Tuesday, August 7, 2018

My Raw Thoughts on Breastfeeding

I always intended on exclusively breastfeeding my baby for a year. I've made it almost six months of feeding my baby breast milk. I've had a lot of time to reflect on my experience and all the articles I read could have never prepared me for this experience. 

Our story is more complicated than others, and our story isn't over yet. Charlotte was exclusively breastfed the first couple days, until I gave her a bottle of formula the last day in the hospital. I went home and gave her formula here and there until she was 20 days old. On her 20th day, she screamed for 8 hours straight. The screaming didn't stop for days and I knew something wasn't right.

I called her pediatrician over and over again and was turned away. I was told "I needed better coping mechanisms" and "I have a fussy baby." 

Charlotte would arch her back, projectile vomit, and scream... a lot. It was the evening after her pediatrician appointment where I was sent home and told that nothing was wrong that her diapers went from normal to not normal. Mucous came first. Then blood. 

I found a new pediatrician (who I love), Charlotte was put on Zantac, and I cut dairy/soy out of my diet. It was then I realized that formula was probably going to be out of the question. 

Her and I spent 2 weeks cluster feeding to build my supply back up. I spent hours pumping and I now finally make at least 10 ounces extra per day to freeze. 

I have sacrificed my time and every single food item I put in my mouth to ensure Charlotte's tummy is getting what she needs to heal. To this day, she still isn't healed, but I know I am doing everything in my power to make sure she gets what she needs. 

Also.. a can of formula for babies with infant colitis and allergies is $45.

1. It's a love/hate relationship
Breastfeeding and pumping is a huge responsibility. Being the sole source of nourishment is a lot of pressure, on top of recovering, sleep deprivation, and trying to be a human. It's extremely time consuming, especially in the beginning. I tried so many times to switch to formula and the mom guilt was fierce. I cried and cried about how selfish I felt for not wanting to feed my baby. Sometimes it hurts. Sometimes it's the sweetest moments you'll experience with your baby. To this day, at 4:30AM when she wakes up and wants to eat, I find it to be the closest moments I have with her.

2. Lactation consultants are cheerleaders
In the hospital I saw a lactation consultant at least 5 times. They all gave me different advice but ultimately told me I was doing a fantastic job. I saw a lactation consultant a week after delivery and I paid $140 out of pocket for her to tell me I was doing a great job. She fit me for flanges and sent me on my way. 

After having mastitis twice and being scared to feed my kid, I decided to hire a new lactation consultant, who I paid $215 out a pocket to tell me that my baby has a lazy suck, needs to be seen by a infant chiropractor and needs infant massages twice a day. Have you seen her leg rolls? I don't think she has a lazy suck. I will say she did tell me my pump flanges were too big and causing all the pain, so she was helpful on that front.

I learned that sometimes, you just have to figure it out yourself. You know your body and baby the best. 

3. It can be expensive
Everyone always dotes about how breastfeeding is free. First, my time is not free. Also, lactation consultants that aren't covered by insurance add up quick. And if you decide to go back to work like I did, the cost of all the medela bottles, freezer bags, tubing, extra parts, an extra pump, etc. add up real quick! It's obviously still waaaaay cheaper than formula, but unless you have your baby velcro-ed to you at all times, it isn't free.

4. It doesn't get easier, it just changes
In the beginning it's a complete blur. I felt like I fed Charlotte every waking moment. Then we went through the cluster feeding phase. My mom would keep telling me it would get easier.. and it has but it's still hard. I think I have gotten used to my new lifestyle over time. I pump a total of 2 - 2.5 hours a day. I work full time right now. I manage to somehow do laundry, dishes, clean my house regularly, make my bed every morning, and exclusively nourish my mini human. 

5. Just wait to introduce the bottle
Everyone kept telling me to make sure I introduce a bottle or else she'll never take one. I was so stressed to make sure she got bottles regularly. I went back to work after 10 weeks. I used a newborn nipple for slow flow. Somehow she still has some serious bottle preference, so when she does happily nurse it's like a miracle.

6. Don't try to feed on a schedule
I made this mistake in the hospital and shortly after coming home. From day one I tried to nurse her every 2 hours. That's not how breastfeeding works. The first weeks are brutal and the baby may want to nurse every 30 minutes, but that changes quickly. 

7. Get the right size pump flanges
I ended up with mastitis, twice. I was fitted for pump flanges a week after delivery, but I had no idea that I may need to go down a size later on. What a difference the right size makes! I blamed Charlotte for the pain, but it was never her. It was the pump equipment. Also it makes pumping go much faster.

