Monday, October 7, 2013

Our struggles

This is a post that I have been putting off for weeks.  I keep thinking that I should put this experience into words but never know exactly how I feel about it.  I never know if I feel like a failure or a success, it's hard when so many people keep telling me what to do but I feel totally opposite.  The experience I am talking about is breastfeeding.

Breastfeeding is one of the most amazing things in this world for a new mother.  You, alone, can give your child everything she needs.  Your body is no longer just yours, it's sustaining life for this incredible little human that you just brought into this world.  But what happens when that little person isn't getting all that she needs?  What if your best and your doctor's best advice isn't working and isn't enough?  That is what happened to me. 

Rae was born 7 pounds 14 ounces and she seemed to have a great latch.  All the nurses were amazed at how quickly she latched and how powerfully she seemed to suckle.  She loved to nurse and would continue sucking on her hands when she wasn't at my breast.  One of the nurses gave her a pacifier to sooth her so she wouldn't get in the habit of sucking on her hands.  

She was perfect in the hospital and was still going strong once we got home.  I felt so powerful and overwhelmingly happy that my baby was flourishing with my care.  That all started to change after about a week at home.  It started with her ferociously latching and then quickly detaching herself.  We would continue like this for a few minutes at the beginning of every feeding until she would finally latch on for good.  She was acting like she was starving but then becoming very annoyed at the lack of milk.  I couldn't understand because I could see the milk and could even drip some into her mouth.  It was there!  We continued like this for a week, she was not sleeping well and needing to feed almost constantly.  I was not deterred, I thought this was normal.  Thinking this surely happens to everyone as they begin to breastfeed.

I was so happy to get out of the house with my perfect little baby girl on the morning of her two week checkup.  The doctors were going to ooh and aah over how cute she was and how well she was doing.  She was perfect after all.  

We waited in the special room for infants and the nurse called her name for us to come back.  She placed her on the scale and told me she weighed 7 pounds.  I knew she was going to be less than birth weight, that's perfectly normal to loose a little.  But almost a pound?  Was that normal??  

The nurse seemed concerned about her weight loss; she should have only lost a few ounces, not 14.  That's when it all started to change for me.  I immediately thought to all the times she cried hysterically at my breast, not latching for an hour and then sucking for a few minutes until drifting off into exhausted sleep.  I thought about how I couldn't sooth her against my chest, Estevan had to be the one to take her and calm her down before trying to latch yet again.

I couldn't look away from my baby girl, the nurse was asking me questions but I couldn't think straight.  Tears were coming and I desperately wanted to be anywhere but that office.  As soon as the doctor entered the office, I was in full blown ugly crying mode.  She was so nice to me, she even made me laugh a little saying that doctors fully expect new mothers to be leaking out of every hole.  She was very reassuring to me but still told me that if my daughter lost another ounce, she would have to be readmitted to the hospital.  

My entire mind switched into survival mode, not for me but for my baby girl.  We went into a special room with a rocking chair and my doctor helped me position myself for nursing.  She gave me lots of tips and advice for ensuring a good latch.  Rae was exhausted but latched for a little while, giving the doctor and I hope that her tips were working.  I continued trying for the rest of that day, nursing whenever Rae was awake and even waking her up after a short time to nurse again.  

I was physically and emotionally running on fumes.  I don't even know if there were fumes to run on.  I couldn't stop crying for the rest of that day.  Literally, couldn't stop.  I was failing my daughter, either I couldn't produce enough or I couldn't help her to latch properly.

That evening, Estevan sat with us as I tried feeding her for three hours.  He would take her when she cried so hard her face turned purple and she stopped breathing.  She was so distraught it was breaking my heart.  Finally, he suggested that we get out the breast pump.  We had bought it weeks before she was born as a backup plan.  In fact, we had registered for all sorts of bottles and all the accessories to go with them.  Bottles, whether with breast milk or formula, were always our plan B.  I knew this was always an option but hadn't wanted to accept it for some reason. 

I immediately started crying harder when he suggested the pump.  I was terrified that my baby was going to starve that evening, that somehow I wasn't producing enough and the tiny amount I did produce was going to get stuck in the pump.  Now we can look back and laugh but I was cowering in tears and hysterically crying that my milk would get stuck somewhere in the tubes of the machine and that she would get even less than just trying to latch her again and again.  I was at my lowest point and absolutely terrified that I was making every possible mistake.

I held onto my sleeping girl as he went downstairs to figure it out.  My dad read the manual as Estevan cleaned the bottles and pump parts.  Within ten minutes he was back upstairs with a working knowledge of how to pump.  I have never been more thankful to have him as my husband in my entire life.  He was my coach throughout all the struggles, looking up videos to help and reaching right in to make sure Rae was in the best position, soothing her when she was starving and frustrated, giving me the reassurance that I was doing a good job.  Now he was showing how the pump worked and helping me to properly place the flanges.  I was still scared that there wasn't going to be any milk but his help was the gentle reassurance that I needed to get started.

I started the pump.  

We sat there, staring at the bottles as the milk slowly dripped down, saying silent prayers that it would all work out.  It was 11 o'clock at night and my breasts hadn't been properly emptied for days.  I'm sorry if that is too much information but I think you get what I'm saying.  I definitely had enough milk for Rae, it did not get stuck somewhere in the tubes of the machine!  

That night, she dined.

To be continued....  I need to feed my baby ;)

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