We brought Kate home from the hospital a week ago today, so I wanted to write a little update on how we're doing. To put it mildly, Matt and I are smitten. Kate is the most precious creature we've ever encountered, and we love her so much!
Our main challenge has been in the feeding department. Kate wasn't a very good nurser even in the hospital, but since babies are born pretty well nourished-up from life in utero, and don't actually get hungry for a few days, the magnitude of her feeding difficulties did not become apparent until we got home. She would latch on to the breast only briefly, taking three or four sucks and then letting go, or falling asleep almost as soon as she was put to the breast. (In the hospital, the lactation consultant had originally thought we had a latching problem, due to Kate's desire to suck her tongue and get it in the way, but later just said her sucking was "uncoordinated.") We would have some "successful" feedings, but with her starting and stopping, I didn't realize just how little milk she was really getting. She cried a lot and sometimes refused to nurse altogether Saturday and Sunday. It breaks my heart to think she was really getting hungry, and yet for whatever reason, could not/would not eat.
I could go into more detail, but given the feelings of angst and even failure I felt in those first few days, I'd rather not. It brings tears to my eyes even now to think of it. Suffice it to say, by Monday morning, I called the lactation consultant at the hospital (who I had tried to call Saturday, but she does not work weekends), and she told us to go to the pediatrician ASAP. So, we did, and found that Kate had lost a significant amount of weight over the weekend. The doctor insisted we start bottle feeding pumped milk immediately. I had already been pumping since Saturday, at the advice of my mom's cousin, who is a nursery nurse in California, since I was clearly making more than Kate was eating, and we didn't want my supply to go down. So, we went home and fed her a bottle. Though her sucking was still "lazy," starting and stopping and all, she found it much easier and was able to eat a good amount. From there, things got much better as she was able to sleep well, had clear alert periods, and was much more content overall. We went back to the pediatrician on Wednesday, and the doctor was extremely impressed with the amount that she'd gained back in only two days! So, she's now doing great, and I am pumping and bottle-feeding every few hours, around the clock.
I have definitely been disappointed at not being able to breastfeed her directly, but I am glad to be giving her my milk. As I sobbed to her while bottle feeding her my milk that first day, "I made this for you!" We met with the lactation consultant Tuesday, who was very helpful and hopeful that Kate would feed directly from the breast at least some of the time. Since then, she'll take a nip from the breast now and again, but still gets the bulk of her meal from the bottle. I'm trying to focus on what makes Kate happy and healthy, and not on my own wishes for how this would go, but I'm going to keep working with the consultant to see if we can make progress toward Kate getting at least some of her meals straight from the breast.
Physically, I've been doing pretty well, as the immense discomfort in my nether-regions, resulting from the third degree episiotomy, is gradually improving. In the hospital, it was painful and extremely difficult just to get in and out of bed, not to mention going to the bathroom. I'm still not at 100%, but feeling much, much better. (Advice to other new moms--don't put a mirror down there for at least a week!!)
The emotional side has been a bit more shaky, with the aforementioned feeding frustrations and feelings of failure. In those first few days at home, I cried at least once a day. A good feeding would fill me with confidence that everything would be fine from then on, and a bad feeding would send me to the depths of despair. Love for this child is so overwhelming that all I want in the world is for her to be happy and healthy, and in those moments when she was screaming in frustration and flailing her arms at my breast, I felt I was failing in that most basic goal. Being prone to depression as I am, I have long worried that I would suffer from postpartum depression, and of course, it could still set in, but I do feel quite happy overall, my sadness limited to this breastfeeding issue. I am discovering love on an entirely different plane, and every day is filled with the joy of getting to know and care for this amazing little person.