the real truth on breastfeeding

I don’t know why they call this womanly. Or natural for that matter. Breastfeeding isn’t easy at first, and it sure as heck isn’t glamorous.

There’s things the books tell you, but they don’t really lay it out on the line. And even if you’ve done it before, you’re right back in the thick of it before you truly remember exactly what it is like.

There’s the leaking, that’s always fun. There’s nursing pads on the market to catch the ‘drips’ but really, they don’t make anything for streams. I’m telling you all this so you’ll know in advance. It took me two days to realize the reason I was chilly was not because the house was, but because my shirt was always wet. And since this is baby #4, I think my bra size is now a 42 long. Forgetting to actually wear a bra for the past week or so probably didn’t help. I realized this potential problem when found I was leaking on the waistband of my pants.

There’s also the fluctuating size and condition of my beloved breasts, once so tame and modest. There’s the above mentioned spewing of milk every time Emma cries, whimpers or fusses. Okay, so they also leak whenever she ‘adjusts’ her schedule and is late for a feeding, whenever someone even mentions nursing her, or just spontaneously. Dave next door even asked (because he was curious) if they change size depending on how much milk is in them. I wisely resisted the urge to haul up my shirt and prove it. they go from empty and floppy, to extra-full and rock hard, and every point in between. It’s like magic, or a new toy.

“Fluctuating Breast-O-Rama! Never needs batteries!”

Emma occasionally has the habit of not draining a breast (or two). This sometimes leaves full and slightly painful pockets of milk just sitting there. Sometimes I think I may have enough leftover to help support a third world country.

And then there’s latching on. Sounds like some sort of tactical manouver. We manage to connect up correctly most of the time, unless it is say, 3 a.m and Ron is sound aslep and I can’t reach over him to turn on the light. It’s also rather difficult to do (even with the lights on) when you have an excited baby rooting around furiously and screaming in frustration while trying to dock their mouth onto a spraying slippery nipple.

It’s not just the boobs, there’s the whole rest of the outfit. The baggy sweatpants you wore while pregnant which are now stretched beyond repair, the t-shirt with dried-up blotches of milk in various places (including wet spots), wooly socks, and ragged housecoat. Don’t forget to pull your messy hair back quickly, forget brushing it, and add some big dark purple circles under your eyes. Add a half-filled lukewarm mug of tea in one hand, baby on hip and a stale cinnamon roll within easy reach of the rocking chair. The expression on my face should be a mix of frustration and bewilderment over the fact that Emma will fuss and fidget when she’s done nursing, but calm down completely when I hand her over to Ron.

There. Now you have a picture of me.

For some reason, Ron finds this incredibly attractive, and most of our older friends & relatives keep looking at me like I’m the Madonna and Child. But I wouldn’t change a thing, and I might secretly be enjoying every moment.

Except for the intermittent screaming.

Back to a new kind of normal

Well, I’m almost back to normal. I can move around without any aches or pains or cramps or stinging, which is nice. I have this unbearable urge to clean and reorganize my entire house from top to bottom.

I haven’t felt like this for… oh, say five years. It’s like I’ve been asleep all this time, and on waking, my goals for the day are crystal clear. Okay, they’re also short and brief for now, (feed baby, change baby, run to bathroom, eat – repeat) but my word, it really puts a whole new perspective on things. And I really feel like doing all kinds of stuff. I feel energetic. Except for the lack of sleep, of course.

Emma has settled a little into her own schedule. Of course, she varies right when I get used to it, but still. People keep asking if she’s a good nurser. Well, duh, of course she is. She has to nurse or she doesn’t get fed. Babies do have a sucking instinct. I guess this is people’s way of asking if I’m nursing well without trying to offend me.

The kids are getting used to her being around. I keep saying they are Emma’s fan club. All she has to do is whimper, and they are right there in her face, cooing and stroking her. She’s still not cute enough for them to change her diaper, but she may wear them down.

Emma throws me a bit, or maybe its because I have so many kids. I keep calling her Meaghan for some reason. She looks a bit like Sarah, and a lot like Addison. Like all three rolled into one. She doesn’t act a thing like any of them. Well, when she’s fussy, she’s a bit like Sarah was without the ear piercing screams. She doesn’t like to nurse herself to sleep, whereas all the other ones did. She spits it out, then wants to rock for a bit, then leave her alone. Unless she’s gassy, in which case you have to rock her until she is zonked out cold, which takes about a half-hour. Oh, and she seems extremely sensitive to what I eat. I think. I’ve been eating bland food since yesterday but she was still fussy, especially at 2 a.m. this morning. Ron pulled duty and rocked her, and I went to sleep. Two hours later, it was my turn, but I was able to roll over, nurse her for ten minutes and have us both fall back to sleep for a couple more hours. Then she has a four hour stretch, but thankfully, the whole house sleeps along.

