I just had the most disturbing dream. In the dream, I went to the zoo (and didn’t even see any animals) and left Sami in the car w/out realizing it. Eight hours later, I went back to the car and Sami was alive, but emaciated. He looked like a little concentration camp victim.
I began to breastfeed him and was sort of spraying a stream of milk into his mouth (wish I had enough milk to do this in real life), which was opening like a little baby bird’s. It was so weird, and disturbing.
Hmm… it doesn’t take Freud to analyze this dream, when I am so terrified of my son being too skinny, and that I am going about this feeding thing all wrong.
Dukkha means “suffering” in Pali, the language spoken during the Buddha’s time.
I have to laugh at myself — this morning there was a short Buddha-dharma study group I wanted to go to, just a 2 minute drive away. Much to Hani’s exasperation, I insisted on taking Sami. Hani was kind of baffled as to why I wanted to take him, as the class was only an hour and 15 minutes long, and they’d be fine without me. I’d be away from the baby an hour and a half, tops. I guess on a deep level, which I’m only now acknowledging to myself, I felt guilty leaving the baby to do something just for me, even if it was only for an hour and a half.
Well, once I got there, I got to look at my own suffering pretty well. I was terrified the whole time that he would burst out in his “rebel yell,” although he slept peacefully through the class. I was so attached to the idea of him being “good” = “quiet.” It was really a trip to watch my mind. At the beginning I was actually cold with fear that he would wake up screaming like he often does, and I would be embarrassed because I was the stupid woman bringing her baby to class. I went through all these mental scenarios of what I would do if he started wailing.
I was acutely self-conscious of being the only person there with a baby, feeling that it was inappropriate, etc. although Vicki, one of the instructors of the class, gave me her OK to bring the baby. As of late I have restricted my activities largely to baby-friendly spaces. Or at least spaces where it wouldn’t be immensely disturbing if he cried. Well, luckily it was a short class and my suffering was brief. I did notice a big opening up when I acknowledged to myself how freaked out I was, and that it wouldn’t be the end of the world if he cried, and was able to relax and let go of the icy-cold fear thing.
I did get a lot out of the class, though it sounds hard to believe. It was a review of the Four Noble Truths. One thing that really stuck with me was when Louisa referred to the 3rd Noble Truth, the Truth that there is a way out of suffering, as “personal disarmament.” I love the teachings so much.
After class, so many people came up and admired the baby, told me how cool it was that I brought him, etc. But I don’t think I’ll bring Sami back to the class again, when he can be home safe with his daddy. I learned my lesson! Although my primary job these days is to be a mother, it’s OK for me to go to a short class here and there on my own.
Sami was one month old yesterday. I need to get on typing up his birth story! Kate, our birth doula, came by for her postpartum visit today and shared her notes with me from the birth. I learned that I was pushing for 2 hours and 15 minutes rather than 3 hours like I had thought (that 45 minutes makes a difference!!). I also learned that his little hand came out alongside his head which is probably why I tore…
We downloaded the birth pictures from her camera, and I finally felt ready to see them today. I remember right after he was born, she asked me if I wanted to see the pictures and I said “no thanks!” I think I didn’t want to re-live what I had just gone through. It’s crazy to see the pictures of me in so much pain, and weird how you kind of do forget the pain. A blessed amnesia. And it was absolutely wild to see this little man emerge from my coochie! I still can’t believe I did that…
Today was a pretty good breastfeeding day. I feel like my milk supply is up–maybe it’s all the herbs I’m taking? Just yesterday I received a shipment of the More Milk Plus tincture from Motherlove Herbals. I’ve also been maxing out on fenugreek capsules and an herbal tea blend that I got from Aviva Jill Romm’s Natural Health After Birth book. Anyway I pumped 6 oz and it’s only 7:30 pm, which means I can probably get in a few more pumping sessions today.
Sami also had more alert periods and slept a lot more than he usually does between feedings, which I can only take to mean he is feeling satisfied! He is up to 8 lbs, 3 oz today which is a 6 oz gain from last week — not the 8 oz of the week before, but not bad. Very much in the healthy range. Kate assured me that he looks healthy — I worry that he is too skinny but she pointed out his chubby cheeks. It’s good to get some outside validation that I am not starving my baby!
