Sunday, March 10, 2013

My Adventures in Breastfeeding

written in June, 2012

I feel like I need to put a super warning on this post. But I think the title should indicate to you whether you want to read this post or not. It's about babies and boobs, namely mine.

Whether or not I wanted to breastfeed was never a question to me. To me, breastfeeding just seemed like a natural thing that I would want and that would happen. I knew the typical challenges of breastfeeding before ever having a baby. Bad latch. Milk shortage. Inverted nipples. and the list goes on (and on).

When I arrived at the hospital to induce my labor, my first nurse asked whether she should mark me down for breastfeeding or not. I told her I wanted to nurse. She said that was a good decision, and that those first few moments with my baby would be precious and a good time to bond. I kind of felt like rolling my eyes and saying, "Girl, you're preaching to the choir. That is of course what I want."

14 hours later I had my precious new baby girl in my arms. The nurse helped me strip down so Liana and I could do skin-to-skin and nurse. After a few different positions, the nurse said Liana probably wasn't going to latch now and that I should just enjoy her instead of trying to nurse. I was a little deflated because I knew that that first feeding was so important. But I did want to enjoy my baby and didn't want my first memory of her to be frustration.

During the course of my hospital stay I had multiple nurses and lactation consultants try and help me to get Liana to nurse. But no luck. She loved the time close to me, but she would just fall asleep or just play. She didn't seem interested in eating at all. I pumped a tiny bit of colostrum and fed it to Liana with a syringe, so as to eliminate nipple confusion. My hospital stay was coming to an end, and I felt desperate to have Liana nurse just once before we left.

Over the next week I spent hours every day doing skin-to-skin with Liana and trying different holds. I started pumping and feeding her with a syringe. I spent hours crying and mourning the fact that my baby did not want me. She just seemed to refuse my body. It was something that I could never imagine before, and is so hard to describe. It was hard. I was so grateful to have a beautiful, healthy baby. I was so happy, but it wasn't what I imagined.

A week after Liana was born I went to another lactation consultant. Liana had lost one pound. The consultant informed me I was starving my baby. My stubbornness to not give Liana a bottle was just making the problem worse. Liana was so tired from having no food that she did not have the energy to nurse. No amount of different positions, supplemental tubes, or nipple shields was going to cox my baby into breastfeeding. I just needed to get some food in her. The consultant suggested I rent a hospital grade pump to keep my supply up, and to start feeding Liana with a bottle.

The next few weeks went like this: attempt to feed Liana at the breast, pump, feed Liana with a bottle, sleep, do it again. It was exhausting emotionally and physically. And although Jerry was helpful in feeding Liana with a bottle, there essentially was not much else he could really do.

On my birthday Liana finally nursed. Well, kind of. She sucked and had a really shallow latch, but she was able to get out some milk. I was so excited. But it KILLED. After a day of pain, letting her feed like that and still supplementing some with the bottle, Liana started to again refuse me. I was devastated. I went to the lactation consultant again. She told me I was doing everything right--I just had to keep trying until my baby caught on. She told me it might take months, but that it would be worth it. I went home and had a meltdown. Months?!?? I just didn't think I could do it. It was too much for me to handle. I had this perfect little girl who I loved so much and I wanted to give her the best. But she didn't want it, or me. Jerry suggested that I take a break from trying for a little bit. So I started to only try to nurse a few times a day. And then only once a day. Not being rejected every 2 hours started to lighten my spirits, and I could feel the cloud of despair start to lift. I finally decided that I was going to exclusively pump and bottle-feed. Once I made the decision and decided it was okay, I felt elated. I was so grateful to have modern technology that made expressing milk so easy, and I was still able to give my baby the best. Since pumping became just another part of my daily routine, I was happy to do it. Unfortunately, it wasn't perfect and happy all the time. I was pumping enough milk for twins (and then some) and was frequently having clogged milk ducts.

When Liana hit 6 weeks, I started to try and nurse her again, but only every few days. When she didn't take to my breast, it didn't bother me all. I had a new reality. I was happy to pump. I found that it was pretty convenient.

When Liana hit 10 weeks, I had a slightly mortifying experience. Once when I was pumping, I looked down to see that one of the bottles was full of blood. It totally revolted me. I gagged and dry heaved a little. After a lengthy google search I felt confident that blood in breastmilk is normal.  But still disturbing. I went to pump again and it happened, again. This time it was was in the middle of the night, so my reaction was even worse. I was tired and emotional. After more internet searches that confirmed it was normal I went to sleep with reassurance that I was going to live, but I wasn't quite sure I could get the image out of my head. The next morning when it was time to pump I was scared and shaking. During the course of my hours of internet reading it frequently said that blood was normal, and it probably happens to most mothers, but they aren't aware because the baby just drinks it, and it is fine for the baby. So while Jerry was in the shower, I woke Liana up. I told her I was sorry if she drank any blood. And after weeks of not trying, I put Liana to the culprit breast. And.. she nursed! For real! The funny thing was, I wasn't even surprised or even that happy about her nursing, I was just so relieved that if there was blood, I didn't have to see it (selfish, I know).

