Thursday, May 19, 2011

The recovery of the Bunny

Recovery from the C-section has been speedy and problem free (knock on wood)--no worse than the myomectomy. I was on my feet the day after surgery, planting tomatoes seedlings in the garden a week later. I think I'm 90% back to normal, and previous experience suggests it will be months before I make up that last 10% and no longer feel a little bit tired and a little bit stiff. But in general, the part where someone cut my guts open has been no big deal. It's the tits that turned out to be my Achilles' heel.

What follows is a detailed account of my suffering, which will be of zero interest. But shortly before your baby is born, come back here and read this, as it might save your life. Or at least your nipples.

Flash back to Bun Bun's birthday. By the time I got my hands on her, she was sleepy and not interested in breastfeeding. I was quite anxious that she make the effort, though. As you all know, if a baby--particularly one born via C-section--doesn't breastfeed within a certain window, she will die and also grow up to be a murderer. So I made the attempt without proper supervision. I mean, shit, I read the books, I practiced using the plastic doll in breastfeeding class, what more is there to it?

Here's what more there is to it. Two or three feedings that look reasonable (nipple lined up with nose at time of entry, chin far down, lips flanged out) can fuck you up so quickly that you'll still be unwilling to wear a shirt two weeks later. And sure, it hurt a bit, and I knew it wasn't supposed to, but it's allowed to hurt a little, right? And anyway, I was willing to take some pain for the sake of not having to raise a dead murderer. What a fool I was. I so, SO wish I'd waited until an expert was on hand. As it turns out, she probably would not have been much use, but would likely have been better than nothing.

Over the course of the day, a number of nurses looked at my latch. Some pronounced it good, others offered advice. Bloody blisters were forming on the ends of my nipples. A lactation consultant looked at my latch. She said my nipples were long (Shocking news! I'd been worried they were short!) and Bun Bun's mouth was small, so it was going to be hard. She taught me some stuff, and I had hope that things would improve. Trying to latch her on was beginning to really hurt quite a lot, plus she was hard to wrangle when I was full of tubes and unable to really move easily. But I persevered through the night and the following day. On day 3, our pediatrician stopped by and informed me that she had lost too much weight. She also said that this is typical of C-section babies because of all the saline they pumped into me (that is, her birth weight was probably a bit inflated), and that it's most likely typical of vaginally delivered babies too, but they go home sooner so no-one catches it. None the less, she wanted me to use a supplemental nursing system. They wouldn't let me take her home if she didn't gain a bit. With a massive effort of will I agreed to this without bursting into tears at the thought of formula touching my baby's lips on the third day of her life for no logical reason except that I was a total faaaaaailure. The SNS is a little tube that is taped to your nipple so the baby still nurses on your breast, but gets a bit extra from the fine people at Sim.ilac. It's a lovely invention for the cases in which it's really needed, but a huge pain in the ass when you are not comfortable nursing yet and your nipples are falling off. It adds an additional factor to an already complicated situation. Still, I did it. I wanted to take her home, so I did as I was told.

I'd noticed a little tightness in my breasts that afternoon. Oh boy! My milk is coming in! Perhaps in a day or two it will arrive, I told Mr. Bunny. And then, that evening as we were wrangling the stupid fucking SNS, BAM! Like a mack truck came my milk! The books skip over this part, by the way. They're like oh and then your milk will come in. Nature is a beautiful thing! They don't describe the fact that it may come in in a matter of MINUTES. Mr. Bunny was hilariously flustered. He was like OHMAHGAWD MILK! CALL A NURSE! So then I had rock hard tits and falling off nipples. The good news was that I could kick the SNS to the curb. They weighed her at midnight, and she was up enough that they reckoned she'd get the green light in the morning. And she did. So we took my aching tits and bloody nipples and beautiful daughter home.

