June 8, 2012

Finger Feeding At 1am and Other Tales from Fatherhood

It's 9:15pm and Stella is taking a bath. Kari is sitting on our living room rug, legs crossed, tits out, crying those deep guttural tears, the kind that stem from that lethal concoction of exhaustion and feelings of failure. Leo sits in her lap, his long torso stretched out across her belly, crying those piercing hunger tears.

I'm on my knees, hovered over Kari, arms wrapped around her shoulders, my lips against her forehead in a solemn attempt to understand her suffering, even though I can't possibly understand.

Her milk is drying up and her uterus hasn't contracted down, the latter issue influencing the former, both working in cahoots to prevent our sanity.

Daaaaaaaddddyyyyy, Stella yells from the bathroom, for the thirty-third time in the last twenty minutes.

Just a minute buddy. 

I gotta go poo-poo! she says, as she exits the tub and flips up the toilet seat.

Call me when you need wiped.

Moments later, in pure kid fashion, an hour past her bedtime, she is bounding out of the bathroom, trail of foot prints in her wake, rounding the corner to find her helpless parents entangled in an awkward embrace.

She shakes her pale rump in front of us, unwiped and unashamed, while singing a song about looking at her butt. The moment is the perfect picture of the great dichotomy surrounding our lives over the last year. In the middle of the grief, Stella was there to show off her butt or tell a funny joke or do something that amazes us.

She wiggles her rear and we laugh and it's damn near 10pm.


It's 1am and I am feeding my son with a syringe and some tubing. It's called finger feeding and it's what you do when your kid isn't getting enough milk and your wife isn't getting enough sleep and you don't want to use a bottle.

I microwave a coffee mug full of water. Then remove mug and drop in a bottle of breast milk, three ounces worth. Then get my syringe and tubing ready. Then wash the hell out of my hands, the kind of washing that changes the color on your cheap wedding ring you purchased from a street vendor in Oaxaca. Then use the syringe to pull out an ounce of milk from the bottle. Then attach the tube to the end of the syringe. Then tape the tubing to my right index finger, so the end of the tube is near the end of my finger. Then insert finger and tube into Leo's mouth. And then pump milk down the boy's throat. Repeat another ounce. And another. An hour from start to finish.

He stares at me with steel gray eyes and it's just the two of us and I couldn't ask for anything more.


DandelionBreeze said...

Beautiful... sounds like such a special moment with your son :))

Hope's Mama said...

I feel for you guys. I remember crying those tears, especially when trying to get in to the swing of things when breast-feeding our Angus Leo. I just want you both to know, I am sending huge virtual hugs.
I'd come over and bath Stella for you if I could, though I'm not sure I could wipe her butt, but I'd do what needed to be done in order to buy you guys five mins of peace!

Merry said...

Oh, those first weeks felt extra tough this time round.

For what it is worth, well documented in bens section on my blog, we had similar problems. I did some syringing with him sucking on my finger as I did it and then I just started expressing and bottle feeding for half the day. Then when I had just accustomed to that, he turned up his nose at the life line bottle I had decided to be cool about and went to full time breast. It felt like I was getting it wrong till it all came right and those bottles kept up my supply, my sanity and taught him to suck well.

Don't lose hope Kari :) bens first 6 weeks took eternity but the next 12 flew by.

Tiffany said...

those first few weeks are so intense. especially after losing a child. grief seems to heighten every feeling. keeping you guys in my thoughts.

otdina said...

Breast feeding is so hard. But Kari is so lucky to have someone to support her through it. And breast feeding plus exhaustion is, well, a challenge. A gauntlet, really. There is something called a Supplemental Nursing System. I got mine for about $40 on A.mazon. It is a bottle that hangs around your neck. The tubing is then attached to your nipple. The battle is filled with formula or expressed mama milk. The beauty of this is that little one gets the milk/supplementation that they need while stimkulating milk production and staying at the breast. The one I have is from M.edlela. Hugs, you guys are doing great.

Caroline said...

Ugh those first few weeks are tough ones. And breastfeeding (as you all know) is an emotional rollercoaster of it's own. My heart goes out to Kari as she battles all the challenges, emotions, and sweet Jesus those crazy hormones! she's lucky to have you.

Molly said...

Oh Kari, as I've told you, I know those tears well. Kudos to you for sticking it out through A really tough situation when I gave up bc I couldnt handle it. I hope things improve soon so you can enjoy that sweet boy more instead of spending time being exhausted and exasperated. And Josh, I am continually amazed at how supportive you are--so wonderful!! Sending lots of love to you all.

Jesse said...

Oh god, I feel for Kari. I was there 20 months ago and it is so hard. Breastfeeding triggers such personal, emotional responses, especially when it is challenging. And there is such frustration and anger that you can't give to your child what you so desperately want to. But it will get better, and you must be gentle with yourselves whatever the outcome! You guys are amazing.

still life angie said...

This is so beautiful. Sending so much love to you both. It is so hard to navigate normally, but with the complexities of grief and all the other shit, it feels near impossible. xo You are both so loved, and sweet Stella, sometimes you just need to shake your little poopy ass at the world.

katie illingworth said...

I am right where you guys are right now with my son. Not enough milk, did the finger feeding. Exhaustion and sadness that I can't breastfeed my baby like I'd hoped. You all are in my thoughts. Leo knows he's deeply loved and that's all that matters.

