Wednesday, August 6, 2014
nursing nova: part 2 - when nursing looks like a science experiment
(Read Part 1 here)
Everything seemed normal that first time in the hospital. She latched, sucked, and seemed to be doing just fine. At her 5 day appointment, she had continued to lose weight. However, it wasn't an alarming amount. My milk was definitely in and I had no doubt that after a few days of getting the really good stuff, Nova would be back to her birth weight in no time.
Just shy of Nova turning 2 weeks, I sent a desperate text message to my closest friends one night after feeding Nova 5 times in the span of 8 hours. I knew something wasn't right. I couldn't necessarily put my finger on it, but Nova wasn't connecting with this nursing thing like Duke was. She was frustrated and I didn't know what else to do. I felt pretty knowledgeable in the breastfeeding department, so running out of things to try was scary for me.
My first thought was that my milk supply just wasn't enough. If for some reason it wasn't going to kick in, then I'd have to just give it up. There was a quality of life that I wanted to maintain for my sake and my family's sake. Nursing every 2 hours and continuing to have an unsatisfied baby wasn't going to cut it. I asked my sweet friends to please pray for something supernatural to happen - that God would boost my supply, increase my flow, help Nova's ability, whatever it was. I was so lost and extremely disappointed in how hard this was.
The next day, I called the Oklahoma Breastfeeding Hotline. She told me some things I already knew, but then instructed me to try 3-step feeding - nurse, pump, and then feed an additional .5-1 oz. of breastmilk by syringe. This way, she'd gain more, my supply would increase, and hopefully she'd demand more as well. I took this suggestion and ran with it.
We took her to a check-up around 2.5 weeks, and she still wasn't back at her birth weight. We immediately scheduled an appointment with a lactation consultant, something that I would've never seen myself needing. I know how to nurse a baby, I thought.
When I called to make the appointment, the receptionist asked about the problems I was experiencing. She then asked was if Nova was born early. Hilarious. I laughed and said, "No, she was 13 days late." The receptionist said, "Oh!" and went on with the rest of her questions. She assured me that for many babies, a magical thing happens around 4 weeks. A lot of babies just figure the nursing thing out. Knowing we had a week and a half before the 4 week mark was encouraging. Surely whatever our problem was would be solved by then!
My first lactation appointment was really relaxing. Nursing Nova in a quiet and comfortable atmosphere with a sweet lady completely focused on my well-being was wonderful. It was also very educational. Since so many things came naturally for Duke and I, it was a real learning experience to figure out what those things actually were. After nursing Nova and applying all of the tricks she taught me, it was time to weigh her. She got just under 2 oz. from me after nursing for around 40 minutes. (If you've never fed a baby, just know that that amount for that duration isn't awesome.) The LC had me pump and I was able to get around 2 more oz. very quickly.
That was a huge moment. This nursing issue was not on my end. My supply was just fine and I had more than enough for her. But she couldn't get it from me.
The LC told me to do the exact same thing that the hotline lady had said for each feeding. However, instead of the syringe, I was to use a tiny little tube attached to a syringe so that Nova could nurse while receiving an additional supplement of breastmilk at the same time from the tube.
I went into this appointment telling Colt, "If it comes down to me using a bunch of gadgets to get her to nurse, I just won't do it." I left this appointment with exactly that - a process full of gadgets.
But in true Claire fashion, I took it as a challenge and I decided to do it.
After one day of this new system, I was spent. It was a juggling act trying to nurse a baby while sticking a tube in the corner of her mouth while making sure her latch and positioning were constantly correct while making sure the tube didn't fall out or leak (and when it inevitably did, making sure I didn't completely go mental) while fighting to keep her sleepy newborn self awake for the marathon nursing session while entertaining a crazy toddler. Every single feeding. It was awful and I hated it.
After tossing the idea around to just quit, Sara gave me a firm talking to. She said if I wanted to nurse, then that's what I needed to aim for. I should try everything I could possibly do before quitting. She was right. And I knew that later on down the road I'd blame myself if I didn't try everything possible. So I pressed on with nursing even though it didn't feel like nursing. It felt like one huge science experiment complete with tubes, syringes, masking tape, and a pump.
After 8 days of this feeding process, I walked into our 2nd visit (almost 4 weeks old) with the LC ready for some good news. But after nursing her for that same amount of time, she was still getting the exact same amount. No improvement. She wasn't getting what she needed and, therefore, wasn't gaining well. When I heard the numbers, my heart dropped and the insides of my brain began spinning. What is even left to try? What are our options? Do we even have options?
This cycle was a frustrating one not only for me, but for Nova. She was trying her hardest to eat, but even after exhausting herself for 45 minutes to an hour, she still wasn't satisfied. Can you imagine?
I asked the LC if there are babies who just can't nurse. She talked about how some babies have a tongue-tie or a lip-tie. She didn't say it was for sure our problem, but at this point there wasn't really anything left to conclude in my mind. She recommended I schedule a visit with an ENT doctor to have Nova's suck evaluated. She would maybe need her frenulum clipped in order to allow her tongue to function correctly, which might allow her to nurse more efficiently. It had come to this.
Here's the deal. Deep, deep down in the bottom of my mom gut, I thought this really could be the conclusion. The fact that her anatomy was keeping her from nursing well seemed like the only thing left. Many of the key things to look for were present.
(Side Note: It's clear to me that there are different schools of thought on this and not all medical professionals agree. I'm not picking sides. Like many things, there are probably necessary diagnoses and over-diagnoses. I'm not a medical professional, so there's no way I could possibly have an educated opinion that applies to all cases. So if you're looking for my thoughts on the matter as a whole, you'll find me happily sitting on the fence. :))
So - an ENT doctor. I was supposed to call and ask for a "suck evaluation." I called and the earliest I could get in was in 6 days. 6 more days of science experiments before I could get an answer? And then depending on what they say, how much longer would I have to wait before the next step? I was hesitant, but I made the appointment.
That night after all of this, I was at a women's book study (which was totally a lifesaver during this season). I felt this urgency - like I couldn't wait any longer. No more appointments, no more weigh-ins, no more "try this," no more systems. I just want to feed my baby for goodness' sake and know that she's full. It had almost been a month - a month of dreading every nursing session, never getting any legitimate sleep, and literally not going anywhere because I was tied down in a way that far exceeded just being a nursing mother. I couldn't take it anymore. No more hoops to jump through, no more obstacles to navigate, no more gadgets.
As I left that night, I felt very compelled by the Spirit to defer to Colt. Sometimes submission is hard in marriage and that word alone brings up a thousand debates. But this night, submission was a piece of cake. It was a beautiful thing. I needed someone to tell me what to do. I needed someone who was not emotionally involved with all of this like I was, who could see everything from a different standpoint, who knew what was going to be best for all of us. This was not just affecting Nova and me; it was affecting everyone.
I called him on the way home from the book study and told him all of this. I knew he had been praying about all of this and I trusted his decision, so I said, "Just tell me what to do and I'll do it." He said we were done. No ENT appointment and no more nursing.
It was as if a ton of bricks had been lifted off of my back. I'm telling you - I felt lighter emotionally and physically. I cried and said several are you sure?s. I was devastated to let go of nursing, but I knew this was right.