Month: September 2016

Six Weeks Post-birth

Six Weeks Post-birth

During your first pregnancy, no doubt you had or will have numerous individuals tell you that once your little one arrives, “your life will never be the same” or “your life will change forever” or “everything will be different” or some variation of this sentiment. After awhile, it can even get a little tiring hearing it over and over again. My advice? Smile and nod, because they are right!

Put aside everything you think you know about babies. Unless you have experienced firsthand spending twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week with a newborn who is relying on you for all of their needs while you are experiencing extreme sleep deprivation and possibly even recovering from the physical trauma of childbirth, then you have no idea just how different your life will become after your first child arrives.

And that is okay! I’m not here to scare you, just help you prepare yourself. To do that, I’m going to share my summary of what each week after giving birth was like in my experience.

Week One

I felt like I was living in a permanent state of adrenaline during the first week. Giving birth naturally without pain medicines allowed me the opportunity to be clear-minded moments after the birth of my little Peanut. I experienced some pain and discomfort, but it was overshadowed by the rush of oxytocin (the love/bonding hormone) every time I held or looked at my newborn. My mind was filled with awe and wonder as well as a deep love and little bit of worry. I was now this little one’s mother and he would be relying on my husband and I for years to come!

Week One was also very emotional for me. Within the first twenty-four hours, we discovered that Peanut could not latch due to a number of reasons and as a result, could not breastfeed. We were concerned for many hours as we tried, with the help of nurses and a lactation consultant, to breastfeed him — even going so far as to use a small syringe to get some colostrum into his mouth. Since he was born very small, the hospital would not discharge us until they had monitored him for an extra twenty-four hours to ensure his blood sugars were stable and he had successfully eaten. The anxiety grew the longer he went without eating, either from me or the bottle. I was praying so hard that Peanut would eat something, anything! Finally, the lactation consultant was able to bottle feed him a ounce of formula and later that day my mom was able to get him to eat as well. We were able to go home the next day, and I was exhausted.

There was also some pain. About Day 4, my milk was starting to come in but it was not being expressed even though I was pumping on a regular schedule (every 2-3 hours). The only thing the pumping accomplished was to make my poor nipples extremely sore, and I watched as my breasts became engorged… swollen, hard, and extremely painful. I tried everything I could think of to get the swelling down and the milk to be expressed, but nothing seemed to be working. Finally, I found a tip on a website. On Day 5, while at my parent’s house, I used frozen water bottles and rolled them gently over my breasts for twenty minutes before pumping. It hurt but it worked, and I finally was able to pump milk. A few pumping sessions later, and the engorgement and its accompanying pain was finally gone.

Week Two

Week Two was when the sleep deprivation was beginning to take its toll, but there was still the new baby high. Fortunately, my husband was in the middle of his three weeks of family leave so we took shifts during the night. I would take one feeding session and he would do another while I pumped, and that way I was able to get back to sleep faster at night.

A lot of Week Two was spent watching Peanut sleep and feeding and changing him when he was awake. I gave him a little sponge bath with a super-soft washcloth every other day, and we would sit outside in filtered sunlight while we did it. I took tons of photos of him while he slept, and just marveled that this tiny, precious little fellow was my son, my little boy, and I was his mother. I eagerly looked forward to his first smile and began thinking of little routines I could start with him: singing, counting, letter-sounds, reading Bible stories to him, etc. Anything to help him learn my voice.

Though very tired, Week Two was like a little bit of heaven on earth.

Week Three

Our little Peanut hit his first major growth spurt during his third week, as many babies do, but it came upon us suddenly and unexpectedly. We were not prepared for his ravenous appetite! In fact, for a couple of nights, we did not realize that the reason he was waking up and crying hysterically during the night was because he was still hungry.

Severely sleep-deprived and not knowing what to do, I was at my wit’s end. We tried a tiny bit of Gripe Water thinking he had gas or a tummy ache, but that was not it. Once I even had to set him down in his bassinet and leave the room to calm myself, because I was crying myself and frustrated that I could not figure out what was wrong with him.

Then I found out that most babies have a growth spurt during this time, and when I offered him more milk, he returned to being his usual, happy self and stopped the hysterical crying.

