The Misery of Masticating on Mammaries

I have always planned to breast feed. No question about it. I am ample chested, my mother breastfed me, her mother breastfed her, I believe in being natural when possible, so on and so forth.

Sometimes life just doesn't go as planned...

When my baby was born distressed and overdue with low blood sugars he had to spend time in the NICU immediately. Because of this, we didn't get our initial skin to skin contact, or introduction to the breast. Instead he was bottle fed, when he would take food at all.

I asked for a pump at the hospital, and one was provided. However, I wasn't taught how to use it properly or told just how often I should be using it between trying to get him to latch when we were visiting him in the NICU.  As a result my milk not only came in more slowly, but not as fully as it should. Of course, him not feeding also inhibited it coming in fully.

During our hospital stay I saw three lactation consultants and had my breasts groped by more people than I care to recall, each with their own brand of advice. "You should hold him like this." "Hands go here." "No, hold your nipple this way." "Have you tried self expressing?" To the latter, may I just add that when one has tiny hands and DDD''s just hella hard to do, mm'k?

We also tried nipple shields which baby just flat out refused to have anything to do with. And I was sent home with a rented state of the art pump that a consultant insisted would help more and be better for me than the one I'd borrowed from a friend.

After I brought him home we saw yet another lactation consultant and tried a technique that involved a syringe of my breast milk feeding a tiny tube taped to my breast so he would associate feeding with gratification. I called it the baby camel back, you the backpackers use? Anyway. That of course frustrated him as well.

We learned that he could latch and was a natural rooter and that I wasn't doing anything wrong. The problem is that our son had not learned to suck properly. He simply doesn't know how to use his tongue. The consultant suggested a physical therapist, that naturally didn't take insurance.

I stared at this woman's contact information for days, deciding when I would call her. Meanwhile pumping every time I woke up to feed him no matter the hour, and never getting more than an ounce of milk between both breasts.This equated to about a third of the food he needed in a day.

During this time I also tried the copious amounts of Fenugreek that one nurse had recommended. I tried a marathon of pumping every hour that had worked for another friend.

After the first week it also became clear that my husband wasn't going to be able to help with night time feedings. Suffice to say he's not an easy person to wake up. Even when he wants to help, he's barely capable and I literally cannot stir him. This made my time awake even longer, and my nerves even more frayed. 

To top it all off I began to feel guilty. What type of mother was I, that I couldn't even feed my child? How bad was I for giving him formula, which contains soy (something I try to avoid adamantly and believe is unhealthy)? Why couldn't I do this simple thing when so many others could?

I know I'm not the first and far from the only to feel this way. What gets me is how few talk about it. You always hear people talking about the benefits of breastfeeding and the pride in doing so. But I've rarely heard anyone talk about their difficulties with it, or the associated guilt and depression with the inability. Which makes it twice as hard when you are one of those that cannot.

I found myself crying every time someone posted something about how good breast milk was for a baby. Getting more and more depressed every time I offered my son my breast and all he could do was chew on my nipple and get frustrated with the poor amount of milk and his lack of ability. 

It finally took my husband and both mother and mother-in-law to convince me that I was not a terrible parent and that giving up the pumping and letting myself dry up might save my sanity.

My breasts still leak and ache. And at times it seems like a cruel reminder of what I can't do for my child. But looking back at how hard we tried, I know I'm not a bad mommy. That really doesn't make it easier. I still wish I could do things differently for him. The difference is now I'm more aware of my support network and I know I'm doing well for my baby. As my mom aptly pointed out, children have survived far worse than having to eat formula.

And before anyone suggests it. We have looked into alternative things like organic formulas. Sadly none of those claiming to be organic are truly enough to make me comfortable. Some are even worse for the processes they use. And we did consider goats milk, but would have to then blend in other ingredients to make it nutritionally sound and that would sadly be too expensive as well as difficult to keep up with. 

Baby is now getting Gerber Good Start - Soothe, and seems to be plenty happy. He's up to nine pounds. A far cry from his skinny little NICU self!

These are not the jowls of an underfed infant ;)

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Latent Labor, The NICU, and Other Nightmares

My son is almost a month old now, and I'm just now getting around to writing about his entry into the world. Understandably, I've been just a touch busy. Where to begin...

I did not know about latent or prodromal labor, so when I wound up being in labor for six...yes six days, it was an unpleasant surprise. My contractions were what I'd deem relentless and painful, but weren't dilating me quickly enough. To top it off, the pain prevented me from sleeping for most of the week. Everything culminated in a day in the hospital where they monitored me for incredibly high blood pressure, but  wound up sending me home because I could not dilate past 3cm and they were very busy and full. A call that the doctor on hand wound up regretting later.

