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.