A resource to inspire, inform and empower parents.

Traumatic Start To Breastfeeding – An Insider Perspective

By Autumn Smith

I got pregnant unexpectedly at the age of 21. I was working as a nurse aide in the hospital when I discovered I was pregnant. The hospital actually “let me go” since I couldn’t “meet the job description.” Essentially I had a note from my OB saying I shouldn’t lift over 50lbs. My job involved lifting and transferring patients all day. I was given the opportunity to apply internally for another position within the system. I ended up working as a clinical assistant in the NICU. What an eye opener to an entirely different world. I loved my job there. It gave me the chance to learn the true reality of motherhood in a different light along with breastfeeding.

I was on vacation with my family in Tennessee (we live in Pennsylvania) we drove there. It was May 29 when in the middle of the night I had a tiny leak. It was small but so very unsettling. We left on the 30 that morning to make the 11 hour drive home with everyone in the van. My gut just told me something wasn’t right. No one believed me that something was wrong. I had no pain no discomfort no cramps nothing. We arrived home around 11pm. The entire drive my anxiety was through the roof. I called my OB he asked about the leak, I told him I put a pad on but only changed it once. He said it didn’t seem like my water was leaking at all but I kept telling him over and over that something wasn’t right. He said to just go to the hospital then. The nurse on the maternity floor told me I could take my bags back to the car because it was most likely a false alarm. They swabbed me and it came back positive for amniotic fluid. I could hear the nurse talking about it with another nurse. I got a room to be seen by OB. He came in and was going over the fact that I was 33 weeks and 5 days so we could try to wait it out on bed rest. At this point no one had even checked my cervix to see about dilation. I mentioned this so he checked me and I was 4cm dilated. So it was decided by him that we were having this baby, he started pitocin. I wasn’t even talked to about stuff, just told what was happening. I was put on the monitor, told I couldn’t eat or drink or get out of bed. The next morning I woke up and they checked me again I was 7cm dilated, still no cramps, pain or anything. My OB came in and said the sac had a lot of fluid in it so he drained it. I had wanted an epidural so the nurse had to run the fluids really fast via IV. The doctor came in to do the epidural. Pain suddenly hit me I had this strange uncontrollable shaking. The nurse told me to relax, that I was fine. I told her I felt like I needed to push. She told me I didn’t, I was just feeling pressure. I had to yell at her that I needed to push. She finally, annoyed with attitude, told me to lay down she would check me, I laid down and she said he was crowning and yelled for the doctor. My doctor came flying in. The bed didn’t even get broken down. My husband, who wanted to hold my leg, was told to move, he couldn’t see anything because I had 5 nurses around me. I wasn’t told much. They kept telling me I needed to push when my body just wasn’t ready to. I wanted to go with the natural contractions my body was making but I was continually yelled at to push. Then I was told I wasn’t pushing correctly. I had one nurse tell me to stop screaming so loud. Uh hello, I am doing this without any pain meds at all.  After 5 sets of pushes my handsome 5lb 1oz baby boy was born. He was put cord cut and taken away. I didn’t even get to see him. My husband followed my son to the NICU. I was left with one nurse and my OB with blood everywhere. My OB had to fish out my placenta. Even typing that gives me PTSD.

Having my son in the NICU was a very strange experience. I work here, it’s my job. I know the things that, well frankly, you don’t want to know about places. I know the ins and outs. The good nurses and the bad. What I wasn’t expecting was how I was going to be treated. Everyone was nice at first, super sympathetic and supportive. After a couple days it changed, my support nearly gone. I felt cold and alone. It’s like these people I knew didn’t know me. It made my anxiety worse. I was worried there was something more wrong with my son. After I delivered my son I didn’t get to see him until 4 hours after and they wouldn’t even let me touch or hold him. I got to hold him the following night. I was determined to breastfeed but honestly I knew a lot about it but actually doing it was an entirely different thing. I had not seen a lactation consultant at all while being there. I told the lactation consultant I knew at the NICU and she was furious. She helped me with getting my son latched. My boob was huge compared to his tiny mouth. I had an awful time getting him to latch. We ended up using a nipple shield to help. The problem was it took my milk 3 days to come in. I had to fight non stop with the NICU to not push the formula and allow me to get my milk in to give it to him. Luckily it did and when it came in I had an oversupply.

the badass breastfeeder

This photo to this day brings back all the PTSD. Brodie had so many things stuck in and on his tiny body.

My son ended up spending 12 days in the NICU. What ended up keeping him there was jaundice. They kept saying it was from my breast milk. They had wanted me to stop giving it to him. I refused. I did not feel as if it was that causing it. With a lot of fighting they allowed us to go home on day 12. Some good ol’ sunshine and he was just fine.

the badass breastfeeder

This is the NICU stay 2016

It wasn’t until months later when I realized I had postpartum rage and anxiety along with PTSD that I sought mental health help. I was told by the first psychologist that what I had was just anxiety it had no relation to my birth trauma which she also said wasn’t trauma. I got a new psychologist. She didn’t per say label it as postpartum she just helped with my symptoms I was having. To this day (my son is 2) I deal with anxiety and PTSD. When I returned to work, which my job only gave me 6 weeks off since I did not qualify for FMLA due to being “let go” even though I was with the same company it did not count since it was a new position. I had spent two of the six weeks in the NICU. I got four short weeks with my preemie. I returned to work and would have panic attacks in the bathroom. I couldn’t go to the spot where his bed was. I had built up anger towards my coworkers. It got so hard going back in. My husband knew it was killing me, he decided to budget money and we made the choice to have me stay home with my son.

the badass breastfeeder

This is Brodie currently age 2

Ever since his birth I had my daughter in January, I have become a huge advocate for breastfeeding along with women’s rights within the hospital. We are just not educated or respected anymore. If I didn’t have the strength to defend myself and stand up for me then I wouldn’t have been able to breastfeed my son. We made it a year breastfeeding! I then found out I was pregnant and my OB told me it was best to not breastfeed due to being high risk, something I am not sure is totally accurate. He sort of was weaning on his own, I just stopped allowing him to nurse and it was an easy end to our nursing journey. I don’t have the desire to go through the entire schooling to become a lactation consultant nor do I want to go back to work honestly. I wouldn’t give up being a stay at home mom for the world but I do try to advocate in anyway I possibly can. I love educating myself on it continually.

The Badass Breastfeeder

Brodie and Talon

This is my daughter Talon breastfeeding

If you are looking for more support regarding birth trauma please click here for The Badass Breastfeeding Podcast episode called Birth Trauma. 

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