On September 1, 2018 God blessed my husband and I with 2 precious babies; a boy and girl set of twins! I had a GREAT pregnancy and though twins usually come between 34-36 weeks, I was able to carry my babies just 3 days shy of my due date. I live in Atlanta, so I delivered at Emory Midtown Hospital. My doctor was wonderful, and I was able to deliver both babies vaginally without any tearing or complications. I had a birth plan and we stuck to it almost exactly, so I was thrilled about that.
So, I have always been terrified about how my breastfeeding experience would go. Mainly because my breasts have always been very sensitive and I had heard so many horror stories about people’s experiences. Though I had some fears, thankfully some of my close friends (whom I met in graduate school while pursuing a Master’s in Public Health) were huge breastfeeding advocates (I’d even go as far as to call them experts), especially for Black women. I was aware of the maternal health and breastfeeding disparities that exist among Black women and I knew that I needed to do lots of research, have support from those around me, and a commitment to working through the challenges.
That being the case, I took full advantages of the hospital lactation consultants during my 2 day stay post-delivery. I called them to my room to work with me on learning to feed at least a couple of times per day. Most of them were really great, very patient, and gentle. I did encounter one who was particularly rough (more on this later).
I never anticipated how overwhelming labor and delivery would be for my body and hormones. After delivery I felt so exhausted but the way that hospitals set things up, you have absolutely zero time to recoup after your body has gone through possibly the most traumatic experience ever. I labored for about 14 hours, so I wanted and needed nothing more than a nap. I remember at one point they gave me the babies to feed them. I fed my son for about 30 minutes and then my daughter for about 30 minutes and as soon as I put her down and thought that I would catch a nap a nurse told me “Oh your son is showing hunger cues. You need to let him latch on”. This was the first time I felt defeated. I literally felt like I had nothing left to give at that moment, but I pressed on to feed him again. Remember the rough lactation specialist that I mentioned earlier? Basically, she was pinching my nipples like they were the ear of a child that had just got on her last nerve. This is how she felt it necessary to get the babies to properly latch. I did tell her that I was in pain, but she continued so in my respect for her expertise, I assumed that it was the best way to learn to feed by babies.
After being discharged I was so excited to get home because my in-laws came and watched the babies for a few hours, so my husband and I could get a few hours of sleep. I actually didn’t sleep for more than 2 hours until I was home from the hospital (so this equates to 3.5 days without adequate rest). The learning curve for me was high. I cannot adequately explain how difficult the first month with the twins were for me.
I didn’t realize that I had postpartum preeclampsia until a few days after being out of the hospital. Though my blood pressure had been great during pregnancy, after pregnancy it was reaching up to 180/118. I was readmitted to the hospital twice to be treated and I genuinely felt like I was going to die. I was producing very little milk and I didn’t understand why until my doctor explained that my body had been operating in survival mode since delivery, so instead of sending resources to produce milk, my body was using all of its resources to keep me alive. My children’s pediatrician told me that I needed to supplement to ensure that the babies were eating enough. I was sad about that but after all that I had gone through I refused to beat myself up because I had to use formula in addition to the milk that I could supply. I was put on medication to control my pressure and spent the remainder of the first 4 months focused on getting healthy and increasing my milk supply.
I went to a lactation center and had a meeting where I fed my babies and then they were weighed. This helped me to know about how much milk they were getting during a 30-minute feeding. We also talked through an action plan to increase my supply. The plan included getting more rest, drinking lots of water, eating specific foods, taking supplements, and frequent pumping and latching both babies for 30 minutes per feeding before supplementing with formula. Seeing a consultant and having a plan gave me confidence that I could be successful at breastfeeding.
Prayer was a huge part of my journey also. It was cool watching God allow my body to produce more and more milk over time. I will never forget the first time I was able to pump 6 ounces of milk during one session. I was so excited, and it was a place of gratefulness to God. I came to a place where I became very content that whatever God supplied my body with was what he thought was sufficient for me and the babies and that allowed me to have peace rather than frustration. It was a LOT of work learning to be a mom to two babies, and pumping and feeding so much but it was so worth it. I believe that the journey and all of its challenges made me stronger and more appreciative of my body. In the end, I was able to breastfeed both of my babies at 50% for 8 months and I feel SO very proud! I am currently expecting a baby girl in October and I am excited and optimistic that I’ll be able to exclusively breastfeed, but either way, I’m going to put forth my best effort.
I’m so thankful for a supportive husband, the resources available in a city like Atlanta, my mom who sacrificed 8 months of her life to help me almost full-time, and my friendships forged at Morehouse School of Medicine in the Master’s in Public Health Program. These ladies provided positive pressure and just knowing that they had all breastfed their children (most at the same time as me) was super encouraging to me. Breast is BEST!