Thursday, Oct 6
I went to the breastfeeding support group as usual on Thursday afternoons. I had gone to this group when my son was a baby twelve years ago. Back then I found support from the lactation consultant when my son was having troubles gaining weight, and my milk supply was struggling in those early weeks after birth. I found friends during that time. I continued in that group until my son was a year old. After having Clara, I knew I would go back to the same group in hopes of connecting with other nursing moms, and having support if I were to face any difficulties.
However, things change, and unfortunately in this case the change has been for the worst for this once supportive group. My daughter is now three months old. We have been going to the group since she was about three weeks old. It was my first attempt at getting out of the house and driving myself somewhere after my cesarean surgery to birth her. I was tired, but looking forward to it.
Over the weeks from birth on, Clara and I have been struggling. She had jaundice for a few weeks. We had to keep a bili blanket on her 24/7. Her weight dropped. My milk seemed to not be enough, so I began supplementing her. We found an amazing donor recommended by my midwife. She is still donating to us each week. We eventually learned that Clara is struggling with her latch due to having a tight jaw and tongue. So we began taking her to physical therapy. I also saw a lactation consultant outside of the hospital local to where we live, and had a consult with a very well-known lactation consultant in Australia via Skype. We took Clara to an ENT to verify if she has a lip or tongue tie, and have heard mixed opinions about it, but have come to the conclusion to rule those problems out. Then also, we got her started with chiropractic care to help with reflux, and her latch. She always seems to do better after her appointments. She sleeps better, and nurses better.
Week after week her weight fluctuated, sometimes not gaining, sometimes gaining up to 9 ounces in one week. The advice of the lactation consultants has been to continue supplementing, so we have. We give her formula when we run out of donor milk. And I nurse her every couple hours, along with pumping. I even rented a hospital grade pump in hopes it would help me more than my current pump, but sadly I did not get any more milk with that high grade pump, I got the same amount as I do with my Medela pump.
In addition to pumping many times in a day, and often power pumping cycles, which means, pump 20 minutes, rest 10, pump 10, rest 10, pump 10, I also take supplements, like Fenugreek, and make lactation cookies filled with oats, flax, and brewer’s yeast in hopes to help my milk supply. I do self-massages and hot packs. I also began chiropractic care three times a week in hopes that it would help me. Recently I pulled out a portable sauna I own, to hopefully help my supply and flow, as well as gently detox from candida, which has caused thrush.
Thrush, a whole other problem, a horribly painful problem that I am currently still trying to get rid of. We have used gentian violet, grapefruit seed extract, coconut oil, Diflucan, triple nipple cream, apple cider vinegar rinse after nursing, and following Jack Newman’s candida protocol, and also have made some changes to my diet. I was starting to feel better after some time on Diflucan, but a week or so off of it, and I am back to not feeling well. So on Wednesday evening, the night before going to the nursing group this last Thursday, I began with gentian violet again, and started increasing my probiotics and grapefruit seed extract again.
With all this going on I have felt stressed and saddened that my body is just not producing as much milk as I had hoped. I do believe breast is best, but I am also not against doing what needs to be done to make sure my baby is nourished, so I breastfeed full time, night and day, with all of these other routes in hopes of helping both her and I to be healthy, as well as to keep her fed and gaining weight. But this story is not so much about my views on nursing, and more about what comes next.
I arrived at the nursing group, and started as usual, undressing Clara and weighing her. I walked through the doors of the hospital that afternoon in good spirits. I had a positive appointment with Clara’s pediatrician the Thursday prior. She was gaining weight each week, and her doctor explained to me that I don’t need to worry anymore, that things were looking good, and that her weight was in range of where everyone likes to see it on the growth chart. We also had been seeing some improvements with her reflux. She had even had a couple nights she slept very well.
When I saw on the scale that she had not gained this last week, my heart twinged. I wanted so badly to weigh her and continue to see her gaining weight. I was thinking earlier that day, that although it is awful to be dealing with thrush, that at least my baby is gaining weight. She is happy, she is reaching milestones, she is the light in our world, and we love seeing her develop her personality and curiosity more and more each day. I felt so frustrated seeing that she didn’t gain during the week between her last pediatrician appointment and this meeting. I walked into the tiny room the nursing group is currently being held in and felt defeated. I know there is so much more to looking into a baby’s health other than a growth chart, a basic guideline for where babies should be, and she is doing so well everywhere else. I tried to tell myself that next week will be better. This has happened before, she has some weeks she gains consistent, and sometimes a week goes by without change. But I just felt so frustrated.
