The latest Momversation is about breastfeeding and since we can’t all seem to get enough of this subject lets talk. I support breastfeeding and I think it is wonderful and I was a complete failure at it.
As any new mother I was anxious about labor, childbirth, being a mother, meeting my baby and all the other stuff that goes with new motherhood. Lucy was born five weeks early. Not early enough to be truly worried but early enough that when she was born she couldn’t breathe. Her rib cage strained up and down and at times I was amazed her ribs could withstand the pressure. Everybody reassured me not to worry and that this is common. As a new mother I didn’t know any better so I didn’t worry. It is only now when I look back at pictures of her connected to an IV, a breathing tube and monitors that I realize how not-normal it really was.
I couldn’t hold Lucy right away or even try to feed her. She needed oxygen and she needed to have her breathing stabilized. It would be several hours before I even saw her again and even longer before I could try to feed her. I held her small body in my arms, assumed the position and she latched right on. It was amazing. And then the burning, sharp, piercing pain followed. I couldn’t breathe. I instantly pulled her away. Surely it is not supposed to hurt this bad. The La Leche League was quickly dispatched. At one point I had my mother-in-law, my sister-in-law, my sister-in-law’s mother, two La Leche League ambassadors, my husband, myself and Lucy all in the room at the same time. Oh, and I was naked from the waist up. My nipples bleeding and tears streaming down my face. I cried every time Lucy had to eat. I desperately wanted this to work. The La Leche League couldn’t help me. They didn’t know why it hurt so bad. Lucy latched perfectly but I was most definitely in severe pain and there was no denying that I was bleeding after only 24 hours of breastfeeding. We tried different positions. We tried meditating before nursing. We tried Vicodin. We tried pumping (which hurt equally as bad). I went home confused and Lucy was losing precious weight. She was at about 5lbs when we brought her home and was given the instructions that she could not drop below.
For 48 hours I dreaded feeding her. Every time she cried for food I cried. The sense of helplessness, mixed with the anxiety of being a new mother and sheer exhaustion pushed me to my brink of emotional ruin. I was falling apart and David could no longer bear seeing it. If I gave up I was admitting failure. I had failed her. I had failed myself. I couldn’t give up but I couldn’t continue. The normally, in control, decisive, get it done woman that David had married had dissolved into a crying, emotional shell of a person incapable of a coherent thought. David held me in his arms and said, “I support you regardless of your decision, but you need to do something because this isn’t good for anybody”. I was miserable. Lucy was miserable. I decided to bottle feed. David ran out and bought formula that night. Lucy and I quietly nestled into our recliner and I fed her.
The next morning I woke up scratching. My skin felt like it was on fire and itching all at the same time. I walked into the bathroom and turned on the light. What I saw was horrifying. I was covered in a bright red rash from my neck to my waist. It covered everything including my arms. Overnight I had developed Mastitis. Truly, a sign from God.
I say all this because for a long time I accepted every guilty glare and every snide remark that was ever tossed my way. I accepted the shame, the guilt, the failure of not breastfeeding. But now that I have perspective – well, it was the right decision for our family. David loved having the opportunity to feed the kids on Saturday mornings and have his own special bonding time. I instantly became a much more relaxed mother. Our family regained its equilibrium.
I support breastfeeding and I support mother’s who want to breastfeed in public. I just ask that for the rest of us – those who tried and failed – compassion, grace, and kindness.