Guest Post By: Making Malissa (MakingMalissa.com)
…On day 3 after my son Caleb was born, I was able to take him home from the hospital. I was so relieved to depart that prison. I was so sick of being interrupted by all the representatives from their respective departments in the hospital. It was literally every 2 hours (day and night) that people were knocking on my door for entry. I felt like I didn’t have ANY time to be with my baby alone.
During those three days, there were a lot of traumatic things that occurred. Things that I did not really prepare myself for. Sure, I knew I was going to get my son vaccinated and circumcised…and I was DEFINITELY going to breast feed, but I had not prepared myself emotionally for those things.
The nurse came in only 4 hours or so after he was born to run some tests on him, and vaccinate him. I put all faith and trust into the nurse to make sure my baby was okay. I was also extremely exhausted so I was relieved to have some time to close my eyes.
When the nurse came back in, my son was as red as a tomato and had scratch marks ALL OVER his face. He had scratched himself with his outrageously long nails while they were giving him his shots. He had been in pain. His first feeling of pain. And I had induced it. On top of that, who knows how many minutes passed for them to wait until he was done crying for them to bring him back to me. I wasn’t there to soothe my baby in his very first time of need. And it killed me.
After that, the only thing I wanted to do was hold him and feed him. My milk supply had not yet come. It takes about 3-5 days for it to come in. So I fed him colostrum, the thick super-duper sweet milk that your body makes available to your baby the second they are born.
The nurse helped me get him to latch…well, she sort of forced it on both of us. I was surprised at how impatient she was with my son and I. She kept grabbing me and pinching so hard on my nipple so my son could get a grip on it. I just wanted her to leave so I could try it by myself. I didn’t say anything to her about it not only because I lacked the confidence I have now, but I thought that I was just not doing it right. I assumed it came naturally for every other first time mom. So I listened to her and let her tug and pull until I went numb. She told me she had to see that he was feeding before they could discharge me from the hospital. He got a couple good latches and she backed off. Thank God. I wanted to punch her.
Over the next couple of days, I couldn’t really get Caleb to latch. I would get so frustrated over him falling asleep or crying from me pushing his head so many times into my boob that I would just give up. I would have asked for help but I did not want another experience like I had with the nurse. I figured I just needed to go home and I would get the hang of it there in a more relaxing environment.
Every morning the nurse came in to check his weight. If he showed weight gain, they were comfortable enough to send me home. In their eyes, I was healthy, he was healthy and breastfeeding just fine. In reality, he had only fed maybe twice in two days. He was just never hungry. He slept majority of the time.
I had no idea how this happened, but somehow he gained weight. I mentioned to the new nurse that he had not really eaten that much. She told me that babies only need a teaspoon or two of colostrum in the first few days and that Caleb got as much as his body needed. Then she said he gained enough weight to discharge us. So off we went.
When we finally got home, I tried all the time to get my son to latch. It was still very difficult. I couldn’t understand what I was doing wrong. There were moments when I broke down crying in defeat. Then I figured I just had to wait until my milk came in.
2 days later I woke up in extreme discomfort. My boobs felt like they were about to EXPLODE! I went in the bathroom to look in the mirror. Holy crap, I looked like I got a boob job, for free! I was so excited because I have had A’s my whole life. I was so flat chested, that I wore bras to make it look like I have boobs!
I walked out of the bathroom to show my husband my new voluptuous breasts. He was speechless. He didn’t want to make a huge deal out of it because it would make it seem like he didn’t love my body before, so he just sat there and stared and smiled in awe. I felt like such a WOMAN.
Soon after, I tried feeding Caleb. My boobs were SO FULL that I couldn’t even grab any skin for him to latch. They were like overfilled water balloons. I got in a hot shower and tried my best to squeeze it out until I could actually grip enough for him to feed.
A woman’s body fills up with as much milk as possible to support their baby and adjusts over a few days to supply only the amount they are eating. It is actually pretty remarkable that we can just automatically do that. Women’s bodies are AMAZING!
Over the next few days, I tried and tried to get my son to latch long enough to eat until he was full. How did I know he was full? He didn’t cry.
But I really didn’t know that at the time because ALL HE DID WAS CRY.
