Meghann Anderson-Russell (32) and Annalynn (22 months)
Meghann shares -
"I was 6 weeks when I started bleeding during my first pregnancy. I immediately freaked out, but was assured it was completely normal. I had a couple of ultrasounds which confirmed a healthy heartbeat. I assumed I would feel relief after hearing the heartbeat, but I didn't. Something in the back of my head told me something was wrong and I learned to never doubt a mother's intuition. At our 12 week appointment they couldn't find a heartbeat. There was just an empty sack. My husband I were devastated and I had a D&C the next day.
In the process I was diagnosed with a bicornate uterus, which means my uterus dips in the middle like a heart. While healthy pregnancies are possible with a bicornate uterus, miscarriages are not uncommon. My husband and I were able to conceive a few months later and I was so nervous about what would happen that it took me a week to tell my husband. I kept waiting for the bleeding to start again, but it didn't. Because of my bicornate uterus, I was considered semi-high risk and had extra ultrasounds to track growth. Fortunately, the pregnancy was text book, minus the fact that my daughter hung out sideways the entire time. She managed to flip to breech in the last week and was delivered butt first via scheduled cesarean.
I considered myself an accomplished athlete before giving birth and had just finished a full-distance Ironman triathlon and was in the best shape of my life when we first started trying to conceive. Then I got pregnant and lost the baby and then I got pregnant again and have been breastfeeding for almost 2 years. It has all taken a big toll on my body. And while my body is remarkable now for other things, like sustaining life, I still mourn the loss of the body I once had. The one that could run fast and train hard. I don't have the speed in me anymore, I lost it and I'm struggling to get it back. My body is also softer now and weaker but I think having a daughter keeps me grounded. I want her to have a positive body image so whenever I have negative thoughts I think of her and I think of what I would say to my daughter.
Since my daughter was born via scheduled cesarean due to my abnormal uterus, I mourned the loss of my dream of a vaginal delivery early on and accepted my cesarean. Thankfully, I had a wonderful team of doctors who took into count all of my wishes. I was able to have Annalynn on my chest while they stitched me up and breastfed in recovery.
The nurse who brought Annalynn to me to breastfeed for the first time sort of just dropped her in my arms and walked out. I had to call her back - I had no idea what I was doing! I had to ask how all of this worked since I assumed it would all come naturally. It didn't. I worked with some great nurses who taught me how to nurse in the hospital, but she stopped latching as soon as we got home and my milk came in. Our first trip out of the house as a family of three was to Babies R Us to buy a breast pump at 3 days old. My boobs were rock hard and the pump not only gave me relief, it made sure my baby was fed. I began to immediately panic that I had ruined our breastfeeding relationship from the beginning by offering a bottle so early in our journey, but my baby was starving and needed food. I was also scared she would never latch again.
Eventually, a friend recommended trying a nipple shield to get her to latch. I cried tears of joy when it actually worked. I also made an appointment with an amazing lactation consultant and joined every breastfeeding group in the area. I had a couple of random LC's tell me how terrible nipple shields are and made me believe that sticking with one would ruin my supply. I tried to drop the shield, but was never able to get her to latch right to the nipple. Fortunately, we made it through. Here we are at 22 months and still using the nipple shield. Other may have made me feel ashamed for using the nipple shield, but that little piece of plastic saved our breastfeeding relationship. I owe everything to it and am thankful for it.
Being a working mom is hard. Being a full-time working mom who also breastfeeds is even harder. I was lucky to have a supportive system with my place of employment, but it was still hard to make it work especially when traveling and working events. I've pumped EVERYWHERE - behind a tent, while registering people, next to the national guard, in the car, around total strangers and co-workers. It only worked because I fought like hell to make it happen. I want to let other parents that if something is important to them, then fight like hell. There will be zillions of bumps along the way and you have to be flexible, but never stop fighting.
I don't think there's enough credit given to working moms who make breastfeeding work. We've faced more challenges than I've mentioned her, but we somehow made it work despite all of the odds and statistics against us. We made it and this is my way of celebrating that achievement."