For a baby that, before the growth spurt, drank maybe 3 ounces in one sitting, he suddenly began guzzling the milk: 7, 9, and even 12 ounces at a time! Despite all of my valiant efforts, I was not producing enough milk to keep up with him. We ended up having to supplement, but I did not like the milk-based formula options so with my mom’s help we actually made our own formula using goat’s milk.

Milk-based formula, even though he did not show an reactions to it during his first week, made me very nervous for two reasons: 1.) I am severely allergic to milk proteins, and I do not want to introduce dairy to my Peanut too earlier just in case he inherited my allergy, and 2.) I am severely allergic to milk proteins, and my skin began to react when the formula powder got onto my hands while mixing the bottles. I was afraid I would end up breathing in the powder and not be able to breathe.

So I researched non-milk-based formula options but the soy-based formulas were not only expensive, but also were over 50% corn syrup. I remembered that my dad could not have milk-based products as an infant either; his mother gave him straight goat’s milk and he is one of the healthiest people I know. After doing a lot of research and experiments, my mom and I were able to make our own goat’s milk supplement that we only had to used maybe once a day or once every other day for about two weeks until my own milk production caught up with his appetite.

Week Four

The growth spurt was beginning to subside, he went down to about 4-5 ounces of milk at a time, and he began to sleep for slightly longer stretches at night. Unfortunately, my milk supply was still barely enough for the entire day: it fluctuated through the day, sometimes as little as 3 ounces and other times barely 6 ounces. However, the day we no longer had to supplement with the goat’s milk formula, I celebrated!

To increase my supply, I tried pumping every two hours, doing a marathon pumping session (where you pump for ten minutes, take a break for ten minutes, pump for ten, etc. for an hour), and put the pump suction higher, but the only thing this did was damage my nipples, especially the left one. They were blistered and raw even though I was slathering them in nipple cream, and the left one even had a blocked milk duct (resulting in a bleb or white milk blister). Overall, it became very, very painful to pump.

Towards the end of the week, I also finally gave up all attempts to breastfeed directly. I’ll write another post on our breastfeeding journey, but let’s just say, after a month of “failure”, I had to let go of the “dream” for my own sanity and the happiness of our little family. I had to come to terms with the idea that Peanut might never be able to nurse, and I would have to pump exclusively so I needed to figure out how to heal my poor nipples and increase my milk production.

Week Five

While shopping at a local Target, my husband found a box of Earth Mama Angel Baby Organic Milkmaid Tea that helps with increasing milk production. I began drinking two cups of the tea a day, and after three or four days, I began to produce more. I was making about 10 ounces every 3-4 hrs, and more in the early mornings because I was now finally able to skip one pumping session at night. Peanut was also consistently drinking 5 ounces every 3-4 hrs, so the extra milk went into the freezer to save for his next growth spurt.

Easing back on the pumping schedule also helped heal my nipples. I pumped every 3-4 hours, lowered the suction power, and put cream on before and after pumping. Though it took many more weeks to see the results, the process of healing began.

Week Six

This time, we were well-prepared for Peanut’s Week Six growth spurt. I had pumped extra milk and stored it in the freezer so even when Peanut’s appetite was astounding, far beyond anything you’d think a tiny baby’s tummy could hold, we had enough milk that there was no need to supplement. (Praise the Lord!) I continued drinking the Milkmaid Tea to keep pace with him, but after the growth spurt ended, I stopped drinking the tea and my production leveled out to about 10 ounces each session. It was enough for him to eat and to re-build the supply of frozen milk to prepare for when I would return to work full-time.

By the end of week six, I was also getting a decent amount of sleep at night. Peanut would drink a little extra in the evenings and began to sleep longer at night. We were able to feed him at 11pm, and then again at 3-4am, and then again at 7-8am. Also, I was able to skip changing his diaper at 3-4am so he would go back to sleep faster, and I was able to skip pumping at that session as well.

Ah, the little things we celebrate!

