Today I welcome my dear friend, Tess, to my blog! Tess just had her first baby and is sharing her incredible birth story and how she overcame problems with breastfeeding.
My daughter is 1 month old now and nothing of what I expected while I was pregnant happened as I imagined it would. I read so many articles while I was pregnant that I became extremely anxious about what they call “the fourth trimester”. Yes, there is less sleep but I am not dying of exhaustion (safe co-sleeping is amazing). Yes, I don’t get a whole lot done around the house but it does not look like a tornado has hit (helpful husband and baby-wearing). Yes, breastfeeding is natural but it is far from easy, at least it wasn’t easy for me. The first month as a new mom has been the most difficult and the most wonderful experience. I’ll start with a short version of my birth story:
My water broke on a Saturday night and following a 15 hour labor, my daughter Evelyn Avery was born at 39 weeks exactly. As she was coming out, her head kept turning which caused the cord to wrap around her neck. The midwife knew exactly what to do, was very calm, but had to cut quite deeply in order to get Evelyn out quickly. I hardly knew what was happening and all the sudden there were four extra doctors in the room and I didn’t get to hold her or even see her right away. She was whisked away to make sure that she was breathing and that the cord didn’t do any damage. The midwife delivered the placenta and then stitched me up (I could feel nothing thanks to the epidural), my husband cut Evelyn’s cord and I was finally able to hold her on my chest. It was probably the most emotional hour of my life and it all happened so fast.
I was in the hospital for two days due to the episiotomy and Evie having trouble latching to eat. I was thankful for the extra time. The nurses were extremely attentive and kind. However, now I wish I had not stayed for the extra breastfeeding attention because most of the information I received was conflicting and incorrect. When I left the hospital I began the longest, most difficult week of my life because of the bad information, the raging hormones, and my body feeling like it had been hit by a train.
The episiotomy was bad – 3rd degree and very painful. I could hardly walk and going to the bathroom was a dreaded experience. We had to bring Evelyn back to the hospital the next day for a check up and the pediatrician was concerned that she was losing too much weight. They recommended supplementation since Evie was not latching and drinking as she should. The lactation consultant at the hospital had given me a breast shield which only made things worse. The pediatrician who we saw the next day told me to supplement with formula or pumped breastmilk with an SNS tube or straight from the bottle. The SNS tube was nearly impossible to use, especially with the breast shield so nursing turned into three hour nightmare sessions. I gave up several times and let her drink formula from a bottle just so that she could eat, all the while feeling like a failure as a mother. I was jealous of the bottle! That it could give her what I could not.
We went back to the hospital twice more for them to check her weight. Thanks to the formula we saw her weight go back up but I continued to get more bad information such as conflicting diagnoses on why she was not latching properly. I contacted a friend at the end of the week to see if she had any insight because she had just had a baby as well. Thank God I did that because she put me in contact with an independent lactation consultant who is able to assess that Evie had an upper lip tie that was preventing her from opening her mouth all the way and that was why she was not able to latch.
Throughout that first week I thought so many times about giving up on breastfeeding. I have never cried as much as I have during that time or felt so lonely or so ashamed. Every time I gave her a bottle of formula or even when supplementing it, I felt horrendous, even though I was doing the right thing at the time. She just needed to eat but since I couldn’t provide for her, I felt like I had utterly failed her and she was only a few days old. I thought if I’m failing her now, so early in her life, how much more will I fail her as she grows up?
During that week, I googled hundreds of times. I don’t recommend this because it just added to my guilt. I tried to find a breastfeeding support group but read things like “we do not encourage supplementing”, “breast is best”, “you’re a terrible mother because you can’t get your baby to latch!” The last I obviously didn’t read but that’s how I felt as I read through various articles, sobbing.
I tried to pump because I thought at least I can give her breastmilk in a bottle but I could barely get any out and it was very uncomfortable. Another failure! I later learned you’re not supposed to pump until after 6 weeks when your supply has regulated. Pumping too early can cause oversupply, clogged ducts and other issues. So why does the hospital send you home with a pump that you can only keep for 30 days?!
Finally I learned about Evie’s lip tie and without really consulting my husband, I rushed her out to a pediatric dentist and got it revised. She was 8 days old. I was so desperate to make this work for us, to feel like a good mother, to have that relationship breastfeeding moms go on about in those groups I felt excluded from. I knew, logically, I was not really a failure. Formula fed babies are healthy and grow to be intelligent people, my brother being one of them! I hold no judgement toward moms that choose that route. There was just something in me that would not give up on this.
A friend about to have her own first child recently told me she’s most nervous about breastfeeding. I had barely thought about it prior to giving birth, other than I knew I wanted to do it. I wish I had. I wish I had done the research beforehand and known about the possible difficulties, why not to take that hospital grade pump home, what to do in case of a lip and/or tongue tie. It would have spared me so much stress and pain that first week.
Now life is good, or as good as it can get with a newborn that needs to be attached to someone (mostly me) 24/7. My advice to other new mamas – find what works best for you and your baby and don’t let anyone tell you you’re doing it wrong. Your baby can’t sleep away from you? Read up on safe co-sleeping and don’t feel guilty about it. Having trouble breastfeeding but don’t want to give up? Find the right help and don’t feel guilty for doing what you need to keep your baby fed and healthy.
This is my success story. I wanted to breastfeed my baby girl and we fought hard to make it happen. I found amazing support in my husband and family, friends, in the lactation consultant’s FB group, and my own wonderful mother. I feel victorious. I know that since we got through that first week, we can get through all the tough times that lay ahead.
Tess is a graduate of CSUN and USC, a wife celebrating 3 years of marriage and a new mom to a gorgeous baby girl. She is working toward becoming a children’s librarian and is an avid reader. You can check out her blog Expectant Librarian for children’s book reviews.