My Not-So-Simple Birth Story + How Breastmilk Saved my Baby

Birth Story + How Breastmilk Saved My Baby

When you are pushing out a baby, breathing is important. When I woke up on the morning of my due date with the worst cold I have ever had, I was scared.

I couldn't breathe. 

The thought of making it through another unmedicated labor and delivery in this condition was terrifying.

It was the early Spring of 2016--and still in the thick of cold and flu season. I quickly scheduled a doctor’s visit. My fears were confirmed. Not only did I feel terrible, but I had RSV. RSV (Respiratory Syncytial Virus Infection) appears as a nasty cold in an adult, but in a young infant it is dangerous and sometimes life-threatening.
I went on a self-imposed bedrest and said a prayer that the baby would stay put for a few more days so that I could heal. Luckily, she stayed put for 5 more days.

Finally, in the evening on the 5th day past-due I started feeling better. Around 9:00pm I had a few contractions. I wrapped up an episode of Fuller House and a masterpiece in my adult-coloring book and called it a night. I knew if the baby was coming—I was going to need my sleep. My plan was to have a minimal amount of medical interventions, therefore, I did not want to rush to the hospital.

I woke up at 1:00am with stronger contractions. They weren’t too bad—just a little uncomfortable. But I had the gut feeling that we should head straight to the hospital. So without timing any contractions, we got in the car and left.

I still wasn’t sure if I was really in labor. I quickly came up with the plan to sit in the parking garage at the hospital and time the contractions before going inside. Just to be sure. When we arrived at the hospital less than 15 minutes later, I was sure. I could barely walk. This was definitely labor and it was moving fast.

I knew my second labor would be faster than my first. What I didn't know was that it would be more painful on the second go-round. Much more painful. In retrospect this makes sense--my body was doing the same amount of work in less time.

We got settled into the hospital and between every contraction I put on hand sanitizer. Obsessively. I wanted to make sure my hands were clean and virus-free when I met my daughter.

After one hour at the hospital, I progressed from 5cm to 10cm. She moved fast and furious. So fast, in fact, that I was almost speechless. The only words my daughter heard when entering the world were “holy $hit”.

Repeatedly.

This was followed by me screaming “I have a virus, give me a mask”.

My husband kindly reassured the hospital staff that I did not have Ebola, despite the sense of urgency and screaming about “a virus”. After I got my mask in place I was able to get my uber-clean hands on my sweet 8-and-a-half-pound baby girl. She was perfect.

I spent the next two days at the hospital coughing and sneezing into my mask. We were finally discharged and headed home so she could meet her big brother.

We had a beautiful 36 hours at home.

On the second night, I awoke at 3:00am to feed our sleepy baby. I found her lethargic and feeling warm. We rushed her to the emergency room. Upon arrival, we learned that any newborn with a fever is required to have a spinal tap, blood work, and a urine catheter.

My crazy postpartum hormones made me want to grab her and run out of there. Until the doctor uttered the words a doctor should never say to a crazy, postpartum woman: "your baby could die".

So we stayed and I handed her over. The ER staff made us leave the room, but my heart broke as we were still able to hear the cries of our 4-day-old baby through the door. The tests quickly came back as RSV-positive. Despite every effort I made, I had given the virus to my newborn baby.

My heart broke again.

We were admitted to the hospital and told to "saddle up" as our baby would become very ill in the coming days and we needed the hospital to manage it.

So we sat and waited for her health to deteriorate.

And we waited. 

But nothing happened. 

Other than the fever (which is a sign the body is fighting something off) she never experienced a single symptom. The hospital staff said this was unheard of—they had never seen a baby fare so well.

The physicians explained that it wasn't just luck on our side--it was breastmilk.

I had the virus first, which means my body had developed the perfectly formulated antibodies to protect her. I was able to give her the antibodies through my breastmilk. According to the doctors, those antibodies protected my baby.

Thank God for the best kind of natural medicine--breastmilk. We made it home, happy and healthy. The body is even more miraculous than I ever knew.

Written by Denaye of Simple Families

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Denaye Barahona

Dr. Denaye Barahona is a loving wife and mama of two. She partners with families to tackle the challenges of raising children. Denaye is a minimalist who claims to be a decluttering expert (don't let her near your closet). She loves to travel, talk health-and-wellness, and give unsolicited advice. She has been featured on the likes of The Today Show, The Wall Street Journal, The Huffington Post, The Minimalists, Motherly, Becoming Minimalist, and numerous other media outlets. Denaye holds a Ph.D. in Child Development and is a Clinical Social Worker with a specialty in child and family practice.