So that is a general overview of how the first six weeks went for us. Your experience(s) may vary, as every woman and baby are different, but hopefully this will at the very least prepare you for the growth spurts around weeks Three and Six and encourage you that it does get easier! Your little one will figure out his/her days vs nights and start to sleep longer at night. The soreness, pain, and muscle aches eventually go away. You will also gain confidence in your abilities as mother and learn to trust your instincts.

8 Things I learned from childbirth

8 Things I learned from childbirth

Just as every woman and every baby are unique, every pregnancy and childbirth are also unique experiences and not always comparable. I was very fortunate to have a relatively easy and smooth pregnancy. My little Peanut came two weeks early and fast. (From the time my water broke to his birth was about two and a half hours).

As a first time mother, I thought I would share some of the things that I learn from the labor, delivery, and recovery on the off chance that it might help another first time mother. Let’s jump right on in.

1. Take a birth prep class.

If you are a first time mother and nervous or anxious about labor and delivery, I highly recommend taking a childbirth prep class. At first, I was skeptical. I thought I could just read up and ask my mom, older sister, and friends who recently had children any questions. But as my son’s due date came closer, I realized that I had no idea what to do when labor started or what the actual delivery would be like. So I signed myself and my husband up for a birth prep class offered at the hospital where we would deliver. We had a great nurse instructor and any little fears and doubts that were creeping into my mind were put to rest.

When the course was finished, I felt calmer and better prepared. I also learned a few techniques that made the final few weeks of pregnancy easier to manage — like sitting on an exercise ball. Believe me, it works!

Another benefit of a birthing class, especially if you take one offered by the hospital or birthing center where you are planning to deliver, is that the instructor will be able to tell you what that hospital/center prefers to do in different situations, how they handle emergencies, what techniques they approve or disapprove of, their statistics and numbers, etc. As part of the class we took, we were also given a guided tour of the labor and delivery floor and the recovery floor.

2. The importance of a good support person/people.

I cannot stress the importance of a very good support person and/or team. When active labor began very suddenly as I was waiting in the triage room for the nurse to confirm my water had broken so I could be admitted, everything I had read and learned at the prep class completely slipped my mind. Breathing techniques? Out the window. Labor positions? Gone. I was completely blown away by the intensity and frequency of the contractions.

Unlike many women, I didn’t get a gradual progression of labor and time to mentally prepare. I went from absolutely no contractions to strong, 1-minute-apart active labor contractions in a matter of minutes. Everything happened so fast that by the time I walked to the delivery room and set up, I was so dilated that I was passed the point where they allow the administration of pain medicine so I birthed our son au naturale, or as my dad later said “frontier style”.

I am so grateful that my amazing husband went with me to those classes, and he remembered everything. He was an awesome support person. He stayed with me the whole time, 98% of it holding my hand, encouraging me, gently reminding me to breathe. I remember, in the middle of full labor, opening my eyes, looking up at him, and saying: “I love you!” and he gave me a kiss and said: “You got this, babe. You’re doing great!”

So a good support person — whether it is your husband, mother, sister, doula, or whoever — is very important! Because they help you through the labor and delivery, they need to be very encouraging, understand your wants and needs, and be your voice/advocate with the paperwork and answering questions.

3. The importance of having a good medical team.

Whether you give birth at a hospital, birthing center, or at home, it is important to have a good medical team. Doctor, nurses, midwives… whomever you decide to assist you.

I had the most amazing team of nurses. Truly, they were phenomenal. They were very encouraging and guided me with my breathing and vocalizations. When I decided (very early on) that I was most comfortable lying flat on my back with both legs up, bent at the knee with my shins parallel to the floor, two of the nurses actually stood there holding my legs for me. I had my eyes closed almost the entire team to help me focus on the contractions so I have no idea what my nurses looked like but I still remember their wonderful voices. We actually had double the number of nurses as our little Peanut was born around shift-change, so the night shift nurses arrived but the day shift nurses did not want to leave until he was born.

I also had a great doctor. She actually wasn’t my regular doctor (my doctor was off that weekend) so I actually met her during the delivery. Since I progressed so fast, she barely had time to arrive and get ready before I was actively pushing. But she was great! She was both very professional and very nice. Our little Peanut was born small for a full term baby at 4 pounds 11 ounces, and the last two weeks of the pregnancy, the ultrasound had showed he was small so we were under stricter monitoring just in case something was wrong. Our son was delivered relatively easily, but there were some issues with the placenta.

