Dear Chaya // Five Months

Dear Chaya,

It seems like a miracle to me that you are five months old. You are really changing and growing up so much, and it’s the most lovely thing.

We started off the month with a bit of difficulty – I’d managed to boost my supply, so you were getting more breastmilk but you were then showing signs of food intolerance – lots of gas and being uncomfortable. More than is normal for a baby. So I got a bit stricter again, and limited other potential allergens. We also stopped using the donated breastmilk which is just dairy and soy free. We will trial it again next month over Pesach (your formula isn’t kosher for Pesach!).

The biggest thing that happened this month was that you got your tongue tie cut! Before now your mouth was so small and your muscles so tight no-one could see a tongue tie. Now that the chiro has done her job we can see it easily. So we got it cut. It wasn’t anywhere near as traumatic or worrisome as people made it out to be! You were a real champ! Just a few days later I could already feel you suck better!

Unfortunately on the Sunday after the cut on Friday (Abba’s birthday!) you got a cold that lasted for 10 days, and we went backwards a bit in that time. You got really tight and didn’t like me doing the exercises in your mouth all the time. I went to the doctor a few times, because you had a fever on and off, a bad cough that was obviously hurting you, and you were a bit wheezy with lots of phlegm. Things are mental at the moment because of the Coronavirus, and I admit I was a bit worried. She said over and over it was just a cold. But man, it stuck around GOOD. So frustrating. Everyone from the LC, to the chiro admitted that the timing was incredibly unlucky for us.

We’ve been through SO SO much in the four months leading up to this, and just when when we should be on the up and up, this happens. But Chaya, I will NOT let the common cold defeat me!! I WILL breastfeed you properly, even if at this stage it will probably be nearly 1 before that happens!

Anyway, you got over it eventually, but were really anti having people poking around in your mouth, and that made it hard to do your exercises. More set backs! But again, we persevered, and now we seem to be on the right track again.

Four, nearly five month old you is really interested in food, even though you can’t sit up yet. You often grab my hands and bring them to your mouth when I’m holding food! It’s adorable, and I don’t recall any of the other kids wanting food as much as you! Perhaps it’s just part of being the youngest and seeing so many people around you eat all the time! So far you’ve had a bit of chicken bone broth (homemade), and some pieces of cooked sweet potato, BLW style.

You smile a LOT. I was reminded of it particularly when you were sick and you just didn’t smile much at all. Actually, you were whiny and cried a lot and I found myself teary some days that I missed you and your happy smile! It isn’t just any smile, it’s a BIG smile!

Lior has enjoyed carrying you around in the ergo this month! And all your siblings have enjoyed cuddling you, carrying you, and looking after you. I think you really love them too, because you give them big smiles and turn your head when you hear them! Speaking of turning your head, you’ve been super distracted when breastfeeding lately! Any sound and you turn around to have a peek!

I love you my little CC. You’re a total delight, and it’s not an exaggeration to say that I fall in love with you regularly. I am so beyond glad that you are part of our family!

What Am I Doing Here?

The other night I sat in my car at the traffic lights. It was drizzly with rain – my favourite weather – and I appreciated the way the lights looked through my rainy windshield. I was nearly at my daughter’s kindy, ready for a committee meeting, and I looked out into the distance. I recognised the landscape – the local forest, and another main road in the distance, and then BAM, I was overcome with a feeling of not belonging.

This feeling took me by surprise, and I didn’t like it much.

I was on my way to my daughter’s kindy – a place she and I both love. We love where it is, we love the teachers, we love their philosophy of learning, and it’s nice and close to our house. A house that I (mostly) enjoy living in (though a few extra bedrooms wouldn’t go astray…), in a suburb I like. My boys go to a local school that they love, and that we also think is great.

We’ve lived here for 2 ½ years now, and for the most part this feels like “home”. I like it here. I like my city. I am happy to plan my life to be here for the foreseeable future, and I don’t have much or possibly any desire to go back to where we used to live. I miss the my friends there, and family, and the beach, but I’m not sure we can go back.

