Charlotte's birth in Cape Town taught me that South Africans believe in the healing powers of water and light. The doctor who delivered her had one recommendation after her birth, "If you want to heal, go swim in the sea and lie in the sun." This may work for hardened South Africans, but that water was so cold I would have needed a wet suit. And there was no way I was wearing a wet suit 2 days post partpartum. Oh, and a man had just been eaten by a "dinosaur-sized" shark at the beach in front of our rental house. (Read about it here if you never want to swim again.) I didn't want to heal that bad.
Charlotte turned 50 shades of yellow after she was born.
The type of yellow that sends babies back to the hospital for the biliblanket in the States. I know this because Annaïs, born in the US, was not nearly as yellow as her older sister, but the American doctors pulled out all the stops to combat her jaundice.
But for Charlotte in South Africa, "Just put her in the sun!" But she's REALLY REALLY yellow and I've been Googling. I need medical intervention, I thought. "Just put her in the sun!" All the doctors said. And it worked.
Instead of visits from a lactation consultant to teach me how to breastfeed my baby, I was taken to a light clinic for infrared laser treatments. The theory is that light toughens up your nipples and makes nursing less painful. They told me I especially needed the lights because of how "incredibly pale" I am.
I had no idea what was standard post-birth hospital practice, so I was game. In fact, I was never asked if I wanted to do it, that's just what you do after you have a baby.
So a couple times a day a cute, teenage South African boy showed up at my room to wheel me to the light clinic. I swear they were paid per woman wheeled to the other side of the hospital, because we flew like the wind! Proof that teenage boys have no idea the fragility of a woman after giving birth.
And there a person with a laser gun type-thing shone lights on me. They wore funny goggles. I wore funny goggles. It was truly weird. Maybe it was actually a dream. I just remember thinking, "There is no way my American insurance is going to pay for something this ridiculous."
After I was discharged my doctor gave me firm instructions to sit topless in the sun everyday. Fine. But I'm not going to the beach to do it.
At the time, I had no idea if any of this light therapy worked, but nursing wasn't that painful. After baby #2, I'm fairly certain it did work. I was not properly toughened up and I missed my laser lights. Or maybe I just missed sitting topless wearing goggles while a stranger pointed a laser gun at my boobs.
When I told Jill about all this after Ani was born, she laughed at the thought of me asking her co-nurses on the labor and delivery floor, "Okay, when do I go for my laser boob treatments?"
Maybe we should introduce this in the States. It really was wonderful to be toughened up a bit before nursing. And it was also quite nice to feel like the medical establishment understood breastfeeding could be killer, so they do everything they can to get your body ready.
Often people forget to mention how horribly painful nursing can be those first few days. Women think they're doing something wrong. You're not. It can definitely suck (pun intended). And I am very pro-anything that can make it better. Including laser boob treatments.
P.S. My insurance did pay. Suckers.