Sunday, November 24, 2013

The Aftermath: A Reflection

My baby girl is now a toddler. Sigh.

V started walking the week of Halloween, shortly before she turned 15 months old.  Now, three weeks later she has gained a lot of confidence and is trying to run!  I am glad that she was slightly on the older side for reaching this milestone, because it gave me a little more time to absorb her babyness.  The rate at which time passes has me feeling so wistful these days.  I have moments of anxiety with this feeling like we are hurtling so quickly toward middle school, high school, college, old age, and beyond.  I try to make an effort often to slow down, take a breath, and allow myself to be fully present in the beauty of the moment.  It puts a lump in my throat just to sit and type this.

This blog certainly served it original purpose in providing a forum for me to keep our families and friends apprised of H and E’s progress in the NICU and beyond; but it turned out to be so much more.  It allowed me to keep a beautiful log of our milestones.  I find myself frequently looking back to remember certain details when the girls ask questions, or when I am trying to provide support or information to someone else who finds themselves in our shoes.  It is really so priceless to me now, because of how quickly our memories fade. As much as I try to soak them up, nurture them, and keep them with me; they are fleeting, and it helps to have them captured here.  This blog has also helped me to create a wonderfully supportive network of friends and acquaintances in the computer who have helped us on our journey.

I have not kept up with the blog, and the reason is a good one.  My hands and my heart have been too full!  Between caring for V, nursing, pumping, working, cleaning, sorting, organizing, vacationing, shuttling, shopping, preparing, advocating, and generally managing our household, I just haven’t made it a priority to sit down, clear my head, and take the time to do this.  But I really do want to have some record of V’s life and milestones, so that someday she can look back and know that she was celebrated too!

So where do I start?

I talked about the joys and stresses of my pregnancy with V, but I never really elaborated on the aftermath and what it was like in those first days and months after V was born.

We had a rough start, to put it lightly.

I had a horrible, horrible allergic reaction following my c-section that lasted for 2 weeks and nearly caused me to lose my mind.  It started the day after V's birth, at the sight of my incision where steri-strips had been used to tape me up.  In hindsight, I remember a minor reaction to this tape, as well as tape used on the girls’ faces in the NICU causing a rash on my chest when I would hold them.  That was a long time ago and nothing that would have prepared me for this.  Pardon the graphics, but I feel the need to stress how awful this was.  Everywhere the tape touched me turned into severe burn-like blisters that oozed, crusted over, and scabbed.  Within 2-3 days a bright red, rough, blistery rash started spreading over my entire torso, into my armpits, behind my ears, down both thighs, and into my nether regions.  This rash itched like you cannot imagine itching.  It was relentless.  Words cannot describe how miserable I was.

At the same time I was dealing with this, I was trying to learn to breastfeed V and it wasn’t happening easily.  She was quickly losing weight (got down to 5 lbs ½ oz) because she was resistant to latching on, and when she would latch on she was not sucking productively and was not getting any milk.  She would suck and suck and suck, but never swallow, then would fall asleep.  As soon as I would take her off the breast, she would start crying again.  She seemed so hungry, but wasn’t able to get my milk from the breast.  I was heartbroken because I wanted this so badly, and I didn’t want it to be hard.  I also did not want to pump.  I pumped for H and E for 9 months and had a lot of negative emotion attached to the pump.  I started pumping in the hospital with V and it brought back a huge flood of that emotion.  Then, once home when I had to start supplementing V’s feedings to get her weight back up, those emotions really welled to the surface.  We began the endless cycle of trying to nurse, pump, give her a bottle, wash all of the parts, then repeat, while my poor nipples became so sore and cracked, and breastfeeding so painful.  We also began the seemingly endless doctor’s appointments for weight checks, and trying to figure out what was happening with my rash.

I did one course of oral steroids trying to get rid of the rash, but the low dose didn’t even touch it.  I tried countless topical treatments, nothing helped.  I was very hesitant to taking a higher dose of steroids and/or any antihistamines because I was trying so hard to establish my milk supply and breastfeed that I didn’t want to do anything that might jeopardize that.  About 12 days in, I went to a dermatologist and got a prescription for the higher dose of steroids, but decided to contact the pediatrician to double check the safety. By the time she called me back the next day I felt like I was finally less itchy and the rash had stopped spreading. The day after that there was even more improvement.  Eventually it all cleared up except for a small rash along one side of my scar that still continues to bother me to this day.  I plan to look into it further once I am completely done breastfeeding.

V did eventually learn to breastfeed.  It took a good 4 weeks before I was able to stop pumping and supplementing with a bottle, but once she got the hang of it she never looked back.  In fact, she wanted to do it constantly.  When she wasn’t nursing she was crying.  I lost count of the number of times I googled “my baby wants to nurse constantly.”  I bought a ring sling, and that saved my life in those first few months.  She would sleep on my chest in the sling.  My nipples could have a break and I could get a few things done around the house…win-win.  I was lucky, lucky to be able to stay home with her for the first 5 months, and lucky for everyone involved (namely Nana), she outgrew the “Cryolet” phase right around the time I went back to work part-time. Whew.  We survived.

At the time I worked really hard to hold it all together; but admittedly, those first few weeks ended up being very, very different than I had imagined.  I could have managed the rash alone.  I could have managed the difficult start to breastfeeding.  I could easily have managed the lack of sleep.  It was the combination of all of those things that had me close to the edge.

Looking back now I realize…I DID manage it!  And I have managed MUCH worse. Sure, we had times when J and I were alone at night with the baby and I just sobbed my heart out because I was SO ITCHY and the baby WOULDN’T EAT and things were SO HARD.  But, I had a healthy baby and we were going through all of this at HOME with our family together.  So really, was it all that bad??