Recovering from birth and learning to breastfeed can be a challenge. Even for the most experienced of parents.
I’d been a doula, childbirth educator and breastfeeding counselor for the better part of 7 years when my youngest was born. When it comes to pregnancy, birth, and breastfeeding, I am the expert. But helping others learn to breastfeed after a full night’s sleep in my comfortable bed and helping myself learn how to breastfeed with my baby that I labored through the night with after 11 hours of labor, are two entirely different things.
This is my story as it unfolded on the evening of June 17, 2004.
I’m not going to lie after Sara is born I am tired. Exhausted. I did a good job today at learning how to breastfeed I had my family here and someone to talk to, aka keep me awake. But tonight in all my bravado I send everyone home for some much-needed rest thinking, “I’ve got this. They will be rested when it’s time to go home. I’ve got a handle on this.”
As I nurse my baby, babies around the world laugh at my folly.
With dinner behind me and the light of day fading into night, I settle in to enjoy my new nursling. To say she’s eager to nurse is an understatement. Her “normal” seems to be nursing every hour or so. As 8 PM transitions into 9, and then 10 I begin to fade. As a human, the worst type of sleep for me is broken sleep. My family has come to call it “bitchy sleep” because as I continue the sleep, wake up, sleep cycles my mood becomes more negative, my words short and my temper more like a powderkeg. Thankfully the only being I need to interact with is this sweet 7 pound 4-ounce baby girl in my arms. While my temper stays in check, my ability to form coherent words or thoughts begins to fade quickly.
And apparently, my ability to latch my baby properly.
As I rouse from a microsleep, I can tell that something doesn’t feel quite right. I’m not feeling pain, but a weird pulling sensation on my breast where there shouldn’t be. By the light of the TV that is playing the “Don’t shake your baby.” video on a continuous loop, I unlatch my sweet girl and stare at my breast in what can only be described as sleep-deprived confusion. I have two nipples. Two nipples on my left breast that is. I look up at the TV, blink a few times and look back at my breast and count them: one, two, I cock my head, lift my breast and lean down to get a closer look. Nipples. Two of them, no question. I lay my sleeping babe between my legs on the bed, and I click on the overhead light. At this point, the adrenaline rush of seeing two nipples on the same breast has shot me wide awake. Now I need to get to the bottom of this. Do I have some strange anatomy that I never noticed before? Did I sprout a third breast and now I’m like that gal in the movie, Total Recall?!
Wide awake and with a pounding heart I lift my breast and examine it closely in the light. I see my nipple, the nipple I’ve always known, in the usual place, usual shape, all looks good there. Directly above it, I discover what appears to be a second nipple, similar in size, a bit shorter and much darker. I poke at it, as I touch it this “nipple” flattens out.
As I look closer, it dawns on me. It’s a hickey! My baby gave me a hickey!
In my sleep-deprived state, I latched my baby on for her last feed directly above my actual nipple. I must have immediately fallen back asleep and never realized. So for the past 45 minutes, my baby was contentedly sucking on my areola, resulting in a perfect little mouth shaped hickey. Hilarity ensues. That sleep deprived, can’t stop laughing, might pee your pants except you’re having gushes of postpartum bleeding instead kind of hilarity. Thank goodness I have my own room. The nurse comes in to check on me.
I’m not sure if she saw the light come on or if she heard me gasping for air as continue to laugh, but with a quick few breaths, I share with her the saga of my first hickey, ever with visual aids!
The next day we head home. Life begins, and we begin to find our footing. Looking back I realize that what I needed most that first night was someone to be with me. Someone to hold my baby as I fell into a deep sleep. Who understands feeding cues and could wake me, help me make sure the latch looks good. Essentially a doula.
If I had it to do all over again, I would have called one of my numerous and willing doula friends and asked one of them to sit with me overnight while my family rests and recovers.
At Tucson Doulas it’s important to me that as our client you receive all-encompassing care.
This is why we offer overnight postpartum shifts while you are still in the hospital. Many families have expressed an interest in having a skilled doula assist them through their first night(s) as their partner or other support people head home to rest, care for pets or older children. Having just one well-rested parent or support person to help you as you come home from the hospital can make a huge difference.
We also support birth center and home birthing families through that first night at home with baby. Our overnight postpartum support allows you to receive the support you need to help you succeed.
Oh, and our doulas will help you avoid hickeys too!