, it also acts to increase the baby's blood sugar, bonus!  There are many other benefits you can check out by going here.

I mean seriously zonked after eating!
While practicing this method for the consultant, she also shared with me how to massage my own breasts and express my own milk.  This can be very helpful if your child is not latching as easily as Piper did.  The baby's stomach is the size of a marble at birth, so it only takes a little bit of colostrum (first milk) to make a meal.  Basically, if you can express just a few drops of colostrum onto a teaspoon and feed your baby from that, you are essentially offering up enough to sustain your baby until they begin to latch naturally.  This was very useful information.  Although Piper was latching without a hitch, the notion of how little she needed and how I could go about getting it to her if we had issues, well it just set my mind at ease.

She's such a good eater!
Overall, I really enjoyed my experience with the lactation consultant.  She checked on me throughout my hospital stay to make sure Piper and I weren't having any major problems and that we kept on the right track.  The encouragement she gave really bolstered my breastfeeding confidence, which came in very handy during my second and third day home when my milk came in and my breasts engorged so much I had to pump 10 oz of milk before Piper could latch again.  That was a frustrating couple of days when I knew Piper was crying because she was hungry, and I knew my boobs were too big and hard for her to nurse.  Luckily a friend had given me a pump, and after expressing 5 ozs out of each boob, they finally softened up enough that Piper could once again nurse properly.  Had I not had the encouragement of my consultant, I might have given up out of frustration.  But her support, along with my families support, pushed me into being rational and not freaking the hell out thinking I was going to starve Piper and be a complete failure as a mom!  Yes, even I felt this way and broke down into tears those first couple of days at home.  But once we got back into our routine, I realized how silly I was behaving by freaking out.  Hindsight is 20/20, right?

Showing me where the food goes!
I am so glad I pushed through those difficult days and stuck to my guns.  In the end, I absolutely love breastfeeding.  I look forward to every session, even the 5am ones.  There is nothing quite like it, and nothing makes me feel closer to Piper.  It's our special bonding time.  Even if there are other people in the room, we are still very much focused on each other...even when we both zonk out and wake up 30 minutes or so later completely snoozed on one another.

Definitely a cherished moment!
Another cool thing about the breastfeeding experience is watching how a baby plays with their food.  Piper loves to torment my nipples, I call it making them her bitch, and boy does she have some interesting techniques.  Each day it seems she learns a new one, and they absolutely crack me up.  I am contemplating filming her in action and posting the videos here.  I'm not sure if people would be offended by them, though.  I see it as just another baby nursing video, but show a little nipple on the net and some people might get bent out of shape!  I'll mull it over for a bit and make up my mind before publishing.  I would love to also catch her grunting like a pig whilst eating.  That is a new thing she has just started doing over the past couple of days, and it is also hysterical!

Okay, managed to make a vid that doesn't show any nipple!  I just adore the soothing sounds Piper makes when nursing, it's just sounds so satisfying.

I am a very lucky mom in that Piper nurses easily.  She took to the nipple the moment she was born and continues to love meal time!  She is now eating every three hours like clockwork.  Normally she will eat r about 10 minutes per breast during each session.  She tends to be a bit of a lazy eater in that I often have to jiggle her back from snoozeland while she nurses.  By the end of most sessions she is soundly sleeping, well at least until I have to burp her.  She will also use nursing as a way to soothe herself whenever she gets upset.  I like to call these very short, intermittent sessions "snack" times.  They usually last less than 5 minutes and are now getting more rare, but she still needs them once in awhile.

Happy baby!
Speaking of snack sessions, today I wrapped her up in the K'tan and we went for a walk around the house to admire the flowers.  She had just finished eating right before our mini adventure.  However, once she got outside she decided she need a "snack" session.  I'm not sure why she all of a sudden wanted to nurse languidly during our walk-about, but it was too cute.  And it was her first time dining al fresco, a pastime that I thoroughly enjoy...maybe it's genetic.

Couldn't you just gobble her up?
On that note, I think I'll wrap things up here before Piper wakes up for her next meal.  Better to be safe than sorry and I want to get this published before midnight since I'm already a day behind my self-imposed schedule.  As always, I hope you enjoyed this entry and will continue to come back.  Now that Piper is here I plan on posting a lot more, especially now that I am beginning to slightly adjust to this whole new mommy thing.  I may backslide at some point, but I'm going to do my best to keep on top of things!

