February 25, 2011
This is what Simon looks like while he's nursing - he will sometimes pull off and flirt with me. He's totally milk drunk, completely happy. I love this face.
I was bound and determined to breastfeed Simon. After all the breastfeeding disappointment I had with Charlie, I made up my mind that I wasn't going to go through that again. In a sense, it was more important for me to have a successful nursing relationship with Simon than to have a VBAC. You know, if I had to pick one.
We had a lot working against us in the beginning. Since I ended up with a repeat C-section after 30+ hours of labor, I was exhausted after the surgery. Since my bladder was lacerated during the C-section, I was in the OR for longer than a normal C-section would take. The spinal and other drugs I was given made me so groggy when I was in recovery that I at first declined having Simon brought to me - I was so tired I was afraid I would drop him. I later changed my mind, but I couldn't get him to latch on while we were in recovery. So I just held him close and he fell asleep. When we were finally put in a room, I got him to latch. And he pretty much stayed attached to me the entire hospital stay. Even when I couldn't sit up due to the spinal headache from hell, Simon laid across my chest while I was reclined flat and nursed that way. Or I would turn on my side and nurse him side-lying. He was such a great sport and so enthusiastic. It was frustrating at times because I was so exhausted and just wanted to sleep. But I kept on, and my milk came in within two days and in great abundance. I was thrilled.
When I found out I had to stop nursing for a week to go on some pretty hard core antibiotics to treat my UTI, I was devastated. Simon was exactly one week old. I was in the shower, letting the hot water rain down on my lower back to ease the pain of the UTI (pretty similar to the way I spent a lot of time while I was in labor), and all of a sudden it occurred to me that our nursing relationship could be over. Stopping for even a week could have so many different outcomes: He could develop a preference for the bottle or the taste of formula. He could have latch issues. I could have supply issues. It felt like such a slap in the face. Here was one thing, a major thing, that was working out. I didn't want to lose it.
I started sobbing. Even though I hadn't gotten my VBAC, I had never really felt like I had failed until then. It was definitely the darkest moment of my very difficult recovery. I cried for quite awhile; of course my emotional pain was exacerbated by the substantial physical pain I was in. And then I dried my tears, consulted with all three midwives at the birth center plus my doula, pumped out what milk I had to give Simon right then, and started taking the antibiotics. For a week I faithfully pumped during each one of Simon's feedings and dumped the milk right after. (I am beyond grateful that Roy was home to help me, because I cannot imagine how I would have handled feeding Simon, pumping, and taking care of Charlie.) About halfway through the week, I started taking Fenugreek to make sure my milk supply was where it needed to be once I was done with the antibiotics.
When it came time to start Simon back on the breast, he went right back with no problems at all. It was like that week of bottle-feeding never happened. Things have been hunky dory ever since.
I had heard women talking about breastfeeding and how much they loved it, what a bonding experience it was, and how sad they were when it was over. To me, breastfeeding was pretty much solely about giving my child the most perfect (and free!) food available to him. I absolutely did not want to formula feed this time. The bonding feelings, though, knocked me over with their intensity - and still do. Every time Simon latches on for a feeding, I am filled with a happiness so deep that I can only describe it as euphoria. I have told multiple people that it feels like Simon and I are on our honeymoon. As weird as that sounds, it's really the only way I can describe the way I feel about him. It's so raw and primal and fierce.
I felt (feel) this way about Charlie, of course. But it took some time to get there, because in the beginning I felt so disconnected from him. And even though we did get there, I can say with absolute certainty that you can't even compare bottle-feeding and breastfeeding. They are two totally different experiences. And I'm not hating on people who bottle feed. It just makes me sad that so many mothers will not experience the joy that comes from nursing their babies. (Of course, there are some mothers out there who do not enjoy nursing at all. Obviously I am not one of them.)
For years (hell, most of my life), I have not been a big fan of my boobs. In junior high, high school, and my first few years of college, I hated them. I hated being so small. I hated that I didn't have any cleavage. I hated not being voluptuous. Some stupid boy once told me that I wasn't a real woman because my boobs were too small. What an idiot he was. I can honestly say now that I'm so grateful for the pair that I've been given, because they are what's nourishing my son.
It doesn't get more womanly (or beautiful) than that.