(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.