Sleeping Arrangements

When you have a baby, the first questions people ask you are "How is he sleeping? Is he sleeping through the night?" I find this very strange, especially coming from people who have children. Have they forgotten how little sleep they got in the beginning? I'm sure they mean well and are just trying to make conversation, but the question really irks me. Hormones? Probably. But it's as if they make the question a reflection of your parenting skills. Like it's a bad thing that my 2 month old isn't getting 8 solid hours. He doesn't work as an air traffic controller, so I don't really see why it matters.

I usually avoid the question and respond with, "He's sleeping like a baby!" Which is vague and super annoying to the asker. But also completely true. Breastfed newborns sleep for short increments because breast milk is digested very quickly, and they wake up because they're hungry. Flynn is almost 3 months old, and the longest stretch he's ever slept for is 5 hours. And he woke up SCREAMING because he was starving and I felt really bad for being so selfish. Since we brought him home from the hospital, I had been setting the alarm on my iPhone and waking him up every 2-3 hours at night to feed him. Then people were telling me to "never wake a sleeping baby" so I tried it. Yes, I got more sleep, but it started having a negative affect on his weight gain. So now I'm back to waking him up when he sleeps too long. Gotta put some meat on this kids bones to make Mr. Pediatrician happy. (Although, I'm pretty sure Flynn will always be weight-challenged if he has my genes. Could be worse.)

The other sleep-related topic that people want to know about is where he's sleeping. This is a touchy one, and depending on who is asking, I lie omit information. In fact, one of my midwives TOLD me to lie about it - ha! And the reason for that is because from night one until just last night, Flynn was sleeping in our bed. Judging from internet message boards, some people think co-sleeping is a form of child abuse (seriously, it's a big mommy wars topic). But I trusted my instincts which were screaming, do not let this baby further than an arms length away from you! We took safety precautions, made sure he wasn't near any pillows or blankets, bought a firm mattress, and I even placed a rolled up towel between Tim and the baby so he wouldn't be able to accidentally roll over on him. There was zero chance I'd ever roll over on him. It's a mom-awareness thing, that's all I can say. Any movement or sound he made, I was immediately awake. If he was TOO quiet, I'd wake up as well. 

Co-sleeping was fantastic for the first few months because he was nursing so frequently at night, and as soon as he woke up, I was there to feed him. He never had to reach the point of crying out of hunger. (Night nursing alone presents it's own challenges... aka... you can't see a damn thing. Thank goodness for the flashlight app!) But I really don't feel like going through the whole safety precaution/nursing spiel to most people, so I just say matter-of-factly, "We have a bassinet in our room." Which is technically true! It's right next to my side of the bed. However, Flynn wasn't sleeping in it. See how I avoided the question? I am sly like a fox.

I don't think our bed has been made since this photo was taken.
Last night, however, I decided to try out the bassinet (part of our souped up pack n' play, it also makes nature sounds & vibrates... baller). And it was great! I had more room to stretch out in bed, and when I woke up around 1am to pump, I didn't wake up Flynn. He slept sound as a pound. Well, except for waking up around 2am to eat, and then again at 5am... and then he never really went back to sleep. Sigh. You win, baby, you always do.

I really enjoy/ed having Flynn in bed with us... and who knows, he may end up there from time to time in the future. I laugh when people say, "You'll never get him out of your bed!" That's like saying you'll never get a kid out of diapers if he starts off in diapers. It's called potty training... and clearly it works since you don't see too many adults walking around peeing their pants. You can adjust your kids to anything new. It just takes time and patience.

Co-sleeping helped me sleep better and helped Flynn sleep better early on. He was in my belly for 39 weeks and 4 days, listening to the sound of my heartbeat and breathing... so clearly, those same sounds are still comforting to him. Plus, I never worried about him being cold at night since he had his mama's body heat!

I sometimes wonder why I rushed into buying a crib... or decorating Flynn's room. The only time he's ever in there is to get his diaper changed! Oh well. I had to do something with my nesting instincts.


2.5 months & still going strong

When you're nursing a baby, you feel like your entire life revolves around two things: your boobs. My boobs hurt. My boobs feel full. Are my boobs making enough milk? Can anyone see my boobs when I nurse like this? Are those stretch marks on my boobs?! Why is my right boob bigger than my left? Why does more milk come out of my left boob than my right? Will there ever be a day when I DON'T think about my boobs? Did you know that boob spelled backwards is boob? 

