My Breastfeeding Journey

On July 24th it will officially be six months since I gave birth to Natalie. I can state the obvious and say ” a lot has happened since this time last year”, but I think that goes without saying. What I can do is reflect on the changes not only physically, but mentally and emotionally. Birthing a baby changes you and raising one tests and strengthens you.

My recovery post partum was uneventful. I bled, I cried, I cuddled; which is what to be expected. I had a week with my husband at home and his parents stayed with us that week as well. Once that week was over I was suddenly alone. My husband went back to work, in laws went home and Natalie and I were tucked away safely at home getting to know each other. One of my favorite memories was waking up and we had several inches of snow on the ground. I made myself some tea and laid in bed holding my daughter watching the snow fall for hours. It was calm, peaceful and beautiful. I’ll always cherish that memory.
My breast feeding journey had ups and downs. I had a breast reduction when I was 19 years old. At the time my surgeon informed me that, in future, if I were to choose to have children we will not know if I could breastfeed until the time came. I don’t regret my decision to go through with the surgery and, as young as I was, I didn’t give that warning a second thought. Late in my pregnancy I was hopeful that it would be something I could do because I actually was successful in self expressing colostrum from both of my breasts. My intention throughout my pregnancy was to breastfeed, but I kept an open mind and was ok if it was not in the cards. Before my hospital stay was up (6 days total) I was supplementing with formula. I used the SNS method to feed Natalie so she was still latched to my breast and pumped in between feedings. She was a champ right away. Aside from my low production of liquid gold – breastfeeding was a breeze. Shortly after returning home I began taking supplements such as Brewers Yeast, Moringa Pure, Sunflower Lactaline and Blessed Thistle, but was finding it hard to find time to pump between feedings and everything else on my plate. My supply was slowly going up, but it till wasn’t enough to stop supplementing with formula.
I finally bought a bra that allowed me to pump “hands free” in April. It was a game changer. Reflecting back I honestly think if I had utilized this since the beginning I would have had more production.
My maternity leave began in late December. The job I had at the time was very physically demanding and, although I had initially intended to work up to my due date, as I got bigger I knew that was not going to be feasible. After my daughter was born I had February, March and April on leave. I sought out a new career opportunity that would put my closer to home and had hours that allowed me to align my schedule with my husband and the daycare we would put our daughter in. I enjoy being a working mom, but I feel like I had finally gotten into a routine and was getting good at building my supply when I finally had to go back to work. My first day at work I forgot my pump. It was not a comfortable afternoon. Days and weeks following I pumped before leaving for work, once during the work day and occasionally at night. I watched my already low supply dwindle down lower and lower. I have been back to work for 2 months and until last week I was still pumping in the morning before work. This week I have not pumped at all. I do not feel engorged and am not leaking. Natalie still breast feeds, on demand, before a nap, between meals or dream feeds. I’m sad to know this to is near the end as I dry up. I’m actually having a harder time then I thought I would. I will miss the bonding time and looking down at her sweet face as she feeds. I know I’ll get this bonding time in other ways as she gets older, but this is a true sign that she is growing and my baby is no longer a newborn.
If and when we have baby number 2 I hope my breast feeding journey is a more smooth transition. I have a better idea of what to expect, but also will feel more prepared. In the thick of those first few weeks post partum some days I felt I was in the same chair, in the same room all day. I felt accomplished if I brushed my hair. Looking back I miss those moments and cherish them. The memories of when her stool changed color so slightly and googling at 2am with my hubby “what does normal poop look like in a 3 week old?” or sending pictures to a mama friend of the umbilical stump “is this normal?!?!”. I also feel so fortunate to have some great mama friends who checked in on me and offered a shoulder to lean on and advice to take in. My breast feeding journey was unexpected and short, but I am so happy I got to do it. I am trying to see the positives like being able to pick an outfit and not have to think “can I get to my breast easily in this? Can you see my pad through my shirt?”.
Onto the next post partum journey.

