August 26, 2013

Seanin's Nursing Saga

Those who prayed us through Ted's deployment are undoubtedly familiar with all the nursing/feeding woes we experienced with Zaden--starting with his drastic weight loss in the first two weeks, followed by a supplemental nursing system for 4 weeks, followed by recurring blocks and infections.  (For a timeline, view this post, although we had issues probably another 2 months AFTER this was written, culminating with me visiting a specialist in Cincinnati.)

Anyway.  After that traumatic year, you can well imagine that throughout this pregnancy I often had to wrestle with some fear demons that reared their ugly head, taunting me that things would be no different with Seanin--I was doomed to nursing failure.  I spent much time in prayer combating this, over and over giving my body and our baby to the Lord's hands and reaffirming His strength and power and my trust in Him.

I was delighted when Seanin seemed to nurse so well right off the bat, but our second day in the hospital found me with a very sore blister on my right side (the side with all the troubles during Zaden's nursing days) because his latch wasn't deep enough.  At home a couple of days later, the blister had toughened to the point that it was blocking the escape of milk, and I was fighting a rising panic that threatened to totally consume me.  Even though this blister was different from what had kicked off all my troubles with Zaden, the results were seemingly similar.  Much prayer and an SOS to some fellow nursing moms ensued.  I gritted my teeth and sloughed off the blister, hoping and praying for quick healing once the milk was able to flow freely again.  And we continued to work on Seanin's latch, which somehow seemed pretty decent on the left side but just wasn't working on the right.  (I couldn't even nurse him in the cross-cradle hold until just a few days ago--we had to do the football hold.)

I was in touch with the lactation consultant, who is wonderful, but I hadn't been able to reach her at the early part of this because she wasn't on duty.  It was during that time that one of my mom friends sent me some links to check out tongue and lip ties.  I had heard of tongue ties before, but never lip ties!  I looked at the pictures and checked Seanin's mouth.  Lo and behold--a very pronounced lip tie!

Now I was curious.  I checked all of my children.  Amazingly...and yet not...Kenna and Zaden have major lip ties, too!  The two children I had the most nursing difficulties with!  Zaden's troubles were epic, but Kenna's story, in a nutshell, involves an almost-total refusal to nurse for about 8 days after my milk came in (I'm not sure to this day how we kept the child alive, because she wouldn't take a bottle either--feeding sessions were total meltdowns for all of us involved), followed by yeast/thrush, followed by her quitting my right side at 8 months and finally pushing me away for good by 10.5 months.  She never was a great nurser, and I felt lucky that we even made it that long, honestly.

I am so grateful for this new information!  There is such a sense of freedom in knowing that there was a BIG physical contributing factor to the trials I had experienced with nursing these precious souls!  I had always assumed stress was the biggest factor in Zaden's troubles, since Ted was in Afghanistan the first 9 months of Zaden's life, and it wasn't until after his return that things finally seemed to resolve.  I'm sure stress WAS a factor, but oh!  It was so good to know that the lip tie must have heavily influenced things, too!

Check out this list of problems Baby and Mom may have when a lip tie is present (my comments in brackets):

Baby’s Symptoms:
  • Difficulty latching on or falls off the breast easily [Zaden's difficulties led to his weight loss the first two weeks]
  • Gumming our chewing the nipple while nursing [I don't remember this specifically]
  • Unable to hold a paci or bottle [Zaden never would take a pacifier; he's still a thumb-sucker!]
  • Gassy (babies with ties often swallow a lot of air because they cannot maintain suction properly) [CHECK!!  This was one of our pukiest kids!]
  • Poor weight gain [Referenced above...we had weight check after weight check...]
  • Excessive drooling [Hmmm, not really so much on this one.]
  • Baby is not able to fully drain breast [YES--that was what led to the blocked duct problems.]
Mama’s Symptoms [I had EVERY SINGLE ONE of these, although the discomfort during nursing tapered off]:
  • Creased/flat/blanched nipple after feedings
  • Cracked/blistered/bleeding nipples
  • Discomfort while nursing
  • Plugged ducts
  • Thrush/mastitis
While Ted was at the hospital doing Seanin's paperwork last week, I asked him to go to L&D and ask about lip ties and whether they would do a snip.  All my reading suggested that the sooner we could get it done, the better.  The folks on duty had never heard of a lip tie (I also read that many doctors aren't familiar with this!), so the Lt. said she would do some research and call me back.  She called the next morning and said she learned a lot and that they could schedule an appointment for Seanin to see the doctor first, and if the doc gave him a referral, then he could go to ENT to get the tie taken care of.

