Friday, October 19, 2012

I'm not a bad mother.

I've been talking with a few of my mom friends online about breastfeeding, and it got me thinking about the problems that I faced with Lucy and where we are now. It seems like it's been ages since I pumped, had a night feeding, or prayed to god that Lucy would just latch this once so I could breastfeed her like a normal mom.

Well, we weren't normal.

Our time breastfeeding was awful. It started off pretty normal, but early on she began exhibiting signs of reflux. She would latch, suck for about a minute, then pull off screaming. Then latch on again, suck, scream, and repeat.  This usually lasted about forty minutes. I thought maybe it was normal because she was so young. Well, I was wrong. I've seen enough breastfeeding mommies to know that my daughter was not "the norm" when it came to feeding. Even bottle feeding her, I couldn't hold her cradled up next to me. She always wanted to lye on my thighs head at my knees and feet in my stomach. Even now I can't get her to cuddle me while she eats. Oh well.

My supply was dropping and around two weeks, we started supplementing her with formula. That was hard because I didn't want to have a low supply. I wanted to exclusively breastfeed. All the books I’d read and people I talked to said it was the best for my baby. Formula was evil. It caused obesity, you wouldn’t bond with you child, it could even kill them if it was a bad batch. Mother’s milk was best. No, it was mandatory.  

I would prowl around online, reading about all the millons of women who were creating these giant stashes of frozen breast milk. Damn them. Why not me? How did they do it? Did it have something to do with love? Maybe if I loved my daughter more I would have milk. Or maybe if I wanted it bad enough it would just come. The power of positive thinking would get me engorged.

I had already had my dream of going to a birthing center smashed by her being breech (I'll blog about this later). By two or three months I was barely getting enough to give her half and half. I had eight sets of pumping shields and I basically spent all my free time strapped to my Medela pump and trying to daydream about waterfalls of milk cascading into my freezer bags. I was going to join the ranks of mothers who had stockpiled enough breastmilk to give their children breastmilk until kindergarten. Mothers milk tea, fenugreek, blessed thistle, oatmeal, juice, water, and snacks were a few of the supposed foolproof methods to upping my milk production. I mainlined them all. I wreaked of maple syrup, a side effect of the herbs.

They didn't work. Power of positive thinking, power of positive thinking.

All my free time was spent searching for the magic cure to my low supply. I was obsessed. I eventually called two lactation consultants who told me two very different things. The first one said "Give up. I've seen this before and she is not going to keep going." The second took a slightly different approach. "Just keep going. Chin up. You're doing all the right things."
That depressed me even more because nobody seemed to care enough to really help me. I wanted a tangible plan of attack, not encouraging words. Will your encouraging words boost my supply and get my daughter to latch on again? Oh they won't? Then why they hell are you talking out of your you know what?! I was livid.

I decided to take matters into my own hands and I bought a supplementor and a special nipple made my Medela to imitate the breastfeeding action. When it finally came to using the supplementor, it was an utter disaster. The first time left me in tears, locked away in my room because I couldn't stand to look at my own daughter. I felt so rejected. Was she even my baby? What was I doing wrong? Why didn't she love me? What was wrong with me!

The Medela Calma nipple was also a horrible fiasco that ended in two hours of screaming and me giving up. I couldn't do it anymore. I felt like I was fighting a loosing battle. My daughter had won out in the end. Why did she have to win? Why did this feel like a war when it was supposed to be the most natural thing in the world?

Fast forward several months and I am happy to say we have weathered the storm. Now my daughter is 13 months and we are in a much better place. I went through a brief relapse around 9 months and tried to relactate, but that ended in failure. I've accepted, begrudgingly that I won't get to have that beautiful breastfeeding relationship with my daughter. Life has a funny way of teaching us these things. I'm just thankful that we are in a better place. I still mourn our loss, but in the end, I love my daughter and our relationship is so much more than breastfeeding. I know she knows I love her and vice versa. Maybe I have grown so attached to baby wearing because it gives me a chance to imitate that bonding time we would have had breastfeeding.

If you are reading this and struggling with milk supply or reflux, or any other type of breastfeeding issue, just keep some perspective. Your bond with your child is not going to be compromised by not breastfeeding.  Take a scroll down your Facebook feed and you might get discouraged. I frequently see people who are railing against women who aren’t breastfeeding and reading articles friends have posted about how formula is poison. For those of us who have tried and failed, this can be devastating. Ladies, remember, what may have worked for you doesn’t work for someone else. This is not a one boob fits all problem.

I didn’t get to breastfeed my child 2 plus years as I had planned and that doesn't make me a bad mother.

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