Sunday, April 23, 2006

Recent Visits

Max has been meeting a lot of new people lately! I thought I'd post some pictures of his new family and friends.

First, a few weeks ago my brother Larry came up to meet him. He's coming back today to spend the week with us while Ron is away on a business trip. We are excited about Uncle Larry coming, but will miss Ron a lot!
Max enjoying a few rays of sun... I can't remember why we had the burp cloth over his head... but it made a funny picture!

Great Gramaw has come over a few times to hang out with Max while I get some stuff done around the house. It is pretty wonderful listening to her sing to him ("My Bonnie Lies Over the Ocean") and see him stare up at her face. I never thought we'd all live so close to each other to be able to share these "ordinary" everyday experiences. Max is truly lucky!

Then Aunt Cindy and Uncle David came by for a quick visit. They brought Max some nice gifts from the family, including a bag of hand me downs from the Houlihan cousins. Guess that is one nice thing about having another boy in the family! They also got Max a swing, which he really likes and allows me to unload the dishwasher- something I have a hard time doing with Max in the sling! I took some cute pictures of him in the sling, and one with Max and Aunt Cindy... but I lost them! Drat.

Then last weekend we went up to Seattle. First we visited with the Harkins family, good friends of mine (I used to nanny for Christine) and then went to Dave and Chaos' house to play a game and meet Fiona. Max nursed and fell asleep, then I just slung him around while we played the game. It was great to have a "normal" afternoon just hanging out with other adults and actually getting to play a game. We had to take photos of Fiona and Max- Max was hungry, and not too thrilled with "hanging out" posing for photos.Click here to see a video clip of their photo shoot!

THen it was off to Passover with the Blaker family. They were all so thrilled to meet Max, who is the first baby in... 14 years? Something like that- it's been awhile! He was on his best behavior and loved being held by all his new Aunties and Great-Grandma Blaker.

Sunday the Hunter side of the family came over for Easter Brunch. It was nice for Max to meet this side of the family. Before they came Max was getting a bit overly tired, but there was so much going on he didn't want to sleep. This results in a cranky baby. So I popped him in my fabulous Kangaroo Korner sling and helped vaccume the house. Before long Max was sound asleep and quite content! I love my slings.

Grandma Cindy insisted on taking an Easter picture, so much to Rons chagrin we propped him up and snapped a few photos. Clearly he's not a fan of posing for pictures! I didn't get any with my camera, but maybe someone else will pass one on for me to post.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Adventures in Breastfeeding

Breastfeeding is tough. I knew that other people have struggles with it, but after having the perfect pregnancy and perfect birth (and of course, a perfect baby!), certainly breastfeeding would go smoothly, too... right? Uh...nope.

In retrospect, I wish I had read more about breastfeeding before Max arrived. I guess I figured that I would get help if I needed it, not realy thinking that I could PREVENT problems if only I had learned about achieving the proper latch, etc. Luckily we didn't have any problems with Max wanting to nurse, or with milk production, etc. but our problem was initially with the latch.

I guess I just assumed that it was normal for it to hurt to breastfeed at first. I mean, you would think that having that kind of suction on your breast (and let me tell ya, this boy can SUCK!) for any amount of time would take some getting used to. So I was wincing in pain each time he would latch.

It became unbearable to nurse, my toes would curl, I would grit my teeth...I was in tears. When Ellie came over for a regular check up, she exclaimed, "It's not supposed to hurt!" She watched me nurse, wincing in pain with each suck. By this time my nipples were already cracked and bleeding. She brought over a pump, and said that if we needed to heal up my nipples, it would be ok to pump and then feed max with a tiny tube on my finger. We then called in Amy for some cranial sacral work with Max, since he didn't seem to be opening his mouth very wide. We also called Beyond Birth lactation consulting and scheduled a visit for the next day.

