Mafe Maria: Personal stories by autism parent mentor, Maria Stultz

Noche de Perros

one month oldToday my son has officially turned one month old. It’s hard to believe it. When I think of the time that has gone by since I first showed up that morning at the hospital, it feels like it’s been years. But when I see Joaquin… how chubby he’s gotten… the little pimples on his face… it feels like it was only yesterday when I first saw that tiny bull desperately longing and grunting for my breast. As I’ve said earlier, the days and nights I spent at the hospital recovering from my c-section were packed with the worst and best memories I can remember in my life. Today, before I forget, I’ll tell you about one of those. This story is about the third night at the hospital. It was a noche de perros. A night that will go on my book as one of the most memorable in the history of our family. A night that brought tears and hysterical laughter…

Not much sleep going into it

The first night I spent at the hospital, I was alone. That’s one of the foggiest nights I can remember… My nurse that night (one of the best I got during my whole stay) explained with intricate detail a ton of things to me before letting me go to sleep. It was very late and I just wanted her to leave and let me sleep. Later, she kept coming during the night to give me my meds. As my sleep was interrupted several times, I can remember that all my dreams during the first hours related to the day, the labor, the birth, and the surgery. Those weren’t relaxing dreams at all. Finally, on the last one to two hours before dawn, before the parade of hospital staff started visiting, my mind was able to relax and dream something different. Some time before dawn my nurse and her assistant helped me get up and go to the bathroom for the first time. They helped me sit, stand up, they cleaned me, etc. I was surprised to be so crippled.

The second night I was supposed to spend alone again. However, some time in the evening — a little before mom and Joey were planning to leave — a new nurse came to flush my IV. You must know, that IV stuck to my hand was huge. I still remember with horror the bloody mess the first delivery nurse (a novice nurse) did on it when she first put it. It hurt like hell, and the humongous needle kept hurting until uterine contractions began, and well… the pain of those made the pain of the IV turn tiny in comparison. However, the IV needle was huge, and it was still huge on the second night at the hospital, and when the nurse flushed the thing I felt death. I was so in physical pain, and so emotionally upset about needing so much help to nurse the baby. I needed help to get in and out of bed. I couldn’t reach all the pillows I needed to prop Joaquin up to my breasts. I couldn’t get the baby out of the bassinet to take to bed to nurse. And I knew that “those bitches” (all nurses, at that time) where not going to help me as much as mom and Joey did. So I cried. And I cried so hard, that Joey asked me if I’d like him to stay that night with me. Pouting, I said yes. That night they brought us Joaquin a couple of times. I nursed him with Joey’s help. We didn’t sleep a whole lot, but overall the night was ok.

The hell night

On the third night — the night concerning this story — Joey would take mom home and come back to spend the night with me again. I had just nursed Joaquin. We sent him to the nursery, and mom and Joey left. A few minutes went by, and all I remember is going to the bathroom and suddenly hearing Joaquin’s bassinet returning to my room. I get out of the bathroom and yes, the baby is back. Except, this baby couldn’t be Joaquin… I mean, my sweet bollito didn’t cry like that. He wasn’t as furious as this red thing they brought me. The nurses only bring you the baby when they’ve tried everything, and the only thing left to calm him down is your breast. So I say to the nurse It’s not possible… We just fed him an hour ago. The nurse shrugs her shoulders and replies Well, he’s hungry now. Like it was perfectly natural that a baby could get hungry and turn into a life version of Jack-Jack within the short span of one hour. I quickly get in bed and ask her to hand me my pillows and the baby. Just as I expected, the bitch hands me both, and before I can raise my head she immediately leaves me alone with a desperately crying baby who suddenly refuses to latch on.

I don’t get it… Joaquin used to latch on my breast without any problem. Why is he not being able to make it now? A long time goes by and Joaquin hasn’t shut up for a second. I’m terribly embarrassed that my baby is making such loud fuss. Poor neighboring women recovering from c-sections probably can’t sleep because of my hungry baby. I keep trying. He keeps failing and getting more and more upset. Joey finally gets back. I can’t remember what he does to calm the baby down. We think we’re over it, but the storm is just about to begin…

For what seems like hours, we wrestle with the baby. He’s very hungry. I have the boob. I want to give it to him; however, he can’t get to the food. He’s way to pissed to coordinate his attempts. A new nurse comes into the room. She’s heard Joaquin’s incessant screams and asks if she can help. We explain the situation, and this young lady (who initially looked angelical and sweet) acts like a total bitch patronizing me for my inability to nurse my baby. She tells me frantically First of all, calm down! The baby can sense that you’re upset. I don’t think I was that upset for this bitch to tell me that, but whatever, woman: Do what you want as long as you help me!

