Tuesday, March 11, 2008

The Nursing Diaries

Thanks to Lotus, today is a celebration of feeding our babies! Welcome to the (Breast)feeding Carnival!

For me, there was never a question of what I wanted to do: I would breastfeed my kids. Funny thing is, Ed and I had never discussed this when we began dating. As ours was a long distance relationship, many hours were spent on the phone talking about our plans for the future. Kids most definitely were part of the plan. (According to my ex, that was his prime motivation to step out, because I wanted kids and he didn’t. His loss.)

We visited my niece, her husband and infant son and he spoke up for me, that when we did have kids, I would definitely nurse! I guess my ideas were pretty transparent! Little did we know, a year and some months later, we’d have our own son and we began on our own nursing journey.

During my pregnancy, I was big on asking any mom “What didn’t they tell you when you had a baby that you wish you’d known?”. I asked my doctors “What complications only happen to a small percentage of new moms?” I knew that these questions would serve me well-and they did, to an extent. My doctors confirmed that the gall bladder issues within a few months of having a baby were very common (which meant mine would perform perfectly).

I was told about the uncontrollable shakes after you deliver by my boss, so I was prepared. The lamaze breathing that had no use during the c-section served me in good stead when I was in recovery for two hours after having Gameboy. (Fair skin sucks-I’m already pale and look ghost like after any surgery, so they tend to keep me in recovery for hours.)

What no one told me was that nursing HURT! I would grit my teeth every time Gameboy latched on, and he nursed a lot. The first two weeks were torture. I had red, raw and cracked nipples. However, once we got past the two week point, it was like a switch had been flicked. It suddenly was very easy to nurse.

During my six week maternity leave, any excursions out were interesting. We tried to find suitable places to nurse in public. We were successful for the most part, discreetly nursing at a mall, some outlets and dining out. Alas, one time an elderly gentleman decided he needed to see the baby under the receiving blanket and got more than he bargained for! I think he was far more embarrassed than I was!

I returned to work with a Nature’s Choice double breast pump and pumped on my break. It worked like a charm. Yes, the pumps are stronger at latching on to you than a baby, but you get used to it pretty quickly.

One day, I’ll relate the whole long story that goes here, but the condensed version is that at seven weeks postpartum, I developed a DVT and earned a nine day hospital stay and a year on blood thinnners.

It was in the ER, waiting for the vascular surgeon that I was told unceremoniously that I could NOT nurse that baby! I was upset, he was upset and we had to stop cold turkey. I was on an IV drip of heparin during the hospital stay and was told I couldn’t nurse. I pumped and dumped because the pain was horrible.

Many times, I asked my vascular surgeon if there was some way I could nurse my baby. As he wasn’t well acquainted with nursing moms as patients (and he had a poor bedside manner), he told me no way. I stopped, sad that something so special had been taken away from us.

It wasn’t until my first visit after leaving the hospital that he told he he’d done some research and found that I *could* nurse, if I injected myself with heparin, instead of taking the coumadin that I’d been on for a few weeks already.

Gameboy had adjusted to life on formula, and I had dried up. It would be too much work (or so I thought) to start back up.

Three years later, when I found out I was pregnant with Chef Jr, things were different. I endured a lot of testing to figure out why I’d had that DVT. It is rare to have one more than two weeks post partum, with less than ½ of 1% of moms having one seven weeks after giving birth. My midwives wanted to know why.

We found out that I had several markers for Lupus, without actually having it. We found out I have Factor V Leiden, a clotting abnomality. I was five weeks pregnant and on blood thinners. This time, I was to inject myself with Heparin throughout the pregnancy and for eight weeks afterwards to stave off another DVT.

Since I was now considered a high risk patient, in addition to my midwives and OB’s, I gained a Perinatologist. Dr. Kramer was here in the US on a fellowship and I felt like he came especially for me. The research in England about blood thinners, pregnancy and nursing moms has been more thorough than in the US.

Dr. Kramer told me I could nurse with the blood thinners without hurting my baby. He provided documentation from several sources, and since I was already giving myself injections several times a day (from about 4 months on, it was 6 shots a day), I didn’t see any problem with two shots a day post partum.

Chef Junior arrived a healthy boy. The other Perinatologist worried that he’d have some kidney issues, so he was rushed off for an ultrasound when he was a couple of hours old, but he checked out fine. (and we had the diapers to prove it!)

He was just like his big brother in that he had no problems at all latching on. The same lactation consultant that had checked in on us during our first birthing experience checked in again and remembered us, commenting “you don’t need my help, you did great the last time.”

This time, I was primarily a stay at home mom. At eight weeks, I got a waitressing job where I only worked Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights. Thirty five hours in three days, eek. Fortunately, my employer was very understanding of my commitment to nursing. I returned to work with my double pump and spent 5 or 10 minutes several times each night pumping. At first, it was in the alcove where we had the ice machine, but some of the guys said they didn’t want me to think that they were staring at me, so I soon earned a key to the management office to pump in quiet.

