Wednesday, May 27, 2015

New Life, alternately titled Ode to My Boobs

By the way, my last post in which I introduced my son to blogosphere came 7 years after my very first blog post.  TO THE DAY.  Not planned.  God-incidence.  :)

I promise, I'm here.  It's a good thing my blog posts were few and far between before pregnancy for a while, or I may be inclined to feel more guilty for not updating now.  But who am I kidding, I still feel guilty.  I still get emails daily from readers who stumble upon old posts and reach out for advice, hope, or just someone to hear them.  And it continues to break my heart for them.  And I know I need to stick around, and keep this blog going.  (And, ahem, maybe update my main site   Uhhhh, yeah, anyone wanna do that for me?)

But life with a newborn has been just everything and nothing I thought it would be.  Busy, yes, but also calm.  Joyful, but also anxiety-ridden.  And every single moment filled with gratitude.  Gratitude for the opportunity to be humbled in this NEW way (THANK YOU, God, because while childlessness didn't cure me of my pride, it certainly beat a decent amount of humility into my stubborn butt, and that stubborn butt needed a new beating stick).  Case in point:  Breastfeeding.

Ohhhh, breastfeeding.  How I hate to love you.  Obviously my borderline-hippie (hippy? hippee? hypie? mhipea?) self was all over the breastfeeding plans since, well, the day I got married, knowing it was the healthiest option, particularly given a good maternal diet.  (Cannoli are chock full of nutrients.  That's my story and I'm sticking to it.)  But what no one ever told me (ok, so I may have seen half a dozen million blog posts from new moms with the exact same topic, but what did I care, they should all just shut up and be thankful they have a kid to feed, or for that matter, boobs) is that BREASTFEEDING ISN'T EASY.  At least, not at first.  At least, not if you're TCIE and God is in the awesome business of constantly reminding you never to take anything for granted (thank you, Jesus).

And oh, guess what ELSE no one ever told me?

PCOS is linked (quite heavily) with low milk supply.

I mean, c'mon, now.  Something like 18,000 Drs I've worked with, and nottaone could have said, "Oh, by the way... you know that MAJOR DIAGNOSIS you have that affects all of your hormones, your overall health, and your fertility?  You know... that same thing that you got under control by adhering to a strict, healthful diet?  Yeah, turns out, no, you cannot eat whatever you want because constipation is now just a state of being, anyway, and who cares if you poop, life now revolves around whether or not your child poops.  It actually turns out you SHOULD stay on that diet, and be forewarned, you are highly susceptible to low supply, so maybe have a hospital-grade pump on hand, learn how to use it, and La Leche League phone numbers at the ready, and lots and lots of Guinness (a galactagogue AND a way to drown your "my miracle baby is starving to death before my eyes and there's nothing I can do about it" sorrows)."  I mean, really?  Nottaone?

But, I was TCIE, and I knew all I needed to know.  I wasn't going to be the typical first-time mom, freaking out that the baby won't latch immediately, because my rational self figured, hey, a baby is hungry enough, he'll learn how to eat, and I shall exhibit the patience of a Saint as he practices.

Enter God. 

Well, first of all, my birth plan didn't include a hospital, and yet that's where I was, trying to learn the art of patient breastfeeding.  Hospital and Patient are two things that are at odds with each other, no matter what definition of 'patient' you use.   And while I was trying to be a patient patient... there was simply no time for it.  Lactation consultants have a schedule, after all.  As do all of the nurses, financial counselors, aides, food service workers, pediatricians, and whoever else may have wandered into my post-partum recovery room off of the street demanding something from me within 15 minutes of pushing a human out of my lady parts.

(My Birth Story will come in a later post.)

So, breastfeeding began slightly different than I had envisioned it.  In all of my fantasies of breastfeeding, never once did I dream about gazing down at my new baby, but not for too long because my arm is slipping from the exact angle it needs to be for proper positioning, while simultaneously making sure baby's body is in a perfectly, and I mean perfectly straight line with chin not too far down and not too far up and lips flanged and tongue under, as I watch his tiny mouth and tiny hands (oh, who am I kidding, my kid has giant Man Hands) wrestle with the silicone piece of nursing weaponry necessary for him to suckle anything out of my too-much-fluids-during-delivery anti-erect nipple, oh, and don't forget to relax your shoulders.  Nope.  That definitely wasn't the fantasy.