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Until next time, sleep peacefully!

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Friday, April 19, 2013

Piper's Birth Story

I just love this pic of Piper's first footprints!
Piper's birth story actually began in my post titled Where Is the Baby?  So if you haven't read it already, I highly suggest going back and giving it a whirl as it will catch you up to the tale I'm about to spin.  As you will learn from that post, her birth story technically began on April 8, 2013, two days prior to her due date.  This is the day I had first gone to labor and delivery with excruciating contractions only to be sent home still in pain but with a Percocet in hand.  My doc told me after Piper's actual delivery, that she had expected me back at the hospital Monday night to finish what I'd started that day.  Instead, I was sent home and everything kind of stopped.  Then it all picked back up again around midnight on April 10, 2013, Piper's actual due date.  What you will notice from that previously mentioned post is that it was actually written as I was going into full-blown labor.  I really had no idea at the time that things would progress beyond the once again painful contractions, but things did.  So beginning where I left off that morning, with contractions at a steady 7 minutes apart, this is what happened...

Just arrived!

Getting her vitals checked!
Everything began to really take shape at midnight.  I now think it is quite amusing that Piper waited to the exact start of her due date to kick things into gear, especially since only 5% of babies are actually born on their due date.  At midnight, while I worked on the blog, my contractions were to the point of making me have to stop and breathe through each one. The funny thing about my contractions is that I really didn't have any mild to moderate ones.  Sure they may have come less frequently over the three days I experienced them, but they were always very strong to downright unbearable.  These 7-minute apart ones that were occurring regularly by midnight, well I just expected them to eventually die down as they had on Monday.  But as the minutes ticked by, and a I timed them on my iPhone app, yes there is an app for that, I noticed the contractions were beginning to come closer together, lasting a good minute each, and the strength of them was increasing, although they were awful to begin with.

Getting cleaned up.
Around 2:30am I decided I would take a hot bath.  At first I thought it would make me feel a bit better, but I thought that if this was going to be the day, then I should probably go in with a sparkling hoo-hoo.  Boy am I glad I decided on that bath!  It really made me feel relaxed, however I could have sworn my contractions stopped during the process.  But as soon as I got out of the tub, BAM!

Getting her first bath.
Now let me see if I can describe said contractions in a way to offer up the best visual.  To begin with, each one literally doubled me over and at the same time made me stretch completely out into planking position.  How is this possible?  I wish I knew, but I swear the body can contort into such a crumpled up, yet flattened out position all at once.  With the pain came the breathing techniques I studied over the years watching TV.  Who needs birthing classes when you have cable, right?  Anyway, breathing was definitely my friend and enemy during each contraction.  I so wanted to just hold my breath until I stopped breathing, but I also wanted to expel all my air as quickly as possible.  A happy medium works best, of course.  I also oftentimes used the yelping method of pain reduction.  While this method doesn't really do much, it sure felt good to vocally express my discomfort.  Eventually the contractions forced me into several other positions: head in a pillow and ass up in the air (once probably a sexy position meant for play time, but not so sexy at this moment in time), flung over my exercise ball while death gripping the nearest piece of furniture, slumped over on the stairs, hanging off the side of the bed whilst gripping the headboard, etc, etc.  I also tended to twitch my toes, tap my fingers, and rise up and down on the balls of my feet.  I tried just about everything to get through each one, and yet I was still not convinced this was actually IT!

Piper's first shampoo.
By 4am my contractions were coming about 5 to 6 minutes apart.  They hadn't strengthened any more, but they were already pretty much at their maximum.  By 5am I decided to wake up my parents so they could get ready for the hospital. Yes, it took me that long to decide that maybe I should get things in order.  I told my mom to go ahead and take a bath and I began to pack last minute essentials into my hospital bag.  By 6am I was begging for my parents to get their asses into the truck because shit was getting out of hand very quickly.  My contractions were between 4-5 minutes apart, still excruciating, and still no less than a minute long.

