Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Another baby, another nursing strike

As you may have noticed, this blog has been void of anything of real 'depth' for a while. Food posts are great, but of course the real stuff of life is just simmering under the surface. I've been trying to figure out how to deal with the many raw emotions I have right now and how to appropriately handle them. Blogging also leaves the very real challenge of sorting what to say and what not to say so as not to hurt the people I love at all.

On October 25th I was at a fro-yo place with the kids and some friends. I got home around 5 or 6pm and it looked like Craig had dropped his stuff and ran. I then noticed a missed call. He was at the ER with his mom. Several hours later the first diagnosis of cancer came. She was transported to Virginia Mason in Seattle the next day where a malignant tumor diagnosis was confirmed. As of a month ago it was Stage 4A, large cancerous tumor of the larynx. Within days she had surgeries to receive a tracheotomy and feeding tube. She cannot eat or breathe or talk through her mouth any longer. She is on a continuous 16 hour feed through her feeding tube because a surgery she had many years ago left her stomach unable to have a tube in it. Her tube is in her lower intestine.

It has been nearly a month since the first diagnosis. Our life has been a whirlwind. Many tears, a lot of stress, a lot of discovery, and trying to take things one step at a time. Craig's mom is now in a nursing home in Seattle that can handle her tracheotomy and feeding tube. She has chosen to not do the recommended surgery and instead will receive 7 weeks of radiation. It's her decision.

I have been handling the finances, bills, and details. Craig's step-dad is wheelchair bound and still living in their apartment in Kitsap County. Craig and I rotate bringing him groceries and such every few days. We have a service that sends him a caregiver 3 hours a day to help with his special needs. He is not capable of doing much on his own. I have also been facilitating Medicaid applications and dealing with all of that. My FIL will be evaluated in a few weeks by Medicaid and then hopefully we can get him in the same facility as my MIL.

During all of this Craig is still working full time and trying to not miss anymore work than needed as he has no vacation or sick leave left. It costs about $100 every time we go to Seattle between ferry, parking, gas, etc on top of the cost of him not working.

In the midst of all this was the Holiday Bazaar for the mom's group I have been co-coordinating. It was Nov 12th. I noticed the Thursday before the bazaar that Evie wasn't nursing well. She wasn't interested and I admittedly was busy and I didn't offer it often enough. The day of the bazaar she only nursed a couple times and the same the day after. Then on Monday she flat out refused. She bit me 8 times! On Tuesday she'd just suck once then pull away and cry. I tried all day. That night I called my dear friend Katie, who is a wonderful certified lactation consultant. She told me what I sort of knew but didn't want to hear but needed to hear- when mom is too busy and not loving and giving attention to the baby, the baby will show their frustration however they can. I knew that was true. For a month almost, Evie had been relegated to playing on the floor while I spent 6-8 hours on the phone daily dealing with medicaid, the hospital, sorting out my FIL's care, etc. I was not there for Evie the way I should've been. And then add the bazaar on top of it- she was mad at me I'm sure.

There are also the physical complications of stress on nursing. Stress in itself can destroy a milk supply. Here's me with the heavy letdown issues all of the sudden not having enough milk. A large baby like mine can get very frustrated trying to get milk out of where it used to just pour but now only slowly drips. Stress can also change the flavor of your milk making it taste unfavorably. It's incredible how much stress harms our bodies!
I did wonder if her ears were bothering her, but with the other 10 ear infections she's had she would always nurse fine, she just wouldn't sleep. This was different. I brought her to the ped the next day just in case. She did have an ear infection again so we got another prescription. Our pediatrician was so gracious. There I was crying and explaining how hard our life was and the situation with Craig's mom  and the stress of the bazaar and the burden I carry and she empathized and helped me. I love our pediatrician! She also told me that occasionally she does see a child this young go on a nursing strike and not get back to it. She said I needed to separate the nursing from loving her because I could still love her while not nursing her. For any mother who has nursed an extended period of time, I think you understand how interconnected mothering is with nursing. It's easy to think, "I can't wait til they're done nursing so I can have my boobs back and my independence," but wait til they are done; you'll miss it.
I think I just felt like SO much lately is out of my control and then the one thing I felt I had under control was no longer happening. It was awful and I knew I wasn't ready for Evie to be done nursing. I also felt hurt that it happened to me 2x! Some of you will remember 2 years ago when Eliana did the same thing to me. She was 13 months and quit nursing cold turkey (due to an illness) and even after pumping and trying for a MONTH, I could never get her to nurse again. I majorly grieved that. It was like a death in the family. So yeah, I just couldn't believe that it was happening to me, again!

I decided we'd try the antibiotics and I would hug and kiss and snuggle the dickens out of my little Evie-roo and see if i could woo her back. She fought me for about 24 hours and then all of the sudden just started nursing again. I noticed very quickly after giving her more attention how much happier she seemed. She'd snuggle her head on my shoulder, give me kisses, and just randomly laugh. It makes my heart feel very sad to think how much each of my children have had to suffer. Some things we have no control over and they overtake our life at times. But the things I do have control over I am trying to act with courage and make choices to simplify life and my stress load to benefit my family. After lots of tears and prayers, Evie is nursing again normally. I'm so thankful.

For those that find this post while Googling 'Nursing Strike', let me give you some input:

  • Try nursing at night. Often a baby that is striking and won't nurse will nurse when half asleep or asleep. This will also keep your supply up. Nurse every couple hours if they'll do it. You can also co-sleep and sleep with your shirt off so they smell it and want.
  • Try taking a bath or shower with your baby. Skin on skin in a warm, comfortable, stress-free environment.
  • Wear your baby in a baby carrier so they are facing you on your chest (like a Moby or Ergo). Don't wear a bra or shirt. If you are like me and have older kids at home, wear a large button up shirt over it. The idea is they will feel safe and loved and when hunger strikes, your breasts will be easy access.
  • If you can, pump to keep up your supply. Be wary about giving it to them in a sippy cup though. Remember, you want them to come back to you for it :)
  • Cut out other foods mostly. When baby is hungry enough, they will nurse.
  • Make sure there is not a physical ailment preventing them from wanting to nurse; teething pain, ear infection, thrush, etc.
I think it's important to remember that babies under 15 months typically are not 'self-weaning'. It is called a nursing strike and in most cases if you stick with it your baby will go back to nursing.

My little nursling just woke from nap and it's too hard to write a blog while I hear a tearful, "mama mama!", so off I go to get her.

There is much on my heart but it will have to wait for another day.

Happy Thanksgiving, friends! Life is short and uncertain. Tell those you love that you love them and are thankful for them.

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