She gives me a couple more pieces of advice, none of which makes a difference. I finally tell her that this morning, a lactation consultant showed us a trick to calm the baby and get him to latch on when he’s too hungry to coordinate: Give him a few sucks of formula and then quickly pass him to the breast. The nurse acts like that’s kind of a dirty trick but decides to go and get a bottle of formula for us. When she comes back, she acts like the formula idea was all original from her and continues talking to me like I’m a child who needs some passive-aggressive scolding. She drips a little bit of formula on my breast and Joaquin jumps on my boob like in the good old times. Suddenly he’s nursing and we finally hear silence for the first time in hours. Nurse Perfecta leaves and I comment This baby just made me look like a complete idiot. Joey agrees: Way to make mommy look bad Joaquin!. We laugh. We think we’re over it not knowing that the storm is about to get worse…

Not a long time has gone by since we were able to send Joaquin to the nursery. We’re just about to go to sleep when we hear Joaquin’s squeaking bassinet returning to our room. Baby’s hungry again — and pretty furious about it. I rush to bed and strip my boob ready to try nursing the hungry tiburón again. The formula tricks don’t work at all. Nothing works. Joaquin screams at us. We’re getting desperate. Joey tries to soothe the baby on the rocking chair by my bed. This chair makes a beeping noise on each rock cycle. Joaquin continues crying loudly. He increases his pitch dramatically, with such strength that at some point, while I’m in the bathroom, I wonder if Joey’s hurting the baby. I finally say Bring that Nurse Perfecta back… See if she can fix this again.

Nurse Perfecta comes and tries her old tricks again. She manages to scold me once more for my techniques (techniques that had worked in the past). However, after some time it’s clear that Joaquin is not falling for that again. She finally sets up her escape: Well… if there’s something else you need, let me know. She leaves, and although I think it’s bad that she couldn’t help, I get the fresh wind on my face that the witch wasn’t able to deal with this new level of trouble either.

Somehow I manage to nurse bollito again. We send him to the nursery, and the night keeps going like that: Joey spends more time wheeling the bassinet out of our room than it takes for it to return to our doorstep. At one time, Joaquin is relatively calm but won’t go to sleep. Joey decides to attempt taking him for a stroll through the hallways — something Joaquin had enjoyed earlier. I hear the bassinet leave while I turn around to fix my pillows. In less than two seconds I hear a baby scream and the squeaking noise of Joaquin’s bassinet quickly returning to our room. Joey’s starting to look pale.

One more time we succeed making the baby sleep. I go to the bathroom and after I flush the toilet I hear a faint beeping noise. Across the door I ask Are you on the rocking chair again? (translation: Are you rocking Joaquin to sleep again?). Joey answers with his sad and desperate yeees. I can tell he’s very close to throw breastfeeding out the window. I know I’m in deep trouble when he says I can’t believe Petie and Chris did this for three weeks.

We get the baby to sleep again but this time Joey decides not to take him to the nursery. We all go to sleep. Lights go down. I drop my head on the pillows but can’t sleep. The smacking noises coming from the bassinet are concerning. These noises tell me that gordito is in trouble, he’s choking, he’s gasping, he’s having trouble breathing, he’s in pain, he’s about to start crying. Joaquin makes all this very loud noises while he sleeps, and so, since I’ve never heard them before, I can’t sleep. I wonder if Joey can. Not a long time goes by before I see Joey jumping out of his blowup mattress to check on Joaquin, make sure he’s ok, and then wheel the bassinet out of our room.

We finally go to sleep around 5 am. Every time I feel I’m about to fall asleep somebody in my dreams slaps me or punches my face. Sometimes it’s a blank face, many times it is Joaquin. The shock of the slap wakes me up several times. We hardly get one hour of sleep before the parade of specialists and nurses hits us in the morning. Before anyone comes I wake up and go to the bathroom, and realize that I’m in a lot more pain and way more crippled than the day before. In the bathroom my legs start shaking uncontrollably and I get very scared. Joey tries to wrap my legs with blankets and looks at me concerned. I start thinking of how bad breastfeeding turned last night, and when Joey tells me that we can always go with formula, I think I can’t fail at this too, and I cry and cry, like my world has just finished going to hell.

The pediatrician is the first one to visit. He finds me crying and tells me that this always happens. The night we just went through happens when the newborn baby becomes more alert, wants milk, and mom’s body still has only colostrum to offer. He says that things will be a lot easier when my milk comes in. He says that he’s seen the strongest women break down at this point of their lives. His words are a lot of comfort to me. I decide to spend one more day at the hospital… That day my milk comes in and Joaquin and I embark on the wonderful journey of breastfeeding.

