Tagged childbirth

Insufficient Glandular Tissue - When Breastfeeding Doesn't Go As Planned

When Breastfeeding Doesn’t Go As Planned

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This is the first of I don’t know how many posts to tell my breastfeeding story. I don’t know if it’s that long or if it is going to take me that long to get it all out and emotionally relive it all again.

Insufficient Glandular Tissue - When Breastfeeding Doesn't Go As Planned

When my first was born, I had no idea of the learning curve that comes with breastfeeding. Babies can cry a lot when rooting and trying to latch. The latch. The frustrating, seemingly never ending, unbelievably rewarding latch. I thought he would swim to my boob and lay there happily. Um no. He was MOST irritated and he didn’t even have the chapped nipples to prove it. A friend of mine (who is also a doula) said to me “this is normal” after observing me giving two day old babe a breakfast meal. Or at least I thought I was giving two day old babe a breakfast meal. It was more like a 100 calorie snack. As far as everything looked, though, I was right on track to exclusively breastfeeding.

If I had a dozen babies I believe that every single one would be inflicted with jaundice. On day three we had to turn around and rush baby boy back to the NICU after a follow-up blood test proved his levels were elevated. Our new family bubble of bliss had been popped. Nothing and no one would get us back to that warm feeling we had felt just hours before.

Breastfeeding

A huge blessing for us was being allowed to room in for our son’s brief stay. Every 3 hours I was allowed to offer him my breast for 10 minutes followed by a long cycle at the breast pump. I was feeling really terrible with a cough and I hadn’t slept since I first went into labor. I initially attributed my low milk supply to lack of sleep, feeling under the weather, and our new “home.” Anything, but my broken breasts.

Lactation consultants would say to me “sometimes it just doesn’t happen…” with lingering looks toward the door. One “sweet” lady in particular said something that hit a nerve and has stuck with me since my first child, but only clicked with my second. “You don’t have the right breasts for breastfeeding,” she said. Immediately my loyal sister piped up “she has similar breasts as mine and I was able to breastfeed all three of my babies.” Her quip gave me a little bit of hope but I was also internally digesting this statement, comparing her breasts to mine, sixth grade thoughts all over again. Although our breasts are similar, they aren’t identical. And what I’ve learned is; even if our breasts appeared identical that wouldn’t necessarily mean we would both be able to exclusively breastfeed our babies. Some breasts just don’t produce (enough) milk but I didn’t learn this until years later.

After our return from the NICU I was supplementing with formula because otherwise he would have been a very hungry hippo.

(There is photographic evidence of this, that I was THIS CLOSE to posting, of me naked from the waist up, my head wrapped up in a towel with the supplemental feeding system clipped to it and the baby boy trying like heck to get a decent meal. My husband ran interference with this and rightfully so, by asking me if I was OK with the “POSSIBILITY OF BECOMING A MEME?”)

I was told by people and the internet that THIS (formula feeding) was the reason I wasn’t producing more milk, even though I was pumping after every feeding, sometimes for 30 minutes.
To make matters worse, when I was five weeks into life with our first I was diagnosed with pneumonia. The pneumonia would be my latest excuse for my low supply. The toll it took on me was devastating. I ended up spending a number of days in the hospital, all the while continuously pumping on a regular schedule. I was pumping around the clock and for such long times I’m surprised my nipples even survived. Because of very heavy drugs, I had to pump and dump.

Breast Feeding Blues
Photo Credit: www.someecards.com

I was a complete mess. A woman crying while pumping both breasts to the rhythmic beat of the Medela “Pump in Style” has got to be one of the saddest sights ever. My dear husband was there all the while with all the right things to say and even then I COULD NOT GET OVER THE SADNESS. I had a healthy baby boy (that I couldn’t breastfeed.) I had a beautiful baby boy (that I couldn’t breastfeed.) I had to give him formula?

During my pregnancy the idea of feeding my baby formula was so far from my mind. I would have turned up my nose if you told me it would become our lives. He needed that Enfamil to thrive and survive. HE COULDN’T get what he needed from me. This was a big, scratchy, debilitating pill to swallow.

