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Birth Story #3

Birth Story #3

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Labor & Birth Stories- Read real birth stories featuring hospital births, water births, cesarean births, complicated births, and home births! Please note some birth stories are graphic!

FALLON'S BIRTH AND BREASTFEEDING STORY

My husband, Greg, and I kept a journal the day Fallon was born and the first few weeks of her life so I have many details written down, but many will come from my own memory of them...

Because of the baby's size (predicted 10+ pounds) and the fact that I was a week overdue, combined with the fact that my husband's leave would run out soon, my OB and I mutually agreed to induce on August 18, 1994, one week after the original August 11 due date. Since I had stayed in California for the duration of the pregnancy while Greg was transferred to St. Louis in February, he had flown out for a month's leave so he'd be here when the baby came. He came a week before she was due, hoping she'd be early or at least on time. Since he only had a month, and 3 or 4 days of it would include him driving my car back to St. Louis, we really felt the pressure of time. We had the choice of waiting it out another week, but that would mean Greg would have had to leave when the baby was only days old and I would more than likely have had to stay on at Mom's a week or so longer. So we opted to induce in order to ensure that Greg would have almost 2 weeks with the baby and that we'd have time to make sure everyone was healthy before moving to St. Louis. We planned on Greg driving back and my Mom and I flying out with the Baby at the end of August.

On August 18 at 7:30 a.m. we checked in to Petaluma Valley Hospital. The head nurse was the mother of a high school classmate of mine, and although the nurse was a strict, no-nonsense type, she and I hit it off fairly well because we had something in common to talk about. Her son and I had been friends and we shared stories back and forth. It was a good diversion throughout the day, especially when she brought out pictures of her family. I found out she is a real softie despite her outward appearance.

Once hooked up to the fetal monitor, I was told I was having fairly strong contractions, but I hadn't even noticed. I made some remark like "Those? I didn't know those were contractions! They're nothing!" I had felt very minor cramps that morning, but nothing I'd have called a contraction. So maybe I would have gone into labor on my own that day...I'll never know.

At 8:10, they started the Pitocin, and by 8:20 the nurse said the contractions were about 2 to 5 minutes apart. At this point my OB came in and broke my water. It was only as uncomfortable as a pap smear and I was fascinated by the amount of liquid and how hot it was. At 8:30 they upped the Pitocin. So far things were going smoothly and I was looking forward to the long day's work. At least I hoped it would only be a day!

At 9:00 I had the first really strong contraction. It was uncomfortable, but I just made an effort to relax and it was fine. Greg was totally fascinated by the whole thing and especially with the fetal monitor. We were really getting excited and having a good time! We were both in good spirits, although nervous about what was to come. We could not wait to get our hands on our baby!

My Mom arrived at the hospital at about 9:30 and stayed until after the baby was born. Early in the pregnancy I asked her to stay with us during labor and the birth. Since Greg was in St. Louis for most of the pregnancy, Mom was a big support and even attended some of the childbirth classes with me. I also felt that being there would give her an extra closeness to this baby that she might not get with us moving so far away. She ended up spending most of the time reading or looking around. Really hung back and waited. Looking back on it, it must have been pretty boring!

So we went along throughout the day, the contractions getting stronger and closer together. At one point they were back to back and a nurse came in and asked why we hadn't said something and she turned the Pitocin down a bit. For the most part, we were left alone all day. The nurses only came in once in a while to check the monitor and the Pitocin, ask how I was doing etc. I really liked that. My OB came in once again to see how things were going. Everything was going as planned. Although the contractions were strong, we were getting through them by doing our deep breathing and just trying to relax. I also used a lot of visualization. I just pictured the baby working hard to move down with each contraction.

