Tuesday, February 18, 2014

// A D V E N T U R E S I N B R E A S T F E E D I N G - C H R I S S Y ' S S T O R Y //

This Adventures in Breastfeeding is near and dear to my heart.  It is the story of my sister-in law, Chrissy and my two precious nieces: Jane and Maggie.  I am so incredibly grateful that Chrissy is sharing her story here.  I "knew" what happened, but it wasn't until this summer, when we were visiting New Jersey, that I felt as if I truly understood.  I heard her heart; heard both the pain and the confidence that comes from our experiences.  Her story did not turn out the way she had hoped, but when she sees her happy and healthy children she sees what we all see: it doesn't really matter. I mean it does, because it's her story but when it comes down to it: her love for her children is all that matters.  I truly hope that we can all connect through our differences; that we will grab onto the similarities, no matter how small, and realize we are all doing the best we can.  Which is more than enough.  I am convinced of that.  Chrissy, I love you! thank you for sharing.  <3 

I decided to write my story down as a sort of cathartic experience. My story didn’t turn out as I had hoped, truthfully. It definitely didn’t turn out how I had always dreamed it would. But, as I think about it more deeply, I am starting to accept it as MY story…as it was always meant to be. And THAT is beautiful. It has made me who I am as a mother and as a woman. Learning to accept our story is probably the most important part. Learning to accept and grow from it. Perhaps I will share this story someday and it will bring even more purpose to it all- in that it may help another woman come to grips with her story and experience.

My story starts in October of 2009 when I found out I was pregnant with my first child. I had only been married since June of that year so it was quite a shock to us but, since I didn’t get married until the age of 29, I was excited! It was then that I asked my OBGYN about the possibility of nursing issues, as I had heard a few of my aunts had extreme problems doing so. She quickly told me that she wouldn’t worry about it and that I ‘should have no problems!’ I was excited. As the months went on, I got my birth plan written down and planned for my delivery. I had always dreamed of the day I would labor, like most women, give birth to my child and have them lay him or her right on my chest. We would OBVIOUSLY have that beautiful skin-to-skin moment and I would attempt nursing right then and there. It would all work out smoothly. I had, what I felt, was a really solid and healthy view about delivery. I wanted to attempt to do it all with as little medical interference as possible but also never wanted to get my hopes set so high on one particular thing that I felt too let down if I DID end up needing some help. I thought I had that whole process in the bag until I found out that I would need a c-section. I was devastated. Clearly I had not truly been open to ALL options. My daughter had what they kindly called Macrosomia, which basically means: HUGE, ENORMOUS BABY for no real reason. I decided to listen to the doctor's pleas to give me a c-section after a lot of thought and prayer. My husband and I decided that we would just heed their advice and if they were doing this for any other reason than mine and my daughter’s benefit, then that was on them. It was my first lesson in ‘my life was no longer just about me.’ I wanted to do what was right for my baby. 

June 2010, my daughter Jane came into this world at a whopping 10 lbs, 9 oz. She was a beautiful little sumo wrestler, as the nurses were all calling her. She was BIG….bigger than they even anticipated. I was decently thankful I had listened to them but as they quickly let me say hello to her by placing her near my face and then quickly whisking here away, I began to truly mourn what I had always wanted. There was no skin-to-skin. I wasn’t even allowed to hold her as they stitched my stomach back up. She was having a little trouble with nasal flairs so they were also monitoring her closely. I was not even able to see her again for over 2 hours, except a quick tour through the nursery on my mobile bed. I was a little too drugged to be outwardly upset but inside, I was hurting.

Finally I got my baby in my arms. I couldn’t take my eyes off her. I tried to nurse her, finally. She was having quite a bit of trouble latching. I began to panic but tried to keep my cool. Over the next few days of healing from the surgery, I tried over and over to nurse. I even had lactation specialists come in and ask if I could do something to make my breast more latch-able!? When I tried and it didn’t seem to be enough for my baby, they would just walk away and tell me to keep trying. One nurse gave me a nipple shield and said to take it home and keep trying. I did. I tried. She refused. Wouldn’t stay latched for anything! She hated the shield and would not nurse on it. My nipples began to crack and bleed. Nursing was so painful that my toes would curl and I would nearly cry every time. She would not latch correctly and would pull herself off and back on, strongly. Finally, I decided to solely pump. I ached that it wasn’t working but wanted to give her breast milk. I always knew it was best for her. Still healing from the c-section, and now with double mastitis, a raging fever, a bladder infection and a full body rash from one of the medications (still don’t know which one), I would whimper every time I had to wake up to pump. I would pump for a half hour to get enough to feed her. I would feed my child for nearly a half hour; attempt to get her back to sleep and it would all begin again 30 minutes later. I was a zombie that was in pain and feeling defeated that not only could I not naturally birth my child but also now I was failing at the other thing I had always dreamed about doing- nursing my child. One night, after two weeks of almost solely pumping and sleeping in 10 minutes clips, I decided to give up. I felt like such a failure and just wanted to see my child nourished and growing. (She had lost a lot of weight….more than 11% of her body weight.) I knew she didn’t need a mother in this much stress, either. So, it was with much regret that I solely formula fed my baby. I couldn’t tell if I felt relieved to finally be done with it or completely broken that I couldn’t do it. Either way, seeing her gulp down her bottles and growing made me realize it would all be ok. I fought feeling really guilty and having to share my ‘attempt’ with other mothers when they saw me shaking up a bottle of formula but tried to fight the urge. I knew I had tried. But, I couldn’t shake the feeling that I had failed.

