In the beginning. . .
. . . I was just a run of the mill pregnant mom. I describe myself now as an informed, natural parent. But when I was pregnant with Abbey, I didn’t fit that description. I did know that I was going to breastfeed – in fact, the alternative (choosing formula feeding) didn’t even occur to me. It wasn’t even a choice in my mind. It was a just logical progression from birth to the breast. But on the topics of prenatal wellness, birth, and parenting . . . I’ll have to admit was pretty ignorant. I ended up being electively induced at 39 weeks, and after birth, Abbey latched onto the breast like a pro. As soon as she was handed back to me, I offered her the breast, and right on she went. You hear horror stories about trying to breastfeed in the hospital, but she was a perfect milk-guzzling angel. In hindsight now, looking at it from a breastfeeding counselor’s standpoint, her easy going nursing was really an exception to the rule. With the interventions I had (induction, episiotomy, separation at birth, no skin-to-skin, etc), the chances of breastfeeding going as smoothly as it were slim. I was definitely lucky.
And then she got sick. She didn’t sleep almost at all in the hospital after birth. She would fall asleep after nursing, sleep for a short nap, and then wake and scream in pain. We walked with her, cuddled her, sang to her, rocked her, I nursed her for comfort, and still she screamed. I talk about this part of our breastfeeding experience in my post “Follow That Intuition!” about the importance of mothers’ natural postpartum perceptions. Long story short, it was discovered that Abbey had some sort of blockage in her intestines that was keeping her from fully digesting my milk – and hence keeping her from making a bowel movement. She was transferred to a larger hospital about an hour away from our house, and at two days old, she had a corrective surgery for an illial atresia in her intestine – which means that a small portion of the intestine had not formed during birth, and the surgeons had to cut open her tiny belly, open up the two closed intestinal tubes, and attach her intestine together in order to allow the digested breastmilk to flow through to her bowels. Scary, scary stuff. It was so hard. But we made it through.
Pumping and getting back to the breast. . .
. . . was rough. She was in recovery in the NICU for 3 ½ weeks. I pumped the whole time. It was difficult. I was engorged. I had to pump 10-12 times per day, and sometimes, I just plain didn’t want to attach that awful plastic machine to my boobs. But I did it. Because I knew that was part of my role in her recovery, and I knew that I wanted her back on my breast as soon as she was ready. She was IV fed nutrients until her stomach was pumped of all the fermenting bile (yuck) and then she was tube fed and bottle fed my breastmilk in very small quantities until she could return to the breast. I mentioned before how easy breastfeeding was after birth. . . you can imagine how immensely heartbreaking it was to hear her wail and watch her turn beet red in frustration at not remembering how to latch on after weeks of no practice. I just stayed by her side and breastfed at every cue. Soon after returning to the breast, she had her first really good bowel movement, which was one of the conditions of her discharge from the NICU. Soon after, we took her home.
The newborn baby days. . .
. . . were very normal. I tell every expectant or new mother that I meet that it is absolutely normal and healthy for newborns to breastfeed constantly for six to eight weeks. That is nature’s design (though it doesn’t work very well with society’s designs. . . ) And this was true for Abbey as well. She was almost a month old when we took her home, but it wasn’t at least till after New Years, when she was four months old – that I felt as if she weren’t “on me all the time”. I’ll admit, at times it was a bit disconcerting. I yearned for at least a slight separation from my baby – after all, I was a woman, too – not just a milk machine! But especially now that I am more informed about breastfeeding and parenting, I can look back and know that our experience in early infancy was definitely healthy – and I’m glad that I stuck with it, even when I felt weighed down, depressed, or lonely. Around 3 months, I experienced what I now know from my training to be a nursing strike, but once I figured out how to help her though, everything smoothed out, and as Abbey grew, we were so happy with her growth and her development – it was such a joy to be new parents, and I enjoyed nourishing her with my milk, without any other setbacks.
This is only PART ONE of three of Amy's story. She has lots of (now fabulous-but at the time challenging) reasons to be a great voice and support person in the nursing community! Check back next week for Part Two of Amy's story-The Formula Experiment.
If you have a great story to share about how you and your baby concurred the hurdles of your nursing journey that you could share to help inspire and encourage nursing mamas just starting or going through some challenges, email them to firstname.lastname@example.org.