Gone Coastal

Saturday, October 21, 2006

another chapter

For anyone out there waiting with bated breath for the outcome, the big day came and went with not much more than a few weak attempts at suckling, so I've officially closed the breastfeeding chapter. I'm still pumping, but I've begun the process of weaning there, so soon enough we'll be down to exclusiv.ely formula.
And that's okay.
One of the reasons I set this time for the change is that this is around the time when things start to shift. As she begins to become more active and responsive, exploring the world around her, I want to be able to spend that time with her, encouraging her, watching over her as she checks things out. And I couldn't do that properly if I continued to spend those hours each day tied to the pump. Nor would I have the energy to really engage and learn from her. So I gave her a good start and I think this is a good trade-off.
Already since she passed her birth weight last week she's been more awake and alert, looking around her. At her checkup yesterday she's landed herself right on the middle curve for weight gain, and even through the ups and downs with her weight, her growth has continued, so I'm looking forward to great things to come.
And if we crazy enough to take this challenge anew in a year or two, I'll undoubtedly try breastfeeding again, armed with all the lessons learned and experience gained from the first round.

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Thursday, October 19, 2006

Faith like a mustard seed

This I have, with a few provisions. I need to see good soil in a good location with full sun and plenty of available water for my mustard to grow. And a suitable long-term forecast wouldn't hurt.
So, what brings me to this brilliant personal insight? Our breastfeeding epic (you didn't really think I could post without some reference to T, did ya?) I think it was sometime last week, after talking with a great former neighbour of ours, that the cumulative wisdom of various nurses, doctors and friends came together, and I concluded I needed to think about the point at which I would stop trying to breastfeed. I needed to set some sort of boundary, lest I continue at the detriment of both my health and T's to play the martyr to keep her in breastmilk. By the time of Friday's setbacks, I had settled on giving it until this Friday, tomorrow, which would be a full six weeks from T's birth. Not a bad start, as far as the benefits of breastmilk go.
Over the course of the week, as my deadline has grown closer and T has shown little progress beyond one good latch last Saturday, I had started the inevitable process of preparing myself for the seemingly inevitable conclusion, a grieving of sorts for my breastfeeding dreams. Last night I kept the Bear up a little later than he'd planned (that's a switch) as i shared my reflections from the day, specifically the potential upsides of eliminating the breastmilk at this point. I've pretty much decided already what the outcome of this will be, that I'll be spending next week slowly tapering off the pumping and letting my milk dry up.
And then an odd thing happened. At one of last night's later feedings, T was fishing around, rooting actually in the direction of my breast, rather than towards that ubiquitous silicon nipple that can appear from anywhere. A recognition of sorts that this was where the good stuff came from. I tried latching her, but she just fussed and eventually pushed off. This morning again, after feeding her the small bottle of breastmilk from the previous round of pumping, she was lying across my lap and then started to root, quite insistently at my breast. Again we didn't succeed with a good latch, but she did at least sit on the nipple for a bit and didn't push it away right off.
Eventually I topped her up with a bottle of formula before starting the pumps, but it was enough to get me thinking. I had been light-heartedly talking to T, telling her she had so many days left to figure it out. As if it were her choice. I had prayed to God about the situation and given Him my timeline, but what was I really expecting? One of two possible outcomes. Either she'd figure it out over a week and a half and we'd live happily ever after, or she wouldn't and we'd adapt. Having pretty much accepted the latter outcome by the middle of this week, waiting until Friday has become mostly a weak exercise in obedience. But this shift in T raises questions. Maybe it is still possible for things to turn around in the next day and a half (I figured I'd officially cut it off at my doctor's appointment Friday). And if it did so at this point, I'd have to count it as a miracle. But how much grief and struggle could I have saved myself if I'd set a much less 'realistic' timeline. If I'd said "Lord, I know I can't keep this up forever. I can't do it in my own strength, so if it's your will for me to breastfeed T, please have her latching and sucking her heart out today, and clearing up my clogged and possibly infected ducts in the process. And give me the right amount of milk with the right flow so she can feed comfortably and I won't need to pump or supplement anymore." perhaps I'd have had the answer I was looking for a week and a half ago, and might even have saved myself the stress of the whole weight loss scare on the weekend.
Instead, I said something more like, "Lord, I'm really tired. I'm working real hard around the clock to keep her fed, and keep on top of all the things that need to be done. I think I can probably survive another week and a bit, so please could you maybe help T with latching? Just get her started so she nurses a bit regularly, and I'll know then to keep working with her until she's able to sustain herself on nursing alone. Otherwise, after next Friday I'll have to start phasing out the breast milk, or at least the nursing attempts. I can still offer her the breast now and then to see if she changes her mind, but it won't be the focus. Thanks, Lord."
Of course, along the way I always acknowledge that God is God and is able to change things overnight if He so chooses. But I realize this morning what a very safe thing it is to believe that God can do something. After all, how could such a belief be proven wrong? How can you definitively argue that God can't do something, as opposed to what he simply chooses not to do?
And if one of the purposes of miracles is to bring glory to God, how much glory are we allowing him if we only ask for something that's got a reasonable chance of happening all on its own. When Gideon laid out his fleece, he asked for something that couldn't be explained by anything other than God's direct intervention.
The funny thing is that I'd now be almost equally satisfied with either continuing breastfeeding or dropping breast and pump altogether. I guess my prayer now should be for his glory.
As the Spirit prompted me with these thoughts this morning, and prompted me to share them here, I balked a bit, as the last few days I've found rarely more than a few minutes at a time between feeds, changes, etc., and it's been even harder to stay focused and conscious in those moments I do find, typing one-handed through short comments. "So," I said, "if you want me to post, make me the time. And here I am.
Here's another twist to show how God messes with our heads. Throughout most of the last week and a half, I've been trying to get my milk production up, as it had dropped somewhat the previous week, after I'd dealt with the oversupply issues. As I started to expect the less desired outcome, I've found myself having to resist starting to scale back production in anticipation of weaning, and have actually allowed myself to be a bit lax on my pumping schedule, stretching out the time between whenever it was convenient. Yet as I typed the first bit of the post, I filled two bottles to at least twice what I had been averaging per breast over the last two weeks.
Definitely not the way I would choose to fix it!


