Luckily nothing of the horrible things the doctors said could happen actually happened and we got a 6 hours discharge.
My midwife and doula left very tired and Jordie looked like he was going to fall asleep any second. I was a bit tired too but so in love with that little bundle I was holding in my arms that I just couldn’t stop looking at her. I couldn’t have slept anyway because I didn’t want to put Sasha in the baby bed and the hospital bed was too small to safely co-sleep.
I had some second degree tears and a hospital midwife stitched me up. After that another midwife came to take Sasha’s measurements, do her footprints and also a print of the placenta. We took half the placenta home with us (I have dehydrated it but still haven’t ground it up or done anything else with it), the other half was sent to pathology to see if it really was the placenta that gave up and caused all the trouble. More visits by pediatricians followed and at some point I told them I don’t want them to touch Sasha with their cold hands anymore to do the same test for the tenth time. She looked fine so I wasn’t worried and only wanted to go home.
The 6 hours turned into more like 8 hours and then another midwife came in. She was about to discharge us but then said it was a bad sign that Sasha hadn’t eaten since directly after birth. She helped me wake her up but Sasha didn’t want to latch on. When I tried to hand-express some colostrum, almost nothing came out. When she heard that I had had a breast reduction when I was 19, she said I might not make enough milk. I was asked about the breast reduction a couple of times during my pregnancy but because I was told after the surgery that breastfeeding should be working just fine, I wasn’t concerned at all. I was sure that her being so sleepy and me not having much colostrum is due to the induction (and having just a few drops is normal anyway). Sasha was forced out of the place that was her home for the past 9 months and had had a long journey. I would be tired too! I haven’t slept in days and was pumped full of chemicals, no wonder I didn’t have enough colostrum. I was sure that everything would be find if we only left the hospital and went home to where I could relax and fully enjoy my baby.
The midwife was really nice and helpful but kept saying that Sasha has to drink. It got later and later and finally it was so late that I agreed to staying in the hospital for the night. She tried to make Sasha suck on her finger and we even gave her some formula (the midwife was nice enough to organise vegan formula). I still didn’t want to put Sasha in the crib so Jordie and I took it in turns to hold her while the other one of us slept.
We got up around 7 am and got ready to leave. Before we would leave though we had an appointment in the maternity ward with a lactation consultant. While we were sitting there, waiting for her, Sasha latched just fine and when the LC came she gave us a few more tips but said everything looks fine. She gave us some syringes and a feeding line anyway. We had one last talk with a doctor to get discharged (and got asked weird questions and were made feeling like stupid teenagers who don’t know what consequences sex has) and finally went home.
At home both Jordie and I were just staring at Sasha I awe. She was so tiny and so cute! Jordie slept a bit a but I still couldn’t get enough of her and couldn’t stop looking at her. The three of us were not wearing any clothes and had skin to skin with her basically 24/7.
Whenever she woke up I tried to feed her although she didn’t respond very well to the breast and I still couldn’t express any colostrum. I still thought that this is just because of the induction and that it’s normal for babies to be very sleepy and not drink that much. I did feel like my body is failing me though and Jordie was a bit worried so we asked Mary if she could express some milk for us. Mary sent me an article about galactagogue foods. The first two tips were: eat and drink enough. Riiiight… while I almost always drink enough, I had hardly eaten anything the last few days. The lack of sleep and not being relaxed probably didn’t help either. So I ate a big bowl of salad and just tried to relax.
Mary came round a bit later and we fed Sasha some of her milk by putting my pinky and the feeding line into Sasha’s mouth while Jordie pressed down the syringe.
Even that first night at home I didn’t sleep much because I just could not stop admiring her. But Sasha seemed fine and slept without crying or fussing too much.
Day 2 at home finally felt like it should have felt all along: The three of us in bed, cuddling, relaxed, and most importantly, Sasha on my breast. Everything was just bliss! All the worries and tension were just gone and I could finally enjoy motherhood.
Jordie was awesome. He did everything for us, I didn’t have to leave the bed at all. Again we spent the whole day in bed, naked, just staring at Sasha and admiring her. The rest of the time I tried to catch up with some sleep and Jordie cared for us by cooking food and just being there for us.
