Two years ago I was expecting my fourth baby, another sweet girl. The 41 weeks and 3 days I was pregnant with her were not what I planned for. After suffering for 22 weeks with Hyperemesis Gravidarum, then preterm labor symptoms, heart issues that lead to a diagnosis of pregnancy induced Supra Ventricular Tachycardia (SVT), I was left waiting on a baby who decided to push the limits of the homebirth laws by waiting until close to 42 weeks to make her arrival.
In the early morning of August 14, 2013, Clementine was born about 5 minutes after my midwife arrived at our home. It was an incredibly quick labor and delivery; nothing short of a whirlwind. I put baby to my breast immediately and trusted that the clamping down feeling was a strong latch and suck. It felt very similar to how my other babies latched initially, so I figured all was well. There wasn’t a worry in my mind about breastfeeding. Then as the hours went on, and the more she needed to nurse, the more I hated putting her to the breast. The pain from the post-partum contractions on top of the painful latch was enough for me to hand my sweet newborn to my husband and say, “no”. The very first night, I begged my husband to go into town at 4am and get as many different pacifiers there were and bring them to me. I just couldn’t keep putting her to the breast. She didn’t want to sleep, and would just scream. I assumed it was because my milk hadn’t come in, and she was just not happy about that.
As the days went on, I got next to no sleep. There were no sweet newborn/mommy cuddles. Every nursing session was painful and filled with tears from Clementine and me. I felt as if I was losing my mind. I hated that I hated nursing her. I hated that I wanted to run away. I was indeed hanging on the cliff of post-partum depression. I had gone through it before with my first and knew that I was heading down the same dark tunnel once again. I hated every second. I cried every day for what seemed like all day. Every time she latched, I cried and bit my lip. There were many times I simply unlatched her and said “no”, put her down in her bed and walked away for a few seconds. The pain was unbearable. The blisters on my nipples were not new to me. I had experienced this before with my other three girls, but this was a whole new monster.
I remember asking for prayer from close friends. I remember thinking this baby will never stop crying, she will never sleep, and she will never latch without killing my nipples. Then the projectile spitting up began. It was a mess. I was a mess. I decided then to take Clementine to the pediatrician. She weighed her and all was well. She checked her out and all was well. She said that she wasn’t concerned with the reflux because Clementine was gaining. She reassured me that “the first six weeks are the hardest” and that I would get through it, but that Clementine was colicky and she’d grow out of it.
She didn’t grow out of it.
A sweet friend in Oregon saw a picture I posted of Clementine screaming on Facebook. She sent me a private message to ask if Clementine had been evaluated for Tongue Tie. I have gone over that conversation in my head a million times, and kick myself for dismissing her concerns. The pediatrician didn’t say anything about tongue tie. Surely she would know if that’s what was going on. My midwife didn’t mention anything, and when I brought it up to her, wasn’t concerned about it either. Quite honestly, most people thought I was over exaggerating Clementine’s symptoms and really paid no attention to my concerns. However, I persisted and after being blown off by one IBCLC (International Board Certified Lactation Consultant) at a local hospital, I called another hospital and Clementine and I were seen that day.
It was confirmed that Clementine was severely tongue tied, specifically a Posterior or Submucosal Tongue Tie. Sadly, I was informed that no one in our area would treat Clementine because of her age, and that I’d have to wait until she was 3 or 4 months old in order to have her put under general anesthesia. Clementine didn’t have 3 or 4 months to wait to be able to nurse or take a bottle. Interestingly, my friend in Oregon sent the picture of Clementine to an ENT in Portland who specializes in helping tongue and lip tied babies, and he said she was clearly tongue tied.
After booking my flight to Portland for the following morning to meet with this specialist, I had a second check with an IBCLC at the hospital. She too confirmed that Clementine was severely tongue and lip tied and could not suck at all. We also did a weight check, and she had lost close to a pound in a week. It was vindication and terrifying all at the same time. Vindication that I was right, something was wrong. Terrifying because had I not kept pushing to find out what was wrong, Clementine could have gotten very sick.
Within 24 hours I was in Portland, Oregon with a 3 week old angry and hungry Clementine. I had a raging case of mastitis in my left breast and was running a 103 fever. After being taken to the Urgent Care and then later an ER, I was getting some relief. The next morning Dr. Bobby Ghaheri treated my sweet Clementine using laser technology. The procedure took less than 3 minutes and afterwards when I put her to the breast, it was the first time she latched and began drinking instead of chomping or screaming. We could hear her swallowing and it was the most beautiful sound I had ever heard.
The care she and I both received in Oregon was beyond phenomenal. Dr. Ghaheri said I earned “Most Determined Mother of the Year”. Dr. Ghaheri also got me an appointment with an IBCLC for lactation support after the procedure. I just love her to pieces. She helped me to learn different positions that would make nursing better for Clementine. She also got Clementine in with a wonderful chiropractor for Cranial Sacral Therapy to help release some of the muscular tension that had built up in Clementine’s head, jaw, neck, back and sacrum area from being so severely tongue tied. I felt like for the first time in a couple of weeks, I was being heard. My concerns were being taken seriously, and people were bending over backwards to help my sweet Clementine. It was magical.
To be continued in Part 2, which focuses on tongue tie symptoms and how Clementine is doing now.
Crystal Sewell is a loving wife and homeschooling mother to 4 daughters. She served in the United States Air Force and holds a Bachelor’s of Social Science with a concentration in Education. In her spare time, Crystal is a dedicated and vocal advocate for improving breastfeeding outcomes in her community while also advocating for Tongue and Lip Tie Education through the Louisiana Tongue Tie Support Group. Her dream is to become an IBCLC and open up a breastfeeding clinic in Baton Rouge. You can email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.