This post is a part of the Adventures in Breastfeeding Project sharing mother’s unique experiences, successes and struggles with Breastfeeding. This post is by Melissa. Here’s what she had to share:
In my ten years of motherhood I have had four completely different breastfeeding stories unfold, each one building on the last. There were tears, pain, sadness, and regret but somewhere wrapped up in all of that mess were some the best months of my life to date. This is our breastfeeding story…
When I had Zoe I was young and impatient and impressionable, so when she got jaundice and dehydrated I asked, Where do I sign up for WIC? Four years later when rowan came along, so did a lot more determination inside of me. I felt more prepared and willing but was going to go easy on myself if it didn’t work out, because that is ok too. We fought from day one, when my ten and a half pound daughter entered this world demanding no less then four ounces a feeding. Six months and the death of her cousin later we just stopped and never skipped a beat. Stella was a new chapter of my life, not that every new child you bring into this world isn’t, I was a whole new me and that was already playing out in my parenting and choices. I would breastfeed her no less then six months and anything after that was a pat on the back to both of us. Promptly at just a few weeks before her first birthday she finally refused the last nursing I was holding onto, the last special moment of the day I struggled to keep, our morning nursing session was over and she was done. Nursing hadn’t really been fun for either of us anymore at that point while she fought me to rejoin her toys on the floor or her sisters playing in the other room. I would be lying if I didn’t mourn that loss terribly until the second I found out that I was pregnant with Robin two years later and then my heart ached and ached for those new nursing moments and memories to come quickly.
Robin’s birth was quick and fierce and natural and primal so it was no wonder that he latched perfectly just seconds after his arrival as we announced his name to everyone waiting patiently in our birth center room. At home I quickly came to know this little insatiable man that wouldn’t leave my breast for even a second. I had already made up my mind that we would nurse for two years and then see where it went from there. However, it wasn’t long till I started to feel…not overjoyed…about nursing as I once had. With Rowan and Stella underfoot now, my attention and energy was being pulled in so many directions and I constantly found myself trapped on the couch for hours on end trying to satisfy this little dude’s appetite. I started to rationalize maybe introducing formula, to give myself a little break, and was instantly disappointed in myself. There were even a few times where I was sure my supply wasn’t keeping up with Robin. Not because of the common misconception of pumping versus actual output, but because I would nurse and nurse and robin would unlatch and cry and I could tell he was not getting enough, we blew through any tiny supply I had built up in these low weeks. It was again at this point I considered an alternative such as goat’s milk. Now, looking back, all of these feelings regrets seem so trivial, if I had only known what out nursing future held…
On May 9th, just ten days after Robin had turned six months old, Rowan was hospitalized for Encephalitis, a brain infection causing motor control damage. I drug Robin and my pump to the first hospital (we were at three total over a months time) because I had no milk saved and the thought of formula wasn’t even on my mind. When it became apparent that things were going to get worse before they got better, my sister put a call to action, asking for anyone who could to donate milk to Robin and me. Between the stress and limited time between procedures and the constant flood of people in our room, pumping was difficult to say the least. I went from every three hours to four times a day to three to barely once before I drifted off into a restless night of sleep.
Ounces and ounces of milk donations started to pour in, mostly friends and some strangers were so moved by our situation that they were over joyed to help us. (After I had stopped nursing Stella I donated a freezer full of hundreds of ounces of milk but had never even considered that I would ever be on the receiving end.) I kept up pumping the best I could but you can’t even imagine the difficulties I faced as I fought the last hospital we were at. First they refused to store my milk and handed me a bucket of ice (???), then when I was missing a part it took my husband twenty irate phone calls before a nurse finally walked down to the lactation specialist and asked for it, it was a nightmare and left me terribly disappointed with Children’s Hospital and their ability to assist nursing mothers. Had I been nursing Rowan? It would have been a completely different story. The hospital was my home and I was washing bottles best I could in the bathroom sink with no guarantees that anything was totally sanitary, but it was my life.
When we rounded down to the last few days of Rowan being in the hospital, I had to face the fact that we only had a few bags of frozen donated milk left and I would have to purchase some formula. We had leaned, hard, on so many people and their kindness while we were in the hospital that I just couldn’t ask for anymore milk and I began to face the facts. I was pumping about six ounces once a day but was confident with some supplements and diet and a nursing vacation in bed I could at least triple that and we would settle into a new normal of half and half. The first full day home arrived and it became apparent almost immediately that our nursing relationship had ended a month ago and it was taking me till just now to face it. Robin was uninterested and fidgety at the breast and then my real dose of reality came when he tossed aside a bottle of my milk but happily drank down a bottle of formula minutes later. He preferred it over me.
So, we quit. I talked it to death with Tim and friends to help justify it to myself. I felt defeated and sad and incomplete in some ways, even if that seems silly. No one was judging me, I mean, I had done the best I could. But I felt jealous and started to mourn the loss of that part of our relationship. Then life got busy, we got busy, and some weeks later I noticed that I wasn’t yearning for the relationship back like I had with Stella. Maybe because I already had one foot out the door when this all happened or the pros just outweigh so obviously, who knows. Shhh, don’t tell anyone but weeks later, when I was still making milk, I would sneak him back on just to comfort nurse when he seemed sad. I think it was the perfect way to ease me out of the sadness and he knew that too.
I forgot formula and clean bottles everywhere we went, because breastfeeding is just so damn convenient and it was hard to adjust. I cringed at the cost of formula almost more then I did when a bottle of breast-milk was spilled or wasted and I (very) unnecessarily defended our decision to stop breastfeeding. This was my life now.
So here we are and Robin is coming up on ten months. After two and a half months on formula we are slowly transitioning over to almond milk in a cup and I feel great about all of our decisions leading up to this point. I fight hard on both sides of the feeding camp with a “Let’s just feed them, shall we!” attitude. Zoe was almost one hundred precent formula fed and she may be my pickiest eater but she is off the charts smart, in the ap classes in school, and all around smarty mcsmarty.
Life is rarely how we dream up it will be, but we all do the best we can on this crazy ride as parents!
You can follow Melissa’s beautiful family on her blog While It Rains.