Actually, to be honest, “delivering” the placenta hurt far worse than delivering my son because it was stuck. The doctor had to press on my stomach and also reach in and scoop it out. She showed me the placenta afterward and discovered a small anomaly (the umbilical cord was grown in the placenta in an odd way), which is most likely the reason our son was smaller than he should have been. Towards the last bit of the pregnancy, after the baby is fully developed but when s/he is supposed to gain some weight, our son was not getting quite all the nutrients he needed to put on the weight. So he was perfectly proportioned, symmetrical, and very strong (he lifted his head up from my chest and stared right into my face just minutes after birth!) but small and super skinny.

Anyway, the doctor was great. I am so grateful that she was on duty that day.

4. Do not worry about modesty.

I am an extremely modest person, but when you are in full labor pushing out a baby or afterwards in recovery, modesty is not a top priority. There are so many people assisting you, checking on you and the baby, encouraging skin-to-skin and breastfeeding, and even helping you use the bathroom. Yes, after childbirth, just using the bathroom is a huge and exhausting ordeal! I was also mesmerized by the amazing little bundle snuggled on my chest. Sure, you want to be decent when visitors come by, but it is okay to not stress about modesty when it is just you, the baby, and your medical team.

5. Pack a few important items but don’t stress the hospital go bag.

I was so uncertain what to pack in our hospital “go” bag. I read dozens of lists online and read tons of suggestions, and I finally settled on a change of clothes for myself and my husband, two coming home outfits for our son (neither fit because he was born premie size and all we had were newborn!), snacks for my husband in case labor was long (it wasn’t!), and some basic toiletries for me. I have sensitive skin so though the hospital provided soap for the shower, I wanted my own soap and shampoo.

What I forgot that we really needed was a receiving blanket. You see, even though my doctor had said he could come at any time, I thought we had at the very least another week. As a result, our “go” bag was not finished. I am just grateful that I listened to the Holy Spirit’s whisper that Saturday morning to throw the not-quite-finished “go” bag in the car before we left for church, or we would have not had anything when my water broke later that afternoon!

One more thing: I brought a cheap but comfortable nightgown to wear when visitors came to the recovery room. Silly me, I did not get one that opens in the front so I had to take it all the way off when pumping and trying to breastfeed. (Our little Peanut couldn’t breastfeed so I started pumping in the hospital.) As a result, I only wore it once and stuck with the regular hospital gowns the rest of the time.

Which leads me right into the next tip…

6. Rock the hospital chic!

After you give birth, you will most likely be given these amazing (some say hideous) mesh-like panties that are designed for comfort and to hold these huge diaper-like pads. Some women hate these mesh panties and diaper pads. I loved them. They are so comfortable, and I must say, after pushing out a baby and tearing a little (I had to have three stitches), I care more about comfort than fashion. I joked about “rocking the hospital chic” with my husband and actually asked for extra mesh panties and diaper pads to take home. I made those mesh panties last for two weeks post-birth! I was actually very sad when I threw the last pair away and was tempted to find a medical supply site to order more, but I found that my normal undies where suitably comfortable at that point.

7. Ask lots of questions.

Don’t be shy. Ask lots of questions and let the staff demonstrate things you might be unsure about. Never changed a newborn’s diaper before? Ask the nurse to do the first one and watch how it is done. Ask if you can watch when your little one gets his or her first “bath”. Not sure if you are positioning the baby correctly to breastfeed? Ask for help.

No question is a silly one, and these individuals are trained professionals who care for newborns on a daily basis. I watched the night nurse change little Peanut’s first diaper and swaddle him. The next afternoon I watched his first “bath” (sponge bath). I asked for help from the nurses and also a lactation consultant when I discovered Peanut was not latching properly, and my husband and I asked the hospital pediatrician tons of questions.

8. Take everything the hospital/birthing center allows you to take… and ask for extras!

It depends on the hospital or birthing center, but the hospital I delivered at offered many freebies. Use them while you are there and take the extras with you when you are discharged.

