Day Twenty-Five | Aja's journey | A Lakewood Breastfeeding Story
Our little girl came when my water unexpectedly broke. She was born at 35 weeks 3 days of gestation. We still don't know why I went into labor early but she was, and still is, a perfect little peanut.
While I was pregnant, I had a whole plan in my head - as we all do. I want to do this natural, I would reassure myself daily. I'll walk, I'll use the bathtub, I'll do some aroma therapy! It'll be great, I got this! Well, I also bared in mind, that plans change and to stay flexible - I'm so glad I did.
NOTHING went the way it was supposed to, nothing. Because my water broke, I had to be induced, I needed steroids for Ophelia's lungs, and needed anti-biotics because this was before I had my strep B test. Both me and baby were monitored VERY closely, which meant I was bed ridden. I couldn't eat because there was a high chance of c-section, I couldn't sleep because they had monitors all over me and inside me. I was given artificial fluids inside of me to keep Ophelia and me from having a dry birth.
I spent 8 long hours this way. The contractions were incredibly intense because of the Pitocin (drug to induce labor), and I was begging to shake and vomit. Everything was a mess.
Then, they had to give me oxygen because Ophelia began to go into distress, her heart rate kept dipping. I was ready for it all to be over - eventually I caved and agreed to an epidural. Shortly after the epidural was placed, I fell asleep. Relief for the first time since this whole endeavor began. When I woke, they checked how far I had dilated. A two, they told me – only a two.
7 pm rolled around, and with staff change came a new nurse who suggested I use the peanut ball between my legs. Not 30 minutes after that ball was placed, I was dilated to a 10. Her head was crowning. The staff rushed in, and in a mere 2 pushes, Ophelia was born. We had made it!
I demanded skin to skin right away, and delayed cord clamping. The staff made sure to tell me repeatedly not to expect that my daughter would latch or nurse, that this was a tough gestational age and the failure rate was high for breast feeding.
I listened cautiously, but continued to pursue. She refused to fail – we refused to fail. She did such an amazing job. The pediatrician told us it was important that we triple feed (breast, pump, bottle,) as she was born at 4lbs 10oz, it was very important that she get enough milk to gain weight.
Triple feeding is hard. Very hard – on everyone. I don’t know that I slept almost at all the whole month I triple fed Ophelia.
At this point – after delivery - we were using donor milk until my own milk came in.
After three days in the regular mother baby recovery ward, they were not convinced she could thrive on her own. Her bilirubin levels continued to rise, she couldn't hold her temperature, and she wasn't gaining weight, even though we were triple feeding. She was sent to the NICU to be put on a bili-bed wrapped in a bili-blanket for jaundice.
She spent four days there. It was the longest, most difficult four days of all my life. We stayed at the hospital in their accommodations for NICU baby parents. The tiny cube of a room made it all the more unbearable.
I found solace in my husband. He was my polar during the whole journey. Every two hours, I would go and feed her at my breast. It made it all worthwhile - nothing felt better than her tiny body against mine, her little hands working to get my milk, her suckling.
We brought her home - after a week in the hospital, and we continued to feed at the breast. Thankfully, my milk came in on day two, so after we left the hospital there was no need to supplement with donor milk. She continued to excel. Her pediatrician was surprised when she was back at birth weight a week later, doubled her birth weight by three months, and is now almost a whopping 16 pounds.
When I tell people she was/ is a preemie, they don't believe me. She has rolls on rolls. I believe she wanted to nurse as much as I wanted her to breast feed. We both loved it! I think that's the biggest thing that led to our success. I stayed strong, and persistent. My husband encouraged me, my mother encouraged me, my peers, my co-workers, they ALL encouraged me to trudge on. I'm so glad I did. I will continue to feed her at my breast as long as she wants it. She deserves it!
Today, I feed her on demand when we are together, and she takes a bottle when I am at work. Some of my family is less supportive of this, with comments like "you always give her the boob," and "you're going to regret letting her nurse so much." But my advice? Ignore them. The bond you share with your babe is so special. Don't let them ruin that for you. They are only little for so long. Cherish them. My daughter is my world, and whether or not I am creating a monster with letting her nurse this much is untrue - but irrelevant. Nurse on, mamas!
Was there something that changed your story for better or worse? We would love to hear about it in the comments or leave this mama some kind encouragement! If you would like to share your story please contact me and we can start to plan your perfect mommy and me session!