Did I ever imagine I'd be sitting around topless for half of the day and night time having my nipples sucked on? Nope, I can't say that I have. Did I ever think that I'd be talking about it so casually either? Definitely not. Did I ever picture freezing and storing breast milk next to my family's leftover pot roast? No, but it's there now. Funny and strange how things happen and change in your life. My baby girl Lana Jane is now over three weeks old and I've managed to breastfeed her for this duration. I plan to continue it for about another five weeks (making it a total of two months), at least until I return to work full-time again.
My good friend B called the other day while I was breastfeeding Lana and she laughed when both my husband and I said the actual words "breastfeeding" into the phone. B said she always refers to it as "nursing". I thought about her comment for several minutes. Not once have I referred to it as "nursing." For me, nursing is a more romantic word, a kinder word to use. I have always said "breastfeeding" because that's what I feel I'm doing - feeding from my breast. Nothing against how my pal B sees it, but I'm not a "nurse" and I don't feel like I'm giving her health care either. Hahaha!
Lana though has been a near champion feeder from me even after her first few breaths. She latched on just after labor and delivery and has hardly wanted to be away from my chest since then.
This is both a blessing and a curse in my opinion. I call it a blessing because it's free and available at most anytime, as long as she doesn't suck me dry. In addition, it is gratifying that I can provide her nourishment and that she gets the food/drink that she needs from me. I can whip out my jugs easily and not hassle with a bottle. I love that I can sometimes close my eyes and even doze off while she's feeding. Best of all I can read on my Kindle easily too to help pass off the time. I've read three books in a week because of breastfeeding and that makes me happy.
Breastfeeding is also a curse for me because it means I am doing it all when it comes to feeding my baby. I don't get a break. When we have times of clustering and Lana is on me non-stop for several hours; it is extremely draining. My husband and my relatives can't help with the feedings. It's all me and that's a lot of responsibility. Sometimes I can hardly stop to eat or pee and that frustrates me. I really don't have many of those bonding moments when I stare lovingly at my baby while she nibbles on me. That is some romantic fantasy that although many women/mothers may have, this scenario escapes me for the most part. I'm more like a milk maid delivering the goods, providing a service.
This is all very new to me though as my first attempts at breastfeeding my daughter Vivian (now four and a half years old) didn't go so well. She hated being at my breasts - she would cry, struggle and fight me every step of the way. She never seemed to latch on properly. She lost weight too quickly and we had to supplement formula with her early on. Viv wasn't a cuddle baby and preferred for me to be next to her instead of holding her, even from day one. I pumped for three weeks with her. Then I stopped and switched exclusively to formula. Looking back I probably could have tried or fought longer. I sometimes wonder if I took the easy route. But for the sanity of my family in 2007, it was best to give up the breast and do what made us all happy - feed Vivian quickly from a bottle.
Now that's not to say I have had it purely easy this time around in 2012. In fact, I didn't know if I'd make it past the first week. It took six days before my milk came in. Six long, agonizing days where I worried constantly if my baby was getting enough, trying to pump every 2-3 hours and breastfeed too. Six long nights where my husband had to help with feeding through a syringe or small tube. I kept waiting for a sign that I had my supply but never got the memo. It was not until the lactation consultant looked at my milk I pumped and told me that, yes in fact, my milk had "arrived" (and it wasn't still the transitional stuff like I thought it was). I never felt heavy or engorged and kept waiting for some big sign. What did I know?. I did a lot of crying and cursing that first week. My husband Kirk was so great though. I never would have lasted through the first seven to ten days if it weren't for his help and encouragement.
After my milk did "arrive", things got a little bit easier. I learned to trust all those wet and poopy diapers my daughter was producing. If she wasn't getting milk from me, she wouldn't be having success with those after all. But we still have our good and bad days, even now.... Some days Lana just can't seem to fill her belly? Or perhaps she just needs to feel my skin, to be physically on me to feel secure? She's definitely a more affectionate, cuddly baby than my Vivian was. Other days I can give her what she needs, play with her, put her down for a nap and get some rest myself, all under an hour's time..... Those days are pure heaven. But for every wonderful day like that, we hit another setback and will have an awful day of clustering, crying and I can hardly keep a shirt on.
