Thursday, August 5, 2010
My breast feeding journey
As World Breast Feeding week nears an end, my mind has been drawn back to those early days of my breast feeding journey. Im grimacing as I write and think about those first few weeks. However, I got there. I breastfed, I persevered and Im proud.
Olivia's birth was very long, partly due to the complications I ran into during my pregnancy. I was diagnosed with an irritable uterus, which saw the start of my labor at 30 weeks. I was airlifted from Mildura (where I worked fortnightly, to deliver Chinese Medicine to country Victoria), hospitalised and told to rest. This, an impossible task in a midwifery ward. Fed up, I discharged myself, and took myself home, frustrated with what modern medicine couldn't offer me. Finally I took charge, had my beautiful business partner treat me with acupuncture, took herbal medicines and lied on my couch for 7 weeks. It seem like an eternity. I had contractions (which didn't hurt but were more like braxton hicks) constantly for 10 weeks, so by the time labor was upon me, my body was exhausted.
Pre-labour contractions commenced 6 days before I gave birth, each day they would be more and more intense but each day, they would stop and start. I would literally be in labour for 10 hours, with contractions at 4 minute intervals, only to have it stop. This went on for 5 days. My uterus was so fatigued. Finally I gave birth, but given all the complications and marathon efforts, my body was completely out of sorts.
My milk didn't come in until day 8. I had no idea that it wasn't there - I mean, how was I supposed to know? I hadn't done this before, nor had Livvi my baby. Because my labor had taken a turn, I was administered fluids via an IV, which certainly had an affect on my hormones. There are so many factors that can delay milk coming in including c-sections, IV drips, epidural etc. I had no idea!
So finally my milk came in - and 'they' weren't wrong, a day of tears and sadness. I remember wondering how I was supposed to do this. Of course, because the milk wasn't there earlier, we had all sorts of attachment issues and like my fellow blogger potty mouth mumma who by the way inspired this entry. (be sure to check out her awesome blog too!) I could feel things weren't right with Olivia and her feeding, I and so I took myself off to several tedious visits to the lactation consultant and had countless home visits by my maternal nurse. I was introduced to nipples shields which were able to offer some relief from my dry, hard, cracked, bleeding and infected nipples. We took Livvi to the Osteopath to fix her little spine up after all that labor and we seemed to finally be off!
Things were on the up and I was happy for a short period of time until the mastitis kicked in. Oh dear lordy this was the worst I think I have ever felt in my life! I remember standing in my kitchen, about to faint. Thankfully my mother recgonised the signs. I remember those words... "you've got mastitis!" I had no idea what to do. My mind was frazzled, and it wasn't until mum said to me "how do you treat this Nat? What do you do in the clinic?" that my mind actually switched on and thought "hello! I treat this regularly! I can fix me!" So I took myself off to my clinic, The Pagoda Tree, got me some herbs, some cabbage leaves and off I went! My mastitis cleared up within 12 hours. I was amazed.
We cruised along for sometime, perhaps 3 weeks or so when I started to develop vertigo type sensations. Breast feeding was seriously drawing on my reserves. Some days I was so dizzy and faint, I couldn't get up. So back to the herbal shelf for me, making up another decoction to drink to set me back on track.
All up I breastfed for 11 months. I for sure would have gone longer had I had any milk left. It just dried out. I have many theories as to why - probably the most significant being my return to work when Olivia was 3 weeks old. My body never had enough time to recover. Being in the fertility industry, its extremely difficult to up and leave. By the same token, I have no regrets getting myself back into the swing of things and was fortunate enough to be able to bring Livvi to work with me for the first 6 months of her life.
There was one thing that got me through my journey - support. Without it, I would have for surely failed. Education and support is the main focus of this years campaign for World Breast Feeding week. The African proverb is 100% true... "it takes a village to raise one child." Im grateful for my support network. It may just be the greatest gift a mother can have.