My Second Spring…

The weather has started cooling off nicely around here. The promise of fall, in all its glorious shades is making me pause in anticipation. In exactly 14 days, I’m scheduled for a c-section. Yesterday was my last biophysical and everything looked great on screen. Baby is going to be fine, the good doctor reassured me. Ravina is a strong and vibrant baby, growing as she should be. Already quite feisty, when the sonographer pushed on my belly with her instrument she pushed right back at her with her tiny palm. I don’t blame her, she’s been monitored closely for weeks now and I think she’s as ready as I am to get on with it.

Last night, I joked with my partner that our baby girl is like the very hungry caterpillar from the popular children’s book. She is literally eating through me at the end of this journey. For most of my pregnancy, I’ve had little to no appetite but suddenly, I’m ravenous. I have been eating everything in sight. As if anticipating my needs, my mom and aunt collaborated to send me a month’s worth of home-made Indian food. When the box arrived a couple of weeks ago, I was deeply moved by their thoughtfulness… While the food is very tasty, it’s also quite spicy so I’ve been rationing myself. On top of it, my mother in law has been bringing over delicious meals so, all in all, I have been eating like a queen.

An unexpected byproduct of this hunger is heartburn and acid reflux. Ugh, I’ve never experienced this much pain in my life. Nothing seems to be helping, not even Tums or a cold glass of milk. This morning was particularly bad and my doctor recommended taking a Prilosec OTC if it doesn’t improve by the weekend. I know that my first pregnancy was only a little over a year ago, but I have absolutely no recollection of those last few weeks leading up to labor. For the most part, I don’t recall being as uncomfortable as I am now. I was just so eager and impatient for the show to start that nothing seemed to bother me. This time, I’m feeling much different. With an active toddler on the loose, there’s very little time to rest much less complain.

The pressure of the baby on my pelvis plus the unrelenting heartburn is making me wish I would have the baby already but… not so fast! My in laws are away until the 10th on a trip that was planned well in advance of my pregnancy. If Ravina decides to make her debut before they’re back, we won’t have anyone to watch Lelan. Sure, some well meaning neighbors/friends have offered to help in a pinch and our babysitter is on standby, but there’s nothing like family to give you that much needed peace of mind. I should have learnt my lesson from my last delivery that ‘the best-laid plans of mice and men often go awry’ but, I’m keeping my fingers crossed and hoping for an uneventful delivery.

In the meantime, most of the preparations for Ravina’s birth are either complete or underway… The bassinet is now a permanent fixture in our bedroom and Lelan never fails to peek into it each morning. Her crib is setup as well, just in case she doesn’t care for the bassinet. All of her baby clothes for the next 3 months have been neatly organized in bins. Thanks to my sister in law Kate, we have all the essentials and then some. The hospital bag is packed and ready to go. There are a few last minute items to buy, but nothing overwhelming. My last day at work is next Friday and I hope to make it till then, but I’m in a much better place with work this time around than I was last time.

06b58a54f8ecc40447263746c2cec628It all sounds so organized doesn’t it? Who am I kidding, having a baby is no walk in the park and I’m sure there will be many challenges ahead in the coming weeks, but I’m prepared. I’m already a mother and this time around, I’m more calm and confident in my abilities. With Lelan, everything was new… A first. He was the spring, a promise of life itself bursting at the seams. He awakened me and taught me how to bloom. But, with Ravina, everything will be my last… like the magic hour of autumn when warm summer days collapse into moody hues, as the crisp air hangs on my bones like a wooly scarf. Ah, I want to savor every bit of it, like a good book, and let every milestone linger. There is something very special about this feeling of not wanting to rush things… to deliberately slow things down. To really take the time to enjoy the minutiae. I hope to carry this feeling with me throughout my days…

Lelan- 15 Months

Dear Lelan,

2017-07-31_23.31.18You are now a full fledged toddler! You are a walking, talking, singing wonder! Every day you are learning something new- a new word, a sound or a gesture. You laugh easily, filling our hearts with unimaginable love. There is nothing better than time spent with you, my darling. Your hugs heal the broken parts of me in seconds and your kisses connect the lost pieces of my soul. The sound of your pitter patter feet, running towards me is the soundtrack of my life.

