*This post is not meant to provide medical advice or be a substitute for a medical professional or lactation consultant. These are simply things I have learned after my own breastfeeding experiences.
Breastfeeding. it's supposed to be the most natural thing in the world. I mean our bodies were perfectly created to grow a baby, deliver it safely into the world, and then continue to nourish it with every single thing it needs. However, for one reason or another, breastfeeding doesn't necessarily come naturally. At least not to everyone.
I've written before about my struggles with nursing Caleb, especially at the beginning. I knew from the start of this pregnancy that there were a few things I didn't do correctly the first time around that I needed to correct from day 1 with Chloe. In the post I linked above, I mention how I was determined to make it work, and was able to make it work because of that determination, and in spite of having people doubt me. One of the things I did differently this time was have an in-home consultation with a lactation consultant. She told me, "Breastfeeding is 90% motivation, and only 10% skill." If you truly want to breastfeed, and you are willing to put in the work at first, then you can and you will.
I'm not going to cover everything about breastfeeding in one post - that's impossible. There's so much to know. But I will tell you the most important things to remember in the first few weeks.
Breastfeeding is 90% motivation, and only 10% skill.
So there you have my biggest tips for the beginning of your breastfeeding journey. Experienced mommas, what else would you add? Leave your tips in the comments!
P.S. I get that breastfeeding is not for everyone. This post is not meant to shame those moms who choose to feed their babies formula or expressed milk. A fed baby is a healthy baby. Do what you have to do, ladies! This post is only to tell you that if you truly want to breastfeed, you can!
*This post is not meant to provide medical advice. It is simply a retelling of my own birth story.
First off, my apologies for not having posted recently! The last few weeks of pregnancy were so uncomfortable that I could not sit for extended periods in front of the computer, and the first two weeks of postpartum were full of healing, and sitting in front of the computer was also out of the question then. I did try to work on hubby's laptop, but really, with a baby attached to you basically 24/7, it's nearly impossible.
So let's get right to it. After much anticipation, our little Chloe is finally here! As I mentioned above, the last few weeks of pregnancy were very uncomfortable. Filled with aches and pains, false contractions, and increasing number of Braxton Hicks, and an order from doctors to "take it easy," the last 3-4 weeks were pretty tough. I was fairly certain that Chloe would make her appearance early, around weeks 37-38. But she had other plans. While she was making me very uncomfortable and kicking my ribs every chance she got, she was quite comfy in there.
Each week, when I visited my OB's office, they must have sensed my desperation. At week 39 on the nose, I went in and the doctor offered to do a cervical check. He said if I was dilating and effaced, then we could talk about inducing labor. We had already discussed it and all the doctors I saw agreed that I was a good candidate for it, because I had already had a successful vaginal delivery with Caleb (I was actually helped along during his labor, too). So when my cervical check revealed that I was, in fact, 2 cm dilated and over 70% effaced, the doctor asked if I'd like to be induced. Eddie answered for me and said, "Doc, if you told her to cross the street to the hospital right now, she wouldn't argue with you on it." I agreed, and we set the date for induction two days later, on February 28 (I would have done it the following day, but it was our wedding anniversary, and I wanted Chloe to have her own day). I also knew the possible risk of an induction ending in a c-section, but my doctors seemed confident that that would not be the case, so we went ahead with the decision.
So we took the next day to prepare everything, I finalized all the arrangements for Caleb's care, and since we had been told to be at the hospital before 7, tried to get to sleep early. On the morning of the scheduled induction, they called me at 5:00 am and told us to report to the hospital at 6:30. My dad picked Caleb up to take him to school, so we knew he was taken care of for the day, and we headed to the hospital. With Caleb, I did this whole process while having contractions, so this time it was much less stressful. After completing registration, we were on our way to our delivery room. Please note, after this, my timing is just guesstimates or cross-checking with my text messages and updates I was sending to my friends because I was a little busy!
This is when it started to feel real. I changed into my hospital gown and got in bed. After getting settled in and setting me up with an IV, they gave me a bag of fluids so I would be well-hydrated. After that the doctor came in to discuss the action plan with me and he guessed that we would have a baby around 5:15 pm. He explained that the first part of labor would be the longest, with the least strong contractions. Once I was dilated 5-6 cm, he said it would move quickly. He also promised me that I would only push for five minutes. Yes, you read that correctly. FIVE. I was very excited about that, but highly skeptical.
