Desmond's Mom

Just sayin…

Breast feeding isn’t always easy

October7

While I was pregnant I researched breast feeding. I knew it was the only option for our family. I kept being reassured that if you have an unmedicated birth and put baby skin to skin right away that it will just happen. That it shouldn’t hurt unless something is wrong. I felt confident.

I got slapped in the face by reality very quickly. My baby wasn’t able to nurse for two and a half of the longest weeks of my life. I had such an empowering birth and was reduced to an emotional mess with nursing. I remember looking at my husband with tears in my eyes and said, “This is the first thing that I’ve ever failed at that I’ve really put my mind to.” and he almost cried too because he knows how driven I am and how much this meant to me.

My midwifes website says that she won’t leave until baby gets a good latch, but it never happened. He was born the night before Easter and she told me to go see a lactation consultant right away but they would be closed for the holiday. I found out later that was incorrect but at the time thought the statement made sense. So he went over 24 hours with jaundice and hardly any food. It was the scariest time of my life.

I spent the entire time putting him to the breast but he just couldn’t do it. I pumped and syringe fed him the best I could, but it wasn’t that effective and I could only get a few drops of colustrum at a time. We raced to the lactation consultants office first thing Monday morning. The car ride was almost unbearable on my stitches from a second degree internal tear and I silently cried the whole ride there and back. I started to regret my home birth. Not for the birth itself but for being 45 minutes away from lactation support after the fact. I know now after hearing other people’s stories that home or hospital, it wouldn’t have made a difference, other than that first day. Some babies just have a hard time. I didn’t understand though, he was full term and we had done everything right.

The lactation consultant met with me and we started finger feeding him through a tube on our finger in his mouth. The idea was to teach him how to suck. The new problem we faced was that I was only producing colostrum, which was too thick to go down the tube. She had me add sugar water to thin it out. I was devastated. I couldn’t believe I was feeding syrup to my newborn! I should have reached out for a milk donor for a couple ounces to get us started but was in such a haze that I didn’t think of that. It was only for a short time though. My amazing husband let me get some rest and my milk came in on day four.

I had no support system then like I do now. I was at the LC office every other day. Every hour and a half I woke up, tried to nurse the baby for 10 minutes, then I passed him to my husband or mother to finger feed him while I pumped. I took solace that I had a good supply and it would be ready when he was.

One day the LC told me he had to start using a bottle because he was burning too many calories finger feeding. Again, I was devastated. I knew this is how nipple confusion and preference for faster milk flow begins. I refused. I rented a baby scale and went home that day to lay out everything baby would need in a semi circle on the floor, strapped the breast friend pillow on, and told Desmond I wasn’t moving until we got this. 4 hours later he was crying for food and I gave in and finger fed him. My nipples were cracked and bleeding (they are flat and drawing them out to feed a baby wasn’t easy on them). The next time the LC gave me a nipple shield to try and insisted that I use a bottle. I gave in since the bottle nipple looked like the shield and maybe it would help with the transition. We were persistent about trying to nurse first with the shield, then used paced bottle feeding after it didn’t happen.

One day I realized he was sucking. Milk was filing his mouth but he was spitting it out! I couldn’t for the life of me understand why this was happening. He also had horrible reflux so I worried it was spit up but after watching closely I realized that he just wasn’t swallowing right. On an unrelated note (or so I thought at the time) I heard that chiropractic could help with reflux, so I made an appointment. After I left the chiropractors office I went and saw the lactation consultants again. I tried without the shield and little man drank 3 oz! I was elated!  Apparently his neck was out of alignment from having an arm by his face in the womb which caused his swallow to be off pattern. Once we got him adjusted, things got better.

His reflux and tummy problems continued. I learned that I had created oversupply by pumping too long each time. The LC said to pump for 15 mins each time, and after a while 15 mins would yield 10oz when baby only drank 2-3.  I didn’t think about it, I just did what I was told.  I built an insane freezer stock, but it wasn’t doing any favors for his tummy by getting too much formilk. I slowly weened off the pump. A miserable process that gave me mastitis twice and several plugged ducts. This helped his tummy but something still wasn’t right. I tried an elimination diet and learned that dairywas problematic. Suddenly no more spitting up, hardly at all. And the gas wasn’t nearly as painful for him.

Nursing

He has developed a preference for the breast and he won’t have anything to do with a bottle anymore. I haven’t turned the pump on in ages. I have been donating our freezer stash to supplementing mommas to help keep their babies off formula. My son is happy, healthy, and strong. I’m thankful every day to be able to work with him beside me so that I can feed on demand. We still have latch issues because he has a lip tie that we haven’t had corrected yet. Although we had a rough start with so many problems combined (lip tie, flat nipples, reflux, swallow reflex being off, we were clueless and had no help for a day and a half), we were determined and I’m SO proud of officially hitting 6 months and going strong. In the long run, those first few weeks were short and worth every second.

