It hurts, it’s hard work, and you can do it

This is another one of those “I know I’m supposed to tell the happy truth, but I’m gonna tell you something else” posts. Well, that is, it doesn’t bother me and I think it’s interesting and informative and, I sincerely hope, reassuring to somebody. I’m posting this because I think that sometime, somebody somewhere will read it and feel better about her own situation.

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I thought I was going to go through labor unmedicated and have a vaginal delivery. As you found out, I asked for an epidural at two centimeters (though I didn’t get it till eight) and ended up with a c-section under general anesthesia. Obviously, that part of my plan really didn’t go according to plan.

I also planned on exclusively breastfeeding (EBF) and started doing that in the hospital as soon as I was introduced to Amelia. Her latch was great and I got lots of help in the hospital. Unfortunately, breastfeeding hurt, and Amelia is a sleepy, cuddly baby who would nurse for anywhere from 30 to 75 minutes at a time before deciding she was done. For a newborn who wants to eat every 2-3 hours, that didn’t leave much time for me to do… well anything. I didn’t know it was going to be like that.

In the first three weeks of Amelia’s life, I had nine appointments with the lactation consultants at my hospital. In those three weeks, she barely regained her birth weight by two weeks old, and there were several appointments between which she didn’t gain weight at all. She had at least one growth spurt, that made her alternately nurse and scream all day without a break. Two weeks and two days into the breastfeeding adventure, I broke down and said I didn’t want to do it anymore.

My mom said it was okay. I had tried really hard, and Amelia would do better with something easier for her.
My husband said the same thing.
And so did my lactation consultant. When I said I’d decided to pump and give her the milk from a bottle, and to supplement with formula when needed, my lactation consultant said she was proud of me for making that decision. I had tried really, really hard and needed to be able to enjoy my daughter. Which is exactly how I felt.

Since then I have been pumping, but I have been losing the mojo for it. It’s hard to juggle it with taking care of her during the day. It’s hard to make myself do it in the middle of the night, when she’s sound asleep and I could be, too. I have decided that I will pump when I want to, and when my milk dries up, it dries up.

Then today I woke up with a low fever and a very painful breast. I have mastitis. I’ve been put on a ten-day course of antibiotics to clear it up. Ouch.

So EBF was another thing that just hasn’t gone according to plan. And I need to be okay with that, because Amelia has had some milk, at the most crucial time. It is important for her to have a relaxed and happy mother. I feel it’s important that I not be tied to a machine while she’s unhappy in her bouncy chair. And I am so, so sick of being in pain all the time. I just want my body back. And lots of kids have been raised on formula, and come out strong and smart.

I’m okay with it (almost), and if something similar has happened to you, it’s okay for you to be too. We all start out with best intentions, but if there is one thing parenthood teaches you, it’s that stuff just doesn’t go according to plan. If you’ve tried and decided to give up, I’m proud of you for making that brave choice. More power to you, girlfriend.

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11 thoughts on “It hurts, it’s hard work, and you can do it

  1. My mom managed to BF me for 3 months out of guilt and my brother for less than 2. When I told her I hoped to EBF, she told me about her experience, which was really similar to yours, except that we were a little faster at nursing. She said it was incredibly painful for her and instead of enjoying her children she dreaded nursing them. Feeding her children became a miserable chore. We both ended up on formula, and I don’t think I’m any worse for it. I wish more women could be this honest!

  2. I hope you heal quickly and feel better soon. Your babe will get the nutrition she needs and if mama’s happy, baby will be happy too. She’s going to grow, I will guarantee that! Mine turned into teenagers overnight. Enjoy that little bundle. She’s so cute!

  3. Don’t feel alone. Nursing is much harder then it looks. I’ve found that full time nursers give me a tough time when I bottle feed but I’m comfortable with my decision. Nursing and bottle feeding is a wonderful option that I would suggest to anyone, I’ve done it for all three of my kids.

