In Case of Emergency–A Nursing Mom’s Backup Plan

Kristen and Joy, both happy and healthy

There’s no doubt about it, becoming a mom brings unexpected adventures. You try to be as prepared as you can, but you never know what’s around the corner.

A few weeks after my daughter Joy was born, life as a mom took me for quite a ride. It all started with abdominal pain. At first it was no big deal, but then it just wouldn’t subside. Eventually it felt like an inner tube was blowing up in my stomach and it wouldn’t pop.

My husband Bill knew something was wrong even before I did, “Hun, do you need me to call a doctor? You’re going into Hypnobirthing mode!” It was true, only there were no surges, no highs and lows—and no beautiful baby to meet at the end.  Something was really wrong.

An emergency room visit was in order. Several hours, multiple tests and a not-so-fun introduction to lactation risk categories, we found the source of my pain—gall stones.

A few days later we met with a surgeon, who encouraged me to wait it out. It could be years before I had another attack and that gave me hope, but the following weeks proved difficult. There was daily back pain, which I hoped was from breastfeeding. There was exhaustion, but what new mom doesn’t feel tired? I found every excuse in the book, but after talking with moms who had been through this, I knew surgery wasn’t far off and I had to prepare.

As I met with doctors and nurses, I realized not many were 100% sure what was right and what was wrong.  I was turning to professionals, but when it came to breastfeeding and surgery they were just as uncertain as I was. What was certain was that I had to take initiative. I started with a call to the hospital’s lactation specialist. If there was anyone who could guide me in the right direction I knew she could — she gave this advice:

Choose the right medication
Wary of pain medicine, I was nervous. These guidelines helped me make the right decisions.

Build a stockpile of frozen milk
While my surgery was an out-patient procedure, she encouraged me to have a good supply—just in case. Each day I would pump enough to fill one bag.

Don’t be afraid to ask questions and provide suggestions
She encouraged me to be candid with medical staff. There was a lot of talk about pumping and dumping, some said to do this until 24 hours after the surgery, but she assured me this wasn’t necessary.  Dr. Bill Sears provides the same advice here. Just like his wife, I chose to pump and dump once a few hours after the surgery.

If you aren’t comfortable with something, call the hospital’s lactation consultant.
In her words, “That’s what I’m here for!”

A few days before my scheduled surgery, I had a second attack. Tests revealed a stone or two had escaped my gall bladder and wreaked havoc. Instead of an outpatient procedure, I had had to have an ERCP and an overnight stay at a different hospital.

I was heartbroken to leave my children’s side, but extremely grateful for my lactation consultant’s advice. It gave me the confidence to question uncertainties and get the answers I needed. My husband and pump were right by my side, and a wonderful nurse (a new mom herself!) brought a refrigerator to my room.

The gall bladder removal went well a few days later and, after some rest, I felt better. Not just physically, but also as a mom. I had more energy, more patience—I was enjoying the moments vs. trying to get through them.

In the grand scheme of things, this was a minor problem. Day after day, I’m amazed by the perserverance of nursing moms who’ve faced worse. But no matter how big or small, I hope we can all have a backup plan. Consider who you’d leave your children with in an emergency, keep breastmilk stored in your freezer and don’t be afraid to ask questions—it can all make a big difference.

Kristen is a happy—and healthy—mom of two, who is forever grateful to her mom and her dear friend Patrice for taking care of her little ones when she couldn’t. She was surprised and happy to learn that she’s not the only new mom who used Hypnobirthing practices during a gall bladder attack (Thank you, Marie Mongan!).

Have you had an experience like this? What advice do you have?

Did you know The Other Baby Book: A Natural Approach to Baby’s First Year is now for sale? Are you interested in learning more about gentle, mom and baby-friendly practices that foster a joyful, connected relationship? Want to introduce a pregnant friend to natural parenting? Check out our website or head over to Amazon to grab your copy today!