November 17th 2013
Wilder is three weeks old.
There’s a fast food place in St. Roch that sells burgers, fries and milkshakes. I’ve never been able to obtain a milkshake there, though, in several years of trying. Every time I would order one over the scratchy box in the drive-through I would hear two words: “Milkshake broke.” This phrase sums up my arduous attempt at breastfeeding.
This past Monday was the first time that I had been away from Wilder since he was born. I had my two week check-up with Dr. Valerie Williams, who performed my Cesarean. I cried a little when I left the house, but have to admit it felt good to drive my car again. I blasted the stereo and drove with the windows down, moving up St. Charles Avenue and enjoying the scenery. St. Charles is a beautiful thoroughfare and it looked particularly lovely on this day. The appointment went really well. As much as I have lamented the death of my desired birth experience, I couldn’t be more pleased with the care and attention I have received from Dr. Williams. If I were to have another baby (which I have NO intention of doing), I would strongly consider her as my care provider. The majority of the time at her office was spent talking about the delivery and Wilder and our family. She did check my incision and, as I had expected, confirmed that everything was healing beautifully. She gave me permission to resume some physical activities as long as I avoided any heavy lifting. This was particularly thrilling to me as I had been feeling quite sluggish due in part to my lack of physical activity. I was also pleased to see I had lost 18 pounds of the nearly 40 I had gained while pregnant. Sleep deprivation and self-loathing are quite the diet. We talked briefly about my breastfeeding issues and she also reiterated that I was doing everything I could possibly do.
I wasn’t the only one who had a doctor’s appointment this week. Wilder had his second check up with Dr. Capone as well. We were very happy to find out that he is nearly seven pounds. Lee Kyle and Andy both accompanied us, so it was truly a family affair. We had been awaiting our appointment to discuss two small issues with the doctor. The first issue was that Wilder had a small patch of what we thought was diaper rash that would not go away. We had been keeping him clean and dry and applying cream, but still the rash persisted. Secondly, he had been spitting up a bit more and had vomited all of the donor milk (from my lovely friend Ellen) when it was given to him. I also felt the need to talk with him about my low milk production to see if he had any suggestions. My ten days on the medicine were nearly up and while my milk supply had doubled by the third day, that only meant I was producing just short of three ounces of milk in a 24-hour period. After the initial increase, things had plateaued, so Wilder was only getting one bottle of my breast milk a day.
Dr. Capone addressed the breastfeeding issue first. In his very kind and understanding way he gave me permission to stop trying. He explained that while he knows many mothers who breastfeed – and he by no means discredits the goodness of breast milk – for some women breastfeeding just isn’t an option. He explained that Wilder will soon be eating 3 or more ounces in one setting, and that the regimented schedule of pumping and the expense of the pills is not worth the small amount of milk that my body was producing. He pointed out that I had a very strong bond with my child, and feelings of frustration and self-defeat were not going to be productive for any of us. I could tell that both Andy and Lee Kyle were relieved to hear the doctor put things in perspective, but I couldn’t help but feel somewhat sad.
We moved on to Wilder’s ailments and Dr. Capone did a thorough examination and asked us about his food and schedule. The rash on his bum was not common diaper rash but was being caused by lactose sensitivity. Wilder is not lactose intolerant (which is actually pretty rare in infants) but his sensitivity was causing his body not to break down the lactose properly. The rash was being caused by the acidic nature of his excrement. His sensitivity was also what caused him to throw up Ellen’s milk. He explained that in a way it was good that Wilder had only been getting little doses of my milk, because it was also causing him some stomach troubles. If I were exclusively breastfeeding I would need to eliminate dairy completely from my diet (which I would have easily done since I was vegan for nearly a year before I got pregnant), but that wasn’t the case. He pointed out that the diagnosis supported the suggestion to stop breastfeeding. We were given a new formula to try out which has significantly less lactose than the one we were supplementing with. He said the rash should clear up within 24 hours and the spitting up should be significantly reduced. I was glad we had a solution, but I felt bad for our little darling that he was already having stomach issues.