Now I’d like for that long stretch (she has another from about 7 to 10 or so..) to be during the night proper, but I’ll take what I can get for now. After a month or so, we’ll try to adjust her schedule a bit more to our liking. And maybe we’ll let her actually cry before anyone picks her up, too.

The big operation

My doctor was in this morning, cracking a joke about how I couldn’t wait for him. Ha. Anyway, he also informed me that he’d try to squeeze me in for the big operation, and was I still 100% sure.

Um, yeah. Don’t want to go through all this again.

I had asked Ron on the phone, just to be double sure, and I knew he wouldn’t ask me not to, just for him. When I asked half-jokingly if he wanted me to hold off so we could try again for a boy his, “well, do you want to?” kinda threw me. We finally got that ridiculousness sorted out, and I promised to call him around lunch so he’d know when he could come visit again.

We also figured out a name that all of us liked. The kids had vetoed Zowie on us, but we vetoed most of thier suggestions as well. Brttany Christina? Don’t think so. So we’ve settled on Emma Elizabeth, not after anyone in particular, but my grandfather’s mother’s middle name was Emma, and Betty-Jo used to be called Elizabeth. Long story there. Elizabeth also means “dedicated to God”, so we liked it for that reason as well.

Lunch trays had come and gone again, and since I was rather starving, I got one of the nurses to find out when and if I was headed downstairs to be snipped. Finally things were happening. Emma had been in my room all morning and was getting really fussy. I didn’t really know what to do with her, especially since I had no idea how long this would take, and I had nursed her on and off all morning.

Luckily, a nurse came in to talked things over and start getting me ready. I told her how Emma was, and she asked if I’d like them to give her a bottle while I was gone, if she needed it. I was a Bad Mother and said YES! It was a good thing, too. Emma was needing some calories, which was why she was fussy, and my milk hadn’t quite come in yet. I also needed a really good nap. Selfish me.

I’d never had an operation before and was wondering which way they’d knock me out. After I got wheeled down there all tucked in on my stretcher and leaving my glasses behind, the anesthesiologist in a nifty M&M’s Christmas hat gave me the low down on the general. Wheew. I was sorta glad they were using it, as I didn’t want one of those extra strength locals, since the stitches I’d had and countless trips to the dentist had left me with a bad feeling towards locals that didn’t work. I really didn’t want to feel them rooting around in my belly.

Eventually, the doctor and a nurse came and got me from my storage bay and wheeled the rickety stretcher down to O.R. #6. I could see it, because it was painted on the wall about 5 feet high. We also squished my doctor against the wall with the stretcher so I made some joke about always getting the cart that doesn’t steer.

In the o.r. I wiggled over to the big table while the nurse quickly explained all the machines and set me up on an i.v. The last thing I remember is breathing in some oxygen from a mask while M&M guy injected some sleepy stuff in my i.v. I know I said something funny that the nurse repeated for him, but I can’t remember what it was. It might have been the bit about how the doctor looked a little like John Cleese.

It seemed like 5 seconds later when I woke up to a different nurse in a much different room asking me how I was. Great, except for feeling like I swallowed an extra-dry elephant. My my those drugs make you woozy. I remember pretty much all I said (sheepish grin) and I’m sure it was her job to keep me talking and feed me Popsicles. Two banana, one orange. She asked about my baby and I told her how we’d been expecting a boy we were going to call Joseph, and wound up relating the whole genealogy of Joseph (of the famous coat) and his brothers, father and mothers. I did say I was sorry, though, since my hubby was studying to be a minister and it happened to stick with me.

Back upstairs, I found Ron and the kids waiting for me, and the bed across from me was now occupied. I was still really groggy and my throat still hurt. Emma came in for a feed and pass round the room. I can’t really remember anything the kids said, or much of what I did. Eventually they left because I couldn’t stay awake any longer, and a kind nurse took Emma back so I could take a really long nap.

Later, Ron told me Meaghan asked him why Mommy was acting so weird.

After I woke up (after supper) I felt much better, but my throat still wasn’t feeling great. Emma was none the worse for wear, and nursed fine, so I’m sure the bottle didn’t hurt her any. My boobs felt fuller, which was good. I also took a peek at my stomach. There was a band-aid over my belly button with a long scab under the adhesive. Great, I thought. Either they need two band-aids to cover the gash, or they missed.

But I wasn’t going to check to see anytime soon!