We were at the doctor's for his exam within an hour.  At first Dr. O wanted me to see the lactation consultant and see what SHE thought--THEN give me a referral.  I asked if there was any reason we couldn't just get a referral right away.  I told him the LC and I had been communicating and she was aware of the issue; furthermore, we had observed that my 6-year-old has a gap in her front teeth BECAUSE OF the lip tie--you can see the frenulum connecting her upper lip and where her teeth split!  So he did end up giving me the referral to ENT.

Unfortunately, when I walked over to ENT to schedule the appointment, we found out that the referral was a general one, which means they could only give me a "first-available" appointment slot, as opposed to an acute referral which could have gotten us in earlier.  As it stands now, we go in on September 9, but that doesn't guarantee us a lip tie snip that day--there is a good chance the ENT doc will examine him and then schedule the procedure for a separate time.  Sigh.

Thankfully, Seanin's latch issues all of a sudden seemed to get better...his lower jaw is relaxing more, he is opening wider, and he really must not be taking in extra air, as he isn't gassy or pukey at all.  So while I still think we need to deal with the lip tie, it's more for the sake of his future dental health and language skills (lip ties can cause lisps as well) than for nursing, although since I have Zaden's nursing history as a reference, I think it certainly would be beneficial to make sure Seanin can continue a good latch all throughout his nursing career so that I NEVER have to deal with a blocked duct or breast infection again!

It's been so interesting to learn all of this with child number seven!  God forbid I would ever think I know it all, LOL!  I do have to wonder how many moms who wanted to nurse their babies but felt they couldn't maybe actually COULD have if their doctors/nurses/midwives would have simply checked for tongue and lip ties immediately after birth?!  From what I understand, a quick snip at that point is virtually painless and would allow better chances of nursing success right from the start.  At least I have the information myself and can share with moms as the opportunity arises.

So, currently, I am pleased to report that Seanin is nursing like a pro now, peeing and pooping like crazy and already growing like a weed.  (When we saw the doc on Thursday, he was 8 days old and had grown one inch and was up to 8 pounds, 14 ounces, having left the hospital at 8 pounds, 5 ounces!)  Unlike my sleepy Zaden, whom I had to wake through the night to nurse in the early weeks, Seanin will NOT miss a feeding, ha!  Every three hours at night he wakes me up!  Now and then I wake him during the day, but usually he is ready to feed on his own.

I will never again take for granted the privilege of nursing my baby and thank God for allowing us to leap through these early nursing hurdles so well...aside from a few days of a sore right nipple, this has honestly been the easiest nursing transition I think we've ever had!  Praise the Lord!

August 19, 2013

The Birth Story

It should be no surprise that Seanin's labor & delivery story begins with a series of contractions that kept us wondering whether or not this was the real deal!  Tuesday morning, August 13, I had an OB appointment.  My regular doc is in the States on vacation, so I saw a shorter, less green and rather nicer version of Shrek instead.  (Seriously! Dr. N is very Shrek-like!)  When he checked me, I asked him to strip my membranes...but Seanin was so far up that he couldn't get the job done, and I told him not to push it...obviously things just weren't ready.  I was still only dilated 3 cm, which was a bit depressing after all the "fake" contractions I had been experiencing.

Well.  Maybe the check itself started things in motion, because by lunch time I was feeling DEFINITE pains.  They weren't close together...maybe every 15-20 minutes.  I tried resting; I walked on the treadmill; I paced the house.  I debated about throwing in the last few items into the hospital bag.  I alerted Ted and my L&D back-up team (Carla and Joyce, both of whom live close by and were eager and willing to help watch kids when the time FINALLY came).

Not much happened, other than the contractions continuing, sometimes every 10 minutes, sometimes 7-8 minutes apart, sometimes back to 15 minutes apart.  Sigh.  Ted came home early, but nothing of note was happening.  We ate dinner together as a family, and I got back on the treadmill while Ted read aloud from The Fellowship of the Ring.  (Which, incidentally, is the book I was reading the night I went into labor with Tobin!)

Finally it seemed that the contractions were coming closer together and feeling more intense--but not horrifically so.  Still, I remembered that the contractions with Zaden just never really got that bad at all.  Plus, everyone kept telling me that we'd better scoot to the hospital SOON because otherwise I might deliver on the side of an Italian highway.  You'd think so, right, after delivering 6 babies already?!  

But no!  It was indeed getting close to show time, but Seanin proved his mommy right over the doctor (who wanted me to move in across the street from the hospital) and took his sweet time coming.  I just don't have quick and speedy deliveries!  

