So here's a run down of what parenthood has entailed so far. After arriving home from the hospital, Jason and I were tired and yet so fulfilled with the love in our new family. Jason took a month off work and we spent every moment together caring for ourselves and for Flint. Flint was nursing very well, perhaps a bit too well because around 7 pm he would start nursing and would not stop until around 4 am. Every time he would begin to fall asleep or stop nursing I would try to put him down to bed and he would perk right back up and demand to be fed more, he would nurse frantically, eventually slowing down and then the whole scenario would repeat. Jason spent many nights sitting up with us and we began watching old time silent movies in the night while Flint engaged in "cluster feeding." In hindsight I know that he was working hard to tell my body to produce more milk. At the time I questioned whether he was nursing for comfort vs. food. I was also in intense pain from his constant nursing and starting to scab and bleed from his marathon feedings. Ouch!
Based on a belief that he was nursing for comfort, and a deep desire for more rest and less pain, we found an article that indicated that pacifiers may not have a negative impact of breastfeeding and may actually help promote nursing. Sounded great...so we bought a pacifier, and that night after about 5 hours of cluster feeding I stuck it in Flint's mouth. At first he wouldn't take it, but eventually he did and we all fell asleep. We woke up about 2 hours later and Flint would not nurse. At all. I tried everything I could think of to get him to eat, and he would not take the breast. Every time I tried to feed him, he would scream and push my breast away. On the few occasions when he would take the nipple, he would not latch or suck. This was right around Thanksgiving (not celebrated in Kenya obviously) and lasted for several days. After the first day of refusing to nurse he began to get dehydrated and we got him some pedialite, some gripe water, and some infacol. The pedialite really helped with the dehydration and he perked up quickly, but he was still not nursing. Because this happened over a weekend, there was no medical clinic to consult with unless we went to the hospital, which we were reluctant to do for several reasons. First, the hospital would not have a pediatrician available. Second, they would likely push for formula by bottle (as they had at his birth). Third, they would likely poke and prod and cause pain, with the only benefit being rehydration, which we were managing with pedialite. Lastly, we do not find the medical care here very good and did not wish to expose our new infant to a third world ER full of very ill people. So instead we got some formula and fed it to Flint by eye dropper along with the pedialite. This seemed to work for him and he regained his hydration and was less frantic, but was still refusing to nurse.
At the recommendation of a mom on the Kilimani Mums Facebook group, I made an appointment with a local lactation consultant in a last ditch effort to be able to breastfeed. Jason, Flint and I went to the appointment and within 15 minutes Flint was nursing again. My milk supply had gone down a bit, but Rebecca showed me how to manually express milk, how to properly latch Flint (I thought I was doing it right...but alas no), and how to motivate him to keep sucking. Initially we did this with a naso-gastric feeding tube, which we ran along my nipple into his mouth. We would supplement a bit of milk through the feeding tube whenever he would stop sucking and the flow of milk would encourage him to keep sucking. Within 24 hours he was back on the breast without the assistance of the feeding tube, and my milk supply was already starting to increase again. Over the past few weeks my nipples have healed, pain has subsided, and Flint has finally started to gain weight. At his 3 week appointment he was just at birth weight, and after help from Rebecca, at 4.5 weeks he was 1 lb over his birth weight. A full pound in 1.5 weeks back on the breast!!
Our miracle worker, Rebecca, really helped us to be able to breastfeed. We can't recommend her highly enough to any women in Nairobi struggling with lactation. With a national breastfeeding rate of around 2%, she should be deemed a Kenyan national treasure for her knowledge and expertise. Beyond that, she is very kind. Here we are together with Flint:
Since Flint has been eating well, life has been tiring but very good. He is a very mellow baby and is very good at conveying his needs. We have learned to understand which cues or cries mean food or diaper or cuddles or physical discomfort and are getting pretty good at meeting his needs in a timely and consistent way.
