Breastfeeding in the face of surgery and hospitalisation

Every nursing story is unique - their perspectives may all be different, but each one powerfully illustrates the emotions and beauty of the connection between mother and child.

An inspiring and touching story of a mother’s strength and love, Marta shares with us the difficulties she faced with her son Ivo, from her complicated emergency C-section to her month-long stay in the hospital with him.

“Our breastfeeding journey started with a major hiccup for the both of us.

I was not able to visit or nurse Ivo in the first 24 hours of his birth. My emergency C-section was very complicated and when they finally managed to deliver Ivo, he wasn’t breathing in the beginning. I still remember the dead silence in the operation theatre and the nurse saying “this is serious”. Thankfully, he quickly bounced back, and the general sigh of relief rolled across the room. Ivo was immediately taken to the NICU for observation and 24 hours later, I could visit him during the nursing times. We were only reunited after three long days. 

Right after that, I had some serious post-surgery complications which manifested on day four, and I had to stay in the hospital for a full month to recover. Ivo was with me the whole time as we were transferred back to the prenatal ward. 

Frankly, I do not recall the first two weeks spent at the hospital in recovery. I was in and out of consciousness with overwhelming pain. I was not allowed to eat, drink or shower; and was constantly hooked up to an IV on both arms, with drains coming out of my sides. I was also poked with needles every two hours, because they were unable to find the reason of my rapidly deteriorating health. It turns out that I was infected during the C-section surgery and my body was fighting the bacteria in every possible way.

Needless to say, breastfeeding was a challenge and a half. At first Ivo wasn’t there for the production to kick in. Then, I got sick. I tried to nurse but I wasn’t strong enough hold him. I couldn’t change his nappy or cuddle him because of all the wires. So I pumped. I pumped night and day and the nurses or I would give him a bottle. They would also put him in bed with me for feeding and stay with us to make sure we were both okay.

I cried so much but I knew I had to remain strong for my tiny bundle who just arrived, and was completely dependent on me. My husband came every day after work and took care him for both of us; we would cuddle the three of us and pretend we were at home. It was our family bonding time, there on a hospital bed. My closest friend would come and take care of me, and try to distract me from this nightmare.

Every day all of them asked me – do you want to keep doing this? Do you want to breastfeed? Everyone will understand if you don’t. We were at a hospital that is a strong supporter of breastfeeding, so hearing this from their nurses was a really big deal.

I will be honest with you, if it wasn’t for this amazing team of nurses, for my husband’s and friend’s support, I don’t think I would have breastfed. I am persistent and strong (or so my family says) but everyone has a breaking point and I was very close to mine. I was very lucky to experience their dedication to Ivo’s and my own wellbeing. I was very lucky to have the nurses guide me in establishing a strong milk supply despite not being able to eat or drink for the first two weeks. Having a strong emotional but also practical support from your family and friends is essential for the breastfeeding journey to be successful.

Ivo is 14 months old now and he still nurses twice a day. He is the happiest little boy I’ve ever met.  He is strong, funny, and smart. He bosses me around the house, shouting “mama!” and gives gentle kisses to our cats. I was so worried that this ordeal would have an impact on his development. I’m back to my usual self and only the C-section scar reminds me of the very rocky start we had over a year ago.”

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