I Support You…

isaac

“This is where most women stop breastfeeding.”

As I looked at Janet, one of two very knowledgable and helpful lactation consultants I had helping me, with my tear stained cheeks and head fuzzy from lack of sleep, so many responses ran through my head. Most of them were along the lines of, “Please, Please!, PLEASE get this milk out of me forever and ever so I never have to even think about breast feeding or boobs or latching or pumps or engorgement ever again for all of eternity!”

But instead of saying anything I just cried.

I cried because I knew that no matter how much I wanted to give up in that moment, that I wasn’t going to. I wanted to so badly, but I knew I wouldn’t. Not yet…

 

Let me say this before I continue on. This is not a pro-breastfeeding or anti-formula post. This a pro-mama, anti-judgement post. This is our story; mine and Isaac’s. I’m not telling it to give advice or suggest you do what I did. Not at all. I’m telling my story because that’s what I do. I tell my story and hopefully it helps someone…mainly me. 🙂

I pray that no matter what side of the breastfeeding fence you stand on, that you will feel encouraged, understood, and supported.

 

Just about one hour after Isaac was born, I got a debilitating spinal headache that made it nearly impossible for me to sit up, not to mention breastfeed or hold my newborn baby.

As I lay flat in my hospital bed, two nurses that had just come on duty after shift change hovered over me trying to figure out how to get my newborn to latch while I was laying flat. One squeezed my boob in her hand while the other pushed my crying newborn onto my nipple. This isn’t what breastfeeding looked like in all the videos and books.  This wasn’t a peaceful and beautiful bonding moment with soft music playing and my favorite candle lit.  I felt like I was watching a tennis match as I looked from one face to the next as they talked to each other and not to me. “Her nipples are too flat!” “I’m never going to get him latch if she has to lay like this.”

My nipples were too flat!? No one warned me about flat nipples. What does that really mean? They didn’t look flat to me. Anyone unfortunate/fortunate enough to pass me on a cold day in a sports bra would beg to differ. Perhaps I could have done something sooner had I known that my dysfunctional nipples were going to be such an issue. I don’t know what I would have done, but at that point I was so desperate to feed my baby that I was about to inquire as to the possibility of a nipple transplant; and maybe throw in a new spine while they’re at it.

No matter what I tried or what the nurses tried, we couldn’t get Isaac to latch while I was laying down, so they told me that in order to take care of myself and take care of Isaac I really should put him in the nursery for the night.  That way he could get some formula so he can be nourished and I could try and get some rest. When I heard the “f” word, I immediately started crying with the thought that I would never ever be able to breastfeed him if they gave him formula. I had read all the information out there on breastfeeding and I just knew that if they gave him a bottle in the nursery he would hate my stupid flat nipples for all of eternity, we would never bond and he would spend years in therapy talking about how if only I would have not sent him to the nursery the first night of his arrival on Earth then he wouldn’t hate me so much. Perhaps it was the fact I hadn’t slept in two days that created that scenerio in my mind, but that was the fate I saw for us if I didn’t insist on some more hours of torture trying to get him to latch and definitely NO FORMULA.

But alas, in the end, I knew I had to do what was best for both of us.  My baby needed to eat and I needed to heal, so to the nursery my tiny one went.  I tried to rest as visions of my son 20 years down the road only contacting me through Christmas cards with pictures of his cat farm danced through my head.

In order to fix the spinal headache I had to either drink an insane amount of caffeine (they’re not really sure why caffeine works for spinal headaches, but it does.  I kinda wish is was brownies and ice cream, but we don’t get to choose these things now do we?) and hope that it goes away within a few days to a month (yes, you read that correctly…a month) or undergo something called a blood patch (I’ll spare you the details, but you can read more about it if you click the link.) After overdosing on Mountain Dew, apparently the drink of choice for spinal headache sufferers, and spending yet another night without sleep (Mountain Dew and cat farms…dangerous combination), I decided I couldn’t wait one more second to get better and hold my baby, so I opted for the blood patch.

