My name is Jessica and I have the most beautiful daughter. The last 8 months have been a roller coaster and I wanted to share it with you and your readers:
When I woke up on November 16, the last thing I thought I would do was have a baby. I was 32 weeks pregnant, and my water broke. All I could do at the hospital was cry. I wasn't ready, the baby wasn't ready, my boobs weren't ready. Well, Elizabeth was ready!
She was born a mere 5 hours later. I got to see her for a few short seconds before she was rushed off to the NICU. She needed oxygen at first, then intubation and a vent along with two doses of surfactant to help her lungs inflate/deflate properly.
I started pumping that evening, and continued for about a week or so until I could start trying to nurse.
She didn't take her first feeding until Saturday, November 20th. I remember the exact date because that was a HUGE day for us. That was the first time we got to hold her. We couldn't even touch her before then. A few days later, we were given the go ahead to try to nurse.
At first, Lizzie would open wide, take the while nipple into her mouth, I would get my hopes up....and then she would quickly fall asleep. So, the nurses started letting her latch while gavaging her feeding. That way she would start to realize that mamma's nipple meant full tummy. At that point she was battling jaundice. She was under lights for a total of 10 days. During those 10 days, I could only take her out to attempt to nurse once a day, and she could only be out of the isolette for 45 minutes, maximum. This meant that usually, we would spend most of the 45 minutes struggling her sleepiness to get her to nurse, and my poor husband would only get to snuggle her for 10 minutes or so after I finally gave up and let them gavage a few milliliters.
Slowly, but surely, Lizzie started to get the hang of it. As she grew stronger and more stable, she got moved around to different spots in the NICU. I found out later that a couple of the nurses advocated for us to have the best spots in the corner because she was a good nurser and deserved the good spot - with more privacy.
We spent 29 days in that NICU, and by the end of it, Elizabeth was breastfeeding full feeds at least three times a day, and taking the others from a bottle. Thanks to my diligent pumping right from the beginning, she has only ever had breast milk.
We came home on December 15th, and the transition to full time breastfeeding was hard - on both of us. She had to work harder more often, and I had to spend virtually 24 hours a day with a 5lb baby attached to my breast.
Just when we were getting into a groove and both my husband and I were getting more than 2 hours of sleep at a time, BAM! I needed my gallbladder out - the day before Christmas Eve.
I was told that I needed to pump and dump for at least 24 hours after my surgery, and 24 hours after my last pain pill. I had a nice freezer stash, but not that nice. I only took the prescribed pain pills for one day so I could go back to nursing as soon as possible. I was more determined than ever to not give my daughter any formula. Hey, we made it through a whole month of being separated, I wasn't about to let one little bitty surgery get in my way now! Thankfully, an amazing friend offered to donate some of her frozen milk to bridge any shortage I may have had.
Once I recovered from surgery, we were back to smooth sailing. The amount of time she needed to complete a whole feeding had gone down to about 20 minutes or so, I was actually getting a little sleep, things were great!
Then I went back to work part time.
I was (and am) able to pump once (sometimes twice) during my work day, which is about 7 hours long, including drive time. I did everything to keep my supply up and keep enough milk in the fridge for her. I even pumped while driving. Slowly my supply started to dwindle and my pumping output went way down. *Enter amazing, beautiful, milk donating friend* She not only donated MORE milk to help us out, but gave me tips and encouragement to help get my supply back up. I have to admit, during that time, the sample cans of formula were looking kinda nice.
After trying fenugreek, oatmeal, sports drinks, and tons of water, my supply finally came back.
Now, Elizabeth is eight (8!!!) months old and nursing like a champ. We actually just had a day when she was ALL about the boob and wanted nothing to do with my husband or anyone else. He jokingly said, "Remember when it was a struggle to get her to eat? Geez, where'd that kid go?" Hmph.
She is starting to become more and more mobile, and more and more busy, so lately nursing has been the only break time we get. I love sitting down to feed my amazing daughter and looking into her eyes. We have such a special bond.
I am so very proud of her for being so strong so early. She has shown me a strength I have in myself that I never knew was there. I couldn't have done any of this without the help of my cheerleaders, including my amazing, supportive husband.
It was all so worth it.