To All the Moms Who Tried Like Hell | Breastfeeding Photography | Pekin, IL
Breastfeeding is hard work. It's the single most rewarding experience I have had as a parent. It's also been the source of extreme exhaustion, unbelievable pain and unending frustration. Yet somehow, despite all the terrible parts (for which there have been many in my journeys), we've made it. I have two chubby and adorable children that I have had the amazing opportunity to watch grow and develop exclusively by nutrition sustained from my own body. That's no small feat anymore, especially when you have no idea what you are even doing. It's just you in an uncomfortable bed holding your little baby with all the hopes and dreams naivety can offer. You're there in that in that bed, tired and proud, feeling like the battle is over. Childbirth is over.
And Then, there's that universal moment as a new parent when you look at the tiny human tightly bundled in layers of blankets with just some tiny cheeks pooling over the edge and you think, "Look at this! I made this!"
What very few people tell you is once that fun and romantic moment happens, the panic sets in. You begin thinking, "By God, what have we done?" What do I do with it? Yes, like any emotionally ill-prepared parent, I referred to my son as "it" on multiple occasions throughout infancy.
As a first time mom, I was incredibly fortunate to have a baby who just instinctively nursed well. He came out the size of a two month old with an appetite to match, and I had NO idea what I was doing. Chris and I were having fun taking pictures of the little guy, deciding who he looked like (100% dad), and remarking on the fact the 27 hour induction was finally over. Then in walks the best nurse Methodist has to offer questioning me about attempts to breastfeed. Uhm... nope, totally forgot babies eat. Why don't I go ahead and attempt? Uhm... ok, sure? Looking down at my child, the hard truth that I hadn't invested even two minutes of time researching how to feed Clark hit heavily and all at once. Thankfully, Melanie (more likely known as "God's Gift to Labor and Delivery" in my memory) showed me how to hold him and very gently encouraged Clark to latch on.
Eureka! He eats. Tiny human can eat! I'm an awesome parent, look at me feeding my baby. Ha, so easy! Brittney: 1, Haters: 0.
I say haters, because there are haters. There are all kinds. There are moms that hate formula. There are moms that hate breastfeeding. There are moms that hate supplementing. There are moms that hate covering. There are moms that hate pumping. There are moms that hate how easy it came for me. But it wasn't so easy the second time around. I anticipated it wouldn't be so easy. How could I be blessed with two perfect nurslings? Well, no matter. I wasn't blessed with two perfect nurslings. I was given a baby girl who would push me to the very limit of what patience and determination I was capable of.
Unlike her big brother, Alanna was born a little early. She was running out of amniotic fluid among other issues. In the most basic understanding, amniotic fluid is to unborn children as oxygen is to mankind. Vital. Without enough amniotic fluid, Alanna's lungs and kidneys would stop functioning. We would risk having a still birth if we did not choose to induce. So at just passed 37 weeks, we welcomed Alanna Renee earth-side. She came right out of Dr. Reinerton's capable hands directly into my arms: cottage cheesy, pursed lipped, and with a full bladder that was quickly emptied all over me. She was tiny: a little chicken nugget with tiny chicken legs. At nearly three pounds smaller than her brother at birth, she felt fragile. She felt not ready to be born. But she was here.
Alanna had me question everything I had learned in the last year and half of being a breastfeeding mom. Here I thought I was actually prepared. I couldn't have been further from wrong. For instance, I never once considered the following equation:
Tiny baby = Tiny mouth
How can such a tiny mouth be so intimidating? That tiny little mouth I was just doting on moments ago now has me wary. Is that as wide as it opens? I'm not sure how anything is supposed to fit in there. Oh, a nipple sandwich? What in the hell is a nipple sandwich? Maybe I should just pump until she is a little bigger. No, can't do that or she will never learn to latch right. Just keep latching, just keep latching, just keep latching. After four days of just keep latching and my husband says to me, "Uh why is your boob black?" IT'S A SCAB OKAY! "I don't think you're supposed to have scabs." OH REALLY MR. GENIUS BREASTFEEDING DAD? I'M NOT SUPPOSED TO HAVE SCABS, AM I? PLEASE ENLIGHTEN ME ON HOW TO BREASTFEED YOUR DAUGHTER SO I DON'T HAVE NIPPLE TRAUMA SCABS. Nipple trauma. It's quite possibly the worst thing that could ever happen to a woman. You're determination wavers. You are at war with your body. How can feeding my baby be so hard?
