The inspiration for this post came from me thinking about reading Ina May Gaskin’s ‘Guide to Breastfeeding’. I thought, what if I cry through the whole thing? When I think about breastfeeding, my mind immediately turns into a jumbled sad mess. I feel panicky. I feel overwhelmed. Breastfeeding seems easy, right? You just plop a baby on your boob and they eat. Well, I guess it’s like that for some people, but not for me.
When I tell people I’m still heartbroken because I never breastfed Lily, I often get puzzled looks. Why would it bother me that much? She’s alive and doing well. She DID get breastmilk for a few months. It seems like something someone wouldn’t really dwell on. There are a lot of reasons why this still bothers me…
Lily was born on October 2nd, 2010. I’ve already posted my birth story, so I won’t go into detail, but her birth was easy. We didn’t have an complications. When I pulled her out- yes, me- I set her on my chest and started crying. I was totally overwhelmed. I remember closing my eyes and someone told me to open them and look at my new baby, who was being roughly wiped down with blankets and staring at me. She didn’t cry. She just laid there and looked at me with these giant dark eyes. The nurse tore my gown off me and pushed Lily onto my bare chest. It was all very fast…
I did not try to breastfeed her. I had her on my chest for maybe ten minutes, and then she was whisked away, as are most babies born in hospitals. My epidural was turned off so I was starting to feel a whole lot of pain. The nurse was gently kneading my belly to get my uterus to contract. At the time, I felt like she was killing me. I cried for her to stop! I had no idea where Lily was and what was happening to her. Now I know that she was only a few feet away from me on they ‘baby table’- you know, the one with the giant lights and heating lamp. I didn’t know that she was naked and being wiped down. I didn’t know that she was having tubes shoved down her throat to suction out whatever was left in her lungs. Now I know, and now I’m unhappy.
At that point in my life, I expected some of this to happen. I thought that this is just what you do- you have a baby. They take the baby. Things happen. Everyone is okay. Well, I know better now.
This is where my guilt starts…if I had known better, if I had been better educated, if I had spoken up…
I remember her crying once in the ‘baby table’. I called out to her and she stopped and turned her head to me. I remember everyone thought that was amazing- firstly, that she stopped and looked at me, and secondly, that a newborn could turn their head like that. Aw.
After Lily and I were both taken care of, she was handed back to me for a few minutes. She was all bundled up and bug eyed. I can’t express how dark her eyes were. They still are strangely dark! Anyway, it sort of freaked me out. She was passed around from grandparent to grandparent, friend to friend. Pictures were taken. She didn’t cry. This all took almost an hour before everyone decided to leave.
Then, nothing. It was totally surreal! All of the sudden my room was nearly empty and it was silent. My mom was there, saying how exhausted she was…Lily was laying in some sort of bassinet. I was sitting up in bed in a bunch of blood soaked blankets. Yay. I asked the nurse if I could take a shower. She gave me a dirty look and said I could if I could walk. Listen lady, I feel nasty. Change my sheets or something. I didn’t even think that I couldn’t feel my legs yet. I got my mom and the nurse to let me hobble to the bathroom and get in the shower. I can’t believe they let me! I barely could stand on my own. The nurse gave me privacy and left me in the bathroom alone. I remember blood pouring down my legs as I maneuvered into the shower. I stood there in the water for a few minutes, then climbed back out. More blood. Yay.
It was around midnight now. I wanted to go to sleep, but my bed was dirty and I knew they’d want to move me to a postpartum room. Of course when I asked to be moved I got more dirty looks. What the hell. Lily was quiet this entire time. Alone.
Once we got to the new room, I remember sitting cross legged in my bed and picking her up, by myself, for the first time. I couldn’t believe that she was mine! I couldn’t believe that now I had my own baby. Like, that’s it? They just let anyone have one of these? You can just leave with one and no one thinks it’s a big deal? It didn’t make any sense to me. Not everyone knows how to take care of one of these! They just give them to you assuming you’ll be a good parent? It was overwhelming.
