The Milk Maid’s Postpartum Journey (a 7QT post)

(Men: I’m being pretty woman-frank today. Consider yourself warned.)

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When I was pregnant with Alex, I was all about natural childbirth. I was one of those people that annoys the doctor by clarifying again and again and again that I DON’T want an epidural, I DON’T want forceps and episiotomy, and so on. Of course, all that assumes that the body is capable of laboring, which mine apparently isn’t. And after I became the classic case of spiraling interventions leading to C-section, I sighed and shrugged and said, “Oh, well, it’s not as bad as I thought it would be. People should stop freaking out about C sections.”

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I held that opinion until the third trimester of my pregnancy with Nicholas, when I realized that the damage and weakness done to my abdomen was the cause of all the pain that made walking excruciating–I could barely support my own weight. And realized that I had to restrengthen before I could have another baby. From the 6-week mark in 2009, I did Pilates 2-3 times a week and added exercises from my massage therapist, and we got by this time.

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What I wasn’t counting on was that the fourth C section recovery would be as difficult as it has been. The pain has been stubborn, the bleeding has hung on, and then of course, we had latch issues that made nursing excruciating for several weeks. I can feel the difference in my body. The six and a half years since Alex’s birth, with three more C’s, have really taken their toll. I’m more aware of the incisions, the weakness in my own body. And the end of the incision rubbed raw and opened up in the last couple of weeks, defying all my attempts to heal it.

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So yesterday I had my postpartum visit. The day dawned with snow that canceled school. Suddenly I was looking at a two-hour drive with ALL FOUR CHILDREN, with nothing but a doctor’s office at the end. I panicked and called my mom. She stepped up to the plate and kept the older three at home so I only had to take the baby with me. And the doctor found that there was a stitch hanging out there, refusing to fall off (because of the distance, he actually sews me up with dissolvable stitches instead of using staples). That was actually a relief to know; I thought I’d done something wrong.

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However, yesterday was a rough day on the nursing front. Two hours, a quick doctor visit, and two hours back home = lots of sleeping baby interspersed with cranky baby. We nursed int he car at a rest area, and we nursed in the car in the doctor’s office lot before starting home. And what I thought was simple engorgement on one side (because he hates nursing that side) turned out to be my very first really nasty plugged duct.

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Now, I have a history of plugged ducts. It comes with the territory when you have abundant supply and, ahem, abundant space. Usually these would be considered a blessing–certainly every mother in the NICU looked slightly green when I walked in having pumped four ounces in ten minutes. I have twenty-nine vials of milk residing in the deep freeze at present that I have no idea what to do with. In the NICU they called me the “Milk Maid.” I have been holding my breath these first six weeks, chowing on lecithin, massaging tissue, not multitasking much while nursing, to try to avoid plugs, because they’re such a horrid experience. I’ve had five or six already, but they were partial plugs, ones that, while achy, never caused me that panicky sense of lack of control. This one is one of those. I haven’t started panicking yet, but having three quarters of one breast blocked off, producing ridiculous amounts of milk that can’t get out…I’m getting there. Warm water, massage, and now I’m afraid I’m going to have to go pump. I just keep praying that the blockage will break quickly this time, and not hang around for three days like they’re wont to do.

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Breastfeeding moms…if you’ve never had a plugged milk duct…fall on your knees and thank God.

Now. Off to the mechanical pump. (Envision me gagging.)

7 quick takes sm1 7 Quick Takes Friday (vol. 160)