Breastfeeding is definitely a bumpy ride of ups and downs for me. Does it ever come easy to anyone, I wonder? I'm glad I have managed to do it this time. I have a different attitude and respect for it than I did before, with my first child and my first time as a mom. I'll admit that back in 2007, I had a chip on my shoulder about breastfeeding. I tried it but still thought it was a bit weird for me. Now I don't mind it so much. However, I also understand why some moms quit early and why some moms never try it. Breast feeding is a tough thing to endure, especially when there are so many quirks to it. So many babies have issues with it. Or your nipples won't be hard and you need to use a shield. Or it takes supplementing or syringe feeding until the milk supply comes into full swing. Or you have a lazy, slow sucking child like I do with Lana so the feedings take twice as long as maybe they should. Or perhaps your own body seems to fail you when it comes to supply and demand. Or you realize that you're not fully emptying one breast before you switch to the other side so your baby isn't receiving the heaviest, creamiest and most filling part which is why she may be on you constantly. Or you deal with sore, cracked and dry nipples and have to regularly apply cream to them. Oh yeah, I have had cases of all of these things!!!
Thankfully I've had some wonderful lactation consultants help me through these challenges. They talk to me, position my boobs (oh yes, there is no modesty when ladies fondle you and squeeze your nipples to extract milk) and follow up with me to see how I've doing. I cried a lot in that first week Lana was home until things finally lined up and I could see that she was feeding properly from me and getting 1-2 ounces at each meal. We weighed her to see exactly what she took. Those weight checks were the first and only real comfort to me after days of being home from the hospital with her unsure of my milk production.
I also have a very open minded pediatrician who doesn't try to preach one way or the other - breast or formula milk. I love him for that. Our doctor tells me not to worry about "nipple confusion" and use a bottle when I need to. And I have - for both the breast milk I've pumped and also formula. And he has been right, it's not posed a problem for Lana as I've given her the bottle a few times and she still takes my boob at any offering. The pediatrician has reminded me to be flexible and not stress over it so much.
Do I really believe that "breast is best?" No, not really. I think every case and every baby and mother is a unique case. I do think it would best to try it but I certainly don't judge women who don't either. Only you know your limits and what you can withstand. Breastfeeding has certainly posed some challenges on me physically and mentally for the first time and this second time around too.
I had a feeling breastfeeding would go easier with this second baby and I'm happy I kept an open mind about it and have stuck with it so far. I am glad I am giving my milk to my daughter but I don't feel sentimental or truly
passionate about it the way other moms do. Yes it's a right and
privilege we moms have. And it's a noble, good thing to do. But I'll be thrilled when it's over too, not sad like other moms. I will be grateful to have my boobs back to myself, when I don't have to worry about leaking through a shirt and I will be able to wear a normal bra for exercising and errand-running again. Then my milk maid costume days will only come out for Halloween or for a special wedding anniversary perhaps (laughing).
These are my just my humble thoughts on breastfeeding. They are not meant to influence, persuade others or start controversy. One thing I feel strongly about is that breastfeeding is a personal decision - You should do what you think is right, no matter what that may be. Then stick with that choice and be happy about it. If you the mom is happy, then your baby will be happy too no matter if the milk is coming from you, a formula/bottle or falling out of the sky.
Enjoy your milk today and appreciate it! I know I am. :-)
Well, people say that no two children are alike. The same goes for birth stories too. Although I guess they began the same way, in my case - with a scheduled induction. Here is the birth story of my beautiful daughter Lana Jane - proof that sometimes the second time around isn't easier, at least not for my labor and delivery!
At 39 weeks and a few days, I went to my weekly appointment with my OBGYN. Dr. Duke informed me that my cervix still wasn't softening but I was 3 cm dilated. This was after a weekend full of doing those old wives' tale things to help put you into labor - drinking tea, having sex, eating spicy foods, everything but drinking the castor oil (which I REFUSED to do - yuck!) When Dr. Duke checked me, she said that I was measuring big, at nearly 42 weeks instead of almost 40 and that I was probably carrying extra fluid in me too. She also predicted that this baby was bigger than my last one, nearly 8 pounds (and she was right!) Therefore, the doc offered to "strip my membranes" as a last effort to help move things along and if that didn't work, she recommended an induction on my daughter's due date, April 27.
I agreed to both her suggestions. At this point, I was crampy and uncomfortable but felt like I was at a standstill. I was ready to be done with the pregnancy part and move on to holding my baby girl in my arms.
After all, look at me. Here I am at over 39 weeks pregnant about to bust....
In the office, the doctor just 'stripped my membranes' during the vaginal exam. And yes, that is as FUN as it sounds! (sarcasm) This is known to either put you into labor within hours or days. Or it could just make you uncomfortable and do absolutely nothing for you. Guess which one it did for me? That's right - nothing but make me uncomfortable for several days!
