I thought I knew a lot about breastfeeding, after doing it night and day for seven whole months. But I learned something new last week.
Namely … it sucks for everyone
when you’re forced to NOT do it for 24 hours.
I had day surgery on Wednesday (Aww, you’re sweet to be concerned. Please don’t send flowers — I’m allergic). Darling Husband took me to the hospital at 8:30 a.m., and we weren’t home until 7:30 p.m. Little Sis was a top-notch babysitter when we were gone, and Baby Boy (thankfully) napped, took bottles and ate his meals like a pro.
The problem started when I got home from the hospital.
Well, technically, it started in the hospital.
I’d done a ton of research (read: Googling) about having day surgery while breastfeeding, and wanted to find out how the various drugs would affect it — how long would everything stay in my system, how long would I have to pump-and-dump, etc. I was hoping I could arrive at the hospital armed with some knowledge of the breastfeeding/surgery nightmare.
Long story short? Doctors, nurses and pharmacists subscribe to the CYA theory (Cover Your Ass) — they will tell you to pump-and-dump for 24-48 hours after taking basically any drug, just in case. Because no one really knows how stuff affects breast milk, since nursing mamas aren’t exactly signing up for clinical trials. Sigh.
During the consultations before the actual surgery began, I kept bringing up the fact that I was breastfeeding, and that I wanted to be able to nurse a few hours after surgery if it was safe — meaning it was possible to get by without the crazy heavy-duty meds.
The doctors were extremely supportive, and ended up giving me a different kind of anesthetic than they were planning, because it would be out of my system immediately. It meant I would be completely awake during the surgery, but I didn’t care. Not having to pump-and-dump for a day was totally worth it.
But after the surgery was a different story. The doctor had written me a prescription for the heavy stuff (hydromorphone) “just in case,” but said I could try just taking Tylenol and Advil if the pain wasn’t too bad. I was in pain once the anesthesia wore off, but determined to just take the milder drugs (Tylenol and Advil) if I could stand it.
I was surprised when the nurses kept trying to force the heavier stuff on me. They pressed me, saying, “Why won’t you take it?” and I kept explaining that my baby would be upset if he couldn’t nurse in the middle of the night, and that it would be so hard (on both of us) for me to hold him and have him struggle to nurse without being allowed.
I also said something about how it would be hard on my husband, to deal with a hysterical baby refusing a bottle all night, and that was a mistake. They instantly switched into feminist mode, and tried to badger me by saying,” So what? Your husband can deal with it!” Crap. Backtrack! That was just one of the reasons, people.
Before I was released, the pain was so bad that I did end up taking a hydromorphone. I was really upset, even disappointed with myself. The pain was horrible. I was exhausted. I was starving — having not eaten since 10 p.m. the night before. I missed my baby terribly. And now I wouldn’t be able to nurse him until the following day (or whenever the drugs were out of my system).
The nurses kept saying, “You have to take care of yourself first. Your baby will be fine with your husband.” I knew that, and felt like screaming at them. Of course I knew Baby Boy would take a bottle, but the idea of having to keep my distance — when I was missing him intensely — was absolutely crushing.
Of course, as soon as I came in the door, Baby Boy was nuzzling and struggling at my shirt. And just as I knew it would, it broke my heart to have someone take him away from me before he got too upset. Little Sis held him in the other room while I pumped yet another round of breast milk to be dumped.
(Sidenote: If you’ve ever breastfed, you understand how annoying it is to let even one ounce be poured down the drain! I dumped 24 ounces during that day/night, and it was awful — especially knowing there was probably nothing wrong with it. My mom suggested we donate the milk to a meth clinic for mothers. She’s pretty funny.)
Little Sis got Baby Boy to take a bottle at bedtime, and he went to sleep. However, when he woke up two hours later, he was not so agreeable.
He was OK when Darling Husband picked him up, but when they settled in the rocking chair with a bottle, and he realized Darling Husband was not bringing him to me, he screamed bloody murder. I cried in our bedroom, listening to his shrieks over the monitor.
I was especially upset because the stupid hydromorphone was preventing me from breastfeeding, and it hadn’t even worked. The pain was the same as ever, so I didn’t take another. I just cried and cried and cried, and started sobbing down the hall, “I miss him!” and “Please! Just let me try! Please!” Poor Darling Husband.
He gave it a good try, but after a while, he brought Baby Boy and the bottle to me. It was tricky, because Baby Boy was snuffling and trying to get at my goods, but I was finally able to sneak the bottle into his mouth and distract him by kissing his face nonstop, and whispering to him like I always do. And he drank it! Then Darling Husband would take him back to his room, I’d pump-and-dump, and we’d go back to sleep … for like an hour.
We went through this routine during all of the nighttime feedings. Darling Husband kept insisting that he would try to give him the bottle, but I refused. I had no doubt Baby Boy would take the bottle, but I was a blubbery mess and I wanted my babyyyyyy. And if I couldn’t give him exactly what he wanted, I’d at least feel comforted by giving him a bottle and holding him.
When Baby Boy’s nap at 10 a.m. rolled around, I was able to nurse him — thanks to the amazing help I got from calling Motherisk
, I found out hydromorphone only stays in your system for 10.5 hours. Baby Boy, Darling Husband and I all breathed a sigh of relief. Things were back to normal, and I don’t think we’ll ever take breastfeeding for granted again!