The lactation consultant, Susan, asked me how Clara was, what her weight was. She looked and noticed it hadn’t gone up, so she asked me what I thought was going on. I explained we were dealing with thrush just starting up again. I explained we are still supplementing, and that her doctor said I should not worry or stress about it, and that he thinks Clara is doing ok, especially considering all things we have been dealing with since birth. I told her we are taking all the supplements that helped before, and this time I got a prescription for all purpose nipple ointment ( APNO) as well. She didn’t like the fact that I use gentian violet, but it did help a bit last time. She said in a stern voice that I really needed to supplement Clara more, and I assured her that we are supplementing. She asked how much, and I said the same as week after week, a couple ounces to top off after a few feedings each day, the equivalent of around 8- 16 extra ounces a day. I said our pediatrician was ok with how much I am giving her, and that since she is showing weight gain each week that we were doing well. She didn’t seem happy with that, she insisted I needed to give Clara more, and I said ok.
She then asked how I am dealing with thrush. I told her again what I am doing, and she asked if I was taking any medication, and I told her it had just flared up the night before and I hadn’t called about getting another prescription yet for Difulcan, and I was wondering if I get right back on it again, if it would even help, or if it would make the thrush more resistant. She just seemed upset with me for even asking and said that I need to medicate Clara and I, and supplement more. With that the conversation fizzled out, and she seemed annoyed by me or something, and the conversation in the room changed.
The girls in the group went on to talking about diaper rash, and I shared what I have been doing to help with the mild rash that flares up with thrush, and some women mentioned coconut oil, which I agreed with. Susan responded with, “coconut oil is good for everything, isn’t it?” The moms agreed. Conversations went on, and it came around to milk supply, and I asked Susan if she ever heard of milk supply getting better and women making more milk that were like me. If things get better, and once the thrush is gone, and the stress subsides that I hope maybe my milk will come in better. She said, “I wish I could just sprinkle some magic dust over you.” Some of the other women nodded in agreement.
The following day, Friday, October 7 I go about my morning feeding Clara, and getting ready to go do some grocery shopping. Today I would buy some items to see if I can invent some twist on my current lactation cookie recipe to make it more anti-candida. Meaning looking for grain free and sugar free ingredients, as I currently already use gluten free flours. Afterwards, I would go to my chiropractor for my third visit this week. I prayed for my adjustment to go well and help my body to work better, and got into my car with my kids. As usual I realized down the road that I had forgotten my grocery list at home, and my son laughed and said, “it’s your mom brain, mom.” We both laughed at my forgetfulness and continued down the freeway to Whole Foods.
After shopping I checked my cell phone for the time and to see if my husband had texted about how his heart checkup went with our family doctor. He hasn’t been feeling too well, and felt concerned about his heart. He had heart surgery back in 2011, so anytime he gets a bit concerned I urge him to go to the doc for a checkup. Only instead of finding a text from him about his appointment I find an urgent message from him and missed calls from him to call back the doctor’s office we had previously been taking Clara too for weight checks. I called him to see what was going on and so urgent.
As he was explaining to me that someone had called the doctor office to report me about Clara’s weight being too low. I was confused, and starting to feel the stress rise up into my neck and shoulders. My phone got an incoming call; the same doctor that had called Jack was now calling me while he was explaining things. I took the call, and heard a very concerned nurse on the other end. She told me that a lactation consultant had reported me to them for concerns about me not feeding Clara, and that she is malnourished/underweight. I felt so angry, and so confused. How could this be? I explained to the nurse everything we are doing, they of course have a lot on file about Clara as well, and I explained that I started taking her to a different doctor, although farther away from where we lived, he could get us in quickly for appointments, whereas this doctor we were hoping to see was very hard to get an appointment with. She understood, and explained to me that they thought Clara’s weight is fine where it is, and especially considering all the ordeals. She said she would call the lactation consultant back and tell her that they feel Clara is good where she is currently at, and that I am doing all I can to take care of her. She then went on to kindly ask me how I was feeling, and reminded me to not stress and take care of myself as well, to rest and drink plenty of water, and to call them if we ever need anything or any weight checks, even with seeing our new pediatrician. That office has always been great; it was just a long wait to see the doctor. I hung up with her feeling so angry and hurt, deeply offended that this lactation consultant would do this to me. After all she knew everything about what we had been going through, and that I am doing all I can. She reported me for using natural supplements, and she felt that I was not being honest about supplementing Clara with extra bottles. She felt I was not following doctor orders. Even though I explained to her I was, and that our doctor was feeling positive about Clara’s weight.