Sunday: I decided to alternate pumping with feeding, in the hopes that I'd heal a bit in between.
Monday: we called the lactation people at our pediatrician's. We'd chosen the practice specifically for this service, but while I could talk to someone on the phone, I couldn't get an appointment until the next day.
Tuesday: the LC at the pediatrician's FINALLY showed me how to latch her on properly. Ridiculous. I'd done what I could to educate myself. I'd gotten advice from probably ten people who were supposed to know what they were doing, including a certified lactation consultant. But in five minutes this woman opened my eyes to a whole new world of pain-free nursing. I felt like an idiot. But I also felt deeply ripped off that so many people had failed me. My nipples also felt deeply ripped off.
Wednesday-Thursday: I experience the difficulty of recreating at home what I'd done in the office. A bleeding fissure opens up in my right nipple. I pump that breast exclusively in the hopes that it will heal. I spoon feed her the results, a messy and depressing procedure. A bleeding fissure opens up in my left nipple. I do some internet reading and conclude healing won't happen any faster if I just pump. I feed her on both bleeding sides, trying not to be too appalled when she gets little droplets of blood on her nose.
Friday: Mr. Bunny calls for a second appointment with the lactation people. The receptionist asks him the reason for our visit, and he utters the famous words: Mom has bloody nipples. I meet with the doctor who specializes in breastfeeding medicine. She is awesome beyond words, with a sense of humor and everything. She's doing a study on early breastfeeding pain and we chat about institutional review boards and informed consent documents. She helps me learn a new hold and gives me a prescription for a topical antibacterial that will help me heal while I continue feeding. She takes cultures to make sure I'm not getting infected. She makes me feel a ton better about life. We make it through the weekend.
Monday: We return for a little fine tuning. While my nipples are healing, latching her on continues to be a struggle, involving multiple failed attempts (which are quite painful), and frequent weeping.

Today: The scabs from the bloody blisters are almost entirely gone. The fissures are almost healed. I can latch her on with only a few failed attempts, and haven't cried since...yesterday. I can imagine a world in which life is not a series of painful and frustrating experiences occurring at two or three hour intervals.

Today my daughter is two weeks old. We relived her birth at 8:33 this morning. Our ups are so fucking high, but I want to be truthful about our downs. They are low. I know many of you have had easy breastfeeding experiences, and I would like to stab you in the face am delighted for you. I know many of you have had far worse troubles than I have ( far), and I am now in a much better position to offer you my sincere sympathies. I know many of you--though most likely no-one who has read this far--have no babies to rip your nipples off yet, and I humbly beg pardon for what might sound like bitching. But to all those fuckers who say breastfeeding is a beautiful, natural thing, and who say if it hurts you're not doing it right and then fail to help you make it NOT hurt, I say: DIE, MOTHERFUCKERS, DIE.


  1. Giggle. I got a huge kick out of this, Bunny, even with no one (under the age of 35) sucking at my teats yet. I so hope you're on the mend and Bun Bun is figuring it all out.

  2. omg, this sounds like an f-ing nightmare! your post is my biggest fear. that my nipples will get all torn up. in the last few weeks, i've noticed how insanely dry my nipples are, and these strange white things have been flaking off of them (think of the white, hard stuff that comes out of a zit ... sorry for too much sharing). yesterday, i started putting nipple cream on and i already notice a difference.

    bleeding nipples sound like the worst kind of pain. are you even allowed to breastfeed if you're bleeding? i'm soo confused.

    hope you don't take offense that i almost peed in my pants reading this post. okie, maybe i leaked just a little bit of pee, but that happens lots lately. not bc of *what* is happening to you, but *how* you wrote the post :o)

    i hope it gets easier from here on out bunny!!

  3. A-FUCKING-men. I could not agree or sympathize more. Good luck, lady, and keep on keeping up the good work.

    (From a mother of several miscarriages and one take-home/take-to-seven-lactation-consultants baby)

  4. First: I fucking hate blogger right now. Eating posts and comments, gobble gobble. Fuck you, blogger.

    Second: YES. I had a breastfeeding class instructor who told us straight up, if it's hurts you're doing something wrong. And she suggested in not so many words that moms who quit breastfeeding because they lie and say it's hard and hurts are just assholes trying to kill their babies. Or something.

