As I was laying in the post -op recovery room last week, my guts just exposed to a room full of people not 20 minutes before, I looked over a saw a perky brunette surrounded by a gaggle of nurses. Her very skittish husband was glued to her side. His mannerisms and the look on his face told me this was his first baby. Whereas my husband was reclined in the chair next to my bed, casually snapping pictures, this strapping young man was flitting about the 4×6 space simultaneously trying to make himself of some use and not be in the way. Finally, his wife suggested he go outside and make a few calls to update the family. The 6 or so nurses surrounding her asked her if she had done skin-to-skin contact with her baby yet, and proceeded to assist her in getting her son to latch on in those few minutes after his birth. They fussed and cooed over her and the baby. My nurse noncommittally washed my child, swadled her, and moved on. Sure, this was my fourth child, and most of the staff probably recognized me from the year before, but I wanted fussing and cooing too, dang it!
And in a moment of insanity, that’s what I decided I was going to get. The next day, I summoned a group that the nursing staff referred to as The Nipple Nazis – the lactation consultants. Humph! If anyone would coo and fuss over me, it would be them.
Careful what you wish for.
The first consultant was pleasant enough. She fit the profile of a lactation consultant: White, middle aged (maybe 58), conservative hair-do, and dressed in a lab coat like she was “really doing something”. She asked me how she could help.
“I just need some help getting the baby to latch on,” I explained. “It’s hard for me to do it in the first two days.”
I made no mention of my uber selfish ulterior desire.
“Well I see you have a pump here,” she commented.
“Yes. That’s to get my milk lowing until she latches on.
She praised my decision making and got straight to work. We chatted about family, and how many children I had altogether. 15-20 minutes later, my newborn was making excellent progress, I had been fussed over and had had my ego satiated. As she was leaving, she asked if it was okay with me to have a colleague drop in the next day to follow up with me.
“Sure! No problem.”
The next morning, a woman with a graying bob, paisley print purse, enormous boobs stuffed into a blue cotton t-shirt, and an air of smug authority stepped into my room before I could invite her in. She introduced herself as Elizabeth. She was the “hip” (61 year old) lactation consultant.
“How can I help you this morning?” she asked.
“I don’t really need any help,” I replied. “Your colleague asked if it was okay to have someone follow up. I think we’re fine with feeding.”
She ignored me and began washing her hands.
“Is it okay for me to take a look at your breasts?”
I slid my arm out of my gown and she lifted my right breast.
“Well you’ve got the perfect breasts for nursing,” she commented, inspecting my mammary as she talked. “Lets see if we can get this baby to latch on.”
I glanced at her sideways. I had already said we were FINE. But whatever. If it made her feel like she had a job that mattered, I could indulge her for a few minutes. I repeated my family information. Yes, I have 4 kids. Yes, I nursed them all for a period of time. No, the only difficulty I have is in the first 2 days – when they are trying to figure out how to feed.
In the 40 minutes that she was there, food service brought me a tray, my nurse brought me pain pills, and an administrator came to do a brief survey. All the while, she was manhandling my nipples and trying to get me to focus on her and the baby exclusively. She would not permit me a moment of modesty! I endured, because I know their type. The Nip Nazis take nursing extremely seriously. Finally, she was gone, and I could settle back into my routine of doing nothing for the remainder of the day.
But she wasn’t the worst of the lot.
The next morning, I emerged from the shower, refreshed and ready to spend my day on Facebook and watching old re-runs of Little House on the Prairie. As I settled into the bed (no easy task after a c-section), the nursery worker brought my child. 10 minutes later, food service brought me breakfast. My husband came to visit with our son a short while later. It was going to be a breezy day! A knock came on my door, interrupting my thoughts.
“Hi!” a cheery voice screeched. “I’m C.J.”
She shoved her hospital ID in my face. Cynthia Jean. She was wearing a white lab coat. Not again?!?!?
“Hi,” I said flatly.
She was already washing her hands and eagerly putting on latex gloves.
“Do you mind if I take a look at your breasts?”
She didn’t wait for an answer. She was already unsnapping my gown – on both sides.
“Ooooh,” she cooed. “You have the perfect breasts.”
I know, I thought. That’s what y’all keep telling me every freakin’ morning!
She gave the nipple a not-so-friendly squeeze and coaxed some milk out of it. I was aghast.
“So how can I help you today?”
“I really don’t need any help,” I replied. “Like I told the 2 other ladies before, this is my fourth child, and I just needed help on the first day with getting her to latch on…”
“Well let’s just see if we can’t get that baby to latch on!”
She asked if I had a nipple shield. I pointed at the table where it sat.
She instructed me to hold the baby just so, placed the shield on my nipple and began to pour formula around the baby’s mouth, her face and down the side of my chest. I had just had a shower, lady! I tried not to glare at her. My husband sat silently watching this whole fiasco unfurl. Liya began to lap up the formula. That’s when C.J. switched to baby talk.
“No, no widdle one,” she scolded. “I know you want dat formuwa ’cause it’s easy. We don’t want you to have that fast food – that McDonald’s. We want you to get dat guuuud (she groaned as she said ‘guuud’) miwk from mommy’s garden. Dat fresh gween beans and tomadoes miwk.”
Marshall’s eyes raised ever so slightly. I could see the word “WOW” flash through his mind. I looked at C.J. like she had lost hers. When she was finished making a big soupy mess, she blurted out:
“Do you have WIC?”
“What? Uhh…I suppose I qualify for it, but I don’t plan to go get it,” my voice trailed off.
“Oh! Because I was going to tell you they have breastfeeding workshops at the county office.”
She pointed to a number on the back of a massive booklet. And risk going to meet other crazy women like you? Who work for the government? No thank you. Next, she spent an eternity telling me how the baby was the best stimulant for my breasts, how often to feed her, what I should/should not eat, stay away from the pump if I can; and did I know breastfed babies had higher IQs than formula fed babies? – blah blah BLAH. When she paused, I took the opportunity to remind her that this was my fourth child, and I had nursed all of them before.
Minutes later, as she prepared to exit, she got teary eyed. She looked at my husband.
“You know, you’ve got a winner in this one here,” she said pointing at me. “You’re very lucky.”
“I think I’ve got a winner in him too…”
She lifted her hand, requesting silence. Her voice began to crack.
“Thank you both for making the decision to breast feed your child. It is truly one of the most, if not the most, important decisions you could make for her life.”
Marshall looked just passed her, pursed his lips raised his eye-brows again, and nodded his headed slowly. I answered her audibly, as she seemed to be looking for some sort of verbal response.
She turned and exited my room dramatically.
As I was being discharged 2 nights later, the nurse asked me if I needed any follow up from lactation. No, I did not. I made sure she marked it on her chart. The next morning, my phone rang. It was the hospital. Did we forget to pay a bill or something? I hesitantly answered the call.
“Hi! Mrs. Grant? Ma-lah-ka? This is Elizabeth from lactation…”