  4. Mothers everywhere have a lot of imposed ideals to live up to, and then so much guilt to deal with if we don’t measure up. We should be free to follow our innate instincts and go the direction that feels right for us and our babies. It doesn’t matter what other people think!
    I applaud your decision to free yourself and your sweet little one from the (kindly-meant but interfering) pressure towards ‘perfection.’
    I was raised from day one, on cow’s milk! Thank goodness there are increasingly better options…

  5. Boy, I hear you. With me it was two babies and two plans that didn’t go according to how I wished they would. I, unfortunately, let myself feel bad about what I felt was my failure, even though I knew it was all out of my hands. With the first baby I had to stop breastfeeding because my Type O blood fought his Type A blood and caused his liver factors to rise. You, on the other hand, have tried to follow the plan but have found out that ‘The best laid plans — etc, etc, etc. But you also seem to be looking at it all with clear eyes and I applaud you. So in the sleepless times when it’s easy to, please don’t let yourself feel bad, and if you do, place the blame squarely on all those hormones racing through your body.

    I’m so sorry that you’ve developed an infection, and I hope that it clears up quickly. You may now feel like you’ll never get back to feeling like you’re getting enough sleep, or that you’re comfortable in your body. But you will, I assure you. In the scheme of things these first few months are a small part of her childhood. Of course, as you’ll soon see, there’s always something else that comes along. ๐Ÿ˜‰

  6. I think you being happy is the most important thing – it’ll probably make Amelia happy too!

    Oh and my mother (and sister too) didn’t breastfeed her children because she didn’t have enough milk, and we all turned out fine. So no worries there.

  7. Hugs Hugs Hugs….. Murphy’s Law. And all that. I only lasted two weeks with my first attempt. Lasted three months with the second baby. (he was the only good nurser) And lasted 5 months with the last but got sick, fever, sore throat. All milk dried up. First baby was so hyper, never settled down, wanted to nurse constantly. Second baby, a dream nurser but afraid of getting pregnant again. Back on the pill. Third son, horrible nurser just like his oldest brother. But I stuck it out, and eventually won. But let me say, not a big fan of nursing. Sore nipples, infections. Had it all. Hugs Hugs Hugs. If Mommy’s happy, the whole house is happy.

  8. Ps. Amelia. Beautiful name, beautiful baby…. We are leaving for North Carolina. Found a gorgeous 1930 4 bedroom farmhouse. Going to be organic goat and chicken farmers. lol.

  9. Just found your blog through Cherry Hill Cottage. My baby days are long over, but just wanted to chime in and say…with kids nothing goes as planned. The most important thing they need is love and it looks like you have that covered. ๐Ÿ™‚

    I gave up nursing my 1st born after two weeks because of the intense pain. It got so I cringed and felt nauseous when he would cry to eat. The first time I fed him with a bottle it was sheer joy and relief to be able to feed him and hold him without pain. With my second born, the nursing was much different and I nursed until she was 10 months old. But you know what? My oldest never gets sick and my nursing youngest, always gets sick. So I guess they blew that whole antibotic theory out of the water.

    As a mom who is watching her babies get ready to leave the nest… take my advice and hold that little baby as much as you can. It’s really tough when they’re six feet tall. Oh, if I could only hold them and smell that sweet baby smell one more time!

  10. I think one of the best pieces of advice I got when struggling with nursing my first was, “whatever keeps them alive.” What is right for you is going to be right for Amelia. Also, pumping is really hard! Even with #2 I’m barely able to do it even though she nurses all the time. And I’ll tell you another little secret: even though I plan on nursing Fionnuala until she is a year old – I’ve pretty much been counting down the days until she IS a year old since the beginning so I can stop. I don’t mind nursing (it doesn’t hurt me) and there are some things I like about it but I’m also looking forward to having my body back, having my hormones go back to normal and am most likely not going to miss it.

    You’re doing great.

    p.s. I was a formula-baby in the 70s and I turned out healthy and happy.

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