New moms.  I am not writing this story to discourage you.  I’m writing it so that you know you may have to fight for this if it’s what you want.  You need to find a good support system and start learning early.  I implore you, please do not give up. I know that if I could do it, with all our struggles, that anyone can. Less than 1% of the population is physically unable to breast feed. Babies are so little and everything is so new, be patient with them. They need you, and your milk has so much more to offer their growing bodies than formula. If you struggle, ask for help. The total cost was $35 for as many visits to the lactation consultants as we wanted to go to (not much more than the cost of a can of formula).  Free options include the Breast Friends Facebook group, your local Le Leche League chapter, WIC has breast feeding help whether you qualify for their program or not, or by asking other nursing moms.  The Breastfeeding Book by Dr. Sears is fantastic if you have the time to read (like, while you’re pregnant lol).  Sometimes it’s easy and just happens, but when it isn’t, remember that your baby is worth it.  Breastfeeding may not be for every mom, but it is for every baby.  Breastfeeding is like a natural vaccine to protect against illness, allergies, obesity, SIDS, and certain cancers in the mother.  It really is a win win once you get established and comfortable with it.  If you absolutely can’t make it work, exclusive pumping is an option.  If you struggle with supply or you’re an adoptive parent, check out Human Milk for Human Babies for donor milk.

Desmond’s Birth Story

September29

Welcome

 The house was bustling the sacred night before.  We had someone to represent many stages of life: a little girl, a maiden, an expecting mother and father, a mother and a grandmother.  Everyone had gathered at the Tucker house to celebrate Laci’s pregnancy and prepare her for the birth of her son.  The maiden prepared fresh fruits, hot cocoa and treats that she served with kindness and love.  The grandmother cooked henna paste in a traditional fashion, heating it with candle flame and intentions.  The little girl and the expecting father played games together, sprinkling the room with laughter.  All the while, the expecting mother was in a calm and blissful state, listening to the wise stories from the mother and grandmother as her tummy was ornamented with henna artwork while people spoke to the baby through her, telling him that they loved him already and that they couldn’t wait to meet him.  The word “Welcome” was written upon her.  She knew it would not be long.

Come out baby

After a long night of stories, decadence and laugher, the expecting mother and father went to sleep.  The mother and child went home.  The maiden and grandmother stayed overnight to tend to the henna in the morning.  Laci slept restlessly that night, as she had many nights before.  Her hips ached from the weight of her womb and her arms ached to hold her baby.  She awoke many times.  At 9:30am she crawled back into bed once more and felt a surge of warm water.  She knew it was time.  She awoke her husband and told him her water had broke.  He sat bolt upright in bed, awake immediately.  Although the baby was due in two days, they both felt like he would go a little longer since the full moon had come and gone 3 days prior without bringing on labor.  The midwife had also told them that first time moms typically go past their due dates, probably to keep them from being anxious.  The excitement and the contractions began.  John helped Laci to soak her tummy and wash off the artwork from the night before.  The stain didn’t reside on the skin, rather the magic had soaked in.

The others were notified of the good news and they quickly started to straighten and prepare the living room for the birth, bringing up baskets Laci had lovingly assembled in the nursery and setting up the birth pool.  They went downstairs to check on her, but were halted by the house cats, two calicos sat guarding the bathroom as if to say, “Do not pass”.  Laci assured them that she was fine and thanked them for all their help.

Laci called the midwife and had two contractions while on the phone.  The midwife assured her that she would be coming soon.  Laci made her way to the shower and John came in with her.  He supported her when the contractions came and they both were glowing with excitement.  They would be meeting  their baby soon.  They kept smiling and laughing with happiness for this long awaited time.  After he helped her out of the shower, she put on her black labor gown she had been saving for this time, brushed her hair and put it back into a headband.  About the time she stepped out of the bathroom, the midwife had arrived.  She hugged and kissed her friends goodbye as they poured verbal blessings upon her day.

Her midwife checked her, smiled and said, “I think he’s got a lot of hair.”  She began to work at her computer and Laci paced around the living room for a while, stopping on occasion at a door frame to feel her body tighten.  John was taking a moment to collect himself and calm his nerves.    When he began to hear her vocalize the waves, he was immediately by her side and mentally prepared for what was to come.  This was a new side of her husband that Laci had never seen before.  She looked in his eyes and could see all the love he had for her in his gaze.  He looked at her with those eyes for weeks.  It was the most beautiful she had ever felt, despite her condition.  She held onto him for support, and he was her rock.

