ramona & her mother, part ten

(this is essentially ramona’s birth story, but because her birth was so crazy, there’s a lot going into it. this is part ten of ten, & all are tagged “birth story,” in order to help you the reader navigate from one part of the story to the next.)

we’re taking off in a little while to visit her again for her week birthday. we’re bringing her some swaddling blankets from home & a knit hat. she’s off the jaundice lights as of today & we’ll be able to hold her as much as we want. she’s also off her cannula so we’ll be able to see her little face for the first time since she was born, with no masks or tubes or helmets. she has also started having baths, just once every few nights, & we’re going to make the effort to get involved with that. we attended a NICU-sponsored infant massage class that specialized in premature infants, & we went to the NICU discharge class last night. that’s a required class that parents enroll in “during the month that their babies are coming home”. no one will even hazard a guess at a date when ramona might come home, but we are cautiously optimistic that it will happen before the end of the month, in light of the head NICU nurse enrolling us in this class within a week of her birth. it’s basically an infant care & safety class with a special emphasis on premature/sick babies.

during the class, they talked a lot about how our babies will be “fortified milk” when they come home–either special premature/sick baby formula or breast milk fortified with premature baby formula. the nurse was all, “the formula powder is really helpful, it provides extra nutrition for baby’s bones!” jared & i were beyond confused about this. i know for a fact that ramona is just on straight breast milk right now. they specifically said that they were not fortifying it (although i guess they do fortify a lot of breast milk in the NICU). i don’t understand how i’m supposed to fortify at home. keep pumping exclusively & give her fortified breast milk in a bottle? that seems crazy & counter-intuitive. i don’t have the money to keep renting my hospital-grade pump forever, & pumping is such a pain in the ass compared to just sticking the boob directly into the kid’s mouth. we also don’t understand why formula powder would be in any way better for ramona’s bones than just regular breast milk. i thought “breast was best”? why wouldn’t she thrive on it? it’s worth noting that ramona didn’t gain weight when she was getting premature infant formula (back when i was only pumping like 1ml at a time). she started packing on the ounces when they switched to just breast milk. clearly it’s doing good things for her. why not just continue?

jared hypothesized that it’s a way to be respectful of women with supply issues. you know, tell them that everyone is fortifying & that it’s NICU protocol & it takes the pressure off of them to increase their output. because a lot of NICU moms did have cesareans, & premature babies, & were sick, & are dealing with the stress & anxiety of being away from their babies, & are trying to build their supply with a pump. this is a lot to deal with & it can take its toll on what mom is able to produce. if she feels pressure to make enough, especially because so many women are already so anxious about making enough (SO MANY women decide not to breastfeed before their babies are even born because “women in my family always have supply issues” or “i’m just not confident i’ll be able to provide enough nutrition on my own” or whatever), it just ratchets up the anxiety. i don’t know. we will definitely be asking about it before ramona comes home though.

one thing that has helped my supply a lot has been watching a video of ramona every time i pump. seeing her, & especially seeing her move & hearing her make noises, helps trigger the letdown. this was jared’s idea, because he is fucking awesome. this video was made when she was only two days old & has been my go-to until now. we’re planning to make a new video tonight since we’ll be able to see her face & everything now.

the only other thing i have that could really pass as advice right now pertains to FOOD. obviously, our situation is different from than of the average new parent. most people get to have their babies at home with them right away. but food is still an issue for us. usually by the time we get home from a NICU visit, it’s late & we are really tired. especially me because i have not had an uninterrupted night’s sleep in nearly two weeks, & will not have one again until ramona is weaned, at the very least. we don’t have much energy for cooking at that point. everyone says, “make some freezer meals you can heat up after baby comes,” or, “try to organize your friends into a food delivery system, have them drop off casseroles or whatever so you don’t have to fuss with cooking.” these are both good tips, but what about people like us who a) had their baby too soon to stock the freezer, & b) don’t really have any friends that are dropping off casseroles? (i don’t know if we just are not close enough with people for them to feel that they can do this, or if they don’t realize we could use this since we are not actually at home with baby yet, or what.) i really wish it would have occurred to me to register for some gift cards to local restaurants that deliver as part of the baby registry. a nanny friend bought us a gift card to a local pizza place & it was such a stroke of genius. this is what we really need, more than yet another onesie or receiving blanket.