In the last three months you have mastered so many skills. The day after your first birthday you took your first steps and now you’re practically running. You have always been very vocal and we think you are very close to talking. Your vocabulary is growing by leaps and bounds. Your first real word, apart from dada and mama, was was corn which you learned on your own by watching Baby Einstein. Now you say, cat, car, apple, thatha (grandpa), nana (banana), momo (moon or Elmo), choo choo (Thomas), tree, hot, duck and just today you said flower. If we ask you to repeat something, you will oblige. Whatever your Papa says, you repeat without hesitation. You are constantly babbling and singing which is music to my ears.

Beyond what you can say, what impresses me even more is how much you can retain. If I ask you to pick out any book you’ve read, you will promptly get it for me. If I ask you to point to anything in the book, whether it be an animal or thing, you will do so without hesitation. You know the names of about a dozen fruits and will bring them if asked by name. You know your alphabets from A-G and numbers from 1-5. You are a sponge. Your love of learning is insatiable and your dad and I more than happy to aid you in your growth.

You are still a creature of habit though your schedule is starting to shift a little. On most days, you are awake between the hours of 6am and 7pm with a nap before lunch. Recently, we’ve been trying to shift your nap towards the middle of the day with some success. In a couple of months, you will start attending daycare for a couple of days. You are so ready for it, my love… When we took you to the school you jumped right in. We are excited to see how you are going to adjust to all the changes in the coming months.

For all your wonder, you are still a normal, developing toddler. Not every day is a walk in the park with you. But, I enjoy it just the same. You have been experiencing strong feelings lately, going from happy to grumpy in seconds. You have a stubborn streak in you, which is sometimes hard to control. You are testing limits, pushing boundaries and growing up way too fast. But, it’s our job to teach you how to control yourself, how to harness your awesomeness, and return to your usual cheerful disposition. As long as we’re being calm and consistent you seem to recover quickly. Your dad and I are getting good at reading your signs and we hope to help you more and more as the days go by.

In just a short while you will be a big brother… I have been thinking a lot about how you are going to handle this change. How am I going to ration out my love equally between you and your sister? I don’t have all the answers, but I can assure you that you will never have to share my heart… My love for you is its own stream, overflowing its banks. Our bond will only be strengthened by the arrival of your sister. Sometimes I worry that I will never be able to give her the same undivided attention that you so lavishly enjoyed, but just as I think about it, I’m comforted by the thought that she will be the luckiest recipient of your love. You will fill in those voids that your dad and I could never fill just by being a big brother- my wonderful boy!

The next few months are going to be hectic… and exciting at the same time. When the days become too long or whenever the inspiration strikes, I will remember to take a deep breath and write about this journey… OUR journey. Because, as I write these words, I’m reminded of how lovely this life is… how much light has come pouring into my wretched soul since you were born and how truly blessed I am to have you as my son.

Love,
Mom

Fed is Best!

It’s national breastfeeding week… and I really want to get a few things off my breast, I mean chest. This blog is where I come to work out my issues, my hangups, my shortcomings, my fears and this subject is a sore one. It still hurts to think about it.

When I was pregnant with Lelan, I prepared for his birth like a warrior. I read up on natural birthing techniques, birth stories and attended hypnobabies classes until the very end. My partner and I practiced the scripts every night, even reciting cues on our way to the hospital. When it came to delivering my baby naturally, I was more than ready. If there had been a test, I would’ve aced it because I studied everything. But, I absolutely failed to educate myself on what came immediately after. In hypnobabies, you are actively discouraged from thinking about alternative options… after all, the premise of this practice is to use the power of your mind and deliver your baby naturally without any drugs or intervention. I was over confident in my body’s ability to deliver my baby naturally that I never even thought, for a second, that it would fail me. The idea of a c-section was nowhere near my orbit. The 200+ page course manual provided a 2 page summary on c-section and honestly, I didn’t even read it. So, after 50+ hours of labor and hearing my doctor say it’s time to get the baby out, a certain kind of panic set in. I had no idea what to expect from that point forward. You can read about my birthing story here.