Emma’s birth story

Warning! This is very detailed and graphic! (more…)


“I had the strangest dream…” I said to Ron. “I dreamed I went into labor all on my own on Saturday night and we had to pile all the kids in the truck and rush to the hospital at the beginning of a snowstorm, and it hurt like heck, mostly pressure, not at all like those other contractions I’d been having. The doctor there was the same one who delivered Meaghan, and I was already 6 or 7 centimeters dilated but the monitor didn’t show very strong contractions I thought. So they broke my water, and the next thing you knew I was pushing, but I was sooo very tired, but finally they were saying we had a girl and she was smaller than the other kids and we were so stunned we couldn’t say anything. Isn’t that the funniest thing you ever heard?” And Ron turned to me and we laughed together, shaking our heads.

Then I woke up staring at a hospital wall and realized that no, I had been dreaming a dream and this was reality. Soon, a baby cart was wheeled in and a nurse handed me my new baby girl. She looked at me and I looked at her, saying, “I hope you like blue, honey.”

Later, Ron came back, looking like nothing in the world could wipe the smile from his face. The wrinkles has all smoothed out and I think the shock had finally worn off. I got out of bed so we could go to the nursery and stare at our new addition, but of course, we had to have a full body hug. Partly because now we could, and partly because we hadn’t had a chance to earlier. As we stood there clinging to one another, trying not to sob with relief, the faint strains of a choir could be heard singing “Silent Night”. Yeah, really. A choir with all the men in tuxes and the women in long gowns drifted slowly by, singing and pausing briefly at the doorways to each room.

We went to the nursery to pick up Emma, and Dad of the Year held up his new baby girl to the window so the whole choir could see while they serenaded her with Jingle Bells.

What a merry christmas.

email announcement from Ron…

Hi folks,
I wanted to open with a word of thanks for the many congratulatory messages. We are very happy not only with the final outcome but also how well this went (relatively speaking). We discussed a good many names a few times today and passed a few finalists by the children and decided to call our little lady Emma Elizabeth. As many folks have asked how Andrea is doing… She is tired (naturally) but this was by far her easiest delivery. I expect at this time she is enjoying a good night’s rest (interruptions to nurse included). I am sure that by Tuesday she will be wanting to come home. I have enclosed a couple photos. We will have more in the days to come.


The story of me & him

It seemed like it happened a lifetime ago, and like it happened to someone else. Twelve whole years to the day have gone by since the day Ron and I officially met. He laughs at this, although recognizes the importance of it, for it was really the day I noticed him.

Ron blends into the background well. He’s a wallflower and kind of unremarkable to look at. Maybe that’s why I didn’t notice him sooner, even though we’d had a conversation or two. I was like that. He wasn’t dressed trendy enough, or demonstrative or outspoken enough, or strikingly handsome enough, and besides I thought he was taken already.

We were going to the same community college, in the same course. Computer programming, and I was in first year trying to find my bearings and he was in second year at the top of his nerdy class. I had decided by this time that this course was not for me, but I’d finish the semester and just not go back after Christmas. Couldn’t miss the class party, could I?

Of course I couldn’t, I was a Party Girl. Never turn down a chance at a good time. There would be food and dancing, and I was still too young to drink (not too young to be a parent!), but there were Men there too. I had given up on finding someone to love me just for me. That was the stuff fairy tales were made of. Those things only happened in books. Life sucked so you’d better get used to it, and try to have a good time when you could. So I made arrangement for a babysitter, painted my face, chose a sexy outfit, arranged for a drive to and fro, and off I went.

Ron, unbeknownst to me at the time, didn’t know if he wanted to go or not, but he knew for certain I’d be there. He didn’t like parties or crowds much and he certainly wasn’t dressed for it. He could turn right at the intersection and go home, or he could turn left and go to the party.

So there I was, laughing and flirting and generally having a “good time”. I’d gone downstairs with a crowd of mostly guys to have something to eat in the restaurant portion earlier on in the evening. We were all on our way back upstairs to where the real party was. I remember the dark corridor, and rounding the corner. I remember the music fading into the background. I remember when I turned and looked straight ahead there he was. Ron happened to choose a seat in direct line with the door, and right under one of those recessed lights. The glow from the light shone down on him like heaven itself. Funny, I hadn’t heard from God in so long, I didn’t recognize his whisper.

Our crowd was headed for that table anyway, so I sat next to him. I was drawn to him for some reason. Him holding a beer, nursing it carefully for the whole night, wearing his worn-out jeans and a big baggy handknit sweater that had belonged to his much-larger brother.

I can honestly say he threw me for a loop, a big one. He didn’t appear to want to play the usual mating dance ritual I had become programmed to. He wanted to know what I thought, what I felt. Sure, the flirting worked somewhat on him, but I found it odd that he seemed more amused than anything. It was a weird feeling.

Kind of like when I first wake up some mornings, and briefly wonder where I am. A hundred miles from the physical place where we met. Two and a half more children. A house, a brief ceremony, a few cars, a couple of careers, a heck of a lot more stuff, and a whole new routine and belief system. A lifetime away that has barely begun. An eon away from where we were.

Because he turned left.