Right after her eye drops.
By 6:30am we had arrived at Baptist Medical Center.  I once again walked the corridors I had been through just days before whilst hoping this time they wouldn't send me back home.  As I signed in at the nurses station, another horrible contraction hit me.  I was gripping my favorite pillow and trying not to be a wuss in front of everyone, but I couldn't help myself from clenching up and doubling over.  After they weighed me, they took me to the triage room to monitor me for a bit before deciding whether I was worthy for a birthing suite or a stamp on my parking ticket and a shove out the door.  Here I was hooked up to a baby monitor and a contraction monitor.  It was obvious my contractions were coming on hard and fast.  They eventually checked my cervix, and low and behold I was dilated 3cm and my contractions were about 4 minutes apart.  Yep they said, you're having a baby today!  And with that they took me to my birthing suite.

First view after eye drops
I was thrilled at this point to know I dilated on my own and that I wasn't going to have to take Cytotek to get things going.  That little bit of news gave me great confidence that a vaginal birth was in my future.  While I was correct in this thinking, there were a couple of moments where an C-section came into discussion...more on that here in a bit.

Her first try at nursing, latched immediately!
After a couple of hours of being at the hospital, they decided to break my water to speed things up.  Before doing so, they decided I should go ahead and have my epidural since they expected I would rapidly rush towards the finish line.  Since I was having such strong and painful contractions at 3 cm, they decided to give me a painkiller that could take the edge off until the anesthesiologist got there to place the epidural.  The drug of choice was Stadol through my IV.  Now this medication might work for some, but for me it was a nightmare.  It made me feel absolutely horrible.  My eyes sort of rolled around in my head, I couldn't really comprehend what was going on around me, I felt disconnected from the world, and I literally kept thinking that if I didn't concentrate on my breathing I would actually stop doing so, swallow my tongue, and die.  It was a very scary sensation that I was desperate to get rid of.  After explaining how I was feeling to the nurses, they put in my charts that I was allergic to Stadol so it would never be administered to me again.  Unfortunately that was all they could do, the rest I just had to ride out.

The first time I held her, and first pic with Nana!
Not too long after the Stadol, the anesthesiologist came with my epidural.  I have had a spinal tap before, so the epidural was nothing.  I was relieved when it was finally in and I began to feel some relief.  Some might think less of me because I decided not to go au natural, but after watching the monitor over the next several hours, I am so glad I went with the drugs.  My contractions were off the charts and very close together for most of my labor.  Considering I didn't actually give birth till almost 7pm, I'm very grateful for not having to feel all of the pain as 19 hours is a bit long to be writhing in agony, right?

Her first shirt! 
Eventually the Stodal wore off, the epidural took over, and peace fell over the birthing suite.  The doc came in and broke my water and then we waited to see what occurred.  Soon I dilated to 4cm, but I wasn't progressing as fast as they'd expected.  Around 1pm they decided to go ahead and give me some Pitocin to help me dilate some more.  They began me on a very low dose and I quickly dilated to 6cm.  Here is where things stalled out.  As a matter of fact, I was at 6cm for so long my doc was thinking a C-section may be in order, and that scared me.

Her first cuddle with my brother Christian.
You see, although labor was going smoothly yet slowly, every time I had a contractions poor Piper's heart rate dropped.  This had them all worried and she was very closely monitored.  I was constantly being rolled over from side to side or made to sit up.  Each new position was meant to help decrease the effect of the contractions on her heart. They were also afraid to up my Pitocin dosage due to this same factor.  However, somewhere between 4 and 5pm, they decided to go ahead and try the higher dosage.  My doc informed me that after an hour, had I not dilated anymore, then we would be prepping for a C-section because it most likely meant I wouldn't dilate any further.

Her first hospital swaddle.
So up went the Pitocin, and luckily for me, my cervix expanded to 8cm within the hour!  Yay, no C-section!!!  Oh but wait, what's going on here?  At this point, all of a sudden, I was suddenly surrounded by my doc, 4 or 5 nurses, the anesthesiologist, an oxygen mask placed on my face, and my mom handed all the gear necessary for a visit to the OR.  Just a short period before this my epidural had started wearing off and the hand pump just wasn't seeming to work.  The on-call anesthesiologist came in and gave me some direct injections into my epidural (I'm not sure how exactly all that works, I just know it was through a tube in my back).  The second one completely over-numbed me to the point it gave me a bit of claustrophobia.  I do not like not being able to feel my legs at all and having to have other people literally pick them up and move them for me.  Very scary feeling.  Anyway, they think what occurred might have been a reaction to the epidural in such strong amounts, but who knows?  Regardless of what caused it, my blood pressure bottomed out, Piper's heart rate did the same, and everyone kicked in gear to perform an emergency C-section.  I was not informed what was going on until they had us both stabilized, but it was definitely a scare. All I could think about was Piper.  I was so afraid something bad was happening with her.  I had to concentrate very hard on not panicking.  I knew if I panicked then whatever was going on was just going to get worse.  Luckily for us both, the moment passed.  I was then re-checked, my cervix was fully dilated, and I was prepped for pushing!