But, ok, it wasn't the end of the world.  Practice makes perfect, right?  And the nipple shield wasn't meant to be a permanent solution.  (Of course, later, I learned a friend had to use hers with her daughter for 2 years.)  So what if there was one more step needed for me to successfully breastfeed my baby - just put the nipple shield on, and wash it off after every use.  No biggie.  (Biggy?  Biggee?  Mbigey?)

And so, life continued, and baby Robbie breastfed on demand (and once we were home from the hospital? - he demanded pretty much incessantly).  We went to our first pediatric appointment with the pediatric nurse at our midwives' office that Thursday (Robbie was born on Monday), and he had lost a little bit of weight, but all par for the course with breastfed babies.  The nurse recommended I pump for a few minutes after each feeding, even if I only yielded a few drops.

And so, TCIE who knows everything there is to know about birthing babies, and feeding them, went home, dug up a big bag of "breastfeeding supplies" her sister gave to her, found the hand-pump, and pumped each breast for about 3 or 4 minutes, thinking to herself, "Self? You rock.  Look at that!  15mLs!  A few drops, HA!  You, my friend, are an overachiever."

We returned the following Wednesday, and Robbie had lost even more weight.  He went from a birth weight of 7lbs 9oz down to 6lbs 13oz (which I mistakenly read as 6lbs 1oz, but that may have been a blessing in disguise, more on that in a bit).  The pediatric nurse assured me he wasn't in the danger zone, yet, but that it was time to become a little more proactive to ensure it didn't get worse.  She asked me about the pumping, and of course, I was supposed to be using the electric pump, oops.  She did a before and after breastfeeding weight check and Robbie was only getting about 1 oz.  She gave me a rental pump with instructions to pump 4-6 times per day (ideally 6) after a feeding session, and to use an SNS at the breast and a bottle of expressed breast milk to ensure Robbie got enough calories during the day.

SNS.  Affectionately known as the Suck my Nut Sack.  Sorry for the profanity.  But there's just no other way to describe it.  PARTICULARLY when trying to use the damn thing WITH A NIPPLE SHIELD.  One woman has not the number of hands required to make an SNS/nipple shield feeding work.  And yet, I had to.  Or face imminent death.  (OK, maybe not imminent death, but I still faced the certainty of knowing my child's caloric intake in the most crucial weeks out of utero hinged of my mastery of the Suck my Nut Sack.)

Supplemental Nursing System, i.e. New Mom and New Baby Torture Device
Wanna know why they don't show anything above the chest?  Because the woman in the picture is probably struggling between keeping the thing around her neck without it hitting the baby in the face, under her neck without getting a permanent crick, in her teeth without developing lock-jaw, or under her bra strap without losing the 90degree angle necessary to get every last drop of that more-precious-than-gold breast milk that she pumped over 2 sessions of 15 minutes apiece, all the while grimacing and muttering obscenities under her breath so as not to disturb the already-frustrated starving baby in her arms.  That, and the advertisers probably realize if anyone recognized her face and asked her opinion about the SNS, she'd tell them to run, not walk, RUN away and never look back.
So, life was about to get a lot more interesting.  My first 2 attempts at the SNS, I lost about 1oz (that's a lot, given I was to fill it to 1.5 or 2oz, only) because the tube slipped right out of the nipple shield and emptied my hard-earned expressed breast milk right onto my glider.  Oh, my glider.  Let me also say now that my ass didn't leave the seat of that glider for 2.5 weeks straight.  I literally ONLY went to the bathroom, and that was primarily to wash all the contraptions I now needed to "breastfeed."  A process which took 30 minutes, by the way.
The nurse had also said if I wasn't able to pump 2-3oz per session, to make sure I had a bottle and some formula, Earth's Best, to give the baby, because he needed to get his calories asap.  And, yeah, I was pumping 1.5oz at best.  Begrudgingly, I gave him a bottle of Earth's Best that night.  Oh, and did I mention in all of this time (now the 10th day since he was born and 8th day since being home), Robbie still hadn't pooped?  He passed all of his meconium in the hospital, but no poop since.
A few hours after the formula and a long nap, Robbie awoke with a terrible rash all over his back and chest.
This picture still pains me.  Not only the rash, but his puny little body :(  Ugh, so sad.  Let's erase that memory with something happier...

