A big big thank you to Lynn for sharing her amazing story, what a mother, what a tale, this is her own account in her own words;
Here's the story of Rylee entering the world, and how it's possible to breastfeed even with traumatic delivery and how you will NEVER regret at least trying it. I hope it's useful, though longish.
In April of 2008, about two months before my due date, I was put on bed rest due to high blood pressure. I didn't have any other signs of pre-eclampsia, but the pressures were high enough to warrant the bed rest. At a few of my appointments they got high enough to necessitate a trip to the hospital where my husband and I would wait around for them to come down.
June 3rd was one of those days and we went to the hospital expecting to have another few boring hours. But once we were there my BP kept going higher and higher (160?/100+) and my labs were getting worse. My doctor told me "We're not going to let another sun set on this pregnancy." It was 3 1/2 weeks before my due date, but Rylee was still fine. They put in a gel to try to "ripen" the cervix overnight with plans for pitocin in the morning. I spent the entire day of June 4th on pitocin and magnesium sulphate. Mag makes you feel TERRIBLE. It slows your body down and makes you really logy. I was burning up although my room was at about 60 degrees. They had to keep drawing blood to monitor the pre-eclampsia but I only have two good places on my arm for that. One was pumping in the mag via IV and the other was "doiwnstream" from that IV and so unusable. After numerous failed attempts to draw blood other places I had a subclavical central line put in. This is a "valve" put into a direct cut into a vein, usually reserved for cancer patients and other desperately ill people. The bright side is it immediately cured my IV-phobia. :)
Evening rolled around and Rylee was not budging. She would have to come by C-section, and at this point that was fine with me. I started to have some panic while being prepped (being numb that far up your body can make you feel like you are suffocating) so had oxygen and a small amount of something to prevent a panic attack. I don't know quite what it was, but it made me a little less "high" than nitrous at the dentist's office. The surgery itself was routine but Rylee was a little distressed, probably due to the mag. She was whisked off to the NICU after I gave her one bewildered kiss.
I didn't see her again for over 48 hours.
She was 5 lbs 10oz and needed some IV nutrition and initially some help from a CPAP to breathe. Nothing too dramatic and most of it due to the magnesium sulfate. My blood pressure continued to be alarmingly high and the doctors wouldn't allow me to budge out of my bed for anything. I swelled up like a balloon and one night even diruesed 9 liters of fluid in a single hour. I was stuck in bed for just over two days after delivering.
During the first 24 hours no one came to talk to me about nursing or pumping. I really wanted to nurse Rylee, and in fact the decision to stay home with her was driven in large part by that desire, but was too sick to really make a fuss about anything. One of my nurses finally brought me a pump after she realized no one had been to see me. . I was able to actually pump about 1t of colostrum and I was so grateful for her help. After that a lactation consultant finally came and helped me get set up with pumping since there was no way to nurse Rylee directly. She was still on an IV and I was still confined to bed.
Even after I finally got to see her I still wasn't allowed to nurse so I started a regime of pumping 8x a day. I even set the alarm to get up in the night so I could pump every three hours. We brought the milk to her several times a day when I was still in the hospital and after I was discharged but she was still in the NICU for a few more days, seven in total.
It might be unfair for me to say this, but I learned quickly that the NICU is all about you pumping milk for babies (good) but not much interested in helping you learn how to nurse (bad). I was only allowed to try nursing once a day since they were still monitoring her input and output. I had the NICU lactation consultant sit with me ONE time and go over everything so fast that my head was spinning. I got help positioning her on the pillow and not much else. Rylee didn't latch, partly because she was early and wasn't quite ready for that. Or at least that is what they told me. The next time I came the consultant simply poked her head in and said "That looks right to me" and left, although Rylee wasn't nursing at all. We received no other help teaching her to latch prior to bringing her home.
Far from being encouraging, the staff of the NICU was downright snide to me on two occasions. The lactation consultant asked me "How many times a day are you pumping?" I answered "I'm trying to do it every three hours." and she said "Uh-huh. And how much are you ACTUALLY doing it?" I answered again "Eight times a day, just not always at precisely three hours." On another occasion, when we came to drop off milk, a nurse told me "You don't have to pump into separate bottles anymore. You can combine them all into one." I said "Up to what amount?" because at that point I was pumping 28-32 ounces and Rylee was only eating about 16. She replied "It doesn't matter. She's going to overeat you." Not only was this discouraging, it was totally untrue! I was pumping almost TWICE what Rylee was eating and she was not receiving any formula.
We brought her home and I continued pumping and bottle-feeding her breast milk 8x a day. I tried nursing a few times but was totally ill-equipped after my SINGLE appointment with the lactation consultant. I kept this up for about 3 weeks and it was horrible. My husband and I worked up a nighttime routine where he would feed her and I would pump so we could get at least some sleep. We had a small refrigerator in the bedroom which was a blessing and I would feed Rylee on what I pumped at night and immediately freeze what I pumped during the day. I got a little more help from a consultant during this time, but mostly with bras and new pump parts.
Finally, my sister (mother of five and labor/delivery RN) came and said "Little girl, you're losing your bottle." We had one tough day and one horrible night while Rylee learned to latch on. And then not another problem. It was such a relief to be able to feed her without all the fuss and equipment. I can't even describe how I felt that day.
Because she was early and making up her weight she nursed every two hours until she was 6 months old. She started gaining so much faster on the breast vs. bottled breast milk. I'm sure it was because sometimes she really wanted more but in the time it took to prepare a second bottle she lost interest. Now she could have whatever quantity she wanted and it was always just right. No fussing with bottles, or heating milk or anything.
I loved nursing and she did, too. In fact "nurse" was her first sign. My original goal was to nurse her for at least 12 months. I weaned her just after she turned 18 months with her early morning feeding being the last to go. She was waking up between 5:30-6:30 and nursing would persuade her to sleep another hour or so. I joked that I was willing to nurse her until age 12 if that was what it took to get her to sleep. :)
A horrible start but we stuck with it because I believed in the benefits of nursing. And once we really got going it was SO much more convenient than bottles. I will never regret the cost of establishing my milk supply in those first dreadful weeks and I know she's healthier because I was able to provide her with breast milk for so long. Not to mention the special bond we shared for those 18 months.
Lynn (auntninn). Who rambled on much longer than I intended.
Thank you again for sharing this with us.