At about 1:30 p.m. I started feeling very dizzy and got a bad case of the shakes. Since I tend toward hypoglycemia and I hadn't eaten since the liquid breakfast at about 8:00 I suspected that was what was going on. Up until then I had been alternating between walking around the room and rocking in the rocking chair, or just standing, but once I started getting dizzy I had to sit down. The nurse came in and I asked for something of substance to eat and she went to get some juice. When she returned, she very sheepishly said something about maybe now is the time to consider some pain relief, or maybe something just to take the edge off. I refused at first, but I knew I was so out of it, and thought maybe just one shot would be all I would need to get my act together, so I agreed. At 2 pm I had my first shot of Fentonyl, a narcotic similar to Demerol. It lasted less than an hour, but it was just enough to relax me and get rid of the shakes and let me focus. The contractions were very strong and by a quarter to 3 , I was asking for another shot. I got it and kept going. At a quarter to 4, I asked again and I was told no it was too close to pushing. They checked me and I was 9 cm dilated. I didn't think I could go on but I kept thinking about Fallon and how she would arrive very soon.

The nurse said at that point that I could go ahead and push if I wanted to. Now, looking back, I know I shouldn't have because I wasn't fully dilated and never had the urge to push that they tell you to expect, but I was so eager to get the baby out that I did it. Well, I ended up pushing for 2-1/2 hours. I had the most intense leg cramps imaginable, my ribs felt like they were busting and I couldn't reach my legs to hold on. I was in a semi-sitting position and I had wanted to squat. I could barely breathe because Fallon was so high on my ribs. The pushing stage overall was far worse than any part of labor. I have never worked so hard in my life. In fact, it was so exhausting that I skipped a few contractions and didn't push because I needed a break. I don't think this would have been possible if I had been really ready and had that undeniable urge to push. I was pretty oblivious to what was going on, just focusing on Greg and the baby and pushing with all my might. Finally the nurse said just one more and the next thing I knew Fallon's warm wet body was on my belly. That was the most wonderful feeling in the world! I was surprised to see her but so happy! I held her to me and told her how beautiful she was. She was gorgeous. She had a head full of black curly hair and pudgy round cheeks and the cutest little lips I had ever seen. I was amazed and I hollered out how wonderful this felt and that I could have 10 kids! Delirious I know, but I truly felt that overall it was not too much work or pain for the wonderful reward I got at the end. Within minutes, Greg whisked her away to my parents who were both sitting there in awe (Dad joined mom sometime during the pushing). Greg couldn't stop crying. He was so happy and so proud. Everyone was crying, even my father. Greg brought her back to me and I held her and looked her over some more as they began stitching me up. Evidently I didn't tear until the last minute and I tore pretty badly. I asked if I could nurse her right away and they wanted me to wait until I had delivered the placenta and they had stitched me up.

Later on, I found out that Fallon's shoulders had been stuck for quite some time. I had no idea this was going on, I was just pushing away, but my Mom said they were preparing the Operating Room for an emergency C-Section...They were going to push her head back in and do a C-Section because she would not come out! What they ended up trying first was that my OB reached in and grabbed Fallon by the arm and literally pulled her out of me during that last push. Fallon's right arm was weak afterward and we were instructed to exercise it to help rebuild any pulled muscles/ligaments. Later on during an exam we noticed a bump of scar tissue on her collar bone and now know that it was probably broken during the birth. I have a lot of hard feelings about that part of the birth, but am grateful not to have had to have a C-Section. I did some research and found that pushing too soon and being semi-sitting can contribute to shoulder dystocia. If I had been squatting or on my hands an knees, she may have been able to turn better and not become lodged in my pelvis. I'm hoping to avoid that problem with my next child.

Back in the delivery room, I was finally allowed to nurse Fallon at 7:15 (she was born at 6:38). She latched on right away and made the cutest little sounds, like she was saying "Ahhhh I've been waiting for this!" She sounded so sweet, like she was enjoying it so much. It was the second best feeling I have ever had, next to having her hot little body on my stomach. She fell right to sleep after that and Greg continued to show her around the room. By then my Grandmother and brother and sister in law were there, and a little later aunts and uncles. All together we had almost 2 hours before anyone from the hospital even took her away to weigh her! They did the preliminary things in the room, but it was kind of funny because people were getting ready to go home and no one knew how much she weighed! I was grateful to have had so much time with her. Greg and my father accompanied her to the nursery where they did the tests and gave her a shot. She weighed in at 9 pounds and 4 ounces and was 22 inches long. It seemed like they were gone forever, but Mom kept me company as I ranted and raved about what a piece of cake the whole thing had been. She looked at me like I was crazy because I think it was really hard for her to see me in so much pain, but to me it was all relative. So we talked about how pretty Fallon was and marveled at her dark, long hair. It was past her collar! Even though the nurses and doctors all told us it would fall out, we knew Greg had Cherokee in him and thought that it would stick. It did!

