My Journey With Breastfeeding

From the time I found out I was pregnant, I knew that I would do everything I could to breastfeed, a dream I never even considered before I got sober. In my using days, I once believed that I WOULD be a mom and that formula feeding while using a little bit of speed would be ESSENTIAL to getting through those first couple months of sleeplessness. Thank GOD I got over that. But anyhow, I knew from the day I got that positive pregnancy test, that I would nurture my baby, the most natural and wonderful way that I could. However, I had no idea what I was getting myself into. My doula (one of the best investments ever) had educated me and told me that it would be difficult and wonderful. But like motherhood itself, it’s one of those things that can be explained in detail, but can not be truly understood until it’s experienced.

I felt so much joy in the month or so before giving birth when I started producing colostrum. I took this as a great sign that at least my breasts were starting to hold up their end of the deal, now it was just up to baby to get a good latch.

When little Deklen came, I struggled to find the right hold. The first couple days were just a struggle of trying to find the easiest or most comfortable way to hold him and get him to have a good latch. Lactation consultants and nurses all seemed to KNOW just the right way to do it, but they all seemed to tell me something different. But we just figured it out. We figured it out day by day.

A couple days in, cue the bleeding cracked nipples that NO amount of lanolin or hot washrags could ease. Pair that with a cluster feeding baby who wanted to eat every 20-45 minutes, and soon enough I was DISTRAUGHT. I remember insisting to Vince that we must be overfeeding him and trying to find research to back this up. I remember him accusing me of trying to starve the baby and how hysterical that made me- feeling like he was accusing me of being an abusive mother. Once I knew it wasn’t a matter of overfeeding, and just how nature works, I remember this one time he headed him to me with a sorry but stern look on his face. “Baby, I think he’s hungry.” And I just broke down. “He can’t be hungry again.” I cried. “He just ate! He can’t be hungry again! I don’t want him to be hungry!” But I took my hungry child, sucked in a sharp breath, and yelped as he latched. But I endured. My doula’s name was Debbe, and she assured me that it would get better. She told me in our months leading up to birth that the beginning would be hard. REALLY hard. That I might even want to quit. But she promised me that it would get better. That it would be second nature. I never considered quitting but those first three weeks or so, I lived in a hell of painful determination. But as promised, it got better, and easier. I had an electric pump that I used from time to time (because it just seemed like a good idea to have milk on hand), but I didn’t even like the idea of letting or asking Vince to take over feedings. I cherished this thing that only I could do for him. The bond, the snuggling. This was MY thing. I didn’t know at first how essential breast pads would be. I found out the hard way when I took a much needed nap and woke up wondering why my bed was wet. Had I been sweating? No… I woke up in a POOL of milk with my breasts still entirely engorged. More than once, I nudged my little boy awake saying “come over here and drink baby; Mommy needs you to help her out.”

Naps began and ended with nursing. Everything I did and everywhere I went had to fit around it (especially before I became comfortable nursing in public).

I don’t remember the exact time, but somewhere around three months into all of this, we were pros! And then I noticed some white patches in Deklen’s mouth. Thrush!! Doc called in a prescription for Nyastin, and after doing my research, I just hoped and prayed that it wouldn’t be transferred to me. Unfortunately, we would share in this pain together. Again we were back to pain. Cracks, and redness. SHOOTING pain. Again, we endured.

Solid foods were introduced, and my son is an AMAZING eater (I mean really, what ISN’T amazing about him?). Nursing continued on demand.

Several months ago I started to suffer panic attacks. My doctor was willing to prescribe a non addictive anti anxiety medication (yay! thank God!), until I told her that I was still breastfeeding. She couldn’t think of anything off the top of her head that was definitely safe while breastfeeding that could help me and with an apologetic look on her face, recommended deep breathing and meditation. I was overwhelmed, and suffering multiple panic attacks a day. I decided to go back to therapy, and give it a month. If I hadn’t found a way to manage the attacks by then, I might CONSIDER ending our breastfeeding relationship so that I could use medication. I could not care for my baby in the midst of a panic attack. My therapist told me to quit caffeine, and my attacks were nearly eliminated. But get this! I was at an AA meeting one night when I began to feel my anxiety rising. I asked a friend to hold my baby so that I could sit quietly in the other room. As the attack worsened, and I found myself sitting in the fetal position, I had an epiphany! Oxytocin! Oxytocin is a relaxing hormone relaxed during breastfeeding. So I took my baby and rocked back and forth as he began to suckle. As I felt the letdown, I took a few deep breaths, and let the oxytocin work it’s magic. My pulse regulated, and the overall feeling of dis-ease, lifted.

