Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Breastfeeding and Heartbreak

This may end up being one of my hardest posts to write, but I need to get it all out, I think.  If you're a man and breastfeeding, nipples or breasts, when used to feed children, weird you out you're going to want to skip this post too. ;)  I have a feeling this may get incredibly long..sorry about that!

When I had Chloe I was pretty set on breastfeeding.  I will admit that I was extremely naive and had very little education on what it took to breastfeed (physically, emotionally, logistically, etc).  Justin and I took a breastfeeding class at the hospital so I knew the basic holds, but that was honestly about all I walked away knowing.  In the hospital Chloe latched on great and things seemed to be going really well.  The lactation consultant (LC) took a little time with us (very little), said things looked pretty good and we went home thinking this was going to work out.  My milk had not come in by the first night we came home (which is completely normal) and in the middle of the night Chloe woke up screaming her head off and would not go back to sleep.  I called my mom crying and asking what in the world I should do.  She told me give her a little formula and get some rest. I gave her formula and she slept peacefully the rest of the night.  I will not was awesome.  I continued to try to breastfeed her, but my nipples became extremely sore and so I decided I would just pump.  I did that for a few days, getting very little milk, and then just gave up.  Unfortunately after making the decision, she started not tolerating the formula we had and so we ended up going through about 8 million brands/types of formula (okay, probably not that many, but it felt like it) before we settled on soy.  Once we figured out the type of formula that worked best for her life was good.  She was taking the formula, sleeping well, and we were all doing great as a family.  At the time, I never really thought twice about any of it.

Fast forward to my start in birth work and my thoughts on breastfeeding/formula feeding changed quite a bit.  I became much more educated on the many benefits of breastfeeding and knew I would breastfeed the rest of my children.

All throughout Lydia's pregnancy one of the things I looked forward to most was being able to breastfeed her.  I daydreamed all the time about us having that special relationship and me being able to give her the best start to life.  ALL of my friends breastfeed and they were a great encouragement that I could do it through their success and also just talking to them.  Weekly I told my midwife I was prepared this time and knew we could do it.

Like I said in her birth story, when Lydia was born she latched on quickly and easily.  Girlfriend knew what she was doing.  Unfortunately, she was also a vacuum of the dyson variety and drew blood during her very first feeding.  While I was a little worried, in my naive (again) mind I thought for sure it would heal quickly and we'd be on our way.  Unfortunately, it didn't.  My nipples were a disaster within the first 2 days of her life.  I knew that in the first couple of weeks the inital latch could be brutal (like curl your toes and let out a yelp it hurt so bad).  We were definitely dealing with that, but my nipples were so damaged that the entire feeding was painful.  I called an in-home LC to come over and check Lydia's latch/assess the situation.  She told me that the latch was great, she was just had a very strong suck.  We had other issues that arose (thrush, Reynaud's, etc) that made the pain worse than it already was.  I tried a million different things to help heal my nipples (a prescription cream, lanolin, vinegar washes, grapefruit seed extract, airing out my nipples, not airing out my nipples, pumping, using a nipple shield...and on and on and on).

It was exhausting.  Newborns want to eat ALL time.  I would cringe when I heard her crying because I knew she wanted to eat again.  I didn't want to really be anywhere near her during the times she wasn't nursing.  It was hard for me to look at her without feeling completely disconnected and bitter. And I cried. A LOT.  In fact, I cried more than I didn't cry.  There were times I would stand in front of the mirror and tell myself that I needed to get it together.  I felt like I was in some deep dark hole and there was no end in sight.  I called/texted/talked to/ (mostly) cried to all my breastfeeding friends and mom and other doulas and they continued to encourage me.  But I just was not myself.  My mom told me several times that she was worried about me.  My friends could see I was not myself.  Like I said, it was like I was in a hole and couldn't get out -- I was lonely and scared and tired and disconnected and it was a really scary place to be.

Justin was amazing through the entire time!!  He was so encouraging and would tell me I was doing an amazing job and never once said the world formula although I'm sure he wanted to.  Another thing that was so hard was that Chloe was hurting through this whole thing as well.  She would cry when I cried, she would ask me if I was okay all the time, she made a picture that said "breastfeeding is bad" (lol), and she really started to resent her sister.

