Wednesday, February 18, 2015

My Mission to Breastfeed.

Originally dated May 24, 2012. I am sharing this for any mother struggling to nurse their baby, know that you are not alone.

From the moment I realized I was pregnant, I knew I wanted to exclusively breastfeed my baby until his or her first birthday. It wasn't because I was exclusively breastfed (in fact, I don't personally know anyone that was) but because it's what's best for the baby and I want what's best.

 As much as I read up on natural birthing and laboring, I didn't focus as much attention on researching what happens after the birth. As a result, I had to rely on advice from a hospital system that pushes formula, and the women in my family, none of whom breastfed their children past 3 months of age. The baby was given formula against my express, written wishes while we were in the hospital because I had to have an emergency c-section after 46 hours in labor and he had to eat before I was awake. I requested that the baby be brought to me when he needed to eat after that. I nursed him at the hospital and was taught about proper latch, etc. but I was also given formula bottles and told that because of my difficult labor and the baby being on antibiotics (a whole other story), that I should monitor how much he eats, which I obviously couldn't do if I was just nursing.

When we got home and for the next couple of months, I would nurse the baby constantly. Literally. I felt like he was always hungry, so I must be doing something wrong. He gave me a hard time latching for a while because he would come at me so voraciously and impatiently (we called it "snarf face" because he looked like he was going to "snarf snarf snarf" once he got to the boob) that I had to convince him to slow down enough to properly get on. I am impatient by nature, and I think this latch business was the beginning of parenting changing me into a more gracious person ;) I was also so overwhelmed with being the only person feeding the baby, on top of recovering from infection after infection from the c-section and piles of antibiotics, that I started handing him over to whoever was around to give him a bottle of formula after only a few minutes at a time of nursing. I really just felt then like I couldn't cope with everything I was going through, and I couldn't wrap my head around the fact that it would eventually get much easier.

By the time Bu was 2 months old, I was coming out of my fog and realizing that I could possibly do this mothering thing on my own. I was finally healthy and able to establish a routine. I tried exclusively breastfeeding for a long time. I would even set my alarm for 2 am every single day, regardless of whether the baby would wake up for a feeding, so I could pump and build up my supply. Whenever I'd exclusively breastfeed for any length of time, the baby would lose weight. I simply was not making enough milk. In hindsight, and now especially as I'm writing this, I'm sure everything from the method of delivery leading up to his second month had A LOT, if not everything, to do with my under-supply.

Since the baby was born, I've had cocktails of fenugreek tablets, organic mothers milk tea, and of course my prenatal vitamins every. single. day. I eat oatmeal, stay away from parsley....basically anything I can to pump my supply up, but nothing really does too much. In April, I got really sick and had bronchitis for 3 weeks, on top of severe ear infections. I was on several antibiotics, which heavily impacted my supply. We also took the baby to the doctor around that same time, and we were told that while he's in the 98% for height, he was in the 5-10% for weight. Granted, he's being compared to exclusively formula-fed babies, but regardless, he was starting to look sickly. The doctor insisted we supplement his diet because I just was not producing enough for him to thrive.

That was the last straw. With my supply already dwindling from the illness and antibiotics, the baby got very accustomed to bottles and the instant gratification that came with ounces at a time at his disposal. He started napping without needing to nurse too, which was always his routine. Even when the baby was losing weight, I was able to pump about 3-5 oz total in a 10 minute pumping session. Now, I can get an ounce out of the left side, if I'm lucky, and barely an 1/8 of an oz out of my right in the same time frame. I'm continuing to pump daily, but it takes me a week of daily pumping to get the 4 oz I used to get out of one session.

I continue to pump and freeze so even if I stop producing completely, I can still give the baby breast milk for as long as possible. As it is now, he only nurses once, maybe twice a day, and more for comfort than sustenance. I used to cry at the very notion of not having that breastfeeding relationship with my son. I literally spent hours everyday researching and looking at feeding logs and my own food journals to see if anything I ate was affecting my supply, etc. My life was about breastfeeding.

Now, it's sinking in that the relationship is nearing its end. All I can do is try to forgive myself for not completing my goal of a year, and know that when I have a second child, I will be armed with the knowledge that I didn't have with my first so that hopefully, I can do just as well, if not better, for him or her. I had a lot in my way, and I have to be proud of all I persevered in order to make it this far. My son is happy, thriving, and we have an incredible bond and relationship. These are the things I have to focus on. I will continue to nurse my Bu as long as he'll allow, and I will no doubt mourn and cry the day he decides he's done. But I am proud to nurse as long as I am able to, and I would go through all of it all over again for this little man.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Guest Post - "The Exact Birth I Wanted To Have"

