Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Milking for Mira

My pre-NICU vision of feeding Mira included her on a Boppy, us in a glider in her nursery, staring lovingly into each other's eyes while she sucked from my breasts as they gushed milk. It also included her breastfeeding exclusively for the first six months and not using pacifiers.  Here's the reality: me, sitting on the side of my bed every three hours, staring disgustedly at a yellow hospital-grade pump, with a handsfree pumping bra with a bottle protruding from each of two very sore nipples as they sucked less than one milliliter from each. I mean, the pump is pretty awesome but it's not Mira. And my body knows it. All this while my baby is laid up in the NICU drinking someone else's breast milk (now she's on formula) and learning to suck with a pacifier.

It goes without saying that "Milking for Mira" has been a bit of a bust. I was blessed with my first drops of milk just five days after she was born (on my birthday, no less). The next day I pumped a full ounce (32 mL) and thought I was off to the races. Well, that was before eclampsia. A few days after I had Mira, I ended up back in the hospital because I was nauseous, vomiting and my blood pressure was high - a condition called eclampsia. That meant, no food or energy to pump for four days. Which meant my body got the cue that we didn't want more milk and shut down on me. 

It took me one week of pumping nearly every three hours to get even a drop. Pair that with me trying everything that I could...all at once...and it made for a stressful and anxiety-provoking situation. I tried eating oatmeal every morning, massaging my breasts before pumps, Mother's Tea, Gatorade, taking a prescription med called Reglan, drinking milk, eating salads, and taking fenugreek pills and prenatal vitamins. You name it and I've tried it. Oh and then my milk all of a sudden went away again. That's when I "hit the bottle" - yes, I drank beer (it's a thing, I'm not just being a lush, I promise).

And then I got perspective. It took for one of the doctors to tell me that they are not looking for me to "nourish or completely feed" Mira, yet they see whatever milk I produce as "medicine" for her. That it's specially made for her and includes antibodies that are healing to her, so any little bit helps. I had been holding myself hostage in my house, pumping all day and visiting Mira at night only to arrive with sometimes less than half an ounce of milk. Most times, it was only enough for one of her eight daily feedings. 

And I almost gave up. Until I was told that even 5 mL is enough and useful. It helped me accept the news that she would have to ween off donor breast milk to formula as it was needed to help her grow. It helped me encourage her to suck on her pacifier so that she would learn how to suck a bottle and maybe even my breast later (she's both eating from a bottle and has tried latching to my breast). Most importantly, it helped me feel less guilt during the times I would have to leave my house and miss a pumping session. It also helped me be ok with calling the whole thing off for a day if my nipples were too sore or it was stressing me out too much. In short, I chilled the hell out.

If you are around people who pressure you, whether it's your family or the folks in the NICU, tell them to step off. Beware, everyone is going to ask you about your milk. Don't be afraid to tell people you don't want to talk about it if it feels like too much pressure. Everyone's body is different and you should do what works for you. If you can't produce enough milk for your baby, it's ok. The truth is, it's a double-edged sword. NICU moms don't have the pressure that if we don't produce milk that our babies will starve. They give our babies either donated breast milk or formula from the start. But we also have the challenge of not having our babies there to help us keep our supply going and have to put in extra work.

So take some pressure off if you're not producing as much as your baby needs. Milking like a cow just isn't for everyone (side note: tonight some young mom who just had her baby last week brought in like four bottles full of milk and I laughed to myself thinking of how lucky she is to have those young, perky breasts while my old ones are barely putting out two puffs of powdered milk for Mira! LOL). Make sure to take advantage of the lactation consultants, whether in the NICU, the WIC office or in labor and delivery in the hospital. Read as much as you can about how to stimulate production, but don't let it overwhelm you. Take people's advice, but not too many people. Do one thing at a time to really find out what works for you. And most importantly, if you're not producing, try to "milk for medicine" like I am now doing. A little bit helps a whole lot.

I hope this helps. Thanks for your prayers and support. 

My milk on July 14 from one breast and one pump...I was WINNING!

And now my baby sweetness is drinking from a bottle!

Patiently Learning Patience

My name is Kim and I'm an "impatient-a-holic!" I have a lead foot, road rage, don't like to repeat myself, easily annoyed with people and things that waste my time, don't suffer fools well and just have an overall need to keep it moving (thus the reason I prefer basketball to football).

Well, that's until Mira came along. When you're pregnant, you have a certain vision of how bringing home the baby will be - caring for her, cuddling, feeding, bonding, touching, kissing, just everything. So when my water ruptured prematurely in the early morning hours of July 5, it also ruptured the vision I'd had of the kind of mom I would be. That's when I realized that God must be determined to teach me patience once and for all.