Monday, October 16, 2006

Back to square one!

Ominous as that title sounds, it's actually a good thing: T got back up to her birth weight today! The miracle there (I thought we'd nver make it) is even more evident if you know where she was just this past Friday. I took her into the local health unit for the breastfeeding clinic. I was a little early for my appointment, so I took the chance to weigh her. To my huge disappointment, she'd lost weight since the previous weighing just over a week before - almost 90 g (or ~3 oz.).
This naturally started a huge wave of anxiety and guilt. And the nurses weren't able to tell me anything I didn't already know as far as the breastfeeding, even suggesting options I already knew from experience would add other complications. Add a wave of frustration. Set aside letting her (and me) sleep through most of the night and resume the strict regimen of a few weeks ago. And keep trying, when the odds look good, to get her to nurse (we got one good latch on Saturday, so there's still hope).
So I've had much less sleep the last few days again, and yesterday afternoon I was a real mess when she was still in her morning sleepy mode by early afternoon. But knowing she took it all in and took such a big jump (270 g or ~9 oz!) over three days to reach that magic target makes it all worthwhile.


Wednesday, October 11, 2006

On the lighter side

Some random thoughts and observations from new motherhood.

New skills acquired:

  • washing both hands while holding the baby and without dropping her
  • getting very quickly through the fussy part of her bath to the part she loves - the dunk
  • styling a little mop of blonde hair. A new 'do' with every bath (I didn't say I was consistent)
  • guessing which clothes in her dresser might be close enough to fitting that she won't get lost in them
  • pumping while asleep
  • nursing while asleep (I've succeeded at least a few times, which is almost as good as my record while awake)
  • feeding bottles while asleep. At least I'm very practiced at this. But as Tex will tell ya, practice only makes perfect if you practice right, and I've mostly been practicing dropping the bottle
  • changing diapers while asleep. This one can be dangerous, but so far I've been lucky
  • triggering little knees to bend at the right time to insert or extract little feet into or out of sleeper and pant legs
  • manoeuvering two largish hounds alongside a stroller en route to the park. Particularly entertaining to watch the first few tries, as my boxer-cross is afraid of said stroller (anything with wheels really, since she got caught up in a bike as a puppy)
  • savouring soggy cereal and cold lunches
  • typing blog posts one-handed while pumping, nursing, or entertaining

Other deep thoughts:

  • whoever first said, 'Don't cry over spilt milk' was probably neither a cow nor a nursing/pumping mother
  • I acquired a new title this month. MMMOOoooom
  • for the Goddess: I once again have jeans that fit. Not quite the way they used to, but I can do up the button and still breathe. The corduroys fit better, but they always did.
  • guys can get hit with the nesting instinct, too, though it's less likely to take the form of rearranging furniture or folding and arranging dresser contents, and more likely to manifest itself in fixing or upgrading things. Like the furnace and heating ducts. It also makes for a good distraction as they adjust to the shocking reality of being Papa.
  • it's surprisingly easy, given the right motivation, to rewrite your definition of a good night's sleep
  • the smallest smiles can melt your heart


Monday, October 09, 2006


Well, having got that last post off my chest, I can move on to other things. Last week, Coralie left a prayer for her comment on my post The Ugly. I first connected with Coralie through a post from the Goddess back in August. I started following her blog, and praying for her and her husband.
I've long had an intercessor's heart, though sadly I've neglected it at times. But typically I'm called to pray from behind, quietly lifting up people or situations without going out of my way to highlight it. Sometimes I'm prompted to share something that comes out of an intercessory session - a thought or an image, as happened with Coralie at one point, and I try to pass that on as directly as I can, without interpreting or repackaging the message. And that's typically as far as any interaction goes.
So I found it strangely humbling to have my prayers come full circle in a prayer for me posted back to my blog from a 'near stranger' I'd been praying for. (I recall she made a similar remark about a certain stranger commenting on her blog back in August).
This got me thinking about our online community, how we can build relationships and add friends and supporters to our families from among people we've never met or spoke to in person (though next time you're north of the border, Coralie, let me know). There is indeed as much opportunity to increase togetherness and sincere fellowship through the technology as there is to avoid it.
It also got me thinking about the transparency of this community. If we have fellowship within our local congregations, much of that interaction happens behind closed doors, either in church buildings or in private homes. This is particularly true of the deeper relational stuff, where our character becomes evident through how we care for and deal with one another. There's something about physical walls that's fairly exclusive. It takes considerable courage for a church outsider to step into a church building.
On the other hand, our blogs are out there for anyone to see. For strangers to observe over time the reality of how we think, how we look after and support one another, how we demonstrate Christ's love for his bride, the church body. We aren't broadcasting ads to market our blogs to a target audience and increase readership, but I know I've got friends and colleagues who have at least occasionally stopped in to read a post or two, silently. And we've all followed links from one blog to another blog to read more from someone who left an interesting comment, or passed on the address of a blog we're following to someone else.
Granted, not everything that happens comes up in the blog, nor should it. Some of us, myself included, choose pseudonyms for ourselves and friends mentioned on our blogs to deal with certain security issues. And we choose to send some messages, wisely I think, through more private channels. But I think the reality of who we are, good and bad, is out there for people to see for themselves.
I hope our lights are shining, and I hope some of our silent readers will feel like saying hello some day.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

The Epic - abridged

I tried to write an abridged version of this already, but if you read my blog regularly you know brevity is not one of my strengths. This is a second attempt to follow what has been a seemingly endless journey around the feeding of T without requiring years to read.
My purpose is not to complain, though I must admit writing this has been somewhat cathartic. But it seemed the best way to explain my overall experience with breastfeeding, and to a lesser extent motherhood in general so far. It has struck me, in different ways at different times from frustration to detached curiosity to depression, how often the choice we make or the action we take now to deal with one issue leads to another issue down the line. And the need to intervene with another choice or action. And so on.
And then every so often you do something seemingly insignificant in the moment that the Lord uses to turn the whole thing around for the better.

Here's the story so far

Day 1

After birth, she was mucousy, and it took a few days to clear all that out, so less drive to feed initially.

She also had a very cute, but none too efficient, receding chin, which might be adding an extra challenge to latching. She might grow out of that, but if she doesn't it'll be my genes (and my dad's before me) to blame.

Days 2-3?

Pumped colostrum in a glucose solution at the hospital to get something in her and minimize the waste of what would be left on the pump or spoon. Possibly resulting in a sugar crash later.

Days 3-4

Previous delays lead to milk coming in late, too. Received several suggestions of beer to help encourage letdown. It apparently contains an enzyme useful for such purposes, though after 10+ dry months, it didn't take too much encouragement to try. Hindsight says it may well have helped bring the milk in but it no doubt also made her sleepier, and thus less eager to feed.

Day 5

Doctor's checkup shows she's lost more weight since leaving hospital, and she's sleepy and yellow with jaundice. We need to enforce a frequent feeding schedule, waking to feed and supplementing with formula. Say goodbye to sleeping more than thirty minutes at a time with maybe a two-hour stretch at night if you cheat.