My nipples began to chap and bleed. They started to split in half at the tip from the intense suction. Even though he was sucking so hard, he couldn’t get the hang of it. No milk would come out.
I started to build up intense anxiety over my son crying at all hours because he was basically starving. One day he cried for 8 hours straight and I completely lost all strength. I placed him on the bed and walked away. My husband had been at work all day and had only heard the crying for about 2 hours. He went in the room to try to console him. I was standing in the doorway crying my eyes out watching my son in hunger. I couldn’t stand seeing him that way. I knew I needed to try again. I pinched my nipple and pushed his mouth up to it once again, he wrapped his mouth around it, licked around, pulled away and kept screaming.
I truly lost it at that point. I felt entirely defeated. I curled up with my hands over my face and sobbed. My husband couldn’t bear to see me that way. After all, we had come very far over the past year and his loyalty lied with me. Not this brand new creature. No one was going to make me cry, even if it was his son.
He picked him up and screamed, “STOP FUCKING CRYING!!!!!!!!” right in his ear. Caleb stopped the hunger cry for half a second to catch his breath, for the next new cry…terror.
I immediately snatched Caleb out of his arms and screamed “WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU DOING?!” and cradled him as I ran to the living room.
My husband had lost it just like me. We displayed it in different ways and for different reasons. He was not attached to Caleb yet and neither was I.
As I held my baby so tightly and swayed him back and forth, I cried. My tears dripped on top of his fuzzy blonde hair. My husband stayed in the bedroom, ashamed at what he had just done. In that moment I acknowledged that I was the only soul in this world that could protect him. It was my responsibility to keep him from harm and pain. Every other person no longer mattered to me. I was now dubbed as his sentinel.
After that dark moment, my husband and I decided that strictly breastfeeding was no longer an option. So off to Baby’s R Us we went to buy a pump.
The second we got home, I immediately washed all the parts and sat on the couch and pumped. It was such a relief to get that milk out of me. It made my boobs so itchy and sore. It was just pouring out like pure liquid gold.
Caleb immediately latched to the nipple of the bottle and started to feed. It felt like such a relief. I had been so stressed for those last 7 days that I didn’t even remember if I had a shower.
Finally, the crying would stop.
Boy was I wrong. It did not matter how much milk he drank, how long I held him, if he were wet or dry, or if he was tired. He cried. ALL THE TIME.
Pumping was a blessing and a curse. Because my nipples were already so destroyed from the attempts to breastfeed, that pumping made them even worse. My milk supply began to dwindle due to not pumping enough that when I did pump, I turned the suction all the way up to get just 3oz in an hour.
When I went to my two week checkup, I told the nurse that he was not able to breastfeed, but he was latching onto a bottle just fine. The only issue was him choking on the milk because he would suck so much out at a time. She gave me “nipple shields” and told me that I may be able to breastfeed him with them and salvage my nipples at the same time.
I was ecstatic! I saw a light at the end of the tunnel. After the appointment, I raced to my car to try them out. I got in the back seat with him (I was too uncomfortable to feed in public) and pushed him up to feed….nothing. It was the same old struggle between the both of us pushing and pulling. I was disheartened, but kept trying over the next couple of days.
I had no idea why he always cried. Was he still not getting enough milk? Was he overstimulated? Did he have acid reflux? Gas? A headache? A tummy ache? I thought of everything. The doctor prescribed him some drops to help with possible acid reflux and I gave him some over the counter natural drops for possible gas. They both seemed to help a little, but he would still cry for hours at a time.
Then we discovered THE SWING. We purchased a swing that swung back and forth and side to side. It had three adjustable height settings so he could sit all the way up, or lay all the way back. It was seriously a life saver. The constant movement put him at ease enough to help him fall asleep. I also kept his chair upright to prevent any acid reflux he may have had. That thing was so awesome, that he even slept in it at night.
It seemed as though Caleb needed as much movement and noise as possible at all times. I downloaded an app that made household noises such as a vacuum, washing machine and a hairdryer and it soothed him a little. I also kept him swaddled majority of the time, which helped too.
