Saturday, July 4, 2009

Mother's Wrist

Elliot was always a good sleeper. He just needed help. Whether it was nursing him to sleep or rocking or singing, he needed someone with him until he passed out, then we'd silently creep from the room, cursing every creaky floorboard in our 60+ year old house.

When Felix was born, we were determined to do things differently. He would learn to self-soothe. I wouldn't nurse him to sleep. He'd go in his bed (first, a cradle next to our bed, then a crib in his own room) drowsy but awake and would learn to sleep on his own.

But, life often makes different choices for you, of course.

We tried. But Felix got accustomed to sleeping on me or next to me in the first weeks of his life, as I tried to protect him from Elliot's pinching fingers and loud toy crashes. I didn't have time to nurse or rock him to sleep, like I did with Elliot. I thought I was on the right track. He did fall asleep on his own a few times. Then he got a cold and was so badly congested I ended up sleeping with him on my chest, upright in the arm chair in our living room for nearly a week.

After that, he was old enough that a habit formed. And I was too tired and frazzled to break it. From 3-7 months of age, our nights went like this: bath, book, boob, fall asleep in my arms while I watched TV and then fell asleep myself until Jay woke me around midnight, then we'd all go to bed. In our bed. We never coslept with Elliot - Jay was nervous about it. Plus, he was a good sleeper, once he went to sleep, so he did well in the cradle and then his crib.

Felix slept in our bed from very early on. I admit I loved snuggling up next to him. It was special cozy time I wouldn't get otherwise, as I spent the days entertaining Elliot and keeping Felix out of harm's way. When I could get Felix to sleep in his crib or the playyard, I would have to be next to him the whole time. He wouldn't fall asleep nursing, but would lay there watching me, lifting his head to find me if I moved out of sight. I would rub his back or head or just pat him... then sneak away as quiet as could be. Of course, when he woke I would be gone and he'd scream the place down.

So yes, lots of evenings spent in the arm chair, Felix cradled in my arms while I watched show after show after show, until I too fell asleep. When Felix was around 6 months old, I noticed a pain in my right wrist. I figured it was his weight straining the joints.

I mentioned it to my chiropractor and she did an adjustment. Together, we determined what movements caused the most pain. I use my right hand to support myself when nursing, no matter which side I'm nursing from. I use my right hand with the computer mouse. I do a lot with my right, despite being left handed, but it seemed that those repetitive motions, combined with the long nights with Felix cradled in my arms, my right wrist curled around his head, were damaging.

I contacted my doula to see what suggestions she had for nursing positions that would be easy on my wrists, as by now I was feeling pain in both. She suggested a 'breast sling' - a length of fabric tied in a sash on my chest, resting under the breast so hopefully I wouldn't need to hold it in position. It worked! But it wasn't a natural position for me and I kept forgetting to use it, and so before long my right wrist was throbbing again.

At 7 months, we transitioned Felix into his crib. Keeping it in a separate room was useless, so we took the side rail off and lashed it up against our bed. Voila! Instant space in our bed and a mostly happy baby. I could even get him to sleep there in the early evenings so I didn't have to be chained to that armchair. Wow - such freedom in my nights! I could check my email. Walk around the house. Have a phone conversation. Chat with my husband. Pee!

But my wrist still ached. It got so bad I couldn't bend it to unclasp my bra before bed. Or catch Elliot as he came down the slide. Or take pans out of the oven. Or a million other unconscious movements preformed in the run of an average day. I stubbornly ignored it and found ways around the pain.

I was on one of my parenting message boards recently when someone posted about having de Quervain's Tendonitis, also known as Mother's Wrist. Many other woman exclaimed that they also had the same pain. It sounded very familiar. All of the Dr. Googling I did indicated that a
corticosteroid injection into the inflamed area or surgery would best relieve the tendinitis. Those options scared the crap outta me, so back to my chiropractor I went. She did another adjustment (sweet relief!) and also gave me a wonderful stretch to help release the tendons in my hand: Lean over a chair, onto the hand that hurts. Twist the wrist around so the fingers are splayed pointing behind you. Lean down into it. When I first did this, I actually cried out in pain. I couldn't believe how badly it stung!

I've been trying to do this stretch several times per day over the last week or so. I can feel things releasing a bit, but the ache is still there. The difference between the right and left wrists is amazing. I hope that with regular chiro and stretching that I can get normal wrist function back.

Felix is now 11 months old. He's been in his crib in his own room for the last 2 weeks. He's had 3 whole nights where he stayed in his crib from 8pm-5:30am and then I'd have to bring him into the guest bed with me. (Ok, to clarify, he wasn't sleeping through the night, there were at least 3, more like 6 wake ups in there that had him needing to be nursed or shhhhh'd back to sleep.) Most nights, I end up in the guest bed, co-sleeping with him from 11pm onwards, but right now I don't mind. I miss sleeping next to Jay, but I'm confident it will happen again someday. Plus, I'm next to him for most of the night, anyway... :P

I picked up a white noise machine this week. Our neighbour is adding on a room and the construction borders Felix's bedroom wall. And it's LOUD. The noise has been helping him to nap through it. He naps anywhere from 30-90 minutes now. Such a change from even a month ago!!

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