Friday, August 2, 2013

I Support You!

To understand my immense excitement about world breastfeeding week (August 1-7), you first have to understand where I came from.  For many of you who know me or have been reading for a while, this won't be new news to you, but for new readers, here it goes.

It starts with me being pregnant with our very first little boy, Leeland.  We were over the moon excited!  I was reading two separate books about pregnancy, we attended our birthing classes, I read online and read books about breastfeeding, and even attended two workshops at our local women's hospital about breastfeeding.  I thought I knew it all!  I knew breast was best, I knew I was going to breastfeed way before he was born, I was beyond prepared.  I felt like I had studied more and was more prepared than someone going in to take the bar.

Fast forward to Leeland's birth, again, we're over the moon.  In all of my studies, I knew that it was important to at least try to get him latched right away.  We held visitors for a while so that I could attempt to breastfeed for the first time, and he wouldn't latch.  Right away, I felt like a failure, I knew everything, why was this not working?  The nurse chalked it up that he "wasn't hungry" and we could try later.  Visitors came in and passed the Leeland around, all the while, I was anxiously awaiting my next chance to breastfeed....

I think maybe an hour went by and I tried again..... nothing.... tried again... nothing... I could not get him to latch.  Eventually that first night got to where he was screaming at the breast.  We would try to pump a little so that he could get a taste, and eventually he got it.  He was latched.... but not properly at all.... it was the most pain I had ever felt in my life!  I was so concerned about getting him latched that I didn't really care if he was on right at all.... He left me with blisters... it was terrible!

Fast forward some more, the first 2 days of his life.  While I was in the hospital, I was told that a newborn needed to eat every 2-3 hours.  I watched the clock all the time, time would come around to try to feed and it was a struggle EVERY single time.  I had to call the nurse numerous times to come help.  We struggled, he did not want to latch to the breast.  None of my books had prepared me for this!

We were later discharged and were very excited to be home with our little boy.....  But the first day at home was the worst.  Leeland went 7-8 hours without latching..... that's a LONG time for a newborn.  He would wake up screaming, I'd try to latch him, Daniel would try to latch him, and he'd scream and scream and scream, and then go back to sleep.... a couple hours later, another scream fest.  After 8 hours, I called the lactation consultants at the hospital.  We couldn't afford an appointment with a lactation consultant, so I just took the little bit of advice they'd give me over the phone.  She said to pump and offer him a medicine dropper of expressed milk, and to keep trying.  So we bust out the Medela Swing I had gotten as a gift and get to pumping.  The medicine dropper was not enough for him and he still wouldn't latch.  By this time, I had called a friend of mine (who had breastfed her daughter beyond a year) because I needed help.   I was in a panic.  I finally made the executive decision to try to pump him a bottle.

His 3rd day of life, he had his first bottle.... It was still breast milk, but at this point, I just wasn't understanding what the matter was.  What was wrong with me?  Why didn't he want me?  Was I starving him?  The bottle became the thing, I was pumping around the clock to keep up with his demands for over a month.  We eventually got him to latch to me around 2 months old with the help of a nipple shield, but so many lactation specialist don't agree with using those, that I was scared to use it permanently.

Then came month 3 of life with a newborn.  Adjusting to life after a baby is hard, especially when you're strapped to a pump round the clock, sleep deprived, your husband is working 2 jobs AND attending school.  Life was tough.... enter post-partum depression.  I don't really know what triggered it, but I have the vivid memory of sitting in the rocking chair in Leeland's room balling my eyes out.  I was so so so sad, I had feelings of being a failure as a mom, and I was failing at feeding my kid, and I was "starving" him.  Daniel had to talk me down, he insisted he was taking Leeland out for a couple hours and I needed to go lie down.  Up to this point, I hadn't been away from Leeland, and with all the feeding struggles, I immediately jumped to, "but what will you feed him?"... Daniel insisted, they wouldn't be gone long, I needed a break, that I was going a little crazy and he had it under control.  I fought him on it a little, but eventually gave in and took a nap.  They ended up at the mall, Leeland in his stroller, and I got a little nap.  Leeland never fussed, and got back home in time for a bottle of breast milk.

Later that week, I'm still incredibly sad.  So Daniel and I are talking, and he knows that I need a break.  He also knows that he's working 2 jobs and going to school and he isn't capable of giving me a break.... we made an arrangement with his parents that they would keep Leeland for a couple of hours so I could have some "me time."  I sat down to pump a bottle (or 2) for him to have while he was there..... and nothing.... I cranked the pump up more and more... still nothing..  Not one drop of milk.  Enter more crying and more failure feelings....

I thought I sucked as a Mom, my body sucked, life sucked.... it was awful!!!

Enter formula.

I cried not only his first bottle of formula, but also his 2nd and third.  Not only is it crazy expensive, but it isn't "the best."  It was devastating.....

I say all of this to not beat down the formula moms out there at all.  But to let you know that I eventually came around.  When Leeland was about 5 or 6 months old, I started to come out of my depression.  When I came out on the other side, it was glorious!  I was happy to have a kid, happy to be a Mom, and happy to have formula!  Formula saved my life!  I went into that first breastfeeding journey, as it was breast milk or NOTHING.  It had to be all or nothing, and I came out with a new appreciation for formula.  What would Moms like me do if there were no supplements?  How long would my depression have lasted if I just kept beating myself down?   Leeland is 3, he's smart, he's happy, he's healthy and he has no idea what a struggle it was when he was a baby.

We did what we had to do and I fully believe that I'm a better Mom for it.  SO many Moms have reached out and contacted me when they were struggling too-- they felt like they could be vulnerable and open about their struggles with me because they knew that I had struggled.  So many open doors to encourage other Moms and support other Moms because they knew I wouldn't judge them for supplementing.

And after such a struggle, when I became pregnant with Hayden, I knew that I had to give breastfeeding another try.  I praise God for second chances.  I didn't go in this time with the same attitude of "all or nothing", I went into my second chance with more life experience.  And I'm happy to report that, all of my fears (and the doubts that others had) were washed away with Hayden, he latched to the breast, right out of the womb, and I don't think he ever stopped.  He will be 18 months this month and we are still breastfeeding twice a day.

There was nothing "wrong" with me.... I'm not a failure at all....  I'm just a Mom.  A Mom who has struggles like every other Mom.  A Mom who works hard and does her best.  Everyone's best is different.  My best for Leeland was forumla and taking care of myself and getting out of the deep dark hole depression left me in.  My best for Hayden was getting that second chance-- seeking healing, and giving myself grace. 

So happy breastfeeding week Mommas!  Breastfeeding week boils down to awareness of breastfeeding, and support for breastfeeding Mothers everywhere, but if you're a formula feeding Mom today, I want you to know that I support you too. 

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