This time was amazingly rough. We were supposed to be bonding, on our babymoon, right? But every afternoon I would get really sad, crying, anticipating the pain of all the nighttime feedings. Because I also had the hematoma, it hurt to sit up, but I had not yet mastered the sidelying baestfeeding position, so every 2 hours I had to get up, turn on the light, sit up (pain number one) and nurse (pain number two). I felt like I was letting Max down by dreading the next time I would have to feed him. It really made me think about how easy it is for people to just give up. I mean, no wonder so many people decide to just use formula after only trying to nurse for a few days... especially if they leave the hospital with samples from formula companies.I feel very lucky (and Max is so fortunate) that we know how imperative breastmilk is to his health -and mine- and his development that we didn't give up. Luckily Max and I had Rons support- we'd had several conversations before Max arrived about breastfeeding, and we both knew that it was the most important thing we could do for Max, and that we wouldn't give up, even if we had problems. Our families knew how strongly we felt, so they never made any comments about "Why not just give him formula?" which would have really been frustrating. We knew that any artificial milk just wouldn't provide all the benefits of breastmilk. But it was really discouraging to feel like this was a cycle that might go on forever... I mean, how do you heal your nipples if you continue to use them in the same way? I was hesitant to pump and finger feed, cause I didn't want anything to cause possible nipple confusion down the road, making it harder to get him back onthe breast.

So, it is great that we have so many resources at our disposal for breastfeeding support. The lactation consultant from Beyond Birth (Lyla) came out to the house, it was great! She weighed Max (he was already over his birth weight!) then checked out my nipples, and asked if I would mind latching him on so she could see what was going on. She showed us what we should be doing, how to get a better latch so that Max was getting a big mouthful, and wasn't breaking suction with each suck. I still was having a hard time, but then she said, "mind if I try?" and she helped to position my breast and insert the nipple into Maxs mouth. Miraculously, there was no pain, even with my nipples still being injured! I fed Max, pain free, and then she weighed him again. He was an ounce heavier, meaning he was getting plenty of milk. It was nice to know that the only problem was with the latch, which we could work on. Combined with his good weight gain, we felt much better knowing that even if I was in pain, Max clearly was doing really well. Lyla assured me that pumping and finger feeding was ok- that many moms do it for a long time for various reasons, and they are able to transition back to the breast eventually. She made me feel better about taking care of myself and letting my nipples heal. I decided that I would still try to feed from my breast a few times a day, just to practice the latch. She also emphasized (as have several other people) that it is not ok to continue nursing with a bad latch. If it hurts, I need to unattach him, and try again. This is hard in the middle of the night when you just want to get back to sleep!

Over the next few days I pumped and Ron and I finger fed Max. It was hard at night, because taking 30 minutes to feed, then 30 more minutes to pump made there less time to sleep. But with Ron being able to help feed Max, we made things work. The one good thing that came from this time was Ron being able to feed Max. It took some weight off my shoulders at a time when I was already feeling bad about not being able to nurse Max. Also, when he first stuck his finger in Maxs mouth he exclaimed, "Man, he's a sucking machine!" he was amazed at the strength with which Max was sucking. He understood how much pain I must be in to continue to breastfeed even after my nipples were cracked and bleeding. It was good for me to have his understanding and reassurance that it is ok to heal myself, and that we will be ok going back to regular breastfeeding in a few days. I swear, I would rather give birth to Max all over again than to relive those first weeks of nipple pain!

My nipples healed well, and the latch got better. I noticed that he was fussing at the breast a bit, and that I had a new pain, more in the main breast tissue. Ellie thought it might be thrush, and after reading the symptoms, it seemed an accurate diagnosis. I started treating it with Gentian Violet, Grapefruit Seed Extract, and rinsing with vinegar. The Gentian Violet is bright purple, you paint it on moms nipples and areola, then let the baby nurse. It turns the mouth of the baby bright purple for a few days. We later switched from Gentian Violet to Tincture of Myrrh, and added garlic tablets and probiotic (acidophalis) for Max. The thrush got better, but then Max had an allergic reaction to something we had added, and he got a painful rash on his bottom. We thought it was from either the Myrrh or the garlic, so we discontinued those two things, and his rash has gotten better. There was also a bloocked milk duct in there somewhere, but compared to the other pains, this was nothing! I used warm compresses and nursed Max in the area of the blocked duct, and it got better. Luckily it didn't get infected, as can often happen.