Ah.  Much better.  This was 3 weeks later.
So, a frantic picture text to the nurse and my suspicions were seconded - dairy allergy.  Solution?  No more formula tonight and call her in the morning.
My sister was already down visiting because I was downright exhausted and frustrated with breastfeeding.  Now keep in mind, I thought the scale earlier that day had read 6lbs 1oz.  I was flipping out that my son was losing so much weight, and now the ONE thing I could do to ensure he got enough milk during the day was off the table!  I needed to get help increasing my own milk, and FAST!  My sister called my mother to look up lactation consultants while she helped calm the screaming baby and talk me off a cliff.  Miraculously, my mom who only learned how to turn ON a computer when I went to college, found a whole lactation CENTER in the town right next to mine!  She gave me the number, I called, and got a call back in about 30 minutes.  In the meantime, my sister drove all the way home with her 18month old baby, to return the next day.  God bless her.  And God bless the two friends of hers who pumped that very night in order for her to bring me some donor milk!!
The woman at the lactation center told me to ease my mind over the night, to go and pick up some Similac Allimentum, which is a much easier to digest formula with broken down dairy proteins that babies can tolerate pretty well even if they have allergies.  She also made an appointment for the following day for me to come in.  Mr TCIE frantically ran out to the store and picked some up at 10:00pm.  In the meantime, a friend in a FB Mom's group where I posted the rash picture and asked for help improving lactation IMMEDIATELY told me she'd come over with fennel essential oil and some green smoothie drink with lots of galactagogues (that's just a fun word) for me - she lives 20minutes away, and I only met her a few months ago.  The generosity of people astounded me in this hour of need.
The next day, in the Land of Milk and Honey (which, from henceforth, the lactation center will be known to me), I finally felt like there was a plan in place that, with a lot of hard work and dedication, I could be successful with.  I knew I had their continued support, day and night, and that they had literally seen it all.  The new plan included the SNS, surgical tape, smaller nipple shields, pumping after EVERY feed, not just 6 x day, a syringe and tube, breast compressions, and herbs like Motherlove More Milk, and Mother's Milk tea (which I had already been drinking but now upped my intake to about 3-4 cups per day).  They also told me to continue with the Similac Allimentum if I wasn't pumping enough and ran out of donor milk.  Miracle of miracles, I only needed to use the formula TWICE more, because the donor milk lasted me until my supply picked up a few days later.  While at the appointment, they had me feed Robbie using all of these ways (we just stuffed that boy silly) and they weighed him at 6lbs 11oz (which made us all realize I got his weight wrong the day before, and he was actually still losing, but MUCH better than 6lbs 1oz).  They wanted each of his feedings to get him about 3oz, so that he was in a food coma each and every time.  I was to top off with a bottle after each feeding (meaning more contraptions to wash after each feed).  My new schedule looked a little something like this:
Set up SNS (5-10 minutes) with my milk, donor milk, or formula
Feed baby, both sides, with breast compressions the entire time (this took about 1 hour, my son liked to know his milk was still coming and now that it was, he reveled in it)
Top off with bottle if not satisfied
Put baby down and pray he doesn't wake crying
Pump for 15 minutes
Disassemble pump parts and wash them, along with the SNS, bottle, and nipple shield
Baby awakes
Breast and nipple shield only, with a top off bottle of 2oz
Put baby down
Wash all parts
Baby awakes
Bottle-feeding by Daddy WHILE Mommy pumps (this happened exactly once, it was meant to give me a break in order to pump and have a little time to rest.  However, Daddy couldn't handle the screaming hungry baby while Mommy set up all the contraptions, etc. and after one "I know, I know, Robbie, I don't know WHY Mommy won't let me give you formula..." Daddy was DONE)
and repeat.
The next day Robbie had gained about 2oz.
Over that weekend, Robbie gained 5oz.
At the end of a full week on that plan, he was over 8lbs.
A week after that, he was 9 1/2 lbs.
I was able to discontinue the SNS first (praise the good Lord above), but was to continue with syringe-tube, pumping each feed, etc.  After about a week of that, I went for another appointment, did a before and after weight check, and Robbie was taking in close to 3oz just at the breast!  So we discontinued all of it.
The nipple shield was the last to go, and while Robbie did successfully latch without it ONCE after all the craziness, he generally vehemently opposed my non-silicone nipple.  Until Mother's Day.  At Mass.  Fussy baby finishing a growth spurt decides he's hungry an hour after a feeding.  So, we go to the church basement, find a quiet little room that may or may not have been the utility room, and give him all Mommy had with her - her bare nipples.  And, hungry baby decided that was a good time to just work a little harder.  And we haven't looked back, since.  Praise the good Lord above.
SOOOOO quickly after all of this, breastfeeding went from pure hell to pure joy, where Robbie is actually feeding in my ring sling as I get sh*t done around the house, hands-free!  I honestly cannot even believe how night and day it is.  But, that 2 week period seemed to last forever, and I was thisclose to throwing in the towel and counting my losses.  God, and Robbie, had other plans.
And so, boobs, I thank you for your tireless efforts and HARD work.  You, my dears, are rock stars.
Full and happy suit him well




