Thursday, September 13, 2012

Confessions of a Mama who Tried to Latch

© 2012 Erin Bell

"I don't know where I should start in regards to my story.

Should I start with my firstborn? I never even considered nursing due to being young, naive and following the ideals of my family. Should I start with my 2nd born? She is 18 months younger than her older sister. I had an urge to nurse but still thought my mother knew best. I believed everything unquestioningly.

I made an amazing friend when my 2nd child was several months old. We spent a lot of time talking about many different things and my mind started to open up and see everything in regards to pregnancy and babies in a different light. I could not believe the stuff my mother had told me was right for me and my babies. I could not believe I was so blind to the truth of it all. And it wasn't just breastfeeding. It was circumcision. It was home birth. It was pain free birth. You name it, my friend had knowledge I had never been received. 

Any time I had ever brought up anything in regards to breastfeeding and other sensitive topics, my mother and father were of the opinion, "Well, we never breastfed and you turned out fine." Oh really? I would not consider my siblings nor myself "fine." What is the definition of "fine" anyways? Being diagnosed with thyroid disease at a young age? Mental health issues in the school age years of my siblings? Is that "fine?"

I guess I had assumed we were "fine" despite the obvious being in front of our eyes. And circumcision was "fine" for my father and my brother I suppose. I believed it. Now, I am married to an intact man and I will tell you, I do not know why he even agreed with me and my stance, but on our birth plan that we had for our first and second born, we would circumcise our child. We had bottles and formula only on our birth plans.

It breaks my heart knowing I wrote those words down. I am very grateful I was not blessed with a son until I had been equipped with the knowledge of what IS right. I have regret every day that I did not nurse my first 2 children.

Now, onto my third child. I still could not get my head wrapped around the idea of breastfeeding. At this point, I knew that we would not circumcise our third child. I knew I wanted a different birth. I wanted to birth my child with little or no intervention. With my 2nd, due to complications and a diagnosed heart condition in my second born, I was high risk. But at this point I had supportive friends. I had a sounding board for confirmation that everything would be OK and that I could breastfeed.

We were due to get military orders to Guam when I was about 4 months pregnant. We ended up needing to get my ultrasound at the high risk clinic to check for any heart issues with the baby. That was also when they found out I had placenta previa (when the placenta covers part or all of the cervix). I was hoping that the placenta would move so I could have the birth experience that I wanted. That was all thrown away with confirmed previa. I ended up in the hospital at the end of my pregnancy several times due to complications because of the previa. At this point I was still going to formula feed. I was set in the fact that I had bottle fed the other 2 so there was no reason why I wouldn't do the same.

I laid in that hospital for 16 days before I had my cesarean section. In recovery, I gave my daughter her first bottle. All of the formula came back out. She was a 36 weeker. I had taken the steroids to improve lung maturity but I guess her bowels were still immature. She had stridor (sounds made while trying to suck in air to breathe) and had to be taken back to the NICU.

At that time, my husband had run down to the car to grab some supplies he brought from home (which was an hour away) and when he came back up, I was in my room in TEARS. I couldn't talk well due to the anesthesia (Duramorph) and our baby was not in the room. During that time he was away, the nice old ladies who knit booties had also come in and I was a mess. They left me with some adorable festive Christmas hats and booties for my little girl.

Anyways, at that point, we had a major heart to heart talk. My husband and I, we were obviously thrown a curve ball and we needed to rethink what was truly best for our daughter. We called the nurse into the room. We ordered a pump. Our daughter was not allowed to eat. It took me a long time to get down to the NICU to see her. So I sat in the room and I pumped. I actually got some colostrum within hours of giving birth. I was so proud of myself when I saw the liquid gold I could save for my baby girl. We were now in an unfamiliar territory for us but it just felt right.

My daughter was in the NICU for nearly 3 weeks. Sometime after she was 10 days old, she was allowed to finally eat. Everything was measured and she drank my milk out of a bottle. I had no clue what that would do to our nursing relationship. I continued pumping every 2 hours. I had a huge stash of milk in the hospital and at home. I would have some for emergencies once she got out of the hospital.

I didn't feel that the hospital had provided adequate knowledge on feeding options and styles. We tried getting her to latch after her measured bottle feeding. We would try and try without success. My daughter latched. Finally. Once. ONCE. The lactation consultant was a man! One night, very late at night, when a storm was heading our way, they decided it was the perfect time to discharge my daughter because she was eating enough.

My daughter had latched ONCE.

I had committed to providing her with the nutrition she deserved. I was pumping successfully with the hospital grade pump. But she was not taking it naturally from me. At home, my daughter didn't latch. I tried. Oh, how I tried. Her bowels were moving well. She was doing great. I ended up having to return the hospital pump. I didn't have any backup. I didn't know what kind to purchase, either. My milk supply dwindled. I didn't know much about ways to increase my milk supply.

I was frustrated. Overwhelmed. My husband had to go to a school for the military within days of her getting home. I didn't have the support I needed to be successful. So, I felt I had no choice but to turn to formula. I felt like a failure. I had finally committed to doing the best for her and it didn't work. Once she started on the formula, her bowels once again blocked up quickly. This caused both of us a lot of grief.

My milk was working wonderfully for her! But I dried up. I had no pump. She wouldn't latch. I continued to try to get a latch without success. When she was several weeks old, she was nearly diagnosed as Failure to Thrive. She was struggling to have bowel movements. I couldn't nurse her. And I realized her head was turned out to one side all the time. Come to find out, part of the latching issue was fron torticollis due to her positioning inside the womb because of the previa. She had been breech or transverse nearly the entire pregnancy. I tried my best.

And now I know I needed more knowledge and I needed more support. I did go on to successfully exclusively nurse my next child, an intact son, for well over a year. He also weaned on his own. I now vow to help new mothers to the best of my ability. It is bittersweet knowing I will never have another nursling. But,  I will educate my children and help them to know what is best.

Erin Bell, mom to Ashley, Sydney, Kiley and CJ"

September's topic is Weaning. Would you like to participate? Here is the event with more info:

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