More on Mary

On Friday, the pediatrician told me that she was looking for one ounce per day of weight gain in the baby. Between her appointments on Wednesday, Thursday and that afternoon, she had far surpassed this expectation. So we put off another weight check until Wednesday – yesterday.

Yesterday, she had gained another 5 ounces in 5 days. Checking at home with the midwife’s scale, I was not surprised at her weigh-in, but I did hope that she would gain faster. Fortunately for my sanity, the doctor reminded me that this is a decent weight gain. Otherwise, I was running the risk of going off the deep end with supplementing. Right now, she gets about 6 ounces of formula a day spread out in two or three feedings. She has a ways to go to regain her birth weight, and until she does so, I won’t reduce that amount. The danger of giving her more is that she would nurse less, and that would be counterproductive to the ultimate goal of no supplementation.

Fortunately, she’s latching on well and she is mostly over the confusion between me and the bottle. Also, fortunately, I was finally able to view the videos at this site by Dr. Jack Newman on breast compression. This technique helps the weak nurser get more breast milk. I wish I had known about this years ago. I think even with my stronger nursers it might have helped them get more food in their tummy faster, and possibly given me a bit of a break in those early, arm-wearied weeks of a newborn’s life. Many thanks to Deborah, who sent me to this site (where the files are easier to read) and which linked to the site with the video.

Continued prayers for her weight gain are appreciated. Those offered up so far have been truly felt. My husband will attest that I’m not nearly as frustrated or weepy. Although I will say that weighing the baby at the end of the day when I am most tired is not good. I’ve resolved to weigh her no later than 4 pm, lest a minuscule increase in her weight combined with typical new baby exhaustion create an unpleasant flood of tears.

Chores and whines

I have five morning chores and five afternoon chores that I rotate monthly between my five older children. Some are easy, like taking out the recycling, and some are harder, like loading the dishwasher. Now, my two year old can manage putting the clean dish towels from the laundry pile in the dish towel basket under the sink without any assistance, but I hardly expect him to set the dinner table without help.

The point in these chores isn’t so much absolving me from household responsibility (not yet anyway). I’ve tried to pick ten tasks that need to be done on a daily basis. I want my kids to see what it takes to efficiently run the house (no, clean laundry doesn’t just magically appear in your dresser); I want to instill in them a sense of team unity in running that house; I want them to master certain tasks to the best of their ability; and I want them to practice obedience. Often this last goal is the primary point.

The chore that gets the most complaints is emptying the dishwasher in the morning. The other four morning chores are things that can slide, and I did that intentionally. Some mornings are too crazy, and the added stress of crucial jobs being undone would be too much. If the dining room rug doesn’t get vacuumed every day, it’ll be unsightly, but we can live with it. But if the dishwasher doesn’t get emptied, the dirty dishes begin to pile high in the sink…and on the counters…and eventually, even making dinner, let alone eating it, is difficult.

I have one child who, in recent months, has acquired an unpleasant knee-jerk reaction to any request for assistance. A reasonable and predictable request at 3 pm for everyone to pick up the debris-strewn house so they can go out and play with the neighborhood kids who will be home soon from school is met with crossed arms and a shrill whine: “But nobody else is cleaning!” Ask her to do something extra, like help her little brother get some juice, and you’d think we treated her like Cinderella. But even things clearly her responsibility, like removing her personal belongings from the main living areas, seem quite beneath her dignity.

This month, this child has had the dreaded task of putting away the clean dishes. Every morning, my reminder to do this job has been greeted with the most unpleasant, high pitched noises expressing, as best as I can tell, her extreme displeasure at being assigned such an oppressive chore. She is young enough that I would gladly have helped her with the items that went in the upper cabinets, but my own knee-jerk reaction to her tirades has been a flat-out refusal to give any assistance.

She would cry and whine, and I would tell her if she had asked nicely, I would have helped her. She would instantly calm herself and ask nicely for help, and I would tell her no, she needed to ask nicely without first crying about it and without being reminded about proper behavior. And then I would walk away so as to not witness her gymnastics in getting glassware and stoneware away, lest my fear of dishes breaking would soften me.

We repeated this scene for nineteen days. I despaired that she would ever learn her lesson and wondered if some genetic deficiency prevented her from being capable of poised and pleasant behavior. But finally, on the 20th day, when I asked her to empty the dishwasher, I watched her take a deep breath, compose herself, and say, “Mommy, would you please help me?” Amazing.