Back at the room, we held Fallon forever. We were just so amazed. I ate and tried to nurse her again. She seemed like a pro. I used the football position because I couldn't get the hang of the cradle hold right away. My breasts are fairly large and her head kept falling down under it. It felt really awkward so I switched to the football hold with lots of pillows. It was so easy to see her and make sure she was opening her mouth really wide. It was the best feeling nursing this tiny little baby. She was very sleepy and would only nurse a few minutes at a time so I let her rest. We tried to get some sleep but were too wound up. We just sat and stared at her for hours! We roomed in 100%. The only time we were separated was when they took her for a blood test in the middle of the night and Greg was sound asleep and I was too uncomfortable to go along on my own. Greg did go with earlier when they took her picture. Other than that she spent the whole time in one of our arms or, later in the night when we did think maybe we could sleep, in the bassinet. When she was in there I had to hold her hand the whole time, or let her suck on my finger. I don't think I ever did sleep that night. I did continue to nurse her every once in a while, but got conflicting advice from different nurses as to whether I should be waking her up to nurse or just letting her sleep. So I did both. I wanted to nurse her, but it was so hard to get her to wake up, so I gave up a few times and she ended up sleeping for 4 or 5 hours at a time. Between feedings, I wore breast shells I had bought at about 8 months to help me correct flat nipples. They worked like a charm and by about 1 week the problem was corrected permanently.

The next day we were anxious to get home, and after the pediatrician came at about 4 pm we were allowed to check out. The pediatrician did say that Fallon had A- blood and that since mine was O+ she would likely become jaundiced in the next day or so, which she did. Other than that and the shoulder weakness, she checked out great. We couldn't wait to get her home to show off to family.

At home, we had a bunch of people waiting for us. I cried uncontrollably as we carried her in the house, thinking about the reality of us bringing our very own baby home. It was such a special feeling and at the same time terrifying! We shared her with everyone and looking back I probably tried too hard to be "back to normal" too soon. Next time I'm going to hibernate in the bedroom and get some rest for a few days! I really did feel pretty good physically, once I sat down! But after a couple of hours I was ready for everyone to leave, and they didn't. In fact mom invited everyone to stay for dinner so I felt pressured to help "entertain." I ended up in tears because I wanted to visit but still wanted to just go off with my baby and be by ourselves. So I went off to nurse frequently, which continued to go well.

The day after we got home from the hospital, a nurse came to visit. She checked Fallon's temperature, asked how I was feeling etc. We reported that all was well except that she was keeping us up at night. The nurse advised us to try to "teach" the baby the difference between night and day by making sure all the lights were on and window shades open during the day and it was very dark and quiet at night. Fallon had also become jaundiced by this time, which we were warned about in the hospital because she and I have different Rh factors. Before we left the hospital the pediatrician had told us that if it appears to call her and let her know and make sure she gets lots of exposure to sunlight. We began undressing her and putting her bassinet in front of the window for about 10 minutes a few times a day.

