Old News: Past Blog Posts

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Boobies: A Tale of Trauma and Triumph


The other night's meltdown was just enough to send me back into the questionably-comforting arms of my neighborhood LC.  After visiting the NICU in the morning (the NICU nurse calling lactation twice for me) and calling the provided phone number twice from home (leaving two separate messages), I decided to phone the consignment shop where I had rented my 1200 dollar pump (for considerably less than 1200 dollars BTW).  I made an appointment for the following day and headed back into the NICU where lo-and-behold, I stumbled across the LC.  

So she sat with me and rattled off some clumsy words of encouragement (while I cried--you know, for the 500th time this week) and the name of a non-FDA approved capsule to boost my milk production.  Never mind that I had opened the conversation with the concern that my *let down* was apparently faulty and I felt I was getting 'backed up' AND never mind that she never actually asked what volumes I was able to produce (which wasn't half bad for four days in!!)

Ok, at this point it's only fair that I provide my dear readers with a yet another general warning: I will now discuss my boobs and their overall lactation behavior in graphic detail. 

If this is information that you would prefer to remain ignorant of, it's time to close this tab out and find some nice cat video on YouTube to cleanse your mental pallet.

I'll wait.

Ok, for the rest of you sick bastards, I will now define 'let down' (if you didn't already know) and describe to you the behavior of my lazy lady lumps.  

'Let down' is the release of milk from the breast.  I spent eight months last year experience pumping and nursing and believing that my utters just don't like to follow the usual pattern of the process, nor did they like to be rushed. 

When little man #1 was in the NICU, I would pump for 30-40 minutes at a time, at least eight times a day.  For you math majors out there, that's a minimum of four hours a day intimately bonding with a  whirring yellow box.   Once you tack on the 5-10 minute set up and take down, plus scrubbing and regular sanitizing of all the necessary pumping accessories, I was spending nearly 6 hours a day figuratively banging my head against the invisible wall of ideal motherhood (Breast is best, dammit!!)

Oh, and I was working 4 hours a day.   

That's 10 total hours of working and head banging (I know, my arithmetic is pretty stellar).  

On top of my already full days, I needed to find adequate time to visit the poor little dude at the hospital...oh, and squeeze a nap in here and there.

If our ass-kicking friends and family hadn't so graciously  pooled their resources to feed my husband and me dinner every night (meal train!!), I feel confident that my hubs and I would presently be shriveled up in a ditch somewhere, dead from starvation and/or exhaustion.

So you can imagine my anxiety as my husband, my boobs and I dive head-first into this same damn situation a mere 15 months later.

This time with a toddler to tango with.  Ever try keeping a one-year-old happy and out of trouble while tethered to a breast pump? Some of you may have done this, and can attest to the sheer insanity of it.  

As my milk supply has been establishing itself over the past few days -- thanks to the undying devotion I have to my hospital-grade Medela pump -- I have experienced the  'fullness' that is expected at this time.  My husband thinks it's amazing.  Too bad I won't let him get near me.  I sleep with a baseball bat and I'm not afraid to swing it at sensitive areas.

But I digress.

In addition to the fullness, by day three I was also beginning to feel some lumps and increased tenderness in places.  This was especially alarming because the lumps were not relieved by my 30 minute pumping sessions.  

Those of us in the milk production 'biz' worry about lumps and tenderness because it can be a symptom of a clogged duct and can lead to a nasty little little thing called 'mastitis' which looks a lot like the flu and is every nursing mom's worst nightmare.

Fast forward back to day four and my visit with the LC in the NICU:  

Feeling my problems were completely unsolved and immediately forgetting the name of the remedy I would have to order from Canada, I headed off to my appointment with a lady named Audra at the consignment shop.

She was simply brilliant.  
I wanted to bring her home with me.

Yes, she still abided strongly to the 'breast is best' mantra (formula is the Devil's milk I tell you!) but seemed somehow less aggressive about it than other board certified LCs I'd met.  She had also had a NICU baby herself and was totally sensitive to my situation.  

After actually *listening* to my problem, Audra got down to the first order of business: 'give me an old fashioned Mardi Gras move' and 'flash (her) the ladies.'  (See why I loved her?) 

Immediately she identified a possible contributor to my problem: my nipple shields were a size too small.  The shield is the funnel part of the pump that sits over the breast itself and can causes chaffing if it's too small.  See, chaffing elicits a pain response during pumping and can inhibit blood flow and cause psychological distress (you know, cuz it F-ing hurts) which can both inhibit the let down process.  

Who knew?  Not this girl.  And apparently, not either of the LCs at the hospital.  

My response?  Hallelujah!  Praise the milk Gods and *damn* those NICU LCs who let me spend 8 months (EIGHT MONTHS!) using the wrong shield size on my last go-around.  

Then, she had me set up on the pump and identified another possible issue: my tendency to smash the shields into my breast durning pumping -- another possible obstruction of blood flow. 

By 10 minutes into the appointment, I was ready to sell my soul (and what we have left of our Devil's Milk) to this woman.  

Let's review: The NICU LC had basically said, there's nothing we can do (that you haven't tried) aside from working on your production, it's probably just the way you are.  This was of course, all without getting all the information by witnessing me in action with the pump, or even palpating my problem areas to observe that they had traits of clogged ducts (feel me up lady, don't be shy!!)  

Wanna hear sometime that makes my blood boil even more rapidly?  When my husband returned that evening to the NICU, requesting a couple more pairs of the larger shields, the woman had the *balls* to tell him they were unnecessary.  She's lucky my hormonal ass was home with little guy #1, bc I would not be held responsible for the behavior of my hormonal fists after that statement.

Here's why:

Today was day eight of life with our newest tiny man and day three of life with larger shields.  Here's how life has changed since the new shields came on board:

1)  I pump without pain: I didn't even *realize* I had been so uncomfortable  with the smaller shields.  I had just tuned the pain out bc I had spent so many hundreds of hours experiencing it last year.  

2) I have a real 'let down': Finally! The geyser boobies I've been dreaming about!!

3) I pump in 15 minutes:  Words cannot express (ha, 'express') how exceedingly grateful I am to have my *life* back.  Remember math-lovers, this gives me back a full  *two hours* a day!!  More time for Pinterest!

4) My 'production' has sky-rocketed: on day eight, I have officially pumped a greater volume than I could pump on week FIVE last time around and almost THREE times as much as I pumped on day eight with little guy #1.  I know this bc naturally, there's an app for that. 

5) I suddenly feel a little less Incompetent:  Let's remember that I am a sensitive ball of nerves and hormones, prone to sporadic meltdowns and intense self-doubt.  I am already deemed 'incompetent' south of my waistline and had basically been judged the same northward.  Not anymore, lactation bitches.  Not anymore.


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