And so it has been. I’m glad that I didn’t shorten the chore rotation period to two weeks as I considered. As yet, this good behavior has not extended into other times during the day where she is asked to pitch in, but there is hope for her. Slowly, slowly we mold decent human beings.

Not a good time for tragic plots

No, I did not watch the game last night. Who cares about baseball anyway? Considering that women are being forced to have abortions in China, new brides in India are being murdered by their in-laws for the dowry money, and J-Lo is finally, finally, pregnant, can we really even bother to call ourselves decent Christians if we get all wrapped up in such petty things as sports?

Besides, I hate crying. It gives me a headache.

Instead, the kids and I watched Bridge to Terebithia. I loved this book when I was a kid. Unfortunately, that was about 25 years ago, and my memory is a bit sketchy. So, we’re all happily munching popcorn and enjoying how these two adolescents engage their imaginations to create a fantasy world, and then, the next thing you know, Leslie is dead.

My husband, working on the computer across the way, has a very sensitive wife-has-lost-it-emotionally warning system (or perhaps he just could hear my sniffles and sobs), and he came over to see if I was okay. He’s not watching the movie; he has no idea that this girl has died. For all he knows, it’s just more post-partum weepiness which has me crying, at times, over completely insignificant things. But he knows, without duly expressed concern and compassion, he runs the risk of a snowball effect wherein I cry also because nobody cares, and then I cry more because I’m crying over something stupid, and how could I expect anybody to understand that…it can get quite ugly around here for these (thankfully) brief episodes.

“Blast it. I forgot the girl dies. I’ll be fine,” I managed to croak out, wiping away my tears, and regretting we didn’t just watch baseball instead. He expressed his concern, patted me on the head, and then went back to work.

Then Jenny started asking me, “Where did Wesley go?”

Leslie died, honey.”

“But where did Wesley go?”

“Heaven, honey, she’s dead.”

This kept up for a few minutes until she said, “Is she in the graveyard?”

“Yes, she’s in the graveyard.” This satisfied her, and finally, the topic could rest in peace.

After the movie, Fritz offered his opinion. “Why did they have her die? This is a kids’ movie. People aren’t supposed to die in kids’ movies.”

I nodded empathetically. “I agree. I think her death was completely superfluous.” Everybody just stared at me. Instead of asking for a definition of superfluous, they all just pretended I didn’t say anything at all. My words of comfort were wasted.

Off went the kids to bed, and then Bill had someone come over to work on a report, so I retreated to my TV-free bedroom. It was only later, as I was feeding the baby at her usual 11 pm oh-I’m-sorry-you-weren’t-trying-to-sleep-or-anything awake time, that I remembered to check the score.

It’s okay. It’s time to move on. Baseball in October is obscene. Instead of watching the World Series, maybe I’ll get some more kid-and-mom friendly movies.

Like Old Yeller.

I am not the enemy. I am the parent.

Denise says it all so well:

It is now taken for granted that the school will teach about sex, the doctors will decide what immunizations are given, and the parish religious education office will teach children the faith. Too many parents are just passive observers. They just blindly chauffer their children from one indoctrination activity to another. And when a parent tries to wrest control from one of these institutions they are labeled as a trouble-maker, a fanatic, or an unfit parent.

Update on Mary

Thank you to everyone for their advice, sympathy, and virtual hugs. I know it’s going to be fine; I’ve done this before. But it’s hard, and it’s frustrating…and I’d much rather have an easy life.

The pediatrician wants her patient to gain weight. I understand that she isn’t going to care much about how that is accomplished. Even if I did exclusively bottle feed formula for a week (I’m not!), it doesn’t mean that I wouldn’t be able to breastfeed my child eventually. It would just be even harder. And I’m all about making my life easier.

Mary gained 3 ounces between 1 pm on Wednesday and 11 am on Thursday. I recorded giving her a total of 6 ounces of bottled nutrition – only 1 3/4 ounces was formula. Nobody is suggesting that the pump is measuring my production – I just preferred to give her breast milk and was attempting to keep my own supply stimulated.

But there is no way that I will be able to continue to pump much – not long term. I need to be present for my other five children, and it is very difficult to pour juice and tie shoe laces while pumping. Plus, the pumps (I have an old, but reliable, Medela pump that I used when I returned to work after Fritz was born…plus a brand new Medela pump the midwife loaned me) are only yielding about a half ounce for thirty minutes of pumping. That’s too much time for too little result.

I prefer to stimulate the milk production naturally, and the midwife gave me a nipple shield. I need a bigger size, but am managing to use it, and it does work. It’s very annoying that my daughter seemed to prefer the rubbery taste. I also managed to have her latch on without it, but only after the other kids went to bed and it was very calm in the house. And it wasn’t for a long time.

