Monday, September 17, 2012

That Mama Feeling...Or Not...

When I was pregnant, I had daydreams about having the perfect birth and that insta-connection of feeling like a mama the minute my baby boy was handed to me. I mean, you see in every birth show and movie where a baby is born that the little bundle is placed in mama's arms and she instantly nurses her baby who is eager to find that breast, and the new family has this glow of happiness. Suffice it to say, I didn't have that by a long shot. Birth and being a new first-time mom was pretty complicated due to my fractured ankle (I feel on a messed up piece of sidewalk downtown resulting in the injury) was wearing a giant walking boot that went up to my knee and the traumatizing events of the after-birth. My labor itself was simple, quick, and I stuck to my birth plan of no epidural; that's pretty much the only part that was so simple though. As he crowned, the cord was tight around J's neck and I was yelled at to stop pushing. After delivery, J wasn't crying and didn't for a full five minutes, the scariest time of my life. I had torn in 2 places and the OB was stitching me up as I was craning my neck to try and see what was happening with my eerily quiet baby boy where many nurses and doctors were working on him. Just like in a nightmare I had quite often during my pregnancy, my baby boy was whisked away to the nursery instantly for observation, because his breathing was too shallow and his first APGAR score was only a 6 because of his lack of oxygen at birth. I pleaded with my nurse to let the nursery know that I wanted to nurse my baby and didn't want him getting any artificial nipples, or formula.

As people rushed into the recovery room to visit me, I didn't have my baby with me and visitors told me they saw him in the nursery and that he was beautiful. I truly didn't feel like a mom and life postpartum was not glorious. I was sore, bleeding more so than I should have been so nurses and doctors kept showing up in the room to check me, had extremely high blood pressure, and was so exhausted. I didn't feel like a new mom since I didn't have my beautiful baby in my arms or beside my bed in a bassinet; I felt like someone who had just fought a big battle and lost. I actually missed being pregnant at that time because at least when J was in my belly, I could feel him and he was all mine.

A couple of hours later, a nurse showed up in my room and briskly told me, "You need to feed him now. His blood sugar has dropped dangerously low," as if that wasn't pressure enough for a brand new mom, she roughly pulled my breast out of the gown, jammed it in the baby's mouth and asked, "You know what it sounds like when the baby swallows milk?" I told her I learned in the breastfeeding class that it should sound like a soft "c" and proudly said I thought I heard that. Her response was, "No, you didn't. He didn't swallow a thing and his blood sugar is probably lower." The nurse then asked my husband to step out of the room and informed him that the baby would be hooked up to an IV for glucose unless they gave him a bottle of formula since he got nothing from my breast. Of course, as a new dad, he didn't want the little guy on an IV so he gave the go-ahead. When dh returned and told me this, I burst into tears. I knew that this could cause nipple confusion and that the baby should at least get the formula through a medicine syringe or dropper because I had done my research during pregnancy. At two in the morning, I learned that J was on an IV for hypoglycemia in the Special Care Nursery, and that I was required to supplement with formula after each attempt of nursing in the SCN unless he fed for a full 15 mins per side. I was told that otherwise, my colostrum would not be enough for J as he was a bigger baby (8 lbs 6 oz) with hypogylcemia (low blood sugar). As most would guess, this would be only one of many obstacles with my unsuccessful breastfeeding journey.

For my two day hospital stay, I did hobble to the SCN every 3 hours to attempt nursing J prior to the nurses taking him away and bottle feeding him. I also rented the Medela Symphony pump to try and stimulate my milk to come in sooner rather than later. That walk to the SCN was a lengthy one (ironically it was just down the hallway and around a corner) because of the fact that I had the walking boot, crutches, and a very sore lower end.

Seeing the baby I had carried in the isolettte, hooked up to so many monitors broke my heart and I felt that something I had done during pregnancy must have caused this. It was even worse seeing the nurses prick his little foot with the blood sugar tester before each feeding since he was so small and defenseless, always crying each time.

I was released from the hospital one day before J which was one of the worst parts of new motherhood for me; going home that night without the child I had carried inside of me for 9 months just made me felt empty. My sister told me just to enjoy the very last night of sleep I would get for awhile, but I didn't sleep. I stayed up, pumping every 2 hours and eventually cried myself to sleep.

First thing in the morning the very next day, my husband and I rushed to the hospital so that we could spend the day with J in the parents' room of the SCN. We were told that we could take J home with us that day because J was able to maintain his own blood sugar without the glucose drip over night, which was the happiest moment we had since all that had occurred three days prior to that. I very proudly dressed J in his going home outfit, and got him set up in the carseat so that we could leave the place where I felt all my dreams had been dashed in a few hours time.

I wish I could say that from then on it was all sunshine and roses, but it wasn't. I had a lot of challenges and one of the big ones was postpartum depression, which I talked about here:

It did get much better, though, and I truly do love being a mom. Yes, I do get extremely sad when I think about this time of my life and J's birth, and still wonder what I could have done differently during pregnancy and labor to protect J from everything he went through as a newborn. And yes, I did cry while writing this blog to my readers, but that which doesn't kill you only makes you stronger and I've needed to do this for awhile.

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