I was thinking we could start a series of breastfeeding stories, like our Mothers By Nature, Warriors By Choice thread! I am receiving SO much positive feedback about the postpartum journeys that I am posting from other mamas around the world! So, I thought we could do the same with breastfeeding! I am going to go ahead and kick start our thread with my own personal breastfeeding story with both of my boys. If you are currently reading this and would like to share your own breastfeeding journey, please email it to me at firstname.lastname@example.org ❤ feel free to include a few of your favorite nursing pictures, your first name, and where you live. All of the breastfeeding journeys will be posted under the title ‘ Lets Talk Boobies’
Erin A- Connecticut
Hey mamas! Get ready, this is a long one 😉
So, my breastfeeding/postpartum journey was not exactly what I had expected. Honestly, that’s because I didn’t exactly know what to expect! My husband and I were the first of most of our friends and family to have a baby, so neither of us had spent much time around small children, or people who had them. Like any other expectant mom, I read tons of books and articles online doing everything and anything to prepare for the journey ahead. But at the end of the day, we all know, nothing can prepare you for the crazy/incredible experience of childbirth, breastfeeding, and being a parent. At each of my prenatal doctor visits, the nurses on shift would ask if I was planning to breastfeed, to which I would reply, “Yes! I plan to give it a shot!” At that time, I genuinely had NO idea what breastfeeding actually entailed. How complex and elaborate the act of breastfeeding is. I didn’t realize how physically and mentally demanding it would be. Or how much strength and commitment it requires. I didn’t understand how many things could go wrong, and that not every mother/baby would succeed. I just assumed that every mom would “give it a shot” and that we’d all nourish our babies that way, as if it was all so simple and easy…
Well, come March 29, 2016, we welcomed our son, Landon James, into the world! I delivered him at about 6pm. An hour or so later, once I was moved into my recovery room, a nurse came in and told me it was time to breastfeed. She clearly saw the fear in my eyes and the clueless hesitation on my face. She smiled and sat by my side and helped me show Landon how to latch on. It took a few minutes, but eventually he did, and it was the sweetest thing I’d ever seen. Soon after, Landon fell asleep. My husband and I were so exhausted from the crazy day that we had had, and the nurse could see that. She offered to take Landon to the nursery while he slept to keep an eye on him, so that we could close our eyes too. Everything inside of me wanted nothing more than to just hold him in my arms and never let go, but I knew that it was important that we got some rest too. We agreed to let her take him, and she said that as soon as he woke she would bring him in to breastfeed. A few hours later, around 9pm, she did just that. I fed him, he slept, and back to the nursery he went. He returned at midnight, and again at 3am. Then all of a sudden, an unfamiliar voice woke me… I looked at the clock and it read 7am. The woman before us introduced herself. She said she was the pediatric doctor in charge of the NICU. I completely blocked out everything she said next. I feverishly looked around the room, and behind her into the hallway, searching for my boy. Why wasn’t he here? Wouldn’t he need to breastfeed? Where was he? What was wrong??? I looked at my husband who was intently listening to the doctor. I tuned back in as she finished explaining that they had no choice but to immediately take Landon downstairs to the NICU once they discovered that his white blood cell count had spiked. That he was ok for the time being, but that we would need to get dressed and go see him as soon as possible. She gave us instructions as to how to get there and where to find him, and said that she’d meet us down there as she turned to exit the room. The most horrible silence filled the room as my husband and I sat and stared blankly at each other. Without exchanging a word, we got ourselves up and proceeded to go straight downstairs to find our boy.