I also have some breast shells, and we’ll see if that makes a difference.

I’m guzzling Mother’s Tea. It contains fenugreek.

I’ve been in touch with a lactation consultant. I have her number if I need any more help.

I have an appointment this afternoon and Monday afternoon to weigh the baby. A normal, healthy weight gain is one ounce per day. As long as Mary is gaining weight, it doesn’t matter how the nutrition is delivered to her little body. Right now, my plan is to nurse the baby as often as possible (au natural or using the nipple shield if necessary), and supplement with formula up to about 6 ounces in 24 hours.

I’ve switched to using a syringe to give her the formula. This is a tedious, messy procedure, but delivers nutrition and avoids nipple confusion by denying her the pleasure of sucking. I did use a bottle around 1 am, because I wanted to get some sleep, but during the day time, I don’t intend to use it. We’ll see how it goes. The proof is in the weight gain.

We’ll get through this. And it probably won’t be very long until it is all resolved – maybe a week or two. I remember looking back at some dated items when I was suffering through this with Jenny, and I realized that the whole ordeal was about three weeks in duration. I was shocked. It really felt like it had taken months.

It’s kind of like when I ran the Army Ten Miler. The finish line is around a bend. I ran with Bill, who had run the race the year before. He kept telling me, that last agonizing mile, that we were almost done. I couldn’t see the end, though, and despaired at how far I had to go. If I run that race next year, as I intend, I will know where the finish line is. I won’t need to see it.

I can’t see the end of this situation, but I know it is not too far up ahead.

Frustration and misery

Generally, I expect the silver lining of experience, especially painfully-earned experience, to be the ability to avoid the same situation in the future. Unfortunately, this is not always the case, and I find myself going through the same thing again. All experience gets me is a calm reassuring pat, and the knowledge that this too shall pass.

Last evening found me sobbing in a black pit of misery. I am still miserable – woefully so – but I have the advantage of a fresh morning and some good hours of sleep to bolster me. Experience tells me that I will be feeling every depth of despair this evening after yet another difficult day.

I really can not believe that once again I find myself, as I did over four years ago, pumping milk, using bottles, and praying a novena to Our Lady of La Leche for her intercession with my starving child. The baby has lost entirely too much weight in her week and a half of life. Even supposing an inaccuracy in the midwife’s scale used at her birth, it is still too much. I have to take her to the doctor’s again this morning to reweigh her and see if she’s gained anything in 24 hours.

When this happened with Jenny, it was assumed that the stress of Bill’s deployment affected my milk supply. Although I’m sure it was a major contributing factor, I think more so it was her difficulty in latching on strongly. Pete seemed to have some trouble too and was diagnosed with a tied tongue (I’m not too sure that this is true, since he has no speech problems and seems to be able to stick his tongue out now), and I had to take him twice to be weighed to prove that he was thriving. He didn’t lose that much weight all told.

Mary, like Jenny, has had difficulty in achieving a firm latch. We’ve been banging our heads in frustration since her birth, and she has spent most of her days and nights either struggling to latch on or nursing. Much to both our exhaustion, she has rarely been out of my arms and, if so, has usually been crying. Being hungry constantly will do that to you.

Despite her extreme weight loss, it’s not been as bad as it was with Jenny. Jenny experienced dehydration and lethargy. It was a scary time. Mary’s constant nursing managed to bring in my milk supply, and she was producing wet diapers. We were making painful progress. With Jenny, I was scared into supplementing with a lot of formula. I then had to wean her off bottles (she had nipple confusion) and gradually increase my milk supply by pumping. With Mary, the doctor wanted to record how much she was getting, so I have had to pump, and, if the pump failed to produce enough (and sadly, this seems to be the case), supplement with formula.

I’m worried about my milk supply. I’m worried about nipple confusion. I’m worried about my child’s health.

And after she drinks one ounce of expressed milk and then sits alert and content in someone else’s arms or falls into a good, deep sleep for two hours, I remember that it’s not normal for even a newborn to cry all the time. I feel guilty and frustrated for failing to take care of my child properly, for failing to be a good mother.

It’s a dark pit.

Experience soothes me. With Jenny, one week I was crying because she would sleep for two or three hours, satiated on formula, and the next week I was crying that she was up every hour to nurse. It’s a black pit, but, not only do I know there is an exit, I know the way out.

Our Lady of La Leche, pray for me.