Anonymous said...

I feel for you both.. This must be such an incredibly tough time. My son wouldn't feed at all (it turned out to be a consequence of the disorder no one had realised he had at the time), and I remember that excruiciating pain, the feelings of failure and sheer exhaustion all too well. I was eventually coerced by the nurses to give him a bottle as he hadn't fed for hours, and it absolutely broke my heart. After his death I'm stuck in that place of failure, never knowing whether I would have managed to breastfeed if I'd stuck at it once we got home.

Kari, stick at it but please be gentle on yourself. You aren't failing, you're fighting a battle - and that takes incredible courage and strength. However things turn out, know that you did your very best for each other, and for your children. There is no shame in that, only pride.

Natalie said...

My heart aches for you, Kari and Leo...this is hard, beyond hard...but also, just plain emotional. The heart can only take so much before breaking down. You've all been through so much.

Continue being kind to one another, remind Kari that she's doing the best she can and that whatever decision you make will be the right one.

Love and support for everyone from Canada. Even tho Leo's presence is beyond good.....this aspect is hard. It's ok to say that.

Jeanette said...

Oh my! Sending you guys so much love. I had an awful time bfing Ernest, most unexpectedly too, and we did the finger feeding. I know Kari's pain, I truly do, and it feels like such a slap in the face after all we've been through.
The sns might work, but ime don't bother taping it to the nipple, just slide the tubing into Leos mouth after he latches on to the breast.
Sounds like you have bfing support? I hope so. The guys at MOBI are wonderfulhttp://www.mobimotherhood.org/MM/default.aspx and there are a few other resouces on my blog, though most relate to tongue tie so might not be relevant, I'll post the link here anyway cos if you are anything like me you'll be devouring all the info you can right now http://www.lazyseamstress.blogspot.co.uk/p/ernests-tongue-tie.html and don't forget the great videos on Jack Newmans site.
wish I could do more than send a bunch of links. x

ss said...

he will be ok. you will all be ok, but that doesn't take away the deep emotional stuff related to feeding your baby! I am feeling so sad for kari, knowing that she is doing everything she can, as well as you. i hope that something shifts, so that you can all feel a little better about the feeding, no matter what that may be in the end. sure, you can always move on to formula, or supplement with formula and do your best with whatever breast milk you can pump... it won't be like this forever. its so hard when you want something, but you are fought tooth and nail by forces beyond your control... but in the end, he is going to be ok, no matter what.

Angela said...

Oh Kari, I know those tears so well. It's so frustrating to know what needs to be done, but be unable to do it. Keep supporting her, you all are doing wonderfully.

Anonymous said...

I was going to suggest talking to Jeanette but she already posted all of her wonderful info for you and Kari!
I am so sorry this is so hard.. and I completely understand, though for different reasons (pumping for the twins right now). Best advice is the lac support that I am sure you are already getting.. and maybe a consult with the Dr. about her uterus and anything they may be able to do do help with contracting it down.
Love and light always...

Bree said...

I'll write here what I already told Kari -and what reading these responses has only further convinced me of- there really should be Boob Monuments built around the world to honor all the trauma and pain and sacrifice women's breasts go through trying to feed babies. It is really, really hard (also rewarding too, don't get me wrong). Poor Kari. Poor Kari's boobs.

P.S. Boob Monument should be a tasteful homage and not skeevy at all. Which basically means that the design either needs to be from the mind of a woman or a gay man. Just clarifying.

surfjams said...

It's late, I am tired, and I don't have the energy to read all the responses. But I do want to say that I am so, so sorry this is so hard. I don't really know much about the uterus contractions vs. breast milk, and I feel like I am going to state the trite, something you probably already know, but the one thing that helped me a lot when my mild supplies decreased (for different reasons) was fenugreek capsules. I want to bring a meal maybe next week and would be happy to bring a bottle, if you are open to trying.


Groves said...

"It's not true that life is one damn thing after another; it's one damn thing over and over.”

― Edna St. Vincent Millay

Bree's Monument is right.

Ease up - ease up! - would you, Life?

Kari, Josh is right. You are True Grit incarnate. And it's about time you all got a break. I *seriously* pray you do.

"He stares at me with steel gray eyes and it's just the two of us and I couldn't ask for anything more."

Art out of Hell,


Brooke said...

Sorry to hear about the feeding struggles. So frustrating, at a time when every emotion must be heightened to the nth degree. Sending love and support as you guys carry on. I think Kari is amazing, and lucky to have you as well.

Mandy said...

I love this post, it is grief and life impossibly intertwined. We both lost a baby last March and welcomed one this spring (mine was in April). We both have living children who make life funny when it's sometimes not - we have a three, almost four year old, who is unknowingly hilarious. I feel so much for your wife and her nursing struggles, I struggled early on with this one as well, it is soo hard. I commend you for your support and love for your wife and son as they work through this and I hope that something positive will come along very soon for you all with sweet Leo's feedings.

Mary Beth said...

I hope by the time this late response reaches you guys things have gotten even a touch better. Nursing those babies--man, it is so very hard. Until it isn't--but when it is, it is just trauma and drama and tears. Sending lots of love. And what a beautiful moment just you and Leo.

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