Declan Lewis Durbin
April 17, 2014 
8:23 am
7lb 2oz
21 inches long
I woke up the morning of April 16th around 5:30 from contractions that I could no longer sleep through, so I got up and started timing them even though I had previously decided I wouldn't time my contractions. They were lasting about 20-30 seconds long and coming anywhere from 10-20 minutes apart. I told my best friends and my mom about them but told them not to get too excited in case it was a false alarm. I think around 3 hours later I texted my doula, Ashley, and let her know about the contractions, and she said don't get too excited, get some rest, and to let Sally, my midwife, know. Sally also said to get some rest.
Well I couldn't sleep, and I was hungry so Derek and I went to IHOP and ate. Then we went to Walmart to get some last minute supplies and food. The contractions were staying about the same. When we got home I tried to rest, but every time I would start to fall asleep I would have a contraction that would keep me up. This all continued throughout the day and into the evening. The contractions would get closer together and last about a minute, but then there would random ones that would only last around 20 seconds.
 I don't exactly remember when, maybe around 10pm, I told Sally the contractions were getting pretty painful, and I couldn't sleep anymore. She told me to take a bath and to try taking some Unisom to help me sleep. The bath felt amazing at first until my body got used to it, and right after I took the Unisom I threw up. Then I got back into bed hoping maybe the Unisom would work. Nope. At this point Derek was timing my contractions for me. I think they were coming around every 5-6 minutes and 45-60 seconds long. 
I'd say around midnight was when we called Ashley to come over. I remember already asking for some pain relief like Tylenol or something. When she got here, while Derek set up the birth pool, she did some techniques on me with the rebozo wrap for some pain relief and to try to get Declan in a better position I think. 
From then on it was a blurry mixture of laboring in so many different positions, groaning through contractions, being fed apples and water, and throwing up. I got in and out of the pool a few times. It would feel good at first, but once my body got used to it, it wasn't as comfortable. My favorite spot at first was sitting on the ball and leaning over the coffee table on some pillows. Then standing up started to feel better. The whole time Ashley and Jenn, my second doula, would push on my hips during the contractions. That felt so good. At one point Derek even filled in that position while one of them took a break. In between contractions they would give me back rubs, and those felt SO GOOD. Another thing that really helped was Ashley reminding me to do a low groan. It was much more effective than whining or screaming.
At my 36 week appointment I had tested positive for GBS, so I needed to receive antibiotics through an IV which I was not thrilled about. I remember not wanting Sally to arrive because that would mean I had to get a needle in me. Jenn promised that would be the least of my worries, and she was right. I would take 10 IVs over the pain of contractions!
When Sally and Shelly (her assistant) arrived around 3 or 4 in the morning they set up shop. Derek said they basically took over the living room. He was pretty impressed. I laid on the mattress we had set up in the living room while I got my IV antibiotics. It really was no big deal. After, I stayed there for a while. My blood pressure started to rise, so they were all rubbing an essential oil blend on my hands, wrists, and chest. They were miracle oils because my blood pressure was back down in no time!
At one point, Sally told me to let her know if I felt like I needed to push so she could check me to make sure I was fully dilated before I started pushing. I asked her to check me now because I wasn't sure I would know what it felt like to need to push. When she checked me I was almost fully dilated, just a little lip left. From that point until when I started pushing felt like eternity. 
“The temptation to quit will be greatest just before you are about to succeed.”  
- Chinese Proverb

 I kept wondering what was taking so long since I was already fully dilated. Ashley said the baby was moving down, and with each contraction she kept saying “down baby down”. It's burned into my brain she said it so much ;) During this time was when it became very unbearable. I really felt as if I wasn't getting any breaks in between the contractions. I decided to get in the shower for some relief. I tried sitting. I tried standing. Nothing helped. It was just awful. I had a whole debate in my head about wanting to transfer to the hospital for them to just cut him out of me but not wanting to ride in a car for 45 minutes. I couldn't remember that this meant my baby was almost here!
My water broke finally during a contraction. It was, of course, on the only part of the living room carpet that wasn't covered in plastic. When the next contraction came, I could tell my body wanted to push so I got into the birth pool. I pushed on my hands and knees, and in between contractions they would push the gatorade (or water? I can't remember) bottle under my face so I could take a sip. It really did feel good to push. I liked being able to feel everything because I could tell when I was stretching too much and needed to stop to let his head form into a nice shape for me. After a lot of pushing and encouraging words and coaching from my birth team, I pushed his head out, and I knew that I just needed one more contraction to push the rest of his body out. That contraction came, and, after only 30 minutes of pushing, at 8:23am on April 17, 2014 Declan Lewis Durbin was born!  

When he came out the cord was wrapped around his neck and arm, but Derek said Sally just calmly and quickly “unwrapped him like a present” and pushed him through my legs so that I could lift him out of the water for him to take his first breath. It was such a relief! I just remember being so thankful the pain was gone and that my baby was here. Almost immediately he started babbling, telling us his story of what just happened!

After a minute or two they helped me out of the pool and onto the mattress where Derek cut the cord after it stopped pulsing. It was taking a little too long for my placenta to come out, so Sally had to gently tug on it while I pushed it out. Finally it came out nice and whole. After that, I laid back on the mattress wrapped in blankets with my perfect little baby boy, and ate a banana and a Reese's easter egg.

It wasn't until we all talked about it and reflected back on it that I realized I had the exact birth I wanted to have (which I heard doesn't happen that often). I couldn't have asked for anything better. I had the best and most supportive birth team ever. They treated me like a princess waiting on me hand and foot, and I couldn't be more grateful for them! Shelly told me she predicted that my birth would be smooth and powerful, and she was exactly right :)
 Danielle Durbin is a mother of one, her little man Declan Lewis. You can follow their story at Instagram @missusdurbin or you can read her blog here.