At any rate, Carla came over around 8:30ish to stay with the kids.  The little boys were already in bed, and the older boys and Kenna followed not too long after, so Carla's job was fairly easy, thank goodness, and we were so glad we didn't have to call her in the middle of the night!  Charis, Ted, and I headed out the door, and I called the L&D ward on base to alert them that we were coming in.

Dr. O, the doc who saw me the night I came in with the beginnings of pre-term labor, was on call that night.  What a BLESSING!  He was a great match for our family!  (I found out later that "Dr. Shrek" had been out to dinner and had had too much he declined to drive in for my delivery.  No offense to him, but I'm thankful, ha!)  Lt. G, the nurse, also had been on duty that night, and she was there as well.  Perfect!  It was like having a ready-made cheering section, LOL, as they got to see the end of the story!

I was only dilated 4-5 cm, and he was still at -3.  Sigh!  Still, at least it was obvious that I was in real labor and didn't have to go home.  After a bit of monitoring, they let me get up to walk laps around the nurses' station, which helped bring the contractions' intensity level up enough to make me feel like they were actually doing something.

To this point, the worst part was getting my left hand stuck with the IV needle shortly after we arrived.  I didn't really want an IV so soon (I didn't really want one at all), but I didn't have much choice--with the hospital being so small, and with me having had "so many" kids already, they didn't want to take chances with the risk of me bleeding and not being able to stop after delivery (which, remember, was supposed to happen in the blink of an eye according to everyone's predictions!).  The tech who did the IV did not have success with it in my hand--poor Charis nearly fainted when she watched the whole ordeal (my hand is still a bit bruised).  They moved it farther up my left arm where it was tolerable.  

After some walking they wanted to check me again.  This time I was at 6 cm, but his head was still high.  I was getting pretty exhausted--going on 12 hours of contractions.  And while I had hopes for a drug-free delivery, I was honestly getting rather afraid of how much of an ordeal it was going to be to endure not only seemingly endless contractions, but also pushing a large baby out--I didn't know how big he was going to be, but in my head I had the words "9-pounder" stuck and playing like a broken record, just based on the assessments doctors had given during the pre-term labor ordeal.  ("Grande bimbo," the Italian doctor informed me, or something like that!)  Remembering how difficult I had found it to push 8 pound, 3 ounce Zaden out, I finally opted to get an epidural.

In some ways I felt like a failure.  I have so many friends who pop babies (even 9-10 pounders!) out with no pain meds.  And I felt proud (justifiably so, I think!) of my two drug-free deliveries.  I liked feeling like I could get up and move around more quickly than with the others.  Then again...the more I thought about it...Kenna and Zaden were my natural delivery babies, and they were also the ones who gave me the most issues with nursing!  Ha!  They were also born while Ted was, interesting case studies, perhaps!

But then, in the delivery room while I was later relaxing and listening to Ted snore while Charis snoozed in a chair, I spent some time praying, and I clearly felt God's Spirit whispering words of freedom to my heart.  In the scheme of things, I felt Him saying, He really didn't mind one way or the other what I chose for this delivery experience.  So I let myself quit stewing about it and instead thanked the Lord for the fact that I continued to have contractions and never really felt them!  

Every 30 minutes or so the nurses would come in and tilt me to one side or the other.  At 3:30am when they did this, my water broke!  WOOHOO!!

Sure enough, it was show time!  Ted and Charis woke up and things started happening.  Not as quickly as they might have if I hadn't been numb though, LOL!  It took awhile before I figured out how to push effectively, and I'm quite sure Seanin would have been born before 4:38am if I hadn't had any pain medicine!  Still, I must say it was WONDERFUL to push out a 9-pound boy and not feel any pain at all!

There were no problems, so I was able to hold him on my chest right away.  I so enjoyed being able to do that while the nurses wiped him down and doc did whatever he needed to do...again, hooray for not feeling any pain and being able to enjoy those precious first moments with our new son!  Charis cut the cord, though she offered to let Daddy do it since Ted was gone for Zaden's birth.  Ted later cut the cord closer, so they both got to cut it.

Our first nursing session was quite a success.  Ted headed home to relieve Carla of kid duty, shower, have breakfast, and get the kids ready to come to the hospital to meet their new baby brother!  Charis stayed with me and was quite a help.  (Read: She held Seanin pretty much constantly while the nurses poked and prodded and helped me up to the bathroom after I got feeling back in my legs.)

