As I’m typing this, there is a very good chance that my left nipple may be bleeding. Is that too much information? Forgive me. I’ve been up since 4 AM this morning and it’s 11:34 PM at night (not sure if it’s still Saturday or Sunday as Friday seems to have been a complete blur).
So this is how we realized why our baby Ellie has been crying during all of her waking hours:
On Thursday of last week, on her one month birthday (the one month anniversary of the most insane morning of my entire life), I took her to the pediatrician for a check up. Excited for her weigh in, like a wrestler before a big competition, I was all chatty and smiles to the receptionist and nurses. They told me to remove Ellie’s clothing before the nurse weighed and measured her. Like the 30 days in a row prior to this doctor’s visit, she screamed at the top of her lungs as I took off her terrycloth onesie, her kimono undershirt and then the dreaded diaper. There was no consoling her (as always). I tried the shushing, then the tapping of her back, rocking, some singing…she screamed louder and louder.
The nurse weighed Ellie and made some passing remark that she only gained one ounce. ONE ounce. In TWO weeks. WHAT? She had gained 9 ounces in TWO weeks at our last visit. This couldn’t be good. Then the doctor came in and the nurse relayed this information and the doctor quickly said, “Please re-weigh her.” And the nurse did. And again, she said, “Only one ounce gained.”
Um, what the hell was happening?
Then the nurse leaves and the doctor asks me to discuss my nursing schedule – how long do I nurse her? (forever) how long in between feedings? (there is supposed to be time in between feedings?) what am I eating? (girl scout cookies, bagels and granola bars – I don’t have time for real food) am I drinking lots of water? (trying to) am I getting any sleep? (is that a trick question?) did I ever have breast surgery (no), does the baby seem hungry between feedings (always)…then as I’m racking my brain for the answers to these questions in my sleep deprived state that don’t make me sound like a criminal parent, the doctor gets called out to an urgent patient in another room. So I’m left there sorting out these questions and The Husband calls to say he’s done with work for the day and is going to come meet me.
Ellie is still naked, so I cover her with a blanket and try patting her back, rocking her in my arms, shushing into her ear – but again, like so many days before, she is SCREAMING and her face is all pink and I’m sure everyone in the entire office must be wondering if I’m pinching her. Five minutes later, The Husband walks in and I tell him that she’s only gained an ounce and I see the look of concern on his face and I almost lose it entirely. It seems like decades, no centuries, before the doctor comes back.
I tell her that I have been nursing Ellie every 90 minutes – 3 hours during the day. Every 2-4 hours at night depending on if she wakes up. And that with rare exception, she cries about 90% of her waking hours. I tell her that Ellie seems to want to nurse as long as I will let her. She never seems to reach a state that she just comes off the boob with satisfaction. After my last blog post, I started inquiring into getting a baby swing. I read books on colicky babies and babies with reflux. The Husband and I started using the baby carrier where you strap the baby to your chest using a device that looks like a backpack and that we have walked around our apartment at all hours of the night using this thing as it seems to calm her down (or that by the time we decide to use it, she’s cried herself to sleep).
The doctor was calm and careful with her words.
“I think Ellie is just really hungry,” she said.
I wasn’t sure what to say to that. It seemed so obvious. I felt like the biggest moron that ever walked the planet. I’m supposed to be lawyer? And I can’t figure out that my baby is STARVING? The next 15 minutes we devised a plan to see whether increasing Ellie’s feeding schedule would result in a weight gain. I would need to pump my breast milk to know the quantity being fed to Ellie and then supplement her with formula. We doubled the amount we thought she was getting and would wake her regularly during the day to make sure she was getting the calories she needed. We also discovered that Ellie has “thrush,” which is basically a yeast infection in her mouth. This could also have contributed to why she hasn’t been taking in as much milk as she needs (and also could explain why my boobs / nipples have been in utter agony).
The doc asked if I had any formula with me (Ellie was still screaming) and I did have an emergency bottle in my diaper bag. She wanted to see how Ellie took it, so I whipped it out and within about 30 seconds, Ellie downed an entire 2 ounce bottle. She then started screaming again.
“Yes,” the doctor said. “I think she’s just hungry.”
We agreed to come back the following Monday for a weigh in and to see if our new plan had worked. So off we went to the pharmacy to get some medication for the thrush. When we got home, I fed Ellie 4 ounces, the most food she’s ever eaten in one sitting. She spent the next hour wide awake and NOT crying – a first for her. Then she napped for the next two hours and when she awoke and I changed her diaper, she miraculously did not cry (another first). I don’t want to jinx it, but so far, this pattern has pretty much repeated itself over the last 48 hours. This morning, she had her eyes open for another hour and actually gave me a few quick smiles. Is this the same baby?
So perhaps it will turn out that this baby is not colicky. Maybe it’s not reflux after all. It’s just that her parents were starving her to death. It breaks my heart to think of all those late nights and long days when I was shushing her from crying or the late nights when I rocked her for 2 hours in the glider to get her to stop screaming when she was trying to tell me that she was hungry. How did I not know this?
I ordered and started taking lactation cookies & vitamins, drinking the milk inducing tea bags and applying all sorts of ointments, creams and butters to help with the boob pain. I’m not sure that any of this is helping, but I’m trying. Ellie is eating like a horse. I’m relieved she’s responding so well to the larger feedings, but still feel terrible that I can’t seem to produce enough milk to keep up with her demand. Pumping is a beast of an activity, especially with sore boobs.
On a bright note, she is a completely different baby today than she was a week ago. Her face is filling out and some of her newborn clothes are getting tight. I won’t say we’re out of the woods yet until that weigh in tomorrow.
And in case you’re wondering, I’ve gotten NO thank you cards done this week or weekend. But my in-laws came to town this weekend and watched the “new and satiated” Ellie for a couple of hours so that The Husband and I could go to the MOVIES. That’s right – we did the impossible. Made it to a movie. I slept through two-thirds of it, but who cares – I was OUT. And it felt really really strange not to be with Ellie and I didn’t like it at all, especially that my cell phone didn’t work in the movie theater. The Husband told me to relax and not worry about it. Yeah, right. It’s impossible to shut this feeling off. Like there’s a limb of my body missing. A phantom limb?
Alright, Miss Ellie is stirring which means I have exactly 4 minutes to finish this blog post, take the breast milk I’ve been pumping out while writing this post and transfer it to a bottle and then the fridge, sterilize the 4 other bottles we’ve used today, change Ellie’s diaper, feed her, burp her, swaddle her and take her to her crib.
I hope Ellie forgives us for having no clue that she was hungry all this time. And I hope no permanent damage has been done. We’ve got a big day tomorrow. It’s the weigh in that could mean the difference between a happy Monday and the doctor reporting us to child protective services.
Wish us luck. I’ll leave you with a picture taken of Ellie after we gave her that first 4 ounce feeding. It’s definitely a gas induced smile, but we’ll take it.