There is a reason the mesh panties and diaper pads exist. You will experience bleeding and discharge after delivering your baby. There is also a reason for the peri-bottle, pain reliever spray, and witch hazel wipes for use when using the bathroom. It is to keep you clean and ease any pain in your nether-regions. When I was being discharged, they gave me a little care package that included a pack of maternity pads. I packed up the extra mesh panties, diaper pads, peri-bottle, pain reliever spray, witch hazel wipes that I had not used and also the free pump parts that would work on the pump my parents were buying for me that very day. I also asked for extra mesh panties, maternity pads, ready-to-go formula, and disposable slow flow nipples for our son and the staff happily gave them to us.

Basically, everything that I could take home, I did and I am so glad! It made the first days at home easier because we did not have to worry about rushing to the store for pain reliever spray or more pads or formula for the baby.

These are eight things I learned from my experience giving birth to my son, and I hope it might be useful to other first time mothers out there. These may or may not be applicable to every woman’s situation, but I had fun recording my experience. After all, if it is in the Lord’s plans for our little family, we decide to have another child in the future.

New Beginnings: Our Birth Story

New Beginnings: Our Birth Story

Our adorable little firstborn son, we shall call him Peanut for now, was born Saturday, August 27, 2016, at 6:18pm. He was 4 lbs 11 oz and 16 inches long.

For those interested, this is our birth story.

The morning I would give birth to my little one. All dressed and ready for church! Where is the bump?!

The day was August 27, 2016, and it was a Saturday. I woke up feeling really good and decided to wear my favorite dress to church that morning. I loved this dressed because not only was it super comfortable, but from the front and back my pregnant belly was completely invisible. It was kind of fun to surprise people by turning sideways! Anyway, after church, we were planning to go to Bradley’s cousin’s house for a special Sabbath lunch since pretty much his mother’s entire side of the family (the Walkers) were in town visiting. I’m so glad Bradley took a few pictures!

Turning sideways and suddenly the bump can be seen!

We were still two weeks away from our little one’s due date and, though the doctor had said that he was super low at a check up a few days before, I was not feeling any Braxton hicks or contractions at all. We even had a no-stress test the day before to monitor baby’s heart beat and movements because he was on the small side and needed extra monitoring. According to the print out, there were no contractions during the hour long test either, and it was an interesting session. The baby was sleeping (he usually slept at that time), but they needed to get him moving. So eventually, after trying cold water and apple juice, the technician had to use a buzzer to wake him up.

Oh, my! The moment the buzzer buzzer on my belly, it was like watching a tsunami! The baby lurched away from the buzzer. It was surreal.

Back to August 27th… At the very last minute before leaving the house, I felt an impression of the Holy Spirit to grab our half-packed hospital to go bag. We had not finished packing it as I really thought we had a few more days, but there were some snacks in there for Bradley and personal care items in there for me. When I asked Bradley to grab the bag, he asked I I was feeling anything. “Nope, but just in case, I feel like we should have it with us.” So into the trunk it went!

We arrived at church, greeted friends and family, and took our seats. I began getting a little uncomfortable in the middle of the worship service. Baby had settled really, really low but still no signs that we were quickly approaching the big event. After church we chatted with a few friends and then hurried off to the cousin’s house. We arrived just in time to load up our plates with haystacks! (For those unfamiliar with the term, haystacks is the Adventist version of a gigantic tostado or taco salad. Learn more here.) I opted for a large salad and was so ravenous that I actually went back for a second salad.

After we ate, we all gathered around their television as Bradley’s uncle shared a video slideshow of family reunions that Bradley’s great-uncle had put together and mailed to each family unit shortly before he passed away. Everyone was reminiscing on the years gone by, and it was a very warm and happy atmosphere. The slideshow ended and I felt something a little odd way down deep inside. I shifted a little on the barstool I was sitting on, and felt an internal tug or pop.

So I excused myself to the bathroom. As I was stepping into the bathroom, I felt a rush of liquid. Fortunately, for the last month or two, I worn panty liners everyday. Sure enough, there was a lot of clear liquid, tinged a little pink. I cleaned up, rushed to my phone, and rushed back to the bathroom. I think only Bradley noticed. Back in the bathroom, I began texting my older sister. She is an ER nurse and has had four children herself. She confirmed that my waters broke and that we needed to “Get to the hospital right now!”