I finally spoke with my doula, Kay, on the phone one day and she could tell I was a complete mess.  I cried the entire time on the phone and just poured my heart out to her about how detached I was, about all the guilt I was feeling, etc. etc.  and she encouraged me so much.  She let me know that it's okay to make decisions for our family based on what we feel and know is best vs. what everyone else in the world thinks.  She reassured me that I was a good mom and had given Lydia an amazing start no matter what the outcome of our breastfeeding relationship became.  She allowed me to process through a lot of the feelings/guilt/emotions I was dealing with.  She gave me some more ideas to try to help things get better and when I hung up with her I felt a little more confident as a mom, which is what I needed so badly.

Things didn't get better.  They continued to get worse, actually, and when Lydia was 3 1/2 weeks old (and I had fed her about 250 excruciating times) we switched her over to formula.  It was a decision that Justin and I talked and prayed about for several hours...weighing the pros and cons.  Ultimately we decided that for our family, at that time, formula was the best choice.  I can not even tell you the weight that was lifted off my shoulders when we made that decision.  I have never been through a time in my life where I actually could almost tangibly FEEL peace.

The entire time I breastfed Lydia my milk supply was awesome and she did amazingly well.  She gained weight quickly and was getting more than enough milk.  Because of that, our decision to switch her to formula caused me a lot of guilt.  I felt very selfish, as if my pain and depression was not enough reason for us to switch her.  Maybe some people think I am selfish.  At this point it really doesn't matter.  You see, sometimes life doesn't go exactly how I planned -- in fact, that's kind of the story of my life in regards to my children -- and I have to rely on the fact that 1) I serve a God who loves me no matter what and 2) I love my children more than anything and am doing the very best I can as a mom to my two precious girls.  If that's not enough for someone else looking in on our lives, then too bad.

While switching to formula was absolutely the best choice for our family, the pain that came from those outside our family was almost unbearable.  I felt incredibly judged by some, whether it was perceived or real.  The first 2 weeks of feeding Lydia formula were extremely lonely -- not as a mom (which was the case before), but as a friend and a woman.  I started to question almost every decision I've made as a mom. I'm not sure the pain of that will ever completely go away and tears roll down my cheeks just putting myself back in that place as I type this.  My heart was broken. If there is one thing I have learned from this experience it's that we should rally around each other as women and support those other mommas we love because we know they're doing the best they can.

Today, 3 months later, Lydia is doing fantastic and I still feel like formula was the best decision for us in that moment.  Do I mourn the loss of that breastfeeding relationship? Absolutely!  Do I wish things had gone differently? Of course! Do I feel like my child is loved any less or not as well taken care of? Not one bit. Will I try my freaking hardest to breastfeed any future children we have? You better believe it! 


Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Pictures from Lydia's birth

WARNING: Some of these pictures are a little more graphic in nature.  If that's going to freak you out, you probably want to skip this post. :)  Also, there are a ton of pictures.

 I finished up Lydia's birth story -- you can read it in the post below, but I wanted to get these pictures on here too.

Before Lydia's birth our doula, Kay, let us know that she had a photographer who wanted to do some birth photography and wanted to offer a birth for free to one of Kay's clients to help build up her portfolio.  Luckily we were that couple!! :)  We don't have those pictures back yet, but as soon as we do I will get them up.  Unfortunately, the birth went so fast that we have no pictures of me in labor OR the birth.  I hate that.  I was so looking forward to some amazing water birth pictures, but Lydia had different ideas.  SO, all of these pictures are right after she was born.  Thank you Andrea for taking them for us!  They are so precious to me!

Here we go:

Immediately after she was born with my midwife's gentle hand on my shoulder.  We did it!

My mommas first look at her second granddaughter.
Enjoying the first glimpses of our baby girl.
Well hi there! Look how much she had pinked up!  One thing people always ask me if is the water was really gross after delivering her.  As you can see it was still perfectly clear except for some of the vernix off Lydia's body. :)
This is one of my favorite pictures...just checking mommy out.
Her sweet little feet
She was so alert and when Justin talked to her she immediately turned her head to his voice.  It was precious.
Chloe's first look.  She wasn't too sure.  Mommy was excited though! :)
Nicole checking to see if Lydia's umblical cord was still pulsing.
Daddy cutting the cord.
First skin to skin with daddy. 
Meeting her Poppy for the first time...although Poppy was on the phone letting everyone know he had a new baby granddaughter! haha!
Feeding my sweet girl for the first time.  What a precious moment.
This picture makes me laugh so much.  Justin and Lydia are just enjoying each other and Lindsey is consoling Chloe as she has a meltdown in the background. lol!
Weighing the little fishie! ;)
Love this!
Smooching my first baby while feeding my second baby. I love this picture so much.
Lindsey feeding me. Ha! :)
Hi world!!
This one cracks me up.  I joke that this is Lydia's first Sears portrait...looking off into the abyss.
Just relaxing with our new bundle.
So happy!
Chloe holding Lydia for the first time.  This was the next day.
One of my favorite pictures ever.  My two sweet baby girls.