And this is if everything is going normally. Add pumping breast milk, going back to work, clogged milk ducts, breast infections & other people's opinions ABOUT breastfeeding into the mix... and it's enough to consume your every thought.

But no matter how awkward/time consuming/challenging breastfeeding is, I've come to love it and look forward to it every day. It's natural and a wonderful bonding time with my little guy. When he was a newborn, he would just focus on the job at hand. Now, he'll take a break, look up at me & smile and it is the most heart warming thing I've ever experienced. He'll never have that kind of a connection with anyone else, and it makes me feel needed. 

Flynn, 2 months old
For the first 7 weeks of Flynn's life, I nursed him on demand. I never set a rigid feeding schedule. I planned my life around him. Before we went anywhere, I'd have to plan everything out ahead of time so that he would be full & happy during the outing and we'd be back before he was hungry again. When I'm not working, I still nurse on demand. I don't believe there is such a thing as spoiling a baby by letting him choose when he wants to nurse. (Did I mention we co-sleep and it makes nursing SO much easier? That's a whole other topic!)

The first 2 weeks were rough. I couldn't get him latched on correctly and I was very sore. Nursing was borderline torture at times and I would dread feeding him again. I got some pointers from the nurse/lactation consultant from The Birth Center who came to our house for Flynn's home visit and they made a big difference. It hurt less and less every time I nursed and after a few days the pain went away altogether.

I've reached a level of comfort where I can now nurse Flynn while doing other things, whether it be surfing the net on my laptop, eating a bowl of cereal, pumping on the other side... hell, I've even sat at the dinner table and nursed him while I was eating! (Anything for a peaceful meal.) I've nursed him in my car in the Longwood Gardens parking lot, in the waiting room of my doctor's office and in front of family & friends. It's convenient and the health benefits for Flynn and myself can't be topped. Oh, and it's FREE! Except for buying a few bottles and a breast pump (which isn't absolutely required), it's much less expensive than formula, which I've heard costs $1 per ounce. (Ex. Flynn has 8 oz. while I'm at work. That's about $200/month that we're saving.)
Medela Pump in Style Advanced

Working outside of the home while breastfeeding brought a whole new set of challenges. I knew when I was pregnant that I'd be going back to work and I negotiated part-time hours with my employer. I also told them very directly that I planned on breastfeeding for as long as I could and would need them to accommodate me pumping at work, which they are required to do by federal law. I'm glad I was up front about it, because I now have my own private office with a locking door, comfortable chair, desk and get two paid 20 min. pumping breaks per day. I tote my breast pump around the office with pride! Not that it looks like a breast pump... it's concealed in a black shoulder bag. (BTW, I have the Medela Pump In Style Advanced and I love it!)

Did I mention THIS gentleman is also in my pumping room at work?
My midwife warned me that going back to work would put me at risk for a few problems, like clogged milk ducts and mastitis (a nasty breast infection). And of course, she was right. My body was used to feeding Flynn on demand, and suddenly, I was only pumping for 2 short periods of time in a span of 6 hours. I started getting clogged ducts and most of them went away, but sure enough, one morning I woke up feeling like I had the flu and my right breast felt like it was on FIRE. Awful. I stayed home from work and started antibiotics. 

Big mistake. I rushed into taking drugs because I wanted to feel better, but little did I know what they would do to my precious milk supply! It dwindled. Flynn was fussy during feedings because he wasn't getting his usual amount of milk and I was struggling to pump what he needed for his bottles during the afternoons while I'm away. I was stressed out, which only made things worse. So I stopped taking the antibiotics immediately (which I know you're not supposed to do) and started taking herbal supplements to increase my supply (fenugreek, blessed thistle, mothers milk tea). I also drank a TON of water and made sure I was eating healthy foods and enough calories.

I pumped around the clock, since your body works in a supply & demand fashion (the more baby takes out, the more your body makes), and after a few days, I was back to normal. I'm still doing a lot of extra pumping after work and even in the middle of the night, but it's working! Oddly enough, I get the most milk when I pump between the hours of 1am & 4am. It has something to do with prolactin levels... ehh, I'm no doctor. 

I am more than willing to sacrifice sleep & free time to make sure Flynn always has plenty of Mommy Milk. He hasn't had one drop of formula and I want to keep it that way for as long as possible. My goal is to nurse him for 12 months or longer and not start solids until around 6 months. 

Flynn's pediatrician already had the nerve to tell me, "Well, maybe you're not making enough milk." This was at his 2 month appointment, because he's a little on the small side (but not unhealthy). And I've had co-workers who know I'm pumping at work say, "Good luck, I only did it for a month before I gave up!" So encouraging...