We've got milk!!!
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  1. On , Joey wrote:

    A few things:

    1. That bassinet was squeeky! I still have nightmares of laying on the blow-up mattress on the floor, trying to get one hour of sleep after depositing Joaquin in the nursery, only to hear that horrible squeeking coming to our door!
    2. I think that doctor was making a mental note …. “possible post-partum depression candidate.”
    3. Those nurses were either great or annoying little bitches. Nothing in between! When they changed shifts I kept my fingers crossed.
    4. I am weak, Maria is strong, my sister is insane. I was so ready to throw in the breestfeeding towel after one night! I don’t know where Maria got the resolve to keep trying. Major surgery (c-section), much less sleep (I only had one sleepless nights… Maria had several), normally much less patience than me… and yet she told me to bring her Mom and go home and sleep that night (thank God Maria’s Mom had flown all the way from Colombia to help!!!). I guess there is another mommy gear, and Maria found it. (I won’t go into details… but I think my sister went through this for three weeks before telling the breast feeding nazis to go screw themselves).
    5. Happy one month Joaquin!! Our beautiful little boy is such a wonderful addition! And so damn kissable!

  2. On , Joey wrote:

    One other big comment and little comment…
    1. After the hell night, I noticed a piece of paper in the bassinet under Joaquin that had been put there by the gals in the nursery. It simply said “swing!”
    2. We took two pre-birth classes that lasted a half-day each. They told us everything, except for the hell that occurs when going from colostrum to breast milk. Might have been nice to warn us so we wouldn’t think we had a demon baby!! And afterwards, when I relayed the colustrum-to-breast milk hell experience to other parents at school, they just nodded their heads in that knowing manner. Parenthood.

  3. On , Chris wrote:

    That “swing!” comment is classic!!

  4. On , Petie wrote:

    I loved this story. It inspired me to finally write a little of my own bit about it. It’s been so long that it isn’t as good as yours though. I’m so proud of you and so happy for little Joaquin. That funny little chubby tummy. :)

    Also, I think you’re too kind to me… it was rough, but plenty of moms get through it. Although, I do appreciate it. Lots of folks can get kind of crabby about breast feeding vs. formula. So, I do value when people respect both choices.

  5. On , Petie wrote:

    I saw your comment over on our blog… Chris is going to link to your blog, like you did above. I just don’t know how to do that.

    Anyway, no, I didn’t take it that you thought I was a failure. I knew what you meant. I personally did also feel like a failure, so I know exactly how desperate you were to make it work. This is why I carried around a lot of guilt for a long time, but I had to let it go.

  6. On , Nursing « Pico DiPaolo wrote:

    […] So, I did fail. Maria mentions not wanting to fail in her blog, and it’s the best way to put it. I don’t disagree with her saying so and I certainly think she actually gives me more credit then I deserve with the hardship of my experience. It was rough for me, but it’s also rough for a lot of moms who get through it. I think it’s one of the biggest reasons I didn’t have a second baby sooner. I just had such a horrible, horrible first go with Joelle. I distinctly remember telling my mom, “I liked my life better before!” Of course, this isn’t true. My life has so much more depth, color and joy with both my girls, but those first few weeks of Joelle’s life were not the best of times. […]

  7. On , Us wrote:

    I guess I have nothing to contribute.

  8. On , Marla wrote:

    I love your pediatrician and your description of the nurses! My milk didn’t come in for 4 days. That 3rd night was the most memorable night of our lives and yeah, FAILURE is the word that goes through your head and it doesn’t help to have people who don’t remember the agony or have never gone through it because their milk came in the day the baby was born stand over you with a club to tell you how much you already suck at giving sustenance to your child.

  9. On , Maria wrote:

    Some women get their milk that soon? Man, how lucky!
    I can’t complain… After you told me that yours came days later than mine, I went down on my knees and thanked God for just having to go through ONE hell night.

    On the next night (my last one at the hospital) I attended a breastfeeding class at the hospital. The only other mom attending was very young (like in her early 20s). Her husband was with her. They had already used a bottle of formula. Poor guys… It’s so tempting to give up…

    I’m glad that it worked out for us, because people may not know this, but getting your milk and the kid to learn how to latch on are just the first two challenges of breastfeeding… Then you go home and have to deal with more tear-jerking episodes: The decision of nursing on a schedule or on demand; breast pumps not working for you (it finally works: Hallelujah!); feelings of guilt when people suggest that you may be doing things wrong; feelings of hopelessness when you think that you have become a faceless boob for your child… I remember one day when I was feeling specially blue, the pump didn’t work, I was afraid I couldn’t introduce the bottle on time, I was still resisting the huge change to my daily routine (i.e. boob, boob, boob, no time for anything else), it was probably my third outburst over it… I was wrestling with the breast pump when I came downstairs and found Joey playing with the baby. I cried as I thought: “Everyone gets to play with my baby, except for me. I don’t have time between feedings, and Joaquin only sees me as a faceless boob”.

    Things have gone a long way since then… There’s nothing faceless about me anymore. Joaquin loves playing with me, and I’m the one who spends most time playing with him… Still, for all new moms out there still crying… Hang on. I understand. And if you don’t hang on… I also understand.