I am the mother of an amazing little superhero named Oliver. After three years of fertility treatments, he came into our world in January of 2013. While I was pregnant, I did what everybody does: read What to Expect When You’re Expecting cover to cover, ordered Old Navy maternity clothes and got excited about breastfeeding. I mean, it was a win-win. Free, awesome vitamins and nutrients for him, weight loss for me. Score! Never in my wildest dreams did I think I wouldn’t be able to breastfeed my baby. Now, don’t get me wrong, I am not one of those vegan-don’t you dare eat preservatives-all organic types. Not even close. I never even thought about natural childbirth. I am not that bad-ass. I was willing to do street drugs if the situation called for it (no, not really…well, maybe). But, I thought, the least I could do, would be to give my little boy a good start in life with the best nutrition God invented.
My journey began on January 22, 2013 at 5:00am. The day before, my wife and I had decided, with guidance from our doctor, that because of the positioning of Oliver, a C-section would be our best option. I arrived at the hospital nervous, but ready to meet my baby. The surgery went great and it turned out that we had made a good decision to go with the c-section because the umbilical cord was wrapped around Oliver’s neck three times and my doctor said it could have caused complications if he had been a vaginal delivery. Wow, I was already making great decisions and I had only been a mother for a few minutes! After the doctors closed me up, I was reunited with my wife and son in the recovery room. At first, he didn’t want the boob, which the nurses said was totally normal. Later, in my room, the nurse helped me with several different positions. After many, many attempts, the “football hold” seemed to work best for little Ollie. But, it was hard for him to latch on. I was given several plastic nipple shields, which actually did seem to help some, but they would fall off easily and they were hard to place on the nipple properly. Still, I felt like he was doing great that first day. The second day wasn’t so great. He was getting more and more frustrated, and so was I. Have I mentioned a lactation consultant yet? Oh, yeah, that’s because there wasn’t one until late into day two. And, she only stayed a few minutes. Now, I take my part of the blame on this one. Looking back, I should have asked more questions and made her watch me with him. But, shouldn’t she suggest these things too?
Day three, or as I like to call it, THE WORST DAY OF MY LIFE, started off with a bang. In the midst of the audiologist coming in to do a hearing screen, dietary asking me what I wanted to eat, and a crying baby, the nurse tells me that my son has a fever and that he might not be getting enough to eat. She says we will have to supplement his intake with formula. Homie, say what? What the hell? I am BREASTFEEDING. The pediatrician agreed with the nurse. I was a tired, hot mess of a mama and so, against my better judgment; I gave him the bottle of formula. It was downhill from there. Any time I tried to give him the boob, he would cry. With the bottle, he did great. This is when I learned the term, “nipple confusion.” And, I can totally see how it happens. That night, we sent Oliver to the nursery for one hour so that we could get just a little sleep. While he was there, they gave him a pacifier. So, now this kid has been introduced to a total of four nipple or nipple-like structures (me, the shield, the bottle and the pacifier). Have I mentioned a breast pump? No? Oh yeah, that’s because no one mentioned it to me until day three of my hospital stay. We had bought one, but were told not to worry about bringing it. We were told the hospital would provide one. Well, in our haze of being new mothers and all of the craziness, we didn’t think to ask for one. And no one mentioned it until the PRN night nurse
came in on day three. I don’t know if this is common, but she seemed quite upset that I didn’t already have this going. My last day in the hospital, a fabulous lactation consultant came in to see me. She spent most of the day with me and made me feel a whole lot better about the situation. Alas, when I got home, Oliver and I continued to struggle. No matter how much I pumped or how much he cried in frustration, there was little to no milk to be found. Everyone kept saying, “It’s ok. Sometimes it just doesn’t work.” That didn’t make me feel better. This is the most fundamental thing a mother should be able to do for her child, and I couldn’t. Finally, after two weeks of losing to the bottle, I put up the white flag. If I didn’t have post-partum depression before then, I sure did afterwards.
I still feel guilty even though Oliver is now a happy, healthy, six month old. He’s doing great, but I can’t help but replay those first two weeks in my brain. What could I have done differently? Said no to the bottle? Researched breastfeeding more? Met with a lactation consultant beforehand? I don’t know. I had endured the gamut of fertility treatments, including Clomid, Follistim, Femara and the HCG shot. I also have a blood clotting disorder, known as Factor V Leiden. This disorder causes your blood to clot more than it should, and with any surgery the risk of blood clots increases. Since I had a C-section, I was required to take daily Lovenox shots for a month after Oliver was born. Could any of this reduced my milk production? I don’t know. And what are the long-term effects of formula use? I can’t bear to Google it.
What I do know is that even though I had an awesome physician at a top-notch hospital, I feel like I was failed in this area. There cannot be too much education about breastfeeding. I feel like it should start at the first meeting with the doctor and not end until the mother says it can end. I hope to have at least one more child. I hope I can give the boob another go and this time, and you can bet your last bag of street drugs I won’t leave that hospital until I’ve got this breastfeeding game down.
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