Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Feeling Like a Failure

I had mentioned in a previous post that staying in the hospital can make you feel like a failure as a mother. I have felt this way on both of my deliveries. I don't think the hospital quite understands the strain they put on new mothers.

In my first pregnancy and delivery I ended up with a tiny baby. He was only 6 lbs 7 oz. As you can imagine his weight loss was very dramatic because he didn't have all that much to lose. When each night the nurse weighed him she would scold me on how much weight he lost. On the third night she told me I had to supplement with formula or she would call the pediatrician and have him order me to supplement. I had no idea that I would be treated with such hostility, it was shocking.

I told the nurse to go ahead and call the pediatrician. While she was off making that phone call I sat in semi-darkness contemplating what to do. I woke my husband up and told him the news. I felt we weren't going to have a choice in the outcome. My husband grumbled a bit about not obeying the nurse or pediatrician and went back to sleep. I was frustrated because I liked my husband's stance but I was terrified that by disobeying the pediatrician's orders that CPS would be called in for endangering our child's life.

The nurse returned with orders from the pediatrician. I caved and requested soy formula since I was worried about allergies (my husband is lactose intollerant). I didn't understand that soy formula was missing a lot of nutrition compared to regular formula, like cholesterol (a vital building block for infants - breast milk has huge quantities of cholesterol in it), and that it would mess up the gut flora of our baby.

Instinctually, I didn't like the concept of supplementation or using formula. I felt that God would give me the ability to nourish my child. We were nursing but I wasn't comfortable with my natural ability to nurse. I had no idea if our baby was getting any milk. The nurse made me nervous.

After delivering the bad news, the nurse dropped off a bag of instant formula that came premixed in 2oz bottles and left. I carefully administered 1 oz to my child, the bare minimum of what was recommended, and promptly burst into tears. I felt like a complete and utter failure as a mother. Why couldn't I provide for my child? Why was what I had to give not sufficient?

A year and a half later and I now have more answers and feel on solid ground. I can hold my own against well meaning nurses and get them to back off.

The biggest thing I learned that really helped me overcome that feeling of failure was that c-section babies are waterlogged like their mothers. I had preeclampsia. I was retaining water horribly. They let me try to give birth naturally, but with an IV. I was hooked up to saline for 26 hours before my oldest was delivered. So, what he weighed at birth was a lot more than his true weight. He had a lot of water to lose, just like me.

The other thing I found out was that if the baby is pooping and peeing a lot, they are getting milk. Dehydrated babies don't do that. Had I known this I would have felt more successful as a nursing mother.

This go-round I made sure to remind the nursing staff and the breastfeeding consultant that our baby was waterlogged from the c-section and had to lose that water weight. The pediatrician was kind and seemed unworried by the weight loss. And even though the nurses freaked out that he lost 10% of his body weight from birth and told me I should supplement, I was able, with confidence, to tell them no.

I wish the hospitals would use different scales for measuring a baby's weight loss. It would be interesting to see the difference between weight loss in babies that were hooked up to and IV through their mother and those that were not. I bet the graphs would show dramatic weight loss in the first few days in the IV babies as compared to those who went without. And wouldn't there also be a difference between c-section babies and natural birth?

I hate feeling like a failure. I pray to God that he spares me the tears and helps me be a more loving and gentle mother.

1 comment:

  1. I bet you are right about the weight loss in the new born. When I gave birth back in the 70's and early 80's they did not hook the mothers up to IV's. My babies hardly lost any weight at all after birth -- perhaps a few ounces, but that was it.