I gave up on the electrical pump long ago. I hated that thing. I bought a manual pump back around New Year since we were leaving Deklen with grandparents. It would be the first time I had left him for anything other than to run a quick errand, but I was being given the opportunity to experience Vince’s pilot skills first hand in a helicopter ride! It had just snowed inland (in places where it NEVER snows) and was going to make for some breathtaking views.So I bought the manual pump and had left a bottle or two. He wouldn’t take the bottle but hey, I found that in case of emergency, I actually really liked the manual pump, even if it takes a little longer to use.

On Wednesday, I had surgery to repair a hernia above my belly button that I got while pregnant. The surgeon said that I could immediately nurse after returning home, but I pumped what I had anyway and dumped it. I had a bottle that I defrosted last night from last week when  Deklen had an ear infection and NO appetite. I pumped a bottle and a half in one sitting while Vince played with Deklen at the park. I warmed that up on the stove and put it in the one bottle that we kept.He downed it like a champ. I was able to carefully nurse him a couple times before the local anesthesia started to wear off from the site of the surgery. Come dinner time, I could barely speak loudly due to pain, let alone position my baby to nurse. Ear infection means antibiotics, the antibiotics encouraged the return of thrush and for the last couple of days I’ve been suffering from one SEVER crack in my nipple. Nevertheless, I pumped a bottle for him to after bath time.. I just really wanted to share this tonight. I am so PROUD of this one thing that I have managed to remain dedicated to. I’m not very good at following through with things when the going gets tough but this experience has been unbelievably worth it!I don’t know when we will stop. Whenever we are ready. Until then, I will continue to breastfeed my baby. No matter the obstacles.


When He Hurts, I Hurt, But I Wouldn’t Give It Up For Anything

It broke my heart from the beginning of yesterday to just see my ever-so-happy bundle of joy SO distraught, and uncomfortable. It’s such a helpless feeling when your child can’t communicate to you where it hurts or how. But as heartbreaking as it has been to see him hurt, I was reminded of my purpose when my son crawled up and used my legs to stand. Then he proceeded to lift his leg up my leg in an attempt to climb up. This is his way of telling me to pick him up. And when I did, he laid his head on my shoulder and wrapped the opposite arm around my neck, humming/whining to himself. He was hugging me. I am the nurturer. I am the soother. It soothes him to be close to me and I realized that he knows- really KNOWS that I am his safe place. I put all of my love into him, and in this display of affection, he showed me that none of this is in vain. I love that he is now old enough to express his love in return. EVERY second of this life is worth it. I don’t feel like I could ever find a greater or more fulfilling purpose in life than to be this little boy’s home base. In these moments when he INTENTIONALLY hugs me or voluntarily kisses me (these ones are a little more few and far between) I know I’m doing something right. The loss of sleep is totally worth it. I would do anything to make sure that this little person doesn’t suffer or hurt. But I know that sometimes it’s inevitable. Everyone gets sick. And it’s a miserable experience. And I’m raising a boy. He’s going to get hurt. But to be the person he runs to. For comfort, and love, and reassurance.. There is no greater feeling. He needs me. And he will never understand until he has babies of his own, how much I need him.

It started yesterday morning as I joked with my mom on the phone that my baby had “his cranky pants on.” My sweet tempered little boy was just being uncharacteristically fussy, frustrated, indecisive, emotionally sensitive, and easily upset. His dad eventually got out of bed and the first thing he saw and heard when he joined us in the living room was Deklen fussing/whining because (at his request) I had picked him up and put him on the couch and he now immediately wanted down. “Oh no Bubba! What’s wrong?” Vince asked. And I just rolled my eyes and gave half of a chuckle and said “I don’t know.. he’s been like this all morning. Maybe he’s got some more teeth coming in.” Our baby has RARELY ever been sick in this first year of life, and his first four teeth never bothered him, so really, anyone’s guess was as good as mine.