I even managed to cut up the placenta and put it in the dehydrator. I thought I would not want to do this since it is a piece of meat after all and I couldn’t imagine cutting it. But it turned out that it did not feel that weird and I took the time to say good bye to the placenta that was feeding and keeping Sasha alive for so long.
The night was a bit rough. Sasha was crying lots and nothing seemed to calm her. I offered her my breast and she took it. Bouncing on the springy bed in the guest room helped a little bit too but all up she was crying for 1.5 hours. The only thing I could do was just hold her and let her cry. It was so painful to watch. Of course I cried too.
On Monday morning Jordie had to sort out some work stuff so he went off and we were alone for a while. I went through a roller coaster of emotions: I was mostly happy and felt good but I was also very sleep deprived (I had slept for a total of only 18 hours in the past 6 days) and the night of Sasha crying and me not being able to comfort her was still on my mind. But the best thing was that feeding worked perfectly now! I was annoyed about all the things the midwives at the hospital had said. After all it seemed that everything was perfect. We did have a bad night again though with lots of crying but because she seemed fine during the day I wasn’t worried and thought that this is just normal.
Unfortunately Sasha kept crying constantly now when she was awake. She also hardly peed and pooed. Did I really not make enough milk? I got more and more sad and depressed and was now crying constantly too. I asked Mary if she could express some more milk for us which made it a bit better.
Due to her roster, Wednesday was the first time that our midwife came over to check on us in a couple of days and the whole picture changed: Sasha had lost way more weight than she should have and was very jaundiced. It seemed that the hospital was right after all. I really did not have enough milk. Now that she pointed it out Sasha did look yellow to me too and also more skinny.
I remember our midwife saying something about hand expressing into a syringe and when I proudly told her that I had got 3 ml she said that Sasha should be getting closer to 30 ml per feed now. I was devastated and could not stop crying.
Mary was awesome and posted on several facebook groups to find donor milk for us. And Jordie was even more awesome: I knew he would be there for us once Sasha was born (he sometimes seemed a bit uninterested before the birth) but I did not know that he would give 1000 percent! We set up a pretty rigid schedule to wake Sasha every 3 hours (including at night) and feed her formula that Jordie had got in the morning. Although I didn’t want to give Sasha formula I felt positive again for the first time in days. Sasha had been so lethargic and had cried so much but now she was drinking and then sleeping in my arms contently. Mary pumped some more milk for us and I got lots of replies to Mary’s posts. One mum offered us about 5 liters of milk, another one even 10! Some were even nice enough to drop it off, Jordie went to get it from others.
When I started researching, I realised that what I was told after my breast reduction surgery was plain wrong. I was told I should not have any problems with breastfeeding; that was the reason I never imagined that anything could not work out as it should and never researched any alternatives. But now I read that it is the other way round and women usually can’t fully breastfeed after a reduction.
Everything was still very overwhelming. There was so much to organise and I didn’t know how to do it all when a day has only 24 hours. Just replying to donor milk offers took a while, we also got a breast pump from the ABA (Australian breastfeeding association) because I would have to pump at least 8 times a day including at night to establish a good supply. My midwife already knew what I know now: This whole experience is good for something. It has taught me so much that I can pass on now.
Some of my best friends came over and brought food, hugs and different teas, herbs and homeopathics that would hopefully help increase my supply. It felt so good to be surrounded by these wonderful women and forget about all the troubles for a while. Jordie, who had been there for me 24/7 every day for over a week, got a bit of a break too and went to get a well deserved beer at the pub.
After the positive day before, Friday turned out to be one of the worst days. All of a sudden Sasha did not want to latch anymore and instead just started to cry whenever I tried to put my breast into her mouth. So we only fingerfed her with the syringe and tube. To top it all off, the amount I was able to express was ridiculous. I got more and more depressed and did not want to deal with it anymore. I felt very disconnected from myself and from Sasha. It seemed like she didn’t need me and rejected me. Anyone could have done the job of feeding her. Nevertheless I still had her skin to skin 24/7 (which probably saved us and made the breastfeeding relationship we have now possible). It was so hard to keep up normal tasks like eating when we had that rigid schedule of feeding and pumping and I didn’t even feel like eating because I was so depressed. On the other hand I was not quite ready to give up just yet and knew I have to nourish my body first if I want to be able to nourish my baby.