Therefore, we made arrangements to go in for the induction at 12:01 a.m. on Friday, April 27. My parents (Vivian's grandparents) drove up earlier that day to watch her for us while we were in the hospital.
Below is a breakdown of the whole event, as much as I remember it or wrote it down (or had my husband jot it down in my notebook):
12:01 a.m. - Check in to the hospital, Sacred Heart of Pensacola, with Ms. Jackie. We answered questions about our family medical history. This took awhile since the computer system was down. But of course it was.
12:40 a.m. - I was placed in a labor/delivery room and met my nurse, Anna.
For mostly the first two hours, I just sat around, went to the bathroom, etc. I was having mild contractions on my own without anything being injected or started into me yet.
Nurse Anna was nice but seemed a bit tired and ready to get off her shift. That was probably a good thing for me.
Somewhere around 1:30 a.m. - It took the nurse two tries with the I.V. to get it in me. I squeezed too hard and must have held my breath because I began to feel weak, really weak. I thought I was going to vomit. Kirk began placing a cool washcloth on my face and the feeling passed. The nurse said for me to relax, not tense up because that caused my blood pressure to drop and make me feel ill.
Around 2:00 a.m. - Anna then told me that a page was missing from my blood work that my doctor's office sent over so they'd need to draw blood from me. Great, okay. As she was drawing blood from the other arm, she said the flow seemed to stop and she let go of her finger from my wrist. My blood then began squirting out on her shirt, on my bed sheets and on the floor. No, I'm not kidding either!
This was how the induction started. I should have known that there would be some issues after that.
3:30 a.m. - Pitocin was started. I was still at 3 cm dilated. Cervix was at 70%. Contractions began to get stronger.
More lying and sitting around. More getting up to go to the bathroom. Time felt like it stood still. Kirk and I tried to sleep and rest though.
Around 7:15 a.m. - There was a shift change with the nurses. Anna left and I now had three people tending to me - Nurse Janet, Nurse Nicole (new to Obgyn) and Student Nurse Kasey. I was their only patient and therefore had undivided attention, which I didn't mind! :-) I'm glad they came on board and would be the ones helping me through the pushing and delivery of my baby.
7:50 a.m. - My doctor came in with her Starbucks coffee, set it down,
broke my water, smiled at me and said she'd see me in a few hours,
grabbed her coffee and left. I was at 4 cm dilated.
When my doctor broke my water, she really broke my water. I felt a ton of fluid coming out of me. Even when the nurses thought I was done leaking fluid, more would come. Several changing pads and paper had to be placed beneath me. Yes, fun stuff let me tell you! Like peeing all over yourself and your bed but without that awful smell.
Things began to move at a faster speed after the water broke. My contractions got very intense after that. Kirk begged me to get the epidural at this point. I was trying to wait a bit longer though.
8:20 a.m. - Finally I gave in and asked for the epidural. The anesthesiologist arrived almost instantly. I love him for that! He was fast and efficient. I was having contractions while he was putting it in but I held onto the nurse and got through it. At long last, the drugs are in me. By then I was at 7 cm dilated. I went from 4 to 7 cm in just a half hour! No wonder I was feeling the contractions!
9:00 a.m. - It took forty minutes to get a catheter inside me. The nurses tried with two different 16 " catheters without any luck. They kept hitting a barrier. Finally nurse Janet says I have 'weird anatomy' which is a more polite way of saying I'm a freak on the insides I suppose. At long last, she downsizes to a 14" catheter and curves it in me to fit. I no longer have to worry about getting up to pee every 20 minutes with this thing in my freakish body.
9:30 a.m. - My blood pressure drops real low. Lana's heart rate drops as well. The nurses tell me not to worry and that it's commonly caused by the loss of fluid (my water breaking). So they start injecting more fluid in me, amnio-infusion (or so it's called). More liquid inside me after I just lost that other stuff.
The infusion works though. Lana's heart rate stabilizes within fifteen minutes. Thank goodness!
9:45 a.m. - I'm at 9 cm dilated at this point. My blood pressure is still low though. They give me an oxygen mask and have me lay on my left side. The mask is really too big for me and my small mouth and nose. I find it annoying but know it's best I use it.
Around 10:45 a.m. - I feel sharp pains jutting up and down my right leg and side. I call the nurses. They say it's a result of my epidural wearing off since I've been lying on my left side for an hour. I ask what I can do because it really hurts. They ask me to switch to my right side so the medicine can drain back on that part of me again. I move over with their help.
