Stephen's Story (Part 1)

I can’t believe how long it has been since I have written an actual blog. I’ve been working on this one for weeks, and it still is so long that I’ll have to publish it in parts.

My life has changed so much that I don’t even feel like the same gal who started this blog! In many ways, that is a good thing. In other ways, I know it is going to take a while for me to get back to feeling “okay” again.

Life has been nothing short of a physical, mental, emotional, spiritual roller-coaster since I was 9 months pregnant. This is going to be a rather long post because there is a lot to tell, though to me, it’s the shortened version.

So much has happened that has caused me to question everything about God, myself, and what my purpose is. Don’t get me wrong. I absolutely LOVE my beautiful baby boy. I would go through it all again just to have him. But being a new Mom and going through all I have been through has really tried and challenged me to the breaking point, and there have been days where I just wanted to either jump through a window from frustration or crawl in a hole from a broken heart. However, the Lord has sustained us and though I still can’t see it, I know that He is using everything we’ve been through to make me (us) stronger.

I’ll go back to the 9th month of pregnancy. At my 38 wk. check-up, I had an ultrasound that (supposedly) revealed that I had IUGR (Intra-Uterine Growth Restriction). The doctor thought that the baby was not growing as he should be, and since he also thought my swelling and blood pressure had been a problem in the last few months (I was on partial bed-rest), he wanted to do a C-section. Now, the whole time I was pregnant, I knew that my due date was off. I measured small even from the beginning, and I kept telling him that I wasn’t as far along as he thought; however, I’m not one to argue about things like that and just said the baby would come when he was ready.

Let me tell you, when he said he didn’t think the baby was growing big enough, I was scared. And this doctor was pretty good at using the scare tactic. My little baby boy was not in any distress and had developed perfectly in the womb, but the doctor told me that if they didn’t get him out right away, the same thing could happen to me that happened to another woman a few weeks before – they didn’t get her baby out soon enough and he was born with “problems.” I couldn’t think straight, so I let DH make the decision for me to have the C-section.

The C-section was awful. I was so drugged up and in so much pain that I didn’t even feel like I’d had a baby. I just felt like I had surgery. I wasn’t allowed to hold my son until an hour or 2 after he was born, and though I had planned to breastfeed right away, I couldn’t do that until later also. I don’t even remember holding my child for the very first time. Actually, there are whole chunks of days and nights I don’t remember. But my son was healthy and okay.

Later, my mother and mother-in-law told me that they had spoken to the doctor after the surgery and had thanked him for all he had done. He replied, “Well, she was 38 weeks anyway, and it was just easier to get him out by C-section rather than try to wait until she delivered since her pelvis is small.” I literally cried for hours non-stop when they told me he said that. My pelvis and hips are not small, and it’s not like a 5 lb. 5 oz. baby is that big or hard to push out (though I’m sure he would have been bigger had I waited until labor began on its own)! I still shudder when I think about the possibility that a C-section was not necessary at all.

Then the infection issues with me began. I had a hideous urinary tract infection, a yeast infection that wouldn’t go away (which turned into thrush from breastfeeding), and I was allergic to the nickel staples they used to sew me up from the Cesarean (you’d think they would check for nickel allergies beforehand). I hurt so bad and felt so bad that I pretty much stayed in bed for the first month after the baby was born.

Then the breastfeeding issues came. When I finally did get to breastfeed for the first time in the hospital, it was awful. I was exhausted, and the baby was hysterical every time I’d put him to the breast. He would punch, kick, scream, etc… It would take us 45 minutes just to get him to latch on, and then he didn’t want to suck. I pumped what little colostrum I had and fed it to him through a syringe. It took 7 days for my real milk to come in, and even then it didn’t seem like I had much. Not to mention he wanted to nurse every 2 hours, and it took him forever to latch on, and then it took him another 40 minutes to eat. So he was literally on my breast 24/7. I didn’t take a shower for 5 days at one point. But I was determined to not give my child formula.

He finally started latching on a little without screaming, but it still took him an hour to eat. And even then, he would act like he was still hungry 30 minutes later. He would fight me and scratch me and punch me sometimes when he was trying to latch on. I continued pumping and saving what milk I had left after he nursed, because it often seemed like he didn’t empty my breasts. During this time my mother basically lived with us and did all of the household chores, cooking, and errand running. Thank God she was there. Then my mother-in-law came and gave her a break. DH was there too for the first month until he had to go back to work, and he helped me with the baby. Thank God he was there.