To be continued…

 

Reflections on My Initiation into Motherhood

Reflections on My Initiation into Motherhood

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Reflections on My Initiation into Motherhood

I wish I could say that I took to motherhood immediately. My own mother did. She says that the first time she saw my sister, her firstborn, she had an overwhelming feeling of love. Scientists attribute these all-encompassing feelings of love to the surge of oxytocin that occurs during labor and the postpartum period. My mother, who recalls waking many hours after my sister’s birth via C-section, may not have had the hormonal surge during labor, but she nonetheless instantly bonded with her newborn. Even though I gave birth vaginally, I didn’t feel that instant bond with my son. My initial reaction to motherhood was more akin to shock.

History is full of idealized images of motherhood–from Renaissance portraits of the Madonna and Child, to Mary Cassatt’s wonderful renditions of everyday interactions between mothers and their children, to June Cleaver in the 1950’s, to modern-day, airbrushed photographs of celebrity mothers, Facchinetti_Maternal_lovehair coiffed and in full make-up, holding their smiling babies. Although I love Mary Cassatt’s paintings as well as Raphael’s Madonna and Child, none of these representations accurately reflects my initial experience of motherhood. If someone had painted a portrait of a sleep deprived, bleary-eyed woman, shirt soaked with leaking breast milk and splotched with spit-up, that would have more accurately portrayed me in my first few weeks of child rearing.

Modern childbirth, only relatively recently (and thankfully) out of the closet from a private affair between a woman and her doctor, has also developed its own mystique. Some people have very strong opinions on “natural” childbirth versus births with some sort of intervention like an epidural, etc. Having given birth both ways, I believe that people should do whatever makes them most comfortable. If a detailed birth plan, a water birth or a home birth is the way you want to go, then more power to you. Likewise, if you end up having a cesarean section, then I’m happy that medical interventions can help you and your baby stay healthy. Many times, no matter how much you plan, your body has different ideas.

nicognome3In my own case, I assumed that I would have a cesarean section, because both my mother and my sister had to have one. I also assumed that I would go into labor past my due date. In reality, I started having contractions 3 weeks before I was due. My water broke, so I went to the hospital. My labor, however, wouldn’t progress even after the doctors gave me Pitocin. Because the contractions under Pitocin were so painful, I asked for an epidural, which relaxed me enough that my cervix could finally begin dilating. After three hours of pushing, my son was born. Without warning, the doctors put my infant son on my stomach. Because I had closed my eyes while pushing, I did not realize that my son had even been born. I didn’t have any idea what they had put on my stomach. When I finally realized it was my son, they whisked him away to weigh him and check his vitals. The doctor, who had not been my regular obgyn, soon left and let a medical student stitch up my torn perineum.

I was lucky. I did not have any problems breastfeeding. My son was born healthy, and I went through childbirth in a relatively short time. I did not, however, feel elated. Instead, I felt exhausted and nicohandsuckcloseupwholly unprepared to take care of this tiny being. Add to that some incontinence, pain from my tear, and the fact that the medical student had mistakenly left gauze inside of me (something I would discover 12 days after giving birth), I wasn’t in the best of spirits.

I also felt unprepared to suddenly accept my new identity as a mother. The nurses, unaware of the jarring feeling one can have when becoming a first time mother, stopped calling me by my name and started calling me mom. I was prepared to have my son at some point call me mom, but not four or five adult nurses.

To add to my feelings of incompetence, my son choked a couple of days after he was born. He slept in a bassinet right next to me, and I didn’t even notice. A nurse happened to be in the hospital room and rushed quickly to his bassinet, picked him up, flipped him over and slapped him on the back. I was shocked and worried that he might choke in his sleep, or nicotoolswhile I was sleeping. The nurse told me that I needed to watch my child constantly, so that I could intervene if he started to choke. She said that I, as a mother, would be able to sense when he was about to choke, even if I were asleep. A couple of days later, my pediatrician informed me that the nurse was completely mistaken, that babies never choke to death while sleeping on their backs. However, prior to that initial well-check appointment with my pediatrician, I was terrified.