8. You'll always be hungry
I am starving. All the time. I make 40ish ounces of milk per day. That's 800 calories I am burning to make all that milk!

9. It's hard to be modest and it can make you feel very alone
If you have no problem nursing or pumping in public or around family/friends, then you probably will never feel alone. I on the other hand do not feel comfortable with that. In fact, my first weeks of nursing, I wouldn't even let my mom be in the room. That ended real quick but it was so hard for me to just not care. I have to leave gatherings or public places to pump in the car if we are out and it can feel isolating. I usually just call someone during that time though or catch up on Instagram. 

10. Not everyone leaks
I never have. 

11. It's empowering
Even through mastitis, hours upon hours of pumping, no dairy, no soy or soybean oil, limited caffeine, and limited alcohol, I look at Charlotte in awe. All her growth and chubby little rolls are thanks to me. That's a really cool feeling to have. I have sacrificed so much and I struggle to be optimistic and happy, but being a mom comes with so much unconditional love and sacrifice. 

12. You need a supportive spouse, teammate, and a support system
I wouldn't have made it this far without a hardworking and supportive teammate. Justin has supported whatever decision I feel is best for us. He supported giving her formula. He supported and has done everything in his power to make this journey easier on me. He does all the night time diaper changes. During his paternity leave, he would even stay up with me while I nursed so I didn't feel so alone. 

We also originally planned for Charlotte to go to daycare while I worked, which required separating all my milk into individual labeled bottles with the her name/date/time pumped. That's a lot of work on top of what I am already doing. My mom stepped in and offered to babysit Charlotte and now she makes all her bottles (bonus: she even does some laundry and dishes). My mom has made my life so much more seamless. 

13. Everyone has a different experience
My mom exclusively breastfed all three of her children. I never even received a bottle in my infancy. She always told me after the first couple weeks that it was easy and it was a beautiful experience. Two weeks passed, then a month, and my experience was vastly different from hers. Everyone I talk to feels so differently and experiences feeding their baby their own way. Do what works best, but don't throw in the towel too early. It can turn into one of the most powerful experiences you have. 

Monday, August 6, 2018

Charlotte's Birth Story

I decided to document this story for two reasons. First and foremost, for myself. I want to remember every detail of this story forever. Second, when I was pregnant, I loved reading other people's birth stories. It helped me mentally prepare for the biggest day of my life. It set my expectations. So if you're into that kind of thing, read ahead! Warning: VERY graphic. 

Wednesday, February 21st

On Wednesday we went to the doctor for a non-stress test, sonogram, and standard 40 week appointment. We had to have the extra testing since I was overdue at that point. 

I passed the NST almost immediately. Her fluids looked great during the sono, but my blood pressure was 130/90 the first reading and 136/74 the second reading. They didn't seem concerned at the moment or give me any restrictions and I felt totally fine with my blood pressure being a little elevated (normally I would freak out). 

They decided to schedule me for an induction on Tuesday, February 27th since I was only 50% effaced and a fingertip dilated (about 1cm). 

I left that appointment feeling annoyed and discouraged. I had contractions all night Monday and Tuesday and got zero progress out of that?! I was tired from being up all night and took the rest of the day off from work. 

I got home, rested for a bit, but was so annoyed that I decided to clean my entire house (which is totally normal of me) and walk around Target. Justin's busy season was down to the wire so he wasn't home and had not been around since Christmas. 

After Target I went and got a Panera salad.  I, of course, had to pee and when I looked down I saw mucus and blood. I was slightly freaked out but FINALLY progress. Pushing myself to the limit totally paid off for some progress!

I got home with my salad and started to really not feel good. My heart was pounding, I was nauseous, I suddenly was feeling alone and scared. I laid on the couch and contractions started. I begged Justin to come home from work and he left pretty much immediately. I contracted all night, with them coming every 7-10 minutes. I thought things were moving along until 7:30AM on Thursday, when they vanished.

Thursday, February 22nd

I woke up Thursday exhausted and defeated. I had been up all night long and had no clue whether or not to go to work. I had so many things to close out at work before going out for leave and it was Justin's last day at work before they filed their client's 10-K. I decided to go in and "only stay for a little." I ended up working until 4PM. Around 1PM, right after lunch, I started to get a headache. I tried to let it going away and drank plenty of water, but by 3PM I decided it was time for Tylenol. The Tylenol cut the edge off the headache and I knew I needed to go home and rest.

