By Adele M. Borkowski
During the eighth month of my pregnancy, my husband got a job offer that would take us to the same town that his parents lived in. We jumped at the chance to move because we were living away from all of our family. So we moved when I had a little more than a month to go until my due date.
I had scheduled an appointment to meet a new midwife—once my new insurance took effect. I wanted to see a midwife because I was going to do a Bradley birth, with little intervention and no drugs if possible, so that my baby would be alert and ready to nurse as soon as he was born. I really wanted to start things out right. I read everything about breastfeeding that I could get my hands on and I was sure that things would go without a hitch!
The drive to my in-laws’ house (we were staying with them for a week until our house was ready for us) took 4.5 hours, and by the end of it I was miserable! We arrived on a Sunday, and that is when my pregnancy started to really feel uncomfortable. Not that I was completely comfortable before, but it just seemed to get far worse.
We had gone to bed at the normal time Tuesday night, and, as is the way of all pregnant women almost into their ninth month, I woke up in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom. When I got back into bed, I was leaking amniotic fluid. I woke my husband and we tried to figure out what to do. Don’t forget, I didn’t have an OB or midwife yet, and didn’t even know what hospital to go to. We called my doctor in Raleigh, who worked for a HMO, and I was advised to travel back to Raleigh so that my insurance would take care of it. Needless to say, we rejected that suggestion.
We went to a hospital in the area, and went to the emergency room. Of course, we were the talk of the hospital—what idiot pregnant woman goes and moves to another state and then doesn’t have a doctor for this important experience? So, we were assigned the doctor on duty, who had never even heard of Bradley, and if I didn’t know any better, I would swear that “Intervention” was his middle name.
I was in the labor room for 12 hours, trying to induce myself with all of the natural methods but not getting anywhere, so he decided that Pitocin was the way to go. At that point, I agreed. The Pitocin started out easy enough. I got contractions, but nothing unmanageable, and figured that if they kept it up at the rate we were going, I’d do fine. Then the doctor (unbeknownst to us) decided to crank up the Pitocin, because he felt that it was taking too long. As soon as the nurse followed his order, the pain hit!
I was still trying to get through without an epidural, so when the nurse offered me Demerol which “would take the edge off” I accepted. They administered the Demerol, and, as I said to my husband at the time, now I was still in pain, but dizzy and angry. So I finally consented to an epidural, because it seemed that there was no relief between contractions. As is the way of the world, the second that I got the epidural, I had to push. Pushing took 20 minutes at the absolute longest, and there was my beautiful baby boy! I immediately brought him up to my breast and tried to feed him, but apparently the Demerol made him dizzy and angry, too, because he didn’t really do anything. At that moment, the nurses swept him away saying, “The Demerol has him to sleepy to nurse, so we’ll just do our tests and then give him back to you.”
On and off for the next two days I tried to get him to nurse but we always had difficulty. He usually just fell asleep. I was released from the hospital on Friday, but told to go to a clinic that Sunday to get his bilirubin level checked because he was slightly jaundice.
We took him in to get the blood test, and his bili level was up, so we opted to get a bili-blanket, which is at-home light therapy. I was still trying to get him to nurse regularly, and we were still having trouble with it, which I really thought that we could conquer. I figured that with privacy and home time, it would be easier than if we were back in the hospital. Unfortunately, we continued to have problems with both breastfeeding and bili-levels. On Monday, after his levels has risen further, we were advised to check back into the hospital. Still trying to breastfeed, I had nurses helping me and making suggestions, but to no avail.
On Tuesday, when his levels had risen even more, they decided to put him in an incubator to keep his temperature up because he was having trouble maintaining it. Then they decided to put him on formula because they felt that his AO incompatibility was being complicated further by a bit of breast milk jaundice. I requested a pump from the nurses, because I was still determined to keep him on breast milk once he was better. It took almost a day for them to finally bring me one, and I was afraid that my supply would dry up (alternately, that my breasts would explode—they were so full!) We fed him formula for two days, and even that was difficult to get into him! Every time I tried to feed him, he would just snuggle in and fall asleep.
Finally when his levels started falling, I was cleared to breastfeed again. Unfortunately, it just wasn’t working what with the nipple confusion, and him just wanting to sleep rather than eat. I suggested and the doctor agreed, that I bottle feed him expressed breast milk until the jaundice problem was history, just so that I knew that he was getting plenty to eat. On Friday, we again checked out of the hospital. When we got home, the jaundice wasn’t finished—just manageable. I continued to pump and bottle feed.
When we finally got past the jaundice, it was about a month after he was born. By this time, John was only interested in the bottle. I periodically tried to nurse him, but he was having none of it. I continued to pump daily, and sometimes in the middle of the night, just to keep my supply up, and I was exclusively feeding him expressed milk. One day, I managed to get him to nurse for one feeding but wasn’t able to duplicate my success at any other time. We went on like this for three months, and I noticed that it was taking longer and getting more difficult to get as much milk by pumping. I was very upset, and I started planning for formula feeding once my supply dried up.
Everyone kept saying “Well, you tried and that’s the important part,” but I really didn’t agree. I am known for being too hard on myself, but I felt like a failure for not being able to get this one simple thing right. Yes, I know that it’s generally not simple but it’s natural, and it should work out.
One day, while I was pumping, my son started screaming to eat. I was trying to figure out a way that I could feed him and pump at the same time. It had been a while since we had tried to breastfeed because I had just needed a break from the frustration of trying and failing. I thought to myself, This is ridiculous! Why do we really need a middle man?’ I pulled the pump away from my breast, brought my son close and he started nursing! I was so happy! I tried not to get too excited because he had done it one other time, and not again. But the next time he was looking to eat, I brought him to my breast again, and he did it again! Since then, we’ve had no problems (if you don’t count his using me as a teether, that is) and he is now two weeks away from his first birthday. John shows absolutely no signs of stopping, and I’m not looking to wean him any time soon.