In other news, I’ve gotten very good at picking things off the floor with my toes when he’s nursing. Earlier in the day I picked the computer charger cable up on the second try. Just now my cell phone died and I picked that charger cable up on one try. New skills of motherhood…
Sami and I had such a busy day today! This morning we went to a La Leche League meeting. I remember attending a couple of these meetings while I was still pregnant, and it all seemed so strange and abstract. I was certain that breastfeeding would be so easy for me. All I had to do was give birth! I remember being in awe of how beautiful the babies were, how easygoing and happy their mothers seemed — all surface impressions, projections, obviously. I remember thinking that this was a club I was on the verge of joining and felt a potent mixture of fear and anticipation about that.
This time, I ended up staying after the meeting and talking for a long time with Jane and some of the other mothers about some of the issues we’ve been having. It turns out more of the LLL mamas than I thought had also had initial difficulties. I felt comforted that they had made it through, and perhaps I could, too. Mamas are such nurturing people. I can hardly believe that I am one.
Then we went out for lunch with auntie Shira at the Parkway Deli, and Sami slept the whole time like a little trooper. Thanks, Sami! The car ride puts him out like you wouldn’t believe.
Shira and I talked a lot about what it has been like for me so far being a motherless mother. We both lost our mothers — hers last year, and mine 10 years ago. Like the mother club, there’s also the motherless daughters club. We share a special bond through our gains and our losses. Reminds me of the 8 vicissitudes of life the Buddha talked about: pleasure and pain, gain and loss, praise and blame, fame and ill repute. Life is full of these. Which do we accept, and which do we reject?
When we got home, I called the number of one of the cranio-sacral therapists my lactation consultant gave me. She happened to be able to see Sami today before going out of town for a week, so I jumped on it. Cranio-sacral therapy is a very gentle form of bodywork–most of the time she cradled his head and sacrum in her hands. Sami was so awake and alert the whole time–she said she had never seen such cooperative infant. She told me that she can observe through his movements where he is holding tension in his body from the birth, etc.
I am not sure how much it helped him — his suck feels a little better, but then again she said it can take a few days for the treatment to work through his little body–but it also felt like a therapy session for me! I really liked this CST– she was an older woman, maybe in her late 50s, and had such a loving, gentle energy. Sami loved her too — he only cried when it was time for us to leave! I had put him in his car seat and he was crying so hard. “Sami,” she asked, “Do you want to nurse?” and he went completely silent. We took that as a yes. She taught me a lot about communicating more with Sami — always telling him what I am about to do, etc. I have been doing that and really enjoying it.
Turns out she is also from a Buddhist orientation–and we talked about my (very high) expectations for breastfeeding. “Every time you get attatched to outcomes, you’re setting yourself up for the opposite to happen,” she said gently. I knew she was right. We talked a lot about my fear and anxiety and how that can affect the baby. We also talked about how my mother had so wanted to breastfeed me but wasn’t able to for very long, due to our frequent separations within a short time of my birth. “So you’re trying to do what your mother couldn’t do,” she noticed. “That’s a lot of pressure!” I said, realizing that out loud for the first time. I cried a little bit during the session, because I realized how much I wanted this whole breastfeeding thing to go well, and it wasn’t going as well as I’d hoped, and I was having such a hard time applying my mindfulness training to the situation. Of course — it isn’t the situation — it’s what you bring to it. How easy it is to forget! I felt a flood of compassion for myself and Sami. We both have been trying so hard, and whatever happens, it will be OK.
“It’s like this,” said the Buddhist master Ajahn Chah. I need to make that my mantra.
Sami must have nursed for three hours straight last night. I still wonder if he got enough food in him? It’s one of those things that is so hard to tell. This slow weight gain thing is so emotionally harrowing. This little guy just hit the 8 lb mark at 4 weeks — and his birth weight was 7 lbs, 7 oz. I feel like a bad mother, like I’m not feeding my baby enough. But then, who knows? He gained 8 oz last week, and has had lots of wet and poopy diapers.
I just want him to get fat and roly-poly like babies are supposed to! I’m jealous of all these moms with chubby breast-fed babes. Maybe I just need to be patient. But how to be patient when you suspect your child is not getting enough to eat?
I thought this breastfeeding thing would be so easy. I read books while I was pregnant, took a workshop, even attended a couple of La Leche League meetings. I opted for a natural home birth (more on that later) in the hopes that I would not have any of the medical interventions that can sometimes interfere with establishing breastfeeding. And I have these huge ta-ta’s, after all. I should be ejecting gallons of milk. I should be a great, flowing double fountain. Instead, I am one of those Low Milk Supply women, it seems. Am I dooming my breast feeding relationship with Sami by even going there, since milk production is hindered by stress and admitting this is inherently stressful? Am I creating a self-fulfilling prophecy? Or am I just being smart and realistic and facing the problem head-on?