That day four was the hardest day. Alanna met her pediatrician Dr. May Sun (God's gift to pediatrics) and had lost about 8% of her birth weight. This was okay, but headed to not-s0-good fairly quickly. On top of the weight loss, she was jaundiced. Her birth left her bruised and her tiny liver couldn't keep up with the amount of bilirubin in her body from the healing bruises. Her levels had doubled in one day. Our gracious pediatrician gave us the chance to start Alanna on light therapy at home to bring the levels down. She was empathetic to the fact we had a son at home who was only 18 months old and a hospital readmission would be very hard on our family. The jaundice also caused Alanna to be very fatigued. Her body was fighting hard to heal and she was exhausted from it. I started giving her supplemental breast milk because she would only nurse for just a couple of minutes before falling asleep again. And let's face it, after the initial panic of "Oh Jesus, please don't let this pump rip my nipples off", pumping was a welcomed relief. But I felt guilty every time I chose to supplement. And I wasn't even supplementing with formula. Why should this bother me so much? My child is being fed! That should be the ultimate goal.
Finger feeding somehow got under my skin. I felt less of a mom because I wasn't able to just nurse her. Yet this issue was so minimal. I knew so many friends who were struggling with supply issues. I had to tell myself millions upon millions of women before me had babies and fed them and sustained them. Generations of women have done this and done it well enough to keep the human race going. And here I was, 3am on day five, calling the Methodist nurse hotline crying that I couldn't get my baby awake enough to eat and someone please go over the definition of "floppy" for me because I think there is something wrong with her. There's milk galore in this house and I can't seem to get it into this child! Turns out she was just taking a really excellent nap and woke up screaming bloody murder while I was giving the run down to Dr. Halperin. But that didn't take the anxiety away. Nothing took the anxiety away until we were over this diagnosis. Two weeks later, her bilirubin levels were down and she was at least an alert nursling; however, we were still struggling. Weird latch, awkward arcing. How long before she nurses like Clark did?
Now at six months old, she still struggles. We've seen lactation who recommended we see a chiropractor for body work. We've seen a chiropractor (Dr. Sara Howard at Junction City, can't say enough amazing things about the woman!) and discovered a few misaligned cervical discs as well as a misaligned jaw. We've seen ENT for a consultation on her lip and tongue tie that are in fact present but do not seem restrictive. We've seen everybody. And, I have come to the conclusion that this challenging child was brought to into this world to challenge me. She is constantly pushing me to the edge of what I believe I am capable of. But I am capable.
Regardless of how I feed my child, I can say with unwavering certainty I have given Alanna the very best of me. I have given both of my babies the very best version of Mom I could be.
To the mom who feels envious of her sleeping husband... remember it's only a short time this life-force will be dependent on you. All too fast you'll find yourself yelling, "We don't HAVE any pizza! Eat this banana! Dad will take you to McDonald's! Where's daddy?"
To the mom who feels cold and insecure pumping in the backroom, nervous her coworkers resent her for her "break"... You're not alone. I've been there. I've called people out on it. I've stated blank face how much I love sitting in a room that doesn't lock, having strangers walk in on me topless with a machine hooked up to me like a cow. Let's note I had Dr. Bowman walk in on me once. If you know who Dr. Bowman is, you know how mortifying this was for the both of us. Oh heyyyyy... I'm just going to not make eye contact with you for the rest of forever working here.
To the mom who dropped her phone on her baby's head trying to read this while nursing... HA! Caught you! Been there, done that. Kid lived through it. ;)
To the mom who just spilled that precious milk across the counter... just breathe. Make sure you ask Dad to pour the spoiled cow's milk down the sink for the next few weeks, because you'll cry at that too.
To the mom who tried like hell and made it to all of her goals...You are superstars and the inspiration for those who struggle every day with feeding their babies.
To the mom who tried like hell and fell short...You did not fall short in motherhood. You were the epitome of motherhood. You have given every ounce of determination and perseverance you knew yourself to possess. And ultimately you made the decision to have a baby not go hungry. That's what we all want, no matter the path to get there.
Happy National Breastfeeding Week to all the moms who gave every drop they could, because every drop counts.