My name is Brittani Velasquez. I live in the Pacific NW with my Peruvian husband and our beautiful 15 month old daughter.
My First Pregnancy
When we found out we were pregnant, I experienced a rush of different emotions. I cried tears of joy and fear when the pregnancy test read positive – I even peed on a second stick to be sure! For a long time, I wasn’t sure if I wanted to bring children into this crazy world. But, my husband really wanted to have a family. He’s the most patient, caring, understanding, and supportive person I have ever met. So, having a family with him was a small “price to pay” for a lifetime of happiness.
I had the most amazing pregnancy. I experienced no nausea and felt great throughout most of it. I have a history of depression and anxiety. So I naturally worried about every tiny thing during my pregnancy. The real anxiety set in when my doctor told me our daughter was not head down at my 28 week prenatal appointment. She said we will not worry until 36 weeks and that was plenty of time for the baby to turn.
Given my high strung personality, I went into full on panic mode. I did everything I could to encourage her to turn. Laid upside down on an inverted ironing board, forward leaning inversions on the stairs, weekly acupuncture (where they essentially tortured me with needles in my pinky toes – ouch!), and chiropractic work. But, our little miss was stubborn and refused to move. The last resort was a medical procedure called an External Cephalic Version (ECV). It involves an IV and sometimes an epidural. The doctor will use their hands to dig into your belly to get underneath the baby and turn them from the outside. I watched videos online and it seemed painful and stressful for the baby. So, as desperate as I was to turn her, I decided not to have the procedure and we scheduled a cesarean. I felt defeated.
Maternity Leave Started Early
I was so depressed that my doctor released me from work two weeks early to have the time and space to mentally prepare for giving birth. The great thing about the planned cesarean was my doctor was able to deliver the baby. But, I have an intense fear of needles and was terrified to have the spinal injection – especially because my husband was not allowed in the operating room while they prepped me. Thankfully, my doctor is amazing and held my hand while I had the injection. I also had a wonderful anesthesiologist and only felt a small pinch. The surgery was over quicker than I anticipated. When our newborn was finally handed to me, sat in awe and I started at her little wrinkled face for the first time.
We began breastfeeding as soon as we entered the recovery room. Over the next few days at the hospital I had some complications with the anesthesia. Our baby was also losing too much weight – a total of 11%. I was told to pump after every feeding and we fed the baby my colostrum with a tube and syringe. Through follow-up appointments with hospital lactation, I was told 10 days postpartum that I had insufficient glandular tissue and would never produce a full milk supply for our baby. I broke down immediately after hearing this. Not only did the nurse have no compassion, but I was still dealing with negative feelings about my daughter’s birth. The nurse said we had to go get formula as soon as we left and needed to supplement. We supplemented after every feeding for several weeks. My husband was only home with us for the first week, so I was left to breastfeed, supplement, and pump without any help during the day. By the time I was done with this routine, I had to start all over. It was exhausting. For several weeks, I couldn’t have a normal conversation with my husband. I would burst into tears, had trouble sleeping, and just felt like a complete failure.
Working with Private Lactation
Thankfully, a referral from our doula to a private lactation consultant changed everything. It was discovered that our daughter had a tongue tie and she couldn’t effectively transfer milk at the breast. I started taking supplements daily to help boost my milk supply – moringa and goat’s rue. I also exclusively pumped for over eight weeks. And pumping sucks, you guys – pun intended! When our daughter was around six weeks old, I finally began producing enough milk. You have no idea how glorious that moment felt. So many times I wanted to give up and take the easier path. But, I’m a fighter. Want to see me succeed? Tell me I can’t do something.
We were lucky enough to have a world renowned tongue tie specialist right here in Portland – Dr Bobak Ghaheri. He got into this field of medicine because his own wife experienced breastfeeding difficulties from a tongue tie. Through future appointments, our daughter’s tongue tie was corrected and she was finally able to draw out enough milk. I slowly began to introduce nursing, one feeding at a time. Around four months of age, we were exclusively breastfeeding without pumping. So much time, effort, and tears brought us to this glorious moment!
I experienced a new sense of freedom. I was able to get out and do things without obsessing about how much time passed between pump sessions, or where I was going to pump if we were out and about. I even pumped in a moving car when we took a road trip to Lake Tahoe when our daughter was six weeks old. Quite an interesting and logistically challenging experience!
I ended our breastfeeding relationship when our daughter was 13 months old. I wanted to continue, but was experiencing the worst sciatica and hip pain. The suspected culprit? A hormone called relaxin – which is produced during pregnancy and while breastfeeding. Even though this was an emotional decision, I needed some relief and I was super proud of myself for how far I made it.
My saving grace during this difficult time came from a support group that was run by a private lactation consultant and postpartum doula. There, we shared our wins and empathized with each other’s struggles. We received professional advice and were provided with a safe and supportive place to share whatever we were feeling. I cried many times with those ladies and still keep in touch with several of them. If you are in the Portland area and looking for breastfeeding support, I highly recommend visiting Zenana’s support group.
What struggles did you or are you experiencing with your breastfeeding journey? I’d love to hear from you. Leave a comment below. We are stronger together and I’m here for you, mama!