I was around 37 weeks pregnant when I went back in for a second complete anatomy scan. The midwife was concerned that my belly was too small, which turned out to be unnecessary because baby was absofuckinglutely perfect, but before we knew that, at the end of the scan, the tech hovered the wand over his face for a few extra moments to show us our baby was already practicing suckling. We watched him there on the screen, sucking on his tongue. That image is burned into my mind. My baby was practicing eating. He was real and ready to be out on his own.
When we left the hospital on Sunday, December 14, 2014 with a 36 hour old baby in tow, he had still not properly latched. Turns out, that whole sucking on his tongue thing was actually a problem.
In the delivery room the Friday before, midnight approaching, the room was dark when I came out of my first assisted trip to the bathroom and my kick-ass no-BS labor & delivery nurse, Krystle, helped me try to breastfeed my baby for the first time. I was already in my wheelchair, ready to transfer to postnatal, and she wasn't concerned when we couldn't quite figure it out. It wasn't her specialty and she knew that the lactation consultant would come by my room in the morning to help. It was already practically morning anyway.
When we were settled in our new room, my postnatal nurse tried to help me again. She thought the problem might have been the hold. We'd done cross-body and football to no avail, so she suggested side-laying, which turned out to be the worst. I felt useless without two hands to try to shove my nipple into my baby's mouth - a feat I couldn't even accomplish sitting up with the use of two hands.
Through the wee hours of the morning, I must have slept some, but I don't remember. We would "nurse" a few minutes at a time. I wrote it down each time, like I was supposed to, but I worried. A minute here, three minutes there - this couldn't be right.
The lactation specialist's name was Ruth. I remember thinking that she didn't look like a "Ruth". She stayed with me longer than she had time to, but left in a rush. We accomplished little. I didn't know what it was supposed to feel like, so every time someone asked if I could feel it, my answer was a shrug and a "It feels like ___". It felt like pinching. It felt sharp. Like needles. That was not right. They told me that meant he was just sucking on the very tip, and not working anything out of my breast.
Ruth said she'd be back to see me again the next morning when she did her rounds. She wouldn't normally visit a mom twice in postnatal, but she'd make a special trip for me. The nurses reassured me. We would figure this out.
Another day and night of the same. Too high on adrenaline to be overly concerned. A few minutes each feeding. The breastfeeding class instructor's words echoing in my head, "If you're doing it right, it won't hurt"
"You'll know when baby is ready to switch sides"
I still didn't know what that meant.
I decided this woman was a terrible teacher.
When Ruth came back again the following morning, she told me my son was sucking on his tongue. We would have to figure out how to get his tongue away from the roof of his mouth so that we could fit my boob in between. She left before we figured it out, but she gave me tools and homework. Nipple shells, a nipple shield, and told us to use our clean pinky or index finger to get him used to the shape and sucking on something other than his tongue. They tell you not to give your newborn baby bottles or pacifiers to avoid nipple confusion... but pinky fingers, apparently those are OK? The answer to that question is that I don't care. My pinky finger may very well have helped my baby learn to nurse. It may not have, but that's OK by me.
We packed up on Sunday and headed home. I sat in the back. I wasn't thinking about breastfeeding. I was thinking there was no hospital staff at my house to ask my endless questions.
It wasn't until our first night at home that the twinges of concern came back. Sleep came in 45 minute increments at most. We probably wouldn't have slept anyway, but my perfect, easy going baby didn't let us sleep. He wasn't upset. He never made that noise - that 'wah wah' that babies make - but he was clearly starving.
To Be Continued...