I got home and laid on the couch from 5-9, sleeping intermittently. When I would wake up, I would feel my head pounding. I was starting to get nervous since I knew my blood pressure was a little high the day before. I went and got dinner for myself around 9, and could barely eat it. I was so nauseous. I decided that I would call my doctor when Justin got home from work, so that if she asked me to come in, he would be there to leave with me. 

Justin got home from work around 1AM and we called the doctor together after taking 3 blood pressure readings. They were all over 130/90, the highest at 133/96. My doctor told me to take Tylenol again, lay down, and if the headache wasn't gone within 1 hour then to go to the hospital, but regardless I needed to be monitored the next day. 

I ended up falling asleep and sleeping hard. I didn't wake up from fetal movement all night long and slept like a rock. 

Friday, February 23rd

When I woke up, I still had the headache and then was totally confused why I felt no movement. Was I that deeply asleep? I knew I had to go be monitored, so calmed myself down and Justin and I went to the doctor. 

My blood pressure when I got there was 122/74. We were puzzled. They hooked me up to the monitor and again, we passed with flying colors. My doctor told me to keep taking the Tylenol and REST. 

Justin and I got brunch at my favorite place, Spoons, and then headed to the mall to walk laps. I slept in the car on the way to the mall and then basically used every ounce of energy I had walking. We bought lots of fun stuff for him and some baby clothes, then headed home.

I got home and fell asleep on the couch for a couple hours. We ate tacos for dinner, and then we fell asleep on the couch at 10PM. Justin needed to catch up on sleep after working 80+ hour work weeks for weeks on end and I needed the rest bad. I slept until about 3AM and then woke up contracting. By 5:30AM, my contractions app was telling me to pack the bags into the car. I told Justin to stay asleep and would let him know when the app said to leave.

That never happened. They were false labor contractions yet again. 

Saturday, February 24th

We woke up together around 10AM and laid around until heading out for a quick lunch. I knew Justin wanted to go to the driving range and I was desperate for some fresh air. We headed to Chick-Fil-A but the entire way there, I was having contractions. I sat through lunch having contractions and focusing on random objects outside of the window to get my food down. 

We got to the driving range and I sat in a chair and watched Justin swing, all while having a contraction here and there. After we were done there, I really wanted to go to the Under Armour outlet to buy sweatpants, but was unsure if driving 35 minutes away was a good idea.

Well we did anyways and the entire way there I had contractions. I got into the store, basically turned right back around and headed home. 

We were about 5 minutes from home, trying to decide on what to make for dinner and my contractions started timing 7 minutes apart, so we went straight home.

Next thing I knew, it was 5PM and they were 5 minutes apart, but they didn't keep up that way. They evened out to 10 minutes apart until about 8PM. Then they went down to 7 minutes apart until about 10PM. Then 6 minutes apart until around 12AM.

Sunday, February 25th

Around 1AM, things were really getting intense. The contractions were a solid 6 minutes apart. I was wailing through each and every one of them. I really thought this was it and Justin and I got ourselves ready to go to the hospital. He fell asleep on the couch while I waited until they started to be 5 minutes apart. Around 2AM they started to track 5 minutes apart. I waited about 30 minutes and then called the doctor since it would take us 40 minutes to get to the hospital. She told us to come in, but sounded skeptical since I was not effaced or dilated at my previous appointment. I ate some food, and we jumped in the car.

We started driving and 5 minutes passed, then 10, and I was SO anxious I wasn't having any contractions. Did the contractions seriously just stop?! As soon as that thought crossed my mind, a big one came on. I then clock watched the entire time and they were not tracking at 5. We debated turning around, but didn't.

I waddled into the hospital, got hooked up to all the monitors, and the contractions picked up again. So confusing. Our doctor took forever + a minute to come check me. She is notorious for being late and we were getting really frustrated. I was 70% effaced and 2cm dilated. Queue me having an angry meltdown. I had been in pain ALL DAY Saturday... to be 2cm?! She offered to have me stay and see if things progress but I chose to go home. It was 5AM at that point. 

She prescribed me Ambein (which I have never taken) and Tylenol and we left. The Ambein hit me suddenly and hard. I felt high as a kite. I kept telling Justin that the lines on the road looked like moving chains. I don't even remember getting home, I just remember waking up at 10AM to a massive contraction. I was exhausted and felt like "here we go again." I laid in bed until around 3PM before taking a bath and trying to just focus on other things. 

