Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Adjusting to Parenting: The Struggle is Real

Sometimes crying over spilled milk is totally justifiable. I know, because I did it, and it felt completely and absolutely logical. 
Nothing about bringing Dillon into this world was easy, from conception to birth, so I didn't exactly expect it would magically become easy once he was here, but it's hard to imagine just how challenging the newborn period can be until you've experienced it. Everyone has their own set of obstacles during this magical but demanding month, and mine happens to be lactation.
The day we came home from the hospital, we started supplementing. I was only getting literal drops of milk from pumping with a hospital grade pump (which should empty 75% of a breasts' volume), and Dillon had started to lose so much weight that it became necessary. It's completely disheartening when you sacrifice even more sleep than normal, spending valuable time trying to make as much milk as possible for your baby, and only get enough to rub it on his gums with your finger.
We've come a long way since then. 
This is the part where I tell some things about myself that a lot of people may not know, but I feel like these things need to be said, because so many women out there feel helpless or alone when their bodies don't work like we think they should.
To be more specific, I have a ton of factors working against me when it comes to having the ability to make milk for Dillon. For one, issues with PCOS don't go away, ever. First I had to overcome it to get pregnant, now I'm having to overcome it to lactate, and for the rest of my life, I'll have to be careful, as to not increase my chances even more to develop Type 2 Diabetes. Elevated insulin levels in the body affect the hormones that produce milk, so I restarted taking Metformin to help fight against it. 
Second, I have a history of breast surgery. I wouldn't know it until a couple of years ago, but due to the previous mentioned syndrome, my breasts never really fully developed, starting in utero, so when I was a big girl, all grown up and able to pay for things myself, I had cosmetic surgery. I didn't want an augmentation to look like a porn star, or to have big hooters, or for people to even be able to tell that I had a "boob job"; I just wanted to feel like a normal girl. Patrick took the very best care of me during that time, and though I already knew he was the one, the way he so lovingly supported me and helped me during recovery just permeated his irreplaceable reservation in my heart. 
Third, PIH (pregnancy induced hypertension) and the treatment that goes along with it, played a big role in hindering my supply. Any time the body's blood pressure is elevated, blood flow is restricted to the breast, decreasing their ability to function as adequately. For most women PIH doesn't just go away as soon as the baby is born, and I was no exception. My blood pressure, never high a day in my life until 2 weeks ago, was still intermittently elevated upon discharge and would be expected to behave that way for at least a couple of weeks, which brings me to my next point.
Our bodies give us 2 weeks to establish a milk supply. That's not long when you're recovering from a major life changing surgery and have several obstacles to tackle, like engorgement so severe your baby can no longer latch on (yes, add it to the list). Luckily I work with some amazing people, and happen to have a lactation specialist up my sleeve who took us in for a consultation and set us up with SNS feedings. She also recommended me taking an extremely expensive medication to help increase my milk supply, since the herbal supplement fenugreek is contraindicated in my situation (it can alter the insulin levels in your body). 
Our new routine has been breast feeding while using SNS (supplemental nursing system),  then pumping (this has cut down our "feeding routine" from about 1-1.5 hours to 40-60 minutes), and me taking meformin and domperione, which has doubled my milk supply. And even though it's still not near enough to keep up with this hungry boy of ours with beautiful squishy cheeks and folded lips, anything and everything I can give him to help him be as healthy as possible is what I will do, no matter how much energy or money it takes to do so.
Therefore, you can totally understand my inner agony when I spilled half of the milk I worked so hard for, and watched as it spread down the couch arm to a small devastating puddle on the living room floor.
All I can do is to keep on trucking forward, and be thankful that I'm at least able to make half the amount of milk my baby needs. And for those of you out there struggling with something that being a new parent brings to the table, fret not about being alone. We all struggle with something. Utilize your support system, vent to peers, know that you're doing an amazing job, and really, sometimes it's okay to cry over spilled milk.

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