Breastfeeding: The Beginning

You would think that breastfeeding would be an easy and natural process.

Animals do it.

Our bodies are made to do it.

So it really couldn’t be that hard, right?

I quickly learned that it was far more complicated than I ever imagined.

Based on my assumption that breastfeeding would be a breeze, I opted to skip the class about breastfeeding. And looking back, I wish I hadn’t. I’m not sure how much good it would have done because there is something different about learning from a book and doing. But, I’m sure that some of the information would have been helpful.

I had to quickly get over the mortifying feeling of being ‘exposed’ because nurses and doctors walked in to our hospital room constantly. I knew they were medical professionals, but I still wasn’t used to the idea of everyone seeing my breast. This feeling of modesty was probably part of why it was so hard to get the hang of things. I just wasn’t comfortable flashing my nipples around. And it was always a bit strange when a total stranger would get up-close and personal to help me feed my child. Eventually, I was able to get more comfortable nursing with other people around.  It is a natural process and if there was every a time to see a bare breast, it was now, when I was using it to feed my child.

In the hospital I had access to lactation consultants who stopped by periodically to help. But somehow they always seemed to come in either after Donovan had eaten or at an inopportune time. They were helpful and they did offer lots of great tips, but I was still trying to figure it all out and I was still feeling overwhelmed by everything.  Besides, I thought everything was going fine.

By the second week, I was getting desperate. Apparently Donovan did not have a good latch, which was why he took so long to eat and why I was still full after feedings. Due to the poor latch, my nipples were so sore and I even had a crack in one, which made nursing on that side, his favorite side, super painful. Everyone said that it wouldn’t be painful, but it was, and I had no idea what I was doing wrong. I googled and read and cried. Nothing seemed to make things any better.

To add to my growing concern, Donovan wasn’t gaining as much weight as the doctor wanted to see. She wasn’t worried but she knew that I was struggling with breastfeeding, so she was able to help. I started to felt like a failure. How could something that seemed so simple and natural, be so hard? And, was my desire to figure out breastfeeding going to negatively impact my son if he wasn’t able to get enough to eat? I wasn’t ready to give up and I wasn’t ready to supplement with formula.  Anytime I am faced with challenge, I become even more determined to overcome it.  Since I was having so much trouble with breastfeeding and it was making me so emotional, I had a really hard time asking for help. I just felt that I was the only one who had ever struggled with this. All I could do was cry about it. I guess I can blame it on the hormones!

By the time my Mom arrived for her second visit, I knew that I had to schedule an appointment with a lactation consultant. I was so desperate to do anything to make this process easier and less painful. We went to the appointment together and I am so glad that she could be there to help me. The lactation consultant was amazing. She showed me a few things to do differently and it all worked! It was shocked at how easy it was. I worried that I wouldn’t be able to replicate the same techniques on my own. Luckily my Mom was a great coach and after that appointment, everything started getting so much better.

Looking back, I wish I would have learned more before I started.

I wish I would have asked for help sooner.

I wish I would have realized that is breastfeeding a natural process that is also a learned art.

I wish I would have realized that breast were made for feeding and that people would see them.  And it would be ok!

And I wish that I would have realized that I did not need to make myself feel so alone in the process of learning to breastfeed.

Now that breastfeeding is second nature, I have become so thankful that I didn’t give up when it got hard. I also realize that I am so lucky.

I didn’t have any physical issues that could have forced me to stop breastfeeding.

I had a breast-pump, which helped me keep my supply up even when Donovan wasn’t creating the demand.

I had supportive friends and family who know how much this meant to me and encouraged me to get the help that I needed.

And most importantly, I had a supportive partner. If Doug would have said, “this is too much, you need to give him formula” I might have given up or worse, resented him. But he didn’t, and he was there for me the whole way.  Even when I was crying and not sure of what to do, he would always fill up my water cup and ask if I need anything else.  I am so thankful for him!

I feel that it is important to share my journey because I know that I am not the only one who has faced challenges with breastfeeding.  My story is not meant to scare anyone away from breastfeeding.  I have loved the experience and I enjoy the bonding it has fostered and the nourishment that it provides.  It has been a personal choice and I hope that this story encourages other women to realize that there are resources available to help and that you can do it!

I personally have really enjoyed “The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding”.  I started reading it after Donovan was born and it is still providing me with insight and information that I find helpful.  I really recommend it to anyone who is interesting in breastfeeding.

