Today’s FFF Friday, from FFF Elizabeth, is scary. I sometimes worry that publishing stories like this will “scare” women away from breastfeeding, and I know that is one of the concerns about this blog from the lactivist circles. But I always think of my son at times like these… he has a lot of strange fears, for a two-year-old, probably due to a very overactive imagination. But the cool thing is, he is adamant about facing these fears head on. He’ll make me rewind a scary part of the Sesame video where Elmo nearly gets run over by a meatball (thankfully, Snuffy saves him from this carnivorous fate) until he figures out how to make it less daunting in his mind. I think we need to do the same thing with bad breastfeeding experiences, on a larger scale. We NEED to listen to stories like Elizabeth’s, to make sure they don’t keep happening. They are avoidable, and in taking the steps to preventing them, we’ll also make breastfeeding an easier and less confusing act for millions of women. Let’s not ignore the giant meatball barreling down the street, you know?
A giant thank you to Elizabeth for being willing to share this with us. I am sure it wasn’t pleasant to rehash such a frightening experience.
In the hospital, breastfeeding went ok- or so I thought. For being so “educated” I realize now I had no clue what I was doing. I saw the LC for about 2 minutes- Grayson just happened to be latched on when she visited- latched on but asleep. The LC said the latch looked good; I just needed G to wake up to eat. And then she was gone. We went home from the hospital on Friday. That weekend, I breastfed every 2 hours, but Grayson never woke up or cried to eat. I would wake him up the best I could, put him on and he would suck some and would fall back asleep. Clueless me- I thought newborns just slept a lot. I had NO IDEA anything was wrong.
Monday- we had an appointment with the pediatrician. I will forever thank God that my pediatrician does newborn appointments at 5 days and not 2 weeks. I know that we would not have Grayson with us had we not had that appointment. His weight was down to 4 pounds, 9 ounces. The doctor immediately gave me a bottle of formula and said they would probably re-admit us to the hospital for a few days to monitor his weight. Her obvious concern made me give G the formula without questioning her. Then the nurse took his temperature- twice, because she thought the first time had to be a mistake. G’s temperature was 94.9 degrees- dangerously low. Change of plans- we needed to get to the local ER at the hospital where I delivered- immediately. The scariest thing was when the pediatrician said she wanted us in the hospital in the Texas Medical Center (we are in a suburb of Houston, TX) but she didn’t think we had time to get there.
In the ER, Grayson had a team of nurses and doctors saving his little 5 day old life. Warmers, IV fluids, antibiotics. They tried to get urine from a catheter but weren’t able to because he was SO dehydrated. Then they said they needed to do a spinal tap to rule out any infections. After several hours in the ER at our hospital, Grayson was taken by ambulance to the Med Center, where he spent 5 days in the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit.
The first night in the PICU, I asked for a breastpump, and they brought me a manual one- so much for being breastfeeding friendly. I cried and cried as I pumped about half an ounce as my arm cramped up from the repetitive, torturous motion. My sister in law brought me my electric pump later that night, which I used for 2 days before I saw another LC. I never got more than an ounce at a time. Finally, the LC came with a hospital pump and SNS- we tried the SNS but G was not latching on at all at this point. The LC gave me instructions to pump every 2 hours that I was awake and try to sleep as much as I could to get my supply up.
When we were released from the hospital, Grayson was back up to 5 pounds, 5 ounces and I was feeling very optimistic. I wasn’t breastfeeding, but was able to pump enough to give him about 75% breastmilk- of course, he was only eating 1-2 ounces per feeding at this point. The next few weeks were an emotional rollercoaster. Even with taking fenugreek, drinking special tea, pumping around the clock, I just wasn’t producing much. I got 2 clogged ducts which dwindled my production on my left side to about half an ounce/pump. As Grayson got bigger and stronger, he was eating more, and I was only able to give him a few bottles of breastmilk a day. I tried actually breastfeeding him numerous times, but it was so painful I cried and winced through the whole thing while he screamed in frustration. It was awful. I “quit” too many times to count, but would always change my mind and try, try again, but always the same results.
The day I gave up breastfeeding and pumping for good was a combination of relief and overwhelming disappointment. I didn’t realize that breastfeeding was something that would have so much emotion tied to it, but it was. I cringed every time someone asked me if I was breastfeeding and felt the need to justify my answer with a version of my story. However, every day got easier and now, 9 weeks into this parenting thing, I am finally getting to the point where I have peace about the whole thing. Grayson is thriving (still a tiny peanut at 9 pounds but gaining every day), I am so much more rested, and I am enjoying being a mom. When we have another child, I will absolutely give breastfeeding another shot, because it’s still something I really want to do. But if it doesn’t work again, it’s ok- I realize now that formula is a wonderful thing and thank God we have that option for our children.