Day 6

Public health nurse #1 visits, and talks our ear off for nearly an hour and a half, but otherwise finds that she's made a little weight gain. Woohoo! Progress! Some payback for the first sleepless nights.
In the afternoon I talk to my doula at the store because I'm thinking part of her latch issues are because she can't find my nipple in all that swollen breast. A few demos and experiments, and I come home with a nipple shield. First time I've seen her really feed!

Day 7

I cheated. Based on the progress reported the day before, I relaxed my vigil and allowed myself to sleep a few extra hours overnight. Felt physically a bit better, but soon lost that to the realization that I was struggling once again just to get her to take the bottle. Doctor's appointment confirmed she was as yellow as ever, and even lower in weight.

Days 8-10

Worked extra hard over the weekwnd to get her to the breast often, pump every last drop of milk into a bottle for her, and supplement with formula as needed to keep her full.

Day 11

Public health nurse #2 - our correctly assigned district nurse - visits. I like her much better and she answers some of our questions with useful suggestions and resources. Her weight is up a little, and she's a little less yellow.

Day 15

Another checkup. While she's still pretty sleepy, she's had reasonable gain over the previous week and most of the yellow's gone.
Stopped in to a staff party with her in the afternoon. She slept through the whole thing - speeches, clapping, even the live band. Had to explain more often than I wanted that her being so quiet and 'easy' wasn't always such a good thing.
Last few days she's been getting lazier at the breast. I suspect all the feeding that's coming so easily from the bottle is part of the problem. The Bear who's out of town for four days, suggests trying the orthodontic nipples we had bought.

Day 16

'Helpful' suggestions from family that don't know the full story saying my doctor is wrong and there's no reason to enforce a schedule or wake her up if she's not asking
to be fed. Fortunately, I now know enough to ignore them.

Day 18

The Bear is back with his mom. The special nipples seem to have helped, so I send his mom to the store for more. The breasts have come down a bit in size, so I've started putting her to the breast without the shield initially, with some success. The shield doesn't seem to be working quite as well for her as it was.
Lots of milk now, so I rarely need to supplement anymore.

Day 19

Took her down to the health unit to get a weight on her. Gaining slowly. Got a few more breastfeeding tips from our nurse. She's pretty much fully pink now, and I stop at the store to visit our doula and buy a sling.

Day 20

She's been fussing and pushing off the breast, and now every time I try to latch her on she's chomping on me. I've got a great big blister dead center on my left nipple.

Day 21

The chomping continues and the pain is excruciating. The doesn't ease the pain either. Several smaller blisters have appeared around the nipple.

Day 22

Another checkup. She's gaining well and clear of the jaundice, so no need for another appointment next week. Discussed the current state of feeding routine and how much I'm pumping. I've suspected and Doc agrees that though she's sometimes at the breast for quite awhile she's not getting a lot out on her own. Doc says most women would have given up by now. Doesn't want to discourage me from trying but if it's too much, maybe strictly pumping is an option to consider.
That comment, by the way, is the nicest way anyone has ever told me that I'm stubborn ;) It was encouraging, too, to have someone who oughtta know validate how hard I'd been working, that 'I dun good'.
T allowed me a bit of time in the afternoon to search online for clues to her chomping on me, I found some articles on the La Leche League site on milk oversupply that seemed to line up with some of what I was seeing. Babies clamp down on the breast in an effort to slow the milk flow down. They'll also fuss and push off the breast franticly, because it's coming faster than they can swallow.

Day 23-24

Tried to adjust the milkflow down somewhat by pumping only a little more than she drank each time. Gave myself the weekend mostly off from direct breastfeeding, to let the nipples heal a bit. Breasts were a little sore from not being drained.

Day 24

It seems I'm picking up the cold the Bear brought back with him.

Day 25

Having brought the milk supply down, T suddenly seems to be entering a little growth spurt, and pump as I might, I can't keep her satisfied. Had to go back to a supplement. Pumps are apparently not very effective at signalling demand increase to the body. Wanted to get to the health unit to find out about the brastfeeding clinic and get another weight, but I just couldn't make it happen between frantic feedings.

Day 26

She's now showing signs of the Bear's cold. Stuffed up, feeding in short bursts because she can't breathe and suck at the same time. Made it to the health unit, I get signed up for the clinic in the other location the next morning.