I felt so frustrated to think I went to a support group for breastfeeding and the woman in charge of this group, there to offer encouragement and advice, and that knows everything I am doing, she reported me to the doctor. I felt relieved that the nurse would call her and smooth things over, and reassure Susan that Clara is ok. I understood that perhaps Susan felt she was doing the right thing, after all she must have just been acting out of concern for Clara, and so she called the doctor, but she made it seem as though I am not taking care of my baby, and that hurt… a lot.
I called my husband back to tell him everything was ok, and that the nurse agreed Clara was fine, and she would talk it over the Susan. However, it only got worse. Things were not smoothed out.
I drove to my chiropractor visit, after feeding Clara, and vented to her a bit about what had happened. She was shocked, and couldn’t believe that she had reported me to the doctor, especially knowing our journey, and after me telling her that the doctor was okay with everything. I mentioned that I didn’t feel comfortable going back to the group now, and she responded, “and I won’t let you go back there either.” She was in agreement with me that I should stop going to the group. I also talked to her a bit about another nursing group I heard was meeting at her office later in the month, and told her I was planning to check that group out.
During all that afternoon I had tried getting a hold of Clara’s new pediatrician to let him know what had happened. I wanted to find out if we should go see him for weekly weight checks and to have them logged. I mentioned to his nurse that I would go buy a scale that afternoon, which I did. However, I didn’t hear back from him that afternoon, prior to things escalating and getting worse. His nurse did call me back, after hours, while CPS was sitting on my couch. Yes, CPS. Susan had resorted to calling CPS as well. I missed the call from his nurse, but her voicemail was even reassuring. She stated the doctor once again did not feel anything was of concern with Clara’s weight, and that he was even sorry if perhaps he said something at her last appointment that may have caused me stress, and bring me to calling and asking for weekly weight checks. He told his nurse to state that Clara would not need to be seen until her next well baby checkup in November. He has no idea about the claims Susan has made, he won’t until after the weekend.
On my way home from purchasing the scale, sitting in slow moving late afternoon traffic, my cell phone rings. A woman says, “Hello, is this Jessica?” She mentioned she was calling from health and welfare and wanted to talk to me about Clara. My heart felt like it just literally fell from my chest. I asked her if this was about Clara’s weight, and the lactation consultant. The call was about Clara’s weight, but she told me she couldn’t tell me who reported me. I said almost snidely and matter of fact, “Well, I already know who it was. It was the lactation consultant from St. Luke’s hospital, and I understand what this is about.” She reiterated that she could not tell me who reported me. She asked me some questions and I started explaining things to her as I had to the nurse earlier in the day. She said, “Well I need to physically see Clara. I am in Kuna right now, but I seem to be on the wrong street. Please give me directions to your house.” And just when I thought my heart couldn’t fall any harder, it plummeted again. Adrenaline flew through my body. I said, “You are in Kuna? At my house? Why do you need to see her?” She said, “I just need to check on her physically. I need to verify some things and ask you some questions.” I said, well I have at least 20 minutes before I am home, and can’t you just call her doctor? He will confirm she is ok.” She repeated that she had to physically see Clara, and had more questions for me. So I gave her the correct driving directions to my house since she was on the wrong street, and we hung up. I felt frantic and scared. I started crying as I dialed my husband’s cell phone number. He was at work with an hour left to go still.
He answered to hear his very scared and crying wife asking him to come home because CPS was sitting at our house.
I explained to him what had just happened, and he got in his car right away to meet me at home. Meanwhile my twelve year old son has started crying and was becoming very upset. He didn’t understand. He said through tears, “Mom you always feed Clara. She is a happy, sweet baby. I don’t get it. This lady from your group is stupid. Are they going to take Clara away? What can I do? I am so mad right now mom. How do I protect her? We can’t let them take her away.” The more upset I saw him get the more I swelled up with tears and anxiety, and realized I needed to calm him down first, and reassure him that everything would be okay, even though I had no idea what to expect when I got home. We turned into our neighborhood, he was crying, and although I wanted to bawl my eyes out too, I had to try to bottle my nerves, which I wasn’t doing a great job at, at this point.
