So, this week has basically been my own personal episode of “House, MD”. Or maybe “ER”. Or, “Grey’s Anatomy” without all the hot doctors.
I won’t go into all the details, mostly because I have a mild concussion at the moment and am seeing 2 keyboards in front of me instead of the usual one, which is rather disconcerting…
But you know, this all makes me realize – I have a hard enough time with medical stuff and pain without having a newborn on my hands. I can’t even begin to imagine what Louisa went through… so her story feels very appropriate this week. Moms who have traumatic births or suffer from physical ailments in the immediate postpartum period need special help and special care – not universal “bests” and static recommendations.
Or something like that. Not sure I’m making any sense right now….!
Happy Friday, fearless ones,
The (mildly concussed) FFF
I had planned on breastfeeding from the moment I found out I was pregnant. The thought of it made me slightly uncomfortable, but I was going to do it no matter what and find a way to be comfortable with it. I attended the classes, bought the supplies – breast pump, nursing cover, special bottles for when I went back to work. I even pictured what times during the day I would pump while at work. I had a fairly easy pregnancy, no complications and a big, healthy baby boy. And then everything came crashing down…
I went in for a routine check at 39 weeks where I was promptly told I was not going to be leaving the hospital until I had our baby boy due to skyrocketing blood pressure. I was excited and terrified. Labor was, well you know labor. Nothing too horrible except it lasted for 42 hours and then everything changed.
Our son was laid on my stomach after he was born and I could tell something was wrong, no crying, not moving and not breathing. I had barely touched him before the doctors yanked him off me to start resuscitating him. As you can imagine, I was hysterical, I was convinced he was dead. Once they got him stable they briefly held him up to show me and then rushed him to the NICU. When the NICU doctor came and talked to us I heard big medical terms; nuchal cord, metabolic acidosis, subdural hematoma, etc.
After I was finally wheeled to recovery, around 6 am, mere hours after delivery, the nurse started to promptly show me how to use the breast pump and instruct me to do it every 2 to 3 hours. I was in a fog and could barely pay attention to the instructions. However, my first concern was waiting for the epidural to wear off so I walk and go see my son. I spent an awful 5 days in the hospital of which was a blur of trying to rest, going to the NICU and trying to keep everyone updated on our son’s condition. To top it all off, I had to somewhere in there try to find time to pump. I actually remember the nurse fussing at me the day after labor because I had only tried pumping once and I certainly wasn’t doing it at night, I was trying to get much needed rest. Plus I was more concerned with visiting my son.
Once I was finally let out of the hospital, I went home with a nasty, itchy rash on my back of unknown origin. I did the pumping thing around the clock and was completely and utterly exhausted. And I was also going up to the hospital two times a day. I continued to pump to give the milk to the nurses to inject in our son’s feeding tube and got somewhat more successful. It actually made me feel accomplished, I couldn’t control my son being in the hospital, but I could at least give him the best medicine and food possible, my breast milk. This continued for about a week (an eternity at the time).
But then, the rash on my back was not getting any better, was spreading to my arms and was extremely itchy and now my boobs were so itchy they hurt. It was as if I was allergic to pumping, it was that deep, under the skin itch you can’t scratch. I seriously wanted to scratch them off. I finally went to both my OBGYN and my family doctor who gave me antibiotics and a cream. Which, the cream, of course, I couldn’t use while pumping. So I tossed it aside and hoped this was just a yeast infection of some sort and took the antibiotics. And then I started getting extremely ill, like being woken up out of a deep sleep to run to the bathroom with excruciating stomach cramps kind of ill.
It was about this time that I had several mental breakdowns at the hospital. I felt like I was constantly watching the clock to see when I needed to rush home and pump instead of spending time with my son. While the NICU was encouraging me to pump there, it just wasn’t comfortable for me with nurses coming in and out and seeing my son hooked up to a million different things. So I would visit with our son for a couple of hours then rush home to pump and then come back. It was exhausting. And finally, the light bulb went off, why am I doing this to myself? I should be spending the time with my son and stop worrying about rushing home to pump. I mentioned it off hand-idly to my husband that I was thinking about stopping breast feeding all together. At first he didn’t understand why. But luckily that night, the nurse that was duty with our son understood completely and reassured me that I had to do what was best for me and my baby. She felt like society puts way too much pressure on women to have to breastfeed and that they’re a failure and lazy if they don’t. So that was it, I stopped cold turkey. I was thankful my son had at least a week of breast milk before I quit.
And boy am I glad I did. Because that was when all hell broke loose. The rash was finally clearing up and the itchy boobs gradually got better, (although that took a good month for them to go back to normal). But I was getting sicker and sicker. That night after I made the decision to stop pumping, I couldn’t go back up to the hospital for three days because I was so sick. I spent my 31st birthday exhausted on the sofa and completely devastated to not be able to visit my son. I went back to my OBGYN and they took a stool sample. I found out I had C-Diff (a very serious and severe intestinal infection) and E-Coli. I was started on antibiotics right away (it took two rounds for the C-Diff).
Long story, long. I stopped breastfeeding by choice not because I wasn’t producing milk but because it was turning me into a wreck and I couldn’t be there for my son. Not to mention the illnesses would have eventually forced me to stop anyway. And now looking back, I know I was also battling severe post-partum depression which I also finally got treatment for.
I still sometimes am hesitant to tell people I bottle feed or after I tell them I wait for questions or an eyebrow raise. But I know I made the best choice for myself therefore making myself a better mother. When our son finally came home, I was a crazy person, sleep deprivation takes you to a whole new level of crazy. Plus, this being our first child we had no idea what we were doing. So the formula feeding was definitely helpful at 3am when I just needed 2 hours of uninterrupted sleep so I let my husband take over. Or in order to keep my sanity I had to get out of the house and take the baby to the park (and I’m not one of those that would have been able to whip my breast out in public if I was still breastfeeding).
And now as I plan for our future children, breastfeeding is not going to be part of the plan. I know I had a really horrible experience with everything the first time around. But I realize, I want to be able to adjust having a new baby and enjoy their newborn stage without worrying about pulling out the boob at 3am or wonder if they’re getting enough milk. And for those times that I need to get out of the house with or without the baby, I know I can do it and leave my husband in charge and not have to worry about pumping enough milk to cover the time I’m gone. For all those breast feeding moms that can make it work, awesome job, you rock! But for all us other moms, for whatever reason, can’t or choose not to, we rock too. We still have our babies’ best interests at heart and a healthy mom equals a healthy baby!
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