The first night home, I didn’t sleep because my son wanted to eat constantly, to bring in my milk supply, and also because I was so afraid he would choke to death. I remember wondering in the middle night if this was really what motherhood was all about. Nothing can really prepare a person for the prolonged sleep deprivation involved in caring for a newborn. Jennifer Senior, in a Fresh Air interview about her book All Joy and No Fun: The Paradox of Modern Parenthood, divides new parents into three groups: those who can function with sleep loss, those who are “compromised and cranky,” and those who are just complete “basket cases.” In those first few months, I probably fluctuated between the latter two. I was especially an emotional wreck when we had to return to the hospital two days after coming home, because my son had jaundice. Watching the doctors put an IV in his tiny arm was simply too much for me. I may not have had that initial outpouring of love, but my connection to him was more primal. I simply couldn’t stand to see someone hurt him.

I was fortunate to have a great deal of support from my husband, who fell in love with my son instantly and completely. He wanted to spend every waking moment with him. My husband was the type of father who took off his shirt to hold our son because he read it was beneficial for ry=400newborns to have skin-to-skin contact with their parents. My mother and sister also staggered their visits so that I had someone helping us the first month of my son’s life. All of their support took a lot of the stress away from adjusting to motherhood. However, during those first weeks that I cared for my son, held him, changed his diapers, and breastfed him, I still felt more overwhelmed than “in love” with my newborn. It wasn’t until everyone had left, my husband had grown accustomed to having our baby in the house, and I had the chance to sit alone holding my son on my chest as he slept, that I began to appreciate and get used to motherhood. Since that day, I haven’t looked back. Like most mothers, I love my son more than anything (except of course my other child), and that love continues to grow. I also have earned my stripes as a mother. I have gotten up in the middle of the night with sick children countless times, cleaned up vomit and excrement and urine, wiped tears, kissed cheeks, snuggled with my boys millions upon millions of times, and fallen completely and utterly in love with my children.

However, in a time when popular media still represents motherhood as an instantaneous bond between a mother and her newborn, it is important to remember that, for some of us, the whole motherhood thing might just take a little longer to take in.


 

***As an aside, I may have had one negative interaction with a nurse, but the rest of the nurses were rock stars. The second time I gave birth, I returned to that same hospital with a different doctor, and I had the most wonderful, empathetic and caring nurses.


Image Attribution:

Fachinetti: Maternal Love

A Birth Story

Of Miracles And Moments – A Birth Story

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A Birth Story

There you are Uma, my first glimpse of you, and of course you’re staring back at me.

Birth

(photo cred for all photos in this post except this one go to Jackie Willome Photography)

I found new love in this moment. I loved you instantly. In this moment, I have a ‘bright light’ moment, similar to what people describe when in a near death experience. You were the end of my tunnel. I wondered about the life you’ll lead. Geez, will you have to face a dustbowl drought, like I read about? Will you have a family of your own one day and experience the euphoria that I’m in? Will you spend years emulating your parents? Will you then spend years embarrassed by the sight of us? Whatever it is, whatever your challenges, your loves, your despair – all of it – you’re alive and it is all worth it. And finally, in this millisecond, I realize the struggle you’ve already made – to beat the odds – to be here with us to share this moment.

THE BIRTH STORY

(Part 1 – in which the birth is not discussed at all … YET)

All birth starts with conception, and yours is unique. No, I will never tell you the story of how your mother and I conceived you (any more than I just did), but go with me here. We had 2 kids- two wonderful kids- 2 kids that woke us up in all hours of the night as babies. 2 kids that we changed diapers for – (and not those “drop-em in a waste bucket and forget what you just saw” disposable diapers – but “shake-it-out and wash it” diapers).

To be honest, we thought another kid would be beyond our capabilities.