It wasn’t pleasant, you guys. Not pleasant at all. The only good thing that came out of it was some minor relief and the knowledge that when it comes to my baby, I will do things I never thought I could or would do. I suppose it was this new-found strength and love for my new baby that gave me the determination to keep trying to breastfeed him; flat nipples and all!

I had every nurse on the floor and two lactation consultants try to get Isaac to latch…without any success. If you’ve never experienced the heartbreaking cry of a hungry, frustrated newborn that can’t latch, then please take a moment and thank your lucky stars. Everyone kept reassuring me that my cracked and blistered nipples would heal and all would be well once I got him to latch properly. And boy did I try. I didn’t care who was coming in my room, I had my boobs out and was trying again and again to get my screaming hungry baby to latch. Even a nice man from facilities got more than he bargained for when he stopped by my room to fix the TV. Modesty had long gone and what I had become was a determined, crazed, sleep deprived mama bear on a mission.

On my last day in the hospital, my headache slowly began to creep back and I still hadn’t gotten Isaac to latch. The more formula we supplemented him with, the worse I felt.  I mean, we were designed by God to do this!  Why wouldn’t my God-designed ta-ta’s get the memo and feed my baby!? And clearly Isaac had not spent any of his free time floating around in my tummy to read up on proper latching.  Up until that point I would like to think that I had remained fairly optimistic and at least cordial to all those who dare enter my room, but I had had freakin’ enough! I wanted to feed my baby and I wanted my headache to go away forever and I just wanted to go home and crawl in my own bed and cry and sleep and cry some more.

Tony and I took a sleeping Isaac to a class you were supposed to take before you were discharged, but as I sat there in that room, my headache continuing to get worse by the minute, I couldn’t take it anymore. I didn’t need any more information about bathing babies or umbilical cord care….my baby couldn’t eat! Why isn’t that the most important thing ever?  Shouldn’t someone be calling a code or something?  Code Nipples in room 15.  Code Nipples.  Room 15.

I needed Isaac to latch.

So I left the class while Tony and Isaac impatiently sat through till the end.  I marched my tired ass down to the nurses station, my boobs dangerously close to popping out of my nightgown, and asked the first nurse I saw to please come to my room and help me.

“Help you with what exactly?” she said half looking at me, half looking at her computer screen.

“EVERYTHING! I need help with everything. Please. Come…” I was barely able to finish the sentence before the tears came. I walked into my room with the irritated nurse following behind me and I unloaded.

“Look…I can’t sit in that class one more second. I am in pain. My headache is back. And worst of all, I can’t feed my baby. You are sending me home today and I can’t feed my baby. I don’t know what I’m doing! Please. PLEASE GET SOMEONE HERE TO HELP ME RIGHT NOW! An expert!!! I am maxed out and overwhelmed and nothing else matters to me except feeding my baby. Please. Help…”

She looked at me like I was crazy, or worse…irrational and said, “Honey, it’s normal to cry right now. Your hormones are all out of whack and you’ve been through something very traumatic. Would you like some Ibuprophen?”

Ibuprophen!?  IBUPROPHEN!?  Can ibuprophen feed my baby?!?!

It took everything I had inside of me not to completely lose it and become that Florida lady on the news that got arrested post partum for slamming her uneaten hospital food into the face of her unsuspecting nurse. (Side note: I LOVE NURSES!  I know you have the hardest most thankless job on Earth and I respect and honor you so much.  It just so happened that I was unfortunate enough to get paired up with a few that weren’t so great.) Getting arrested actually sounded quite nice at that point. Maybe a night in the slammer would bring me the peace and rest that I so desperately needed.

Instead, I just stood there with that look on my face. You know the look I’m talking about. The one that moms have. The one that says a million things without saying a word. The one that strikes the fear of God into those unfortunate enough to be in the line of vision. As rotten as I could be as a kid, my mom only used it a handful of times, but when she did…oh man. I get shivers just thinking of it. Of all the things that seemed to come naturally after giving birth, the “mom look” wasn’t one I thought I would need to use so soon, but I was quite thankful for it in that moment.

