I love being a mama. I love being Dresden's mama. It's honestly such a privilege seeing this little boy grow every single day, and seeing him smile and coo at me. He has this super huge grin (as I'm sure most babies do) that makes my heart feel like it's absolutely melting inside. There are moments when I'm holding him and I'm just overwhelmed with how much love I have for him. However...if you would have asked me how I enjoyed being a mother even a month ago, I don't think that's how I would have responded. It would have sounded more along the lines of ..."Being a mom is a challenge. I love him, but it's really, really hard."
I'm sharing this because in the age of social media it's so easy to share the highlight reel and the picture perfect moments, and it's far more difficult to share our daily battles.
A month ago, we were battling colic. It started maybe a week after we left the hospital, so he was about two weeks old. I have very low milk production (almost non-existent now) and YES, I have tried everything. Power pumping, oatmeal, fenugreek, skin to skin, Mother's Milk tea, Mother's Milk tincture...the doctor even prescribed a medication that has side effects of increased lactation. Nada. To be honest, I think that the stress of some external circumstances once we left the hospital really impacted it, because I had been steadily increasing up until that point.
We had been supplementing with formula in the hospital, and while we had been using Similac there,we decided to buy Earth's Best Organic formula when we got home. Because, you know. Organic. So, once we got home and started doing both breastfeeding and formula supplementation, we noticed that Dresden would cry as if he was in pain until he passed gas or burped. And despite our best efforts, it was a struggle to get him to burp. We mentioned this to his pediatrician who then suggested that it was possible that Dresden had a dairy sensitivity and that we should stop formula all together and cut dairy out of my diet. Well, with my low supply, it was difficult to not use formula. Dresden would want to be at my breast the entire day, trying to suck something out. And, as expected, it made his crying worse because he now was constantly hungry. I researched the best formulas for dairy sensitivity and landed on Similac Alimentum. Holy moly. Not only is this formula expensive as all get out, it REEKS to high heaven! Apparently, it tastes awful too. However, the change in my diet and the formula did nothing to alleviate Dresden's apparent pain, and his crying escalated to the point where if he was awake, he was crying. I'm talking all out, screaming to the top of his lungs WAILING. On top of this, it seemed as though Dresden hated sleeping. So, we've got a baby that cries while he's awake...and he's always awake.
We were buying gas drops and giving it to him at every feeding, and that seemed to help some, but the boy was still exercising his lungs like that's what he was brought on earth to do. And it was awful. It made his nighttime feedings unbearable. I used to look forward to the night, in our childless days... but after his colic, I would literally dread nightfall because that meant getting up, groggy and disoriented, and dealing with a mad/in pain baby. His constant crying affected me and Gabriel both individually and as a couple. It was so hard to be patient after his ceaseless crying, and there were moments when we had to call the other in and hand him over because we were at our wit's end. It affected Gabriel and I because we were so stressed out and tired and on edge that we just snapped at each other. This led to so much pain and confusion. Almost every night, I would cry and wonder if it was because I was a horrible mother! Some of you may judge me, but I honestly, in those moments, hated being a mom. I didn't hate my son, please don't misunderstand me. I hated being a mom because my son obviously hated us, because I didn't know what I was doing, because I was exhausted, because I didn't even ask for this. I'd beg understanding from God - this baby, this miracle baby, so unexpected and unplanned...obviously he was your will for our life. So why has everything been so hard? Why is this so difficult and impossible?". In addition to this, I would stress out because I knew Gabriel's impending deployment was fast approaching, and I honestly couldn't imagine dealing with this without him beside me.
We were on Google constantly. Chamomile tea, gas drops, the Windi (which is fun by the way, getting pooped on! Yeah, try it.), almost every single colic calm formula that you can imagine, different bottles, the "Miracle Blanket" (which is THE best swaddle, by the way, we still use it). I mean, we tried everything. All of the parenting books urge you to have a "schedule" for your baby, to try to establish routine early on and so we were trying to stick to a "schedule" of feeding him 3 oz only every 2-3 hours and making sure he went down for naps at a certain time, but with him crying often, the only thing that was schedule were his feedings. I had gone to a lactation consultant who told me that I definitely needed to be supplementing because I was producing almost nothing, and she confirmed that 3oz was about right for his age. She told me that if he seemed hungry, I could go ahead and up it to 4oz. She also told me that she didn't think he had a milk sensitivity and because the Alimentum was so awful, to go ahead and switch to a regular formula. I was also putting him on my breast after every feeding so I thought that the minuscule amount he was getting from me would be sufficient to "top him off".