JoAnna Wahlund said...

Way to go, Mama!!! You are a rockstar!

JoAnna Wahlund said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Angela said...

Wow...I'm exhausted just reading!! You definitely rock!

Barbie said...


E said...

So sorry I didn't tell u about pcos and breastfeeding. But sounds like u r doing really well!! robbie is a well loved and well nourished child! IF does prepare you to fight to the end for the best. you rock!

Anita said...

Did you ever think that you were not courageous? Not determined? Not heroic? Well, now you can look at your beautiful baby and know that you were all those things because of your love for him.

Breastfeeding in the best of circumstances requires strength of character. You've faced this challenge and kicked it. I'm very impressed. :)

Georgie said...

Brings back memories!!! ha ha! Sooo glad that it has worked out now!!

Unknown said...

Great job sticking with it! And Suck my Nuts is exactly the RIGHT description for all SNS systems. We used the Lact-Aid for nearly 6 months!!!!! It was SUCH a pain in the butt. In that time we were using it less and less as the weeks went by, which is the only way I kept sanity. Seriously. Now we don't use it anymore and life is GOOD. We also had the crazy dairy allergy too. BFing is not for the faint at heart. It literally has pushed me to my emotional limits like nothing else in life. SO GLAD you persevered and made it through! :) Since I induced lactation, it took me more than 2 weeks to get that full supply (more like 5 months) but it's worth it in the end!

Molly M. said...

Way to go! I wish I had had that support system with my son. The lactation consultants were not helpful and nothing seemed to work.

Robbie is just beautiful. You're doing great, Mama! :-)

Amazing Life said...

Oh Wow! I had flashbacks reading this! All those parts to clean each. Darn time after pumping. I am so happy you were able to stick it out, way to go Momma!!

Shannon said...

oh my gosh! you're incredible!!! just incredible! go you!!!

Jill Manning said...

Aaaah, breastfeeding. I have never wanted to quit anything so badly and yet, been more glad that I didnt...So happy for you!!

Mike Brummond said...

Way to be awesome and persevere!!!!! You are a champ and so is baby!

Unknown said...

Good work!

Stephanie @ Blessed to Be said...

Oh my wow!! How did you find time to sleep?? That's some serious dedication, my friend. So awesome!! We're facing some of our own nursing challenges over here... cracked/bleeding nips, shallow latch, painful feedings. But yikes, you had it way worse! So glad you persevered. We're over here just taking it one day at a time now. And I'll be writing an ode to my boobs pretty soon, had been thinking about it before you posted yours because GOSH breastfeeding seems unnecessarily hard, right?? It's good to share these struggles because the only way I'm getting through is knowing that it's basically not easy for anyone. Solidarity with this is way helpful. Anyway, hope things continue getting better for you! Can't wait to read the birth story!

rls07 said...

I know this is going to sound crazy but when my daughter was born she was loosing weight when she came home. One of the staff at her doctor's office told me to start eating Hagen Daas ice cream...because of all the milk fat in it. It will make your milk more fatty which in turn will cause weight gain in Robbie. And if you eat vanilla...your milk will smell like vanilla