The new formula only lasted for a portion of this past week until we had to change it again. Wilder continued to experience some stomach issues of a lesser extent but became very fussy with the first formula change. The rash on his bum did clear up, though, in the first 24 hours as promised. Formula is expensive and we have learned our lesson not to go overboard when buying a new brand. We will be donating our leftovers to charity and refraining from buying in bulk until we are sure the product is a good fit. It has been difficult watching Wilder struggle with gas and constipation and I have felt guilty over his discomfort and my inability to feed him my own milk. His fussiness had certainly made things harder for both Andy and I in a physical and emotional sense. I think we have both been struggling with the rapid transition into parenthood, but we are taking it in stride. Andy has started assuming responsibility for the late night shift of feedings, which means I usually get 5-6 hours of steady sleep. I then meet him in the nursery around 6 a.m. and he goes to his apartment to sleep until mid-morning. He then leaves for the bar for work and Wilder and I spend our afternoon watching movies and sometimes crying (both of us). While it is nice for Andy and I to be getting several hours of continuous sleep, we rarely see each other for very long. I have no idea how we are going to do this when I return to work.
I returned to yoga and the gym this week, which I needed. I shocked myself by how much I could do in my first yoga class back. I decided not to go to an “easy” class, but instead went to one that was taught by my favorite teacher (other than Jackie), Keith. I could feel some tenderness and wasn’t able to do everything, but I rocked out an arm balance at two and a half weeks post-partum, so I felt really good about that. A fellow student warned me to take it slow, explaining she had ruptured her C-section by returning to yoga too soon. I did produce a small tear in the corner of my incision upon close inspection after class, so when I went to the gym I stuck with simple cardio. I am really looking forward to being able to jog again soon. It does so much for my mental state, which is something I need right now.
I had at least one really hard day this past week. No one ever explained to me that becoming a parent can be a lonely experience in a lot of ways. First off, I have to admit I’m not really a “kid person.” By that I mean that giving birth to Wilder did not automatically make me love all children or think that they are all these amazing gifts from God. There are some kids that I really dig (Ellen’s, for example) mostly because I am used to them and/or their parents and understand their personalities. Please understand, however, that if you are a stranger and see me out with my son, don’t assume I will blindly think your snot-encrusted children are wonderful. I am not infatuated with all children, never have been, nor do I feel overwhelmingly like a “mom.” I love Wilder and think he is adorable (others have confirmed this) but there are times when his screaming is horrible and I feel awful that I can’t immediately soothe him. I am afraid I won’t be a great mom. What if I fuck this whole thing up? I already know that I don’t want more children. I don’t think I could ever handle it. Nor do I find absolute joy in every moment of the non-stop schedule of caring for a newborn. I can’t see myself being satisfied with playdates and recipes and baby & me classes. I don’t fit into that group of women. But I also no longer fit in with all my friends without kids. I can’t just drop everything to day drink on the weekends. The people at the Country Club would probably find my baby very offensive. The days and nights of spontaneous bad decisions are behind me. And while I would be lying if I said I didn’t miss my freedom, I really do love kissing my son and taking photos of his fantastic faces. I am not sure where I belong anymore. I envy my “mom” friends who are so in love with that role and I also envy my “non-mom and dad” friends who can do what the fuck they want without the worry of parenthood. It’s a lonely place to be. And I have a lot of time to think about it.
Thankfully I have a lot of wonderful friends (with and without kids) who have stopped in this week. As always the help is appreciated. A dear friend of ours who just returned to the country came by to visit. Unfortunately he was incredibly heartbroken so our new home and our new son didn’t appear to be of much interest. It was good to see him and a very helpful reminder that while Wilder has become the center of my life, other people have their own shit going on. Lee Kyle left for a short trip to New York on Thursday, and as the days passed I realized just how much we all missed him. It was strange not to see him every day, as not only have we become accustomed to his help with Wilder but also his company. I thank the universe quite often that he is Wilder’s Daddy. In his absence, Amanda helped pick up some of the responsibility so that Andy could continue going to work his bartending shifts. She and I shared a bottle of wine on Saturday and it was a glorious experience. We talked and laughed and I felt better about my feelings of misplacement. Laughter really is the best medicine. I slept wonderfully that night. Andy and I celebrated Wilder’s 3rd week by taking him out for his first pizza date at Slice. We had a really great time and it was nice to do something “normal” with our son. As overwhelming as parts of parenthood have been so far, I consider myself a very lucky lady. I look forward to more of Wilder’s firsts, and the other adventures we will all share as a family.