by Heleena Claire Pasumbal-Espina
It’s already 10:45 p.m. and I should be dozing off. But I have to wait until I finish my Mom’s birthday cake for tomorrow. I put the cake straight into the freezer after baking it for an hour. The technique for a supermoist banana cake is to keep it in the freezer for 45 minutes after baking. Quite a wait, right? But it has to be that tedious so that it will be perfect.
This reminds me of my birth to my second child, Benedicto Miguel, who I dearly call my Miggy. It was a looooong 19 hours of pure pain all over my body while in labor but it was all worth the wait. This is a three-part VBAC story and I hope that this will inspire you.
Part 1: BAKING, BIRTHING AND BREASTFEEDING
My first birth and I was lost
Feeling sadness and joy at the same time is possible. This was what happened during the birth of my first baby. The birth of my firstborn was one of the most joyful moments of my life but the method and way of birthing her was far off from my dream. I was preparing for a normal spontaneous birth but I ended up with a tummy cut at 33 weeks.
In the morning of January 18 in 2015, liquid was gushing from down there and I had to be brought to the hospital. My OB said that it seemed to be amniotic fluid but they can’t find a tear in my amniotic sac as it was still intact after several vaginal exams. While I was confined in the hospital, the leaking stopped so I was sent home the following day. During the night, I felt strong leaking of water and this continued until the next morning. At the hospital, they checked me, they said that my liquid was way too low and the baby was in breech position so I had to give birth through a caesarean. One can feel both joy and sadness at the same time and this was how I felt at that time.
They prepared me for a caesarean birth and I felt lost. It was my first time to give birth and I did not want this option, and I did not prepare for it. I didn’t know what to do so I just let them do whatever they were doing.
I was prepared to have my husband will be with me during the birth, but it did not happen. I wanted to video record the entrance of my dear daughter, Athelina Corinth, but it did not happen. I wanted to push her way through the world, but it did not happen. Many things which I imagined, or more appropriately, dreamed of in my first birth, did not happen. With a heavy heart, I had to let go of my dream.
The challenges of breastfeeding
Immediately after birth, my premature baby had to be transferred to the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU), thus, she was not roomed-in with me. I wanted to breastfeed her immediately, but I was put to sleep after my operation. After being asleep for many hours, I woke up with a very weak, aching body and super engorged breasts. I went to the NICU to see and hold her and finally, I felt so right after everything that went so wrong.
I cradled her and tried to breastfeed her but she couldn’t latch perfectly. So she cried and I cried because of physical and emotional pain. With very little knowledge about breastfeeding, I thought that I was not producing enough breastmilk for my baby. I tried taking malunggay capsules to aid my “insufficient” breastmilk production but I got engorged breast after that. I bought an expensive breastpump to help me with my engorgement then with my sore, cracked nipples and swollen breasts. Through all these excruciating pain, all I was thinking is that I had to produce milk for my premature baby. One time while my sister and sister-in-law were assisting me in using the breastpump, we noticed that the milk that’s coming out of my breast was reddish. Later we realized that it was already blood! After having pumped around 2 ounces which I consider then a huge achievement because I barely produced an ounce, I had to throw my hard-earned breastmilk (who throws liquid gold, for heaven’s sake!).
Imagine the pain I had to go through because of ceasarean. Yes, I attribute it mostly to the type of birthing I had. When you undergo cesarean, certain factors affect the body’s ability to produce milk. See some studies here.
But as a born researcher and reader, I told myself that I cannot be defeated in this breastfeeding journey just because I am not familiar in this field. I had to do something to win.
Journey as a breastfeeding nanay
I was so crushed inside and out, suffering and in pain that this severe postpartum depression was giving me thoughts of death. But I had to fight and I had to be strong. My daughter is more important to me more than anything else and I had to provide her the best milk and nourishment, so that she’ll grow and develop fast from being a preemie.
While reading a lot of books and browsing the internet, I came across an online FB support group called Breastfeeding Pinays. This group means so much to me and it had wealth of knowledge. As a newbie breastfeeding mother, this group helped me in so many ways. There are breastfeeding counseling sessions available, which widened my knowledge on lactation and how not to worry too much of my milk supply. I learned different feeding positions which will suit me and my baby. I also learned about hand expression which is a helpful and handy skill for breastfeeding mothers (You won’t need any tool for this, just your hands). Through this group, I also learned of lactation massage by Nanay Rich Talle, a very relaxing and educational massage that is a must-try for breastfeeding mothers. While Nanay Rich kneads your aching muscles and gently massages your breasts, she gives you information on breastfeeding at the same time.
While I can say that my first attempt in breastfeeding is partially successful – I mixed-fed (combination of breastmilk and formula milk) my eldest before she turned 6 months. I attributed it to lack of information and distrust in myself that I can produce enough milk. There was too much stress and the difficulty in coping with the stress was too much to bear for a first-time mother. That experience gave me a strong motivation that for my next baby, I will have my dream VBAC birth and I’ll have a more successful breastfeeding journey.
Well, that next time did not come long.