“Um…let me get your doctor on the line. I’ll also call the lactation consultant to come down right away.” She said as she backed out of the room slowly and away from my gaze.

Don’t mess with a new mom on a mission.

About 45 minutes before we were discharged the lactation consultant came to see me. She took one look at Isaac and said, “Well, that’s your problem right there. He’s tongue-tied.”

I had never heard of a tongue-tie before.  They failed to mention it in the breastfeeding videos I saw where the new mom just popped her newborn right on her non-flat nipples and proceeded to type on the computer and fix dinner at the same time.  I was both relieved to have an answer for why we couldn’t get him to latch, but at the same time frustrated that it took three days for someone to figure this out. After lots of talking and trying different things, I left the hospital with a breast pump, a nipple shield, and some hope knowing that a tongue-tie is something that can be fixed and that perhaps a nipple transplant wouldn’t be needed.

Everyone says that the first night at home is the hardest, but for us it would have been totally fine had my spinal headache not come back with a vengence. By morning, once again, I couldn’t sit up. As someone that has always struggled to ask for help and reach out to people, I was surprised at how quickly I was willing to ask Tony to call his family and get them here ASAP. When his mom, dad, and sister arrived I was laying in bed drinking Mountain Dew and trying to pump while laying on my side. It was quite a scene. Tony called my OBGYN and told her about my headache and she called the anesthesiogist to see what they suggested I do. When they called back and told us that I would need to come back in to the hospital for another blood patch I completely lost my marbles. I cried harder than I could ever remember crying in my life. I couldn’t believe that this was really happening. Tony and I discussed it and neither one of us felt it was the right thing to do, so I started drinking caffiene and texting, calling, and emailing everyone I knew to ask for prayer.

It wasn’t the pain that was the worst. Not by a long shot. The worst part was not being able to hold my beautiful, perfect baby. That’s all I wanted. Just to hold him, feed him and care for him.

After about two days of caffeine overload and lots of prayers, my headache finally went away. Praise the LORD! I felt like I had a new lease on life! I could walk around, sit up, and hold my baby.

At that point I had been pumping and bottle feeding Isaac and he seemed to be doing just great. I tried every once and a while to get him to latch, but it wasn’t happening for us. I tried with the nipple shield and even though he was getting some milk, my nipples were being torn to shreds. So I dedicated myself to pumping, hoping that we would be able to get his tongue fixed.

When we saw Isaac’s pediatrician he told us that we could have an ENT clip his tongue, but that he didn’t recommend it. He didn’t feel it was necessary, but was happy to recommend us to an ENT if we decided to do it. So Tony and I started to pray about it and just didn’t feel right about doing the procedure. We decided to keep pumping and bottle feeding him.

And then there was the mastitis.

I woke up one morning shaking from fever and both of my breasts were engorged and red. I was in so much pain that I couldn’t pick up my son. This also happened to be the first day that I was home alone with Isaac. I called Tony in tears and he came home from his first day back at work to take me and my painful boobies to the hospital to see the lactation consultant.

“This is where most mothers give up on breastfeeding.”

As I cried on Janet’s shoulder, she reassured me that I can do it and that if I come to her breastfeeding support group I will meet other mother’s who feel the same way I do.

I didn’t need a support group.  I needed a support VILLAGE!

My breasts were infected. My nipples were a mess. My body and mind were exhausted. I wanted to give up. I wanted to pump all the milk out (as if that were possible) and never pump again. I even reached out on social media to try and get some help and support for the mastitis that just didn’t seem to want to leave. I knew that I couldn’t stop pumping even if I wanted to until the infection was gone. I knew I was going to have to keep going and so I did. I saw lactation consultants and did all I could to keep giving my baby breast milk.

Until the reflux happened.