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You see, I had imagined a perfect scenario of the baby being born and placed on my breast only to have him latch on as if we had practiced this ritual for ages. I never thought I would be walking to the NICU merely hours after my gut was split open and stitched back together. I never expected to see my baby in a glass box with an IV running through his delicate arm, surrounded by nurses and other really sick babies. I had no idea that he would be fed through a feeding tube up his nose upon arriving into this world. It all seemed so surreal at that moment. Under those circumstances, beneath the bright lights of the NICU, breastfeeding was the furthest thing from my mind as I struggled to hold my son for the first time.

Later that day, one of the NICU nurses, a kind lady named Denise, paid me a visit and suggested that I start pumping immediately so that I could start feeding him. The sooner he’s eating on his own, the sooner he can go home, she said. So, I asked the hospital staff about seeing a lactation consultant. To my surprise, I was told that they didn’t have one available, but an experienced nurse would be by to help me shortly. An hour later, someone brought over a breast pump and my aunt who happened to be there helped me pump for the first time. A tiny amount of sticky substance came and I saved it for my son. No one told me that I should’ve been pumping every 2 hours. I didn’t bother to educate myself on this subject because again, I was naive about my natural abilities. The nurse who was supposed to stop by never did.

That first day, I pumped a measly 3 times and produced a small amount of colostrum. I was so distracted by everything that was happening around me that it didn’t occur to me to keep pumping every 3 hours. On the second day, I pumped a couple more times and tried to get my son to latch on, with little to no success. All together, I was able to produce 1 ounce of milk the entire day, which my son devoured in minutes. I was sore, swollen and physically and emotionally drained that I let the nurse talk me into feeding my baby formula. I was told that during the first feed, he drank almost an ounce, which considering the size of his stomach, is A LOT! Day three and four (yes, my doctor let me stay an extra day in the hospital so I could be close to my baby) went the same. At this point, I was maybe pumping 3 times a day up to an ounce or two and trying to get my son to latch during every visit. But, nothing was working and he was already up to 3 ounces of formula every 3 hours.

Feeling like a failure, I called my hypnobabies instructor asking for help. She put me in touch with a lactation consultant who assured me that she would help get things back on track once the baby was home. Don’t stress yourself out while your baby is in the NICU, she said to me. Once he’s home, I will get him latched on in no time. Those words were music to my ears. It sounded like great advice so, I began to relax. I don’t think I pumped once during the next few days. Between hospital visits and recovering from my c-section, I had no time or energy to pump. On the evening of the 7th day, we brought our son home and the very next day the lactation consultant came over to assess the situation.

She was a wiry lady with thick glasses and a booming voice. She came barreling into our little nest like a rooster, crowing orders at both my partner and I. Bewildered, we followed her lead. The entire experience was jarring and not at all what I had expected, for a hefty price tag of $150. At one point during her visit she jumped up on our bed on all fours and started hissing near my son’s ear trying to mimic the sound of the womb to get him to relax. When he wouldn’t latch properly, she examined him and pronounced that he was tongue tied and might need surgery later in life. Having just been through a harrowing NICU experience, this news was not at all comforting. She instructed me to power pump twice a day for as long as I could… and for those of you who are wondering what that is, it’s hell pump for 20 minutes, rest 10, pump another 10; rest for another 10. This was in addition to my normal pumping every 3 hours. She had me order a serum which was supposed to increase my supply and when I tell you it was horrible, it is definitely an understatement of the century. Yet, I drank it twice a day diligently. I tried EVERYTHING.