There is so much grief at (apparently) not being able to meet my baby’s needs. People say there is no shame in supplementing with formula, and I agree, but I am not yet ready to do that, unless it seems we really have to for his well-being. Neither our pediatrician nor the lactation consultant I am working with think we have to go there, yet.
We are up against so many issues — the latch has never been good, although I recently had the lactation consultant evaluate it and she proclaimed it “not that bad.” My nipples are sore, but not agonizingly so like they were in the very beginning. I feel like my boobs are so huge, and Sami’s mouth is so small. It’s a vicious Catch-22. Once his mouth grows, I know it would get better, but he’s growing so slowly that we can’t seem to get to that point! Meanwhile with a less than ideal latch his not stimulating my breast enough to increase milk supply.
So I have started pumping with a hospital grade pump but can’t seem to get much out — maybe 1 oz from both breasts/session. But then again, according to the breastfeeding experts, not being able to pump a lot is not necessarily indicative of low milk supply–some women just can let down for a pump. That’s another thing, I don’t have the whole “let down reflex” going. I don’t feel a darn thing. I just have to assume that milk is coming out when he nurses. It’s the whole not knowing thing. Also, it’s hard to sqeeze in those pumping sessions since Sami is a boobie maniac. Hani finger feeds him the milk I pump with this little plastic syringe and he eats it up so hungrily.
Sami has this very weak suck. He just sort of nibbles at the breast — I do hear him swallow but not often enough for my taste. I wonder if he might benefit from Craniosacral therapy or a chiropractic adjustment? I did have a very long labor, and he was malpositioned (posterior/ sunny-side up). Maybe something got torked during labor, something with his jaw or his skull? Do I sound desperate or what? Well, I am. Plus I have this vicious kink in my neck that won’t seem to go away. I really need to relax. It’s time to breathe, maybe take a hot bath. I need a massage!
And, I need to remind myself to be grateful — he is latching on after all, he likes to nurse, and some babies refuse the breast altogether. This could be so much worse. And so what if he nurses for three hours straight right now? He won’t be this tiny forever. I should just chill the hell out and enjoy these moments of closeness, with his sweet little body tucked against mine. While it’s not perfect, he is being nourished by my milk. Plus, he looks so cute when he nurses, munching away so intently. It’s one of the only things that soothes him — his whole body relaxes totally. Right now he’s nursing and his little eyes are closed and his hands are curled against his chest, mummy-style. When he pulls off the breast he makes this great big smacking sound. And when he’s really hungry and latches on, he makes all these funny babbling sounds, like he’s saying, “finally! what does a baby gotta do to get a meal in this joint?”
My son Sami is four weeks and one day old today, and he has totally taken over my life– as it should be. Right now I can’t imagine working on my book or doing any kind of substantive writing, but I told myself I would write in my journal every day since his birth. Well…that hasn’t happened, unfortunately.
Sami nurses a LOT (I’m talking hours at a time. We’re having major breastfeeding issues–more about that later) and I physically have a hard time holding the journal to write in it while he nurses. Write when he’s sleeping, you say. But when he’s sleeping, I’m sleeping (or pumping — more about that later too) so there goes that idea. It’s much easier to type on my laptop with one finger while I’m nursing, hence the name of this blog.
So I’m hoping that by making it easier on myself, I’ll write more, every day, even if it’s just short snippets… These days are so precious and I don’t want any more of them to slip away unrecorded.
I want to write about this beautiful/crazy/intense/exhausting/pushing every one of my inadequacy buttons mother trip. I want to write about how Sami has expanded my heart’s capacity wider than I could ever have imagined. I want to write about his developmental milestones and all the little things he does that make me and his dad smile or want to tear our hair out. I want to write about how motherhood has expanded my identity — not erased it. I want to write about the challenges of balancing writing and motherhood, motherhood and mindfulness/meditation. I want to write about what it means to be a motherless mother.
I want to document this new, all-encompassing phase of my life with all the authenticity and compassion I can muster.
Welcome to this blog - my chronicle of the illuminating, character-building path of single parenthood. I'm making this up as I go along. My life is my practice, and my five year-old son is my greatest teacher.