Athena’s Mommy

Since having Jaxon I’ve fallen in love with hearing other women’s adventures with their labor and deliveries. I shared a little bit about this mama, whose little one received donor milk, but I asked her if she wanted to share her story and she said yes! So I’m excited to share it with you all!  Out of respect to her, we’ll call her mama J! Let me also say before I share with you her story, I was so amazed as I read her story. If you haven’t read my labor & delivery story, go ahead and check that out, but this is why I love hearing other women’s stories. I read mama J’s story and think “How?! You are a warrior!!” So here is her amazing story she sent me to share with you all!! 

“I gave birth to a beautiful baby girl, Athena at Health Foundations Birth Center. I had 4 days of prodromal labor, which was really manageable EXCEPT all the pain in my hips. We found out after she was born that her hands were by her face, pressing into my hips. Unlike contractions that eventually gave me a break, the hip pain would subside after a contraction, but verrrrry slowly so I rarely got big breaks from them. That to me was the hardest part. I had started my contractions on a Saturday, got checked out on a Monday (I was past my due date, so I had a non-stress test this day) and I was 1.5 cm dilated and 80% effaced. So I was thinking, I'm going to have this baby probably by Tuesday morning! Monday night the contractions came closer together (although not less than 5 min apart) so we called my doula to give my husband and break and much needed sleep.

Because of the pain in my hips, I could only get rest either on the toilet or face down (downward dog style) in a mountain of pillows. Every time I tried to lay down, a contraction would come and I would shoot up with pain in my hips. So fun. lol Throughout the night I got pockets of sleep. Then Tuesday morning came and I continued my walks, bouncing on my yoga ball, dancing, sex, rocking in baby's room, inversions on the stool, EVERYTHING and still couldn't get under 5 minutes. By Tuesday night I was exhausted, and while I didn't want an epidural, I was willing to go get one because of how tired I was. Throughout this whole time, I could eat and drink a good amount, so I had that going for me. My husband, knowing how much I didn't like hospitals and needles, suggested we get checked out by the midwife, because if I knew I was at least making progress, I could continue on. So we hopped in the car, threw on my Hypnobirthing CD....which kinda helped for the 1 hour long car ride. We got to Health Foundations around 9pm Tuesday night. The midwife checked me out and said I was 90% effaced and 3 cm dilated. ONLY 3!!!! After I delivered, she told me, I was only at a 2, but she didn't want to see me depressed, so she bumped it up a little. I'm glad she did, because had she told me the truth, I would have given up right then and there. We asked if there was anything more we could do for relief or to help the labor along faster. We were given a recipe for a labor inducting smoothie. It in was champagne, apricot nectar, castor oil and almond butter. IT WAS DISGUSTING. But it worked! This smoothie basically makes your body decide between having a baby or now dealing with irritable bowels (from the castor oil). And it usually always chooses baby.

We decided to drive to Little Canada, where my in laws live, instead of driving the hour back. This was because the midwife said I should start seeing progress within a couple of hours. I drank the smoothie around midnight and what only felt like 10 minutes (it was actually 2 hours) I couldn't labor anymore. I had met my maker and yelled for my husband. I pleaded with him to take me to the hospital, cried because I thought he wasn't listening to me, etc. It turns out, when this was happening, it was 2 am (2 hours later after drinking the smoothie) and he was timing my contractions and they were now 2.5-3 minutes apart. I had no idea - all I knew was that I was in a lot of pain, exhausted and I wasn't getting a break ever. He didn't tell me they were close - only that we should go get checked by the midwife and if I wasn't progressing he would take me to the hospital now.

We arrived back at Health Foundations around 2:30am on Wednesday morning. I got taken to the backroom (which was weird to me becasue I was checked in the front room, the first time around.) Turns out my husband called the midwives and they were certain I was in active labor and could stay. The midwife said I was an 8! I yelled "Praise Jesus!" and cried. I was so relieved I could stay and I was close. So in two hours, I went from 2cm-8cm dilated. They got their fabulous tub ready for me, while I labored on the bed for another 45-60 minutes. I had a little nitrous oxide to give me a little break before pushing. I started to push not longer after that and about 30 minutes later, out came baby girl at 4:23am!! I had a fantastic water birth and wanted to buy that tub when it was done.

When pushing out my placenta, the cord broke, so I had to go back on the bed, got some more nitrous oxide because they had to manually use their fingers to find the remaining cord and help pull it out. It wasn't painful because of the gas, but it was a little scary. My midwife and nurse were FANTASTIC and kept me calm the whole time.

