Lactation Fun

July 2, 2010

There’s a whole lot I didn’t know about babies until recently – such as the fact that newborns drop a fair amount of weight right after they’re born.

At her two-week checkup on Tuesday, Lorelei had not yet made it back up to her birth weight, so the pediatrician told me to set up an appointment with one of the hospital’s lactation consultants. After the trauma of “Check Your Latch” Linda at the hospital, this was not something I was eager to do, but letting my baby wither away like a character in a BrontĂ« novel was not an option, either.

Back at the hospital, Linda had foisted two phone numbers on me. “The first is the voicemail for the lactation consultants. We check it every day at 7 am. If we don’t get back to you, or if you’re having a milk emergency, you should call this direct line instead.” Eric and I were both a) wondering why on earth they encourage you to leave a message if they don’t plan to get back to you and b) highly amused at the notion of a “milk emergency.” (“That must mean there’s either no milk, or way too much milk,” Eric said, eyes wide with horror, undoubtedly picturing nipples spewing an unstemmable white tide, like open fire hydrants.)

With some misgivings, I left a message on the voicemail, and Linda herself actually got back to me the following afternoon. “When would you like to come in?” she asked, clearly glad to have another new mom in her clutches. I told her I could do anytime the following day and asked what times she had available.

“Oh, we don’t set up a time now,” she said, cheerily. “Call and leave a message on the voicemail tomorrow morning when you get up. Ideally, you should call before 7:00. Someone will get back to you with a time – and if you don’t hear back from us, you should call the direct line.” Monty Python’s Flying Circus has nothing on the Portsmouth Hospital Lactation Team.

In any event, I finally managed to nail down an appointment for 12:30 on Thursday and was told to bring a hungry baby (I assume they meant my hungry baby rather than any old one I found kicking around in a stroller downtown). The lactation consultant was late. Hungry baby began to wail. The “lactation room” was occupied, so we retreated to an unoccupied room in Pediatrics one floor down. She told me to go about my business nursing Lorelei as I normally would, but that she had to weigh her first.

“We’ll leave her fully clothed so as not to traumatize her,” she said, “since she’s already hungry. Well, look at that! She’s already gained quite a bit of weight since she saw the doctor!” I had to break it to her that the apparent weight gain was most likely due to the fact that the baby was, um, fully clothed. “Oh, right,” she said, disappointed. I settled into a chair and, as instructed, started to nurse Lorelei, who by now was so hungry she was eagerly gumming my shirt, her own fist, and anything else that came into range.

Unbeknownst to both me and the lactation consultant, the room she chose for us in Pediatrics was the place to be at lunchtime on Thursdays. In the course of 20 minutes, we were interrupted by:

1. Someone who urgently needed the room’s bed wheeled out into the hallway ASAP;

2. An unknown person who hurriedly closed the door with a cryptic “Sorry – I work here”; and

3. Larry (“He’s one of our IT guys,” the consultant noted.)

It would have been too much to hope for any of these people to knock before entering. “I’m so sorry,” the consultant said, finally taping a “do not disturb” sign on our door. “But it’s great that you seem so comfortable with the nursing process.”

Half of Portsmouth – including Larry the IT guy – has now seen my boobs, I thought. Let’s chuck all pretense of modesty out the window, shall we?

As far as the consultant could determine, there was no smoking gun as far as Lorelei’s sluggish weight gain was concerned – we think it’s largely due to the fact that she slept, rather than ate, for several days after we got back from the hospital. She left me with some helpful tips on positioning, as well as some comments on the fine network of veins I was sporting (undoubtedly meant to be encouraging, but they had the effect of making me feel like a well-marbled steak).

Fingers crossed that Lorelei is back on track with her weight gain. Larry and I have simply got to stop meeting like this.

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2 Responses to “Lactation Fun”

  1. Lisa Milam-Perez Says:

    Ah yes, lactation fun indeed. Fun you won’t soon forget, Jen. The eleven years that have passed has done little to diminish the memory of lactation consultants, pumping, sobbing, lactation consultants, sobbing, sobbing, pumping, pumping, more pumping, and the eventual resignation that I would pump every four hours for the next eleven months of my life because this kid–this stubborn, lazy preemie who was spoiled forever by breastmilk streaming effortlessly through a gavage tube down his nose–had no intentions of latching on.

    Honest to goodness, Antonio latched on exactly once: In the office of the executive director of La Leche League International. I finally had to take it to the top–the lactation Vatican–for the kid to submit to the divine creator’s supposed will. But the pope-ess took umbrage at my suggestion that I move in all my crap and crash on her office couch for the next 6 to 8 months, so the hospital-grade pump became a semi-permanent fixture in my living room.

    Do you remember all those beautiful stories of newborns–unencumbered by all those awful drugs that only selfish mommies take–slowly, by their own primordial devices, inching their way from the birth canal to breast, instinctively partaking of the milk of life, as mom beams lovingly in an oxytocin-induced haze at the tender infant hugging her swollen bounty? Boy, it didn’t take long before I started to hate those stories. It didn’t take long before my borrowed copy of “The Womanly Art…” became the fuel of a ritual bonfire. Before I was snidely referring to the poor, dear, undeserving consultants as “goons” and “hippies” and “Wiccans” and telling anyone who would listen that breastfeeding was worse than learning how to drive a stick. (I softened toward them a bit after the Wiccan hippie goons advised me to drink beer when my usually abundant milk supply once briefly dwindled.)

    But I’d do it all again in a minute. And I’ll tell ya, it wasn’t easy to give it up, to wean myself off that metal, suckling, humming drone, those hideous plastic cones that were a cruel anthropomorphic replacement for the comfort of my warm, gurgling son at my breast, sweet whiffs of baby smell. I refused to retire that pump even after full-time work commanded that I gradually reduce my flow to a trickle. It stayed in the living room for weeks, Sam working up the nerve every few days or so to gingerly suggest–careful to pepper his message with “sweetie” and the like–that it might just be time to pack it up. And it was only a few months ago that I finally donated that pump to some new mom, embarking anew on the cycle of sobbing and frustration and consultants and resignation, and looking back fondly, all too soon.

  2. Sarah Says:

    Missing your blog, Jen! Hope you’re doing well…hang in there!


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