I felt so scared and helpless. My epidural still hadn’t worn off completely, so I wasn’t able to walk unassisted. I don’t have to tell you ladies how painful and humiliating recovery can be. So my husband asked for a wheel chair, and together we hurried downstairs. Several nurses/doctors directed us where to go, until finally I was wheeled into a room where my worst nightmare began. I was so distraught, riding a rollercoaster of emotions. Having just given birth to the boy of my dreams I initially felt so ecstatic, like I was walking on water. Then, just barely 12 hours later, I felt like the ground had been ripped out from underneath me. Like my heart had been ripped from my chest. There, lying so helpless and innocent, was my little man in an incubator, hooked up to an IV as well as several monitors. I could go on and on about the details, the absolute horror we experienced that day. We quickly learned that Landon’s body was likely reacting to the fever that I had developed through the stress of delivering him, and was likely preparing to fight off a potential infection…
I can still easily recall the depressing feeling that filled that room each day. It was so challenging, physically and emotionally, recovering from the birth in this tiny, scary room with no privacy at all. All I wanted was to be with my boys in the comfort of our own home. I wasn’t allowed to hold my baby when I wanted to. And when I was instructed to, I had to be careful not to tangle any of the wires connected to his monitors. It was stressful, trying to learn to breastfeed, when I wasn’t allowed to do that at my own free will either. I had to wait for a nurse to be in attendance so she could monitor us and keep track of how much he was eating, as if that were even possible with breastfeeding. I felt intruded upon. Many of the nurses we worked with would give their unasked for and unwanted two cents on how I should breastfeed my baby. I knew it was their job to help my son remain healthy, but I just wanted them to leave us alone so I could bond with my baby!!! They demanded that I pump after each nursing session so that I would keep my supply coming in. My breasts were so engorged, my nipples so raw and sore. Turned out I shouldn’t have been pumping as often as I was, because my body was over producing, but I was just listening to the nurses, thinking I had to do as they instructed me. For five days straight I cycled through the same routine every 3 hours. Once Landon would wake from sleeping, we had to find a nurse. Once they were present we either were lucky enough to change his diaper ourselves if they allowed, or had to watch the nurse change him. Each and every diaper was weighed and it’s contents recorded. And if each day he didn’t meet the minimum waste requirements, they would tack on another cause of concern to the list and be more weary of sending us home. I felt so pressured each time I fed him to make sure he was getting enough. One nurse suggested supplementing with my pumped milk after each breastfeeding attempt, so I began to do so. Luckily Landon took well to the bottles and pumped milk. After I fed him I made sure he burped, and got to hold him briefly. I’d rock him to sleep, and be told to place him back in his incubator. Afterwards I’d pump, have a bite to eat, take a short nap myself, and begin again by finding a nurse to check his diaper. His diapers were constantly wet, my supply eventually evened out, and after waiting 48 hours for the results of his spinal tap and blood work, all was approved and we FINALLY got to go home!!! After 5 long days and long nights spent in the NICU, not leaving Landon’s side, not even once, we were so thrilled to leave. It turned out that he was perfectly ok, but thankfully the doctors were determined to make certain of that, before letting us go. He endured a spinal tap, along with a handful of other tests to assure that he was healthy and developing properly, and to confirm that his high white blood cell count was in fact just his body preparing for a fight, and not due to an actual infection in his body.
Looking back, I realize that other families in that NICU may have been much worse off than us. I wonder if maybe I had been selfish or too emotional. But at the time, we didn’t know what was wrong, or if/when our little boy would be ok at all. We felt deprived of the opportunity to get to bond with our baby in the early, first, most crucial days of his life. Family and friends were not allowed to visit us. It was an extremely emotional time, and to this day it makes me sad to think back to it…
Fast forward 3 months, and my baby boy was healthy as could be! Our breastfeeding journey had developed into a beautiful one, and he was growing big and strong. This mama, however, came down with a bad infection, landing me in the ER for a night. Luckily I had some milk pumped for Landon to have while I was away. I ended up being ok, but was prescribed anti-biotics that are not safe to take while breastfeeding. I was crushed. I didn’t have nearly enough milk saved to get us through the two weeks of anti-biotics. I knew I had no choice but to give Landon formula. Which there is absolutely nothing wrong with, but over those three months I had become such a dedicated breastfeeding mother, and was heartbroken to know I would lose out on that bond for a short while. I had to pump each and every time Landon ate in order to keep up my supply. Any mama that has pumped knows how miserable that can be! I was also nervous to know if Landon would even take the formula cooperatively! Luckily… he did. And I survived the two weeks of pumping. But not without many distraught moments and several break downs involving many tears shed 😔…
Fast forward again, 7 more months, and here we are, happy and healthy 10 month old baby, and baby #2 is 14 weeks in the making!!! Landon and my breastfeeding journey has been truly wonderful since, and I feel so lucky. I look back and tell myself that those experiences were just bumps along the road, and only made us stronger. I have to admit, that I would not have been able to get through those times as easily had it not been for my wonderful husband. I am so fortunate to have even been able to breastfeed my son at all, and especially to be able to continue to 10 months later and through my second pregnancy on top of that! It is, without a doubt, exhausting and overwhelming at times, which is why at the end of each day, when my boy is sleeping in my arms and my babe is growing in my tummy, I remember how rewarding, empowering, and worth it parenthood is. Like I said, I have had endless support from my husband along the way, and am forever grateful for him, his selflessness and commitment to our family.
The moral of my story, and the message that I would like to send out to you mamas out there… is that whatever you are going through, stay strong. Remember that you are stronger than you think. Remember to always give yourself the credit you deserve. We are all working so hard because we love our babies! And that is something that should never be discredited. What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. Always know that someone out there can relate and that we are all bonded together as moms. Maybe nobody has gone through exactly what you did, but they’ve felt that helpless, confused, scared feeling that most of us moms have felt at one point or another. Breastfeeding is no easy task, and no matter how long you did it or even if you never did it at all, as long as us and our babies are healthy and happy, that is what truly matters!
If any of you ladies would like to submit your journeys, please don’t hesitate !!
Until next time