What no one told me about breastfeeding..

For some reason when you are expecting a baby, people want to know if you plan to breastfeed. This was never in doubt for me – I always had every intention of breastfeeding. Not because I believe “breast is best” (sorry but I hate that term), but more because I wanted that bonding experience with my child.

In the 3rd trimester, I took a breastfeeding course. The whole endeavor seemed overwhelming and complicated, but I vowed to give it my best shot once baby arrived. At the time, my attitude was that I would give it a try but if it didn’t work out, I wouldn’t sweat it too much. At the time, I naively believed that the only reason breastfeeding wouldn’t work out is if I didn’t produce enough milk. I had no idea there were so many complications and frustrations that could accompany breastfeeding.

When my daughter was born, we did not have that magical moment some other moms do where she instantly latched and our breastfeeding bond was sealed. She was sleepy, had low blood sugar, and couldn’t stay awake long enough to even latch onto my breast. We tried around the clock for the entire time I was in the hospital and it was just a disaster. I ended up having to feed her formula when she lost 12% of her birth weight, and I already felt like a failure of a mother before I even brought her home.

Fast forward a week, my milk finally came in and the lactation consultant I’d been working with finally helped us achieve a decent latch. I was thrilled the first time she fed from me! It felt as amazing and loving as I had imagined it would. However, things have certainly been a roller coaster since then, and at almost one month after her birth, we still haven’t been able to exclusively feed her from the breast. Sometimes she can’t latch at all, sometimes she can and falls off a million times without a decent meal. She’s gummed and chewed my nipples to shreds during the times she is latched on. This is the most frustration and disappointment I’ve experienced since my struggle with infertility.

Why didn’t anyone tell me breastfeeding could be so hard? That for something so natural, it doesn’t exactly come as second nature for some moms and babies? All the times I’ve tried so hard to nurse her only to have to give up and give her a bottle in the end has stirred up so many feelings of inadequacy. Why can’t we get this right? Why does it seem so much easier for so many other women? I have experienced so much frustration and disappointment that I wonder if perhaps I should have just salvaged my emotional health, given up on nursing, and focused on pumping and enjoying my time with her more.

The lactation consultant suggested she has a lip and tongue tie, which we are going to have fixed this week.  After a month of hell trying to breastfeed my daughter, I have come to realize that I need to admit defeat if this tongue and lip tie revision do not work. She needs me to be emotionaly strong and healthy, and crying every day about my failure to breastfeed is not what’s best for our relationship. I just wish I had been better prepared that there were so many different difficulties and disappointments that could accompany the feat of trying to exclusively breastfeed.

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Finally.

I still can’t believe it, but I am finally a mom.

My daughter was born on February 16th at 39 weeks exactly. I worried right up until I walked into the hospital whether or not she’d make it here safe and sound. But she did, and the dream of being a parent which has driven me through the past 4 years of infertiltiy hell, has finally come true.

At 6:00 AM on February 16th I walked into the hospital with my husband and doula for my scheduled cesarean section. I sat calmly in the waiting room as I was admitted and enjoyed the last of my baby’s kicks inside my stomach.

The nerves set in as we were walked upstairs to triage for pre-op. I changed into a gown and sat on the bed. I chatted with my husband and doula as the nurse took my vitals, listened to baby’s heartbeat, and administered my IV. We kept the conversation light and they kept me calm and lighthearted which helped my nerves tremendously. I felt calm and ready. The big red digital clock on the wall was constantly in my line of vision as I watched it edge closer to 7:30, my scheduled surgery time.

Finally, it was time. I felt like I was in a dream as I was handed a cap and walked back into the OR. The doors swung open and the lights of the OR were blindingly bright, just like in the movies. I was taken aback by how many doctors and hospital staff were in there, busy preparing for the surgery. I was instructed to hop up on the table so they could administer my spinal and it was at precisely this moment that my nerves went into overdrive.

I sat on the table, wordlessly, shaking from both anticipation and fear. I barely noticed the sting of the needle as I leaned forward and the medication was inserted into my back to numb me for the surgery. I wondered briefly how it would make me feel, and within seconds the entire lower half of my body felt like it had fallen asleep. I was laid down on the table and began to panic internally. What if the medication wasn’t strong enough and I could feel them cut into me? I wanted to ask for a few minutes to collect myself, but didn’t want them to think I was weak or scared.

The anesthesiologist was all business and explained that he was going to poke me with what felt like a thumbtack to assess how numb I was.  He sounded like he had done this a million times, which was comforting. When you have your abdomen cut open you want an anesthesiologist who comes with lots of experience and confidence! As he poked me he asked to what degree I could feel it. I prayed I wouldn’t get the answer wrong as I feared it might lead him to not give me enough medications to sufficiently numb me.

Suddenly, it was go time. The drape went up and I had an overwhelming feeling of This is really happening. Like, right now. There is no turning back. 

My memory from that moment is spotty but I recall finally seeing my husband come into the OR and sit behind the drape right by my head. I asked him if they were almost ready to start the surgery, as I had felt pressure on my stomach for a while now and assumed it was the doctor cleaning and prepping me. My husband told me that they had already began and were well into the procedure, which surprised me more than it should have. From that moment on I became acutely aware that all of the pressure and tugging I felt was, well, my abdomen and uterus being cut into. It was a sickening feeling and left me very unsettled.

The tugging and pressure increased and I heard my husband say they were getting close to pulling the baby out. All of a sudden, the anesthesiologist grabbed my husbands shoulders and told him to stand up so he could see the baby being born and announce the sex.

“It’s a girl!”

I couldn’t believe it. My baby was here, finally she had joined us, safe and sound. And she was a girl! There had been no doubt in my mind for 9 months that it was going to be a boy. I began to cry. I heard her first cry, and the tears rolled down my face faster. My husband kissed me and I felt like I was in a dream. I was listening to my own child cry. Of the thousands of babies I’d heard cry throughout my life, nothing sounds like the first cry from your own child.

They cleaned her up, weighed her, (9 lb 10 oz!) and brought her behind the drape. I kissed her head. I’m a mom. Finally. This is my daughter.

She is two weeks old today and it feels both like I’ve never known life without her, and at the same time, I still can’t believe she’s here and she’s ours. If given the choice I would never want to suffer through those years of infertility, but with her birth it all made more sense. She is who we were waiting for and working towards all that time. And I can say that she was absolutely worth the wait.