Wednesday, July 27, 2011

It is only in the act of nursing that a woman realizes her motherhood in visible and tangible fashion

When I was pregnant with Nathan I knew right off the bat I wanted to breastfeed. It didn't even occur to me that moms sometimes choose to formula feed and I couldn't figure out why you would. So after Nathan shot out was born, I set about ready to breastfeed him. He got latched on properly and I thought all systems were a-go. We spent the 4 days we were in the hospital nursing furiously and I THOUGHT doing everything right. By the time we checked out of the hospital, he'd lost a lot of weight and the doctor insisted I supplement with formula. No problem, I thought, but I didn't want there to be any confusion (although, the nursery had already started giving him a pacifier, against my specific wishes and instructions). So instead of using bottles, we used an SNS. Basically it's a tube that I got taped to my breasts and the baby would latch onto the tube as well as to the nipple and nurse that way. After two very long weeks of this and taking every prescription known to man, the Lactation Consultant concluded I had simply never gotten my milk in. The LC cried as she told me I'd never be able to fully nurse Stomp and she praised me and The Viking for trying so many different things and fighting so hard to nurse. It was a really traumatic and tough time. I was exhausted and hormonal and I'd just found out my body couldn't (or wouldn't) make milk, the one thing women are inherently supposed to be able to do to care for their child. I felt like a failure as a mother and honestly, I was just confused. I'd worried about plenty of other stuff while I was pregnant but I had never in my life heard of a woman not making milk or not being able to breastfeed. It wasn't even on my radar as a potential problem. It was so traumatic for me that I talked about it at length with other boob nazis mamas while we were trying to conceive. I talked about how important it had been to me to do it and how I hoped if I ever got pregnant again I'd be able to do it the second time around. Several friends assured me that if I were armed with the right information I'd probably be able to do better this time around. Because it hadn't occurred to me that this might be a problem, I knew surprisingly little about nursing and engorgement and breastmilk and all things boob-related.

Fast forward a kajillion a few years and I get pregnant with Grunt. Once I got over the shock and ultrasounds confirmed baby was doing okay, nursing was at the top of my list of concerns. As early as my 16 week appointment, I was asking the doctor what I could do to up my chances of being able to successfully nurse Joshua. I set about researching and finding a nursing mentor. I asked a million questions of women I knew who had done it. My doctor, knowing what I went through with Stomp (even though I went through it in Albuquerque) was really just adamant that I not get too focused on it and that I absolutely not beat myself up over it, regardless of how it happened. So out came Grunt and we set about nursing as soon as we could. Unfortunately because of the effects of the anesthesia I didn't get him to nurse till 3-4 hours after my surgery. This was still a whole lot better than in Albq where I didn't get to try to nurse him until at least 6 hours post-op. In fact, I realize that the nurses in Albq really didn't give us much help at all. The LC didn't seem to really know what she was talking about and of course there was that issue of the pacifier in the nursery. In sharp contrast, the nurses here obeyed all my wishes and were like my own personal band of cheerleaders, encouraging me to nurse and helping to make sure Grunt had a proper latch/suck. I have to be honest, I was feelin like a rockstar up in there. I kept making the baby high-five me in the middle of the night as I'd whisper in his ear "we got this, Joshie, we GOT this!". But still, when we went to check out from the hospital he'd lost a significant amount of weight and the doctor wanted us to supplement with formula. Again we used the SNS. A word on the SNS: it's a lovely contraption and it has a very valid purpose. But, it's flat out torturous to use. It's a simple enough device but it leaks intermittently (so you can't even figure out when or why)and it's difficult to get the tubes positioned right and occasionally the tubes will just randomly stop working. But we dutifully used it, hoping to get my milk supply in or up, depending on what the situation was. I met with the LC here in town and she told me something I hadn't heard: they're finding out that PCOS almost guarantees you're going to have a supply issue. Nonetheless, weighing him pre and post feeding confirmed that he was getting about an ounce of breastmilk. She reassured me that although he wasn't getting enough from me, he was still getting every benefit of mama's milk. She prescribed some fenugreek, metformin and goat's rue and encouraged us to keep at it. She also told us I may very well have to supplement with formula for the entire time I breastfeed, not the news we were hoping to hear. I was to make sure I ate enough protein and drank enough water, got lots of rest (hahaha), avoided stress (double hahaha), etc. I continued to nurse him every 2 hours, using the SNS. A couple of nights of no sleep prompted us to try a bottle instead of the SNS (which is REALLY a handful in the middle of the night when you haven't had any serious sleep). Grunt liked that bottle just a little too much so we quickly switched back to the SNS. It sucked (pun intended) but we were getting through.

And then...then I got this horrible infection. There was absolutely no reason I couldn't continue to nurse, so I have. Unfortunately we've fallen off the every 2 hour wagon because it was simply necessary in the hospital. We've also quit using the SNS. What we do now is offer one or both breasts at most feedings and then give him the bottle. He no longer favors the bottle over the breast and sometimes he nurses just for the sheer comfort of it. Occasionally he nurses for over an hour. I see no problem with this and figure maybe it helps make up for the times when Mama is too tired/sick/busy (with doctor's visits, dressing changes, etc) to nurse him. I'm sure there are people out there who would harp on me for not doing it down to the second and not doing it exactly right. But the bottom line is I did it exactly right for a few weeks and it didn't do much good. But besides even that, my circumstances are a lot a little complicated right now and I'm just flat out doing the best I can. Plenty of women have given up nursing for worse reasons and I refuse to feel guilty. Baby is happy and healthy and gaining weight and thriving. And I'm continuing to nurse in the hopes that maybe we can return to a more rigorous schedule after this infection clears up.

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