This is probably the longest post I’ve ever written. As you know by now, I don’t really get personal up in this blog and in general, not so much in person either. But I recently shared this story with a very large group of midwives, doulas and caregivers so that they would be able to help other women who find themselves in my situation. And so I’m sharing it with you, too. Here’s my birth and breastfeeding story, it’s lengthy and it’s all true.
I entered the hospital when I was 12 days overdue with Wyeth. He didn’t drop down, as babies do, and I never experienced any Braxton-Hicks. On a Monday evening, I was given a pill (inserted down below) for cervical ripening. Early Tuesday morning I was induced (aka given a lot of drugs). I was in labor for 25 hours. I pushed for around five hours, the cold sleepy hours of Wednesday early morning. The baby was head down but sideways. He crowned but we could not move him into the right position. I was rushed in the OR and had a C-section exactly 14 days past the due date, Wednesday morning. After he was measured, we found out that I wouldn’t have been able to deliver him vaginally anyway because his head was 15” around. That would’ve been nice to know before being induced.
The same day of birth I was given a nipple shield because the nurses determined Wyeth had a recessed chin (he doesn’t). The shield was to help with getting a good latch. While in the hospital, I started feeding him with a tube and syringe full of formula because we were told that he lost too much weight and I wasn’t providing enough colostrum.
My milk took a long time to come in. I never experienced engorgement like the books say. I began pumping 4-6 times a day in order to encourage my milk supply, which was low. It was about four weeks before I had enough milk to feed him without supplement. I stopped using the shield because it actually made latching more difficult. So: 3 ½ weeks of feeding with tube, nipple shield, and syringe full of formula and pumped milk. Every two hours for 45 minutes. For 3 ½ weeks while recovering from surgery. By four weeks I was able to feed him on my own.
I saw a hospital lactation consultant several times over the course of four weeks. We worked on latch and positioning. But feeding was painful. Wyeth constantly arched his back and twisted his head, especially on my right side. My nipples were always sore, I had shooting breast pain, I would start to cry almost every time I fed him because it was so painful. He’s was gaining weight like a champ, so I felt encouraged to keep trying.
I nursed over 420 times in pain.
At six weeks I contacted the amazing lactation consultant, Doris, who came to my house. She showed me how to work with Wyeth’s arching. No more of the strict lining up of body parts like my other LC showed me, which was so difficult to manage. But even with her help I was still in pain. She suggested a craniosacral therapist. I was very skeptical, especially since I’d never heard of CS before. But you know, I was about to give up. I told myself I would give this two more weeks and try therapy for Wyeth.
The reason Doris suggested CS therapy is because she thought that Wyeth had really tight muscles in his neck that were keeping him from relaxing, exacerbating his arching and keeping his mouth from opening wide enough. Even though he could turn his head to the left, he mainly kept it to the right.
I called the therapist and she came that day and worked her magic on Wyeth. Within 24 hours, feeding was better. Less pain. By 8 weeks, my cut off point, I was in almost no pain. We’ve seen the therapist several times over the past few weeks and she has helped enormously. Wyeth’s muscles have loosened up and I can feed him painlessly now. PAINLESSLY. As in, no pain.
Every day I give Wyeth some light massage on his neck and shoulder muscles to help keep them loose. He can easily look all the way around, drop his head, and hold his head up. I don’t worry about lining him up and getting the perfect latch any more. We go with what feels natural and good for both of us.
The biggest thing I’ve developed since giving birth, besides my boobs, is determination. I don’t feel like I did this to be some kind of super mom. This was one of the most difficult things I’ve ever done both for myself and someone else. I just wanted to be able to nurse my baby without pain.
And now I can.
I’ve been doing a little bit of sewing. I’m working on a very girly quilt which started as a way for me to use up some of my fabric stash. A couple of friends are pregnant with baby girls so I made them some cute outfits. It’s pretty fun to make girl clothes, I have to say. Don’t go thinking I whipped these up in a flash. Oh no. It took a really long time to make these, a few minutes every day or so. I’ve just started knitting again and it’s much easier to pick it up and knit a few rows than to sit down and sew for a minute or two. It’s been so hot in my studio lately that I’ve neglected the quilt top for now. So just a few rows of knitting every day it is. Having little creative projects again feels so good. Like a little bit of healing, you know? Something I returned to that I didn’t know quite how much I missed.
To salvage a day of ups and downs, Wyeth and I went into the backyard and laid on the quilt I made a few months ago. We did a lot of staring at the leaves, whistling to each other in the breeze. Wyeth played with dried garlic roots and I braided them as best as I could. We got a pretty good haul this year, even if I did harvest some a little too soon.
Wyeth is almost three months now! He wants to be held upright so he can see more. His development over such a short period is really amazing. Our bodies can do so much! He’s a pretty big guy both weight and length-wise. He’s wearing 6 month size clothes, you guys! I hope he’ll be able to wear at least one of those sweaters I knit him during the fall. He’s already outgrown four of them and didn’t even get to wear all of them because it’s been so hot. Arg! Perhaps it’s time to look for some new knitting projects. Speaking of projects, I’ve done a little bit of sewing and I’ll post about it soon, just need to take a couple more pictures.