I pulled up in front of his friend’s house, and told him I didn’t want him to be anymore stressed about this, that I would go home and talk to CPS, and make sure Clara was taken care of, and he didn’t need to worry. I thought maybe if he could play with his friend, and relax, and that he shouldn’t be in this situation, and see his parents interrogated, and I honestly didn’t know what was going to happen. I was so scared that they would take Clara away. I always hear these horror stories about CPS. I just wanted to protect him from any more stress, so I quickly explained to his friend’s mom what was going on, she hugged me, and took William in. I hugged him tightly, said I love you, and that I would make this all better.
I pulled up to my house down the street and was surprised to not see CPS there. I was frantic because Clara really needed to eat, since it had been three hours since her last time we nursed. I hadn’t been able to go pee in hours, so Jack took Clara out of the car. I ran in to use the bathroom, and do my best to take a deep breath, because with all this stress I needed to nurse, and I worried that the stress would affect my milk supply. He came inside with her, and said there was a car sitting at the end of the street and he thought it was them. I took Clara and began to nurse. A few minutes later there was the knock on the door.
Jack answered, although he was filled with anxiety, he opened the door, and did his best to protect Clara and I. CPS was shocked to see Jack. They thought I was a single mother, and that I would be alone. He said, “No, I am her husband. I am Clara’s father. What are your intentions?” He told them he wouldn’t allow them near me if they would cause any more stress to me or to Clara, and certainly not if their intentions were to take Clara. He wouldn’t let them in. He stood there sternly, and if you know Jack, when he looks stern, his face, well, he has a very intimidating look to him when he feels protective and stern. It’s not a look I would want to run into, and the lady told him she was not here to take our baby away, and would just ask a few questions. So he let her in.
They didn’t have the police with them. They told us they can’t take children away without police present, and that the Kuna police were not available to meet them just yet. I must have look terrified because she looked at me and said they didn’t have intentions of taking Clara, and that they needed to ask questions first and get my side of things.
So many questions, from how we eat and feed our animals, to Clara’s birth, to discipline, and what kind of baby Clara is, I mean just about short of asking how we wipe our ass. They were not rude, but made us feel judged about some of our choices at times. There were tones and looks, but for the most part it did seem like they were just going through the list of questions they have to ask. We showed them the organic, non-gmo formula we give Clara when we run out of donor breast milk. They asked, “Well do you also give your dog and bird organic food too?” It felt condescending. They said, “ so you planned on a natural birth outside of a hospital, you homeschool, you take natural supplements, so how do you feel about following doctor’s orders, and taking medication?” I knew what they were getting at. I knew what I was being targeted for. Here I am, the stay at home mom, homeschooling, eating organic, talking about the original plans had been to birth Clara at a birth center or in the home, but ended up with a C-section. She said, “well, although you lean towards alternative routes, I guess you would do what you need to, I mean you did have a c- section, so..” I said, “Well of course. I am doing all routes I can to make things better for my daughter and for myself. Yes, I had some different ideals about birth, and wanted things to go naturally, but in the end it was me that chose the C-section, because of my health. I follow up with supplementing Clara with more milk when I found I couldn’t make enough, and just like with the thrush, I got a prescription for diflucan from my midwife a couple weeks ago, when it first started, and I thought it cleared up, but is back again in the last couple days.”
They asked us about parenting styles, discipline, and if we thought Clara was a good baby. I stopped her there, “I don’t believe there is such a thing as a bad baby. How can you ask if I think she is a good baby? Of course she is. “ She smiled and said, “ well you know does she cry? Does she fuss?” I said, “of course, babies cry, but she is also happy and healthy. “ Then it went from questioning about Clara to interrogating about my son.
She asked many questions about him. Then said she wanted to question him. However, he had left with his dad at this point for their weekend. He picked him up from his friend’s house. She asked more questions, and then had me sign a release to have access to my medical records for Clara. She said she would verify with the doctor if he felt Clara was healthy, but we wouldn’t be done with this until she could also question my son.