Jordie was still around the whole day and basically took over feeding Sasha so that I could pump at the same time. I still only got tiny amounts. It was another day of lots of tears and wondering if this is all worth it. But, stubborn as I am, I could not just give up.
Sasha was still not latching. Jordie tried to help but at the same time it annoyed me that he kept suggesting we give her a bottle. I didn’t want to do that because I still had hope to get her back on the breast and also that my supply could increase and I could exclusively breastfeed. On the other hand everything was very exhausting and giving her a bottle would have made things so much easier. I basically lived by the mantra: “I only have to get through today.” I could always give her a bottle the next day if I really wanted to give up.
On a positive note: since I started picking up on Sasha’s cues when she had to pee I tried the potty for the first time and she weed! This should be the start to our elimination communication journey.
I found a facebook group called Breastfeeding After Reduction (BFAR) that is based on the BFAR book my midwife lent me. I read that it’s common for babies to reject the breast if there’s no flow, so maybe Sasha will never go back to breastfeeding. I was so happy for all the information I found there but at the same time so annoyed that I didn’t know any of that before. I could have researched everything and been way more prepared, had they not told me that everything went well after the surgery and breastfeeding should work just normal! How could they? All I’m reading now is the complete opposite, that it is very rare that women can fully breastfeed after a reduction.
While reading all the old posts in the BFAR group, I read a comment by a mum who was asking another mum where she was located. Turns out that this mum also lives in Townsville!! I contacted her and we agreed to meet a couple of days later (and are friends now).
In the afternoon we had a doctor appointment. I was very anxious to leave the house. I did not feel ready to face the outside world and had thoughts like: “What if we don’t pack enough formula and everything takes longer and she gets hungry?” or “What if my milk dries up completely because I can’t pump often enough?” Well, my milk did not dry up and we did pack enough formula but it was a pretty bad experience anyway. During my pregnancy I only saw one GP in the very beginning and she was so bad that I wanted to try a new one. Unfortunately we picked an even worse one. This GP has children of her own so you would expect her to know how a new mum feels but, nope. Apparently not. When she asked how she could help us I started crying pretty badly. Instead of encouraging words or nothing at all she said: “Please don’t cry. You know that’s not going to change anything.” Apart from the “please” in the beginning this was everything but nice. And not even the “please” was nice. She sounded very condescending and zero empathetic. I actually did stop crying. Because I was so shocked and didn’t know how to react. I should have just walked away but I think I was too petrified to do anything. But we never went back to see her.
All my crying started to get to Jordie too but luckily I have some amazing friends who are very supportive. My friend Kate of Kate Louise Pearce – Edit your mindset reminded me that we can achieve anything, we just have to believe in ourselves and get rid of all the negative feelings. That night she inspired me so much that I decided to meet all my friends at the beach the next day despite (or actually because) I felt so shit.
In the morning we had an appointment with a lactation consultant in the birth centre but even before we went there, Sasha was latching again!! It must have been my positive thoughts! And my persistence.
The LC said we were on the right track and there is not much else she could tell us to do.
I’m not going to lie, I still had lots of bad days over the next few weeks (and of course I still have a bad day every now and then) but we were definitely over the worst now.
Fast forward to today, 6 months later, I am so used to our special circumstances that for me it feels rather normal.
My supply did not increase drastically so I still have to supplement around 50% of Sasha’s intake. To feed her I use a supplementing nursing system (SNS) now. That’s basically a bottle with a tube that you insert into the baby’s mouth while feeding at the breast. So far we were also able to exclusively supplement with donor milk (apart from the first few days before we got some). We found some regular donors as well as some one-off donations. Some big, some small, but every single drop feels sacred to me and I’m so grateful for it. I stopped pumping because it is frustrating to see how little there is and there is just no point in doing it. Sasha gets what I have and then there is just no more coming.
The SNS, together with the donor milk, makes for an almost normal breastfeeding relationship.