The kids arrived in a whirlwind of excitement!  It was so much fun to see their reaction and to announce the name, Seanin Gabriel, which was hailed after months of anticipation and guesswork!  Tobin and I were a bit disappointed that Seanin hadn't arrived before midnight, giving him an August 13 birthday--Tobin's birthday is April 13, and we were hoping he would have a birthday buddy!  However, we agreed that if Seanin had been born in the USA, he WOULD have been an August 13 baby, since he was born so early in the morning here in Italy!  As I mentioned above, there is also the common factor of the reading of a Tolkien work, LOL, plus the fact that both Tobin and Seanin have middle names of biblical angels: Michael and Gabriel, respectively.  Ah, well.  August 14 is a great birth date, too!

The kids all had a chance to hold Seanin, and then Ted whisked everyone away so I could rest.  Seanin and I stayed in the hospital for two full days; I had tested positive for Group B Strep, so they always want to monitor babies 48 hours in that case.  There were no problems at all, and I must say I was thankful for the extra time in the hospital, as much as I hated trying to rest in that helped with having peace and quiet for feeding times (which was a blessing, as I quickly realized that Seanin's shallow latch was going to take some working on--I got a blister almost right away, sigh, and we're still working to overcome that, although I am praising God that Seanin is starting to open wider and do better).

However, it was WONDERFUL to come HOME!!!  Ted has 2 weeks of leave...10 days of paternity leave and some use-or-lose leave days, so we are taking it easy, working on establishing good nursing habits/patterns, and generally getting used to life with a newborn again.  I have to confess that one thought I've had over and over is, "I'm SO glad Ted is HERE this time!"  He missed all this precious time with Zaden.  I can hardly believe that Zaden was 9 months old by the time Daddy was home for good...they had 2 weeks together during Ted's R&R leave.  Thank you, Lord, that those days are behind us!

He's Here!

Introducing Seanin Gabriel...
Seanin (SHANE-in), an Irish form of John, "God is gracious"
Gabriel, Hebrew, "God is mighty"

Born Wednesday, 14 August, 04:38, at the Naval Support Site hospital in Gricignano di Aversa, Italy
9 pounds, 21 inches

August 10, 2013

38 Weeks and Counting

I suppose the "no news is good news" will have to be my excuse for not writing an update sooner.  Septimus is still hanging out, and all is well with the pregnancy--aside from the typical close-to-delivery woes like an aching back, swollen legs and ankles, heartburn, and other sundry discomforts.  But today I received a reminder to be thankful no matter what my circumstances...two friends are having difficulties with their pregnancies, a sobering reality check that makes me reaffirm God's sovereignty whether or not events coincide with our human expectations.

(If you have a moment, would you please lift up A in your prayers?  She is delivering her baby at 34 weeks because of complications.  A couple of years ago she gave birth at 36 weeks knowing her little one had just entered God's kingdom.  I can't even imagine that heartbreak, but A and her husband K have a beautiful testimony of God's grace and are a strong, godly young couple whom I admire very much, even though I have spent next to no time at all with them in person.  And my friend T is experiencing bleeding in her 10th week of pregnancy with her 13th child, so prayers for her would be appreciated as well.)

So with those prayer requests in mind, I'm simply thankful that our little guy is still kicking around inside of me, even though I grow weary of waiting and wondering when he will make his appearance.  As happened with Zaden...and with Lucan...I have had several false alarms, with strong contractions coming anywhere from 5-10 minutes apart, getting stronger, preventing sleep, etc., going on for several hours at a time.  Any doctor would tell me to get to the hospital, but since this has happened with my previous boys, I've been loathe to run to the delivery ward only to have to be monitored and whatnot and then sent home.  It's exhausting mentally and emotionally, not to mention physically.  And one day this past week I met with the uncertainty of thinking my water had possibly broken--it hadn't, but it took a trip to the ward to get tested to make sure.

My prayer has been that we would KNOW for sure beyond any doubt when my labor really HAS begun, that God would graciously allow it to happen at a time when we can make necessary arrangements for the children and get to the hospital in a timely manner.  Since I had had several false alarms or "practice sessions" with Zaden, by the time labor really WAS progressing, the contractions really were not that bad, and I arrived at the hospital already dilated to almost 9.  So I'm slightly concerned that I won't really know when to take things seriously!!

My next appointment is Tuesday, the day before we hit 39 weeks.  I'm trying to mentally prepare for 41 weeks of pregnancy because it's too hard to get my hopes up thinking it's time when my body stops a few hours later and laughs at me for getting all worked up!