A resource to inspire, inform and empower parents.

My Introduction To Parenthood

By Mellissa Harris

My husband and I are high school sweethearts and were together 7 years before deciding to get married. We were married on September 7th, 2013. That’s when the roller coaster started. I was pregnant the next month, we used the money we were supposed to spend on a honeymoon on a down payment to buy our first home which was purchased by November, and I got a new position at work while I was pregnant. I was projected to start after my maternity leave. Every aspect of my life changed that year! I became a mother, a wife, and a homeowner to a pretty big fixer-upper, and changing jobs. I was a hormonal mess! My current job, while I was pregnant, was an infant/toddler teacher to 8 babies at an Early Head Start center. I was frequently sick and did TONS of lifting. I was frequently asked when I was going on maternity leave because I needed a long term sub to cover my position. In my current position, we did not pay into state disability so I was not able to use that during my maternity leave. I had to calculate the hours I had with my baby postpartum and that was a frequent argument with my husband during my whole pregnancy. The maximum I could take was 6 weeks. That left me with ZERO sick time or vacation for the remainder of the year.

    Fast forward to delivery, I was a nervous wreck. Before having a baby I had never been to a hospital before. I had never had a surgery or had any serious illness that would require a hospital stay. My blood pressure was elevated so I was admitted to the hospital the day before my due date. I was TERRIFIED! They were going to induce me. That weird thing was inserted and just dangling out of my body… yuck! I could not relax or sleep at all. My nerves were shot and my husband was slumbering away on his cot next to me. Around 3 AM I called in the nurse because I just needed to cry.  Her name was Blossom and she talked to me about my fears, how she would help and gave me some lavender to smell to calm my nerves. She was an angel. The next morning I was able to get into a beautiful hot tub to float around while my contractions got more intense. It felt like a dream and I never wanted to get out. I had to get out to allow my doctor to pop my water because they didn’t on its own. I saw the large embroidery type needle that was used to pop my water and I FLIPPED! I locked my knees together and could NOT relax. My doctor had to pry them open. She attempted 2 times to pop my waters unsuccessfully. By the 3rd she was irritated with me. She put her hand on my knees and said firmly, “if you cannot handle having my hand up there you cannot handle having a baby.” She abruptly opened my legs again and popped my water. I was HYSTERICAL. She just left after that. I held onto my wide-eyed husband who just saw his wife be violated, and I sobbed. I lost all the confidence I had in myself and was BEGGING for pain medication. I was of course “not able to handle having a baby.” My nurse called in my savior… the Doula.  She came in like a Saint floating in on a cloud. She was quiet, calm, and serene. She politely introduced herself to my frazzled mother in the room and my stressed out husband. She surrounded me with pillows and massaged me for what seemed like FOREVER. She encouraged me to get into the water again because that was where I was most comfortable. As labor intensified I was unsure if I could stay in there because I didn’t take the “water birth” class!  Lucky for me my doula was the instructor of the water birth class. I gave her my waterlogged hand as I scribbled my name on a release of liability. She said, “If I say you need to get out, get out. Ok?” I would not disagree with that. After 3 long hours of pushing, I delivered a beautiful healthy baby girl. I felt like a badass. My husband held me up in the tub by my shoulders and I couldn’t believe that I just gave birth all by myself!?!? It was euphoria… until my daughter latched for the first time…

Chapter 2 Breastfeeding

I felt like it was important to tell my birth story because I feel like the words of my doctor rang in my ears for MONTHS after….

Breastfeeding was always something that I wanted to do. I read online articles and browsed the Mommy Blogs about it, I generally felt pretty confident that I was going to breastfeed. Until the first latch… holy shit! She missed! She drew blood in the middle of my boob! What the hell?! In the hospital, it felt like I had nurse after nurse just moving my baby around for me to get the latch. I was so desperate for her to latch I basically raised my hands in the air and surrendered. 

Being a new mom changed EVERYTHING! Basic things like going to the store felt foreign and stressful. What if I have to feed her in public? Where do I do that? Where are the diaper changers, I’ve never paid much attention to that before? How many breast pads could I possibly saturate in a single day?!? All these changes were overwhelming yet, I had only 6 weeks to figure it out. That deadline left a pit in my stomach.  I clung onto my baby and hardly let her go… even if I needed it…  

Breastfeeding continued to be painful for the next 2 weeks but I wasn’t giving up. I had an open wound on my nipple that was growing every day. My mother in law finally figured out that I am not going to call a lactation consultant and had the one from the hospital call me. She gave me some compound, heavy duty, extra strength nipple cream that saved my damn life. Insurance did not cover it and it cost $80. Worth. Every. Penny. I also got mastitis 1 week before going back to work. I felt like I was JUST getting healed when I had to go back to work. I cried for the entire day. I took care of infants for a living, why couldn’t I be home with mine?!? My body was also very responsive to crying babies and I felt engorged all day.

The small details in caring for a breastfed baby start rushing in. I was not prepared on how to teach someone how to feed my baby. I just learned that NO ONE in my husband’s side of the family breastfed and they were the ones caring for my daughter while I went back to work full time. They actually avoided the act of breastfeeding all together! I had worked SO hard on breastfeeding I was NOT going to let someone ruin her gut with formula. I was paranoid. This took me on my journey of breastfeeding education that I am currently on now. I was constantly asked, “When am I supposed to give her water? She must be so thirsty just drinking milk all day! Just give her some Gentle Ease, why all the fuss to stress yourself out over breastfeeding?” I was constantly checking the cabinets and counting my milk bags to make sure my daughter wasn’t being supplemented formula behind my back. 

Looking back, the newborn days were full of sleepless nights and worry. I felt like it was only MY job to respond to every cry and meet every need and I was losing myself. I constantly felt like I was failing and not doing enough. I constantly got, “you must miss your baby so much while you are working, and you are stronger than me. I just couldn’t leave my baby as you do.” I didn’t have a choice, we had bills to pay! My husband and I were like ghosts to each other. I was a shell of a person. He held resentment because he had me for 8 years to himself and now he has none of my attention (and let’s be honest… affection too). He resented breastfeeding because it took him out of the picture. 

As I dug deeper into breastfeeding education and became empowered by all my efforts by the nutrients I was giving my baby. I was hooked. After 3 months of using that damn breast shield, breastfeeding became easier.  I came into my new position at work as a Home Visitor. I work with pregnant and children under 3. This was the PERFECT population to tell mama’s about all of this breastfeeding information I was learning. I wanted to get rid of all the crap information out there about breastfeeding and teach the evidence-based information. I became a Certified Lactation Educator to solidify that goal for myself. I now hold monthly support groups, increased outreach for breastfeeding mamas within home based visits. My breastfeeding journey struggles don’t define me, they made me the resilient, and breastfeeding mom I am today. Those feelings of overwhelming anxiety do end, the sleep does eventually regulate, it does get better! Making a village of support is ESSENTIAL! I am now back in school to finish up my AA degree to move towards becoming an IBCLC. I will be the first generation to graduate college in my family. My goal is to open a private practice to continue home base visits because I feel like it is most effective. There isn’t such a thing in over 500 miles from where I live. We are in DIRE need of breastfeeding support in my community.