Once he left, just around 9 am, they started me on Pitocin. Pitocin mimics the oxytocin that your body creates during labor and makes your uterus contract, causing, you guessed it, contractions. At first he started me off really low on the dosage, and went increasing it little by little. He said his goal was to get my body started with as low of a dosage as he could.
Side note: One of the things that we decided after Caleb was born was that Eddie and I would be in the delivery room by ourselves (I mean, there are like 10 hospital staff people in there too, but as far as family goes). However, after capturing birth photos for a great family a few months into this pregnancy, I decided I really wanted some for myself. My friend Cary from Cary Diaz Photography graciously agreed to do these for me. I think she was as on edge as I was in the days leading up to the delivery, but being induced made the day of feel much smoother. You can read her account of the day here. She captured everything I wanted her to, and she did an amazing job of it. What I really wanted captured were the emotions of the day, and I think she did an incredible job doing that!
A little after 11, the contractions started coming on a little stronger. They didn't really have a super distinct pattern, but they were getting more intense. The monitor they had on my belly wasn't telling us how strong the contractions were, so my doctor inserted a monitor that would measure the intensity of the contractions from the inside. At the same time, he broke my water.
At around 11:45, I got my epidural. Just like last time, I felt really faint after getting my epidural, so they had to push epinephrine because my blood pressure dropped so low (I have low blood pressure to begin with - even a very hot bath can make my blood pressure drop so low that I feel faint). The pain subsided after that, but I was still feeling pressure. At this point they also inserted a Foley catheter as well since I couldn't really move around anymore to empty my bladder myself.
Around 2:30 pm, my nurse checked me and said I was at about 7.5 cm. I was feeling really intense pressure, so they gave me this "peanut" to put between my legs. It's like a birthing ball but in the shape of a peanut. You put it between your legs and it's supposed to help open your hips up to help the baby move lower down in your pelvis.
By 4:30, I was feeling really intense pressure, and with every contraction, came the feeling of needing to push. When my nurse checked me, she said I was almost fully dilated, but that she thought I could push through it. She called the doctor in and he agreed with her. So they began preparing the room. By 5:15, everyone was in position and I was dying to push. I felt like I was going to burst with every contraction. After a few more instructions from the doctor and the nurse, I started pushing. I pushed through a contraction, and Eddie told me, "She's almost here. You're doing amazing." Once the contraction subsided, I took a break until I felt the next one coming. I pushed through the next contraction, and her head was out. The doctor told me to take a deep breath and relax for a few seconds. At the next contraction, he had me push again, and out she came, at 5:26 pm (and the doctor was right, I pushed for less than 5 minutes!)!
They immediately put her on my chest and left her there for a few minutes, which is something I didn't really get to experience with Caleb. While this was going on, the doctor was delivering my placenta and there were a million things going on in the room. All I could focus on was my baby.
[Caleb had the umbilical cord wrapped pretty tightly around his neck, and was having a hard time breathing, so I held him for maybe 30 seconds and then they whisked him away. I had been concerned about that with Chloe, but the doctor told us that with second (and subsequent) babies it's not usually an issue because the time they spend in the birth canal is so much shorter that the cord doesn't really become a danger to them.]
While the doctor stitched me up (I was starting to tear in the wrong direction so he had to perform an episiotomy - I had one with Caleb as well), they cleaned her up some and weighed & measured her (7 lbs 4 oz, 18 inches) and gave her her Apgar score (9.9 baby). She cried loudly, and I cried with her. A baby's first cry is one of the most emotionally charged sounds a new mom can hear.
I honestly don't know how I would have made it through either one of my deliveries without Eddie. He has been my rock. He counted for me while I pushed, he held my leg, looked into my eyes, and constantly told me I was doing an incredible job. He made sure my hair was out of my face, and that I was as comfortable as I could be.
Once they cleaned Chloe up, Eddie got to hold her for a few minutes while they finished cleaning me up. Then they gave her back to me and I lated her on to my breast. This was something I really wanted to be able to do, since I hadn't been able to do so with Caleb, and I feel like that hurt the start of our breastfeeding journey. She latched on right away, which made me so happy.
A few minutes later, Eddie went to get Caleb so he could meet his baby sister. It was love at first sight - I'll talk more about how we prepared him in another post. He brought her a present, and she had a gift for him. He wanted to hold her and hug her right away. Honestly, as a Mom, this made me happier than anything. Because it was the moment we became a family of four. (And now I'm crying again.)
The grandparents and my brothers each popped in for a few minutes, and about an hour after she was born, they took her off to the nursery to give her a bath and prepare her for her first night with Mom & Dad.
And that's the story of our baby girl's birth.