Fast forward to our trip to Texas a few days later. I had switched him to Gerber Soothe with probiotics, and with the help of his gas drops and colic remedies, we were doing ok. Not great, but better than it had been. While I was in Texas, I decided to up his feedings to 4oz, and he responded to that really well and chugged the whole amount. But the first thing my mom would ask me, when he started crying was "Is he hungry?" and I would get so exasperated. "Mom! He LITERALLY just ate. He can't be hungry." My cousin then texted me a few days into the trip and asked how much he was eating...because her newborn was already eating 3oz! She thought maybe Dresden was still hungry. And me, so confident, responded "No, no. We just upped his feedings to 4oz." During this time, his passing gas seemed to get more and more painful. It was awful to see him try to pass gas, and even worse to see him attempt to go poo. He was so constipated that he would turn beet red while trying to go, and to the point that my parents were urging me to take him to the emergency room. I called my pediatrician and she recommended that I try a baby constipation liquid supplement for immediate relief but also a probiotic and switching formula for long term change. I immediately got in the car and drove to the store. When I came home, my mom looked at me and said, "Mia. Your baby drank 6oz of formula." WHAT?!?! 6 oz?!?! Talk about eating a big ol' slice of humble pie. I had been so confident that he didn't need more formula. The lactation consultant had even assured me that that was the right amount! I couldn't believe the feeling of utter disappointment knowing that I had family around me telling me to feed him, and I hadn't listened. Needless to say, I started giving him more formula, and we made the switch to Gerber Soothe and it seemed to respond really well to his stomach.
Now, bear in mind this only solved one of our issues. Dresden was still fighting sleep. I mean...fighting. My precious boy has the biggest eyes, and he's constantly looking around and looking up as if he's just trying to understand it all. Because of that, I think he's very sensitive and gets easily overstimulated so that if I don't put him down for a nap, and make him sleep, then he wont...which then affects the quality of him sleeping at any other point in time. Obviously this was especially difficult as we were in Texas visiting friends and family, and everyone wanted to meet him! It was hard having to say no sometimes, because he just needed to be sleeping. If we didn't make sure he had his nap and we missed that "window", we would put him down, and he'd wake up 30 minutes later...fussy and crying. Try to put him down again...5 minutes later, awake. We realized that we HAVE to make sure he naps after maybe an hour or an hour and a half of being awake! Even if this means rocking him for 30 minutes, for an hour. He NEEDS that nap!
Coming to the present day...with his new formula and probiotics...I feed Dresden as much as he wants, when he wants. And I won't apologize for giving him formula...as a new mama I can't tell you how often I heard, "breast is best" but I firmly believe "fed is best" and my baby is living proof of that. Moreover, I say, screw the schedule. Maybe it works on some babies, and maybe it will work on my future child, but for this baby, I'm not going to force it. I'll make him 4-6 oz of formula, and if he wants more, I give him more. He lets me know when he doesn't want it! I also make sure I'm putting him to sleep after an hour and a half of being awake. I cannot believe the difference that this has made in my baby boy. Gabriel and I joked..."Is this the same kid we took to Texas? I think we brought the wrong kid back." Yes, he still struggles with gas issues, especially burping, and sometimes passing gas, but nothing to the point where it was before. I feel like I've finally connected with my baby because he's not crying constantly, and it's changed my life. It was so, so, so incredibly humbling to recognize that part of the issue was that we simply weren't feeding him enough. Even thinking about it now makes me so sad.
My uncle and aunt told me a story while I was in Texas, about their pediatrician and he told them, "You know all those books about babies that you've read? Your baby has read none of them." Essentially, your baby is going act how they want, how their little personality or their needs dictate them to act...and that can't always be found in the pages of a book (or Google). One of the most difficult, but rewarding lessons that I've had to learn as a mother. And I'm sure that's only the first of many more to come...all worth it for this precious little man.