Sunday, October 30, 2011

The Height Of Autumn

What a golden day we've had!

My mother Julia was here for a short visit, traveling all the way from California to meet her grandson. Today was her last day, and nature shone in golden glory on our final walk together.

October is coming to an end. The arrival of November is a reminder: winter is right around the corner, with stark landscapes and short days. So we soak up these final glowing hours and ready ourselves for the long stretch of cold.

P.S. I've realized it may be a long time until I get a photograph of Raffi and myself where I am wearing makeup. So until then, I am being brave and posting pictures of my naked face. :)

Saturday, October 29, 2011


Autumn is here in all it's colorful glory. The foliage is taking it's time this year, which I appreciate. I don't remember to bring my camera on every walk these days, but when I do, there is always something beautiful to capture. 

This has been my first chance to go online since I wrote my last blog post and I am touched by the loving comments you all left for me here. It's been a very trying and rewarding time, and continues to be. Rafael has been gaining wonderfully, now weighing just over four kilos. He is a very happy baby, blessing us with his sunny smiles during the day and warm soft cuddles at night.

The difficulty now lies in finding the right way to go forward, as far as feeding Rafael goes. I am juggling many different opinions about this and it's not easy knowing what to do, who to listen to. I am inclined to listen to my own gut, but the fact that this didn't lead me in the right direction before is making me insecure about that. I've been close to tears a few times now, so frustrated by the conflicting advice and the stress that overcomes me when I don't follow it because it isn't what feels right. 

Today I spoke with a midwife who recommended something wonderful: naked nursing. I went home, undressed my little boy down to his diaper, and took off my top. We snuggled down under a warm comforter and I nursed him for half an hour, taking in his lovely baby smell and holding his soft back with my hand. The midwife told me that our skin contact would help build more milk, besides being a precious way to bond. It was so special!

So, I have yet to build back up complete faith in my mother's instinct, but I am finding my way.

And falling more in love with my son every day.


Thursday, October 20, 2011

Failure To Thrive: Mommy Doesn't Always Know Best

What would you think if I told you I have a one month old boy who nurses throughout the day, sleeps soundly in the night waking only once to be changed and fed, rarely cries, and smiles often? It sounds like a perfectly healthy little baby, doesn't it?

We thought Rafael couldn't be happier and healthier. Sure, he drank all day long with only very short naps of about 15 minutes in between, but I had informed myself about cluster feedings and growth spurts, and assumed that's what was going on. Besides, everyone says 'breast is best,' and I was following the feeding-on-demand routine that I had heard such good things about. Sure, it was all-consuming and was all I did, day in and day out. But that's what the first few weeks are like, right?

My friend Daniela had her baby just a few days after me, and when she said her daughter slept between two and four hours between feedings, I was surprised. I barely had time to go to the bathroom or pour a fresh glass of water before my little one was awake again, fussing for milk. I just thought he needs to be nursed a lot right now, was having a growth spurt, and didn't think anymore of it. After all, you hear from mothers all the time about never getting to do anything because they are consumed with nursing.

That's why I was upset when I brought my son in for his 5 week check-up and heard the doctor say with dismay, "Why are you so skinny, little man?" She weighed him and I was utterly shocked to learn that he weighed less now than he did when he was born.

"Your baby has acute failure to thrive and must be supplemented immediately. If he doesn't gain weight quickly, it could have very bad consequences for his health."

Meanwhile Rafael was screaming, naked, on the doctor's changing table, and for the first time, I could see that he was, indeed, thin. I had assumed that, since I was feeding him all day, he was having a growth spurt, and was stretching out longer, accounting for the fact that he wasn't round. But now I understood that I was so terribly wrong. I held back my own tears, looking at him, so small, and feeling like I had truly failed him.

The doctor told me to begin a new daily rhythm: Nurse him from both breasts, note the time he stopped nursing, then give him a bottle of formula and let him drink until he is full. Two hours after he stopped nursing the last time, repeat this. At first this sounded impossible to me, because Raffi had never had a two hour pause, whether sleeping or awake, between feeding during the day. This, I came to understand, was the root of the problem. He would drink, doze off after a little while, rarely getting to the fatty hindmilk and never drinking until he was really full, and then would wake up unsatisfied a short while later. Not only was he not getting sufficient nutrition, my breasts also didn't have time to recover and build nutrient-rich, fatty milk. So it was a very new experience for me (and certainly for him) when he drank from my breasts and then had formula, and was truly FULL. He slept peacefully for two hours, and would have slept longer if I hadn't woke him up to be fed again. So THIS was how it was supposed to be! He was now getting real meals, instead of snacking all day.

Not only was Rafael getting his fill of nutrients, but now the days actually had a schedule, a routine. I was able to take walks, go grocery shopping, clean the apartment, or eat a meal.

As nice as this new rhythm is, and as absolutely relieved and overjoyed I am that Raffi is now thriving (he gain over 100 grams in two days), I am constantly haunted by how my 'motherly instinct' failed me, and by how I in turn failed my baby. I still can't fully understand how it could get so far without me realizing something was wrong. Of course, one of the main reasons I believed I had a totally healthy child was because he acted like one, including giving me me big sunny grins every time he woke up or when I stroked his cheek or belly.

This whole ordeal has really put a dent in my confidence as a parent. I always thought I would instictively know what to do, and would automatically feel what is best for my child, but I was so wrong. It's hard to know how to continue now that I have experienced just how off-track my sense of how things are can be.

It's very little comfort that no one else ever commented on Rafael being to thin or looking like he was in poor health.

In any case, we are on the road to recovery...Raffi is recovering physically, and I am trying to recover emotionally, trying to build back my confidence as a mother.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Today's Walk In Pictures

We had a beautiful October afternoon. Hope you did, too!


Tuesday, October 4, 2011


Whether asleep or awake, he is now my life....little Rafael.

Learning to be a mom is amazing. Learning to be a parent together with my husband is amazing as well. Learning to cherish these difficult, beautiful first weeks for what they are, irreplaceable, is humbling.

I was so caught up in the basic grind of things, changing diapers, nursing, comforting, worrying....that it truly took me by surprise yesterday when I gazed down at my son, who was drinking at my breast, and was absolutely overcome with love. The hard nights and and tired days all melted away and all that was left was this awe and pure love. Now that I'm no longer dealing with my own poor health, or consumed by worrying about whether I am doing everything right and whether or not this next day or night will bring something unexpected and difficult, I am really able to just LOVE him.

People talk about having baby blues, where you 'cry for no reason.' A few times I found myself on the verge of tears, usually when Raffi was crying and I was trying to soothe him, and I must say, I don't think the tears are without reason. I realized I was saying goodbye to my old life, and facing the fact that I'm a mother now. They weren't tears of sadness, but of growing pains. Growing up. Letting go. And toughening up, too. Ramon tells me again and again: "Be strong. Be strong. Be strong." It's my new mantra.

Thank you all for the wonderful notes you leave me here...I do read and appreciate each and every one! It's very hard to get to the computer these days, so my blog posts are far and few between. I know you understand.

Happy October....enjoy this most glorious season!


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