Up until 2 days after she was born, Fallon was a happy very alert baby. She spent an amazing amount of time staring at everyone and everything around her. She rarely cried, and when she did I could nurse her right away and she would settle down. On her 3rd night, she began long screaming spells. We spent hours walking her, singing to her, trying everything . It was a nightmare to see my precious angel in such distress for such long periods of time with nothing I could do to console her. The whole family tried to calm her down but it would only last for 10 or 20 minutes, around the clock. It was awful. I called my cousin who had had a colicky baby and she recommended Mylicon drops. I also read in Dr. Sears' "The Baby Book" that cutting out dairy from my diet might help. I called the pediatrician first thing in the morning and she recommended hot baths, motion etc. and the drops if I felt they helped. We got the drops and they did seem to help a little, but now Fallon would start screaming when I offered her the breast. Greg had written in our little notebook: "August 22 (4 days old) 10:00 Taking little sucks then cries." There are several other entries like this, where she refuses to nurse or starts then cries. I began pumping to relieve my engorgement because she wasn't nursing well and my milk had come in on the 4th day.

I called La Leche League that Monday and it was one of the hardest calls I have ever made. I had been to one meeting prior to having Fallon and was very comfortable with the leaders. But the thought of calling them made me feel like something was wrong. I got very nervous and put it off a few hours. When I finally got up my nerve I described the situation and emphasized that Fallon would cry when I tried to nurse her. The leader was very helpful in most things but did say that I should try to get the baby calmed down before I tried to nurse her, which I had already been doing. I must admit I was a little frustrated with the leader because I kept saying that she would start nursing and then cry and the leader kept telling me to get her to stop crying first and then nurse. But the rest of the information was wonderful. One of the best things she told me was to help with engorgement, which I had for about 2 days after the milk came in. She told me to pour about a cup of water in a disposable diaper and heat it a little in the microwave to make a hot compress. That way, you don't get wet, it's reheatable, and those little newborn diapers fit perfectly in a bra. I still tell people about this. I used that method to encourage a let down so I could express a little milk to soften the breast so Fallon could latch on. Then in between feedings I used ice packs.

By the time Fallon was 8 days old, her night time crying spells and gassiness had subsided, which I attribute to the elimination of dairy from my diet. She began sleeping better at night, but was still crying at feedings off and on. By the 8th day we were starting to get concerned because her wet diapers became less frequent and she had gone 2 days without a bowel movement. Thinking this was a normal progression once the meconium had left her system, we didn't worry about the lack of bowel movements since she was still having 6 wet diapers a day. But on that 8th day we decided to call the doctor and check, since it was a Friday and wanted to be able to see her if there was a problem. When we called the doctor and explained the situation to the nurse, she explained that babies can go anywhere from a day to 5 days without a bowel movement and that she is probably just getting her digestion in order. We asked could she be constipated from something in my diet and the nurse said probably not but we can see how it goes over the weekend. We also reminded her about the jaundice and she recommended we swing by just to have the doctor take a look at her. We did do that and the doctor literally met us in the courtyard, pinched Fallon's arms and legs and said it looks great and then went back into the office. I was glad the jaundice was going away but wished she had spent more time with us. As far as the bowel movements go, at that point we figured it's got to come out some time so we tried not to worry. She had been nursing for long periods and Greg had written in the journal about how he heard her swallowing and that it sounded "like someone drinking milk out of the carton...gulp...gulp...gulp..." so I don't think it ever occurred to us that she wasn't getting enough milk. She was still fussing when I tried to nurse her, but not every time. I had written down that she wasn't nursing as strongly but did it for longer periods of time. I did check in with LLL again and got ahold of a different leader this time. I explained about the lack of bowel movements and that I was concerned maybe Fallon was constipated. The leader told me breastfed babies are rarely ever constipated and as long as she was having 6 to 8 wet diapers a day that she was fine, that every baby is different and not to worry.