    I had the same shitty LC experience in the hospital and the days that followed. Mixed advice, told the latch was good, told the latch wasn't good, told I have short nipples, told Jackson is tongue-tied (he's not, although I cried for weeks thinking he would need speech therapy). Etc., etc. And my milk came in a little late, day 5, with a tremendous WHOOSH (I'm pretty sure it made a sound). Over the course of one hour, I lifted up my shirt periodically and watched KB's eyes pop out of his head, steam shoot out of his ears, and "Ah-OOO-Ga!" come out of his mouth. I had two overfilled water balloons and had to pump just to deflate them enough to pretend to get a latch. But prior to that, the pedi warned that Jackson had lost too much weight (wish I had known about the role of IV fluids during L&D) so we had to supplement with formula in a bottle for a few days. I cried day and night over that. The good news is, once my milk came in, the formula was done and we haven't used it since. Also, we learned that he could take a bottle and not get it confused with my nipples. So, use that info as you wish.

    We had to experiment with different holds and that made a big difference. The one we found to work best is still Jackson's preferred hold to this day (only now he's coordinated enough to use both of his hands to latch himself, leaving me free to play Angry Birds on my phone while he nurses).

    There is SO MUCH that no one bothers to tell us about the early trials and tribulations. They either forget, or they gloss over the important stuff. I'm so grateful for my bloggy friends, since we can talk about it straight and still know how much we love our bebehs even if we don't love the chaffed nipples they give us.

    I'm glad you're making some progress, both for you and your comically long nipples.

  5. I heard a quote once from a Lactation Consultant (after my own very similar to your experiences) she said " A part of you has to be a warrior to breastfeed". Why didn't anyone tell me that?? I experienced the highs and lows (very low at the time) of breastfeeding after a c-section before the days of the internet so when I read posts like yours I cheer for your honesty. It is hard and it can be done. I had that damn tube also for what seemed like weeks. I wish I had had posts like yours to read and know others had been where I was. My nursing days are long behind me now and they ended up being the source of much joy but when you are in the thick of it sometimes knowing it can be tough and get better is really what you need to hear.
    Cheers to you and your lovely bunny.

  6. you know who else can go to hell? people who give mother's who stop bf'ing shit. i figure that if i didn't give up after all the blisters and bleeding and weight checks and FUCKING VASOSPASMS, then just maybe those who do have their damn reasons, you know?

    this comment brought to you by the happy afterglow of yet another nursing session. think i'm finally getting over the pumping injury that brought the spasms back for another week. yeah.

    (ps, switching nursing positions every few feedings has helped me have less pain from surface injuries, fwiw. not no oain, but less.)

  7. did i say "afterglow"? i meant "very, very brief hiatus."

  8. Whoa, my nipples started hurting just reading this.

  9. Ughhhhhhhhhhhhh, owwwwwwwwwwww, poor Bunny! I haven't had bleeding nips and I STILL feel like BFing is hard hard hard. So I can't even imagine how you're feeling!! Thank gosh for that kick ass doc and LC who are finally helping you heal. xoxo

  10. Oh, Bunny. Le sigh. Those breastfeeding lows are so defeating, so self-doubt/loathing inducing, so mind-fuckery. I wish so badly that you could have skipped over this fucked up rite of passage. It just blows my mind how much we can prepare and educate ourselves and still feel lost and full of failure

    I wish I was surprised by your hospital LC experience. The first LC I saw (within hours of delivery) was pretty worthless. She could pop Arlo on seemingly effortlessly, but it wasn't a matter of putting Arlo on my breast--it was a matter of TEACHING ME how to put him on. It really is a fine art, demonstration after demonstration without damaging a mama's motivation and confidence. Seeing an LC put him on was fine--so, he can nurse, okay--but not being able to recreate that myself made me feel the most helpless I've ever felt as a new parent. I just kept thinking to myself, "If we lived in the bush, my baby would be dead." (Which is such a fucking sad way to see things, but you just get so worn down.) Anyway, I boomeranged back to the lactation department not once but twice PP.