My Birth Story

It took us over a year to get pregnant with Natalie. I remember it was Mother’s Day weekend 2018 when I took a pregnancy test and got the positive result. During my pregnancy the days/weeks/months that followed seemed to drag on until my due date, January 18th. In hind-site it went by all to quickly and I wish I paused a bit more to really soak it all in.

January 18th came and went. I was naively hoping she’d come a few days early or right on the day. January 23rd I had my 41 week appointment at 11am. My doctor and I had come to the decision to induce me on the 25th. At the hospital I had planned to deliver at he was on call that day so I was happy he would be delivering Natalie. I had been dilated to 1cm for over a week and not fully effaced. I went home excited and impatiently waiting for the 25th. I did some errands and chores around the house and around 3:30pm I decided to lay down and watch a show. Nearing 4pm I began to feel crampy. It wasn’t all over my abdomen and I was under the impression I’d feel labor pains everywhere. I had Braxton Hicks before so I summed it up to that. After 45 minutes they were still consistent and did not go away when changing positions. I decided to time them and they were about 7-8 minutes apart and lasting about 30-45 seconds. Around 5:30pm they began spreading farther apart. The next few were 15-20 minutes apart. I told my husband that I had thought I was in labor, but now that the contractions were further apart I wasn’t so sure. Near this point I had sat up from laying down and felt a plop of fluid come out. It wasn’t a gush or trickle and was not dramatic at all. I went to the bathroom and it wasn’t a lot of fluid and nothing more trickled out. Perhaps it was a leak? I had no idea. Around 7pm things ramped up. My contractions began to be 3 minutes apart and lasting 45 seconds to 1 minute. My husband loaded our truck with our hospital bags and we headed to the hospital. My husband was skeptical about labor and thought for sure we’d be back home that evening.

When we got to the hospital I was triaged. They informed me I was dilated to a 3 and had some pooling (meaning my water did break, but not fully due to baby positioning). At 8:30pm I was admitted to the hospital. The doctor on call that day I had met before when I had gone to labor and delivery for spotting earlier in my pregnancy. I was relieved because I really liked him and the interaction we had that previous visit.
The contractions got stronger and stronger. I requested an epidural. They wanted me to get a bolus if fluids and some lab work done first. It felt like forever until the anesthesiologist came. The process of the epidural seemingly took forever. Once placed I was told it could take a few minutes to take effect. 45 minutes went by and I still felt everything. It had numbed my butt cheeks, but that was it. I felt everything still. It failed. The anesthesiologist removed the initial epidural and tried again. An hour went by and still nothing. At that point I was told there was no other option for pain and I’d have to have a natural birth. The pain was so intense I didn’t even have a thought of what this meant. I was to focused on the pain and trying to take it contraction through contraction.

Once the anesthesiologist left the nurse checked me. It had been a few hours since my last check  and I was convinced because of the pain I had to be at least an 8, but I was only a 4. I had no idea how I was going to make it. After awhile the contractions became extremely intense and I became nauseous. They gave me some anti-nausea medication IV. I was so hot and my sweet husband spent most of my labor fanning me while coaching me to breath and trying to wipe sweat away with a cloth. Moments later I kept hearing the nurses say “tachy-something”. I couldn’t make out what the “something” word was but I knew tachy meant fast. They then called the doctor in. What was happening was my uterus had began contracting at an alarming rate. Since my last check (in which I was at 4cm) and hour and a half passed and when checked again I was a 9. Suddenly the room was full with nurses preparing the room for delivery. I remember feeling relief. I had no idea how I could muster together anymore strength and my labor was almost over. Seconds turned into minutes and minutes turned into hours and trust me – I was counting every single one of them. My contractions were one right on top of the other, but there was one quarter-sized piece of my cervix that was in the way. My body was involuntarily pushing periodically. One of the nurses then administers Fentanyl IV. Getting Fentanyl was not something that was discussed with me. Looking back in the thick of my labor I would have, and likely could have, said yes, but just don’t recall it. However, like my two failed epidurals it did not give me any pain control. What it did do is in the brief moments between contractions I would pass out and sleep. My husband said I would wake at the start of a contraction, scream/breath and then fall toward the bed snoring. This gave me a mental break from laboring which I am thankful for. Instead of contracting and then stressing about the onset of the next contraction I was resting. Fentanyl did nothing for pain and is short acting.