In July 2012, we found out we were expecting again. I had always thought I was ‘done with trying to nurse.’ But, as time went on, I realized the complete opposite. I saw this whole experience as my redemptive time. I sought out a doctor who was well known for his success in VBAC deliveries. I wrestled with the decision because I had heard so many ‘horror stories’ about VBACs gone wrong but wanted him as my OBGYN just in case. Nearing the birth, I began having doubts but trusted that what was meant to happen would happen. I set a c-section date right around my due date but told the doctor that if I went into labor up until the day before the c-section, I would attempt a VBAC. I was nervous but truly wanted the experience I had been robbed of the first time. I dreamed of a water birth but had been told that, since it was a VBAC, I would not be allowed to leave the bed. My heart sank but I trudged on. I tried to get my labor going to no avail. The c-section date arrived and I tried to convince myself that it was ok. I found out that the hospital was much more helpful this time around and would allow me to have skin-to-skin really quickly and would not take the baby from my side unless a problem developed. At least that part made me happy. The c-section began and the doubts still plagued me UNTIL my daughter Maggie (who came out weighing a mere 8 lb 8 oz) was being pulled out BUTT FIRST! She was head down until days earlier but had flipped and was breach! In some small way, I felt glad to know that had I labored, I may have had to do another c-section anyway. Now, I was sent to the recovery room but my baby came with me! They put my sweet Maggie right on my chest and we had some beautiful skin-to-skin, that is, until she began having trouble breathing. The nurse monitored her in the room with me but kept taking her off me when they were hearing her breathing issues flair up. I was glad she wasn’t in another room but longed to just have her spend as much time on me as possible. We tried nursing right then and there and she latched! I was elated. I think I actually cried a little. I was so happy I had this contact with her and she began to nurse well! Then, her breathing got a little worse and they took her away to monitor her more closely. I was nervous but grateful for those few moments.

HOURS later, I finally got her back. Everything was fine now but I was frazzled that I had yet another few hours away from my newborn. She nursed and nursed. I got as MUCH help from lactation specialists as I could. Some of the time she was doing great. Others, she felt like a shark with what felt like literal teeth in her mouth. Her latch was so strong and, apparently, wrong. My nipples began to break open and bleed. Nursing became more and more painful. I sought out more help with latch techniques and was convinced I would succeed this time. I was determined. That is, until a 2 am feeding on my last night in the hospital produced a literal blood clot coming through my nipple tissue. I felt faint and called for a nurse. The next morning, I had more lactation specialists come in and examine me. They told me my skin was extremely raw and becoming infected and that I could not nurse for a day or more and should solely pump. My heart began to sink. My dream of doing it the ‘good ole fashioned way’ was begin to slip away and out of my grasp. I wept and wept as they told me I had to rent a pump, put antibiotic cream on my breasts, etc… They told me I should not wear a shirt as much as possible and that I needed to ice my breasts. I was tired, hormonal and overwhelmed at this point. I was alone, as my husband was home with our 3 year old and I wept so much that I begged a nurse not to think I was depressed. I didn’t need meds. I needed this to be easier! I had the same full body rash as the last time, mastitis again in one breast, was healing from a c-section & now had bloody, raw breasts that were unable to feed my child. In addition, we were not even at our own home at the time. We were living with my husband’s grandparents because our house was being renovated. So, the notion of being able to be topless a lot and icing my breasts was sort of out of the question. I quit. I did. I quit on my last day in the hospital. I think I cried for days. I felt like I had failed…again. Someone, who was truly trying to help, tried to console me with the words that were BY FAR the hardest to hear: ‘maybe you’re just not cut out for nursing!’ Bless their heart, they were trying to make me feel better but those words were the hardest pill to swallow. Maybe I was not meant to birth children naturally. Maybe I was not meant to nurse. Was I meant to do anything ‘normal’ women could do? Things women did since the beginning of time? I felt like a total failure.

As time went on, I would still hand express milk here and there and ‘sneak it’ to my baby. I felt that any little bit helped. But, in the end, I needed to move on. I needed to learn that my children did not ‘need’ to be birthed naturally. They did not ‘need’ to be nursed. They NEEDED to be loved well.

I can tell you that I have finally come to some grips with the story. It isn’t what I hoped for in some ways. But, it is MY story. The fact that I cared as much as I did tells you that I loved my children with all of my heart. I wanted to (and still do) all that I could to make them healthy, feel safe and feel loved. I wanted them to succeed in life and have no doubts that their mother and father loved them. And you know what: they do. I truly believe they do. They are currently 3 ½ and 10 months and are the most sensational girls. They are full of life, silly, smart, happy and growing wonderfully. We attempt healthy living and alternative medicines as much as possible. (Hey if you can’t win in all areas, you can do what you can to ensure health in other ways, right!?)

But, more importantly than all of that, they know they are loved…
That makes my mama heart happy. I didn’t fail. I succeeded.

Update: Literally days after I wrote my experience down, I found something out that literally blew my mind. BOTH of my girls are extremely lip-tied! I was never aware of this and, after it was pointed out, I did a lot of research. Not one nurse or lactation consultant ever picked up on it or thought it was a big deal. But, after reading as much as I can on the issue, I can see that it IS a big deal! Ever have that ah-ha moment where an imaginary light bulb turns on and everything seems to make sense? Yea, it was that moment. As happy as I was to have an explanation about why nursing was so very painful for me, I was also kind of upset. Had I known they were lip-tied…that lip-tied was even a real THING…and that there is support and help for it, perhaps my story would have gone slightly differently. But, as you cannot go back in time, I can only remind myself that it IS what was. Now I just have a little more understanding…and that is a good thing!


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  1. Thank you for sharing your story. Sounds like we both had hard journeys, but our babies are loved and that's what matters above all. I often have to remind myself, in three or four years it won't matter if they were nursed or not. What matters is how much love they received.

  2. Wonderful story Chrissy, you are a wonderful mommy! I am so happy for you and your beautiful family. Love you all. Lorna



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