The thrush is now gone, and we are back on track now. The latch is still hit and miss. It always hurts right when he latches, but then the pain subsides after about 5 seconds. About 30% of the time we get a good latch right away, but most of the time I have to re-latch him a few times to get it right. We are progressing, though! It doesn't hurt nearly as much to re-latch him now that my breasts are healed.

I am also learning about engorgement, and how hard it can be to get him to latch properly when I am swollen and engorged... plus it hurts to be engorged! I have learned to just bite the bullet and wake him up if I am feeling engorged- although it's hard to do at 2:00 am when I really want to just let him sleep another hour! I know I'll pay for it if I don't nurse.

I went to a La Leche League meeting on Monday, it was really nice to meet other breastfeeding moms and hear about their experiences. I think I will continue to go. I wish I'd gone before Max was born, maybe I wouldn't have had so many problems!

I also highly recommend The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding, it has been invaluable to me over the last 4 weeks! Another great book is The Ultimate Breastfeeding Book of Answers. I know that this is a personal issue to be writing about publicly, but perhaps if more people did talk about it, more women would be aware of the challenges involved and more educated about the importance of getting off to a good start. I wish I had payed more attention to this issue before birth- I thought it would just come naturally, but it isn't always that easy!

Cabbage Leaves can help with the pain of engorgement...It really works!

Ron feeding Max

Purple mouth Max. And this was after it had cleared up for a day or two! How many fun nicknames do you think we came up with? Grape Ape, Little Boy Blue...

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Random photos from the last 2 weeks

Breana, Rich, and Princess Kylin brough baby Kaden over to meet Max. His first buddy!

Max taking in some sun.

Grandma Ammi and Max
A little grin.
Future Ramonster model? We'll keep workingon it...

Max giving me the finger...

Monday, April 03, 2006

Max's Birth Story

I know it's late, but I finally have a chance to sit down and write Max's birth story. He's currently sleeping in my sling... very cozy and all cuddled up.

I suppose it started on Wednesday, March 15 at our prenatal exam with Ellie. I thought that my amniotic fluid might have been leaking (it wasn't) and she decided to do an exam just to see how everything was going. She was amazed to find that the baby was really low! -1 station, and I was 80% effaced and 1 cm dialated. I'd had no contractions, just a few menstrual-like cramps which were probably from my uterus thinning out. Anyhow, Ellie laughed and said, "Maybe this baby won't be as late as I thought!" While I knew that labor still could be days away, I was happy to know that things were progressing. The next day I had more of the light cramping, but still went about my business, saw Amy at Whole Mama, Whole Child for an adjustment, and went for a few walks with my mom. I also did squats everytime I could to help the baby move down and get ready for labor.

On Friday morning I woke up and lay in bed for a minute, feeling a strange, stronger tightening in my abdomen. I wasn't sure if it was a contraction or not, so I just breathed through it and went about getting ready for the day. About 20 minutes later, another stronger "tightening". I told my mom that I think I had a contraction. 20 minutes later it was stronger, and I was certain! I called Ron, who had to work from the house in Vancouver that day since our DSL wasn't hooked up yet. We both knew that contractions this far apart could last for days, so I just told him that I would keep him posted. Then the next one came at 12 minutes, and then 10. They were picking up fast! I called Ellie just to let her know that things were starting, and that I would call her when the contractions were 4 minutes apart, lasting for 1 minute long, and had been that way for an hour. That's when she and Betsy would arrive.
It was about 12:00 by now, and the only thing that really seemed to help the contractions was to sway my hips side to side, and to moan. I tried various positions, using the yoga ball, etc. but nothing else seemed right. My mom was making some miso soup, bringing me water, and getting things cleaned up and ready for the birth. I called Ron and let him know that the contractions were now at about 8 minutes apart, and that he should come home. He wrapped things up and was on his way. By the time he got home, they were about 5 minutes apart, and then 4 minutes apart. He called Ellie, and she said that she and Betsy were on their way.