Around 4:45am I was told I could begin pushing. The nurses around me were wonderful coaches. I never thought I’d be in to Doulas or that I would need that kind of support, but those nurses acted like Doulas. They counted for me, encouraged me, held me up when I felt I had no strength left. My husband was wonderful support, but we both were rookies in the birthing-a-baby department and grateful for the extra attention from the nurses. They attached a monitor to Natalie’s head because her heart rate was decelerating and attached the vacuum to hold her in place when I was done pushing so she wouldn’t slide back and delay my progress. They told me when I was crowning and asked if I wanted a mirror. I declined which in hindsight wish I didn’t. I heard horror stories of “The Ring of Fire”, but didn’t feel it. I pushed for about an hour but it felt so brief. I remember feeling her head come out and the rest of her sliding out and the amount of relief I felt. I remember her being held up and quietly looking at me like she knew exactly where and who I was. She looked at me and, if she could, I’m sure she would have said “relax mama. I’m here and you can rest”. My husband cut the cord and she was laid on me for a brief moment before being whisked away to check vitals at my bedside. I couldn’t take my eyes off of her. She was beautiful and she was finally here on January 24th, 2019 at  5:42am.

The next day they drew blood work on Natalie. We were told it was routine and not to worry. Her blood work showed a remarkable increase in her Bilirubin levels which isn’t that uncommon in newborns. Bilirubin is the product of your body when it replaces red blood cells. The liver breaks down the Bilirubin and it is excreted in your stool and because Bilirubin is yellow – it causes jaundice when levels are high. Extremely high levels in newborns can cause brain damage. They decided we would stay another day, put Natalie under a photo therapy blanket in our room and recheck the levels in a few hours. That time came and went and her levels were getting higher and higher. One guess as to why this was happening was because Natalie had severe bruising on her face from when she passed through the birthing canal and her body couldn’t keep up with the dying red blood cells. This on top of my lack of milk supply at the time was leaving her malnourished. We began mixing formula with the Colostrom I was producing and fed via the SNS Method. For those who don’t know what the SNS method is – it’s a bottle you hang upside down and the formula/pumped milk drips down out of a tube that you tape to your nipple. It allows the baby to latch on and get the colostrum/milk in your breast while getting formula.

On January 26th in the wee hours of the morning I was woken up by the nurses. They were moving Natalie to the NICU. The photo therapy blanket wasn’t enough and she needed more lights, IV fluids and more support. I sobbed and sobbed as they took my baby away. I felt so helpless. I began alternating my time between my room to rest and the NICU to feed and be with Natalie. My blood pressure began to sky rocket as soon as Natalie was moved out of our room. At one point it reached 180 and the nurses placed an IV to give me medications. Those worked, but without the routine medications it would just go back up. My poor husband was so worried about both of his girls. Looking back I really feel sad for him and what he experienced, but at the time I was to focused on Natalie to care.
Natalie’s stint in the NICU was short. She stayed 2 days and we were discharge after 6 days total in the hospital. In comparison to some – that’s nothing. My heart now literally aches to every mother who has had to sit bedside in the NICU praying for their baby. The NICU nurses are nothing short of amazing as well. I felt completely at ease with the care Natalie received, but I was more then ready to get home and navigate my way through the first weeks of motherhood.

Reflecting back on my labor and delivery I feel great about it. I look back fondly at all the staff that took care of us and those all to brief first days of having a newborn. I have this overwhelming feeling of sisterhood to all mothers now and am a different, better person because of Natalie. I know not all women get the ideal labor experience and some are left traumatized. If you are one of those women, feel free to reach out to talk about it and to vent if needed. You are not alone.

Navigating through motherhood has been an adventure and I couldn’t have picked a better partner to embark on this journey with. I have, again, placed this blog on the back burner as we adjusted to parenthood. My hope is that it will be more in my mind as the year goes on including a post soon on my recovery and those first hazy days at home with a newborn.

Kindly, CT.