Breastfeeding, Jaundice and C-Sections

Too much time away from me.

The johnny was pulled down to my waste exposing my stomach. It was extra fat because my thyroid had been removed a couple of months before.  The fresh scar on my abdomen burned and though the pads had just been changed, I could feel that they would quickly need it again.  After a difficult 30 hour labor, I realized the expression of being hit by a ton of bricks.

Under the stark industrial lighting nothing felt natural.  My baby lay in the NICU- “jaundice” they said.  It was up to me to  to pass the bilirubins so that we could be together- Owen needed to eat enough to excrete the things that were responsible for his yellow skin.

The nurse came into my room with two plastic cones and a piece of equipment on wheels.  She hooked in some tubing and put one plastic piece on each of my breasts. I did not fully understand what this was.  She flipped a switch and whooooosh, whoooooosh, whooooosh, suddenly my breasts were no longer my own- now they were commandeered by the suction of  two plastic cones.

My husband looked on, trying to help.  There was talk of formula and when too few drops of colostrum landed in the bottle, I feared our options were dwindling.

Every 30 minutes the lights in my hospital room turned on- dimly because it was the lonely middle of the night.  The sound of suction repeated, harmonized by the ah-ooga of the pump.

“Easy” is not what this was.  “Natural” did not describe this scene.  “Serene, comforting…” none of the things I had associated with meeting my child were happening.

When Owen was with me, he nursed.  This did not come naturally either.  I did not know how to position him, it felt awkward, I could not get comfortable.  His latch was not right so I had horrible blisters on my nipples.  They hurt.  A lot.

He was not getting enough milk.  The billirubins would not vacate his tiny body.  His numbers increased.  “Formula” they kept saying.  And I kept buying more time.

My husband helped me figure out how to pump without a nurse. Everything changes for a husband and wife when they go through birth togehter.  We pumped and pumped.  We were committed.  Neither of us slept for more than 20 minutes at a time.  I hurt. My husband was confused.  My baby was spending too much time away from me.

Finally, the nurse came in with a small glass bottle containing a thick beige substance.  It had a nipple on top.  My heart sank.

“Not yet” I said.  She was so kind, but she told me that my baby needed this glass bottle full of miracles.  “Not yet” I said.  “Kris go and get him please” I said.  And he did.

I kept Owen with me and constantly latched on.  Finally we heard it; the undeniable sound that the billirubins had passed.  We had done it.  His numbers rose and he was released from the NICU.

Without realizing it, Kris and I had made our first monumental parenting choice.  With all that we have done wrong, this is one thing I will not be humble or quiet about.

Things did not get much easier after this, but that is a story for another day.


8 Replies to “Breastfeeding, Jaundice and C-Sections”

  1. I was almost literally holding my breath reading that – and very relievedly let it out when I got to the end!! Well done and I’m sure you don’t, but never underestimate the gravity of the decision to refuse supplementary feeding. I just wish more new mum’s were as educated and assertive – pretty tough call when you’ve just given birth and oh so wrong that one has to be ready for battle at such a vulnerable time. How I wish for a time when mothers and fathers are truly supported in their birthing and feeding choices in a hospital setting.

    I have to tell you that I stumbled onto your blog accidentally just this week (probably Googling something totally unrelated – I can’t really remember exactly how) but I immediately felt that I was supposed to find it at exactly this time. I’ll tell you more about my journey some other time but thankyou for all that you share and know that you are making a difference!

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  3. Good job. I still remember bawling my eyes out all day when they told me they had to take my daughter to the bili clinic. She only stayed for a day, but could only visit me every 3 hours and everytime she came, she was so tired from screaming under the lights that she just passed out. I’ve never forgiven myself for letting them take her because, come to find out, they didn’t even need to re-admit her until she scored 5 points higher and 15 points higher for it to actually damage her liver.. so why was it so important to take her the first time?

    On top of that, she has a tongue tie and had to nurse for hours on end with maybe 10 minute breaks in between for the first few months. She was starving in there. At 7 months, she still can’t go 3 hours without nursing. 🙁

    • Bri,

      What a lot to go through. For both of you <3

      We are so grossly misinformed about so many things- birth seems to be one of the greatest though. I still have not been able to tackle my own birth story because I just cannot grasp it or wrap my head around it. It is insidious and runs deep. So very, very deep.

      When I was standing over Owen in the incubator, eyes covered, body aching from wanting to hold him, I was sobbing. The (very kind) nurse had tears too, but she told me "it's normal to be sad after birth. It's the baby blues". She meant well and was so sympathetic. She just did. not. get. it. I should have been with my baby.

      It is too much to think about really.

      THank you for being here Bri.

  4. oh .. tears prickling the back of my eyes .. That could be our story – emergency C-section , barely existent APGAR’s and jaundice. Except my amazing husband was left to face down “them” by himself because I was so unwell so he was rushing between me and the baby unit. He told them “no formula” and with the help of a sympathetic nurse – helped our baby make her first latch while I wasn’t able to. He also organized a breast pump and when I was awake found another nurse who showed me how to hand express and then rushed that liquid gold to our daughter time and time again where they syringe fed it to her. I’m forever grateful to my husband for making those decisions when I couldn’t xx

    • Breastfeeding Dad’s… sometimes they don’t even realize how much they are supporting their families, do they? I have goosebumps while reading your words Mel. Your husband is an inspiration to us all. Thank you for sharing your story <3