Basically, I'm treating breastfeeding like I did natural birth. I'm determined to do it, and the more people tell me it's not going to work out, the more I want to prove them wrong. 

Why am I like this? I have no idea.


Flynn's Birth Story

Flynn is 9 weeks old and I’m finally sitting down to write this. Better late than never! I know you’re all just dying to know every detail… right?

Before I was pregnant, or married for that matter, I was fascinated by natural childbirth. I watched the documentary “The Business of Being Born” by Ricki Lake and was very turned off by the hospital birth process. It seemed so cold and strict. Not every woman is the same, not every birth is the same, but doctors expect everything to go the same way or there needs to be an intervention. (I’m sure a lot of this has to do with covering their butts from lawsuits, but that’s another issue altogether.) I’ve had bad experiences with doctors in the past and decided the typical route of a hospital birth with an OB was not for me. Plus, I figured if the cave women could do it… I could do it! Also, women in most European countries use midwives and have home births and they have less infant deaths than the U.S.

My mom (who had 3 natural births) always told me, “Just go to the Birth Center.” The Birth Center is a wonderful stand-alone facility in Bryn Mawr, PA located just steps from the Bryn Mawr Hospital, and they are affiliated if someone were to need an emergency transfer. All of their patients are cared for by CNM’s (certified nurse-midwives).

When I found out I was pregnant, I didn’t need to weigh my options. I already knew I wanted to give birth there. They only take a certain number of clients per month, and luckily I called early enough to get on the list. Tim and I went to their introductory seminar where we learned everything they do and don’t do. One of the big things they don’t do is offer pitocin to induce labor or epidurals. Fine by me! I wasn’t a fan of anything I read about either.

My pregnancy was ridiculously easy. Good genes? Good luck? Who knows, but it was a breeze. I kept running through month 6, then slowed down a bit and did yoga, walking & hand weights for the remaining months. I feel strongly that all of this exercise during my pregnancy gave me the birth outcome I wanted: a healthy baby & minimal recovery time.

Fast forward to Friday, November 4th, 2011. I started noticing something at work that afternoon. I was losing my mucus plug! Hooraaaay. This usually means labor is imminent. And yes, it’s as gross as it sounds.

3am on Saturday morning, I woke up with contractions… REAL ones. None of this Braxton Hicks nonsense. I knew without a doubt I was in labor. And for some reason, I was extremely calm and nonchalant about the whole thing. According to Tim, I woke him up around 5am and said, “Babyyyy, I’m in laborrrr.” I honestly don’t remember sounding that dumb, but whatever. He jerked out of bed with a panicked look on his face and I told him to relax because my contractions were around 8-10 minutes apart. It was going to be a while. A while meaning approximately 27 hours… mm hmm, you heard me. It’s not like in the movies, kids! Especially not the first time around.

I called The Birth Center at around 9am to talk to the midwife on call and explained what was going on. I lost my mucus plug, my contractions were 8 minutes apart, and I was pretty sure my water broke. It wasn’t one big gush, but multiple small ones… kinda like I peed my pants a few times. Lovely! She told us to sit tight and keep timing a few contractions here and there. We should call back when they were 4-5 minutes apart. She also told me some FANTASTIC news. The midwife coming on duty was my favorite one… Gazelle! Yes, like the horse. I think I fist pumped the air when I heard this. I had seen her multiple times for prenatal appointments and had complete confidence in her.

My mom came over, gave me a pedicure and cleaned the house. She must have been bored. Tim took Indy out for a long walk. And we waited. At around noon, my contractions were getting more intense and were consistently 5 minutes apart. I called Gazelle and through my heavy breathing, she could sense it was time for us to come on over. Worst. Car ride. Ever. Driving on bumpy under construction 202 while you’re having contractions is torture.

From around 1:30pm-8:30pm… I labored, and labored and labored. Now I know why they call it labor. Hard work, son! Tim and I walked circles around the parking lot, and walked the steps, and walked the hallway… and I basically never sat down. Sitting down hurt like a mother#%&@$! After all that walking, Gazelle checked me and I was 4 cm dilated. Yep, all that and only 4 cm! I was in for a long, uncomfortable night.

I got into the shower in my room and lay over a birthing ball (exercise ball) while Tim pointed the shower nozzle right on my lower back. Ahhh, a tiny bit of relief. After about a half hour of that and lots more excruciating contractions, Gazelle checked me again. 5 cm. Are you effing kidding me? Tim said the look I gave him was one of sheer terror. How much longer was this gonna take? Hurry up, Flynn!