By the 11th day, we had her first regularly scheduled post-partum pediatrician appointment. We still hadn't had a bowel movement so we were glad to be able to find out what was wrong, and had visions of Fallon having to have a rectal laxative inserted or something equally fun. As soon as we got there and the nurse had weighed Fallon we knew something was terribly wrong. She weighed 7 pounds and 3-1/2 ounces, a full 2 pounds less than her birth weight. I immediately started crying uncontrollably, even before the nurse had left to get the doctor. Greg had tears in his eyes as well. I just kept looking at him and saying "Oh my God" between the sobs. It took forever for the doctor to get to us. When she did she looked her over head to toe and asked us how she was eating. I said she was crying when I tried to nurse her and the doctor said "Is it like she pops off after she starts?" I said, "I guess you could say that..." All this time she was examining her. She finally got to her ears and said she had an ear infection! That was why she was screaming when I tried to nurse her. I was shocked! How could my baby have gotten an ear infection!?! I was glad to know it was something treatable but I felt so incredibly guilty for not bringing her in or for not somehow knowing something serious was going on. And then to top it all off, when I said that Fallon hadn't had a bowel movement since Thursday, the doctor said, "Of course not. She's starving!" I totally fell apart at that point. I felt so terrible for starving my baby. I had visions of her wasting away. That was the lowest moment in my life, hearing those words.

After I collected myself, the doctor asked a bit more about what was going on as far as nursing and she told me to rent an electric pump right away and begin pumping every 2 hours around the clock to get my milk supply back up, since Fallon obviously had not been nursing effectively because of the pain it would cause her ears. She also said to give the expressed breastmilk to Fallon in a cup or medicine dropper since it would be too painful to nurse, and we would want to avoid nipple confusion with a bottle. She said that a few times a day I should try to nurse her, even maybe giving her Tylenol before hand, just so she wouldn't forget how to nurse at the breast. She instructed me to bring Fallon in every day to have her weighed. She prescribed Amoxicillan and we left. I'll never forget that ride home. We were both so upset. We had no idea that things were this wrong. We never even noticed the weight loss, but now when we looked at her it was obvious. So then we felt guilty again and kept asking why we didn't know, why we didn't bring her in, how could this happen, etc. We went directly home and within minutes Greg was sent to get an electric pump.

My first tries at pumping were so discouraging. I would pump 20 minutes or a half hour on each side and get only 1 or 2 ounces total, which I thought was hardly any. I was so worried that I wouldn't be able to express enough to feed Fallon. We gave her everything I could manage to pump, which I did do around the clock every 2 hours. Sometimes Greg would feed her while I was pumping and I remember feeling so sad that she had to eat that way. Greg of course felt very helpful and was very sweetly giving her the milk little by little out of a dropper. She would look into his eyes and he would tear up. There were many moments when I couldn't relax enough to get a let down for the pump, so I used the hot diapers again and would look at Fallon imagining the day when she would be able to nurse on my breasts exclusively. I did try to nurse her but it was obviously painful to her and all I could think about were the times when I had almost forced her to nurse all the while she was screaming, remembering it, but now knowing I had been hurting her. I just couldn't do it any more than I had to so at the first sign of rejection I let her go. The image of me trying to nurse her through those screaming spells still haunts me, as I imagine the pain she must have been in. I wished I had listened to her instead of trying to continue despite her cries.

After a day of pumping, we decided it was best to supplement the expressed breastmilk with a little formula. This was the toughest decision we had ever made. It was so hard, as I had wanted to avoid formula, but my supply had decreased so much and we were so concerned about her gaining her weight back, that we felt it would be best . I was still pumping every 2 hours during the day, and every 4 at night, looking forward to the day that we could toss that formula! By the 3rd day, we had switched to a bottle, since Fallon was getting frustrated with the dropper. But after a couple days I was able to nurse her about half time, and we both felt a lot better about that! By the 6th day, I felt ready to go back to exclusive nursing. It just happens that this was the day that my mother and I were to fly into St. Louis to meet Greg, and essentially move across the country. Fallon had gained a pound in that week, and her ears were clear. I was so nervous about being able to nurse her exclusively, but we were leaving the rented electric pump behind for good and I had no choice. So Mom and I went to the airport and went for it! We did bring a couple or small cans of formula "just in case" but I am happy to report we never opened them. We got through about 8 hours of traveling with me nursing Fallon on demand and in public, at only 2 weeks, and only 6 days after finding out about her ear infection and 2 pound weight loss.. From that day on, until she was about 6 months Fallon received only breastmilk.