When she left, she looked at Clara, now done nursing, and Jack was holding her, and she said, “Wow, she is long, and she looks good to me, but I am not a doctor. Well, I will talk with her doctor on Tuesday, and we still have to talk with your son, so don’t worry, well too much, the case is open, and will be until we talk some more. “
So here it is a Saturday, and I have to wait until Tuesday before I can talk with Clara’s doctor, and wait for CPS to talk to her doctor to verify I am telling the truth. She has to question my son, and I am not sure when she plans to do that, because she wouldn’t say when. I am trying to look at this optimistically. I am looking at all the family, friends, and health care professionals we have worked with, and see that we have a long list of people that would be able to support us in confirming our efforts to do our best with all this. But in the back of my mind, there is anxiety. I am scared. There are numerous horror stories of CPS destroying families, families that are innocent, children being taken away from good parents. Check out a site called Medical Kidnap it shows many stories of corruption with CPS, talk about nightmares.
I worry, “What if we become those parents, the parents you hear about on the news, fighting for their kids, proving their innocence?” The what-ifs continue, and tears come, and Jack assures me we have done everything right, and the doctor will verify it, and although he is stressed and also hurt by this, he tries to reassure me that they won’t take away our children. As a mom, and having a new baby, I just can’t, I can’t relax. I list over and over all the things I am doing, everything I have been doing. I feel so deeply offended and hurt by this woman. A woman in a role to support women, a role to support new moms, to support breastfeeding moms, a woman that knows how much I am working to do things right for Clara, and she turned me in to CPS. I never thought I would drive there on Thursday afternoon, to a support group, only to be turned in. To have Susan tell CPS that she feels I am not taking care of my daughter, that I am to feeding her, that she feels I am not being honest and going against her orders to supplement my breastfeeding baby with more milk. She thought the best thing to do was to jump right to calling CPS. She could have asked me to release my medical records and give permission to talk to Clara’s doctor to verify his thoughts on all this. I would have happily done that. It could have given her peace of mind that the pediatrician feels there is nothing to stress about at this point. But instead she chose to report a mom, a mom doing all she can, a mom being honest, a mom that is seeking support, encouragement, and advice with her breastfeeding journey, she chose to cause more undue stress, massive stress, by picking up the phone to call CPS.
I am bewildered by her actions. I will not go back to the group. And as much as I would like to ask her what the hell she was thinking, and let her know how I feel, I will never speak to her again, and I will not see her again, because I will not go back to St. Luke’s hospital ever again for breastfeeding support.
All I can do at this point is pray, and wait for this nightmare to be over with. Pray my family and my children don’t become that family, that sad family stuck in a corrupt system so often heard about when it comes to CPS. I hope that the workers that came to my house see and understand all we are doing, and will just go on their way, and I go on to healing from this terrible experience, and my husband, and son too that are also affected by this stress and worry. I want there to be a way for Susan to know that what she has done, the stress she has caused, although maybe she felt like it was the right thing to do, it wasn’t. It was wrong, so wrong, so utterly ridiculous, so hurtful, and that she knows when you call CPS, you better damn well know what you are doing, because calling on an innocent family, you might have just started an enormous, horrible thing to happen to a family. Families are torn apart by CPS. Yes, sometimes children are helped, and we all want to see children helped, if they are abused or neglected. Anyone with a decent heart does not want harm to come to children, especially infants. But this was so unnecessary. CPS is serious; reporting that a parent is possibly endangering their child is serious. You jumped too quickly Susan to attack an innocent mom.
Even though I don’t have to blog about this event, I don’t have to share it with anyone; I am, because people should know that this stuff happens, it can happen to any one of us, because unfortunately there are people, like you Susan, willing to do more harm than good. I will defend my innocence, and prove to anyone that I am doing everything I can for my sweet little Clara. It feels like shit to tell everyone I am a mom that has had CPS called on her, but I am also not going to not speak up about it. I will share my side, how I feel, and show that I am not the one in the wrong here. You have wounded this family and hurt us, and if all works out like it should, then CPS will see that we are indeed good, caring, loving, responsible parents, putting out children first, and we will be able to move on from this. But if this is your idea of support and encouragement to new moms and breastfeeding moms, then this is not the right job for you Susan.
My sister asked me if there is anything I can do, to report her, to make a complaint. I am sure I could make a complaint to St. Luke’s, but it’s not hard to see that Susan was only doing her job, right? I don’t know what to do, so for today, I am just sharing this, my feelings, because I need to vent and release the emotions that are rising up from all this. I need to relax, because stress is not good for my already low milk supply, and stress isn’t healthy anyhow. Writing helps, sharing my experience helps. A little.