When I got that positive line on the pregnancy test a million things raced through my mind – I was ecstatic. My husband and I had been trying for months to get pregnant with our second child; I couldn’t be happier.
I had lots of expectations, like most moms, of what this pregnancy, birth and child-rearing experience would be like. And one thing that weighed heavily on my mind was my desire to have a good breast feeding relationship with this baby.
With my son Miles, now three, I struggled with nursing. He lost more than 15 percent of his body weight while we were still in the hospital and continued to lose weight eventually being diagnosed with failure to thrive and falling off the growth chart meaning we supplemented with formula. But I tried just about everything to maintain a good breast feeding relationship – constant pumping, the use of a supplemental nursing system for supplementation, what seemed like around the clock nursing, daily visits with lactation consultants and more. Miles got a mixture of breast milk and formula for nine months before my breast milk diminished completely – not the breast feeding experience I’d at all imagined.
Looking back I see some of my pitfalls – a huge one being no skin to skin in the beginning. I didn’t even get to touch my son for a couple hours. I feel like this may have doomed me from the beginning. So I was determined to make immediate and constant skin to skin contact a priority.
But things, like with my first breast feeding experience, don’t always go as planned. I have a heart condition and pacemaker which makes things for me a little more complicated, especially in pregnancy. So within the first few weeks of pregnancy I had an appointment with a high risk obstetrician. The doctor said she thought I would either have to deliver in Indianapolis or deliver at The Heart Hospital with my baby immediately being taken to The Women’s Hospital where he would stay for the duration of our hospital stay. I’d get to see the baby once or twice a day.
Once or twice a day? Obviously this wasn’t going to work, especially with my desire to breast feed. I talked to my OB who said that wasn’t going to be the case—that we would figure something out.
After a few more complications arose later on in my pregnancy it became clear I wouldn’t be able to deliver the baby at The Women’s Hospital. There’d been two other babies born at The Heart Hospital and Deaconess Gateway handles one or two deliveries a year but in all those cases either the mother was too ill to care for the baby or the baby needed NICU care. They’d never encountered a situation like mine – a high risk (yet healthy) mom and baby with no complications.
With some persistence on my part and amazing work on the part of Dr. Foster and the entire team at The Women’s Hospital, a plan was hatched. There were meetings, phone calls, e-mails and compromise. I know at one point they had a room full of all the key players who would be involved in my medical care in a care conference. All along I’d stressed that separation not only would be traumatic for me but it would mean the end of my hopes for a positive breast feeding relationship. That was what I kept in mind each step of the way.
The end result was amazing, so much more positive than I think any of us expected. I gave birth to Owen at 38 weeks via a C-section performed at Gateway. The anesthesiologist allowed me to have immediate skin to skin contact while Dr. Foster continued the surgery. There was a lactation specialist in my private recovery area to help with the initial latch and with nursing. Someone from lactation made the trek all the way from The Women’s Hospital to Gateway (through a super-secret tunnel) for nearly every feeding those first 48 hours.
The care I received was amazing! I spent the first two nights at Gateway. While there I had two nurses assigned to just me – a cardiac nurse and a nurse from The Women’s Hospital. They all were aware of my strong desire to have a successful breast feeding relationship and did everything in their power to make it possible.
I was transferred to The Women’s Hospital after I stayed stable for the first 48 hours and spent two additional nights there. I continued to have amazing care and am so grateful to the staff and nurses who made the experience so positive.
And all that work was worth it. Owen and I are still going strong, fifteen weeks in even with a return to work. Until I went back to work he’d only gotten two bottles so the little guy definitely has this whole breast feeding thing down.
After I came home it wasn’t without speed bumps – I got thrush from the antibiotics I received after the surgery, there was a dip in weight gain for a short time and like many moms I struggled with latch. But the amazing care offered didn’t end when I left the hospital – I have taken full advantage of the trained lactation staff at The Women’s Hospital coming in several times for weight checks and to talk to an expert. And every single time the experience was amazing. I was helped, reassured that I was doing everything right and that I was a good mom – something we all fret about.
It’s been hard to say thank you enough. I know that a lot of people went to a lot of work for little old me. I’m not a celebratory, I’m not special, and I didn’t have to pay more. I’m just a mom who expressed a strong desire to successfully breast feed and bond with my kiddo who happened to have some additional medical concerns. And without missing a beat they all made it happen.
I apologized to nearly everyone that first day knowing that I was causing extra work and headaches; every single one of them talked about how they were happy to see the positive outcome. And now the hospital has a plan in place if this situation arises again.
For more information on The Lactation Services at the Women’s Hospital, click here.
This blog was originally published on The Women’s Hospital’s Breastfeeding Connection blog.