Three days passed since I had received the nipple shields and had no luck. I began to Google (like all new moms do…) reasons why he couldn’t latch. I came across an article about Tongue Tie. It is when the little piece of skin under your tongue is too close to the end of your tongue, and prohibits the movement needed for proper suction. I looked under Caleb’s tongue and determined that his piece of skin looked very close to the front of his tongue.
THAT WAS IT! The answer to my problems! If I could breastfeed my son, he would have the blissful comfort needed to be a happy baby.
I scheduled an appointment with the doc to check him out. Sure enough, he was Tongue Tied. They told me they could do a simple procedure right then and there to correct it. It entailed picking up some scissors, snipping the skin, then searing the skin with some powdery stuff to stop the bleeding. Nowhere in that procedure was there going to be some sort of anesthetic. I was very uneasy once I heard about how it was going to go down, but the doctor assured me that he most likely had not developed sensation in that area just yet and he wouldn’t feel a thing. With that, I agreed.
Two more people entered the room to perform the procedure. One person held my sons arms down. The other held his legs. And the doctor snipped. I did not feel comfortable with the scenario. My husband was at work and we agreed that the appointment was probably not a big deal so I was by myself. I had to be strong for Caleb. I knew it would pay off in the long run for both Caleb and me.
1, 2, 3….SNIP.
Caleb’s face turned beat red. He was silent….for at least 15 seconds. Then, I heard a cry I had never heard before…Pain. Antagonizing pain. I instantly regretted the choice I made. His cry was so heartbreaking that I too began to cry. He felt it. All of it. That doctor did not know what the hell he was talking about. I was supposed to be his protector and I was responsible for the greatest amount of pain that he felt up to that point in his life.
I scooped him up and ran out of the hospital as fast as I could. We both were pouring out tears through the halls and the parking lot. I rushed into the back seat of my car, lifted up my shirt and brought Caleb up to my nipple. His open, screaming mouth closed around it. He began to suck…..and the liquid comfort flowed in.
As he fed on me successfully for the very first time, I continued to ball my eyes out. I was filled with a million emotions at once. I didn’t even know how to express myself other than to cry. We sat there in the car that day and fed for an hour. It was the most emotional hour of my life up to that point.
You would think that after the medicine, tongue clipping, swaddling, swinging, pumping, nipple shielding and noise making that Caleb would finally get to be a happy baby. No. Not at all.
He continued to cry. For the next SIX MONTHS. There were glimpses where I could get him to smile and laugh. It was like one extreme or the other. Way more crying than laughing, but his laughs were what kept me pushing through. He had that deep belly laugh, the contagious kind. He knew how to push me to my lowest of lows and highest of highs. Unfortunately, there were more lows than highs.
On top of that, he stopped latching onto me after 1 day of successfully breastfeeding. I was in so much pain and developed some sort of infection in my chest that traveled all the way to my back. It made my skin very sensitive to the touch and caused a fever. On top of that, pumping wasn’t cutting it. I was forced to supplement with formula. It was either that, or he starved.
I had some sort of perfect scenario in my head on how post-birth was going to go. I had never imagined that I would have to give my son formula. I had not prepared myself for that. My Mom had 8 kids and breastfed all of us. She made it sound so easy and effortless. She thought that it helped me to tell me “just do this….just do that” but it made matters worse. I really hated myself for not being able to breastfeed and felt like that much more of a failure.
The Air Force granted 6 weeks of maternity leave at the time (now 12 weeks), so I took an extra two weeks of personal leave on top of that. I figured 8 weeks would be enough to get into a good groove with Caleb and lose my baby weight.
I started my pregnancy at 150lbs and ended it at 180. By the end of the first month, I was back to my pre-baby weight…but my body was NOT my pre-baby body. I was sickened by the loose skin on my stomach. I did not even touch my stomach for the first week because it felt so disgusting to me. It looked like a big ball of stretch marked dough. I was so ashamed of my body. I couldn’t fit into any of my jeans because my hips were much wider and my stomach sagged over them if I wasn’t flexing. Not to mention my butt got HUGE!
Due to the intense amount of stress I was under, I forgot to eat majority of the time. I tended to Caleb all day long and when he slept, I cleaned. I really didn’t ever sleep. Maybe an hour here or there…but not much. I swear, right after you have a baby, you get an incredible amount of energy. You are just on autopilot.