Her first skin-on-skin session.
By 6pm everything was a go for the final stretch of delivery.  My legs had also gained some feeling back, and I was so happy I was actually going to be able to move them and help with the delivery.  When I was completely numb I was worried I wouldn't be able to push, but everything wore off just in time.

Her first bird!
I'll admit this now, and some women will hate me for it, but I really thought the whole pushing part of labor was just down-right easy.  As a matter of fact, I found all of labor to be quite easy.  I'm sure had I gone natural I wouldn't say the same thing, but with the epidural and no pain, all went relatively smoothly.  But the pushing, it was the easiest part.  My mom grabbed my one leg and a nurse had the other. I was instructed to grab my legs behind my knees, lift my back and shoulders off the table and curl forward, and hold my breath as I pushed for 10 seconds.  I was to do this 3 times during every strong contraction.  And so I did, with the exception of two contractions, in which I was able to throw in a 4th 10-second round of pushing.  By the time 6 rounds passed, 20 pushes total, and only 30 minutes ticked by, Piper was born at 6:57pm.

Her first tutu and her first day home!
It was amazing watching her be born in the mirror they had set up for me.  Watching her head crown and then her whole body slip into the was simply amazing.  She came into this world with eyes wide open.  I did unfortunately have to have the help of an episiotomy to get her here.  And despite it, I also tore almost through to my butthole.  But she got here without the need of forceps or vacuums, which I was very happy about.

Her first kitty encounter!
When she was finally delivered, I wasn't able to have her placed immediately on my chest for breast feeding like I wanted, since she had an extremely short umbilical cord, one that made my doc say she was a very lucky little girl.  What she meant by this is quite unnerving.  Due to her heart rate dropping with each contraction, my doc thought she had the umbilical cord wrapped around her neck.  However, all of that was cause by her short umbilical cord.  I read up on such anomalies and found that a shortened umbilical cord increases the chance of having a still-born by 6 times.  Had they known of her special cord, she would have been a C-section and such a risk as a vaginal birth would have never even been an option.  In other words, she's a little miracle in more ways than one.  I'm very blessed to have such a perfect little girl in my life as so many things could have gone wrong if they'd made a turn for the worse instead of the better.  The universe smiled on Piper and I that day, and I will never forget how lucky we are to be happy and healthy and together at last.

Her first cuddle with her cousin Larkin!
In the end, after they whisked her away for a few seconds to check her vitals, she was placed upon my chest.  We instantly fell in love with one another, and she took to nursing like she'd been doing it for a lifetime...I guess she had been doing it for a lifetime as she had just been born.  She weighed in at 7lbs 13oz, measured 21 inches, and was and is the most beautiful creature I have ever laid eyes on.

Her first cuddle with her cousin Haven!
So that is Piper's birth story in a nutshell.  She was a long time in coming, but she is finally here and I have been on cloud 9 ever since.  I finally feel whole as she completes me.  I'll never want for anything again, as she is all that I've ever wanted.

Her first visit with her great grandmother, aka Momo!
And as I wrap up this entry, I reflect upon my birthing experience.  What I find most surprising is how surreal it all feels.  While it only happened a little over a week ago, it still feels as though it were all a dream.  I hope you all enjoyed the series of "firsts" I  shared through the many pictures I have taken of her short time here with us.  While these are only a few of the bazillion snapped, they are some of my favs.  I cannot wait to add all her other firsts in the days, months, years to come.  I'll wrap up with some final pics of her past week and two days of her life.  Enjoy!  Oh, and when you get to the last picture, keep going and shoot a vote my way on Top Baby Blogs by clicking the button with the owl on it!  I have made it to #52 as of this post, so getting closer still to that coveted top 50 I'm striving for!  Also, I post daily pictures and updates via Facebook.  Please feel free to join Piper and I on my Single Modern Mom  page.  You can also find me on Twitter @SingleModernMom.  Okay, It's picture time!!!