After about 7 minutes after that, I still feel a ton of pain. I ask for more assistance and say that I want something to ease the pain because I can't push or concentrate with the pain on my right side getting worse. The nurses then request for the anesthesiologist to come back and give me another dose of my epidural.
11:00 a.m. - I feel sick once again. This time I do throw up. Thankfully Kirk had handed me a vomit bucket in time. The nurses tell me this is common as I'm in the transitional phase and will be pushing soon.
Common, eh? I don't remember this happening with my first daughter Vivian. But okay, if you say so.
Around 11:40 a.m. - the nurses lift my legs and get out the stirrups. Yee-haw! I could not feel my legs at all at this point due to that extra epidural shot. I wonder how I'm going to push or remember what to do!?
11:45 a.m. - I'm fully dilated and effaced. The nurses want me to start pushing. I can tell from their faces and responses that I'm doing it wrong at first. I really can't feel anything below my waist though. All I now feel is my daughter's feet kicking and pushing into my rib cage. The nurses tell me to pretend I'm doing a sit-up and curl my stomach. Kirk tells me to pretend I'm pooping. Finally I get the idea and do what they ask me to do.
The nurses page my doctor. She's in her office finishing up rounds. She'll be another 20 minutes. Therefore, they ask me to push every other contraction I have and then rest in between. At first my husband and I are annoyed at this. Later on, I realize that it probably saved me since I didn't need any stitches or cutting. By relaxing between pushes, I think I saved my vagina from being scarred! ;-P
12:05 p.m. - Dr. Duke, my OBGYN arrives. She is her typical sweet, perky self. In fact, she's chewing gum and doesn't even put a mask on as she faces my mighty vagina head on. I now push every contraction.
Sweet heavens, this kid is still kicking my ribs. I can hardly think of anything else. Except for Dr. Duke's gum chewing and I pray that she doesn't accidentally spit it into my vagina as she catches my baby in a few minutes.
I know it's getting close. The baby's head is crowning but Lana's head is still a bit turned to the side. Finally shes straightens out and the doctor pulls her out.
12:25 p.m. - Sweet, beautiful Lana Jane is born (or comes out my canal you can say). She makes two loud cries which are music to my ears (therefore, I know she's okay, alive and well). They quickly rub her down and put a blanket down on me so I can hold her for just a few minutes. She is silent as she lays against my beating heart and chest. I love her instantly just like I did her older sister Vivian. I cry a little as does Kirk. We share our first moments as a family. I wish Vivian could be there but know she's too young to understand the magnitude of it all.
Here was our first few moments together, a photo taken by the nurses:
The nurses then whisk her away for cleaning, weighing and a shot too.
Meanwhile, the afterbirth (placenta) is delivered. The doctor and nurses are still working on me and getting all that stuff removed from my body. I don't feel a thing and don't even pay attention to what they're doing. This was the easy part.
I'm listening to Lana in the room next door and waiting until I can hold her again. They bring her back in a few minutes.
Our beautiful daughter is finally with us. After nine months and over a year of trying (including an early miscarriage), we have completed the family we so desired. Our Lana Jane is 7 pounds, 14 ounces. She is 21.5 inches in length. Wow, she outdid her sister Vivian. Already she is a competitive girl not wanting to be a shadow in her big sis' shoes. :-)
Around 2:30 p.m. - I'm moved to a post-partum room. I thank my wonderful nurses and doctor for all their help in getting me through the birth.
My parents and Vivian arrive to meet Lana. Unfortunately they have to wait nearly two hours as the nursery has her and is running tests on her, doing their daily assessment and will return her as soon as they can.
We sit around talking to Vivian and my parents about what they've been doing the past 12 hours. Vivian keeps asking about Lana and wants to hold her. My sweet first born girl!
Just when I think the crazy quirks are over, I realize I'm lying in the most annoying bed on earth. It adjusts for circulation and makes clicking noises every five minutes. After two hours of this, I ask to have it removed or switched which thankfully the nurses agree to.
Finally around 4:30 p.m. - They bring Lana in with a head nurse who wants to talk to us for a half-hour first about safety with the baby, etc. For the love of all creation, just give me my baby to hold and let me hand her off to my four year old who wants to hold her.
Yes blabber mouth nurse is done and leaves the room. I take Lana and then bring her over to Vivian who is so happy to see her baby sister out of mommy's tummy.
I cry a little at the sight of my two girls together but only a few streams of tears. I hold it together and take a photo of them. My gorgeous girls. I have them both at last!