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Friday, January 25, 2013

How Breastfeeding Sent Me To Surgery...

Sounds like a sensational title. Unfortunately, it's far less sensational and far more true.
I'm writing this post for any other mom who, like me, received a similar diagnosis and spent hours searching the Internet for "galactocele", only to find very little on this rare breastfeeding complication ...

"Galactocele" I repeated the words to myself as I hung up the phone. I had just spoken with the nurse practitioner at the surgical oncology clinic. Just the day before I had been seen for an ultrasound and needle aspiration of my right breast. It had all started a week before when one of the lactation consultants noticed an alarmingly large lump in my breast. She told me it was likely just a plugged duct and to treat it as such. If it persisted for more than 10 days they'd have me seen at the breast clinic (the less scary name for the surgical oncology clinic). However, the lump grew so rapidly after that and became increasingly painful, I called everyday after that till they finally scheduled me for an appointment at the oncology clinic just a few days later.

I was hopeful that day. After 2 ultrasounds, which were so painful due to the large mass, I was sent for a needle aspiration. I held hopes that after the aspiration the problem would be taken care of. Little did I know what the next few days would hold...

It was that Friday morning, the morning after the ultrasounds and aspiration that the NP called and used that word that would soon become painfully familiar, "galactocele". I immediately began searching the Internet. All I found were descriptions like "small", "harmless", "resolves on its own", only none of these descriptions fit what I was experiencing. Things quickly went down hill. By Saturday all I did was sleep and wake to nurse because I was in so much pain and felt sick. But because there was no redness they didn't think I had an infection. Come Monday morning I was desperate. I couldn't get through to the breast cancer clinic. I paged the midwife on call- Kathy, the same wonderful midwife who helped deliver Caroline. She finally convinced the breast cancer clinic that I could not wait 10 days "the earliest they could see me" they said. As soon as the NP in clinic that day took one look at me she said, "you're not going to like what I have to say, but you're going to need surgery", for a severe galactocele and a staph infection. And before I knew it I was ringing in the new year on the operating table.

The surgery relieved the pain, but only for the night. The next couple days in the hospital were tumultuous and stressful. It was finally determined that a drain would be placed to manage the swelling while I stopped my milk supply. I wasn't upset by this at first, just relieved to find a break from the constant, terrible pain - the pain that kept me from loving on and enjoying my baby like I should.

However, after I finally came home from the hospital the realty that I wouldn't be able to breastfeed hit me hard. I kept calling the surgeon's office and the hospital's lactation consultants trying to convince them I needed to figure out a way to breastfeed despite everything else. But it came down to this being the only way I could get truly healthy again and stay out of the hospital. I still felt incredibly guilty, even though I realize now I had done everything I could and the severity of this situation was beyond my control. At the end of the day I can't control that I had to stop breastfeeding in order to heal and stay out of the hospital. However, I can focus on many other things like the quality time I spend with Caroline- reading her books, cuddling up for naps with her, making myself look like a complete idiot just to bring out one of those gummy baby smiles.

It makes me angry when I read comments by other breastfeeding women that they don't believe there are medical reasons for a woman to stop breastfeeding. Or how many moms and breastfeeding advocates judge moms who, like myself, are walking around Babies R Us with cans of infant formula in our shopping cart or pull out a bottle instead of a nursing cover when our baby cries. I'd like to ask these women if they would judge formula feeding moms like myself in the same way if they saw me unconscious on the operating table on New Year's Eve because of breastfeeding. Would they give me the same looks as the cashier rings up my formula if they knew about the 9 cm tumor that kept me from using my right arm for weeks? What a different experience motherhood could be if we spent more time supporting one another and less time judging another mother's decisions without even knowing her story.


A few days after coming home from the hospital. Finally feeling well enough to give this freshly bathed Caroline her bottle. 


Friday, January 18, 2013

Caroline At 2 Months

Caroline, you are 2 months old! 


You love being rocked in the rocking chair in your nursery.
You love practicing holding your head up.
You are just now discovering the usefulness of your hands and you've been practicing grabbing your bottle and pulling it towards you while you eat. I've also been helping you hone your little fine motor skills by playing with links with you, you grab on to them and just have a grand time.