So I feel quite at home and happy here. So this feeling of not belonging really caught me by surprise. Where did it come from, and what does it mean? Where DO I belong?

I worry a bit that where I belong is over the seas, and I can’t bear the thought of being apart from my parents.

Grateful

My Chaya, my life. I feel grateful that Hashem believed I was capable enough to be trusted with her. All of her. I’m grateful that every day she makes improvements in the way she feeds. I’m grateful that she was born in 2019 – in a time when people understand so much about babies.

I’m grateful that we’ve made it this far. Through failure to thrive, scary times, blood tests, bottle feeding, allergies, formula, supplementing, breast refusal, tube feeding, burning out way too many breast pumps, low muscle tone, mouth problems, overbites, pallet problems, and tongue ties.

I’m grateful it’s Hashem who’s carried me through it while I’ve carried my baby girl through it. I’m grateful for where we are now. Even if we’re still miles off “normal”, we’re still a lot closer then we have been in her life. I’m grateful for her and for the love and joy she brings to our family. I’m grateful for my own mama. For the best husband in the world.

I’m grateful for the challenge and the chance to see myself go further than I thought possible. I’ve definitely given up multiple times, only to pick up and keep going.

I’d never ask to do this again. I don’t think I’d like to repeat the last 4 months, nor would I wish or expect anyone else to ever do it. But I know many people would. I’ve reached the bottom. I’ve cracked open on the floor. I’ve questioned… everything.

But mothers do what mothers do. Im not a hero, just a mama.

Funny Milestones

My youngest daughter had her tongue tie snipped on Friday. It was a cause of anxiety leading up to it (mostly because of other people’s question to be honest), and a whole lot of nothing on the day. Being a mum is funny like that.

I wish I’d documented all of Chaya’s feeding and health journey properly (I have a lot of notes, but not many written out thoughts like this). Having a tongue tie is just the last (please G-D) thing in a long line of things that have tried to stop her from breastfeeding properly and growing as she should.

It has in many ways been like being in a newborn bubble for the last 18 weeks instead of the first 4. My life is almost completely concentrated on feeding Chaya.

Breast

Bottle

Pumping

Breastmilk

Formula

SNS tube feeding.

And we haven’t stopped any of those things. I do all these things many times a day. Most days by the time I finish feeding her it’s time to pump, then after we quickly duck out to pick up other kids, cook some food for me or the other family members we start again. Wash, rinse, repeat (don’t even get me started on washing bottles – ugh).

On Thursday night we had soup with a chicken bone broth base, and Luke remembered that I’d said I wanted bone broth to be her first food. So he asked if she could have some whilst sitting up in her bumbo. He fed her had a few teaspoons. Here I was amazed that at 4 months old she was “starting” the weaning process by introducing solids when she hasn’t even got the hang of breastfeeding yet!

I say “starting weaning” fairly loosely, because I don’t expect to actually start her on solids for another month or two, but it was somehow symbolic. And we all know food before one is just for fun.

But still, what a funny milestone. What a mixed up world my little CC lives in!

True Self

At my last chiro session we did a series of positions and meditations on our true self, and opening our heart to our true selves.

This is a concept that isn’t foreign to Judaism. In Judaism we call it Teshuva, and while there’s a time of year (Elul) when it’s most potent and critical, it’s good to do teshuva all year round!

Since that session last week I’ve been letting the idea pop into my mind. When it does I take some big, heart opening breathes, and ask Hashem to do the work in me, and show me the work that I need to do, to be my true self.

My true self is closest to Hashem. It’s a peaceful me.

Dear Chaya // 4 Months

Dear Chaya,

Here we are, four months old. I love you so much. SO SO SO much. Your smile is absolutely amazing, and it makes my heart flutter.

This month your brothers and sister went back to school and kindy so three days a week it’s just us for a few hours. It’s nice to spend this time with you, even if it does go super quickly!

