From the moment I found out I was pregnant I knew I wanted to breastfeed, My mother breastfed all of her children, and my sister did the same. With a home water birth in mind, I was sure I'd have no problem with the first latch. No medical interventions, all the comforts a birthing mom could ask for, an amazing team.. the path seemed straightforward. I took classes and practiced hypnobirthing. I was ready for anything.
3 days of birthing at home and everything was going well. My setting was perfect, the hypnobirthing was working even with nonstop back labor, and in my mind I was at the end of the finish line. A few hours early I was at 7 cm, and I was sure at that time that I would be about 9. When my midwife checked me again I was at 4 cm. I had somehow regressed. I was shocked. At this point she recommend a hospital transfer before anything got serious and I agreed.
Once we were at the hospital I made it a point that I still wanted a vaginal birth, and for almost 2 day we tried. My daughter was OP (occiput posterior) and she wasn't going anywhere until my doctor could successfully go inside and twist her. Its was an intense and painful process that was ultimately unsuccessful. After 5 days of giving it all I had, the doctor called it. I was having a c-section. I couldn't believe it.
For 9 months I had pictured my perfect birth, and here I was in the face of every intervention I had work so hard to avoid. I didn't get skin to skin, and Thea was kept from me for over 2 hours after the surgery. My golden hour was gone, and when I finally tried for the first latch we struggled so much. My nipples were big and flat and her mouth was so small. The pressure was on by the hospital staff to start supplementing.
Even with my confidence shaken my support system was so strong. My husband, mother, and sister kept me grounded and when I really got desperate after 4 days my sister stepped in as a wet nurse.
I know this can be somewhat controversial but to this day I'm sure that is the reason why I'm successfully breastfeeding!
My sister's son Leo was about 3 and a half months at the time. She had him on March 27th and my little bundle of joy was born July 11th. When I finally asked her to help me she seemed nervous. She told me that she thought about offering but she didn't want to offend me. I was reaching a breaking point and I knew I didn't want to feed my baby formula. I was worried once she had the bottle she get used to how much easier that was. My sister's nipples are much smaller then my mine and she had the confidence that I was lacking because she had already been exclusively breastfeeding her second born for so long. When she offered her the breast she latched immediately with no trouble at all. The tension in the room dissipated and we all let out a sigh of relief. She kept looking at me to make sure I was handling it okay and I'm sure she was surprised to see the huge smile on my face. I cried tears of joy. My baby girl was finally eating and I couldn't be happier.
My sister was honored that I trusted her with something so important and special. That moment has brought us closer than ever. Before that point I was pumping and giving Thea my colostrum with a spoon but after successfully latching on my sister she latched on to me with a new knowledge of how to suckle. Once Thea latched onto her it's like she just got it, something clicked. Every latch after that was successful, and now I'm exclusively breastfeeding for almost 4 months and hope to continue for years to come. The blood, sweat, and tears. It was all worth it. When I looked at that beautiful face and see her smiling up at me I know that I wouldn't have had it any other way. Our story, as unexpected and demanding as it was, is beautiful and it has a happy ending. It's brought my family closer and given me a new perspective on motherhood and birth.
Thea and Leo in the bath together!
I learned a hard lesson about how necessary it is to be fluid and flexible and I tapped into a mental and physical strength within myself I never knew I had. That experience has forever changed my life for the better and although it was difficult.. I'm grateful to have learned so much. To all the mothers out there; You have the strength to handle anything that comes your way. It's embedded into your DNA. Don't ever forget that.
Thank you so much for sharing your story Melissa! What an amazing story of love and perseverance. Thank you for sharing something that is considered taboo in our American culture. You've shown that "wet nursing" should not be shameful, but a celebration of love, family, and support.
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