I sat here thinking about where to begin with my story. I think about my daughter’s birth and how everything went so not according to plan that I’m shocked this actually worked out for us. But let me begin with her birth, because I feel this is an important part to our story.
I was 40 weeks and 6 days and at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City at 6:00am March 13th, 2013 being induced. I wasn’t dilated. I wasn’t having contractions. Everything was normal and wonderful, except for that I was overdue. They induced with Pitocin, then Cervadil, and still, no dilation. My contractions were at a minimum, even on the highest dose of everything. I was armed with my perfectly typed birth plan, which, at a minimum, said to deliver her and nothing else.
36 hours later and my birth plan completely out the window, I delivered Ava via c-section. In all honesty, it wasn’t as bad as I thought. I was walking the next day. I began trying to get Ava to latch to breastfeed around very 4-6 hours…because that’s how often they told me to offer. We went to two of the breastfeeding classes offered in the hospital and the nurse said I had plenty of milk to go around. Great! This was the first thing I felt in control of.
By Sunday, we were ready to go home, I was adjusting the car seat to fit her and she went for her vitals. She had a fever of over 101. I was called and told she was in the NICU. Just like that, I wasn’t in control of my own child. This was my baby, not theirs, so how could they just take her there without letting me know? She was immediately started on antibiotics. We freaked out…this was not our choice. How could we go home and leave her?
Needless to say, I cried for the two days that she was in there. I know two days isn’t a lot…especially after you realize a lot of other babies are in there for a lot longer. But it doesn’t hurt any less knowing you can’t have her.
In the interim, I began pumping. I was told to pump, even after nursing Ava, which only made my oversupply even worse. I was at the hospital every three hours with her and she was getting better and better at nursing and on the last day, I knew we were finally going to go home and be just fine. I was determined to make this work, and no one was going to tell me that this wasn’t possible.
When I look back at everything that happened in the hospital, I realize I should have been nursing her much more often than every 4-6 hours. For this reason, I highly suggest a doula or midwife and attending La Leche League while pregnant. I didn’t do any of those things. We live and learn, right?
Those first few months are so confusing. You question everything, wonder what’s next and learn more than you ever thought you needed to know. I felt like all I did was sit on the couch and nurse, mainly because I did! Every 2-3 hours, and forget about growth spurts. I smelled of spit up and had milk in places that milk shouldn’t be. Those times can be trying, because all you want to do is feel like yourself and step out for two seconds of your life! But these moments won’t last forever. To make my time well spent, I started making jewelry and began following a lot of great social media accounts (like The Leaky Boob).
I realized when Ava was spitting up a lot and choking that I had a pretty forceful letdown. I quickly learned to express into a burp cloth at the beginning of each feeding to help Ava be able to more comfortably feed. By the time she was two months old I had cut dairy out of my diet due to severe colic symptoms at night. I also immersed myself in La Leche League meetings and online support forums and found such comfort, normalcy and amazement in what I was providing for my daughter that I wanted to shout it to the world: “BREASTFEED YOUR BABES! Let me help you! I’m here for you!”
I went back to work at four months and my pumping schedule was three times a day within an eight hour period. I was racking up milk like a hoarder and found HMBANA and the Mothers Milk Bank Northeast, where I donated over 400oz. of milk to premature babies in need. This made me feel so great that I could give back, especially after I saw first-hand so many of these fragile babies in the NICU.
At a year breastfeeding, we went down to pumping once a day and that’s currently where I stand as Ava is 16 months old and we continue our breastfeeding journey. We’re not sure how we will continue at this point. Some days I’d like to go until she is two years old, and on others I’d rather begin the weaning process. We currently take it day by day.
Not to say that our journey wasn’t without the occasional bite or minor nursing strike, but for me, this is the one and only thing that worked out as planned and gave me the empowerment that I lacked after my birth.
I am a mom who, like most of us, is trying to do what is best for my daughter and my family. Without support, I would have had a much harder time keeping up with nursing, nursing past a year and feeling comfortable nursing in public. Stories of success, failure, honesty, comedy and sadness are what brings us together and empowers us all. I hope that this story makes everyone realize that whatever path you choose or end up on, you can always change directions and push forward. My birth was the last thing anyone on this planet would ever want, but here I am…and I learned about what I will do differently the second time around and what made me who I am now.
Chelsea Vassi is owner and blogger at play. wash. rinse. repeat. She is a Michigan native and currently lives in New York City with her husband Steve, daughter Ava and two dogs. To learn more about Chelsea and follow her adventures in breastfeeding past a year, among other topics, visit her blog and social media accounts.
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