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Thursday, June 20, 2013

a mommy's story - Crystal Bourque - breastfeeding "failures"

This is the third post in a series Confessions of Mama Guilt. Thank you to Crystal for sharing her seriously challenging first experience at motherhood. Yet, through reading this and hearing what she's gone through I can tell she's STRONGER because of every hard moment she went through. That's the best we can hope for with all of this guilt and new experiences being mothers... to be able to look back and say, "Yeah that may have sucked and not gone as I planned, but whatever, I'm a GREAT mother!" 

(all images from Crystal Bourque)

Birth Day ... unexpected challenges 
My daughter is now 19 months old. I found out that I had gestational diabetes when I was 28 weeks pregnant, but I had warned my doctor that my mother had GD and 2 c-sections for my sister and I, so I was a bit surprised when he didn't have my glucose tested sooner. I had to have an ultrasound every week, 2-3 non stress tests a week and my usual doctor visits during the last 2 months of my pregnancy -- and I was working full time!
Because of the GD, Jolene was measuring to be about 9 pounds and the doctor didn't want her to get too big for delivery. I was scheduled to be induced on Halloween and I was crossing my fingers for her to be born before midnight, but I was given an Ambien and told to sleep. YEAH RIGHT (haha)! I did not sleep at all. 

In fact, the hospital bed was so uncomfortable to me, that I forced my boyfriend to sleep on it so I could take the recliner (no joke)!
My water broke at 4 am and the contractions hit me like a brick wall. I tried to sleep in between them. Impossible. At about 10 am, I was told that I should think about getting an epidural so they could start me on pitocin. Jolene and I were doing great, but they wanted to move things along. The epidural went well actually.
Two hours later, one of the nurses came in and wanted to try extracting some breast milk, in the event that I could not nurse her right away and if she had a sugar low. Well let me tell you.......I went from being comfortable to full-blown (wanting-to-die) PAIN. My epidural wore off. I am not a baby by any means; I can handle pain, but this was unlike any pain I've ever felt!
The anesthesiologist was called back but he had to drive from his home in Portland. Talk about the longest wait EVER, but he was such a sweetheart and very patient with me while I tried to sit still a second time. It did not last long because of some issue he had with the discs in my back. I was throwing up because of the pain, trying my hardest to breathe so I wouldn't pass boyfriend was absolutely wonderful about keeping me focused.
And during all of this, I would not dilate past 6cm. Talk about frustrating!! The poor anesthesiologist was called a third time because the nurses knew I wouldn't make it without him. He was my best friend when he left the room. After about 4 hours of intense contractions without a pain reliever, I was ready for whatever news came my way. I fully expected the surgeon to come in and tell me I needed an emergency C.
I was right. And to be honest, by 11 pm the day after I was induced (32 hours later)...I was READY to have my baby. 

The funniest part of this story is that my OB doctor had to call in Dr. Cervenka to perform the surgery, whom coincidentally delivered my sister and I both at Elliot Hospital in Manchester, NH! SMALL WORLD.
At 12:08 am on 11/02/2011, Jolene Ann was born. I saw her for a split second before they cleaned her up, my boyfriend cut the umbilical cord and he took pictures for me (the station where they were taking care of Jolene was behind me, so I couldn't see anything). I did not get to experience having her on my chest immediately after birth.

When they were done stitching me up, I had to wait in recovery for an hour. My boyfriend was with me for a little bit before he was ushered upstairs to feed our daughter for the first time. They had to give her formula because she had a little sugar low. I have never been against formula...I know many that were formula-fed babies, including myself. However, I was upset that I had to wait an HOUR before I could hold her for the first time or try to breast feed. When my toes and legs finally regained their senses, I was brought to my room. I could not leave my bed for 24 hours and all I wanted was to take a shower after holding my bundle of joy!
I met my munchkin as soon as I got to my room. 

She latched on almost immediately! I couldn't believe it. I was so relieved...and never felt so powerful in my life, despite my condition.

I successfully breast fed her for the next two days before we went home. The nurses were impressed with me.
(Sorry for the details but: I would rather have another c-section than deal with the constipation I had for a week....OH MY GOD. I lied to the nurses/doctors when they asked if I had passed anything while at the hospital. I just wanted to go home. Looking back, I probably should have been honest because the stool softeners did NOT work. Constipation on top of a new incision...not fun.)
Moving around was hard. Although I could deal with the pain (with the assistance of meds), trying to get comfortable to breast feed, get up every hour in the middle of the night, etc...was so hard on me. My boyfriend was able to take some time off in the beginning, but the feedings on top of the pain I was in was torture. I gave in to formula when Jolene was a week old but still breast fed/pumped as much as I could. I was not producing milk like I thought I would. I tried working with the nurses at the hospital but I was having a really hard time. I was alone when my boyfriend went back to work. I did not ask anyone for help because I didn't want to be a burden or seem like I didn't know what I was doing. But I was a first time mom!! Of course I didn't know it all!
Jolene had lost weight the first week. She was down to 6 pounds. That was my first clue that she wasn't eating enough. After a few trips to the hospital so she could be weighed, she was putting weight back on (but with the help of formula by that point).
Finally, at one month, I had enough with breastfeeding. 
Jolene was happier when she had formula because it filled her more. When she was full, she would sleep longer, which meant I could sleep longer. I didn't realize it at the time, but if we were both happy, it was the right decision. 