It seemed to happen over night. Isaac was fine with breast milk and then all-of-a-sudden he turned into a breast milk firehose. He screamed and cried and spit up all day and night for two days straight. I was at my wits end when I brought him in to see his pediatrician. He took one look at him and knew he had reflux and was in a lot of pain. Hearing your baby is in pain is about the very worst thing you can hear. I know I looked desperate and exhausted. Not only had I seemed to be recovering from one thing after the next, but I was also battling a case of the baby blues trying desperately not to let it become full blown post partum depression. I told his pediatrician all that I had been going through and he looked at me with such compassion that it took all I had not to run over and climb into his lap and cry. I told him that I was at the end of my rope and that I want to do anything to help Isaac not be in pain. He told me to try a hypoallergenic formula just in case it was a milk allergy and then he gave us some Zantac and gave us a referral to a pediatric GI specialist.

After a few days on the new formula and the Zantac, Isaac was doing much better. We saw the GI Specialist and he really helped us a lot.  It was then that I went from being a breast milk feeding mom to a formula mom. I know that some of you reading this have all kinds of advice about how I could still feed him breast milk by going on an elimination diet, etc, and believe me, Tony and I have prayed about it so many times. We want what all parents want…the very best for our child and our family. It was a hard decision to come to, but we decided that for my own mental health, Isaac’s health, and the health of our family, we were going to feed Isaac formula and we weren’t going to feel guilty about it.

That’s easier said than done, of course.

Especially being that this is World Breastfeeding Month. I read about all the benefits of breast milk and I feel like I am doing something wrong by not exhausting myself and my family by pumping every 3 hours or getting his tongue tie fixed, or trying again and again to get him to latch even with the tongue tie, or doing an elimination diet, or maybe looking into that nipple transplant. I know all of the options we have and I have chosen formula. I am a HUGE breastfeeding advocate and always will be. There’s no denying that it is best for your baby.

This story is not advice.  This is our story. This is what we decided for our family and I don’t feel bad about it. Yes, I know there are other things I could have tried. I could have “done more”. But sometimes you have to make decisions that are what’s best for where you are in life right now. Being a new parent is the most beautiful, amazing, life changing (in a good way) experience I have ever had in my whole life. I love Isaac with a fierce, self-less love that drives me to sacrifice in ways I never thought I was capable of. I love him more than life itself.

I would do literally anything to provide what is best for him, and I believe I have done that.

I support all moms no matter whether they have chosen to breastfeed, formula feed, or both. Whether they did natural childbirth, a C-section, or whatever.  More than advice, new moms need encouragement that they know what’s best for their babies and their families. We need to empower moms to trust themselves and the way they chose to care for their child or children. Of course it’s wisdom to ask for help when you need it or learn from those that have gone before you, but it’s also wisdom to know that you hear from God. You are His child and He cares for you and your baby with a love a million times stronger than anything we can comprehend. If you decide to formula feed know that God has your baby right in the palm of his hands and is in total control even when you’re not (and by the way, you will pretty much never be in control, so…).

When you find yourself at a crossroads when it comes to making decisions to care for your baby, please know that you have direct access to the Creator of all things. He won’t leave you or forsake you. He promised He wouldn’t and He doesn’t break promises. Answers don’t always come easy, but know that your love and desire to care for your baby will lead you in the right direction as long as you don’t get hung up worrying about what other people are doing or what they think.

 

Please feel free to comment and share your encouragement or your own story, but please don’t offer any opinions or advice about how I should’ve done this or that. I love you, I really do. Don’t make me give you the mom face. The decision is made and now I covet your prayers and your support.

 

Comments

  1. I chose to breastfeed, though I almost chose differently. My story, compared to yours, was relatively easy. I did have mastitis, and I did have a l.c. on speed dial, but really, it was pretty easy. Both babies latched, both nursed well past 10 months and it was relatively smooth. But, I supplemented with formula with my first. I cried every time I gave her a formula bottle, but I did it. I did what I felt she needed, what WE needed.
    Love and hugs here, and, can I just say how wonderful lactation consultants are? I love them so hard. Keep truckin, mama.