You started Chiro this month, and it has dramatically improved your situation. The Chiro has been working on your low muscle tone, overbite, and overall mouth shape, as well as a lot of the tension and knots around your jaw. You were only able to open your mouth 60% of the way, but now that you’ve been doing Chiro twice a week for 3 weeks you’re doing so much better. We are graduated from continually releasing knots, to strengthening the muscles that weren’t able to move properly before, hooray! We went back to see the lactation consultant and she is over the moon with how you’ve progressed!

The Lactation consultant did mention that now she can see your tongue tie clearly (before it wasn’t visible due to all the knotting and muscle tension in your abnormally small mouth), and next month we will have to get it revised…

We saw an improvement in your ability to drink from the SNS, but then as your tongue tie protruded things went a bit backwards. You’re mostly getting milk from the bottle, but I manage to give you about ⅓ of your intake as breastmilk. It’s pretty good all things considered. Please G-D, when your tongue tie is revised, and we go through the re-hab for that we won’t have anything stopping us from succeeding in normal breastfeeding! This makes me think that I really need to make sure I am in the best health I can be (sleep, food etc…) for your recovery so I have the determination I need to help you through this and really make it worthwhile.

You love to chomp, chomp, chomp down on anything you can get your hands on. Fingers, chew toys, dummies… anything you can chew on, you do! It’s a great therapy for you to do, so we encourage it! You should see (I have photos, lol) the fat and muscle in your cheeks now that you’ve been working on your muscle tone so much!

On the 9th of February you did your first laugh! You were 3 ½ months old. You haven’t done many since, but it was definitely there – that whole weekend in fact you laughed many times. Maybe things aren’t so funny this last week!? Or maybe you’ve just moved onto your new skill – rolling over! You did this on the 21st of Feb – just a few days shy of 4 months old. We can’t stop you now – it’s definitely your favourite thing to do.

You still sleep wonderfully at night. You get a good solid 8 hours. You don’t even stir. I wish I could say that same for myself, but the medication I am on to increase my milk supplies keeps me up till all hours of the early morning! Your day sleeping has regressed a little, unless you’re in the ergo, then you sleep wonderfully, for hours and hours. It’s still so incredibly hot and humid though that it’s not always practical. I have to admit, we use the air conditioner daily – I just can’t cope with the heat under normal circumstances let alone with a baby on my chest! So we use it, and we both enjoy the snuggles!

Chaya, you are still the most happy and joyful baby ever. You love to give strangers smiles, and everyone is so grateful. Ahava loves to show you off at Kindy, and the boys love to carry you around the school when we pick them up. Actually, all three big kids have really taken to you in an extra special way this month. I suppose it’s because you’re starting to interact with them more – pulling at their hair and faces! You did make Eli cry the other day though when you scratched at his face! I told him you didn’t mean to hurt him, but he said you did it over and over and over again, and so he thinks you did! Oh dear.

I want to make a special note of how happy you wake up in the mornings, and what a blessing this is. I was scared about bottle feeding a baby, because I didn’t want to wake up to an inconsolable crying baby who wanted to be fed IMMEDIATELY, but you aren’t like that! You are just so happy when you wake up, and you are happy to wait for half an hour or more for your bottle or SNS feed. Thank you!

If I could sum up your fourth month, I would say that we made a LOT of improvements. We hit a lot of milestones, including reaching the 15th percentile for weight, and we made a lot of progress health and feeding wise. You and I are a great team. I told you over and over during the pregnancy, and even during the birth, and here we are still being a great team and working together to get stuff done.

I love you my CC. I am so grateful for you, and for your place in this family. I am so grateful for the love and joy you bring to each of us. Though she be little, she be fierce (in a good way!).

Love you to the moon and back Chaya, my life.

Love Mama.

Priorities

I think what I want most right now is to be able to spend my days pumping milk, doing Chaya’s exercises, staring into her mystifying eyes, and being enchanted by her beautiful smile.

I’ve been thinking a lot about priorities and the content reminder that I am not superwoman, and can’t do it all. Which sucks, because I like being superwoman and doing it all. And I tell myself constantly that I CAN. That others may have failed, but I can succeed.

