Updated: Jul 23, 2019
I had my first baby at 19 years old. Straight out of high school and still feeling weird about a human sucking on my breast in private let alone in public! I wasn't offered breastfeeding assistance, advice, or education by any of my medical staff. These were the same people who would tell me all of my issues as a terrified young, pregnant, single mother were all in my head and give me medication(without the proper education) and send me home! I will never forget having to be wheel chaired out of the hospital because I was too drowsy to walk out on my own. I don't know what I received to this day. As a nurse that makes me nauseous and cringe internally. I can't believe I was THAT DAMN IGNORANT!!! Like they say if you know better you do better! It took me 9 years and 3 births to "know better."
I attempted to pump for my first baby, but that lasted 2 weeks. In-between midterms, lack of education, and lack of motivation there was no way I could have been successful at breastfeeding my oldest son, Seth. I was given a cart full of formula before I left the hospital and all the necessary education to bottle feed him so I was set!..... to not breastfeed. I didn't have any worries because I knew he would eat. I was really just experimenting and more interested in the fact that I was like a walking cow more than anything!! (LMAO but for real) My breast were HUGE and they were painful from engorgement(that no one told me about) so pumping was also to try to help relieve some of the pain. I wish I was in a age of Google and YouTube! I would have been a little more informed.... Ya know?! I know those aren't the most reliable sources, but it would have been enough information to ask questions of my healthcare providers.
OK, so 2 weeks of unsuccessful pumping(AKA experimenting) and then only formula feeding my oldest.
6 years later I attempt this breastfeeding thing with my daughter, Nile. I worked on a mother baby unit so I had extra training and education! I was empowered seeing so many women breastfeed. I had learned of all the benefits of breastfeeding. Well.... another epidemic that is currently being addressed happened to ME. My pain was ignored and pushed off with ibuprofen and a simple "it's your second child this is normal" type doctor shit. Well a week and a half later after excessive clots, pain, and a fever I ended up back in the hospital. THEY LEFT PART OF MY PLACENTA IN!!! Before my hospitalization I had been pumping because my daughter would not latch on! Not even with a nipple shield so I would supplement with formula as needed.
During my hospitalization and surgery I developed high blood pressure. I had to pump and dump for 3 days because of the medication I received during my surgery, but I also left on a blood pressure medication that was supposed to be lactation "friendly." I spoke with the pharmacist, who informed me that it was absolutely not possible to breastfeed with that particular medication. The pharmacist and the doctor couldn't come up with a proper plan. I decided that I would rather take the medication and LIVE versus breastfeed. I REGRET that decision to this day. Some key facts that played a role was that 1) I had been away from my baby for 4 days!! I was ready to go home. I was on a Medical Surgical floor full of germs so she wasn't allowed. I mean personally I didn't want her around true sick patients at 1.5 weeks old anyways. 2) I was a soldier in the Army so they made me feel as if I couldn't question them because they outranked me(If you've never been in the military you wouldn't understand. Sorry, if you've never been in the military as a BLACK WOMAN you wouldn't understand. 3) I was sick of their shit!!! I just wanted to leave and be done! Yeah..... worst decision ever!
"We as women have to learn to stick up for ourselves. I should have never let that ride. EVER. PERIOD."
We have to look at the bigger picture and look out for ourselves when no one else seems to give a fuck! Just. Like. That.
OK, so second baby I fed her expressed breast milk for 1.5 weeks and then she went to only formula feeding.
Third time's the charm is what they say! Because the third time after years of assisting other mother's with breastfeeding, training, living with regret, and telling myself there are NO other options I got it!
I got it sounds easy right? It wasn't easy lol. Here's another story for you. My son, Nahj, hadn't urinated at 24+ hours of life. I was attempting to breastfeed. The lactation "specialist" was against nipple shields and apparently locked them up and scared all of the weekend staff. They would not give me a nipple shield. I told them I need them to breastfeed. I didn't want to send my husband to the store to get a nipple shield, but I said forget it! One of the staff members finally gave us a nipple shield after hours of going back and forth. The final result, he breastfed with no issues with the nipple shield! He did have to get catherized because of the time he went without eating thanks to the lactation "specialist" who also tried to sneak and give him formula so that he would pee!!! So no nipple shield to breastfeed but yes to formula?! Fraudulent? I don't know, but I had to request that she not be allowed near my baby or me. Yes, we have that RIGHT as a patient! It's insane the things we endure when in fact we're in charge of our medical care!!!!
That lactation specialist is an example of someone who is doing a job for themselves versus the patient. The needs of the patient(Nahj) comes first!!
Don't let anyone tell you no. You're the customer at a hospital so you're always right! Even when you're wrong lol. I wasn't wrong, but I am just saying. You have to educate yourself so that you can fight for yourself!!! Are you finally understanding that if you don't fight for you and/or your baby then God knows what will happen? People have education, miseducation, and goals to reach. Some people won't see you as a patient but instead as a statistic.
OK, so we get released from the hospital. I get home and the extreme cramps while breastfeeding were intense(which are good for you because it helps your uterus shrink back to pre-pregnancy size as well as control your bleeding). I thought about quitting. I thought they left in part of my placenta again. I had SO many thoughts. This time I was educated! I knew that my goal was to exclusively breastfeed. I made a conscious decision to not have formula in the house. If I decided to quit someone was going to have to go to the store to get formula! I made it hard to quit.
Although it has been time consuming, I haven't slept a full night in over a year, I have had my nipples bitten with 2 teeth, 4 teeth, 6 teeth, and 8 teeth(I have the marks to prove it), and a challenge when traveling I have made it to 1+ years of exclusively breastfeeding Nahj!!!! I am so proud of myself and my journey! I wouldn't trade any of the experiences for anything in the world! The bond that we share is on another level!! I want everyone to trust their bodies to do what it's meant to do! Natural births, more home births because the hospital is for sick people and having a baby is not a disorder it's LIFE!!! As women that's what we're made for!
I know that I can use my experiences and my education as a Nurse and a Doula to empower and educate other Black women during their postpartum journey. We need resources and education. I think about what a difference it would have made if the teenage me was educated and was allowed to build the bond with my first baby that I have built with Nahj. I could have done even better as a single parent. I would have trusted that despite the odds this was something I was meant to do. My body was made for this! That bond is essential to the building blocks of trusting your motherly instincts.
"Oh how I wish I knew then what I know now......."
Once you educate yourself on Breastfeeding and your rights as a patient you become a
BLACK, EDUCATED, POWERFUL QUEEN.