    You are doing an amazing job, you really are. If I can say this, I am proud of your persistence and dedication.

    I really would seethe when people said this to me, so if this makes you seethe I totally understand: It can get better, much better. It took us 4 weeks to get to a decently comfortable place (still a few issues, but dealable), and now, 5 months later, BFing really is the most effortless part of my day with Arlo. It took a while to get there, it was the hardest fucking thing I've done (harder than a drug-free birthing, seriously), but we did get there eventually.

    I found the Boppy to be worthless. I hated the football hold. To this day, the only position I use is the cradle/cross cradle.

    Thinking of you and your boobehs... XX

  11. Oh man, bunny. I read this and it all sounded so familiar. Because I had pretty much the same deal -- really small baby who was a mediocre latter, crap ass lactation consultants telling me it shouldn't hurt and that I would just need to wait until he got bigger (like 10 lbs, and he was 5.5 when we went home), advice not to start pumping in the first week because "it would be too much going on" and the worst of all, the requirement to start formula so that he could get his weight up and go home. I didn't even get offered the sns, just handed some similac bottles. At which point I began to weep because I clearly, 2 days after my c-section delivery a month early, had FAILED as a mother.

    It was only when a lactation consultant told me that I should pump more and feed directly less that I felt I had permission teo do just that. D I wish we had a beautiful breastfeeding relationship and I could just whip out my booob and nourish my child? Of cours. Instead I'm hooked up to a milking machine 5x daily and have to arrange my life around that. But it works for us and my baby is happy and healthy and I feel pretty good about it (aside from the fact that I have a clogged duct and mastitis right now, and had a fever well over 100 on Tuesday.). And despite a bad beginning and low supply, Ben gets about 28 oz from me and only 4-6oz of formula every day.

    Anyway, this is a long way of saying that this shit is hard and more emotionally fraught than anything I hAAve ever done, except ivf. For me the feeling of being broken and a failure as a woman that I felt at the early stages of breastfeeding are not that different than the emotions that I felt when I realized that getting pregnant wasn't going to be easy. But there is a happy solution to all of this for everyone - whether you stop bf'ing all together or do it a little or ite becomes perfect and wonderful - what is right for you and your baby is what you come up with that you can live with. And even though you ma be feeling some residual guilt or something from the c-section vs vaginal delivery that is making the breastfeeding even more stressful and laden with feelings of failure or validation, try not to let it get to you, because your y entered the world in the best way for her, and you are feeding her in the best way you can and she will love you and be happy and healthy whatever that "best way" is.

    Ok I clearly had too much to say on this one, but I want you to know that it is hard and you are not failing and whatever solution you come up with is totally fine.

  12. You are one amazing momma for getting through all that, and keeping it up! Way to go!!!

  13. Loved that post. Breastfeeding can be serious fucking hard. Once all is well (pain free) it's nice.

    One question for you. What do you think is worse a nipple fissure or an anal fissure?

  14. Yup my experience in the hospital was similar except less pain cause apparently little white premature boys are the WORST nursers in the world. So I struggled with the SES for a while then gave up. Now he get formula and I pump 4 times a day so he gets some breastmilk. Hopefully this will prevent him from becoming a murderer, maybe he'll just be an bug killer instead.

  15. My vote nipple fissure worse. More frequently have to put the stress on the fizzured nipples (every 1.5 to 2 hours) unless its a growth spurt . . . Then more frequently. My 1st 6 weeks nursing were very tough. Best help came from a granola mom that was lactation consultant and led a la leche league group through the park district. Hope you have plenty of lanolin to put on b4 & after (good for anal fizzures too I would guess). When you and bun bun settle in u are in for some pure bliss moments esp. Nursing in wee hours when it is just the two of you and no more nipple pain!

