Please note, these stories are for the most part unedited, and do not necessarily represent the FFF’s opinions. They are also not political statements – this is an arena for people to share their thoughts, and I hope we can all give them the space to do so.
The term “traumatic birth” doesn’t really cut it for FFF Sandy, who found herself second-guessing medical decisions because of her guilt over formula feeding. Not that it should EVER matter why someone chose to formula feed, but reading Sandy’s story – and hearing how she was still judged, even after everything she went through – makes you wonder if there is such thing as an acceptable “excuse” for not breastfeeding in the eyes of a judgmental, overzealous, and unfortunately very vocal, few.
So all my friends breastfeed, and when I was pregnant, it was what I was going to do too!. It’s the right thing to do, right? Best for the baby, best for everything. I was all for it and ready. My pregnancy was uneventful, except for the absurd amount of swelling I began to have in my second trimester. My blood pressure remained normal, and my blood work was normal, so no one thought much of it at the time. Then the week my son was due, my BP shot up to 165/90 and it looked like preeclampsia. I had some tests done that week, and on my due date, the doctor sent me to the hospital to be induced. Around 9am, the induction began. My labor was terrible. 12 hours of induced contractions with no dilation. My water broke on its own, but the baby wasn’t going anywhere. Around 9pm, I looked around and quietly stated “Everything is red” and then I turned and saw my BP monitor which was humming at 201/110. It was then I was rushed in for an emergency C. My epidural only took on one side, so I had to be put under. 43 minutes later, my beautiful son was born.
Everything seemed to be ok. I tried breastfeeding and he would latch a little, and let go, but I was determined. The next night, I get a call from the nursery. I’m thinking it’s time to go feed him, but that wasn’t the case. He was being sent to the NICU because of fluid in his lungs and some rapid breathing. Nightmare. So we spent our next few days visiting the NICU and working on breastfeeding. Sometimes it seemed like it worked, sometimes not. Mostly he would just fall asleep. Then his blood work started coming back strangely. His sodium was too low, his electrolytes were off, his red blood count was off. I was still determined, but now I started pumping. I wasn’t going to let him have to go on formula! I was determined to pump forever if I had to. So I pumped and pumped, and was starting to get more and more with each pump but it wasn’t enough. My time was getting short in the hospital and I didn’t want to leave without my baby since he obviously couldn’t leave until his blood work was better. Finally, I accepted using some formula to supplement. He started to improve! So we got into the routine of starting out with whatever I could pump and then topping him off with formula. I could live with that. Unfortunately, I was cleared to go home before he was… So I spent the next two days driving to and from the hospital, and pumping like a crazy person at home. I also didn’t sleep. Whenever I laid down, I couldn’t breathe and felt like I was having a panic attack My mom and I chalked it up to stress and hormones and missing the baby, and I had a doctor’s appointment Friday to check my BP (which was still 150/80) and other routine post-baby things.
I arrive at my appointment and the doctor looks at my ankles and we see that none of my swelling has gone down. She takes my BP which is now 180/100… I am promptly sent back to the hospital and admitted to the cardiac ward (at 33) with heart failure and pulmonary hypertension due to the massive amounts of fluid my body is refusing to let go of. The cardiologist gives me two options: They can aggressively treat or not. Aggressive treatment will NOT allow me to breastfeed because of the levels and types of medications. If they do not treat me in that manner, I can still breastfeed, but they are unsure of my recovery time. I must have been a moron, but I actually was thinking about the latter until I realized a dead mother cannot take care of her baby. A dead mother was not an option. I went with the aggressive treatments.
Over 3 days, I lose 40 pounds of fluid. I also pumped and pumped still because there was nothing else to do and I needed some relief from the huge amounts of milk I was producing. And I cried and cried as I dumped it all down the drain. My “poison milk” as I called it. My baby went home 4 days before I did. Breast feeding was no longer an option.
6 months later, I am only on one medicine for my blood pressure, and have my breathing and everything else back under control. My baby is drinking formula and started solid foods earlier than is “healthy” according to my breastfeeding friends. But he is happy and healthy at 19+ pounds and has been sleeping 11 hours a night since he was 2 and a half months old. He’s big and strong and beautiful. My husband loves being able to be a part of feeding time, as does my family. Formula has been great and I am all for the mothers who can’t/don’t breastfeed.
Some of my breast feeding friends and the advocates still look at me with a bit of a self-righteous air about my “choice,” even knowing that I was ill after he was born. I guess they just don’t understand. I guess they don’t know that I still cry about having to make that decision; how it still hurts my heart sometimes that I wasn’t able to give my baby what I thought was best. But no, I did give him what was best. I made sure that he would still have a mommy to give him that bottle, formula or breast milk.
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