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Tuesday, November 4, 2014

A Breastfeeding Story

Before I get into my story, I want to say that I firmly believe, that everyone does what is best for their family.  I don't think that breastfeeding is the only viable option for nourishing your child.  There are women whose milk never comes in, babies who don't latch right, crazy work schedules, and plenty of other factors that mothers have to take into consideration.
All I'm going to share, is my story.

For me, breastfeeding was very important.  I was willing to do just about anything to make sure that it happened.
After Aidan was born, the doctor gave him to me right away, we had wonderful skin-on-skin time (one of the sweetest moments I've ever experienced), and as soon as possible, I nursed him.

Your body is so amazing, in that, as your baby nurses, that signals to your uterus to start shrinking back down to size.  (How cool is that!?)  However, it hurts.  So.  Very.  Much.  Pain meds are a great start, but after all you've just gone through, you really just want something to be pain-free.  Not happening yet.

Next, there's the lactation consultant.  I loved the one at our hospital!  She was very informational, supportive, and not at all pushy.  Best thing she said, "When in doubt, whip it out!". I lived by that, and I think it helped a lot.

So, then you get to go home.  This is when it gets interesting.  Mastitis affects 2 out of 10 breastfeeding women.  Say what!?  That's a pretty decent number!  And yet, when we went to the E.R., the nurse practitioner didn't know what it was.  Let me back-track.
A couple weeks after we've been home, I passed out in the shower, and had a pretty decent fever.  Of course, this all went down on a Saturday, just to make things more difficult.  My breast was getting harder and harder over the course of a few days.  Aidan literally yelled at my right breast every time it was time to nurse.  Pretty comical, but also heart-breaking.
I used a hot compress, tried massaging my breast (some yellow stuff came out, but nothing really impressive), and took some more pain meds.
We went to a Minute clinic- they couldn't do anything.  Then Care Plus- them either   Finally, we went to the E.R.  I thought I was ruining my precious new 2-week-old, by taking him to the E.R., around all those hacking people!  Yikes!!!  When the doctor saw me, she was like, "Wow!  That looks painful!"  And prescribed me some antibiotics.

They didn't work.

I went to my gynecologist.  They literally had a staff-meeting about me, and told the weekend people to prescribe me whatever I needed if I called- ha!  

They referred me to a breast center.  There, they ended up aspirating an inch and a half long lump.  They got out 40 CC-s of green-tinted gunk.  It finally didn't feel like my breast was going to explode!  Ladies, (and brave men), I can't tell you how painful this whole experience was.  I'm playing it down now, but it's nearly 9 months later, and I still have phantom pains.

Next comes pumping.  Oh dear, the pumping.
We got our Ameda pump free from out health insurance, which was great. However, at first, I was having a really hard time with it.  I borrowed one from a friend.  It worked great, except the tubes kept sucking up milk.  It started oozing black stuff.  So I thought I might be ruining her pump, rested it in rice, made sure it was in working order again, and gave it back.  Miracle of miracles, my original one worked.  Thank you, Jesus!
Then, there's the finding time and a place to pump at work.  You may know, I'm a teacher, so I don't exactly have a flexible schedule.  So, I have to rely on the grace of others covering for me, and our daily 1/2 hour resource period.
During my first months back, I pumped in my principal's back storage room while my kids ate lunch, and once in the afternoon.  
The next year, it got really interesting.  Now, I pump in our storage room/teacher's bathroom/dance room/occasional book fair.  One day, I looked around, and realized I was pumping between a carpet cleaner and floor waxer.  One of my friends told me, she used to pump in her car.  In winter.  In Minnesota.  Oh, the glamorous life of a breastfeeding mother!

On top of all this, you have to pray to God, that your baby is a genius, and can switch from breast to bottle with ease.  At first, Aidan loved the bottle, and wouldn't nurse, unless I stood the entire time, and sang "You Are My Sunshine".  Then, in the summer, he only nursed, so he wouldn't take a bottle once August rolled around.  Now, he seems to do pretty well going back and forth.

And finally, there's nursing in public.  There are laws that protect nursing mothers, but you also hear awful stories about public shaming, and inappropriate comments.  Personally, I like using a cover, but I do understand that some babies can't eat under them.  Either way, it's definitely a juggling act.  For example, on the 4th of July, we took a little mesh tent with us, and I nursed him crouched in that.  I've nursed on a tourist trolley in Boston, lots of back seats of cars, the back cafe in our youth room, and the beach, with a storm on the way.  It's not fun, it's not pretty - but it feels so good.  Breastfeeding feels like such an accomplishment!  Especially after all the hurdles Baba and I have been through.  I love how he nuzzles me when he needs some comfort, I love the feeling that I am someone's favorite "lovey", I LOVE that I can sustain a human being, and I cherish the residual cuddles.

I didn't have post-baby blues, but I am foreseeing a couple teary days when my sweet boy decides he is done breastfeeding.

If you are able to, and decide to breastfeed, here are a couple things you can't do it without:

1. Support system: My mom was an AMAZING help!  Sh drove me, when I couldn't drive yet, stayed up with Aidan, so Dan and I could sleep, and did anything and everything she could think of to help.  Also, a sweet friend from our church came over with lunch, and watched Aidan for us while we napped.  Boy, oh boy, she will never know how good that nap felt!

2. Research: The internet can be scary, and all symptoms online seem to indicate cancer.  But, do make sure you look into things, ask your doctor questions, and don't feel bad about it!  It's your right to find out whatever you need!

3. Get in touch with a lactation consultant or your local la leche league.  I went back to see the lactation consultant, and she really helped.  When I told her all that was going on, she told me she was impressed I was out of bed, and had clothes on.  That already made me feel better!

4. Only push yourself as far as you feel comfortable.  Breastfeeding is not the end-all, be-all.  If you feel you can't do it, formulas nowadays are so researched, and so comparable!  They really know what they are doing!

5. Trust yourself, and your body.  Listen to your own body's cues.

If you're able to breastfeed, that's wonderful!  If you're not, don't beat yourself up about it, hold your head high, and know you're doing the best for your baby.  I'm just sharing my own experience, and hoping maybe somebody will feel like they're not alone in the world, if they're dealing with something similar.

If you've had any crazy breastfeeding experiences, please feel free to write me about them!  Have a great day!

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