  16. I'm due in 11 weeks, and I'm totally going to be selfish here to try to save myself from bleeding nipples (owch!)... can you tell me what advice you got from the (good) lactation consultant, or is this strictly a hands-on example type thing?

    Also, congrats on Bun Bun, she is so super-cute its not even funny.

  17. That is one harrowing tale, Bunny. Your poor nipples. Doesn't sound like Bun Bun is worse for the wear, but ouch! your tits sound like they need a vacation to club med. I read with great attention and took notes. Thank you for being thorough in your descriptions. We mothers-to-be benefit greatly.

  18. I have just dipped my nipples in carbonite. I'll tell you that it looks super hott for extracurricular boobie activities, and it's practical as a defense against fissures (that word and boobs is all kinds of wrong). And I'll be sending a batch to you to do the same. It honestly seems like to prepare for this bit, one needs to go udder on into a pit of gravel. Geezus.

    Not that you need fuel for the fire of hatred hotter than a thousand suns about my SIL, but, yep, she's one of those easy breezy bitches.

    Long nipples. Harumph. I am wishing very much magical latching and a full settlement into the happy Glum Bunny camp.

  19. Oh, Bunny, reading about your poor bloody nipples gave me that awful feeling you get up your spine when you hear fingernails on a chalkboard. What an awful experience. I can only be optimistic that things are finally sorting themselves out and that breastfeeding will be pain free from now on. I did have to laugh at the part about your milk coming in, especially Mr. Bunny's reaction. Also, how is it possible that your daughter is already 2 weeks old??

  20. Made it to the end, even though, um, I have zero experience or advice. I think this post just highlights that you know, it isn't all rainbows and unicorns and maternity outfits with a giant bow on the front.

    Am glad you got the help you needed. I am thinking of you.

  21. oh bunnneeeeeey. Fissures, blood, bleeding nipples? Mine are aching in sympathy. You poor woman.
    So relieved for you that it is improving. BUT JESUSMARYANDJOSEPH, that sounded AWFUL.

  22. Ohhh I'm just a few weeks ahead of you, and yowch you are soooo right and soooo not alone! It took me three weeks before I really got to a "nicer" place. Nobody tells you about this part...

  23. Oh god... this scares the shit out of me. I'm so sorry, Bunny. The horror.

  24. OOF!! I hope it continues to get better and better.

  25. Oh, you poor thing! That sounds just AWFUL. While I had no where near the issues you've dealt with, it certainly wasn't easy...but everyone said to keep at it...and I'm so glad we did because it DOES get easier. The latch and whole process is now pretty effortless and pain free. You will get there!

    The triple nipple cream (which I assume you're using) is awesome and should really help with the pain - it was the only thing that calmed my searing nipples when I had thrush.

    Hang in there - you're doing great. And I'm glad you found a good doc to help you through the issues.

  26. Oh mah gawd, Bunny. That sounds like an especially rough and rocky introduction to breastfeeding. I'm glad you shared it and I really, really hope that it goes smoothly from this point out. Also really glad you found someone who knows what the hell they're doing (for goodness sakes).

    I actually think it's important to say the bad stuff as well as the good. I haven't always been of this opinion. Yes, it's hard to read this stuff when you're not there. But when you ARE there, it's comforting to know that the tough crap doesn't happen to you alone.

  27. Why is this so funny when it happens to you? When I was on the receiving end, less the fissures, I felt alone and like the poster child for baby starvation. You make the miserable hilarious.

    When I cut Toddlerina over to formula from breast milk, I was prepared for the worst. She would reject this synthetic bullshit and demand her mother's milk. That ungrateful booger didn't bat an eye.

    "I busted my ass to breastfeed my baby and all I got was Shingles".

    Why does no one make that shirt? I would buy it.

    Good luck. May the forces protect you from ignorant mother in laws who never breast fed anyhow.

  28. oh my gawd bunny, my nipples hurt just reading this. I'm sorry that the LCs were so effing worthless. I had blisters after the first feedings but thankfully they never bled and healed up quickly. hope that this gets much better and easier for you and bun bun