So now Liana is just a few days shy of 4 months. She nurses like a pro! Just within the past few days I have been able to get my milk supple under control. Until then, I had still been pumping extra.

Right around the time she started nursing.

Update: Liana is still a very good nurser. In fact, now I am trying to wean her, which feels so bizarre after all the prayers and effort that went into her starting to nurse.

After only a few weeks of nursing, Liana gained around 4 lbs.

Liana's Birth Story Part II

Okay, I have been building suspense for 3 months now, so hopefully the rest of the story does not disappoint.

We arrived at the hospital and I had to fill out a bunch of paper work. I'm assuming if the woman is already in active labor they don't make her do this part when she arrives at the hospital.. because it was a lot! My mom, husband, and I just kind of sat around the lobby for a few minutes. It felt pretty surreal.

In the lobby.

Then I was ushered to my room and given a hospital robe. My mother was there through the whole ordeal, and she took great notes. So I will let her take it from here!

6:15 am – Arrived at the hospital to be induced, per doctor’s orders. Policy is to induce after one week over due.
Got settled.
7:45 am - Started Pitocin
       Danielle's aside: I had never felt a contraction until I arrived at the hospital. The nurse hooked me up to an IV and started a drip. She also put a monitor around my belly to measure contractions. About a minute after I was hooked up I said, "Whoa! I am feeling a contraction!" The nurse said, "I haven't even started the Pitocin... But yes, according to the monitor you did have a slight contraction." So I may have had contractions before, but I just wasn't lying there expecting to feel them.
10:10 am - Broke Water – 3+ dilated, 90% effaced
11:14 am - still 3+ dilated, 90% effaced, -2 station (how low in the pelvis?)
Danielle is very tired and dizzy. Sits on edge of bed or stands and hugs Jerry during contractions. Lots of low pressure. Cries during contractions, but pretty good with her breathing most of the time.
       My contractions were 2 1/2 minutes apart. And I was falling asleep between them from exhaustion.
12:22 pm – 4 cm dilated  90% effaced, -1 station – head has lowered. Tried a few different positions at her mom’s request, and also tried the birthing ball – but no relief from the pain.
12:44 pm - asked for an epidural. Says she is sooooo tired and just wants to be able to rest. Anesthesiologist is in an emergency c section and may not be available for another 15 minutes. Jerry hesitant to sign the papers in spite of Danielle’s pleading, begging with droopy puppy dog eyes. I couldn't believe he was being so tough when she was obviously in so much pain and it could drag on for awhile.  (Found out later he was hesitant because Danielle had previously told him that no matter what she says don’t let her get an epidural! He wanted to uphold her wishes!)
1:15 pm – Received the epidural
1:25 pm  -  Still at 4 cm dilated, 90% effaced. Increasing Pitocin to 20 – the highest dose
Danielle changes sides every hour. Epidural is making her very shaky.
       I was extremely shaky. I decided to get an epidural so I could sleep, but because I was constantly violently shaking, I could not sleep. Also probably around this time my mom and Jerry both got delicious smelling food and ate it in my delivery room, even though I asked them not to! The smell was torture because I was so hungry.
2:27 pm – dilated to 5 cm and 100% effaced
3:44  pm – dilated 5-6 cm and 100% effaced
4:30 pm – dilated to 6 cm and 100% effaced. Reduced Pitocin to 16 to get more time between contractions. No relief from shakes and she was never able to sleep. She remained awake the whole day.
5:55 pm – dilated to 8 cm, 100% effaced and +1 station
7:40 pm – 100% dilated and 100% effaced
7:55 pm  – started to push. She could feel enough to push, but Jerry had to hold up and bend one leg and Danielle’s mom the other during pushing, while Mom counted to 10. Danielle complained the count was too slow and her mom needed to do a more accurate count and not drag it on.
8:45 pm  – Doctor came in for the first time. She had a temperature of 100.7 so they gave her 2 grams of ampicillin to combat any infection. Baby kept crowning and then would go back up. Thought an episiotomy would help, but he wanted it to be the couple’s decision.
       I think I had a temperature because I was shaking so much and kept on asking for heated blankets.
9:25 pm - doc came in and put stirrups up.
9:38 pm  - Liana Jade Hale was born immediately after an episiotomy was finally agreed upon and done.
                8 lbs 13 oz, 20 ½'' long

She was extremely CONEHEAD and half white and half blue at birth, freaking out both Jerry and Danielle’s mom! But it was so awesome to observe the birth and be a part of this new life!

Thanks, mom!

so happy.

So, my birth experience wasn't quite what I expected or wanted. But I was glad I kept an open mind about the epidural because the Pitocin gave me really hard contractions. I knew it was the right decision when I still took 7 more hours to become fully dilated. I also didn't want an episiotomy(who does?!). The doctor was very understanding and made it clear that it was my choice. My episiotomy ended up being less than a half-inch, so really, it wasn't bad at all, and with my next contraction Liana was out.

Hearing Liana cry for the first time really was magical. I was so moved and excited to meet her. She was a beautiful newborn. She didn't look anything like I expected, but even better and so much like her dad.