I left the bathroom and walked over to Bradley. I quietly whispered: “I think my water broke. I think we need to go to the hospital.”

“Are you sure?” he asked. I glanced at my sister’s text and nodded.

“Yes, Jenni says to go to the hospital right now.”

Bradley turned and announced to the full house of family: “Hey, everyone! It looks like we are off to the hospital!”

We rushed out, followed closely by Bradley’s parents, and drove the five minutes to the hospital. As we pulled into the Labor and Delivery circle, where parents can leave their vehicles until after checking in, I felt the first contraction. As I slipped out of the car, I felt a second stronger contraction. We walked in and I felt a little silly walking in so calmly.

“Hi, I think my waters broke.” I said very calmly to the lady at the check in desk. She signed us in (which went very fast as we had pre-registered with the hospital) and we were escorted to a triage room. The labor and delivery floor seemed very quiet. A nurse stepped in and gave me a hospital gown to change into and a bag to put my clothes in. As I changed, I felt the waters leak all over the floor. I apologized, embarrassed, and the nurse laughed.

“It is alright. Happens all the time.” Then she got a sample of the fluids just to confirm that my waters did, indeed, break. As I was laying on the examine bed, the contractions began to increase in intensity and the spacing between them dramatically decreased.

By the time the nurse returned to say that I was being officially admitted, I was in labor. Bradley and the nurse helped me walk from the triage room to the delivery room (a short distance down the hall) because I wanted to try to do it unmedicated and they encourage walking. By the time I was in the room, painful contractions were only 60 seconds apart. I sat on a birthing ball while two nurses put in a thingy on the back of my hand (to hook up IVs or whatnot should that be needed later).

A few minutes later, another nurse checked to see how far along I was and said: “Honey, it is a good thing you wanted to do this without pain medicine. You are passed the point where we can administer any medicine. You are doing this.”

I admit that there was a moment of sheer panic. In my mind, I cried I take it all back! I don’t want to do this anymore! I may have even verbally cried: “I want my mom!” who, unfortunately, was at a church retreat two hours away! Then I buckled down. I can do this! I told myself. I can do this! Women have been giving birth since Eve. If they can, I can, too! Oh, God, please help me!

And so Peanut was born “frontier-style” (as my dad said). No pain medicine. No epidurals.

 

The Van Sant Newborn
Baby Van Sant, aka Peanut, shortly after birth. Daddy not only cut the umbilical cord but also put on his first diaper!

Labor was unbelievably fast: from my water breaking to his arrival was only about two and a half to three hours.

My husband Bradley was amazing through it all, holding my hand, coaching my breathing, encouraging me, and giving me kisses. We had the most amazing team of nurses. I had my eyes closed pretty much the entire time, but I remember their voices. They were phenomenal! The doctor, who was close by, barely had time to arrive, put on her scrubs and get ready before I was pushing. Right around the time Peanut was on his way into the world, it was shift change so the night nurses joined us but the day shift nurses did not want to leave before seeing him born so they stayed with us, too.

Daddy holding Baby Peanut.
A proud Daddy holding his son.

Birthing a child is the most painful thing in the entire world. There is truly nothing that I know of that can compare to that level of pain, but intermixed with the pain was this calm thought that my body was specially designed to be able to do this most amazing thing. The entire body instinctively does as its Creator designed, and I remember hearing the nurses tell me to do what my body tells me to do.

So I did.

It is truly a surreal experience. My mom was absolutely right: it was worth every moment of pain to, with that one final, super long full-body, deep down push (the most intense “work out” in the entire world), feel him slide into the world, hear him cry, and have him laid on my chest by the doctor. Then all the pain, though still there, is completely drowned by the flood of love and joy.

Mommy holding baby.
A proud Mommy in awe at her beautiful little one.

Peanut… our most beautiful and amazing little gift from God. Our surprise Sabbath blessing.

I believe Hannah said in best in her prayer of thanksgiving: “For this child I prayed, and the Lord has granted me my petition that I made to him.” 1 Samuel 1:27, ESV