The back labor set in and her legs became weak.  She thought resting on the sofa would help.  She laid down for a mere moment before a birthing wave hit and it was the most painful of the entire day; she knew that laying down was not an option.  She tried to get up but was struck again.  With help she was able to stand and make her way to the birthing ball.  This proved to be MUCH more comfortable.  She held her husband around the waist and clung to his pockets when she felt herself contract.  He was amazing but they both began to have feelings of helplessness.  That this was greater than the two of them.  She called for the midwife in the other room and asked for her doula.  Her requested doula was out of town that weekend so the midwife made a couple calls.  She got a hold of a doula who was also in midwifery school to come from Paoli, an hour and a half away.

When her doula finally made it, relief set in for the couple.  They were comforted by her knowledge and control of the situation.  She began to massage Laci to help her calm her breathing.  She helped her onto her hands and knees to take the pressure off of her back, put fans on her and relaxed her husband with conversation.

After some time, the doula noticed that Laci was beginning to struggle and asked her if she would like some natural pain solutions.  She agreed as long as there were no drugs involved.  The doula asked the midwife to give her tiny saline injections in the skin by her spine to help dull the ache in her back.  The midwife suggested trying a tens unit first.  The tens unit was just the thing.  Relief set in as the vibrations tingled against the skin of her back, massaging the aches into a significantly more manageable state.  She bent over, resting her head on the back of a chair as John offered counter pressure but the touch that had offered her hips relief in the days before, was no longer a welcome feeling.  She just needed him there, reminding her that it wouldn’t be long before they could meet their baby boy.

After about an hour had passed, Laci knew the time was drawing near and she asked if the birth tub could be filled.  The midwife began to fill the tub and quickly ran out of hot water.  In typical Hollywood fashion, they started boiling water on the stove.  It seemed like forever to fill the small pool but Laci could see out the window that it was still daylight, and took solace in the fact she had removed her watch to get into the shower earlier that day.  The last thing she wanted was to be reminded of the minutes.  She was happy just to know that this was her baby’s birthday, and that was all the time that mattered.

When it was half full, she removed her gown and the tens unit and was helped into the warm water.  The weightlessness felt amazing.  Gravity had been amplified on her back and legs, and with this element, gravity was defeated.  She breathed relief.   Laci was bent over the edge of the pool, looking into her doula’s eyes, trying to focus as John rubbed her back.  She knew she was in transition and it felt good to vocalize.  She knew she was very close to meeting her baby and she was ready to hold him.  She rolled over and floated on her back, supported by her husband, and called for her midwife to come.  Laci felt the electricity of life like a lightening rod being struck over and over in a beautiful storm.

birth

Laci began to push.  Soon the door was opened by the birth assistant, who arrived quietly and began to prepare a space for baby.  Laci felt a sharpness unlike before that made her react helplessly.  She was put at ease that the hard part was almost over.  Her midwife asked her to reach down and touch her baby’s head but her hands were held tightly by her doula and husband.  She longed to, but she needed their strength and knew she would hold him soon.  Within a couple pushes, the midwife pulled this tiny body from the water and into Laci’s arms.  Desmond Xavier Tucker was born at 5:03pm.  He cried out a soft sweet little sound and Laci and John were flooded with joy that no words could describe.  They laughed, cried, kissed and held each other as a family of three, for the first time.

Cord Burning

Laci tried to nurse him as soon as possible, but his cord was short.  As soon as she could muster the strength, she was helped  to the couch to nurse and for John and Laci to burn his cord with their unity candles.  A slow, but sweet ritual as momma snuggled her tiny baby.  The placenta was slow to deliver but afterward it was decided that Laci needed to make a calm trip to the ER for stitches.  Desmond had entered the world fist first, like a superhero.  While momma ventured into the rainy night with her midwife, John stayed at home to bond skin to skin with their baby boy, protecting him from the germs at the ER and enjoying their first snuggle.  Momma returned home near midnight.  The house looked like home again and after the birthing team left, they called their family.  Most of them were in bed.  It was a delightful secret we could hardly contain any longer.  Our phones had been shut off until this point.

Newborn Baby Desmond

We dressed him in a special gown and laid him in the sidecar crib we had prepared.  We must have woke up a million times that night to attempt to nurse, make sure he was still breathing, or to just smile while we watched him sleep.  He was so tiny, so beautiful, so perfect.  He was our little Desmond, the greatest gift we have ever received.  The most exquisite thing we had ever made.  He was the manifestation of our love and our hearts grew that day to a size we could have never anticipated.