Day 27

The nurse at the clinic agrees with the oversupply theory, though I now seem to be under-supplied. Gives me some tips to help deal with the clamping.

Day 28

Another frantic day of many small feedings. End the day with a big supplement around one in the morning.

Day 29

A brief cry right on schedule at five gets me up. I check on her, and she's quiet so I opt to get everything set up and down some breakfast while she wakes up. A rare treat to eat cereal before it's soggy. I check in and out on her, getting little things done 'while I can', expecting her to start running again any minute. By nine I'm really worried and have to resort to the old 'force' feeding techniques. I pump some milk out, but she shows no interest. Eventually, I get her to take some, then I pump some more as she starts to wake a bit. By the third pumping, she's resuming her previous day's relentless pace of feeding.

Day 30

She won't stop crying, except sometimes when I hold her. Trying to keep up with the milk but the supply seems to be low. Left breast is very sore, as are both nipples. My cold is mostly gone but I start to feel flushed in the afternoon. When I have a chance, I check my temperature, and confirm I have a slight fever.
Mastitis. I eventually call the doctor on call. Best way to get the infection out is for T to nurse on the infected breast. Good luck, but I'll try.
The stupid pump bit me again. Pumping on the right after getting her to nurse for at least a few good sucks. Looked down after a couple of minutes and what's in the bottle is dark pink with blood from a new tear in my nipple. T was still crying franticly, awaiting more food. I wasn't going to pump anymore, and didn't like the idea of feeding her that much of my blood, so mix up a bottle of formula, of which she took maybe a quarter of an ounce and then settled down. I retreated to the bedroom with atowel and hand expressed the rest from that breast.

Day 31

Some progress in the pain part of the mastitis overnight, through massage around the affected ducts and pumping (very little success getting T to latch). A little dizzy overnight, may still get some antibiotics for the infection.
A few pleasant surprises. Her stuffiness seems to have cleared up, so she's calm and quiet this morning. And the hand expression on the right breast seems to have done the trick to get the supply back up.

Happy one month birthday!


Sunday, October 01, 2006


Within hours of Trinity's arrival (basically the first time I picked her up on my own), I found myself drawn to sing to her. I'd had a good stack of tunes downloaded to the Bear's PDA so I could listen to them in the hospital, and a few songs from that set lent themselves well to the task, though they weren't really lullabyes, per se. Over the next couple of weeks I scoured my memory for good songs to sing, and found a few, but really felt there was still something missing. I'd even had a few lines running through my mind for a personal lullabye for Trinity, but I felt I needed something to start with, particularly something with more of a blessing and prayer than most of the mainstream rhymes I could remember.

So last week I took another detour past the local christian bookstore. There I picked up another Third Day CD (one of the first songs I sang to her in the hospital was Third Day's When The Rain Comes) and a CD of songs for baby, I Love You - Songs of Love and Blessing from a Mother's Heart. As I listened to the latter disc with Trinity, it occurred to me that some of the songs are probably first and foremost a comfort to nervous parents. One starts with the following lines:
When my arms have put you down
His loving arms are still around you
And when my sleepy eyes are closed
His loving eyes are watching over you

I certainly found comfort in them through the darker hours of the week.
I'd love to hear any favourite songs you remember being sung to you or singing to your own babies.


Family Ties

My congratulations go out to our friends the Martens at our desert oasis (another post I've yet to write), who just found out they're going to be grandparents. Congrats, too, of course to the younger Martens and best wishes and prayers for a smooth and uneventful pregnancy.

In praying for them, I can't help reflecting on our own family connections. We've had both Trinity's grandmothers stay with us for just short of a week each since she was born. Setting aside the sordid details of old family dynamics and trying to see a somewhat larger picture, there's one thing I wish we had more of from both sides, and that is support for the family unit. Until recently, of course, that has meant the marriage relationship, and that continues to be a key part.

I think in this day and age there's enough pressure on us, especially men as the traditional breadwinners, to perform in areas outside the home, often keeping us from investing the necessary time in our relationships at home. I know first hand that the technology industry as a rule, while not unique, can be particularly demanding of that extra time and energy, often in subtle ways.

Anyhow, I hope that when my turn comes to take on that role for another generation, that I'll find ways to encourage and support our kids in making that investment count and in making the difficult choices that will enable them to be who they want to be in their family, who their family needs them to be, before being what their employer, or church, or other entity wants them to be. Even, and especially, if I stand to benefit one of those 'others'.

I pray the same for my friends.