After the shower, I pretty much realized I was going to be naked from then on. Honestly, you reach a certain point where you just don’t care anymore. I got into the whirlpool tub and very quickly went from 5 cm to 8 cm. And boyyy could I feel it. I went into my own little world of pain and couldn’t really hear or see anyone. It was pretty bizarre. Tim put my birth mix on the iPod… couldn’t even hear it. I apparently yelled at him a few times, too. Sorry, babe!

It was around midnight when my body started having the urge to push. So I’m in the tub… pushing. The midwife decides to just go with it, even though I wasn’t 10 cm yet. (That’s what I like about them. They let you follow your instincts.) I got out of the tub, suddenly re-energized. This was it! I was going to pop this baby out! Not so fast...

For the next 3 hours, I pushed and pushed and pushed in every position possible. There’s the head! Wait, where did it go? Now ya see it, now ya don’t. Flynn’s big old head was stuck. (And yes, Tim looked.) Finally, Gazelle broke the news to me that Flynn wasn’t going to be born at The Birth Center. His heart rate was up and down for too long and he needed to be born in a hospital setting for safety reasons. Vacuum? C-section? I was crushed. I wanted to give up. It was over. I was going to the hospital. I failed.

But how can you think you failed after this beautiful screaming baby comes out of your body? It’s impossible. With birth, there is no such thing as failure if the end result is the baby you carried for 40 weeks. You finally meet him, and forget everything that just happened.

5 am. I bucked up, put my clothes back on, jumped into my car with Tim and Gazelle. No ambulance, baby head literally between my legs. We drove the 5 second drive to the ER entrance, illegally parked, I got in a wheel chair and was admitted. Hospital gown on. Monitors on. IV in. They gave me pitocin through my IV. Really you guys, was that necessary? I’m 10 cm and pushing. The doctor was rude and short with Gazelle. I remember hearing her say something like “Another one? You’re wasting my time.” How about stop being a bitch and deliver my baby!

I amused the nurses with my cave woman-esque moans and grunts. I heard the word “episiotomy” and got scared. Gazelle reassured me that it was probably for the best. They gave me a local & told Tim not to look. Slice. Push. Wahhhh! Flynn was born. He came out screaming, peeing and with the cord around his neck. Tim didn’t get the chance to cut it, but I think he was too exhausted to care.

Instead of handing him directly to me as the Birth Center would have done, he was whisked across the room for an oxygen mask and cleaning. I could barely see him. That was the saddest moment. I kept asking when I could hold him, but all of the nurses were ignoring me. I barely even noticed Dr. Bitch between my legs stitching me up without anesthesia. All I wanted to do was hold my baby. After what seemed like forever (pretty sure it was only 15 minutes), they handed me this little bundle and Tim and I stared at him in awe. He nursed immediately, with Gazelle’s help, and that was that. I did it. We did it. Oh, where was Tim that whole time? Right by my side. But I could barely even remember him being there. It was an insane 27 hour whirlwind.

We were released 12 hours later. Not the typical hospital stay, but that’s when we would have been released at the Birth Center. I felt surprisingly great after being awake for 36 hours and couldn't wait to get out of the hospital and back home.

A week later, I was back in my skinny jeans and 25 pounds lighter, to which I credit breastfeeding, genetics, age and exercising throughout my pregnancy. I’m not trying to get back to my pre-pregnancy weight because frankly, it was a little unhealthy. I had lost weight due to stress before our wedding and was hardly eating anything. Whenever I have spare time and Flynn is big enough to sit in the jogging stroller, I’ll get back to exercising. But for right now, I’m enjoying every minute of just lounging around nursing and holding the little one. It’s going to go by so fast…

Would I give birth without drugs again? Absolutely. But I know now why pitocin & epidurals are so popular. Birth is long & painful! But pain doesn’t kill you. You get through it and you forget about it, which I almost have only 2 months later. What I liked about having a natural birth was this: I could feel everything. Is it weird that I WANTED to feel everything? I was so curious as to what it would be like! After giving birth, I feel like I can accomplish anything. The more people told me I was crazy and that I’d be “begging for drugs”… the more it motivated me to have a natural birth. So, thanks haters ;-)

Flynn Ryan Annan
Born 11/6/2011 at 5:30 am
7 lbs, 3 oz. 19” long