Ron was a huge support, he was really the only person I wanted around. In between contractions, he and mom put together the birth tub, and got the sheets all set up on both the upstairs bed, and the downstairs futon. At some point I took a bath, but I couldn't get in a comfortable position during the contractions, so I got out fairly quickly. I remember being annoyed with noise- really sound in general. My mom had got a phone call at one point, and her chatting really distracted me in a bad way. I told my mom that if she needed to make a phone call please go in another room. It turns out she had been in another room- upstairs and with the door shut... I was just really sensitive to sound at that point and only wanted quiet.

I tried leaning on the ball, getting on my hands and knees, but still the only thing that helped was swaying my hips and moaning. I did this alone, or with my arms wrapped around Rons shoulders. In between contractions my lower back really hurt, so Ron did some lower back stretches that we had learned in the prenatal massage/yoga workshop we took. I also remember thinking that I was annoyed that none of the other positions that we had learned in that class were helping... isn't that what we took the classes for? However the focused breathing, and massage techniques had really helped.

Ellie and Betsy called around 2:30, they had been stuck in traffic and were getting close. By this time the contractions were 2 minutes apart! Ron and mom were now filling up the birth tub, which we had put in the family room in front of the fireplace. When Ellie and Betsy showed up, they brought in all their equipment, and Ellie checked me out. My amniotic sac had broken at some point, and I was 6 cm dialated. Whoopee! I got in the tub around 3:00 and labored in the tub the rest of the time. Ron got cold washcloths and put them on my neck. He brought me water and reminded me to drink. I had thrown up a few times earlier, and it is no fun vomiting while having a contraction, so I was nervous about drinking too much water and only took tiny sips.

For the next 3 hours I labored in the tub. Ron and Betsy would refill the hot water as needed. At one point, I only wanted cold water running on my feet during contractions, and they made sure that happened. Most of the time, it was completely silent, except for my moaning. The long, low tones really felt like they were helping me ease through each contraction. At one point I said, "I don't want to do this anymore!" with a smile. Ellie said, "You're doing great, this is the hardest part..." then I perked up, "Is this transition?!?" she said that it seemed that way due to the intensity and closeness of the contractions. At this point they were coming every 2 minutes, and lasting for 90 seconds... that means only 30 seconds of "down time" inbetween contractions. I was EXHAUSTED, and wished that there was a break- just 15 minutes or so- to take a nap. As it was, I did sleep a few times during those 30 seconds in between contractions.

The whole day seemed to go by quickly. I remember at one point laboring in the tub and looking up to see Ellie napping on the couch. I remember thinking, "Shouldn't everyone be DOING something? Coaching me, or cheering me on or SOMETHING?!?" But in reality had they tried I probably would have told them to shut up... I really felt a strong need for silence. During this time, I remember with each contraction thinking to myself "You can get through just this one contraction! It might be the last one before you can start pushing! Just get through this one and you will be that much closer to the birth of our baby." It really helped to look at it that way and just get through one at a time.

At what I think was probably around 5:00 or so I felt a different kind of pressure, down much lower, sort of a stretching feeling. Ellie said just to follow my instincts, that my body would tell me when to push. A while later she asked me to tell her when I felt like the baby might be crowning. I told her that I kinda did feel like that. She checked me, and once again was amazed that the baby was so low, really ready to come out. She told me that when I felt the urge to push, to go ahead and push. Sure enough, around 6:00 I got the strong urge to push, thank goodness! It was such a relief to be done with transition (which lasted a few hours) and to have something to focus on. Even the sensation of stretching open and pushing the baby out wasn't as bad as the discomfort of transition. I was happy it was over, and that soon I would hold our baby!

During the entire labor, Betsy and Ellie were checking the babys heart rate. They had an underwater doppler, so we could hear it beating strong throughout the birth. Even during the pushing part, when the baby was in the birth canal (a time when often the babys heartrate drops) the heartrate was going strong. Ellie kept commenting on what a healthy strong baby we were having... that made me feel good.

At some point during the pushing phase Ron asked my mom to switch the position of two buddha statues that we have. She did, taking one from up on the cabinet and putting it on the ground, and moving the one from the ground and placing it on the cabinet, right overlooking the birth tub. I looked at him, puzzled. Someone asked him why he wanted them switched. He replied, "If our baby is going to be born under a buddha, I want it to be under the authentic one we got in Cambodia, not the $10 one we bought last month at Cost Plus!" What a guy!

