Our Breastfeeding Journey

5.15.2012

I've been thinking about writing this post for a long time now, but I haven't quite been able to find the words. You see, before I had Emerson I was quite apathetic about breastfeeding. Maybe even a little weirded out by it. I was a bit embarrassed to talk about it and just all together unsure. Yes- I had heard time and time again that it was completely natural but I still wasn't completely sold that it was the right choice for me.

 I figured I'd give it a shot, but I never felt like I would be disappointed if it didn't work out. I wanted to try it because I knew it was good for the baby but I really didn't think I would last very long and I certainly didn't understand what people meant when they talked about what a special bonding experience it can be. When I heard people talk about how emotionally hard weaning was, I thought they were weirdos. I viewed breastfeeding as a way to feed my child and nothing more. I was naive and probably a bit unprepared. I didn't read any books or go to any classes. In short, I had no idea what I was doing!

Yet here we are- almost a year later and still going strong.

Along the way I have run into every speed bump possible. In the very beginning, Emerson was jaundiced and they wanted me to supplement with formula to insure that she was getting plenty of liquids. I did this for about two days while also pumping every two hours to keep my supply up. This meant that feeding times usually lasted an hour or more by the time I pumped and fed her.  To an already overtired Momma, this felt like an eternity.

We also had quite the issue with latching. Emerson nursed great on one side but she flat out refused the other side. I would try to help her and she would scream with frustration. Hearing that cry and knowing that she was so hungry made me cringe! I dreaded feeding time because it was so frustrating for both of us.  But I kept trying and I kept pumping. There were several times that I really thought about just switching over to exclusive pumping. I was already doing it every two hours anyway. I figured it would be so much easier and so much quicker.

For those first few weeks, I spent HOURS feeding and pumping. It was exhausting! I felt like I was constantly attached to Emerson or the breast pump. Luckily for me, my Mom encouraged me to keep going. So I did and on Emerson's two week birthday it was like something just clicked. She suddenly figured out her latch on both sides and started nursing like a champ. It was amazing to be free of the pump and to be able to feed Emerson without worrying about cleaning bottles and pump parts.

But then another obstacle came our way and this was a big one. I started to develop a terrible pain in one side after Emerson nursed.  It was painful enough to make me consider weaning but I was determined to push through. I let it go for a few weeks thinking that it would go away on it's own. When it didn't, I did some research and finally figured out that I had thrush. Luckily, I was able to get a high powered antibiotic that cleared it up after a few days.

Then our big move was coming up and I was absolutely mortified at the thought of nursing in public. The thought of it just made me cringe. I knew I had to make a decision. Did I want to wean my 8 week old baby who had just gotten the hang of nursing so that I would be more comfortable on our journey to our new home? I decided that it wouldn't be fair to her to do that and that I was just going to have to get over my fear. I started practicing using my cover and nursing when others were around. Although I still didn't feel completely comfortable with it, I did it! Our trip here took us over 24 hours so the pump and bottles just weren't an option. After that journey, nursing in public (with a cover, of course!) didn't seem quite as bad. Definitely not my first choice, but doable if the situation demanded it.

Unfortunately my battle with thrush wasn't over! It is almost impossible to get rid of completely and I fought it three more times throughout the year. I won't get into details but let me just say that nursing with thrush can lead to intense, toe-curling pain. There were a few times that I even said that I thought it was much worse than childbirth and recovery. Each time it came back I tried a combination of remedies until I could get it cleared up. It was miserable but I was determined not to quit.

After making it through repeated occurrences of thrush, I decided that we were in it for the long haul. I figured if I could keep going through that kind of pain then there was no reason that we couldn't make it to the one year mark.

Along the way I've been bitten hard enough to draw blood (yeah- that hurts!!!) I've nursed in restrooms, parked cars, airports, and pretty much everywhere else. I've had to monitor my diet and cut back on caffeine. I've learned to use a nursing cover like a champ and at times I've felt like a human milk machine. I've missed out on social events and I've never spent more than a few hours away from my little girl.

And along the way- my heart has changed. Breastfeeding is no longer something that I am apathetic about. I no longer view it as just a way to feed a baby. It is now something that is incredibly sacred to me. It is what kept my baby girl alive for the first year of her life and to me it represents my journey through my first year as a new mother. It represents the highest of the highs and the lowest of the lows. It was SO hard, yet so easy at the very same time.  It represents the incredible, earth-shattering, life altering love that a mother feels for her baby.

