A Challenging Beginning
From NEW BEGINNINGS, Vol. 19 No. 3, May-June 2002, p. 94
I've always known that I wanted to be a mother. I also always knew I would breastfeed my children. My husband and I were thrilled to find out I was pregnant about nine months after we were married. I had a pretty easy pregnancy, except for a few stomach problems and migraines. Our son, Austin James, was born on January 21, 2001. The labor and delivery went well. I lost a lot of blood but luckily did not need a transfusion. I had read many books before Austin was born, so I knew the first few weeks would be challenging, but I was not prepared for how I was feeling. I hardly slept in the hospital. I was weak and pale. I thought it was from giving birth and losing so much blood. I kept telling myself it would get better.
Breastfeeding got off to a rocky start. When Austin did latch on he took in only the end of my nipple, which made breastfeeding very painful. Then came our first night home. It did not go well. I could not nurse lying down, I was exhausted, and Austin was a very needy newborn. I cried all night, sure that I didn't know how to be a mother or how to nurse.
If it had not been for my mother, a former La Leche League Leader, I would have given up after that first night. She encouraged me to continue. I kept wondering when I would feel some more energy or happiness. I was weak, tired, pale, and beginning to have severe diarrhea. I would eat, but nothing would stay with me very long. The doctors thought I had the flu.
About a week and a half after Austin was born I was lying down to take a nap. I felt an intense, sudden pain from my waist up to my shoulders. I thought I was having a heart attack. The pain was worse than labor. I was taken by ambulance to the hospital for tests. Austin was brought to me and I nursed him as we waited for the results. Hours later the doctor decided it was a stomach virus. I knew there was something wrong, but no one could find anything.
After a few more days of dehydration, exhaustion, and inability to keep food down, I was ready to give Austin a bottle and go to bed forever. After seeing three different doctors in three days, I was told once again that it was a stomach bug, that I might have postpartum depression, and that I should go out on a date with my husband to relax!
My mother suggested I mention that gall bladder problems run in our family. Someone finally decided to do an ultrasound to rule that out. The technician looked at my gall bladder and immediately said, "Oh, honey, no wonder you're so sick. You have gall stones." I immediately began to cry as my husband held my hand. I was so relieved that I was not crazy. Something was wrong. I found out later that gall bladder problems are common in pregnant women. That was why I had stomach problems during pregnancy and pain below my right rib. My doctor thought it was Austin kicking me, but it had been my gall bladder all along.
When plans were being made for surgery later that week I asked about breastfeeding Austin. I was told he couldn't stay with me and that I should pump or supplement with formula. I attempted to pump milk for him but I only had two days and could not pump enough. I tried for twenty minutes and got one ounce. I did not want to supplement with formula; he was only three weeks old.
During all of this time my mother had been in contact with my LLL Leader as well as her former LLL Leader. Together, they made many calls, sent me information, and talked with the hospital about the effects of anesthesia on nursing babies. The anesthesia does not affect the baby enough to stop nursing. In the end, Austin was allowed to stay with me. I breastfed him right before surgery. I also nursed him when the anesthesia wore off. He was happy and cared for by my husband, parents, and mother-in-law. During recovery Austin and I finally learned how to nurse lying down. We also had to use some funny-looking, creative nursing positions because of my incision.
After about a week I was feeling strong, healthy, and happy to be a mother. I would not have made it without the wonderful support of my family and La Leche League. Thanks to LLL, Austin is a healthy, happy, breastfeeding six-month-old.