i had therapy this morning & shared the whole story of being hospitalized & giving birth & having the baby in the NICU, etc etc. my therapist actually said, “um…how are you alive?! like, how is it possible that all of this happened & you walked here to tell me about it? this is ridiculous!” i told jared that i am so sleep-deprived that i am forgetting what i am saying even as i say it. he replied, “this birth story is going to be off the hook!” he also rather accurately observed that sleep deprivation makes me simultaneously incredibly laid-back & extremely assertive. it’s like i just don’t have the energy to get really neurotic about anything, nor do i have the energy to wait around while other people make crappy decisions.

so, that’s the story! it took me like three days to write this. hopefully you found it entertaining, relevant yet whimsical, with an underlying revisionist conceit that belied my attachment to the subject matter.

Published by Ciara

Ciara Xyerra wrote zines for the better part of two decades. She has a brilliant & adorable preschooler named Ramona & sews as much as she possibly can. She lives in Lawrence, Kansas with her boyfriend. She enjoys catching up on "The New Yorker", meatball subs, keeping it cranky, intersectional post-third wave feminism, dinosaurs, & monsters. If you have nothing nice to say, she recommends that you come sit here by her, so you can say not-nice things together.

10 thoughts on “ramona & her mother, part ten

  1. Thanks so much for writing this! Way to go with your milk production too, that’s spectacular! Ramona is a beautiful little girl & she’s lucky to have such awesome parents. As always, best of luck to you all! If I lived near you, I would totally bake you a ton of casseroles.

  2. Ah, the joys of milk. I remember when they had me on a pump, I was filling like 2 1/2 of those little 3oz tubes in a sitting, which worked out damn well since everything kinda stopped once Mally came home (the stress of dad and everything sort of short circuited me) and I still had TONS of milk in the freezer for her. My pump let me do one side at a time, too, which I guess yours doesn’t? Having that free hand really REALLY made it a lot easier to get everything taken care of than it would have been if I was trying to double fist it.

    It was nice to read this, and I totally got all verklempt because, man, I remember all this. Being in the hospital for who knows how long, suddenly having a tiny baby, all of it. Mally obviously wasn’t surgically delivered and I wasn’t dealing with as many health issues as you, but there were still so many bits where I was like ‘yeah, I remember that one’.

    Mally is so excited to have a cousin, too. I was reading this and she looked over my shoulder while one of the pictures was on screen, and she said that she’d really like to get to cuddle Ramona one day. And I’ll admit it, she’s not alone in that.

    1. i have a double electric pump, & i could pump just one side at a time, but i choose not to because then i’d be sitting there tethered to the pump twice as long. i’m still pumping eight times a day in the interest of building up a nice stash in case i want to quit pumping early–i’ll still have milk to give her for a few months. of course, that game plan will probably require the purchase of a deep freeze. i bought a couple of hands-free pumping bras, so i now have both hands free when i pump. it’s been awesome because now i can read or work on the computer or pay bills or whatever. once i even changed ramona’s diaper while i was pumping.

      it’s awesome that mally is so stoked about having a cousin. that’s really sweet. hopefully they will get to hang out someday.

  3. I’m a friend of Danielle’s and she led me here. 🙂 I love birth stories and yours was riveting. My son was also premature, born at 34.5 weeks, but he was also born at 6 lbs 11 oz, so didn’t have many of the issues Ramona had, so I didn’t know about a lot of these protocols, even in NICU.

    I loved reading about how Jared is so involved and I actually teared up reading about him finding ways to comfort her. You guys are already amazing parents and I wish all three of you the best. 🙂

    1. thanks! i appreciate the kind words, even though it took me like four weeks to say so. you have a baby, you understand. the time seems to move much faster when there’s a new little person who needs to be cared for.

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