This past 6 weeks have also marked some very rapid changes in his developmental abilities. Flint now tracks objects with his eyes, and turns his head towards familiar voices. He has started to make cooing noises and attempts to "talk" to us by moving his mouth and tongue, trying to mimic our mouth movements. Sometimes I put my lips to his cheek when I am whispering to him and he will turn his head and put his lips on mine and try to move his mouth with mine while I talk. This is very neat because I believe he is learning through feeling how to form words and sounds. Shortly after he started doing this, his vocalizations really started to increase.
His favorite songs right now are "The River" by Garth Brook, which I sing to sooth him, as well as the ABC's, anything his dad will sing to him, and "The Ant's Go Marching." Flint likes when I sing the Ants song slowly, march my fingers on his stomach gently, and pause at the part when I say "hurrah" and give him a chance to try to make a "hurrah" sound. Often he will move his mouth or produce a sound similar to Hurrah when I pause and every time he seems so awed and surprised by himself. It's adorable and I will try to catch it on video to share on the blog.
He is getting better and better at reaching for things and often grabs my hair, or fingers or breast while he's nursing. He has started to suck his hands, and is also starting to produce excess saliva..which he prefers to drool on my shoulder. His head control has come a long way and he often hold his own head up for extended periods of time. Also, if we stabilize his body, he will often push up with his legs and stand fully upright supporting his own weight. It's so impressive how strong he is, and he loves it when we make surprise faces when he pops up into a standing position. I'll try to get that on video too.
The single best development so far though, has been his smiling at us or in response to us. His smiles are still rare, but so treasured when they appear. The other day I was nursing him and laughed at something, which caused him to jiggle on my tummy. I looked down just in time to see him pause in his nursing to crack a huge grin. He has a great smile, full of dimples and joy. I am so looking forward to the laugh that goes with it.
In looking back over the past 1.5 months, I can honestly say that I have never felt more fulfilled and content in my life. I can't imagine anything more important than spending time with our son and seeing to his needs. I can easily stare at him all day long and never loose the awe I feel that Jason and I created this little person...with a bit of help. I feel that everything else dulls in comparison to being a parent, and I am so thankful for him in our lives.
Many people have asked about how we chose Flint's name, and I have been meaning to share with everyone why we chose Flint Declan.
Jason and I both agreed that we wanted to include an element of nature in our child's name. This both honors his American Indian ancestry on the paternal side, as well as honors the earth that sustains us. We both love the outdoors and nature and hope that our child will have an appreciation for the natural world as well. When we thought of the name Flint, we both liked it right away. We appreciated that flint (the stone) and it's ability to make fire greatly impacted the development of the human species, and was used in some of the earliest tools developed by human kind. We hope that Flint will grow up to offer valuable contributions to society as well. We also hope that Flint will always know that when he comes up against something hard in life, by giving a bit of himself he can bring light to anything.
Flint's middle name, Declan, is in honor of his paternal grandmother and her family name "Decker." His paternal grandmother's family line has Celtic origins and Declan further honors this lineage as it is a Celtic name, originally meaning "full of goodness." From everything I have been told (and the example his paternal grandmother makes) I know that the family line he is named for is, in fact, full of goodness. Jason often speaks of the great impact his grandfather had on him and what a wonderful man he was. From the pictures I have seen of Jason's grandfather, it's clear where Jason got the genes for some of his looks and his size. When Jason proposed to me, he offered me the Decker's wedding ring as my engagement ring. I have worn this family heirloom with pride ever since, and we were thrilled to name our son after this part of our family.
And now, for what you've all been wanting to see:
Happy and stretching after a nap:
Mmmm, nom nom:
Flint demonstrating his good grabbing skills:
Daddy helps Flint with his first Hanukkah present from Grandma and Grandpa:
Daddy and Flint:
Someone's a bit stinky:
"Was that me?"
Cuteness definitely makes up for stinky:
Well, Flint is waking up from a rare nap, so that's all for now.