I am going to skip the explanation of why she needed a hysterectomy and hernia repair. My focus is preserving breastfeeding (but when I know an alternative for hysterectomy, I like to present it.). Not only did she come to me to discuss her specialists recommendations "should she go through with it." At that same meeting she told me that she was warned that she couldn't breastfeed in the hospital. She expected to be in the hospital for a week. This is very traumatic and insensitive news to a mom breastfeeding an active toddler.
I had an injury once (very, very, very minor in comparison to open abdominal surgery). Before going to the walk-in my biggest fear was that I would not be allowed to breastfeed or being denied pain medication because I was breastfeeding. Although my fear never came to be, it brings up the point of the powerful protective force we have as mothers to be allowed to nurse or babies. Nursing is healing all the way around. Even though I couldn't bear weight on my ankle, it was a relief to know that I could provide everything my baby needed right by bedsharing and by keeping a glass of water for me and a diaper close by.
That's why I wrote this letter for her to take to the hospital:
I approve Kim and L to breastfeed as soon as Kim feels up to it. In the event that her daughter is not present, Kim’s breasts need to be pumped so she does not risk getting mastitis which would complicate her surgical recovery. (Also, her milk supply would likely be compromised after a week of not nursing.) I have spoke to Kim about positioning her daughter as not to interfere with the wound and to make sure her partner, assistant, or hospital IBCLC is present to get her positioned to the side. At L’s age this should not be difficult. Eighteen-month-olds are accommodating.
Being allowed to breastfeed L as soon as Kim is comfortable is the best thing that can happen to ease her overall well-being and benefit her recovery.
With all the concerns of major surgery, the desire to breastfeed is still innately strong. The day after surgery Kim posted this photo to my facebook wall. There weren't any big dialogue with the photo. (They probably didn't need my letter either.) The picture was 1000 word. It made my day! It brought me to tears knowing that she got to meet her little one's needs. She later told me that as soon as her daughter latched, she Kim was able to fall asleep.
I don't know too many new mom's who need hysteretomies. This surgery inspired mom to form a new support group on facebook:
This blog post is my perspective and you can read more on the facebook group from Kim's perspective and many of the other real problems recovery presents.
Another photo to show how to position an 18 month old as to not interfere with the incision.