Our first moments together

You can read the first part of Lydia's birth story here and pictures are here.

One reason (among *so* many) that we chose homebirth is how sweet and gentle the time is immediately after giving birth. In the hospital often babies are swept away from their momma quickly to be weighed, measured, looked over, given shots, have their heels pricked, have goop put in their eyes, etc. etc. It's typically chaotic and frantic. This is not how things went for us this time at all.

Right after Lydia was born we sat in the water for a long time together just gazing at each other. She was so wide-eyed and alert. Her cord was very short so I wasn't able to bring her all the way up to my chest, but I held her sort if in my lap/close to my belly and in the water. I got to feel her squishy, sweet little body next to mine. Her little hands and feet were perfect with 10 little fingers and toes. I got to see her color amazingly change from bluish to pink as she took her first breaths. Her umbilical cord continued to pulse and deliver the last of the oxygen rich blood from her placenta. While holding her in my arms, I kissed her daddy and declared, "we did it!" It was the most amazing, gentle, precious first moments we could have asked for.

As her cord was done pulsing, Justin took off his shirt to get ready to hold her skin to skin. He cut her cord and I handed her to him and he brought her to his chest. Their hearts beating close for the first time. He then took her downstairs to see the family.

While they were downstairs, I delivered her placenta, and then got into my own bed where Suzanne looked me over to make sure everything looked okay. I had a small tear that she stitched and then I was able to get into my own shower and clean up a bit, which felt amazing!!

When I was done, I got back into bed and Justin brought Lydia back in so I could get her on my chest and start breastfeeding her. Suzanne told me to lay her face down on my chest and allow her to do the breast crawl. I had seen this done in youtube videos and read about it, but I could not believe how she wiggled herself from the middle of my chest over to my left breast and latched on. All by herself! It was one of the most incredible things I have ever seen. She was literally like an hour old and knew exactly what to do! She was a voracious sucker and stayed latched on for quite some time. She was a hungry little thing!

After I fed her, Suzanne and Justin weighed, measued, and looked her over right there on the bed next to me. Justin joked that she used a fish scale to see how much Lydia weighed. Suzanne had Justin hold her up and call out how much she weighed. Our little sweetie was a perfect 7 pounds, 15 ounces. Suzanne then measured her at 19 1/2 inches. She and Chloe were almost exactly the same size with Lydia being a couple ounces more.

After Suzanne declared she was just perfect, I fed Lydia from the right breast as Lindsey fed me steak and potatoes (ha!) and Suzanne and Nicole (the birth assistant) finished cleaning up room. When they were finished Suzanne gave me a few instructions for the next 24-48 hours until they would be back, hugged me, and went on their way.

It was starting to get late at this point and all our visitors decided to go home and let us rest. Chloe went to her grandparents house for the night while Justin, Lydia, and I just laid in bed and snuggled the rest of the night. My best friend Andrea slept in Chloe's room for the night in case I needed her and it was so nice to know she was close just in case I needed some extra mommy hands. I had way too much adrenaline to sleep much that night and just laid in bed staring at our sweet little miracle and praising God for her life.

I was never nervous to have Lydia by ourselves. The only time I got a little freaked out was when Lydia was trying to get some of the amniotic fluid out and was gagging a bit. It was never anything to really worry about and we had an aspirator if we needed it, but she cleared it away and was just fine.

Our first hours together as a family were reason enough for me to homebirth again in the future should we be blessed with more babies. It was the most incredible thing to feel such peace and love and gentleness in the room for Lydia's first hours of life.


As a side note: I realize I'm a horrible blogger. I really want to change that for a lot of reasons, but the main one being that I just really want to remember what was going on in our lives when I look back 5, 10, 20 years from now. I often use facebook as my way of telling the world what's going on around here, but I'm realizing that it's just not very easy to go back and see where we've been. So, I'm going to try to start chronically our lives here more often - even if it's just silly Chloe one-liners...which happen at least once daily. :)