I had a good system. I took one of the little pagers we gave the guests back with me. If I was needed, the hostesses buzzed me. It worked like a charm. Typically, I’d be teamed with a smoker in the adjoining station, so we’d trade off-they’d watch while I pumped and I’d watch while they smoked.

Six months later, I switched restaurants. I was upfront in my interview that I was a nursing mom and that I intended to pump. Once again, I was offered the office for pumping. Two of the managers had nursing wifes, so they were especially considerate of my needs.

The work front was a huge motivator for us to nurse as long as we did. At home, we worked out a system. After I’d worked the three nights, I found that Chef would nurse non stop on that Monday. I thought that it was due to a drop in milk production, though the La Leche league chapter I joined thought that it was more that Chef missed mommy.

I did some research and found that brewer’s yeast helps milk production. Another member of the online mom’s community I participated in suggested a Guinness a night when I worked to help. At the time, I found the stout to be very bitter. Another mom, from Dublin, recommended an Irish tradition: a shot of Chambord in the glass would take away the bitter aftertaste. It worked.

Other things that were different this time around: I purchased a baby sling just before Chef’s arrival. Gameboy was just under 10 pounds when he was born, and as a result, the Snugli we had would sway heavily from side to side. The information I’d found about the slings showed that I could wear my baby without that pendulum effect.

Chef quickly took to the sling. He had this amazing knack to start the hungry cry just as we’d walked into the neighborhood supermarket (conditioned response to the smell of the place? maybe!). After a couple of times nursing awkwardly in the car, I decided to put the sling to work. Hurray! It worked great. What was hilarous was that his routine was get into the sling, latch on, then work his bottom leg out of the sling. You’d see me walking down the aisles with a baby leg swinging merrily from beneath the sling!

We had no problems nursing anywhere. I purchased a couple of nursing tops from Motherhood Maternity and I have to say that they worked great. I never had a ‘peeking’ incident like I’d had with Gameboy.

One time, we were shopping in Target and he began to cry the cry I knew all too well. I was in the checkout. The check out of the ding dong that we would avoid at all costs. She noticed that Chef was crying and commented that he was probably very hungry. I replied that he was, and she asked why I hadn’t giving the little baby his bottle.

I said, “No, he needs to nurse”, to which she said “Well, the bathroom is right over there.” I had a hard time controlling my volume when I responded “Do you eat in YOUR bathroom?” I explained that if I wanted privacy, I could go to the fitting rooms to nurse him. Instead, I went over to the snack bar, got Gameboy a juice and fed Chef.

When he was ten months old, I returned to retail management and once again, had an understanding employer. I pumped in the office on my break, as did one of our part timers. Ed took him to his one year checkup and the pediatrician asked about nursing (I couldn’t get the day off from work) and suggested it was time to wean him.

Poor Ed, he was just the messenger. I wasn’t ready to stop, nor was Chef. We’d keep going, thankyouverymuch!

We passed 18 months and set our sights on two years. All the evidence that the longer a child is nursed, the less severe their allergies could be was mounting. Ed, Gameboy and I were already experiencing some pretty severe allergies and I hoped to minimize this for Chef.

However, when he was 20 months old, I developed severe vertigo. (Yep, chalk up another one for my weird file). The doctors were stumped, I was equally stumped. We first tried various medications for it that wouldn’t pass through the breast milk, with no success.

Finally, an MRI was ordered. I had to receive radioactive contrast dye. This would pass through the breast milk and I was told that I had to stop nursing. Once again, we went cold turkey because of my health. However, switching a 7 week old and switching a 20 month old are two very different experiences. Can I tell you how frustrating it was to find that the MRI didn’t uncover the cause for the dizziness? I was diagnosed as having Benign Positional Vertigo, and I still have it, though not as severe.

I would never trade the experience for anything. I would never give another mom a hard time for deciding not to nurse, but for me there was never a question. I had to do this-and I’m so happy I did.

About a year ago, Chef and I were talking about when he was a baby, and he pointed to my chest and said “I used to eat from those.” I said “yes, you did.” It was simple and matter of fact, but the connection he made is that the chest is there to feed babies. Pretty cool.

Wanna hear more great stories about feeding our kids, go to Lotus's blog!

5 People talked back:

projectmommy said...

Wow, you sure did go through an awful lot to nurse! I commend you for trying so hard. Way to stick it to the gal at the check out, too! My babies don't eat in the bathroom either!

Marketing Mama said...

How wonderful that you had great nursing relationships with both of your babies. That really sucks about your medical conditions getting in the way... I had an MRI while nursing and they let me do it without the dye specifically b/c I was a nursing mom... that's too bad you didn't have the same allowance. Maybe sometimes you can't go without it. Thanks for sharing your story!

Geggie said...

No babies here yet, but I know I do want to breast feed.

Have a great day!!

Rebecca said...

Awesome post! That's awesome!

imaginary binky said...

Yay for nursing! You did a great job, Mama.