I cried for two weeks because I thought I was being a horrible mother giving her formula exclusively. I didn't want to be judged by other moms because I 'gave up'. Jolene wasn't eating enough, I was sleep deprived, dehydrated, was the right move.
Sorry again for the novel! I honestly haven't shared this story with many because I have scared a couple girls. However, those same girls have gone in to the hospital and give birth within hours...I envy them!!  but at least I know that if we want another baby, we're scheduling the surgery! 

(Oh my word, have you seen such an adorable little gal ?! Just want to squeeze her!)

1. How did you plan your birth experience going? What surprised you? How did the changes make you feel at the time?I didn't really have a birth plan, mostly because I knew I would probably face what my mother went through with me. So, I wanted to see how things progressed before making any real decisions. I had a GREAT pregnancy to be honest (aside from the daily heartburn!)...even with the gestational diabetes. I never felt so healthy in my life. I only gained 18 pounds, surprisingly! So, because of that, I didn't want to stress myself out with a birth plan that wasn't realistic. I am a pretty down to Earth person, so I thought that being relaxed and making the decisions as we needed to was the best option for us. We didn't take any birth classes! I had hoped that my pelvis was wide enough to deliver her, but I'm not built that way (I have never been a 'skinny' person either, so this was a little shocking).

The biggest surprise to me throughout the entire delivery was that I never had to push. I really wanted to and felt like I needed to but obviously I couldn't. Jolene's head was really big and she was facing my back. In fact, the nurses were trying an old method by using a towel to try and 'sway' her into the correct position (I was on all fours and was SO uncomfortable during this!). Nothing worked, even with several efforts. I was never against having pain medication, I always told my doctor that it would be an option for me if necessary. I just didn't think I would need it so soon after my water broke.

Also, I didn't fully prepare myself for what to expect during a c-section...meaning, I didn't know that I would have to wait so long to hold/feed her. Ultimately, I know there was no other way, so I'm OK with it. We don't have any pictures of us in the OR, which I really wanted, but they rushed her out of the room almost as soon as the umbilical cord was cut. If I remember correctly, she was breathing OK, but they wanted to monitor her a little closer, which is why I think they took her out of the room so soon. All in all, she was a healthy 7 lb, 7 oz, 19 inches long little girl. The doctor estimated that she would be about 9 pounds, so that was also a little surprise... but I also know that I had a LOT of amniotic fluid that was probably throwing the numbers off a little. I also thought that my due date was two weeks later than my doctor estimated but he didn't believe me!
2. Looking back now, how do you feel about your baby's birth ? Do you accept it and think positively, like you are strong for going through it, or do you still have guilt about it not going as planned?
I know that the nurses, doctors and I did all what we could. I have absolutely no regrets or guilt about the way everything happened at the hospital. 

I don't think I've heard a story like mine yet (other than my mom's!), so yes, I can most definitely say that I am stronger for going through it! I'm Super Woman! 

It made me feel vulnerable at the time (obviously), but I knew that I had a great team of health professionals and my boyfriend there to help me get through it. My family was there too, but I didn't want them in the room when I was going through all that pain. To make a long story short: I would have done ANYTHING to have my baby. All the pain I went through was a test for me. As corny and unbelievable as this may sound: I forgot all about the pain when I held Jolene for the first time. 
3. What would you say to a mom who has an emergency C-section or a birth that doesn't go as planned?
I would say this: Things don't always go the way you want in life. Unfortunately, delivering your first born may not either. All you can do is hope for the best but plan for the worst so that you're PREPARED. 

So what if you have a scar for the rest of your life. It's a battle scar! it's proof that you went through ALL the motions possible to have your baby. 

Personally, I am a planner but I knew that my baby (and my body) had her own plan for I would suggest having an open mind and take things as they come. Don't get discouraged if not everything goes as planned. As long as you and your baby are healthy and you did everything that you possibly could to stick to your birth plan, you should pat yourself on the back! 

The ultimate goal is to bring your baby into the world - 
even if that means surgery. 

Not all women are able to deliver babies vaginally and/or naturally. We are all built differently and have our own pain tolerances, religious beliefs, etc. Be realistic but don't be too hard on yourself.

4. With breastfeeding, where does that guilt come from, and how did you deal with/ accept it?
I mostly felt guilty because of the pressure to breast feed. Whether it was the nurses, mommy groups, media, etc...I felt that if I didn't, I wasn't giving Jolene everything that I could and that made me a 'bad' mom. I also think that I was dealing with baby blues at the time. Hormones do some crazy things! I was never judged by other moms for not sticking with the breastfeeding but I really did feel like I let Jolene down. My breasts just wouldn't cooperate the way I'd hoped. It just wasn't easy for me like other moms. I finally told myself that if she is gaining weight, happy and sleeping more than 1 hour at a time, it made me happy too. So, if we're both happy, why be upset about the frustrations we had with breastfeeding? Formula was also great because my boyfriend could feed her and it was easier to transition back to work. I honestly pumped as much as I could for a month, so she was still getting some milk at least. If we have another baby, I want to try to breastfeed again! I have heard of other moms having better luck breastfeeding their second baby.

But if I face the same circumstances, I'll transition to formula without the guilt I felt the first time around.


What an incredibly strong mama you are, Crystal, thanks for sharing so honestly! I know even if others birth experience was not as tumultuous, there will be many to relate to your story in various ways. Thanks so much for sharing! You definitely ARE SUPER WOMAN in my book! :)

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