Monday, April 24, 2006

The baby roller-coaster

Everyone says the first two weeks are the hardest. We don't even have it that bad - plenty of relatives to help out, both of us at home, insurance coverage and good doctors. But still, when they send you home from the hospital with that tiny little bundle, it doesn't matter how many brothers and sisters you've helped with, or how many hours of babysitting you've logged, or how "naturally" maternal or paternal you are - it's an overwhelming responsibility. Our hatchling is impossibly beautiful with her little downy head and huge blue eyes. Her head exudes that awesome baby-essence that smells so good, and her tiny little fingernails and sweet button nose are completely enchanting. She's the perfect size to hold and she's already an expert cuddler. You can't help but want to take care of her ... and that's where the roller-coaster kicks in. The car we're curently riding is labeled "feeding issues." I don't know a family that hasn't had some anxiety over how their baby is eating, and we're no exception. Since Ellie nursed like a trouper in the hospital, I foolishly thought we were home free on the feeding front. HA! Naivete, thy name is first time motherhood. It would seem that our wee one suffers, like her mama, from reflux. I guess it's not that uncommon in new babies, and she'll likely outgrow it - but until she does, feeding is less a time of gentle bonding and more a time of high anxiety. Her little tummy hurts all the time, which makes it harder to eat, which makes her frustrated, which makes breastfeeding nigh unto impossible. She just gets too angry to latch on, and then she's even more hungry, and more upset in her tummy, etc., etc. Not a good cycle. After spending a day and a half where it took over an hour just to get her calm enough to feed - and even then she still seemed hungry, like she wasn't getting enough milk - Mr. Squab and I were feeling pretty done in. There's nothing that feels more hopeless than seeing your baby hungry and upset and not being able to fix it. And - especially your first time around - you aren't even sure what's worth freaking out about and what's not. I'm a pretty mellow person, as is Mr. Squab, but you know, we haven't done this before. The doctors and the books all tell you how much the baby should eat and how many diapers they should have, and so forth. But they don't tell you what your freakout point should be, and dammit, that's what I want to know! I mean, ok, she should be eating 8-10 times a day. But, like, does that mean anything under 8 is a problem? If she's eating 6 times a day and flourishing, that doesn't seem like it should be a big deal. But what if she's eating only 5 times a day? or 8 times a day and not flourishing? Or what if she's eating fine but not producing enough diapers? Or none at all? I mean, my normal tendency to just let things slide is shot all to hell!

Fortunately, the next day we had our home healthcare visit - and lord, what a good idea those are - and the nurse helped us figure out some coping techniques (feeding her through a dropper until she calms down; supplementing with a little formula to get her some needed calories, etc.). We have an appointment with a lactation consultant tomorrow morning; Ellie nursed well last night and today, and like our pediatrician says, there are two mantras for this period: This Day Will End, and Everything is Going to be Fine. So maybe we can get off this particular car soon and head into the next part of the roller-coaster. Baby's First Cold, maybe? Sleeping Issues, anyone? Everything is going to be fine, everything is going to be fine ...