Hello my name is Nickie but I have affectionately nicknamed myself “Elsa” as I have been milking (lactating) for 8 months and counting. As I am sure most new parents have we read EVERY book, and researched all the best gear to include a stroller with “shocks and rims” as requested by my husband. None of these things prepared us to welcome our baby 8 weeks ahead of his anticipated due date. Lucky for us our awesome Women’s Center provides courses on lactation; the good the bad and the ugly. We just happened to take this course the week before our bouncing baby boy arrived.
The first thing that comes to mind about lactation for me was TERRIFIED! How do they expect new mothers with the crazy hormones and the new baby to get this thing licked in less than 48 hours? I was assured by Rachel, my awesome Lactation Consultant (LC) that I would be fine, and she would be there to help along the way. Her reassurance helped a wee bit as I continued my research about what awesome things my body and boobies were made to do. Two days later, our lives literally flipped upside down as I was admitted into labor and delivery with preeclampsia and told that under no certainty would I carry to term. The end goal to this game was 34 weeks, IF we could ride it out that long. As the days passed by we met with countless specialists and prepared for the babies pending arrival.
As predicted I did not get to that magic number of 34 weeks. I was forced to have an emergency C-Section at 32 weeks due to preeclampsia. During this process I went into the HELLP Syndrome, something that was completely unknown to me before this adventure.
The acronym for HELLP Syndrome stands for:
- Hemolysis (H), where your red blood cells are broken down too soon, causing dangerously low red-cell blood counts
- Elevated liver enzymes (EL), which indicate that your liver is functioning poorly and is unable to process toxins in your body efficiently
- Low platelet count (LP), which would make it difficult for your body to form blood clots and could cause you to hemorrhage during labor
This diagnosis sent my world into a tailspin and bought me a trip from labor and delivery straight to ICU. I did not have that warm and fuzzy moment of holding my newest gift or even seeing him for that matter. All of my education on skin-to-skin seemed to be for not and the idea of nursing should have been an afterthought as well. Motherhood ignited a fire inside of me like I have never known before. Quitting was not an option, and I knew that only I could give my son the fighting chance that he needed with my “liquid gold.” I will never judge a mother who decides that nursing is not for her, as it may not be for everyone. For me knowing the value of my milk for my son motivated me to start pumping in the ICU.
I could barely sit myself up but with the help of Mary (another LC) she made sure that I was able to get that first milk. She encouraged me and as Rachel promised, she never left my side. These “Milk Whisperers” were instrumental in me being successful to provide for my child. I became dedicated and disciplined to the schedule of pumping; I needed my body to produce this milk. I needed to feel my purpose of being a mother because I had not yet seen or held my sweet boy. Pumping was not only helping my baby but it was helping me.
The first 60 days of my sons life was spent in an isolate in the Neonatal ICU (NICU), we lived safely within this bubble. We were taught all the do’s and don’ts of parenting and handling a micro preemie. My husband and I felt as prepared as we could be. We had prepared our home and I had a wonderful stockpile of milk that I had been diligently curating for my son. All was well until….We spent one night at the hospital with our son, we returned home to find the “milk” freezer had defrosted. I know we all have heard the phrase “don’t cry over spilled milk,” whoever coined that phrase apparently has never be a lactating mom. I cry over a drop if it happens to spill much less an entire deep freezer of milk! My heart was broken and I couldn’t imagine what I would do when this little person caught up to the volume I was pumping. Thank God I had another stockpile at the NICU that helped soften the blow of all the milk we lost.
I am so blessed to say that God has always provided me with a great supply. I have continued my journey as “Elsa” the milking mom for almost 9 months now. I have even been able to share my journey with others in hopes that I can bring a little calm to the impending storm of motherhood. With a little dedication and a lot or prayer mommies can overcome anything.