The breastfeeding saga continues...
Two nights ago - the dark night of the soul - I was about ready to give up. The pain was only getting worse; I cried before (and during) every feeding, knowing how badly it would hurt. Baby girl seemed to be getting enough to eat, although she wasn't gaining as much weight as we'd like; still a few ounces shy of her birth weight after two weeks.
Mostly, though, it was the pain. I could pump just fine, but latch that baby on and holyfreakingmotherofgodandalltheangelsinheaven it could have been used as a torture device for getting information out of suspected terrorists. I would have given you every secret I knew if it would stop the pain.
So, back to the lactation consultant yesterday. It turns out that I have a.) a yeast infection. About which I was freakishly delighted; I know they're a bitch to get rid of, but at least it was something real. An actual problem. Not just me. I always thought I had a reasonable level of pain tolerance, but after barely being able to handle contractions at 2cm dilated and then weeping through breastfeeding, I was beginning to think I might be a closet wimp. But no! "Wow," said the consultant after looking at my nipples, "I bet that really hurts." I practically wept with thanksgiving that she acknowledged it.
But wait! There's more. I also have b.) a baby with a short tongue who may need to have her frenulum clipped. ("Tongue-tied," in other words.) This probably explains half the pain, because she really can't latch on correctly. No matter how much of my boob I stuff in her mouth, she still ends up on the tip of the nipple because her tongue can't get around it as it should.
At one point, the consultant stopped in the middle of a sentence and said, "I'm giving you a lot of information here - is it too much?" "No," I said, because it was such a relief to know that there are actual problems, and that it's not just me - it's not that I have no pain tolerance, or that I can't breastfeed correctly, or that I don't have enough milk. The tongue problem also explains the tepid weight gain: she's not getting as much as she should at each feeding. And the yeast infection explains why my breasts hurt all the time, all day long, not just when she eats.
I have never been so relieved to have problems with names. For the yeast infection, I have a prescription nipple cream and the instruction to take ibu.profen every four hours for at least a week. "Can you be religious about this?" asked the consultant, which made me giggle a bit; "I specialize in being religious," I thought, but all I said was, "absolutely." For the tongue problem, we have an appointment with an occupational therapist on Monday; she'll either give us some exercises to do by pushing down on her tongue, or she'll tell us we need to get the frenulum clipped, which freaks me out a bit but is apparently not a big deal and a quick recovery for her. She also taught us a slightly different sort of latch, which is already relieving a great deal of the pain.
Last night, she was eating on the less-sore side, and I suddenly panicked. I worried that she wasn't getting enough. And then I realized why I was panicking: because it didn't hurt. At all. For the first time. She was happily sucking away, and neither of us was crying, and it finally felt like we might be able to do this.
I realize that "intact nipples" is not necessarily the thing I should mention at the dinner table when we go around the circle on Thanksgiving and mention the things for which we are grateful. But believe me, my Thanksgiving list this year is specific and simple:
Thank God for this beautiful child.
Thank God for lactation consultants.
And thank you, God, for intact nipples.
Amen to that.