Friday, February 8, 2008

Breastfeeding- a look back so I can look forward- Part 1

Last night in bed I started to think about my philosophy of parenting. I though about how when I was becoming a teacher I had to write about my philosophy on teaching, create a portfolio. and answer comprehensive interview questions. On the other hand, to become a mom I basically needed a car seat so I could leave the hospital legally! It turns out that many of my views align with attachment parenting. I continue to be an advocate of this type of parenting-but my own quest to parent in the manner have been a challenge.

Since breastfeeding was such a struggle for me I have decided to go into depth about my experiences. I hope someone can gain something from what I have to share.

Of couse I had read numerous books and had sugar plum visions of parenting. I expected I would have a well behaved little bundle of joy who took to the breast like a champ, and loved being worn 24/7. We would spend countless hours cuddling as I looked adoringly into his or her eyes. I thought about all those moms who couldn't cut it when it came to breastfeeding- happy I wouldn't be one of them. I was prepared. I read The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding and every other book I could find. I was ready for latch problems, clogged ducts and mastitis. I would not give a bottle or a pacifier. Also, I anticipated some baby blues and possibly even postpartum depression. The truth, as I discovered shortly after Eliza's birth, was I wasn't really prepared for anything.

Eliza Marie arrived two weeks early. This was the first indication that I had a feisty one on my hands. Her delivery was textbook and after 11 fun hours she arrived bright eyed and alert. In her first pictures she look ready to meet the world. After she was born I did get to hold her right away as I wanted. I get it that some people think it is gross; but I did want to hold her right after she was born. I also wanted to breastfeed immediately. I had read about how the sucking reflex is very strong and breastfeeding shortly after birth was VERY important. The nurses were supportive. Who wasn't supporting me in this decision? My pediatrician. Why? She wanted to finish her rounds so she could get to the office. If I had been a stronger person I would have told her to go to he&% and demanded to feed my daughter. Unfortunately, I kept my mouth shut (for the most part) and did not get to breastfeed for a LONG time. I did grumble a little but mainly under my breath. This was very disappointing to me. I really should have switched pediatricians on the spot. I continue to regret the decision to keep my mouth shut. The only person I have to blame for this is myself.

I did not see my daughter for hours after her birth. This seemed strange to me but what the heck did I know. When they finally did bring her in to breastfeed the nurses handed her to me and walked out. I did my best to latch her on but had to call someone in for help. I quickly learned that many (not all) nurses know zilch about breastfeeding. One even gave me a nipple shield without really explaining the positive and negatives of using such a device. Throughout our stay at the hospital I received mediocre help but thought I was doing OK. One nurse, I called her "Aunt Sue", was extremely helpful. However, after her shift ended I was alone again. "Aunt Sue" had boosted my confidence somewhat but nothing had prepared me for what would happen next.

I will call this goodbye colostrum and hello MILK. The last night in the hospital I woke up every hour waiting to nurse my daughter. I forgot to mention they did not allow rooming in at the hospital- for DD or DH. They never brought her in to me. Finally, at five in the morning I wandered the nursery halls and inquired about my daughter. I was told they were only "required" to bring her in to feed once overnight. I was pissed to say the least. In the meantime my milk jugs (sorry- how often do you really get to use the term?) had become so engorged I couldn't even get my daughter to latch. It continued to get worse as we were discharged. I went home to my mom's. We had to return to the pediatrician the next morning to have her jaundice checked. Gee! I wonder why she is jaundiced? Maybe it is because they did not bring her in to nurse enough!

At my mom's I showered and pumped and showered again trying to relieve my engorgement. The pain was excruciating. I kept trying to feed my daughter but she still had a hard time latching on. Hours later when night rolled around things got worse, actually things got markedly worse. Eliza screamed and cried and I could do nothing. I was exhausted and frustrated. The sounds of her crying were too much for me. My worst fear, not being able to console my infant daughter, was coming true. I knew she was hungry but could not help. I was panicky and I found the hospital binky, sterilized it, and popped it in her sad little mouth. She continued to cry. I did not want to give her formula. I had already given in with the pacifier. At this point I am beyond drained and wandering topless around my parent's house. My husband takes the baby and tries to calm her down. When my mom (who did not breastfeed) gets home from work around midnight they give her some formula while I lay crying in bed. I had only been home a few hours and I already felt like I failure. I kept thinking we were crazy to have a baby and that I was a terrible mom.

I woke a few hours later drenched in sweat and in pain. (This was one of many nights I woke up soaked. I had not been told that night sweats are quite common after delivery. It is your body detoxing.) I am alone in bed and the house is quiet. I tiptoe out to the living room and find my husband and baby sleeping on the couch. I know this is dangerous, but I am so relieved they were resting I went back in my room and passed out for a few more hours.


Lori said...

I'm so sorry things didn't work out at you had planned... I too struggled with nursing Blake, but did finally manage to get it moving. But after going every other day for weight checks had to give in and supplement with formula. He weaned himself at 5 months.

Please do not look at yourself as a failure in any way shape or form... if I learned one thing with Blake, I learned the nursing is NO WHERE as easy as people make it out to be!

Astronomum said...

Wow - sorry for this experience. The hospital sounds horrible. My little one was 5 weeks early, and stuck in the Level 2 nursery for 10 days, but in general I had a lot of breast feeding help, and I would go in to breast feed her every 3 hours overnight. I can't believe they only brought your baby in to nurse once overnight. That's not only bad for you, but for her too. I didn't think things like this happened any more. This is going to make me even more careful picking a hospital for any future babies I have.