The recovery of the Bunny
Recovery from the C-section has been speedy and problem free (knock on wood)–no worse than the myomectomy. I was on my feet the day after surgery, planting tomatoes seedlings in the garden a week later. I think I’m 90% back to normal, and previous experience suggests it will be months before I make up that last 10% and no longer feel a little bit tired and a little bit stiff. But in general, the part where someone cut my guts open has been no big deal. It’s the tits that turned out to be my Achilles’ heel.
What follows is a detailed account of my suffering, which will be of zero interest. But shortly before your baby is born, come back here and read this, as it might save your life. Or at least your nipples.
Flash back to Bun Bun’s birthday. By the time I got my hands on her, she was sleepy and not interested in breastfeeding. I was quite anxious that she make the effort, though. As you all know, if a baby–particularly one born via C-section–doesn’t breastfeed within a certain window, she will die and also grow up to be a murderer. So I made the attempt without proper supervision. I mean, shit, I read the books, I practiced using the plastic doll in breastfeeding class, what more is there to it?
Here’s what more there is to it. Two or three feedings that look reasonable (nipple lined up with nose at time of entry, chin far down, lips flanged out) can fuck you up so quickly that you’ll still be unwilling to wear a shirt two weeks later. And sure, it hurt a bit, and I knew it wasn’t supposed to, but it’s allowed to hurt a little, right? And anyway, I was willing to take some pain for the sake of not having to raise a dead murderer. What a fool I was. I so, SO wish I’d waited until an expert was on hand. As it turns out, she probably would not have been much use, but would likely have been better than nothing.
Over the course of the day, a number of nurses looked at my latch. Some pronounced it good, others offered advice. Bloody blisters were forming on the ends of my nipples. A lactation consultant looked at my latch. She said my nipples were long (Shocking news! I’d been worried they were short!) and Bun Bun’s mouth was small, so it was going to be hard. She taught me some stuff, and I had hope that things would improve. Trying to latch her on was beginning to really hurt quite a lot, plus she was hard to wrangle when I was full of tubes and unable to really move easily. But I persevered through the night and the following day. On day 3, our pediatrician stopped by and informed me that she had lost too much weight. She also said that this is typical of C-section babies because of all the saline they pumped into me (that is, her birth weight was probably a bit inflated), and that it’s most likely typical of vaginally delivered babies too, but they go home sooner so no-one catches it. None the less, she wanted me to use a supplemental nursing system. They wouldn’t let me take her home if she didn’t gain a bit. With a massive effort of will I agreed to this without bursting into tears at the thought of formula touching my baby’s lips on the third day of her life for no logical reason except that I was a total faaaaaailure. The SNS is a little tube that is taped to your nipple so the baby still nurses on your breast, but gets a bit extra from the fine people at Sim.ilac. It’s a lovely invention for the cases in which it’s really needed, but a huge pain in the ass when you are not comfortable nursing yet and your nipples are falling off. It adds an additional factor to an already complicated situation. Still, I did it. I wanted to take her home, so I did as I was told.
I’d noticed a little tightness in my breasts that afternoon. Oh boy! My milk is coming in! Perhaps in a day or two it will arrive, I told Mr. Bunny. And then, that evening as we were wrangling the stupid fucking SNS, BAM! Like a mack truck came my milk! The books skip over this part, by the way. They’re like oh and then your milk will come in. Nature is a beautiful thing! They don’t describe the fact that it may come in in a matter of MINUTES. Mr. Bunny was hilariously flustered. He was like OHMAHGAWD MILK! CALL A NURSE! So then I had rock hard tits and falling off nipples. The good news was that I could kick the SNS to the curb. They weighed her at midnight, and she was up enough that they reckoned she’d get the green light in the morning. And she did. So we took my aching tits and bloody nipples and beautiful daughter home.
Sunday: I decided to alternate pumping with feeding, in the hopes that I’d heal a bit in between.
Monday: we called the lactation people at our pediatrician’s. We’d chosen the practice specifically for this service, but while I could talk to someone on the phone, I couldn’t get an appointment until the next day.
Tuesday: the LC at the pediatrician’s FINALLY showed me how to latch her on properly. Ridiculous. I’d done what I could to educate myself. I’d gotten advice from probably ten people who were supposed to know what they were doing, including a certified lactation consultant. But in five minutes this woman opened my eyes to a whole new world of pain-free nursing. I felt like an idiot. But I also felt deeply ripped off that so many people had failed me. My nipples also felt deeply ripped off.
Wednesday-Thursday: I experience the difficulty of recreating at home what I’d done in the office. A bleeding fissure opens up in my right nipple. I pump that breast exclusively in the hopes that it will heal. I spoon feed her the results, a messy and depressing procedure. A bleeding fissure opens up in my left nipple. I do some internet reading and conclude healing won’t happen any faster if I just pump. I feed her on both bleeding sides, trying not to be too appalled when she gets little droplets of blood on her nose.
Friday: Mr. Bunny calls for a second appointment with the lactation people. The receptionist asks him the reason for our visit, and he utters the famous words: Mom has bloody nipples. I meet with the doctor who specializes in breastfeeding medicine. She is awesome beyond words, with a sense of humor and everything. She’s doing a study on early breastfeeding pain and we chat about institutional review boards and informed consent documents. She helps me learn a new hold and gives me a prescription for a topical antibacterial that will help me heal while I continue feeding. She takes cultures to make sure I’m not getting infected. She makes me feel a ton better about life. We make it through the weekend.
Monday: We return for a little fine tuning. While my nipples are healing, latching her on continues to be a struggle, involving multiple failed attempts (which are quite painful), and frequent weeping.
Today: The scabs from the bloody blisters are almost entirely gone. The fissures are almost healed. I can latch her on with only a few failed attempts, and haven’t cried since…yesterday. I can imagine a world in which life is not a series of painful and frustrating experiences occurring at two or three hour intervals.
Today my daughter is two weeks old. We relived her birth at 8:33 this morning. Our ups are so fucking high, but I want to be truthful about our downs. They are low. I know many of you have had easy breastfeeding experiences, and I
would like to stab you in the face am delighted for you. I know many of you have had far worse troubles than I have (uh…so far), and I am now in a much better position to offer you my sincere sympathies. I know many of you–though most likely no-one who has read this far–have no babies to rip your nipples off yet, and I humbly beg pardon for what might sound like bitching. But to all those fuckers who say breastfeeding is a beautiful, natural thing, and who say if it hurts you’re not doing it right and then fail to help you make it NOT hurt, I say: DIE, MOTHERFUCKERS, DIE.