I ate the cookies, drank Maltas, forced down bowls of oatmeal and drank so much water that I thought I was going to explode. Nothing worked. I was barely producing an ounce maybe two at each pump and my son was drinking up to 4 . This went on for weeks… I cried to my partner, who looked at me helplessly because NOTHING WORKED. My milk never came in. I never felt that engorged feeling that many people experience. My son never latched on. I was a slave to my breast pump and I hated every minute of it. After a month of this insanity, I finally threw in the towel and started feeding my son formula exclusively. It was the best decision for our family and one that we needed to accept.

To all those people who say breast is best, or brag about how easy or how enjoyable the breastfeeding experience was, let me just say you have no idea how hard it is for some of us or how insane it makes us feel when we can’t do the simple act of feeding our baby. I will never know the reasons why my body refused to produce milk or why something that is touted to be natural and easy was so darn difficult for me, but I will tell you that my baby was fed and nourished on schedule. Looking at him now you will never know that he wasn’t breastfed.

As I prepare for another baby’s arrival, I’m scared, yet determined to try again. I have no idea how everything will turn out this time around, but I will be better prepared. The hospital where I’ll be delivering does not have a lactation consultant, I’ve already asked, so I’m researching the ones in our area, preferably those who don’t hiss. I have been reading about what to do in the immediate aftermath of a c-section and talking to friends who have gone through this experience, as it relates to breastfeeding. I plan on pumping regularly from the start to maintain my supply and I’m going to ask for help every step along the way. But, if for whatever reason it doesn’t work out, I won’t beat myself up about it. I will accept whatever outcome and I won’t feel obligated to answer to anyone. Because, I know from experience that in the end fed is best for my baby and my family.

33 weeks and counting

Dear Ravina,

We’re really in the home stretch now, girl… Every day I feel a little bigger, a little more heavy and round. You must be running out of room because I can feel you trying to expand…. stretch… I can feel your little jabs in the worst places but instead of wincing, I find myself smiling. Our doctor says that there is no such thing as feeling too much movement, so every time you flex your muscle, you flood me with relief. You erase my fears and bring me back to the present. You are a precious gift that I look forward to treasuring for the rest of my life.

Tomorrow morning your dad and I are going to the hospital for an ultrasound. I can’t believe this will be the first time he will see you in person. With our busy schedules it has been hard to coordinate doctor’s visits, but after every visit I show him your photo and watch him study it for several minutes. He is so excited to meet you, my love. I think by now you know his voice better than anyone else’s because whenever he leans in to speak to you, you get very excited and start kicking me furiously. A couple of days ago, you were very restless and wouldn’t stop moving until your dad spoke to you. Suddenly, you stopped kicking and settled down for the night. It was the sweetest thing ever.

Almost everything about this pregnancy has been routine. We have had our moments of worry, but just like the wave it crashes and retreats leaving us renewed. I’ve gained around 25lbs give or take a few and our doctor assures me that you’re growing on target in every way. I have constant heartburn and lower back pain, but, it’s all worth it to me as long as you’re thriving. As far as cravings go, all I want are sweets all day and night. Luckily, I passed my glucose test so I don’t have to worry too much. I haven’t exactly been eating the healthiest lately, but you seem to be doing okay. We have another 6 weeks to go… and I’m savoring every day with you inside me. You are my tough little girl and I know you will get here strong and healthy.

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Every time I think of you, I think of the color green, lush and lively. I get an overwhelming sense of peace, like I know you are going to be fine no matter what. I felt the same peace with your brother, though he was a calm baby for the most part. His color was orange. You, I suspect, will be much different. Your energy is strong, determined and purposeful. I can relate to your sense of urgency but I hope you will allow me to soothe you when you are in my arms. I’m so grateful that you have chosen me to be your mother… I suspect we have so much to learn from each other!

Until we meet…

Love,
Mom