I felt like “a watched pot never boils” so weren’t timing contractions on Sunday afternoon/evening. We decided to go to the mall and make some returns but I sat in the car because I was in too much pain to go in. When we got home I was really feeling things pick up, but we still weren’t timing contractions. 

We sat down to make our March budget and the entire time I couldn’t focus and had to stand up every few minutes to breathe through a contraction. We were finishing up the budget and at that point, a big contraction hit and I cried through it. That’s when we decided to started timing the contractions. They were every 3-4 minutes apart and I decided the straighten my hair and put on some make up. Justin made me a bagel and a smoothie and we got on the road around 8PM. 

We got to Labor and Delivery and the woman that checked us in, Veronica, didn’t know anything about us being pre-registered. It was so unbelievable that I was trying to give emergency contact information through contractions. We got back to triage and our doctor came in to check me pretty quickly. I was 90% effaced and 5cm, we were there to stay.

A huge gush of relief and empowerment came over me. My next thought was “maybe I could do this all natural if I am already halfway there.” That’s actually laughable to me now. We got back to our room and I immediately asked for the epidural, especially since every contraction made me need to go pee. 

They started monitoring my contractions and baby’s heartbeat and she was taking large decelerations with every contraction. Her heart rate would go from 140s to 60s with each contraction. The only position where the baby’s heart rate wouldn’t drop was when I was on all fours or lying on my left side. 

The anesthesiologist came in to talk about my epidural. They wouldn’t be able to give me one with me sitting up because it was too dangerous for baby. For the first time ever in 14 years of experience, our anesthesiologist was going to attempt an epidural while I was on all fours. It worked and it was painless. It was like magic. My legs got all warm and tingly. 

The doctor then told me I needed to rest as much as possible to push. I wore an oxygen mask the entire time to ensure the baby was getting as much oxygen as possible through me. A few hours passed and the doctor broke my water. My water was full of meconium, which meant that the baby needed to be checked by NICU immediately after being born. A few more hours passed and I wasn't progressing. I was stuck at 6cm and baby was still decelerating in every position I was trying. They pumped me with pitocin, laid me on my left side to stabilize baby's heart rate, and begged me to rest to get the energy to push. After a few hours of resting, the epidural settled to one side and my entire right side had feeling again. 

At this point, I asked for a c-section. I could feel the contractions, I had to stay on my left side, I was barely progressing, and I was tired. The anesthesiologist came in and told me "he didn't give me an epidural on all fours to then have me get a c-section." He administered some other pain relief, and I was back to being comfortable. 

I then was able to sleep. I was comfortable and used to laying on my left side. The nurse told me to let her know when I had the urge to push and left me to sleep. I rested for a bit, but then got the shakes. Justin would hold me while my entire body shook violently. Somehow, I finally fell asleep. I woke up with a strong urge to push, but felt like the doctor would probably come check me and went back to sleep.

When I woke up, the doctor was there to check me and she was shocked to find that I was 10cm dilated and the baby was making her way out herself. It was time to push immediately. 

I suddenly felt like I was going to vomit and begged for ice chips before pushing. Before I knew it, I had ice chips and anti-nausea medicine delivered to me. I kept trying to put off pushing until I felt better, but the doctor said it was very important to push now.

I got into position and then was asked if I minded to have a student be in the room. It turns out the student was also an experienced doula, so I agreed. I wanted a doula but chose not to spend the money on one, so I was pretty excited to have a doula present for free. Boy was I wrong. I learned very quickly that doulas are basically expensive bedside cheerleaders. 

Every push she would cheer me on and it was very distracting, so I asked for everyone to stop talking. I focused on pushing through about 4 contractions and now I was at the ring of fire point of labor. I blurted out had badly I didn't want to tear, and the doula told me not to push too hard and let the baby "do the work." Best. Advice. Ever. The doctor then remarked "tearing should be the last thing I am worried about." Fortunately, I listened to the doula. 

I lightly pushed through 2-3 more contractions and baby girl was delivered at 8:20AM. After 40 minutes of pushing, meconium stained with her cord around her neck, she somehow was completely healthy and put on to my chest. 

After one look at her, I knew she wasn't Vivianne. She was my Charlotte. I loved that name for years, long before Princess Charlotte was born, but I didn't want to use it because it had become so popular. But once I saw her, I knew she was always meant to be named Charlotte.

It was a dramatic and long labor, but my doctors and nurses fought for me to not have a c-section and I am so grateful for that. Delivering Charlotte was so empowering and recovery was quick and painless.

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