After our 6 hours of observation, we had to transfer to Children's in Saint Paul because of Athena's high breathing rate. Because my active labor and pushing stage were so short, she didn't get squeezed enough in the birth canal. The squeezing helps the longs clear out amniotic fluid and when she was born, she still had some in her lungs causing her body to work a little harder to clear it out. However, the observation at Children's ended up being 3 days long because of all the tests, 48 hours of antibiotics they gave her (because they thought she swallowed birth water, when they found out how I delivered) and then her glucose levels were really low, because my supply hadn't come in yet. It wasn't the best experience and exactly why I wanted to avoid hospitals to begin with, BUT baby girl was happy and healthy when we left.

This led us to find out that I wasn't producing enough milk for her. We had to supplement with formula and a small supply of donor milk that Health Foundations gave us. The lactation consultant diagnosed me with IGT or insufficent glandular tissue. Basically - I don't have a lot of milk ducts/glands to produce the necessary supply. After tons of research, talking to other moms, etc. I also believe I have a slow refill. So in the 3 hours mom's have to "resupply" and get anywhere from 4+ ounces. I'm lucky to get 1.5-2.5 oz. Basically, each day I produce between 8-10 oz for my baby, which is roughly a third of her daily needs. I'm on all sorts of vitamin supplements, pump like crazy, used an SNS feeder, and all the other tricks. But I truly believe my diet is what caused the issues. A bad diet and family history of diabetes can be a marker/step towards Insulin Resistance (IR) and I showed a lot of the markers for this. IR can cause hormone irregulation in puberty and pregnancy - the two times you're supposed to have major breast growth. I hardly had any - I'm talking barely fill an A cup breast growth. I just thought that was how I was built - small chested, but it could have been because of IR, causing my IGT. So then when you're breastfeeding the IR blocks the prolactin in your body from making the supply you need.

Now the only bummer with IGT is you only get diagnosed after everything else doesn't work or you get an ultrasound of your breast tissue. So it's hard to catch beforehand. Because of my lack of supply, I reached out to friends on FB and was led to some amazing FB groups. One is a support group for women with IGT/Low Supply. The others were Breastfeeding groups where you can offer/request breastmilk. This has been a GOD SEND and answer to prayer. I have found some amazing women that have given me hundreds and hundreds of breastmilk. I have only ever needed to give my baby formula a handful of times because of this gift.

I know that formula isn't "bad" but we all know the amazing benefits and immune properties of breastmilk. And I wanted her to be on it for as long as possible. Our goal is to make it 1 year! And I'm positive we can do this. I continue to pump, take supplements, etc because of two reasons.

1) I didn't go through that birth and breastfeeding journey, to just give up now.

2) Any amount I can give her is not only less donor milk I need to find, but also milk that is designed for her and specifically made by me.

I'm one of the lucky ones. There are some women who don't have any supply. But regardless - when you're a mom and have your heart set on breastfeeding, to then find out you're inadequate in that department. It's HEARTBREAKING. I cried for days thinking about it, seeing other women complain that the only made 5oz a pumping session instead of their normal 8+, and just feeling like I was failing as a mom. This is one of the things that women's bodies are supposed to do - feed their kids. That's the whole reason we have breasts!

It took a lot of encouragement, prayer and coming to a place of peace and assurance to get where I am mentally at today. I was so stressed out, that I was losing out on precious time with my baby. I couldn't enjoy feeding her like I wanted to and I didn't want to be that type of mom. So I embraced bottle feeding and continue to comfort nurse and feed her whatever I can make. Knowing that she's happy and healthy is all that matters to me. And  to know that she's thriving on donor milk is an amazing feeling. That women would go through the trouble to pump and give that away freely - the kindness doesn't go unnoticed. I wish I could do the same and there's a possibility with subsequent pregnancies, I could get a better supply/more milk ducks, so who knows what the future holds.

But it's an incredible gift to be on the receiving end of donor milk. To know that there are other mama's who will sacrifice time, resources, sleep and the emotional toll of giving away milk that you worked hard for, in order for your baby to be healthy and fed. It has brought me to tears many times. And now I can even joke that my baby will have a wide array of tastebuds and food preferences because of all the different milk she's been able to have.

If there are any mommas who are on the fence of donating their milk - I say do it! You have a wonderful gift and there are many more mom's out there like me, who are desperate for donor milk. And if you're on the fence of asking for milk, do it! Because you'll find some pretty awesome moms who are here to support you and your journey. This was the first time I really realized what it means of the phrase, "It takes a village."