You recently discovered that fun things can happen even when you're not being held. Lately I've laid out a blanket on your nursery room floor and you enjoy lying there and looking around at things and pumping those little legs of yours. 


You are so much more alert and observant. You've also given me three big gummy smiles and looked straight at me, as if to say "I'm having a really great time with you, mom!".
I'm pretty sure Daddy is jealous that he hasn't gotten a smile yet. In time.

You love your Grandma and Grandpa and when you're with them insist on being snuggled the entire time. I think they're pretty happy to oblige. 

With your great pediatrician Dr. Pickens. Though your face looks like you know what's coming...2 month shots! 


2 Month Stats
Weight: 7 lbs. 12 oz (5%)

Height: 22 inches (25%)

Diapers: Newborn

Clothes: Newborn



Sleep: You've found a bit of a rhythm for your night time sleeping. You go down sometime in the evening depending on how well you've napped during the day, and you wake for eats around 2AM and again about 5AM. Then sleep till about 8AM. I always rock you to sleep and sometimes sing you to sleep. I know the baby sleep books say not to do that, but I have this one moment in time to rock my baby girl to sleep in my arms and I'm not going to miss it.


Eating: Since all the mess I went through with the severe galactocele and staph infection and having to have a drain put in I was told to stop BF you. So since 6 weeks we've had you on Earth's Best Organic Soy Infant Formula and you've done great. It helps with my mommy guilt of not being able to BF to give you something organic. 

Play time. We have play time every morning in your nursery. We listen to lullabies on mommy's ipad, play with link toys, have tummy time, read stories, and you just love lying there and staring at the things on your changing table- I meant LOVE it! 


Happy 2 Months, Baby Girl! 



Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Baby Face

How hard can it be to take a few 6 week old pictures of Caroline in her chair?

Challenging. Unless of course you're going for the sticking out the tongue face, which might actually be the winner. Funny girl!



Now if I posed for a picture with my mouth wide open I'd look like a fool. But when Caroline does it- adorable!


Caroline's general feelings about having her picture taken...

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Caroline's Birth Story

I always enjoy reading other women's birth stories on their blogs, even more so once I knew I was expecting. Here's the story of Caroline's birth, it was a wild ride...

I was 2 days shy of 36 weeks, when my water broke. I called the midwife on call,  she told me to just keep an eye on it and I didn't need to come in unless I started getting contractions that were 5 minutes apart, lasting for 1 minute, for at least 1 hour- the "511 rule" as I had learned in birthing class. 

We relaxed and snacked and watched TV shows for a while. I was having a few contractions spaced far apart, but they weren't that bad- I had to stand up and sway through each one, but I was back to myself in between each contraction. But then something kicked in and I felt like I needed to be ready to go to the hospital. I put in a quick load of laundry and added things to my partially packed hospital bag. I asked Mike to run out to Target for me to grab a few things for my hospital bag.   

It was only a little before 5 and Mike hadn't been gone long when hard contractions kicked in. Each contraction stopped me dead in my tracks, but I continued to try to pack my hospital bag in between contractions. I wanted to be packed and ready to go. 


In our room in maternity after leaving labor & delivery


Half an hour into the contractions they were only 5 minutes apart. What? That closeness of contractions generally takes hours and hours, especially with first babies. Mike got home with the items I had asked him to pick up for me. I told him I'd been having intense contractions and he began to jot down the time of each one. We knew from birthing classes and our midwives the importance of the 5-1-1 rule. Often when women come into the hospital too early it stalls their labor because their bodies aren't as relaxed as they would be at home. But before an hour of the intense contractions could even pass, my contractions were just 3 minutes apart. I told Mike I felt the baby's head bearing down and I wanted to go to the hospital now! That was it, the 5-1-1 rule was out the window for us, we called the midwife and rushed to the hospital as fast we could. 

On the car ride to the hospital I began to feel like we wouldn't make it. I was dizzy, and felt like I was blacking out, and I had loooooong contractions during the 15 minute race to the hospital. 

Once we arrived Mike wanted to walk up to Labor & Delivery with me. But despite the short spacing and intensity of my contractions I still didn't believe I would be having a baby this quickly I figured I'd have at least a few more hours of labor since I hadn't been in active labor that long. He walked me into the desk and after I urged him to park the car and meet me in Labor & Delivery he raced off to park the car and get back to me as fast as could. (Later one of our nurses asked him, "Are you the guy we saw sprinting across the walk way?" Apparently, hospital bags in hand, he had sprinted full speed from the parking deck to the Women's Hospital completely bypassing the mandatory photo ID check in). 