When I look back years from now, I doubt that I will remember the hardships or the pain that came along with nursing. But I am certain- absolutely certain- that I will never forget what it felt like to hold my baby girl in my arms and to stare into her beautiful blue eyes as she nursed. The pain will be long forgotten, but the bond we have formed on this journey together will never be broken.

And for the record: Now I'm one of those weirdos that gets all weepy at the thought of weaning. My how things change when you become a mother.


Traci said...

I had a thrush too and I remember tears running down my face in the hospital every time I tried to nurse and the lactation consultant said it's normal to be painful so I just kept going. It kept getting worse and I told her it hurts more than labor did and then she finally figured out I had thrush. Luckily I only had it once but it sure does hurt!

Lyndsey said...

I love this! I totally felt the same way in the beginning - it is works great, if not whatever - but I am so happy and proud to say that I came to love it! Weaning was definitely bittersweet, but Liam had been self-weaning for quite a while, so it was a really smooth transition for us. I'm sure I miss it more than he does! Breastfeeding was by far the most challenging thing I have EVER done, but I don't regret a single moment nursing my sweet boy.

mom said...

This post made me cry. You were so determined to give E the best. She is such a fortunate little girl. Love you.

Michelle said...

This is such a great post! I totally agree with you on the feelings toward BFing pre-baby... you took the words out of my mouth! Right now, I am keeping my fingers crossed we make it to the one year mark, but I've decided it's best to wait and see how things go, I don't want to put any extra pressure on the situation.

Andrea @ Life in Dawleywood said...

Great post girl! I have a similar one drafted that I haven't posted yet, maybe I will sometime =) I was just like you in the beginning and even though I pushed through it with G, I swore I would never nurse another baby! haha, After a few months I changed my tune and it turned into the easiest thing ever. So glad you posted this!

Kelli Kegley said...

Love, love, LOVE this post! So many people never try it because of those exact feelings you talked about having before starting. It is such an amazing thing and something I wish everyone would at least try! Now having gone through all you went through and still loving it speaks volumes in my opiniOn! Just wait until you have your 2nd little blessing:) its so much easier (especially emotionally) since you pretty much know what you are doing!

BlessedMama said...

Love your post! So true, I think we all experience those emotions and in the end we are all so grateful that we stuck to it! You go Mama :)

Natalie said...

This is such a good post! Wow, what a journey this has been for you two :) We had a really easy time nursing from day one so I always love hearing about moms who persevered through pain and other circumstances. Nursing is one of my favorite things and I ALREADY dread weaning in the coming months and think I'll be so sad :(

-Lauren said...

This made me cry a little bit...you made all my crazy thoughts feel normal. When i think of all the weird places it is crazy, but makes me feel proud. Great post! xo

Katie said...

I love this post. I'm so glad your experienced turned around for you. Isn't it just the best? Weaning is very hard! I feel you on that one!

Marinewife1111 {Marcella} said...

<3 this! :)

Megan said...

Love this!! I was the same way and although mine ended a lot sooner, I am so glad I did it. I miss it!

cait said...

Oh this post made me tear up! Just like you, I started out pretty apathetic to it...but only because of my ignorance to it. However, I did have a strong opinion that I would work hard to make it work. Thankfully, like you, I had a sweet Momma that really encouraged me through some hardships we had...and a hubby that was so supportive. And like you, I am such a BF supporter now...it overjoys me when I hear of new mommas toughing it out to work through it. Such a powerful love! Such a selfless act! You've inspired me to write my own post here soon on this topic. Thanks for sharing your heart!

Mallorie said...

We have pretty much the SAME story! I felt exactly like you did...eh, it's good for the baby I'll try it. I didn't go to any classes or read anything about it. I figured if it worked great, if not that's what's formula is for. Well was I in for a huge shock! Breastfeeding is HARD! I didn't ever get thrush but I did get mastitis which was horrible :-( And EC had a horrible time latching to the left side for THREE months...I can't believe that it was so painful for so long. Now that everything has clicked it seems like a lifetime ago. I'm so glad you shared your experience! :-)

Quick question..at what point are you supposed to really monitor solid foods? Right now EC can take or leave them...which I know is fine because she is only 6 months. Just wondering! :-)

the workaholic momma said...

This is such a wonderful post...and major kudos to you for sticking with it through everything you have been through!!!! It is such a wonderful experience!!!

Natalie said...

Way to stick to it momma! I breastfed over a year too, and I would have never thought that. It's amazing what these babies to us...and I'm so proud of you that you stuck with it even after dealing with thrush. You are a trooper!

Anna & Kirby said...

another great post... thank you! You're such a good mommy to Emerson! I'm looking forward to the bond, but deep down, a little nervous too.

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