  2. Wow! Thank you for being so transparent. I’m not a mom yet and am still encouraged. Thanks for supporting even the future moms with your story.

  3. Thanks for sharing your story, Katie! I can imagine what you went thru… some of the same things happened to me with each of my kids to varying degrees, minus the spinal headache though. That would’ve pushed me over the edge too. I so hope you don’t feel less of a mom for doing formula, because you aren’t. It’s the first decision of more to come that make YOU Isaac’s mom, and nobody else. God gave Isaac to you and Tony and vice versa so you can do just what you’re doing… taking care of him. 🙂

  4. Katie,
    I have never been blessed in the Mommy department, but this much I know:
    1. You are a wonderful Mommy! I can tell that all the way from WV based on this blog post and your facebook posts and pictures of your beautiful son.
    2. Your WV roots lead to this amazing strength that will always be a driving force in your family. You will ALWAYS persevere no matter the situation. I know you will pass this onto your son. Tony is lucky to have such a lady too!
    3. Your son will grow up with a Mommy he is incredibly proud of! He will be lucky to have a Mommy who will: kiss every boo boo real and imaginary, teach him faith that is unfaltering, be a moral compass that lets him make mistakes that he will learn from in the arms of his biggest cheerleader, a Mom who will challenge him starting with games of peekaboo and finishing with SAT prep, an artist who shows him what coloring between the lines means but has secretly held on to every circle and slash drawing with pride even when they are unidentifiable to most critics, a chef who will make him amazing meals of ants on a log or apple butter and peanut butter sandwiches, a maid who will teach him why cleaning up is so important, a doctor who will go to battle to make sure he is taken care of, his own professional photographer, and the person who teaches him to love completely and deeply.

    I am so proud of your journey! I feel blessed that you are allowing us to take part of this amazing journey with you through your written word.

    Love to you, Tony, and your precious little one!

  5. oh, katie! thank you for writing and sharing this! your story is amazing and hilarious and awful and oh my goodness my boobs started hurting in an attempt to sympathize – but the world of babies is still (babies are a blessing, but thank you, Jesus!) very foreign to me. You are ever the strong, selfless, loving, wonderful mama Isaac is so lucky to have!

  6. B and t were both formula fed and they turned out ok; well, at least I believe so!

  7. De Burke says:

    Katie,
    How brave of you to share your story and put your heart out there! You went through so much and had I known, I would have been praying, praying, praying!
    I love how open the young women of this generation are about their breastfeeding. But in many ways, I feel it puts undue pressure on those who are unable to do so, or even, may choose not to. Due to my health, I was unable to breastfeed either Meghan, or her brother Jordan, and I promise you, that our relationship has not suffered in the least. I am extremely close to both of my children because breastfeeding is not the only way to nurture and love your child. Keep loving little Isaac just like you are and he will grow to know that his mama will do whatever is necessary for her little boy!!
    Blessings!!

  8. Naida Alcime says:

    This was awesome!! I’m not a mother, let alone married but I thoroughly enjoyed reading this!! Thanks for sharing 🙂

  9. Great story. My baby wouldn’t latch on one side. I have been pumping every 2 hours for 5 weeks, every since my baby girl was 2 weeks old. As awful as it makes you feel about not being able to breast feed, know that you tried all you could to do it. More that most women I would say. Keep you head up and know your little man lives you no matter what <3

  10. You are such a strong mama!!!

    Wow, I am so inspired by your perseverance and endurance during all that happened to you. I was holding back from crying, even reading it is overwhelming -and then there were times I was holding back from laughing because I just love your humor, it really kills me. I felt like I just read a drama novel with a beautiful ending. I’m so encouraged by your strength and perspective, you are so incredible and so full of fierce love for your precious one (*mom face*). Thank you so much for sharing. I especially loved the second to last paragraph when you talk about empowering moms -thank you for writing that! I so look forward to motherhood and thank God for women like you that I get to share it with. Love you!

    -Ayse

  11. I support you! So proud of you for doing what is best for your little Isaac! You are a great Momma!

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