I was escorted up to L&D in a wheelchair and was taken to triage. The triage nurse began to take my vitals. The nurse stepped out and I felt the wave of another contraction hit. I did not want to be on my back. 

When Mike walked in to the triage room a few moments later I was on my hands and knees, yelling. The contraction subsided and a minute or less later another wave hit, but this was different, my brain turned off and my instincts kicked into full gear.

Still on my hands and knees rocking back and forth I told Mike to get someone I was going to push now and no waiting for hospital protocol anymore. Mike rushed from the room to the nurses desk, and told the triage nurse who had just taken my vitals that we needed to see the midwife now, I was ready to push. 



I got the feeling from the triage nurse that she wasn't taking us too seriously. But of course, why should she think I was this far into labor...I was a first time mom and had only been in hard active labor for 2 hours by now. She came in and checked me herself (we had been waiting for the midwife to finish another delivery and then come check me). As she checked me she pulled out her phone and began dialing. "I'm going to need NICU, I'm going to need a nurse, I'm going to need room 1. Fully dialated plus 2!"
She turned to Mike and told him he'd need to wheel my bed because everything needed to happen fast. I was taken to room 1 (the room reserved for emergency births) I saw people rushing into the room. There were nurses, a NICU team, doctors and within minutes one of the UNC midwives, Kathy (I couldn't have been happier to see anyone at that moment! I love those midwives!). As soon as I saw Kathy I asked her when I'd start pushing. "As soon as we can get you set up." she responded, it was happening now.

 One of the L&D nurses jotted down my birth plan requests for Caroline (since I wanted a natural birth we had a formally written birth plan but there wasn't time to go over that now). The NICU team explained that they'd lay her on my chest if she came out crying, but if not they'd have to take her to NICU. 


NICU team giving her a check out after I got to hold her for several minutes

Within minutes I was set up to push. I could have cared less that the room was full of people, I was in pure instincts mode and just focused on Kathy and her coaching. I could not have imagined a better pushing coach, she was exactly what I needed. She told me it was going to get worse before it got better, but that this was what I had to do. I focused hard and with each contraction and each push reminded myself that the only way to make the pain subside was to reach towards more pain first. It worked for me. It enabled me to find a purpose within my pain, something we learned about natural birth in our birthing class.
4 long pushes later Caroline was here, screaming at the top of her lungs. Kathy wiped her off and laid her on my chest and as soon as she was on my chest she quieted down.


moments after the birth

After a few minutes the NICU team took her to make sure she was okay, but they checked her in our room. Not long after, the room began to empty and it was just us and the L&D nurse. I began to feel like I was going to pass out and they had to give me an IV. This happened more than once that evening. Apparently I had lost so much blood and things had gone so quickly my body was in shock. After a few scary spells of almost passing out, a couple bags of IVs and lots of juice, water, and some food I had stabilized blood pressure. I wasn't able to hold Caroline a whole lot that first night because I was weak from blood loss (apparently red heads bleed significantly more than others).

The next couple days and nights in the hospital were both blissful and stressful. We admired our tiny daughter, but she had to have extra tests done since she was a month pre-term. The upside is she passed them all with flying colors. The lactation consultants were wonderful, UNC hospital has around the clock LCs on duty who will visit your room every feeding. And with Caroline being pre-term they were extra attentive to us, which was helpful. The pediatricians who visited our room were also wonderful. And each morning the midwife on call stopped by to check on me. But by the time day 3 came I was so happy to go home... it's near impossible to get sleep in a hospital and I barely slept during our stay there. 

proud daddy


Reflecting back on Caroline's birth experience, I am amazed at what a crazy but wonderful experience it was. I was able to have the natural birth I so wanted. But it all happened so fast  that I'm still a little dazed trying to wrap my mind around what happened. Giving birth and being able to do it naturally was the most incredible experience of my life. 

 We love you little C. 




"For this child I have prayed" (2 Samuel) 


Saturday, January 5, 2013

These Are My People...