Tuesday, April 24, 2012

The First Two Weeks

Warning: This blog includes details of how a woman's body responds to delivery and breast feeding. Everything is strictly scientific and PG, but don't read on if it freaks you out!

Some people might get to the two week mark with their newborn and say, "I can't believe it's already been two weeks!" But maybe there are some of you out there that have felt like me and it seems like the first two weeks of mommyhood has lasted 6 months. It's not a reflection of love (or lack thereof) for my son, but rather a statement about how difficult it is to become a parent. Let me explain.

My labor and delivery experience was incredible (I'll blog the birth story soon) and I would do it five times over (all 16 hours) to have been able to skip the last 14 days. I know this sounds harsh, but I want to be really honest with myself about my personal journey with Titus. We went home 24 hours after delivery (first mistake, stay in the hospital the extra day if you have a tear or a long labor). The first couple of days were SO EASY. Titus had to be woken up every 3 hours to feed and went right back to sleep after a perfect 15 minute colostrum feeding (colostrum is the milky substance you make before your real milk comes in). My mom was staying with us to help, I wasn't to the point of exhaustion yet, and it was still fun to have friends come over.

Fast forward to day 5, my milk comes in. Without getting too graphic, I'll just say that I suffered from MAJOR engorgement and it was AWFUL (engorgement is what happens to the breasts when the milk comes in- it makes them tender, hard, and huge. It's incredibly uncomfortable). I would wake up at all hours in the night because they were so tight and sore and constantly leaked throughout the day. I had to use hot compresses before I fed to help my milk let down and then either hand express or pump to relieve some of the pressure. Then while I was feeding, my milk would let down so fast I had to constantly take Titus off and burp him/do more hand expressing because he was drowning in milk. When I finally finished feeding him I would have to use ice packs to bring down the swelling. This process happened with every feeding for about 4 days straight. I also had a 2nd degree tear, so walking and sitting were uncomfortable and I had a pretty stringent routine for taking care of my stitches which took a lot of time throughout the day.

At this point, it was starting to be less fun. We cut back on visitors. I cried every night at 8pm on the dot (another blog on baby blues to come soon). I was exhausted but I couldn't sleep. I was so uncomfortable because of engorgement that I had thoughts about quitting breast feeding altogether. But, we were making it and Garland was incredible (again, I can't wait to blog about how wonderful he's been!), so I was just trying to make it past the first two weeks, everyone kept teling me it got better if I could just make it to day 15.

Then I got sick. Really sick. On day 5 I started having nausea, low grade fever, diarrhea and completely lost my appetite (I was barely able to keep down a little apple sauce or toast for the whole day). This lasted all day and night (alongside the engorgement) until day 8 when I started vomiting uncontrollably and couldn't even keep down fluids. I called my doctor and they called me in some anti-nausea and anti-diarrhea medicine with the diagnosis of a stomach virus. I continued to throw up everything, including fluids, and it got to the point where my doctor told me if I couldn't keep down fluids by 6pm that night, they were checking me in to the hospital. At 5:45 I dry heaved but was able to keep down my gatorade so we decided to stay home. I want to be transparent at this point and say that I was ready to be checked in, I was just too tired to deal with it anymore. The only blessing was my engorgement went down and my breasts returned to normal feeling so I stopped my engorgement routine, giving me a little more time to sleep.

By day 10 (5 days into being sick) I was no longer throwing up but still not eating hardly anything and feeling nauseous with a fever. I went in to the doctor and they gave me a full check to make sure I didn't have an infection from the delivery or mastitis (an infection of the breast tissue from feeding)-everything checked out but I was so nauseous and weak they sent me to the ER for an IV drip and more testing. Everything came back normal and they sent me home where I felt hungry for the first time all week. I snacked all night and felt like things were finally looking up.

Welcome days 11-13 (over a week of being sick), and the cycle of nausea, fever, stomach cramps, feeling fine, feeling hungry, and losing my appetite completely. I was so frustrated because they didn't know what was wrong and I wouldn't stay better consistently. One day I would feel great, two hours later I would feel awful. During all this, Titus started having trouble feeding (he would grunt and strain like he was having gas during a feeding and it would take an hour for him to feed for 20 minutes) and the lactation consultant helped me to realize I needed to pump off my fast let-down milk before feeding him because his digestive system couldn't handle how quickly he was filling with milk.

The day before his two week check up my doctor finally decided to put me back on the strict breast feeding regiment (heat pads, pre-feed pumping, post-feed pumping to empty the breasts, ice packs to reduce swelling) that I had done during engorgement in case I had a blocked duct. Finally, I started to feel actually hungry for the first time in over a week. I ate a real meal and even had some ice cream for dessert. Even though it adds 15 minutes of pre-work to my feedings, it has been worth it because I finally feel better and Titus feeds better.

I can't explain how hard it has been emotionally, physically, and spiritually to get through this first two weeks. I love my son so much and he really is a pretty easy baby, but not even that could make up for this upheaval of lifestyle. I know for sure that I have been broken over the last 14 days and the Lord is my strength and my salvation forever. He has sustained me and has set my feet on solid ground. When all else had failed, my Savior remained the same.



  1. oh. wow. what a horrible experience. I totally get what you mean about it not having anything to do with how crazy you are about your son. i've tried to say the same thing before...while I was so excited about Ian's arrival, I kind of look back on the first couple weeks like it was a nightmare. But wow, not compared to what you've been going through!! hang in there. I really admire your perseverance. I hope things continue to look up. Take in a deep breath of sunshine - it does wonders for the weary mother. Congratulations on your new one!

  2. Oh, Sarah, I will be praying for you to feel better consistently and for things to just get better and better. Those first few weeks lasted a bit longer than a few weeks for me, and I just felt in a fog for a while. My sister-in-law always said that having your first baby is like ripping off a band-aid. You just have to do it, get through the fog, and then things will be fine. Praise the Lord babies are so cute because they aren't easy. But man, how He infuses love for our children as the days go on and on is incredible. Praying for you and can't wait to meet precious Titus!
    Oh, and I had an incredibly painful labor, dealt with a sick newborn, and then had mastitis two weeks later...and it ranked right up there with labor. I know that's not what you have and mine didn't last that long, but I can only imagine the pain. Happy you have found a solution and hoping it sticks!