They sent me home with an ambien and told me to come in at 7am the next day. Now, many of you know that medications and I are not the best of friends. But I thought, "Hey! It's a sleep aid. How bad could it be?" Well, let me tell you...I hallucinated...a lot, and lost full function of my limbs. Dreams became meshed with reality and for some reason I began to dream that my contractions were my husband fixing furniture. And I was the furniture. Totally logical right? He says I asked him why he was touching my wiry bits at some point. I explained that I'd thought I was a bench. Mmhmm...totally normal. I was also convinced he'd painted the door with polka dots.

I made it until about 4am, at which point I wound up waking my mom and mother-in-law and telling them I really needed to go back to the hospital. My blood pressure was some ungodly number in the 200's over I don't recall what. And long story short they wound up admitting me.

God bless epidurals. I was not scared or worried about the needle by the time I got it, I was so thankful to have something for the pain. I believe I proclaimed Chip the anesthesiologist to be my new BFF. For one, it lowered my blood pressure and two, it let me sleep for the first time in what seemed forever.  I cannot say I felt the same amount of love for the IV in my arm. Between it, the blood draws, and the constant blood pressure readings, my arms were black, blue and green. They also started me on pitocin and by the afternoon I was well dilated.

Delivery itself seemed like NOTHING compared to the week of labor. Of course the pain reliever was helping contribute to that fact, but even with it wearing off by the time I was pushing, it was a relief in a way. I am not a fan of the "hold your breath while you push" school of thought though, I must say. It made it harder, and made me feel like passing out. By the end I was ignoring my poor nurses and grunting and crying out with the contractions and doing better for it! I threw my nurses off with my good humor, too. When they told me I was about to push him past the ring of fire, I had to make a crack about Johnny Cash and my husband sang a bit of "the" song.

At one point, they realized that Milo's chord was around his throat and did some saline injections to try and get it more loose. They also had to break my water at the start and said there was meconium present. Because of that and possible issues they had some of the NICU staff on hand for his delivery once we got closer.

Once he crowned they told me to stop pushing, but my contractions were pretty intense and before they could even get the doctor in that was supposed to be present my husband told me, "He's here." I asked if he meant his head and he said, "Nope, all of him." Out like a watermelon seed.

After that everything became a flurry of activity and heart wrenching anxiety. I didn't see him before they whisked him away to clear his airways. It was taking longer than I thought it should, and he couldn't breathe well so he wasn't crying. I could only see the backs of the NICU staff.

It seemed like hours rather than minutes, when they finally put him in my arms. I got to hold him for less than a minute before he was being put in a transport and they were telling Jon he could follow them down to NICU. He was so tiny and so beautiful, I sobbed. I cried all the harder when they took him away, and my support beam as well. I wasn't told much, but that they were worried something might be wrong with his diaphragm and he needed x-rays amongst other tests. After all the pain and stress, to feel that empty was heart wrenching. They let my mom in after that, and bless her heart she tried not to cry, but when she saw me crying and I told her they took my baby away, she couldn't help it.

I really have to be thankful for the awesome staff where I delivered, especially my primary nurse. She let me know things the minute she could (and perhaps sooner than she should have at times) and really took amazing care of me.

Things turned out to be much less terrible than expected once they got a look at him. There was nothing wrong with his diaphragm. However, he did have very low blood sugars because of the hard labor and the fact he was likely a week overdue.

I was only able to stay in the hospital for 48 hours, while he had to stay in the NICU for a week. Another thing that was terribly hard. But again, amazing staff. The nurses that took care of him in the NICU were like wingless angels in scrubs. We knew he was getting the best care he could and was safe. That of course, didn't prevent me from breaking down occasionally before we got him home.

After the week was up, and his levels were as well, we were able to do an overnight stay with him at the hospital and prepare to bring him home. Such a relief! 

The pictures I'm going to share, I haven't anywhere else yet. Mostly because I haven't been able to look at them without crying. And he looked so vulnerable that for awhile I wasn't sure if I wanted to keep them just to ourselves. 

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Welcome to my little corner of the crazy. I can't promise I will always have something intelligent to say. Or that my wit will always leave you laughing. But I can say this much...what you see is what you get. I am me...and I'm going to endeavor to share that uncensored. So, pull up a seat. Enjoy yourself and if I perhaps entertain you feel free to...

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