The first week was amazing. A-maz-ing. I remember texting my friend Kristy, on October 15, “I’m high on life right now!” I really was on cloud nine. Oliver was feeding well, sleeping well, I was feeling all the feels and even though my recovery was really slow and I couldn’t do much – being with him was a dream. Someone told me that they didn’t really connect with their baby at first and that the newborn phase wasn’t their favorite. I remember thinking, “That’s crazy,” but little did I know that the next week I was going to know exactly what that felt like.
Things got tough around the end of week two when he started to take a lot more air in during his feedings and burping became an Olympic sport for us. My let down was so forceful, I would spray milk halfway across the room (hardly an exaggeration). He would feed for 2 minutes and we would burp him for 10, because if we didn’t – he wouldn’t sleep. He would cry. Suddenly we heard him cry for the first time since he came out the womb. It was so hard for me to be patient with the crying. I felt sorry he was in pain but hated the crying at the same time. I went to see lactation consultants but during the visits he was an angel baby and didn’t show his shenanigans at all.
By week 3 I was in full panic mode. To say I was anxious is an understatement. Oliver was screaming during every feed, arching his back in pain and struggling to burp. Daniel went back to work and it felt like someone had switched out babies while we slept. I was alone in the apartment feeling overwhelmed and anxious. I tried Mylicon, Gripe water and Colic Calm for baby but should have also taken better care of myself too. Nothing seemed to work for Oliver. Later I tried Simethicone and that didn’t work either. Oliver would choke if we lay him on his back and it constantly sounded like he was clearing his throat. We went to our doctor, who we LOVE, who said he had reflux and gave us some things to try like elevating the head of the crib mattress and keeping him upright after feedings. She also diagnosed him with Laryngomalacia, where the larynx is still soft and can become compressed easily. The flaps closing the trachea are also a little floppy so he makes a wheezing sound when be breathes. Seriously it sounds like he is on his deathbed taking his last few gasps of air. Panic much? Oliver fed every 2 hours for about 1 and 15 minutes, then needed to be held upright for 30 minutes, so basically I had very little time to gather my thoughts, have a shower or just have a second with baby not attached to me. It’s a huge transition from not having anyone that dependent on you.
When things got worse in early November, a month after he was born, we went back to the doctor who prescribed Zantac. I was hoping for a “miracle cure” but knew the medicine needed about a week to really start working. Seven days came and went and then two weeks. I became more and more anxious when I was alone at home while Daniel was at work. Oliver would arch his back and cry for what felt like the whole day. I would cry with him sometimes, out of sheer hopelessness. Thank goodness for some of the afternoons that I could go to my mom’s house and she could take him for a walk, help burp him and give him a bath (that’s his favorite!).
At this point, standing and rocking him gently was out of the question as I still had a lot of pain from delivery. I got a UTI and hemorrhoids. (Can a girl catch a break?.) I remember asking God to show me the lesson that I’m supposed to learn so I could get it over with and move on to some easier times. I didn’t feel like I could get out either because feedings were such a disaster and the thought of dealing with a screaming baby and boobs hanging out everywhere in public was awful. I have so much more patience and sympathy for mothers dealing with screaming children now. It’s amazing how changes in perspective allow you so much more compassion.
Just a side note – I know many parents have much more serious things to deal with, and my issues may seem very mild, but to me it felt huge. It still does. When you are trying to do such a “natural” thing like breastfeeding your child, but they are screaming and hurting, it really does something to your heart and mind. Oliver had started having a bottle of pumped breastmilk during the night and he seemed to do so much better with it. I felt like a failure and almost quit breastfeeding last Sunday. Mama guilt is real! I went to another lactation consultant appointment the next day and she said he was borderline tongue tied and that could be the reason he is taking in more air. She suggested leaving it and I agree as we think his troubles are more due to the breathing related issues.
We switched to Prevacid on November 22, Oliver was 6 weeks at this point. He woke up on Thanksgiving Day and it felt like we had our baby Oliver back. He coo-ed and smiled for about 30 minutes before his feed and I was able to see through the fog for the first time in ages. He still cried during feedings and got crabby if we didn’t get all the burps out properly, but he was much better!
Even though some feeds were good and some feeds were horrible with lots of crying and Oliver gulping air bubbles, I still felt anxiety about everything. * Edit: Looking back – I didn’t give my feelings a name or realize that I may have had Postpartum Anxiety and should have gotten some help. Every time I would leave Oliver I would try think of every excuse not to even though I know I needed a break. When I did get away I would constantly think that he was crying or fussing or needing me to help soothe him. When I was with him, I would feel anxious that I could’t get him to sleep or make him feel better when he was crying so it felt like I was in a losing battle either way.
Things got worse this week and we went to see a Pulmonary specialist after Oliver choked about 5 times in 3 hours. He confirmed our Laryngomalcia diagnosis and eased our minds a lot. Apparently the choking and coughing is “normal” for babies with Laryngomalacia. What? He said he sees many many babies that have this (and also reflux) and they do grow out of it! He said they sleep better on their side or on their stomach and so I just started sleeping him on his stomach and he is doing well so fat!
We are doing a swallow study this morning just to make sure the milk is going in the right place and then hopefully all our medical appointments will be done for a while! I feel so much better having seen the Pulmonary specialist, Dr. Black (and Nurse White, for real!). I was able to ease my anxiety a touch and calm down a lot. I realize that this is just a season and I will settle into our new normal in time.
Oliver also saw the chiropractor twice last week because they said he would really benefit with some gentle adjustments after the trauma of a vacuum extraction during delivery. He tolerated the first appointment very well and didn’t make a peep! He also didn’t sleep through the night the first night like I hoped, but he slept 5 and a half hours last night after his appointment which is his longest yet!
I am also feeling much better and am feeling so much more comfortable. I am looking forward to getting back into yoga slowly. I can’t thank my friends and family enough for the encouraging calls, chats, visits and meals. I am so grateful and couldn’t have done it without all of you. To my husband, Daniel, you are my rock and my support. You are such an amazing Dad and have had two hurting souls to deal with in the evenings when you come home from working hard for us. Thank you for encouraging me and burping Oliver when my arms were so sore I could barely lift a tissue to wipe the tears away from my eyes. We’ll get through this. We love you.
I am still learning to be patient with myself and constantly have to remind myself that I am doing my best. I am the mother that God planned for Oliver and I love him with a fierce, unconditional love. This season will not last forever (it better not!) and I will be able to look back and see that it made us stronger. For now, it’s still tough but I have learned that it’s not the end of the world. He is putting on weight and is otherwise healthy. I still have a lot to be thankful for, and hopefully you will see me more out and about in December.