Then came the awful pain. My nipples were raw and cracked and bleeding, and I and the baby got thrush, which made it worse. I sought help from 2 La Leche League leaders, 3 lactation consultants, and a Cranio-Sacral therapist. You wouldn’t believe how much $$$ I spent to get the help. The LLL leaders determined that he wasn’t latching on right still, which was causing the horrible nipple pain. One of the LLL leaders said part of the problem was that my breasts were made too big for a baby who’s Stephen’s size. Talk about heart-breaking when I heard that.

2 of the lactation consultants said to give it up (not so great at their jobs), and the 3rd one said the problem was that he wasn’t opening his mouth wide enough (which was true) and that he had posterior tongue-tie. She referred us to the Cranio-sacral therapist, who helped his jaw and tongue some, but it still wasn’t getting much better. The good lactation consultant said to pump my milk and give it to him from a specialized bottle shaped like me, while my nipples healed (I used $50 nipple ointment) and while the baby got therapy. We continued this for a few weeks.

At this point, I felt like a zombie. I wasn’t sleeping well, and I was constantly crying. I was angry at the whole situation, though the anger never once affected my feelings for Stephen. But I knew that on the inside, I felt like I was falling into a dark pit I couldn’t get out of. I told DH that I needed to talk to someone about post-partum depression. So I went to my doctor and talked. He said it didn’t really sound like post-partum depression, but more like situational depression. He said to give it some time and if things didn’t get better in a few weeks, to think about getting on an anti-depressant. Of course, my initial thought was, there is no way I am getting on a pill while breastfeeding. So I decided not to, but rather seek professional Christian counseling instead.

My poor mother had to return to work, but since DH had to go back to work too and was gone 4 days a week, we packed up and went to stay with her in my hometown so she could continue helping me. I was struggling to keep up with pumping milk so he would have enough to eat, but at least he was eating. I still nursed him some, but it was easier to pump and feed it to him. Plus someone else could feed him and I could finally get a break. Yet he would often fight, scratch, and punch the bottle or whoever was feeding him. He acted like he was in pain, and I couldn’t figure out why.

Not long after this, the horrific spitting up and projectile throwing up started. At the same time, my milk supply started running out. The pediatrician said to drink tiny amounts of beer to up my milk supply. I also used a bunch of different herbs and drank more water than a camel every day. The beer actually worked, but the baby’s throwing up was getting worse. So the pediatrician said to try cutting out other things from my diet. I removed dairy, caffeine, shellfish, eggs, soy, and switched to non-alcoholic beer (which did nothing for the supply). It was awful trying to find things to eat. The pediatrician also put him on some medicine for reflux to see if it helped.

At this point also, I had given up nursing altogether. No matter what I did, I could not get him to open up his mouth. He always acted like it hurt him, which then hurt me physically. But it hurt so much more emotionally. I felt like crying all the time. I felt guilty and sick to my stomach when it came time for him to eat. I felt like a failure and one of “those moms” who didn’t care about their baby because I couldn’t breastfeed. I really think I would have sold my right arm and leg to make the breastfeeding work. I still long to breastfeed him, but there is nothing I could do. For awhile, I absolutely despised giving him a bottle, but in order for him to gain weight, it was more important that he got enough to eat.

However, the vomiting continued, and I was already a wreck from giving up nursing. But to make matters worse, I couldn’t keep anything down him. There were days where he would only urinate once or twice, and I knew he was somewhat dehydrated. I squirted Pedialyte down him with a syringe every hour while he was asleep at night. I took him to my old family physician, who is awesome with babies, and he was more than concerned. He spoke to the Pediatrician by phone (who was where we actually lived) and ordered several tests to be done at the hospital. The tests determined he definitely had severe acid reflux.

Both doctors suggested that I try some soy formula to see if that was any better. I mixed it with pumped breastmilk at first because he refused the bottle altogether if there was no breastmilk in it. That was okay for a few days, but the throwing up started again. Then the Pediatrician started him on 2 medications for the reflux and said to put rice cereal in his bottles of breastmilk, but that didn’t make a difference. Then he suggested giving him just formula with rice cereal and to eliminate breastmilk altogether. This of course broke my heart even further…I had worked so hard to provide my milk for him, which was supposed to be the best thing, and here I was being told to stop giving him my milk. But I tried it anyway (while crying at the same time), and it helped….for a few days again.

(To be continued…)

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