Tiny Baby, Tiny Cabin?

Ariel Dianna joined the Bane clan on September 24th. She was healthy and bright-eyed.

Though inconvenient for me, Ariel entered this world with one arm fist-pumping à la Breakfast Club. Or Superman. I hope it’s a sign she’s tough, or at least resilient. “Ariel” means “lioness of God,” and Dianna was the Greek goddess of the hunt. We purposely chose powerful names. The first part of my name, “Paul,” means “small,” and “ette” is a diminutive form also meaning “little.” Effectively, my name means “teeny weeny” or “itsy bitsy.” Granted, my original surname was “Guerin,” or “warrior,” so I was fine being little if it meant I was a fighter. “Bane” means “poison.”

“Dianna” was also my mother-in-law’s name, and when we saw Ariel for the first time we knew it fit.

For the past eight weeks life has been wonderfully upside-down. My sleeplessness during pregnancy almost prepared me for what was to come.

What I did not expect was how hard breastfeeding was going to be. It was a test of my strength and tolerance to pain. What was worse, Ariel wasn’t gaining weight and was probably burning more calories trying to eat than she was taking in. The pediatrician’s nurse suggested I cut her off after twenty minutes of feeding so that she wouldn’t use me as a pacifier. I immediately hired a lactation specialist from Arkansas Family Doulas. She was at my door the next morning.

I relay this story in case it might help someone else out there. The lactation specialist gave me a lot of good advice, and she also discovered Ariel’s tongue tie. The piece of skin under Ariel’s tongue grew too far toward the tip—it limited her movement, which made sucking difficult if not impossible. While tongue ties are more common than you might think—somewhere around 10% of babies have them—they often go undiagnosed. The hospital lactation specialist couldn’t legally tell me since the hospital does not allow her to make a diagnosis. My pediatrician’s office did not check, though they were sure to tell me how to prevent Ariel from developing a flat head from being laid on one side too often.

Options for fixing the tongue tie: scissors or use a heat laser. Both are painful. The lactation specialist got me an appointment with Dr. Alex Hamilton, a dentist out of Bryant, Arkansas who uses a water laser. My OB was incredulous of a laser not heat-based. So maybe it’s technically not a laser. In any case, the beam displaces the water molecules in the skin to sever the connection. No blood. No pain. The tissue evaporates. If this tool were made on a large scale, you’d effectively have a human vaporizer as seen in science fiction.

Ariel - tongue tie procedure

We did stretches and massages with Ariel for three weeks to ensure that the skin did not reattach. She also had to relearn to eat. As Dr. Hamilton put it, imagine that your arm is folded and tied for a month. Once it’s loose it’ll take some time for control of movement to return.

Not only was I pain free, but Ariel began gaining weight soon after the procedure and is now over 11 pounds. I am so thankful to have had the resources as well as support from family and friends to make breastfeeding possible. I have talked to women of all ages who have shared similar experiences—one of their children inexplicably struggled to nurse or caused pain/damage. Many of the women never knew the cause and now wonder if a tongue or lip tie was the culprit. (For many people, the skin will eventually stretch once talking begins, so it can be hard to tell whether there was a problem in infancy.)

On the whole things are going well. Ariel generates more laundry than the entire household combined. We’d be swimming in clothes in the tiny cabin. Nevertheless, finishing the cabin and living there is still “the plan” (though I hear the echo of Robert Burns’ “best laid plans of mice and men”).

In January we leave for Italy, where we’ll be thrust into a minimalist lifestyle—living out of suitcases in a hotel-sized room in a 16th century villa just outside of Florence. We’ll be there twelve weeks, during which time the weather will change and Ariel will grow. Packing will be a challenge. We’ll have to purchase some things when we arrive as well as leave other things behind. Right now we have lots of hand-me-down gadgets and seats; there we’ll learn to improvise.

At the same time, the villa provides our meals and does our laundry, so certain aspects of daily life will be easier. And fingers crossed that we have Ariel trained to sleep through the night at that point. Right now each night is a toss up.

We’ll be back in April—just in time for nice cabin-finishing weather. Eventually we’ll want to add on—or possibly have a slightly larger cabin built with the current one as a guest cabin.

Who knows? I’m tired of predicting the future, as nothing has gone as expected so far!

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