Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Feeding Clara; how to visit new parents; where we've found help so far

On feeding Clara. She had her first away mission yesterday, to the breastfeeding clinic at the Toronto East General Hospital. A very, very nice public health nurse watched Clara at the nipple, and then made some suggestions and adjusted how I was holding her. Clara then fed like a champ for more than 20 minutes. As we were leaving the clinic I was teary-eyed with relief: she can do it, she can do it, we're over the next hurdle.

After we got home, Clara decided once again: screw you, nipple; I want the finger with the tube. So back she went to the clinic today.

Today's nurse watched what I was doing and said yes, you're doing everything exactly right; it's just going to take time for her to figure it out. This evening, Clara will go to the nipple without screaming, she'll get a great latch, and then she'll just hang out without sucking. This is a step forward, so we're happy about it. Each small step brings us closer to an easily fed baby. So many parents have told us that the first few weeks of breastfeeding their kids were sheer hell, but that they got through the rough patch, and the patience required to get things started is more than worthwhile.

How to visit new parents. Mr. K's sister Sheila is the queen of visiting new parents. She's in the first days of her student teaching, so she has plenty to keep her busy in her own life. But on Monday she brought us a full homecooked Thanksgiving dinner, spent some time visiting with the baby, and then washed all of our dishes. Washing the dishes seems like a trivial thing, but for new parents who are overwhelmed by everything, it's a wonderful gift. Every time she comes by she brings food and support and a sensitive ear, helping so much to keep a positive energy in the house even when she herself is exhausted. She puts her own stuff aside and just pitches in to help. Yay Sheila.

Moxie describes the first days at home with baby beautifully:

[You] soon realize that you'll be attempting to nurse, changing diapers, attempting to nurse, changing diapers, attempting to nurse, changing diapers on a nonstop loop, spelled only by going to the bathroom to change your pad and looking at your partner saying "We have a baby!" with a mixture of wonder and fear.

When you're doing nothing but lactating and changing diapers, your partner has to pick up the slack by doing everything else involved in not only running a household, but changing your entire way of life. Plus fielding phone calls and dealing with a crying baby and crying mom (the hormones!). It's really hard.

You'll need help.

It's easy to think about how romantic the first few weeks after the baby's birth will be, when your cozy little family will be working things out. And it's true that it might be like that. Some people have a pretty smooth postpartum period. But it's also a possibility that you'll be either a little or a lot overwhelmed, the three of you, with odd sleeping schedules and engorgement and sore nipples and poop all over and dirty laundry and crying (all three of you) and friends demanding pictures and thank-you notes and it's-8-o'clock-what-are-we-having-for-dinner? and you're all just so tired. And it would be really helpful to have someone there who could fix you some food or take out the trash or even just smooth your hair and tell you you're doing a good job.

You need someone who will actually help you, not make you cook or make tea or have certain things on hand while s/he holds your baby and gets all the sighs and coos you should be getting. The only people who are allowed to come for more than an hour are people who understand they're there to help you, not just fawn over the baby.

Amen, sister.

Places where we have found help so far. So many people have been unbelievably kind to us. Andrea Page of FitMom kept me in shape through the pregnancy, gave freely of her endless knowledge and encouragement, and even lent us her handheld electric breast pump. Cristi and Ian got me through the pregnancy by giving me a huge stash of maternity clothes. My dear friend AM, who just had a baby herself four weeks ago, has sent us a shiny new double pump that her insurance covered but that she doesn't need; she's been checking in almost every day to see how everyone is doing. Cynthia, Melida, and Tia, the midwives: I can't say enough about them, especially Cynthia. Stephanie, our doula, coached us through an intense labour and helped make sure that the birth was exactly what we'd wanted. She's even going to give us boxes of baby clothes as she cleans out her basement. Moxie and her commenters have been lifesavers. The nurses at the TEGH breastfeeding clinic have given us reassurance and calmness. Mr. K's colleagues sent a huge, gorgeous bouquet that has been brightening the bedroom for a week now. Vik, those two blankets you guys gave us are in heavy, heavy rotation; Clara sleeps swaddled in one or the other every night. Everyone who chats with me on AIM (Krapsnart) or Yahoo (Knitchyk) is helping keep me sane as I try to adjust to this fundamental shift in my identity. (This will become even more important when Mr. K goes back to work and the midwives aren't dropping in every few days. I have a history of clinical depression and am doing my damnedest to ward off the PPD.) And so many our friends and family have offered congratulations and support: this is a wondrous time, but it's also very hard and we are vulnerable. We really, really appreciate your kindness.

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