Please don’t panic! It’s just word play, mostly. I am purely here to educate, and hopefully encourage. See, I had expectations about nursing. We all do, expectations are women’s expertise. I saw myself snuggling that sweet baby, feeding those chubby cheeks, hair flowing in the wind while birds sang around us. Something like that. Instead, I sat on the grass at a local restaurant, baby screaming bloody murder, tears streaming down my face. My family celebrated my mom’s birthday on the patio and I sat there alone, isolated, helpless. Again. My eyes stung when I turned to see another mom sitting in the grass serenely nursing her baby with a friend chatting next to her. Her baby didn’t have trouble latching. They had a perfect nursing relationship. Just look at how peaceful they looked! I looked back at my one month old and tried to hide my heavy sobs from the restaurant patrons. It wasn’t supposed to be like this.
Maybe I should have taken the “Baby 101” class, maybe it’s my own fault. I should have looked into a Lactation Consultant before I gave birth. Yet, I can’t help but wonder, “Shouldn’t have other women told me about this?” (That’s another blog for another day) It’s possible that I was just ignorant to think that “human nature” would just take over and I would know what to do. Regardless of how I didn’t know, I just didn’t. I didn’t know that breastfeeding could and would be really challenging.
Right away at the hospital, I knew something wasn’t right. It didn’t seem like he was quite “getting it.” Then there was all this pressure that he kept failing his glucose test and he had a low birth weight. So to try to get his sugar levels up they had us give him formula. I already failed. He was maybe an hour old and I already failed him. He continued to struggle latching. So the nurses helped me change my position, they showed me how to “sandwich” my breast. They showed me how to shove the breast in his mouth to the point I thought he would suffocate. Nothing was working. So we continued having to nurse, then top him off with formula. I was failing at breastfeeding. So I met with the hospital lactation consultant, and I still felt discouraged. They sent me home with high calorie formula and a hospital grade pump. I tried to be hopeful, I just needed my milk to come in, and everything would be fine. We still struggled. Back to the hospital lactation consultant we went. Finally after two weeks, we had him off the formula and he was completely breastfed. “I’ve got this!” Or so I thought.
The initial soreness of nursing never went away, in fact, the pain got worse. I cried every time he was hungry and absolutely dreaded having to nurse him because it was so painful. Sometimes I pumped (and cried) to just save the pain. That voice in my head was back, “Something isn’t right. Maybe you just can’t do this.” Getting my x-rays done at the dentist, the gentle, kind spirited hygienist encouraged me to seek out a lactation consultant. Fighting back the burning tears of failure and inexplicable exhaustion, I saved the contact info for her friend who was a lactation consultant. It ended up being the best call I ever made. She confirmed our speculation of a tongue and upper lip tie and she gave me amazing tips and information. Most of all, she gave me hope. She gave me confidence. She gave me reassurance. She reminded me that I know my baby best and to trust my motherly instincts. I felt comfort in knowing that my struggle was okay, and normal. There was in fact nothing “wrong with me.” I wasn’t a failure. Our nursing journey didn’t improve overnight, in fact, there were worse days. The tongue tie revision worked wonders. Yet, there were still trying days. However, I could not be more grateful for the amazing friends, family, dentist staff and lactation consultant who encouraged, supported and prayed for us.
Breastfeeding is hard ladies. In case no one has told you. In case you’re pregnant with your first baby and pregnancy brain causes you to skip that important detail in “Baby 101” class. Just in case you’re on your second baby and mother brain has deleted that. Or maybe your first baby was a breeze; there’s a chance the second journey may not be. No matter what your situation is, please know this, breastfeeding might be really hard. But that’s okay. You may have zero milk at all, and that’s okay. You may feel really alone nursing in the other room missing the joke and conversation again. That’s okay too. You are stronger than you know. Regardless of the outcome, regardless of the struggle, you are not a failure. Most importantly, you are not alone. There are women all around you who struggled and don’t be afraid to ask for help.
I don’t hate our journey, I don’t regret it one bit. It made me a stronger and more confident mom. Most importantly, it’s given me the opportunity to walk with other mothers who’ve struggled down a similar path. So please know that if this post relates to you, you can reach out to me. I don’t have great words of wisdom or advice, but I’m really good at holding hands and crying with you. I also can bake cookies.
When my little guy was about six months old, we paused our walk in a garden to nurse. I sat on the bench, surrounded by flowers and trees. The birds sang and the sun warmed my back. I watched my sweet boy nurse to fulfillment and I cried. Again. This time, they were tears of joy. Tears of gratitude. It had been a long, grueling journey but seeing that milk-filled, gummy smile made it all worth it.
You go through what you go through to help others go through what you went through”
Some really wise person said this but I don’t remember who and google gave me no answers, but it stuck with me. If you do know who said it, holler!