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Now I can breastfeed easily anywhere!
Now I can breastfeed easily anywhere!
With my Mom, practicing how to breastfeed at age 4!
With my Mom, practicing how to breastfeed at age 4!

With Love,

From me to you

The First Week

Being welcomed home by my family was the perfect way to start off our journey as new parents. I had plenty of helpful hands to hold the little guy and all meals were planed and prepared before I could even think about being hungry.  Just having my family there made things so simple and it was wonderful sharing this special time with them.  On Sunday, Teri, Fred and Kelly Learned came down from Winston-Salem to meet the little guy, too.

First Schwartz Family picture!
First Schwartz Family picture!
GiGi and Granddad
GiGi and Granddad

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By Sunday night, the exhaustion and the realness of being a new mom was beginning to hit me.  I was so tired and I was still fighting off a head cold.  My Dad suggested that we play a round of “Settlers of Catan” and given my love for the game, I agreed.  I didn’t make it very long before Donovan was awake and needing to be fed.  The rest of the events are a bit foggy, but I do remember loosing my cool and basically ending the game.  I was beginning to learn that my priorities would be playing second fiddle to my baby for a while.

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Stella loves her brother!
Stella loves her brother!

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My sisters and Dad left on Monday, but my Mom was able to stay with us for a week.  Having my Mom stay with us was such a gift.  Moms know you.  They know what you need, want, and what you don’t.  They do things without you asking or without needing pleasantries or ‘thank yous’.  They do it because they are your Mom and they love you.  I am lucky to have learned how to be a Mom from a woman who is an amazing example of selfless and unconditional love.  I know in that first week I was not always patient or nice.  I was sleep-deprived, stressed, and trying to adjust to the craziest change of my life.  My mom was there to help me get the hang of nursing, which was no simple task.  She was there to teach me how to BE a mom by showing me tips and tricks that must be part of a secret motherhood society.  She was there to make the most delicious meals, because you know meals taste better when they are made by your Mom.  She was there to give me a break when I needed it.    She was there to make me go on a date with Doug before she left, since she knew that time alone together would be hard to find as new parents.  She was there to do every chore that I had forgotten about because I had a new baby that demanded my full attention and who has time for chores with a newborn?!?  She was there to help with errands and to prepare meals for after she left.  She was there to tell me that I was doing a good job, even when I felt that I wasn’t.

In the first week we did enjoy a few outings:

To the pediatrician: We loved our doctor.  She was so sweet with Donovan and she was super helpful with all things breastfeeding.  She said that things were looking good.

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To Target: This was my first solo outing.  It felt strangely amazing to be able to go somewhere alone.  I could zip through the aisles and I could do whatever I wanted!  Of course, I was on a short time-frame, since feedings were every three hours or less, so my freedom was short-lived but very much appreciated.

To Verde: This is where Doug and I went for our first date as new parents.  I love Cuban food and everything was delicious!  I also enjoyed my first beer post pregnancy!  It was nice to spend time with Doug without any distraction.  It was hard leaving the little guy, but I knew he was in good hands with my Mom.

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To the office: My breast pump (thank you insurance!!) was delivered to my office because I lived on campus.  It was nice to pop in and see all of my co-workers.  They wanted to know all of the details of the birth and how things were going.  I know that they were dying to meet the little guy, too!

To walk around Davidson: Doug and I took Stella and Donovan out for our first walk to enjoy the beautiful weather.  We put him in his carrier and used the stroller, but we quickly realized that the brick around campus was really bumpy so we had to take alternate routes. It was nice to get out and move my body after being cooped up for a week.

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We had a few more visitors before my Mom left. Shanoya, Brian and Rosie all came over to catch up and meet the little guy.  Sarah and Cayce came a little bit later too.  It was fun introducing everyone to this little person that they had been waiting to meet for so long.

Donovan got his first bath by the end of his first week.  It was my mom’s expertise that made the whole process possible.  It is so much harder than it looks. Who knew that bathing a little human would be so difficult?

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I was so sad to see my mom go. And I’d like to blame all of the hormones, but I have always been an emotional person when it comes to family. We were so thankful for all of her help and we knew that she had done so much. And we couldn’t wait to have her back just a few weeks later.

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By the end of the first week, I was feeling pretty confident that Doug and I could do this parenting thing.  I knew that we could handle it together.  And I knew that my Mom had passed on so much to us in that first week together.