Since I forgot to eat during the day, I would binge out at night. I would eat HUGE meals. I figured that breastfeeding would burn off any excess calories I ate. When I stopped breastfeeding, everything went downhill. My body was going through some sort of panic mode and I was just very emotional and anxious all the time (more so than usual).
I rapidly started to gain weight. Soon, I couldn’t fit into any of my clothes. My image was all I could think of, but did nothing to correct it. All I did was stress all day about how ugly I felt and how my baby wouldn’t stop crying.
The obsession with my image consumed me. The entire post-birth experience alienated my husband and I. I controlled every single thing when it came to my son. I wouldn’t let him call any shots and I wouldn’t take any of his advice. I knew best. It caused him to drift away from me…far away from me. He shut down and shut me out after 2 months.
Our lives became very robotic. Once he got home from work, I stopped doing anything. I just sat there on the couch with my phone and researched either diet/exercise tips or ways to make my son stop crying. My husband would make dinner, do dishes, entertain my son, feed him, and stay awake until 10pm for his last feeding before bed. Our conversations were so short and artificial. I fell into a deep, dark hole of depression.
The 8th week passed and it was time to go back to work. I was really stressed imagining how everyone was going to think I got super fat. I was also starting back at my old position as a patrolman.
The day came to drop him off at daycare. Most moms would likely freak out and be very uneasy leaving their precious baby for the first time with strangers, but not me. I was relieved. Despite my insecurity about my weight, I was so happy to get out of the house and interact with adults. I eagerly dropped him off at daycare that first day and put on a show for my husband and co-workers that I was sad about leaving him. In reality I felt free.
A New Beginning
4 months after my son was born, we moved to our next base in Florida. I was so happy to have a fresh start. Out of that tiny apartment that reminded me of my defeat. We moved into a big house with tons of windows and natural light. This was the place for me! Beautiful beaches, new squadron, new house, new car and a new outlook on life.
I dedicated my new start to fitness. If I could get my weight back down, I could learn to love my post-baby body. I worked the swing shift (2-10pm). I dropped my son off at daycare every morning and went running or did high intensity interval training. After about 2 months of eating super healthy and exercising regularly, I was back down to the skinny me.
I accepted the fact that I would not be able to fit into my old clothes because of my new shape, so I went on a shopping spree at Maurices at the mall and dropped 800 bucks after tax season. I bought a whole new wardrobe. The girl that worked there was seriously AWESOME. She put me in a fitting room and picked out about 15 complete outfits to try on. I felt like a whole new woman with jeans that actually fit and shirts that were looser and long, not to mention the ADORABLE scarves. What I like about Maurices is sizing of their clothes. The clothes are made for WOMEN. Not little girls. I would compare the style to Charlotte Rousse but the fit is just amazing, especially for bubble butt girls like me!
Once I accepted that my body was now a WOMAN’S BODY and thought of the remarkable things it has endured, I started to view it in a different way. My body was not just for looks, it was for use. My hips were wider to rest my baby on. My belly was squishy to create a comfortable seat for when I play peek-a-boo. My stretch marks were a reminder of how much I have endured and overcome. I was no longer that party-seeking 22 year old. I was now something that gave me a true purpose, I was a Mom.
Bundle of Joy
Over the next few months, Caleb grew out of his colic. Once he was able to express himself with sign language and words, everything got better. I believe he was colicky behavior was due to his extreme alertness to his surroundings. It overwhelmed him and caused him to cry. The swinging motions and loud noises drowned out the chaos around him. I say this because he is one of the most observant and bright kids I have ever seen. He learns extremely fast and is very attentive to others’ behavior. Not to mention he is full of a tremendous amount of joy at all times. I rarely have to discipline him, and if I do…he immediately apologizes for his actions.
Caleb has developed into the exact child that I had hoped to raise. After ALL of the stress and pain…I would 100% do it all over again if I could get a replica of him. He has changed my world for the better and helped me grow into the person I have always desired to be.
For those of you with a colicky baby, you are the lucky ones. Trust me. Just hang in there. I promise it will be SO WORTH IT.
YOU CAN DO IT. You are NOT alone. I have your back.
Thank you to Malissa for sharing her story.
To read more of Making Malissa, make sure to check out her story here…..