I did try to breastfeed her then. She was wiggling a little bit. She wasn’t crying. I tried, and she tried. She latched on for a second, then let go. She did that a few more times. A nurse told me that it was totally normal for a baby to not be hungry for the first few days.
WAIT A SECOND. At that point, I was confused but trusted her. My mom agreed with her. I had had an epidural, so I understand Lily being sleepy, but not being hungry? I didn’t think twice about it then. Now, I’ve asked multiple people since then if that makes sense. I know some babies latch on immediately after birth and will eat all day and night. Some people agree with the nurse. Some people are completely confused. Like me.
So, because the nurse and my mom weren’t concerned, I wasn’t. My mom went to sleep. I tried to. Lily slept in her bassinet for a few hours, but at 4AM, she woke up crying. I tried to breastfeed her. She wasn’t latching on. Any time I held her, she was quiet and happy. She’d doze off. And then I’d try laying her back down…Yeah, that didn’t work. She didn’t want to lay alone. I was terrified of sleeping with her on me- I’m not really sure why, but I refused to do it- so I’d hold her and then try to put her back down. Lily would sleep in her bassinet if I put my knuckle in her mouth, like a pacifier. I started falling asleep sitting up, hanging over the side of her bassinet. I knew not to give her a pacifier if I wanted to breastfeed, but at that point, I didn’t care. At 5:30AM a nurse came in and asked if I wanted them to take her. They did. They gave her a GIANT pacifier, too.
I slept until 8AM, when the nurse woke me back up. Lily was hungry, she told me.
(My mom slept this entire time, FYI.)
We tried to feed her again that morning, with no success. Everyone kept telling me to keep trying. We both needed to learn. She’ll get it. Lily wasn’t really hungry, so after awhile she’d get tired and snooze again. I’d set her in the crook of my knee and let her sleep.
I called Matt that morning to tell him that I had Lily. I had to call the American Red Cross, have them call his sergeant, and then wait for him to call me back. It was a sad phone call. He had just graduated from basic training that morning. I was sad that I had to tell him over the phone. He was sad that he missed it. We both didn’t really know what to do or what to say. Sad.
Then the visitors started streaming in. A lot of different people holding her. She’d just stare at them and hang out. We didn’t try breastfeeding again until later that night. I didn’t nap that day, so I was exhausted to say the least.
My mom fell asleep at 8PM. She had her own bed in my room.
I fell asleep once, sitting up, with Lily in the crook of my knee (I was sitting cross legged) and the nurse came in and freaked out. Co-sleeping is dangerous. What was I thinking.
Also, that night, a nurse came in at 5AM and woke me up. I wasn’t charting Lily’s wet diapers. She NEEDED to know how many wet diapers Lily had. I put her in one of the diapers we had brought with us, instead of a hospital diaper. Evidently that was a big no-no because my diapers didn’t have this fancy indicator line. How was I supposed to know if she peed if I couldn’t look at this fancy, color changing line? She yelled at me for almost 15 minutes. Lily needed to be producing enough wet diapers or she’d dehydrate. They’d have to give her an IV and keep her in the nursery.
Screw that nurse.
She didn’t offer AT ALL to help me breastfeed Lily. She wanted to give her a bottle.
That morning we tried to breastfeed a few more times. A new nurse came in and talked to us about discharging paperwork and all of the tests they had run on Lily. She was wonderful! She was so kind and offered breastfeeding support. We had to watch a lame movie on SIDS.
A doctor(not my doctor or Lily’s pediatrician) came in and discussed Lily with me. Everything was normal, but she was slightly jaundiced. They said that would clear up when she started eating more and digesting.
And then we were free to leave.
Note- There is a breastfeeding consultant that works at the hospital I gave birth in. It was a weekend, so she wasn’t there.