Her first multi-generational encounter with Nana and Momo!

Yes, I think nursing is amazing and beautiful!

Best cuddler ever!


True love!

Sweetest face ever!


Even her toes are cute!

When she sleeps, she zonks completely out!

So peaceful!

I think aqua is her best color!

...and a close-up!

Most adorable lips ever!
Playing Chubba with my dad, aka Papa

UPDATE (4/24/13):  Over the past couple of days I have come to realize a couple things I left out of my original telling of this tale.  Two very important things, actually, at least in the sense I think they're important in understanding maybe why I chose to go with an epidural and why they administered one so early in my labor progression.  I'll start with the incident that came first.

I've previously mentioned how excruciating my contractions were right from the get-go.  For three days I had horribly painful contractions off and on before heading to the hospital that final morning.  To give you an idea of how bad they were, on the morning of Piper's birth, right before I left for the hospital, the contractions were so bad they actually made me hurl!  Yep, I puked from pain, something I had never done before in my life.  And something I really thought was more of a myth than something that could actually happen in real life.  Hell, I had been in some very painful situations before and nausea neve reared it's ugly head.  Labor proved me wrong and showed me that it wasn't just in the movies that pain could push you to puke.

Believe me, it was no fun to lose all my dinner from the night before while trying not to have contractions at the same time.  At least I hurled between contractions, thank goodness for small favors.  Once at the hospital they gave me a "cookie jar", as I like to call it, since I remained nauseous.  Once they finally had me hooked up with an IV, they then pumped some anti-nausea medicine in me.  While it helped, it wasn't until after the Stadol wore off.  The effects of that horrible drug outweighed my anti-nausea meds and kept me on the brink of puking for quite a bit longer than I liked.  Towards the end of labor they had to re-up my nausea meds, but at least they worked quickly at that point.  I swear there is nothing worse than nauseous while also being in pain, especially labor pain.  With each contraction came the urge to purge, definitely not a fun combo.

Besides the puking and subsequent nausea issues, I also had a bout with back labor.  For any of you other women out there who have also experience back labor, I know you know what I'm talking about when I say that shit makes you feel like you are literally being ripped in half!  I initially made a statement that I wish my contractions weren't all centrally located right above my pelvic bone.  I thought if the pain moved to a different locale I'd be able to handle it better.  Well, be careful what you ask for!  Right after making this statement, I got my wish.  There are really no words that can describe back labor.  All I can say is that once the contraction started, and I felt it growing in strength within the confines of my lower back, I knew I never wanted to feel pain like that again.  It was literally the most horrifically mind-numbing, I'd-sell-my-soul-to-the-devil-to-make-it-stop kind of pain that is just plain cruel to have to experience.  What kind of sick jokester is mother nature for making women suffer that way?

Anyway, once I had the back contraction that almost drove me to tears, I was then absolutely terrified every time I felt another contraction coming on.  They say contractions are less painful if you do not fear them and try to relax through them as much as possible.  Well how the hell are you supposed to do that after back contractions?  I grew fearful every time I felt another one build, and then I tensed when it started, and by that time I was already screwed!  Luckily my contractions did not move entirely to my back, as I know this happens sometimes and I truly have mad respect for women who have back labor and still refuse an epidural.  If ever there was a deciding factor that I couldn't hack non-medicated childbirth  it was the back labor...screw that!

Okay, I feel much better now that I have updated this story with those two additions.  Between puking and back labor, on top of three days worth of ridiculous contractions, there was no way they could refuse me my epidural, right?  I really think my doc and the nurses all felt sorry for me and that is why I got the epidural at only 3cm dilation.  Whatever the reason, it was much appreciated and made labor enjoyable rather than a nightmare.  I will say it again, I do not regret the decision as it was the right one for me.  Go drugs!

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Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Piper Amelia

I will be following this post up with a more detailed one, but for now meet my new daughter! Piper Amelia was born 4/10/13 at 6:57pm. She weighed 7lbs 13ozs and was 21 inches long. She is a doll and I'm so in love it's ridiculous.