Everything was happening so quickly, I felt like I was in the spin cycle of a washing machine, churning around and around. My thoughts were a jumbled mess. Just two days ago I’d been laid up with mastitis, one day ago we had found out about his tongue-tie, and today we were in the car heading to Old Villa Dental to get it corrected. The past few days were a bit of a blur.
I didn’t know what to expect, sure, I had read the information pamphlet, but my brain wasn’t operating at full capacity (I’m not sure it ever will again after this having a baby business) and I was worried. Would it hurt? Would he be upset? Would it help?
The procedure for the tongue-tie is called a ‘lingual frenectomy‘. Using a water jet, they basically cut the short piece of flesh under the tongue so that the tongue can move more freely and suckle properly. They do the same to the tight bit of skin in the middle of the upper lip. There are much fancier words for it, but in a nutshell, that is what happens. A water jet is, as it sounds, a high pressure jet of water. The dentist and her assistant were wonderful. They showed AJ and I the water jet, even shot it onto our hands so we could feel how gentle it was. Bloody hell it was gentle all right, how the heck is that even gong to do anything I wondered. My shower has better pressure!
And then it was time to begin. They swaddled him up nice and tight, lay him on a mattress on the chair, talked to him, introduced themselves, stroked his nose to put him at ease, then they opened his mouth and began.
Friends of mine who have had this procedure done to their babies all told me it would be fine. It’s okay Em, they said, she slept right through it, it was fast, he was great, it will be okay. Well . . . Ziggy didn’t get that memo. Oh no no no. He screamed. He screamed and he writhed and he twisted and tears flowed down his face. It was horrible. They had to hold him down to keep him still so they could continue. It was torture . . for me, for AJ, for Ziggy. AJ and I just stood there in the corner, watching our child in obvious distress, unable to do anything about it. I wanted to grab him off that table and hold him close, AJ wanted to punch them out . . . but we couldn’t do either, so we held each other instead and tried to hold back tears as we watched out little boy thrash around.
It didn’t take all that long, maybe 10 or so minutes. But 10 minutes feels like 10 hours when your baby is is so upset and there is nothing you can do. I hated every second of it.
As soon as it was over, AJ scooped him up, passed him to me and I comforted him the best way I knew how, with a boob. His crying stopped, and his tears dried, as he settled down for a huge feed and a snuggle with his mama. The staff were great, just sit there as long as you need they told us. So we did, we stayed in the room until he was done, and then we made our way back to reception to pay.
As we walked to the car, Ziggy was sitting in his carseat, happy as Larry, recovered and no worse for wear. AJ and I however were traumatised. That was the hardest thing we had done as parents so far..
The following day I headed straight back to the hospital to see the Lactation Consultant for help of getting Ziggy to latch now that his tongue and lips were free to do what they were supposed to do
She introduced me to style of breastfeeding known as Laid Back Breastfeeding. Basically you recline in a chair on on a couch, or in bed, pop bub on our chest, put your hands under their feet to give them a platform to push off, and then let them squirm their way to your nipple and latch on. Much like they do when they are born. The first few times they get a bit frustrated and you may have to help them find it, but they get the hang of it, and watching them bob their head around and them, plop onto your boob and start gutsing out is such a satisfying moment. It’s also very relaxing for mama. Prop a pillow under your arm, grab the remote and make the most of some relaxation time.
She also showed how, if in bed or on the couch, you could move from laid back breastfeeding, to laying down breastfeeding. I found this super comfortable and would often feed Ziggy while lying on the couch watching TV until he fell asleep. It took a few weeks, but his latch got better, and the pain started to decrease. I wasn’t having to use a nipple cream after every feed and I looked forward to this time we had together instead of dreading it. It was amazing the difference it made.
Looking back over this, I am disappointed that we had to go through so much. Disappointed, and a little angry. That it took 8 weeks for this to be resolved. That I had to go through so much pain and heartache. That it cost $300 when if diagnosed 2 weeks earlier it would have been free. I wasn’t listened to. I kept saying breastfeeding hurt, and I kept being told ‘oh that’s normal’, ‘it will go away’. Why did no one think to check his mouth earlier? The main reason, I think, was that he was gaining weight, and as weight loss is one of the main symptoms they relate to a tongue-tie no one thought to look. However, as I read through all the other symptoms in the pamphlet I had been given, I could check off almost every one.
One thing I have noticed in the time since Ziggy has been born, is that if you, the mother of your child, feel that something is wrong, chances are it is. We are the ones that are with them 24/7. We know what’s normal, we know what’s not normal. But often we get silenced, or are made to feel silly, and we don’t have the confidence to speak up. So please, if you find yourself in the same position I was, don’t wait. Ask for help. If you don’t get help when you ask, ask someone else. Ask until someone takes notice.