Postpartum Part 400 – When Birdie Wasn’t Gaining

I hear people say they don’t remember what life was like before their baby.

I thought about this at 4:00 a.m. as I watched Birdie’s monitor. Get the paci, Birdie. You can do it, get it! She got it. I can go back to sleep- kind of. What that means is that I can go back to half-sleep with the monitor resting on my stomach so I can easily grab it if need-be. I’m a hung strung new mom so “need-be” is always the case.

Do I remember the nights pre-Birdie? Oh yes I sure do. I remember sleeping a lot. And I remember enjoying it. I remember long drawn out mornings doing whatever the hell I pleased. I remember pilates. Oh, how I miss pilates. And running errands at my leisure. I remember all of it. And sure it was nice, I’m not discrediting that time by any means, but I will always choose now. I will always choose time with Birdie.

Except for … well except for the time I’d never like to visit again. It’s the time when Birdie was only ten days old and she wasn’t gaining weight, she was losing. As I type this now it doesn’t seem as scary as it did when it was happening, I’m sure some of you might even read it and think what’s the big deal? Lots of babies don’t gain right away. And sure that’s true, but when you’re in the thick of it, when you’re a new mom with just ten days under your belt, everything is scary. Every. Last. Thing.

Bath time was scary. Changing clothes was scary. Leaving the house was scary. And being told by our pediatrician she was “very concerned” about Birdie’s weight and we needed to go to Children’s Hospital asap was about as bad as I’ve ever felt in my life.

So like I said, this wasn’t the best time. And I could just skip over it and talk about something a lot more fun and silly like I prefer, but then again I can’t help but think there might be another new mom out there in the thick of it right now just waiting for someone to tell her it will be okay. That her baby’s chubby leg rolls will arrive. That someday people will comment, “I love your baby’s cheeks” rather than, “your baby is too skinny…” (Please don’t ever make a skinny baby comment, the mom knows. And she’s probably sick about it. So just don’t.)

If you’re the new mom who is scared of everything, this post is for you. It gets better.

At Birdie’s ten day appointment we were told she still hadn’t gotten back to birth weight. And worse, she was down from her previous appointment. I felt like I fed her constantly so this really caught me off guard. And I thought babies were supposed to cry all day if they were hungry and Birdie didn’t. She was chill and happy, or at least I thought she was. Was she actually hungry all day and I didn’t know it? The thought made me sick. It still does.

I had to show the pediatrician how I breastfed to ensure I was doing it right. I had milk, Birdie was latching, she was eating. So what was wrong? I remember telling our pediatrician how she’d stop eating with milk all over her face and a dazed little milk drunk smile expression. “I’ve seen it! I know she’s eating.” I don’t know who I was trying to convince, our pediatrician, or myself. “Should I switch to a bottle?” I begged, waiting for her permission for some reason. I didn’t care how Birdie was fed, I just wanted her fed.

And yet our pediatrician said not yet. “We wanted to avoid nipple confusion.” In the meantime, we needed to get a heart scan at Children’s to make sure it wasn’t something internal.

Chris and I sat with this info for only a few hours before we said screw that and promptly poured a bottle with the breastmilk I had saved in the fridge. As new parents I think it took us some time to realize we were in control. The pediatrician was there to help, but it was ultimately our decision. And right then we wanted Birdie to start eating, however that may be. She chugged a 6 oz bottle on the spot. At her next feeding we poured another bottle. She chugged it once more. I would breastfeed her, then switch her to bottle. This was my attempt at trying to get Birdie in the habit of taking both, which luckily she did.

When we got to Children’s she had already gained a little in only 48 hours. When the heart doctor asked how things were going I responded, “I’ve just done a really bad job at feeding her, I’ve realized. When she wanted to sleep, I let her sleep. I should have woken her to feed her, but I didn’t.” And he put his hand on my shoulder and said, “You have not done a bad job at anything. You’re a new mom and I can tell you’re doing a great job.”

I think his words made me cry. And by “I think” I mean I know they did. For the first time since we brought Birdie home I felt like I could finally take a breath.

Her scan came back to show she had no internal problems, although there did appear to be some small holes near her heart that usually heal on their own. We have a follow up next month just to be sure. We were told that day that we have a “very healthy baby,” and I’ve never appreciated those words more as we left the Children’s Hospital and I met the eyes of so many families who I could tell were not leaving that day. They had large suitcases and laundry baskets full of stuffed animals and I knew they were there for the long haul. Why did I get to leave but not them? I think of those families a lot. I think of how lucky we are to have a healthy baby Birdie and I know that not everyone gets that privilege.

As soon we switched to a bottle and could track how much Birdie was actually eating, she started gaining weight immediately. I will never know why she wasn’t gaining before. The milk was there, she was latching, she appeared to be eating and even milk-drunk after, but the fact remains it wasn’t enough. I’m just happy that Chris and I went with our gut as parents and did what was right for Birdie.

I stopped breastfeeding and went to strictly pumping shortly after all of this. It was clear the bottle was better for Birdie and it became apparent I was only breastfeeding for me. For me to meet some standard I didn’t even realize I had set for myself until I had Birdie and fell into some societal expectation about what moms should or shouldn’t do. Once I realized it made no sense for me, it made even less sense to continue. “It stops being liquid gold when it’s costing you your mental health.” If you know the source of that quote (I saw it shared without it) please tell me so I can add it because it’s a good one. Fed is best. Fed is best. Fed is best.

So do I remember a time before Birdie? I do. And on second thought, even though the scary time was absolutely awful, I’ll still choose it rather than any time pre Birdie. Because the scary times make the normal times feel that much sweeter. Now if you’ll excuse me I have a diaper to change and some cheeks to blow on.


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