Deklen’s first birthday party is scheduled for this Saturday and we had just found out over the weekend that the sheltered park spot we wanted and planned to hold the party at was a “permit only” kind of deal. The Parks and Recreations office was closed on Sundays and we forgot about it on Monday so he picked up the phone to call and make sure the spot was open for this weekend only to find out that the gazebo we wanted to use has actually been booked out pretty much every weekend for the next couple months. There would be a wedding right where we had wanted to have our party (good thing we called!). So, with the party 4 days away, this was a matter that needed to be resolved quickly. Deklen had just had a pretty epic meltdown. My poor baby had been crying for about a half hour (over what, we had no idea at the time) and was just starting to calm down when we put him in the car to go scope out a new spot for his party. He fell asleep in the car right away and we found the perfect place. We stayed a while to play in the park. The swings and slides, and walking around in the ocean with his dad seemed to cheer baby up quite a bit or at least distract him. We came home and got him down for a nice long nap on the couch (which I gratefully took part in).

I got up from my nap and let the baby keep sleeping with his dad while I got up and showered and prepared for an AA meeting. A very special AA meeting. I got ready, and then got Deklen ready, and we were out the door. This meeting was special because I received a very special 2 year token from a good friend of mine (YAY ME!). Though Deklen wasn’t screaming or crying through the meeting, he did seem to be humming, and making other kinds of low-key but constant noise and toward the end of the meeting I noticed that his eyebrows seemed tense. Like he was in some sort of physical discomfort. Again, I thought maybe this is what it’s like for a baby to be in discomfort while teething… We got home and I my poor boy ready for bed. He took a couple bites of the food I offered him but really just wasn’t hungry and I soon gave up on it. “My poor baby. I wish you could tell me what was bothering you so I could know for sure and do my best to fix it.” Something was just off and I hate to see him so down. This is just so uncommon for us. Once I got him bathed and into his pajamas, I thought he felt a little warm. The top of his head gets pretty hot when he cries, fusses or nurses. So I checked his forehead. Yup, definitely warmer than it should be. And his cheeks. The back of his neck and his little hands were radiating heat as he had a couple little coughs. Nothing crazy. I still thought maybe some new teeth were to blame since I have read about teething as a cause of low-grade fevers and even an occasional cough or two from extra saliva and drool. He had been drooling more than usual yesterday too. Anyway, I couldn’t find the “good” thermometer so I had no idea how to gauge the severity of his fever. He refused to nurse after I got him in his PJ’s (which just doesn’t happen…) so finally I remembered that I had some infant’s Advil in the kitchen from the one other time he was sick. About 20 minutes later he seemed quite a bit more relaxed and his temperature seemed perfectly fine. We tried to carry on as usual but about 20 minutes after Vince put him in his crib, I went to retrieve him. After hearing him cough a few more times, watching him toss and turn in his crib on the video monitor and hearing him bump his head, arms, and flailing legs against the sides of the crib, I knew I wouldn’t get any sleep with him being in the other room. If he’s coughing, I need to be able to hear how his breathing is, and if his fever spiked, I wanted to know. I finally fell asleep around 2 AM and woke up from a nightmare around 4. Vince had been about to wake me up due to rapid breathing and some concerning sounds when my brain mercifully took me out of the hell I had been in. It took me a while to go back to sleep so when Deklen woke up, as unhappy as he had been yesterday, and unwilling to go back to sleep at 6:30 in the morning, I was exhausted.

Anyhow.. I got us into a very light nap about an hour later. I played his favorite youtube nursery rhymes on the living room TV and started to doze with him laying on top of me. He couldn’t get comfortable but I knew that if I started to fall asleep, he wouldn’t be going anywhere without my knowing it. I woke up from dozing, realized he was asleep (finally), turned off the TV, and snuggled in for whatever time he would allow for a nap. His fever was back… I gave him some more Advil and called the doctor. The nurse said it would be a good idea to have him seen but that I could keep an eye on it for another day just to see how it goes. “No, no. My baby is so uncomfortable. If it IS teething, than at least the doctor can tell me that and I can go get him some teething tablets or SOMETHING. If not, then I’d rather figure out how to take care of whatever it is. I just want to know what’s wring because unfortunately, he can’t tell me.” So I took the soonest appointment.

And to make a bad day worse, in his confusion and exhaustion, soon after I got off the phone, my little man, cruising between the coffee table and the couch, tripped over his own foot and hit his face on the coffee table. This isn’t the first time it’s happened but I just felt so much worse for him. I thought he had bumped his nose but as I sat in the rocking chair trying to keep him happy and calm, I saw the little purple goose egg under his eye where the coffee table had assaulted his poor little face.

Come to find out, he has his very first ear infection… Well no WONDER! But I’m glad I got him in today. The doctor said with some Advil, antibiotics, and extra cuddles, he should be feeling fine in time for his big day!