In honor of World Breastfeeding Week 2015, we are sharing inspirational stories from breastfeeding/working moms. Today’s story was written by Louanne Ferro.
Prior to May 27th, 2014, the word baby meant something very different to me: my baby was my business. At the young age of 17, I entered the world of cosmetology. Knowing I wanted to strive and create greatness in my industry, I focused on building. In 13 year's time, I had nurtured my baby and created a small empire. One of the leading educators for the world's largest professional beauty company, I frequently traveled to teach my craft. In the heart of North Park, I opened my very own salon. My baby was thriving and I was the proud mother, spending further countless hours tending to make it what it is today. Then, May 27th, 2014 happened, changing everything I knew about babies.
The test was positive. To my shock, my work "baby" was going to be replaced with a real-life, micro-human! My pregnancy was something my husband and I had been hoping for and we were thrilled!
As the days went by and I soaked in the reality of this new chapter in our lives, I quickly realized that the acronym B.B. meant far more than a makeup product; my new "B.B." was Business and Baby! I started to prepare myself with all things human baby-related. In addition to the copious things on lists and registries, preparing for the physical exit of my child by way of my body required some serious consideration. My birth plan was short and extreme: 1. Do whatever you need to do to deliver a healthy baby, and 2. If baby and mom get separated, dad goes with baby. My preparations seemed both rational and thoughtful.
As the months crawled forward, I was asked, "Do you plan to breastfeed?" "Sure," I would state casually. I mean, doesn't everybody do it? The portrayal of happy mothers stroking their babies' heads seems the most natural and obvious choice. The commitment to breastfeeding tacked a third B on my list. Self-assured, I reiterated to myself, "Three Bs and three-step birth plan." Simple right?
As the ideas gestated, so did my little human. On February 1st, 2015 when most people seemed to be watching the Patriots win the Super Bowl after the controversial "Deflategate," I was in labor. I had no delusions of grandeur, and felt that the experience progressed well, or at least as well as it could. Literally dancing myself into labor, and thus, the hospital, I was celebrating my salon partner's thirtieth birthday only the night before.
In a lighthearted moment of somewhat inappropriate comedic relief, as I was pushing my sweet boy into the world, my husband, nurse staff, and I were laughing while Maureen, the midwife, styled my son's full head of hair mid-birth canal into a Mohawk for his grand exit. Ezra entered the world healthy and strong, with all the right parts and two healthy lungs. Things were great, that is, until they weren't. Laying him on my naked breast, as I looked into his eyes for the first time, all I could say was, "I'm going to be sick." Those weren't the words I was expecting to first say to my baby.
Before I knew it, Ezra was being transferred to my husband chest and my birth plan, the one that everyone says won't be needed, became needed. Ripping itself from my uterus, the placenta dislodged, and I, unknowingly, quickly began to bleed out. Because the hospital staff was great, the bleeding quickly stopped and I was generally unaware of the severity my body endured. Before I fully understood what had happened, I was on the mend. So I thought...
Latching my son in the hospital, he seemed to latch well. We left the hospital feeling very supported and excited to start our new lives as parents, and I was eager to be a mother who could sustain life solely from my own body. This, too, proved that things could go well until again, they don't. Shortly after arriving to our home as a family of three, I noticed my son no longer wanted to latch. Unable to wake him for feeds, we were heading down a slippery slope at excruciatingly high speeds. With no formula in the house because it wasn't part of the "plan" and no idea what was wrong, helplessness took hold of me and rattled this new parent's head and heart. Breast feeding should be easy, right? Everyone does it! It's natural.
I held my baby through the night, the first night home, praying we'd make it until morning when I would seek professional support. There was no marveling over the beauty of childbirth or reveling in the moment that our chests rose and fell together. This was the worst night imaginable. In the mean time, it was after midnight and my husband scoured for 24-hour stores, and finding none, finally sought out a NICU nurse at the hospital to get the formula an after-hours advice nurse suggested.
As the sun rose, I ran into the Kaiser breastfeeding support group, crying my eyes out as I told the head lactation counselor that I was starving my baby and I didn't know why. I was failing, and failing was something I was never good at doing. Rose, this angel, this pinnacle of breastfeeding knowledge, sat with me most of the support group and promptly made me a one-on-one appointment following the support group that day. Ezra had lost over 20 percent of his birth weight and was comparable to a premature baby. She asked me to share my story leading up to that point, and as soon as I mentioned the hemorrhage, she exclaimed, "There's your road block. You're not broken, you're healing." Not fully understanding, I listened, captivated by what the angel was telling me. She explained to me that our bodies can almost always produce milk for our babies, but major blood loss was one hindrance that halts milk production in its track. My body was healing me so it then could support my baby.
A woman - a new mom, rather - on a mission, I spent 24/7 learning how to help kickstart my supply, all the while supplementing at the breast, and educating myself on how to properly feed my baby. This harrowing and hormonal journey took a couple weeks, but my milk eventually came in and I had a new routine. I referred to myself as "The Dairy Queen," and I was always open for sweet treats!
Realizing quickly, in order to be successful with breastfeeding, I also needed to be knowledgable. This, after all, was one of the most important jobs I'd ever had. My short eight-week maternity leave was filled with work, just not the type of work I was accustomed to. My 13-year-old older child, my business, was doing well, but still needed my care. Much like a regular teen, it seemed as though it could self-manage, but a true mother, I realized it needed me to continue to grow. A new balancing act had begun. My new baby and breastfeeding also needed my constant care, and as the weeks passed, I slowly figured out how to balance my three Bs.
The key to success in working and breastfeeding, I have found, is to set boundaries with myself, my clients, and colleagues. Making food for my baby was just as important as my business. My work schedule has a pump break every three hours and for no circumstance should that pump break be booked - after all, it is my most important appointment of the day. When traveling for my company, it's made known that pump breaks must be allotted in order for me to take the job. Compromising my need to feed is not an option. My hands-free pump bra and car adapter for my breast pump have become my best friends. They really do support me. The ladies at the drive through coffee shop now know me as the pumping, purple haired mom as I pull through for my iced coffee while pumping on my way to work. My friends on speaker often ask, "Is that noise I hear your pump?" I say, "Sure is" with a smile, knowing that I am finding balance.
My flanges might not be a Marc Jacobs accessory, and my black pump bag may not be Prada, but I wear them with the same sense of excitement because I'm doing something I thought I couldn't achieve. They are also symbolic reminders of a label I do wear: mother, maker of milk and master of the Three-B balance, business, baby, and breastfeeding. My journey has not been lengthy, but on August 1, the first day of World Breastfeeding Week, I will celebrate my six-month "nurse-iversary." I've always argued that you can't hold a driven woman back, and now I know another word synonymous with driven woman is "mom!"