My ideal scenario is not even remotely realistic of course. I have other commitments, and people to feed. Myself included. I suck at feeding myself the most of anyone. And that’s a pretty big deal considering Chaya can’t breastfeed.

Dear Chaya // 3 Months

Dear Chaya, this has been one of the longest months of my life, and this last week especially feels longer than nearly your entire life before this. We finally have some answers about your slow / non existent weight gain, which is great to have a light at the end of the tunnel. But it means we have a lot of work ahead of us. More on that later.

CC, you love to smile and watch people. You love facing out and watching the world, but also love love love being wrapped up tight. You still love your dummy, especially when your tummy is causing you pain. And even when it’s not!

You’ve started getting good at tummy time. Not your favourite thing, but you tolerate it for 5 minutes or so. You’ve started talking a LOT, and sometimes when there’s music playing it sounds like you sing!

You love to chew on everything at the moment. My fingers are a favourite, but also your own fingers, and handfuls of your clothes. Chewing on things at the back of your mouth is one of your exercises, so this has been a fortuitous circumstance.

Edited with Afterlight

We got in to see the lactation consultant on the 15th and she discovered you have low muscle tone in your mouth which is why you tire quickly at the breast, and aren’t efficient at sucking. You also have a high and narrow pallet so when you are making progress breastfeeding your tongue isn’t really pushing the breast up to the roof of your mouth to extract the milk. Also, an overbite which means your tongue is back further in your head making it difficult to really push milk from the breast even if you could get it up there, and had the muscle to do it for very long.

Of course, the food allergies have still played a part in it, but now we realise that affected your irritability, and weird stools more than your growth. I am still off a long list of foods, but slowly adding back in the least likely things like coconut and almonds. I did a dairy challenge last week and boy oh boy did I regret it. Definitely not coping with the dairy my dear!

So still on feeding, you are able to breastfeed lying down when you first wake in the night at about 3am (yes, this is your FIRST wake – I would not be able to do any of the following things if you weren’t blessing me with a full night’s sleep each night!). Sometimes you will have your second feed at about 6am (still asleep) also breastfeeding lying down. You wake up so happy though, that it’s not always necessary to feed you straight away. During the day I am using a Madela SNS (Supplemental Nursing System) which is a container of milk or formula (though it needs to be at least 3/5 breastmilk to flow properly) which I put up on my shoulder, and small thin tubes come out of it. I tape one to my breast and then as you breastfeed you get the milk from the tube as well as from the breast if you can manage it. Doing it this way helps you exercise those muscles to help with your low muscle tone, and also helps keep my supply up, as my body doesn’t respond anywhere near as well to the pump as it does to a baby’s mouth! If for some reason we can’t feed this way (sometimes you are too tired, and you can’t manage it, or sometimes we’re out and I don’t want to do it in public yet) you have a bottle.

At the moment feeding you is fairly all consuming. Before we started this I would try and breastfeed you (5-10 minutes of trying), then bottle feed you (10 – 15 minutes), then burp you and put you to sleep or hope you’re happy to lie down (20 minutes), then pump milk (45-60 minute). So that’s an hour and a half approximately, and we have to do that every 3 hours. So yeah, it’s a bit of a time suck. This is why sometimes I just can’t pump, and you have full bottles of formula.

The general question I get asked at this stage is why I am still persisting with breastfeeding even when things are so hard and tiresome. The truth is, while I still have milk in breasts I feel the need to give it to you. Especially with your allergies it’s the best thing for you, and I do have hope that you will be able to breastfeed normally eventually. Your big sister breastfed for nearly 3 years, so if we had a breastfeeding relationship that long, this is only just the start. 🙂

One day when you’re old enough to read this I hope you see the I am your Imma, and it is my greatest privilege that Hashem has allowed me to do this for you. I write it all down because I think one day when you are a mother (please G-D!), you can see what you were like, and it might help you.