Our nursing relationship continued and as time went by I fell more and more in love with my baby. She was like an angel. She did still have fussy periods that I could trace to some food I had eaten...Even a piece of cheese on a burger would set her off. She did have trouble with throwing up a large amount every day, at least once. The pediatrician kept telling me it was just a case of getting "too much, too fast" but unfortunately didn't tell me what to do about it! She made it sound like it was normal and she will grow out of it, so I just put up with it. I didn't even mention it to my LLL Leaders, at least not as a problem I was having...It wasn't until about 2 or 3 months that I realized I had an oversupply problem. I read an article in "The Doula" magazine about overabundant milk supply and so many of the symptoms fit us! Gassiness, very short nursings (she was nursing only 5 minutes at a time), milk spraying across the room, vomiting...So I took their advice and started to nurse on only one side at a time. It worked! It took a while for the supply to settle down, but the gassiness ended, she stopped throwing up, I sprayed and leaked very little, and she started nursing for longer periods. She still never really nursed for more than 10 minutes, but that was all at one side. She compensated by continuing to nurse every 2 hours and every 4 at night until she was about a year! I have done a bit of research about oversupply and it can now be classified as one of my "causes," as I think it is a very common but frequently overlooked problem. I have since found out that it can cause nursing strikes, "self-weaning" at an early age, and nipple soreness as well as the symptoms I had.

At about 4 months I needed to be away from Fallon for 4 or 5 hours to take an exam to get a Missouri teaching certificate. At that time I was still planning on returning to teaching, mainly for financial reasons, at least part time, sometime when Fallon was 1 or 2. This was to be the first time I would be away from her for more than 2 hours and we had tried for months to get her to take a bottle in preparation for this, but to no avail. Someone at a League meeting suggested we try a sippy cup--the kind with the flip-up straws. It worked! So that day Fallon had her first mommy-milk without me. I was surprised that a baby that young could drink from a straw, but she did a great job! It was SO hard to be away from her. I ended up passing the test, but I don't know how, because I was so distracted thinking about Fallon at home!

Fallon's weaning started at about 5-1/2 or 6 months when we gave her her first solid food. I hesitate to call it weaning though, because she never decreased the amount she nursed! We didn't use solids to replace feedings, but fed her after she had already nursed. I was very pleased with my pediatrician's attitude toward solids...She told us that for babies under a year, solids are mainly just for their enjoyment and experimentation. So we never pushed them on her, just offered when she seemed interested. Her first food was rice cereal. We soon found out that constipated her so we switched to baby oatmeal and barley. When she ate that first spoonful, I cried! She was growing up! And she wasn't dependent on me 100% anymore. It was a sad day, but I was excited for her. When she got it, she had this look on her face like she had been waiting for that all her life! She had been grabbing for our food and giving us that begging look since she was about 4 months, but I put it off as long as I could stand it. I struggled with that for a long time. I remember writing a friend of mine asking for advice, because I felt that beginning solids would be the beginning of the end of nursing, that she would prefer them over me, or that my supply would decrease...Wrong! On all counts. It barely affected our nursing at all, and I am grateful for that. Up until a year, Fallon continued to "nurse like a newborn," and we would offer her solids whenever we were eating. She didn't really eat much, just a taste here and there. I was concerned, but grateful that she was nursing so much because I knew she was getting a balanced diet no matter what she took in from other sources.

At right around a year, she began to ask to nurse less and less. It seemed to drop off very suddenly, sometime around just before she started to walk. Someone asked me how much she nursed then, and I counted the times she had nursed that day and it was only something like 5. Then there was the day around 13 months, when she was fussing a little, so I offered to nurse..."Do you want some mama?" Fallon toddled right over to the counter, raised her hands up and grunted! I offered again, and she grunted even louder! So I got the crackers she was eyeing and she was SO happy! I was crushed. That was a sad day, one that I will never forget, because it became crystal clear for me what self-weaning meant. But at the same time, I was thrilled to see that Fallon is growing up and is doing it on her time-table.

The rest, as they say is history. :-) Fallon is now a happy thriving 2 year old, never had another ear infection or any other illnesses thanks to breastfeeding.

 


 
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