I stayed in the hospital for four days before Mira was born. In that time, I had to lay in uncomfortable positions to keep my fetal monitor on round-the-clock, deal with medical residents playing "doctor" on us for grades and giggles, suffer through blood pressure checks and IV changes every 3 to 4 hours, and stay in the bed 24/7. And the night before Mira was born, I had been transferred to the ante-partum section of the hospital, which was where women go who are "gonna be here awhile."

So you can just imagine the conversations God and I were having throughout and the barrage of questions I had for Him. First, "Why?" Then, "How?" Lastly, "What?" Why this, why me, why now? How am I going to parent a baby that I can't hold and how am I going to afford this all? And what lesson are you trying to teach me? That's when it hit me. PATIENCE! I realized that I would need to couple it with my faith to get through this new phase of life that God has laid before me. Because faith divorced from patience is a recipe for frustration and anxiety.

I didn't see or touch Mira until 12 hours after I had her, I didn't hold her in my arms and against my skin for two weeks, I didn't bathe her for three weeks or kiss her face for four weeks. God sure does know how to teach you a lesson the hard way. Yet I am grateful for this baby, the way and time she decided to be born, these delays, this time and these life lessons.

If you find yourself in the NICU, just know that there's nothing, absolutely nothing, you can do to make the time go by any faster so check your impatience at the door. You can't rush your baby's healing or progress, and Lord knows the timeline is really up to your baby and God. Learn patience if you didn't have it before. Because no matter if your baby's stay is a day, a week or a month (or more), whether or not it feels like eternity or torture or a time of helplessness is all up to your ability to marry your patience with faith.

Side note: These days I dream of kidnapping Mira to take her home, but it's fleeting. LOL I called my mama the other day to see if she would drive the get away car...she agreed. LOL You will have those feelings. I keep mine at bay through prayer, talking and reading to Mira and taking naps while I'm holding my baby in the NICU.

I hope this helps and thanks for your prayers and support.

Started from the bottom... we here!

Mind Over Medicine

Because I just came up with the idea for this blog last night, I'm writing this first post out of order. But don't worry, I promise to go backwards if you'll let me get this one out since it's so fresh in my mind. Before I proceed, I'll do quick introductions. I'm Kimberly and on July 8, I gave birth to my baby sweetness, Mira, about 14 weeks early.

At this point, we have been in the NICU for almost eight weeks. And while I am much better at speaking NICU-ese now than I was a few weeks ago, I am not a doctor or nurse. But I am a mom (still feels weird to say that). And I know what I know about my child. I see Mira every day. I study her face, her hands, her feet, the rise and fall of her chest, know her pee and poop patterns, when her boogers need to be suctioned and it goes on.

The inspiration for this post comes from a feeling I've had in my gut for the past few days. I believe that Mira is a having a set back. And it's so subtle, that I think noone is noticing but me since I'm the constant in her life. Mira was born with a hole in her heart that causes her to have a heart murmur. And as long as she continues breathing well and passing other milestones, we pretend the hole isn't there in hopes it will get smaller or disappear altogether as she gets older.

And she's been doing well with her breathing, even one day being able to come completely off her oxygen. When I visited her that day, I noticed her breathing was labored and asked the nurses to watch her. Later that day, they'd put her back on her oxygen - no biggie, we tried. Since then, I've noticed that her breathing is labored, that one of her little feet was swollen after cuddle time, that her breathing is "gravel-y" and that her little belly button looks poked out. I've inquired about each of these signs with her nurses, more curious than convicted. And I was told by each of them that it's nothing to worry about or some other medical explanation of why it might be happening or why my hunch isn't founded.

But after tonight, I'm now convicted. As I was staring at her face, I noticed that it's starting to swell. I have a suspicion that she has fluid gathering in her lungs (this happened when she was younger) that's causing her breathing to be labored. It can be remedied with a round of medication and shouldn't set her back too much. Her care team is made up of really reasonable and receptive people, so I shouldn't have to fight too much to get them to check it out. But the mama bear in me will be ready just in case.

Moral of the story is it's ok to follow your "mom-stinct" over science because sometimes it really is mind over medicine. While the nurses and doctors see your baby everyday, you are just as much a part of the care team as they are. And you are just as likely to notice that something is happening, if not moreso. While you might not know the medical term for what's happening or what exactly IS happening, say something. And if the feeling in your gut won't go away, push if you have to and don't worry about seeming like the crazy lady who nitpicks over every thing. More than being your baby's mom, you're the #1 advocate for her health.

So, wish me luck, I talk to her doctor tomorrow. Thanks for your prayers and support.

****UPDATE: It was exactly what I thought it was. By the time I made it there in the morning, the doctor had already prescribed meds to get the fluid off her and out of her lungs. Mom-stincts prevail again! BOOM!

Mommy and Mira just cuddling in the NICU.