Monday, December 13, 2010

All about Alex - a.k.a. The Nipple Ninja

In all the hubub about Hailey and her stint in CHEO (almost seems like a dream, that first month, already), I have always had it in my head that I want to write a great blog post about our 'first born', Miss Alexandra.  After all, for the first days after birth, she was an extension of me - in my arms, on my boob or within eyeshot at all times.  She, while keeping me somewhat sleepless, was what kept me sane in those first days, and even now, she may have a strong personality and provide plenty of challenge, but she is strong (over 8 1/2 pounds already) and sweet and, um, a voracious eater.

Yes, my friends, Alex is cute as all hell, but feeding her has, from the beginning, kept this new Mom on her toes (or curling her toes, more precisely).  Very early on we dubbed her the Nipple Ninja, and boy does she earn that moniker.

The first 72
Let's go back in time shall we?  You have by now all read my account of the intense abdominal gas pains I suffered after the c-section?  No?  Well, it's a great read my friends - very elegant time of my life, let me tell you!

What that post didn't cover off is the first forays into breastfeeding.  What I have learned about breastfeeding, folks, could fill many pages.  All babies are different, of course, but you can expect I will write some sage words eventually about the entire experience with tips for new moms and especially moms of twins. But until then, let's discuss Alex on the boob (I'm sure later in life, she will love to know I wrote this).

Alex, from the start, knew how to suck.  Anything.  Hard.  Even today, she attacks anything that comes close to her mouth with the fervour of a water-deprived man lost in the desert.  She doesn't wait with an open mouth, close, and then sets her sights on the target and the minute there is contact, she's off and running.  That mouth continues to suck long after items are taken away. And if you stick your finger in her mouth, you may have a burst blood vessel or it may turn purple. 

So what did this do to my virgin nipples?  Tore them wide open my friends.  Like shards of glass being raked across the underside of the tender vessels, it took only one day for Alex to draw blood from one nipple and seriously risk the health of the other, even with all the nurses and lactation consultants' assistance.  It was quite the introduction to breastfeeding, and I laugh at the thought of the books upon books I read in preparation for breastfeeding.  Thought I had a good handle on things. HA.

Today, it's still comical to put her up to my boobs.  It's a bit of a dance we do, Mommy waiting to see the mouth start to open, and Alex ready to pounce and begin the fight for milk immediately.  Quite funny to see how I have to shove her into place and mash her into the boob all in the name of self-protection.  But.  She has no trouble eating.

Some shots of Alex from that time:

Chaotic environments do not breed happy babies
So yes, the first three days in the hospital were a nightmarish dream, but we got through it together, and although my milk didn't come in for four days and my little one was starving (it's insane to realize how biologically this all works - this is normal???), I was using a nipple shield and pumping like the dickens to try make things happen.  Then, we (three of us) went home.  And by home, I mean mostly CHEO. Actually, upon discharge, we went over there instead of home.  A sign of things to come.

Alex was a trooper.  For a full month she was carted back and forth between CHEO and my parents' place, loaded into her car seat, sleeping in her stroller bassinette, dragged over to The General for jaundice testing (yup - dealt with that too). We definitely got our money's worth out of our City Select stroller, which never missed a day with us. Good thing that babies don't see that far in front of their faces - what a dull, boring start to her life, those visually uninspiring hospital rooms!

How did this all affect her?  Well, for one, Mommy was exhausted and stressed, there was no real schedule to speak of, and I truly believe she was missing her sister.  She seemed to be very unhappy unless in the arms of one of either Mommy, Daddy, Grandma or Grandpa, and many a day ended up in the arms of the NICU nursing staff as I was trying to spend time with Hailey, and needed a break from her demands. 

In that first two weeks, Alex, who started very sweetly, became at times inconsolable, staying up sometimes for 8 or more hours in a stretch, screaming for something, but we didn't know what.  Turns out the stress, exhaustion and rough start meant that slowly my milk was decreasing.  My little girl was getting hungrier and hungrier. 

Let me tell you everyone, it's a very bad feeling indeed to know that you have been starving your child.  The stress and the guilt is immense, and you feel so damn powerless to control any of it. 

Thus, we were forced to supplement with formula.  Hard not to see this as a failure, but I'm hard on myself sometimes... What happened next was yet another hiccup/learning in this crazy road.  We started OVER feeding her!  As aforementioned, Miss Alex loves to eat.  Anything. And doesn't seem to stop when she's full.  So then, we had yet another inconsolable baby with gas and stomach pains from overeating!  Thank god we figured that out and then scaled back.  Now, we have discovered what is a normal amount for her size and try to hold her to that as much as possible, although it is still a crapshoot when you don't know how much milk you have in your breast, then supplement.  But it seems to be working...mostly!

Moving out of the hospital and into Grandma and Grandpa's house, and shots of our times at CHEO all together:

Chapter Four
And so here we are today, on December 11, a little over 5 weeks since the babies were born, and we have finally moved home.  We did extensive renovations on our home, a new leather sectional and new shutter blinds were delivered and installed while we were living elsewhere, and we have our babies home with us. 

Alex is cosily ensconced in her new crib in the nursery, and has slept VERY well since we got home - a sign that she knows the bruhaha is done?  Time will tell, but she looks lovely tucked up in there, dim lighting keeping her company and her proud parents resting comfortably downstairs on the new leather sofa.  Sister Hailey is sleeping softly in her crib in our bedroom (the two girls are on very different feeding schedules and methods with very different sleeping habits at the moment, so we figured this would work best for now - we'll see moving forward what we want to do).

So Mommies - what have your experiences been with breastfeeding?  What personalities did your little ones have at first, and did those personalities continue to develop along the same vein, or did they change over time?  Just curious...

1 comment:

  1. Fantastic post! BF is a challenge for sure! Jake was big eater, and I developed blisters and chapping even with the help of my amazing doula! But thankfully we did get on track and things toughened up! But Shards of glass seems appropriate! Having two nursing then also pumping must be very painful. I was not able to pump on a regular basis due to the pain! Sounds like things are going pretty good! so glad to hear! As far as different personalities, I can attest to that with my kids. So different! even my twin and I who are quite similar, still had quite distinctive roles and personalities in our lives! What an adventure!