We were even using birth control – let’s be honest here – we were using one of THE MOST effective types of birth control on the market – 99.6% effective…apparently. That’s a percentage you sleep easy with, that percentage is why I don’t play the lottery.

See – I told you that you were unique. I guess all of that didn’t matter – not the diapers, not the birth control, not the percentage. What mattered was love – and we had that in abundance.
The day was July 7, 2014, the day we found out about you. Two days earlier, we had just had a dance off karaoke party with friends. I had literally sprained my ankle whilst singing Def Leppard (you will need to Wikipedia this pop-culture reference). Despite the injury, you need to know this about your dad: I rocked on. I sprained my ankle on the first song – and rocked on all the night long – for your mom – for her birthday.

So 2 days later, .04% (the chance of pregnancy) would come down to a Walgreens test, when Alissa had this weird feeling -that she had felt 2 times before. But I thought Alis was impregnable. Point-four percent (.04%) – surely we’re not that .04%. Surely, nobody is actually that .04%. Surely, that number is just representing scientific error and weird anomalies once every decade or so. Surely. Surely- POSITIVE.

I’m not saying I didn’t struggle. This was a process – and don’t worry – you do win my heart. You have that Rocky moment – that Say Anything moment – you do ‘get the girl,’ don’t worry, you get there.

During your gestational period, the kids and I spoke at length – I think Asher thought you were a bad taco that mom ate that was making her stomach ache. We had a very loving, very healthy pregnancy. We sang to you, talked to you and kissed you (as best we could).

THE BIRTH

(Part 2 – the real birth story)

So 9 months had passed. I would say uneventfully, but it wasn’t so uneventful. We loved you already. We had traveled a long way from that .04% – a universe away, as we eagerly awaited your arrival.

The night you were born, Asher had awoken in the night, as he is prone to doing. I comforted him, and ended up falling asleep on his bed. Around midnight Alissa wakes me up in a rush, I see that she is having serious contractions- because she couldn’t talk to me in complete sentences. She quickly shouted some brief commands and rushed off to get a firm grip on something before the next contraction. I knew this was it, the day we had been waiting for. Alissa rushed to the couch and had more contractions, texting our midwife Robin, and friends and doulas, Rachel and Beth.

I wanted, fool heartedly, to add some air to the birthing pool after hearing Alis tell the midwife that she wanted to labor in the tub. I was still in some form of REM sleep as I got out the air compressor (dolphins turn off half their brain and still swim as they sleep, I was in this dolphin state.) Somehow got the tip stuck inside the air hole of the birth tub, when I took off the compressor, the tub deflated to near nothing – it was a crumpled mess of what we needed, of what it was just a moment ago. I looked at Alissa, and she noticed the sad state of affairs in the midst of another contraction, (I still haven’t had the cajones to ask her what she was thinking as she glanced at me and a very well deflated tub.) I immediately problem solved – I grabbed the biggest pair of pliers in the house/ neighborhood/North Central part of town and I yanked it out and fixed my mess up. Who knows how many contractions I missed. DoulaBeth entered and comforted Alissa, then DoulaRachel showed up, and MidwifeRobin arrived shortly thereafter. Alissa asked if she could get in the tub to labor – MidwifeRobin wanted to examine first. I texted our amazing PhotographerJackie and told her that I would contact her soon if MidwifeRobin felt the baby was coming soon.  We had not yet asked Jackie to make her way to us, though we knew she was a good 45 minutes away, we didn’t want her to arrive too early.

Minutes later, MidwifeRobin checks and stops immediately and says “It’s time, the baby’s right here.” Alissa begs for clarification. “The baby is right here, this is her head.” And just then PhotographerJackie (did I say she was amazing?) came through the door, and just started snapping pictures. 6 minutes, 6 beautiful minutes, 6 precious minutes later, you were here and I had that ‘bright light’ moment. You were born in still fully in your amniotic sac. This is called en caul – just like 1 in 80,000 other babies are born. You always loved those long odds.

This is what followed:

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Thank you Uma – thank you for fighting the odds. Thank you for being born. Thank you for completing our family.