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One week new.

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With Love,

From Me to You

The Hospital Stay

The first few hours together as a family of three will always be a special memory to me.  We were so in awe of our new little guy.  We watched him sleep, yawn, stretch, coo, and stare back at us.  We looked at his little hands, huge feet, and hairy little head.  Doug and I were so happy.  We just kept talking about the journey to this point.  About all of the wonderful moments to come.  And, in hindsight, all of the little signs that had told us that we would have a boy.

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Doug and I knew that we wanted the delivery to be something for just us to share.  I knew that I needed it to be very calm and low key. It was really nice to have such a relaxing first day with our little man. We shared the news with family and friends via text and phone calls. We took our first family picture and posted it on Facebook…since nothing is real until it is on Facebook, right?

Our first family photo :)
Our first family photo 🙂

They had me up and walking around not too long after the delivery. By the afternoon, we were settled in our new room. On the way, I got to press the button that played Brahms lullaby through the whole hospital, to let everyone know that Donovan had been born.

Doug was a trooper since he stayed with me the whole time. The first night, while I was in labor, he slept on a chair that turned into a small bed. Luckily we didn’t sleep much that night because it looked really uncomfortable. In our recovery room, there was a full sofa that turned into a twin bed when you removed the back cushions.

The first shower was both wonderful and horrible at the same time. I wasn’t painful but the reality of the events that my body had been through were becoming more of a reality. My whole body was tired and a little weak. I had tape residue on my back from the epidural and on my arm from the IV.  I don’t think it completely came off for about a week. The shower was one of those open spaces with tile so it wasn’t exactly luxurious.   But it did feel great to be freshly showered and in my own clothes.

I had heard that your stomach would not go back to its normal size for a while.  What I didn’t expect was how weird it would feel.  It felt like jello and the skin was just saggy.  Luckily I never had any stretch marks, which I soon discovered when I could finally see my whole stomach!

Everyone tells you that new parents get no sleep. I just didn’t realize that the lack of sleep would begin at the hospital. Between the awe of this tiny human and the fear that somehow something would happen while you are asleep, I just couldn’t relax and rest. When Donovan wasn’t waking up every two hours to eat, it was the nursing staff who were coming in to check on me and/or Donovan. I had a stuffy nose going to the hospital, and by the end of the stay, it was a full blown head cold.

Doug thought that we looked alike here, so he took this picture.
Doug thought that we looked alike here, so he took this picture.

It wasn’t all bad. The food was actually pretty good and since my labor was so quick, I didn’t miss any meals. I do have to say that I had never been so hungry as I was after labor.  The French toast, eggs, and bacon was exactly what I wanted!

I had packed books and magazines to entertain myself while in the hospital. I thought that I would have all this time on my hands. We even brought the laptop to watch Netflix or Hulu. In the end, I don’t think I even opened the bag and the laptop was never even turned on.

My family arrived on Friday night. It was so special watching them meet Donovan for the first time. It was also comforting to be with my family and to celebrate such a special event in our family. We ate Hawthorne pizza and enjoyed the evening together.

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The next day we finally got to leave the hospital. It had felt like we had been there for so long. It was both a little sad and extremely exciting to leave the hospital. It was as if everything would become real once we walked out those doors. For some reason it was taking a while for us to get discharged, so I opted to skip the wheel chair ride and get on our way.

This is about how we felt after the hospital stay
This is about how we felt after the hospital stay
Looking a little concerned about leaving the hospital
Looking a little concerned about leaving the hospital
The view of Charlotte from our room. It was beautiful at night.
The view of Charlotte from our room. It was beautiful at night.

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That first drive together was the most nerve-wracking event of my life. Suddenly you are aware of every person texting, speeding, or driving recklessly, which was everyone! If Doug didn’t already hate my back-seat driving, I think it went to new levels on that ride home.

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When we arrived back at our apartment, Leah has decorate with signs that welcomed Donovan home.  Stella finally got to meet her little brother.  She was so interested in this new little person.  She just wanted to lick him and we had to teach her to be gentle, but she was very sweet to him.

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My last 'bump' picture with my little guy!
My last ‘bump’ picture with my little guy!

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It was so nice to be home and to get settled.  My family arrived after our little family reunion and they were so helpful by making meals and keeping things clean and organized.

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With Love,

From Me to You