Love, Mama

Dear Chaya // 2 Months

Dear CC,


You love to smile, cuddle and be wrapped up tight. You’re completely different to your siblings in so many ways. Unique. Fourth time around and apparently there’s still plenty for me to learn as a mother, a co-parent, and human being. Hashem is teaching me so much through you, and even when it’s so hard I break, I still pick myself up, look into your eyes and smile because I love you. You are a calm and peaceful baby and adored by all who meet you, and especially those of us lucky enough to live with you. You’re sunshine CC.

This month you have gained some weight! Baruch HaShem! You are gaining weight nicely now that you are on a special allergy formula – Novalac. At the time of your 2 month birthday this formula accounts for about 75% of your feeds. You have some pretty hard core nipple confusion and preference for the bottle, which has contributed to this high percentage of formula. Bottle feeding a baby is a very new experience for me, and there are some benefits I suppose (not least the fact that you’re gaining weight!), but I miss breastfeeding, and really feel strongly that because of your allergies breastmilk is the best thing for you (once the allergens are removed). The main ingredient in this formula is glucose syrup followed by various vegetable oils, so it’s not exactly the most nutritious stuff. Though certainly better than nothing!

This month you more or less stopped breastfeeding. I still offer you the breast regularly, before every feed, and if you’re fussy. But you rarely take it. Sometimes you put it in your mouth, and just don’t seem to suck, and other times you fuss and won’t even close your mouth to latch. We’re seeing a LC in January (Bli Neder) to try and get this going again. I am expressing at most feeds, so my supply is still… existing, but not great. I had a hospital trip, and some general illness this month which has left my supply lacking by the end of the month. I am so so hopeful that we can pick up breastfeeding again soon!

On the 5th of December, at exactly 6 weeks I weighed you once again after giving you 150mL of top up (either formal or EBM) a day on top of breastfeeds for a week. And guess what?! You gained! I took you off the scales and you gave me your first smile! It was big, and wonderful and I felt like we were connected, and you could feel my joy and relief that for the first time in your life you’d gained weight!

Since then you’ve been showering everyone with beautiful big smiles, and it is just wonderful. Your siblings love to try and make you smile!

We have been continuing with your osteo appointments, but stopped mid way through this month. The Osteo has done all she can for now, and I’m focusing on just fattening you up, and getting you back on the breast. We can re-visit these appointments later.

Edited with Afterlight

The paediatrician referred us to an immunologist, but we can’t get in to see him until June! It will be helpful to get your tested before we put you on too many solids, but it doesn’t really help me figure out what foods you’re currently allergic or intolerant to.

We got the stool samples back and it showed you definitely have a cow’s milk allergy. But it can’t tell us about any other foods. At the moment I am off the following foods (some are just for my own personal intolerances, and some are for you!): All dairy, soy, eggs, wheat and gluten, almonds, peanuts, and coconut. I still have macadamia milk occasionally. By now they should all be almost completely out of our systems. I’m very strict with these.

You are currently celebrating your first Chanukah, which is pretty special! You also had your first visitors (other than family) – Ada & Harvey came to see you, as well as Jaelle and Ori. You’re a bit… clingy (especially in the evenings), but you have given Rachel quite a few cuddles, as they visit us every other week at the moment (yay!).

Pa has also been getting some lovely long sleeping cuddles from you in the day, as has Grandma, who is our lifesaver – coming down to help out and entertain your sister, pick up your brothers from school (it’s holidays now, yay!), and look after you while I got to my Chiro appointments.

Even with all these health problems, and feeding problems and clingy-ness, I think it’s fair to say that you’re pretty chill, and pretty wonderful! You are like an open book – easy to read and a clear communicator. Everyone loves you, and I get such nachas when I leave you on the mat and your brothers and sisters entertain you for a while. The kids at school adore you, as do their parents, and I am so immensely proud of you and love showing you off.

I love you sweet Chaya. I’m so glad we called you “life” – may you have it till 120, and may the one who gave you life, Hashem, also give you healing.

Love Mama