My birth experiences-also known as Night and Day!

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I always new I wanted to breastfeed my children, what I did not know was how profoundly this decision would affect our lives and how we have ended up parenting our kids.  This is how it all started, not ideally with baby number one (night), and almost exactly according to my plan with baby #2 (day).

My first pregnancy was a difficult one.  I developed gestational hypertension (VERY HIGH blood pressure) at 26 weeks, was admitted to hospital twice, sent home on bed rest for 9 weeks and then induced at 35 weeks due to Intrauterine Growth Restriction-a scary medical term that means your baby has stopped growing in utero.  At 9 PM on December 11th, 2006, our 3 pounds, 13 ounces baby boy was born and after a brief kiss from me was whisked away to the NICU with Daddy in tow.  He was attached to a heart and lung monitor, started on an IV and they tried to hook him up to an oxygen (CPAP) machine, but he yanked it out immediately.  It was at least two hours before I got up to the NICU and I did not get to hold him.  He was a tangle of wires and tubes and beeping monitors and he was so small, so fuzzy and so perfect!  I wanted to hold him, but they were still doing tests on him and I didn't even know how I was supposed to do that given all the equipment he was attached to.  It wasn't until I snuck back up to the NICU at 3 AM and the nurse on duty asked me if I wanted to hold him, that I finally held my baby boy.

I was not allowed to nurse him for about 36 hours because of various tests that needed to be done and so his first sustenance was IV fluids (not what I had in mind for my baby!!).  I made it very clear to the nurses that I only wanted him to get my colostrum and breast milk and that I was NOT going to feed him formula at all.  And so I sat there in front of his incubator and pumped and pumped as I watched my son and visualized him latching on and drinking from my breasts.  At first they tube fed him my colostrum and after a few days when my milk came in he was given my breast milk with a bottle.  His daddy and I tried to be there for all of his feeds, so that we were the ones snuggling him and feeding him.  On his third day in NICU, the lactation nurse came to see us and said it was time to get him on my breast!  I was elated, finally we could get the breastfeeding going and it would be perfect and he would gain weight and we could go home.  And then we tried, and it didn't work.  His little mouth was so small and my boob was bigger than his head!  How on earth were we going to figure this out??  But, I refused to give up.   Every day we tried more and more and eventually we started to get the hang of it.  I was not going to feed him formula at home and so I had to stay at the hospital day and night for a week until he gained enough weight to be discharged.

I won't lie and tell you it was all rosy from then on. It wasn't....  At home I didn't have the NICU nurses there to encourage and give suggestions on positioning and how to get a better latch and the countless other little tidbits of advice they had.  Many a night I ended up in his room in the rocker, bawling my eyes out because I was sure he was not getting enough milk, wondering why this was so hard and why we could not figure it out??

It was a chance meeting at our local natural parenting store that changed our lives.  I met another mama whose son was a preemie and had had a difficult time at the beginning as well.  She invited me to a La Leche League meeting and to be honest--I had never heard of LLL before then.  I started going to the meetings, meeting other mother's and their babies and the leaders and realized that I had found my community.  They gave me the confidence to breastfeed in public, the encouragement to keep on going even when it seemed futile and the general thumbs up for my decisions to extend breastfeeding, nurse while I was pregnant and to tandem nurse as well.

The first 4-5 months of breastfeeding my son are kind of a blur in my mind.  It was hard, I cried - A LOT, and it was a struggle for both of us. His mouth and body were just so small, that we never quite mastered a good latch during that time.  We had to use a nipple shield longer than I wanted to and more often than not I had to pump and then feed him more with a bottle just to make sure he got enough breast milk. When he was about 6 months old and hitting a growth spurt, his nursing demands got a little more uhm....demanding, it was then that we figured out how to nurse while laying down and/or sleeping.  And this made all the difference!!  Seriously! From that point on, breastfeeding my son was a breeze and continued for the next 2 and a half years!!

I was pregnant again with my second child when my son was 14 months old.  You may be wondering how that is possible, and I'll just tell you that I don't what I did to piss off Mother Nature, but I started menstruating again when he was only 8 weeks old!  Yup, you heard me right--8 weeks!  So getting pregnant was a breeze for us, I did not have to stop breastfeeding at all.  And he continued to nurse all the way through my pregnancy with absolutely no indication that he wanted to stop.

With my second child, I had a PLAN!  A birth plan, a doula plan, a breastfeeding plan.  It was typed and printed and EVERYONE involved in my prenatal care and in the labor and delivery of my child had a copy!  Because of my first complicated pregnancy, I was monitored very closely with baby #2.  I had ultrasounds every 3 weeks and was seen by the perinatology group at our hospital.  Despite everything that had happened the first time around, I had the most normal pregnancy EVER with baby number two.  Up to the 41 weeks that is--I just could not be pregnant anymore and was induced on a Tuesday morning after a long weekend.

I was induced with the Cervidil insert for both my babies and for some reason, I respond VERY quickly to those darn prostaglandins.  With birth #2, within an hour and a half of having it inserted I was having active labour contractions.  My daughter was born 5 hours later (naturally) and had it not been for some meconium at birth, would have been on my breast within 5 minute of being born.  Because of the meconium, she had to be assessed by the NICU team and suctioned for a bit, but was back in my arms and latched on to my breast like some kind of super baby at 40 minutes old!!!  She nursed practically all night long that first night and I could not have cared less!

I don't know this for a fact, but I think that part of the reason that everything seemed so easy with her is that I was still nursing my son at the same time.  I did not have to wait for my milk to come in, did not have to deal with massive stripper boob engorgment and did not have the same apprehensions and issues that were there with my son.

I have had two drastically different birth and breastfeeding experiences, and both have made me the mom that I am today.  Hopefully my experiences can help me help other moms to persevere through the tough times, rejoice in the successes, no matter how big or small and see breastfeeding as the wonderful life experience that it is!

Thanks for reading, Natasha~

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