Birth Story: The Hospital

Maggie spent her first 48 hours in the hospital nursery being monitored for rapid, shallow breathing and fluid in her lungs. This condition is rather common in c-section babies who have not been squeezed by the birth canal, but occasionally happens in more rapid labors. Mine wasn’t super-fast, but it was fast enough. For the first 24 hours she had an oxygen cannula (the little nose snorkel-like thing) tube taped to her wee face. This was a lot scarier to see than the condition warranted; nobody likes to see their baby clad only in a diaper in the NICU-grade bassinet with wires running off them like a damn experiment lab rat. Even if the stickers used to secure the monitors are shaped like teddy bears.

For me, the birth (post-epidural ;-D) was mostly a source of joyous laughter; I was worried when she was rushed off with the world’s tiniest oxygen mask, but we had gotten some skin-to-skin time before they realized her breathing was off and we got to see and snuggle her beautiful little moon face close up. Plus Tom was with her and I trusted him to keep me in the loop. I didn’t feel the urge to cry until we hit the nursery about an hour and a half later for our first nursing and her first bath. (Girlfriend needed a shampoo rather badly. Birth is GORY, y’all.) Then I cried. The nurses understood how important it was for me to nurse, and we had our first go at it. It went really well, and she went back to sleep. They brought me back to the room and I made my first attempt to use the restroom, a process that can only be described as a black comedy.

Throughout the course of our first 24 hours, I had to go to Maggie to nurse. This was an unforseen benefit to not rooming with her–it got me out of bed every two hours for a nice long constitutional to the nursery. Her latch was great and we spent all of ten minutes with the lactation consultant covering proper positioning. We didn’t need any more help than that.

Problem was this–with the tubes in her nose and with my sore parts, she got distracted really easily and by the time she latched on and got down to business, it had become excruciating for me to sit. I gritted my teeth, readjusted myself on the inflatable donut, and kept going. Somewhere in there they took her for chest x-rays. The neonatologist then told us that she needed more liquids to help her metabolize and reabsorb the fluid in her lungs. We would have to supplement with formula. (Imagine a crinkling noise heard here as I folded my birth plan into a paper airplane and sailed it out on to Punchbowl Ave.)

I am not morally opposed to formula; I have no issue with supplementing per se. For me, the worst thing about formula is the smell–nasty formula burps, spit-up, poo, blech. So it wasn’t an ethical/moral dilemma that got to me. The economist in me recognized the issue of supply and demand, to wit: if Maggie got the goods wholesale from a bottle with a nice wide rubber nipple, would she continue to tolerate my boutique wares at a lower quantity? Nipple confusion would really screw us up later on. I really wanted to exclusively breastfeed at home, for all the medically indicated benefits and bonding, and because I am cheap ($20 a can for formula, sweet skipping Jesus) and not fond of the myriad odors of formula.

The other thing was that in my sore, hobbling condition, I couldn’t run back and forth to the nursery like Tom. Tom could feel useful fetching me ice packs, water, snacks, and running to and from the nursery far more often to practice diapering and swaddling with the nurses. In my state, nursing my poor oxygenated baby was the best way for me to feel useful. Alas, it was supplement with formula or put an IV in her tiny wee skull for the required liquids, so obviously we supplemented and I nursed at every opportunity. There was another unforseen benefit here: Tom administered the few bottles she received and was able to bond at another level with his daughter.

I spent most of the hospital visit on the phone with relatives, scuttling back and forth to the nursery, and keeping an eye out for Josh Holloway, who plays Sawyer on the show “Lost,” whose wife had given birth the day before. (He is quite handsome, tall, and the accent is real. Tragically, I saw him in the nursery when we were getting a consult and could not bring my unwashed, braless, and slightly bloodstained self to ask for an autograph. Poor taste and all.) After the first day Maggie was weaned off the oxygen and brought to our room for feedings, where she ate like a champ. Her stats improved greatly with skin-to-skin contact, so I did as much of that as possible. She did well enough that we didn’t need the extra day of monitoring that they thought we would, and after stripping the room of all possible freebies, we went home on Sunday afternoon.

Happily, aside from a small bout of constipation that seemed to affect Maggie not in the slightest (her panicked parents were affected and bothered, but our amused, rectal-thermometer wielding pediatrician and Maggie, not at all), there was absolutely no nipple confusion or other problems associated with the bottle and we were able to stop supplementing a day after we got home. It seems that Maggie is not picky about where her meals originate.

We have been exclusively breastfeeding ever since, and I’m grateful to report that our only problem is that she sleeps so soundly that occasionally I will need to wake her up to relieve Mama’s full tanks because I am too lazy to get out the pump and store up. I attribute this to equal parts good luck–good latching from Maggie, good initial supply from me–and all the recommended practices to improve supply have worked well for us. (Knock on wood; I should continue to be so lucky.) We have lots of skin-to-skin contact during the day when it is cool (she gets icky heat rash if I do it in the afternoon). We do not practice the “family bed” style of co-sleeping, as Tom and I are violent, deep sleepers, but we have a co-sleeper sidecar attached to the bed and she is no more than a foot away from me. She is increasingly more comfortable in our babywearing wrap after some initial resistance and Tom looks adorable using it. She has begun to nap in it, although I will transfer her out and let her complete her nap in the co-sleeper so I can do things like cook a hot meal and shower. Her physical strength is incredible, astonishing her pediatrician, and she is developing delightfully hammy little rolls on her legs and arms. She is wake and alert for long periods of time and seems happy to let Tom and I talk to and play music for her.

In short, she is strong, thriving, pink and plump as a Christmas ham, and has a mellowly cheerful little personality. We are thrilled she is ours.