So I pushed and pushed, changed positions a few times, and then Ellie said, "Reach down, you can feel your babys head!" So I did... there was a soft little bump of hair! I pushed through a few more contractions, and he stayed in that position for awhile. Turns out his head was a bit sideways, and that soft little bump is still a soft little bump... getting smaller everyday, though. Feeling the head made me ready to push more, and he must've readjusted his head, cause soon after out it came. Just after the head came out, I felt a strong sharp pain down there and thought that Ellie was stretching me or something. I winced and said, "Ouch!" Ellie said, "That wasn't me, sweetie, I didn't touch you... the baby has it's hand out next to it's head, and it's wiggling it's fingers!" With the next contraction I knew it was time to push the baby out. I pushed and pushed, even after the contraction ended because I just wanted to get the baby out! Sure enough out came the rest of the baby at 6:36 pm... only 30 minutes or so of pushing!

Ron reached into the water and took the baby, placing it on my chest. He announced, "It's a boy!" and sure enough it was clear that it was! My mom asked what the name was, and we told her, "Maximus Brooks Purvis". He was blue and not breathing yet. I wasn't concerned because I knew he was still getting oxygen from the umbilical cord. We rubbed his back and feet, and smiled and cried in amazement at this floppy little baby that we made. Ellie got the suction tube, and suctioned him out. She was just getting ready to give him some oxygen when he started breathing and moving around. We put a blanket around him, and cuddled in the water until the cord stopped pulsing, meaning that he had received all the oxygen and nutrients from it. At this point, Ron cut the cord, and took Max out of the water, wrapping him in a warm dry blanket. I stayed in the water until I delivered the placenta, and then I got out to join Ron and Max on the couch. Ellie examined me... no tears, no stitches needed. I was pleasantly surprized- after such a short time with pushing I know that tears often happen. I did however have a hematoma (like a blood blister) the size of a golf ball from when Maxs hand and arm pushed out. Otherwise, everything looked good!

Ellie examined Max, weighed him and measured him, checked his reflexes, etc. Everything was great. 8 lbs. 14 oz. and 22 inches long. Then we put him on my breast, and he started nursing right away. Ellie and Betsy cleaned up and spoke with us about the basics of caring for my hematoma, and taking care of Max. They would return again the next day for a 24 hour visit, then again at 48 hours, 1 week, and 2 weeks. After that we go to their office.

We called our parents, and told them all to come over and meet their new grandson! My parents picked up my grandma, and they arrived just about the same time as Rons parents did. We introduced Max to them all, and explained his name. First, we really just liked the name Max. Maximus means the greatest. Brooks is my maiden name, and of course, Purvis is Rons last name. Since he's the first grandchild on both sides, he truly is the greatest of the Brooks' and Purvis' families! Plus its a bit fun to have such a tiny little guy be Maximus.

The family stayed briefly, I ate, and then we headed upstairs and all curled up in our bed. What an amazing thing, to wake up next to a sweet little being that you made with love, and have felt inside you for 9 months. We have been falling in love with him everyday since then!

I've been thinking a lot about the homebirth. It was perfect. It wasn't anything spectacular or romantic, it was just perfectly normal, the way birth should be. There wasn't a single streessful time. I was relaxed, "at home"... literally. I know had I been in a hospital I would have been nervous, stressed, and labor would have been longer and more painful- not to mention the increased risk of unnecissary interventions, and me worrying about that all the time. Of course, the hospital is necessary for high risk moms, and in the event that something does go wrong. If we had needed a surgeon or a specialist we would have gone. But I am healthy, I had a very healthy pregnancy, and home was the safest, best place for me. We had a specialist there- a midwife! Ellie and Betsy were great. I look back on Max's birth with such awe and amazement... it was so NORMAL and healthy and perfect! Having everyone come to us, being able to walk and eat and moan and have the quiet that I craved. Being able to just walk upstairs and sleep in our own bed after Max was born. It was just perfect. I can't imagine doing it any other way.