We left the hospital around noon. We got home and I lugged her and all my stuff upstairs to our bedroom…and then we just sat down. What now? Being alone with a newborn for the first time is an interesting experience. Lily was silent and content for most of the time, so I wasn’t really sure what to do with her. I put her in her crib. I put her in her swing. I held her. Hm.
This was the beginning of the hardest few days of my life. I had no idea what I was in for! Babies just sleep, eat, and poop, right?! Not Lily!
She started crying around 9PM. I tried to breastfeed her again. She wasn’t latching. I laid her in her swing by the side of my bed and tried to sleep with my finger in her mouth…I should have just put her in bed with me, but I was afraid I’d roll over and smother her! I didn’t want her crying to keep my brother awake, so I took her downstairs with me. My mother was the only one sleeping downstairs, so I figured that was a better place for us.
I sat on the couch in the dining room and tried to get her to latch. Over and over and over again. I tried different positions. I tried expressing milk into her mouth. I did everything I had read about and could think of. My mother sat with me for a few minutes and offered recommendations, then got frustrated and said she didn’t know what the problem was.
I laid Lily down in her bassinet and tried to sleep next to her, on the couch. For hours on end we did this. She’d wake up and cry. I’d try to feed her. She’d get tired of trying and fall back to sleep in my arms. I’d lay her down, and she’d cry. I started crying. I had no idea what I was doing wrong! I kept asking her why should didn’t want to eat. What could I do to help her? After hours of trying, she became inconsolable. I started walking her around, jiggling her…I was crying of course. I was exhausted. I mean, dead tired. I woke my mom up and said that I was afraid I was going to fall over with her in my arms. I honestly was afraid!
My mom, being in a sleepy stupor, took Lily from me and said, “Why did you wait so long to wake me up?! You can’t do stuff like that!” She said it in a rough sort of way. I don’t think she meant to sound like she was scolding me, but it did, and I started sobbing. She put Lily on her chest and they both fell back asleep.
I was heartbroken. I was tired. I was upset that my mother could calm Lily down in seconds and I couldn’t. I was upset that I couldn’t feed my baby. I felt like my mom was mad at me, and I couldn’t understand why.
I have wanted to be a mom since as far back as I can remember. I’ve helped for years with everyone’s children. I did a great job helping, I think. I read ‘What to Expect When You’re Expecting’ front to back. I knew everything I thought I needed to know. So what was I doing wrong? Why was I failing as a parent? I could tell by her cries that she was hungry, and I felt like I was starving my baby. I had no bottles or formula at the house. I wanted so badly to ask my mom to take me to the store right then. I wanted to give up.
I fell asleep on the couch and woke up a few hours later. I tried to breastfeed her that morning. She latched on for a few seconds and I thought, this is it! She’s got it! Our problems are solved!! I wish it had been that easy.
We went to Lily’s pediatrician appointment that morning. He was worried about her. She had lost more than a pound, wasn’t eating, and was glowing orange. So, to the local hospital we went for bloodwork. This was terrible. They pricked her heel over and over again, trying to squeeze out enough blood to test her bilirubin levels. She was crying.
The doctor called us a few hours later and said she needed to go back to the hospital she was born in to be admitted. She needed to be under the blue lights for awhile. I cried. And cried. I called Matt and told him- neither of us had heard of anything like this before, so he thought she was dying and sort of freaked out. I had to explain it all to him in between my sobs. Sad.
Once she was readmitted, I asked to used one of the hospital’s breast pumps so she wouldn’t be fed formula. I explained that we were trying to breastfeed but hadn’t quite got it yet. I pumped there, for the first time. I remember pumping almost 8 ounces! That was more than enough to feed her while she stayed there. I was crying most of the time we were there…the poor nurse was so worried about me that she offered to let me stay the night in the postpartum wing.
Lily had to stay in a special room within the nursery, in a fancy glass tank. She was naked, with only a diaper on and a mask. Everything glowed blue. She actually liked it though- she was warm so she stretched right out and slept peacefully.
I tried to feed her once more before we left. They wrapped her in a bili-blanket so she was still under the lights. I remember laughing and calling her my little baby glow worm. I decided not to stay the night. I would have just sat alone in a postpartum room. I didn’t have any of my belongings. I couldn’t have stayed with her. I would have just sat there and cried.
I should have stayed.
A lot of people have made me feel terrible about leaving her that night.
I went home and cried. Imagine just having your baby and then leaving them with strangers like that. My heart was in pieces. This was not going to help us establish breastfeeding, but she needed to be there. I felt like my baby was sick because of something I did- because I couldn’t figure out how to properly feed her. If I had just fed her formula, this wouldn’t have happened. If I had just tried harder.
I bought a cheap breastpump the next day after we picked her up. I didn’t plan on using it long-term because I still thought I would breastfeed. I ended up pumping 10-12 times a day for 2 1/2 months.
I wanted so badly to be able to feed her myself, without the use of equipment, but I knew that at least she was still getting my milk. I did try occasionally to breastfeed her, but not often. It seemed like it was a waste of time. She had no idea what to do. I should have tried so much harder. I should have tried on a regular basis. I should have called someone from the LLL and arranged a meeting. There are a lot of regrets.
I stopped pumping when my supply plummeted. We went to visit Matt in mid-November and I didn’t pump very much of the trip. I didn’t want to be a pain. I wanted him to have a great time while we were there, so I rarely asked to go back to the hotel to pump. And I wouldn’t pump in front of Matt’s dad or brother! I didn’t pump for 12 hours straight on the way home…I think that’s what got me. I didn’t know then that that signals your body to stop producing milk. After that trip, I could only get a few ounces at a time, and I had to start supplementing.
Now you see why my heart is still broken. I know I failed to breastfeed. I know I could have tried harder and made a better effort. I know I could have breastfed. But thankfully time has let me understand that I did what I did because I didn’t know what else to do. I did try as hard as I could have. I forgive myself. Now I know what to do in this type of situation. Now I know where to find support. My heart still hurts, but it’s getting better.
I’m trying to stay as positive as I can. I can identify all of the mistakes that I made and what not to do for this next baby. I know I’ll have the right sort of support. I am thankful to have Merideth. She’s heard my story and knows how much this means to me. She promises we will get it this time around.
So, yes, I’m heartbroken. Lily’s first few days were far from easy. I wish so badly that I could go back in time and hug myself. I wish someone would have looked me in the eyes and told me it was okay to ask for help. I know I was offered it…but Lily is happy and healthy, and that’s all that really matters.
It’s time for me to start reading Ina May’s book. It’s time for me to start healing.