There are few things more terrifying than your child facing any kind of difficult medical diagnosis. And Sarah Watwood, a mom of four from Cape Girardeau, Missouri, knows this reality all too well. Just 12 weeks ago, she gave birth to her fourth daughter, Norrah, who was soon diagnosed with sagittal craniosynostosis — a condition where the plates of a baby’s skull prematurely fuse together, leaving the brain inadequate room to grow.
When Watwood was told that her daughter would need surgery to correct the condition, her heart sank. Watwood tells Babble that she had many fears about what was coming, but among them was that her breastfeeding relationship with her daughter — one that she had fought hard to establish — would be interfered with during the surgery and its aftermath.
“I was so scared I wouldn’t be able to nurse my sweet girl due to a breast surgery immediately before [my] pregnancy,” Watwood shares with Babble. “When I did produce after delivery, I was so, so happy! Through her diagnosis, nursing has helped tremendously, not only for her comfort but for mine as well.”
The good news is that not only did Norrah’s surgery go well, but Watwood was able to nurse her directly after, and the experience ended up providing much needed comfort for the both of them. Watwood was so proud and blown away by the role that breastfeeding played in Norrah’s journey through sagittal craniosynostosis surgery that she posted her story on the popular breastfeeding Facebook page, Breastfeeding Mama Talk.
Soon after Watwood’s story was shared this past Saturday, the post started to go viral, with over 5K likes to date, and hundreds of supportive comments. Watwood’s story of breastfeeding her daughter despite the scary medical diagnosis and surgery she faced seemed to touch a nerve with many fellow moms. Several of them shared their own similar stories of breastfeeding through medical crises, while others thanked Watwood for her brave and inspiring story.
In the post, Watwood describes the day that her daughter had to go into surgery, and the anxiety she felt about the whole ordeal. Having to hand her daughter over to the surgery team was one of the hardest parts — and that is why reuniting with Norrah through breastfeeding felt all the more comforting.
“I handed my infant daughter over to the surgeons and went to the surgical waiting room,” Watwood recounts. “My older three girls were not allowed there either, so as far as support went, I was alone. I distracted myself the best I could. Finally, after about four hours, they called me to come nurse her. Words cannot describe how overjoyed I was to finally see her pretty little face and to hold her beautiful, swollen self. They said they had tried lots of techniques to calm her but she must just want momma. Were they ever right.”
Watwood describes the moment her daughter started to root to nurse, and the immense joy it brought her when her daughter snuggled in to latch. She says that she decided to snap a picture of that special moment, and share it on the Facebook page she’d made to chronicle Norrah’s journey through sagittal craniosynostosis.
Sharing those pictures brought Watwood a lot of love and support — but one of her friends wasn’t as supportive about Watwood’s decision to nurse her daughter after surgery. And that comment stung.
“I have great friends. One, however, did not seem so thrilled,” Watwood explains in the Breastfeeding Mama Talk Post. “It hurt my heart to see such a comment bashing my decision to nurse her in that moment. Maybe it was a lack of education on the subject that led her to say what she did or simply a lack of support.”
Luckily, Watwood was able eventually let it go, and as she tells Babble, the outpouring of support seems to have overshadowed any negativity. Most importantly, none of it is getting in the way of Watwood’s decision to proudly breastfeed her daughter, and to speak publicly of the many benefits of breastfeeding during times of medical crises.
“Momma’s milk helped her stay strong and gain weight as we prepared for surgery, provided her with lots of protective antibodies to prevent infection during surgery, and helped curb my pre-operative anxiety and worry,” Watwood tells Babble.
Watwood shares that part of why she decided to share her breastfeeding story is to empower other moms to breastfeed despite any kind of hardships or criticism they face, and to do so with pride.
“I know I’m doing what’s best for my baby girl and also doing my part to help normalize breastfeeding,” Watwood says. “I hope our journey can help encourage a mom out there who is struggling with either her child facing surgery or who has been bashed for nursing.”
As of now, Watwood says that baby Norrah is recovering beautifully, and breastfeeding continues to go well. Norrah will need to wear a helmet for the next four months in order for her skull to grow into a natural position. But everyone is keeping a positive outlook — especially sweet little Norrah, who is doing a great job getting used to her helmet, and who looks sweet as a button in it.