Sometimes my son is not the brightest star in the sky.
As many of you probably (don’t) know – or don’t care – it is World Breastfeeding Week from August 1-7. I’m not sure if I’ve just been noticing the barrage of breastfeeding news more since it is relevant to me or if it’s grown in the past year or so, but controversies pop up all the time. From breastfeeding in public to New York’s crazy LOCK UP THE FORMULA law proposal, people have very strong opinions on the issue.
Here’s my take on breastfeeding: You want to do it? Absolutely go for it. (But if you want to do it until the kid is a teenager I’ll give you the side eye and may be snarky about it, but that’s your choice. I won’t berate you.) Facepunch anyone who judges you.
Here’s my take on formula: You don’t want to breastfeed? Don’t. Feed the kid from the bottle. Facepunch anyone who judges you.
There is no reason that this choice needs to be constantly judged. It’s just that – a CHOICE. There are often legit reasons for the decision that’s made. Is breastfeeding really best? Yep. But formula fed babies get nearly all the same nutrients and vitamins and all that shit as breast milk. There are certain benefits to breastfeeding but not enough to warrant the judgement. Shit happens. Sometimes the boob isn’t the answer.
So, whatever. Bottom line is that people shouldn’t care what other people (women, obviously) do with their milk machines.
Now. Back to me. If you don’t want to think about or know more about my own boobs, I suggest you stop reading now.
My breastfeeding journey is about to come to an end. I wasn’t sure about the process in the beginning, but I knew I wanted to do what was best for this new human. I was going to try.
I’ve made it six weeks so far, and while I hoped to go longer and have more success, my body had other plans.
I don’t know if it was the Pitocin*, the feedings I skipped while in the hospital, the shortened feedings when the pain was excruciating, the stress from the power outage or the ER visit and recovery time for the migraine two weeks after Little A was born. What I do know is that my milk never came in.
The word “engorged” means nothing to me.
I tried. I did. Maybe not 100% but I give myself at least a B. I spoke to consultants. I nursed or pumped every two hours, I took pills, I tried shields. At most, I got an ounce. Total. AT MOST. Little A was not fond of working so hard to get so little and would either fall asleep or give up and there would be no coaxing him back.
It was never an issue of nipple confusion, since he was being supplemented from the start because of the jaundice. He would latch great and do everything right, it was just never enough to satisfy him. As he continued to eat more and I continued to make less, there was no hope of catching up to his appetite.
I can produce three to four ounces on a good day. He eats four ounces in a single feeding.
After I realized nothing was helping to increase the supply, I got off the every two hour schedule. That was honestly more draining than labor. I still produced the same total amount by the end of the day even if I spent less time doing it. It was also a nightmare waking the kid up to feed him. We started letting him lead the way and telling us when he wanted to eat.
If my milk had not come in after four weeks, it was not about to #%/*& magically appear now.
After trying power hours, Fenugreek supplements, special tea and the constant feeling of being a dairy cow, I am throwing in the towel. Nothing helped. Not even a little. I will probably continue to pump and breastfeed for another week or so, but am going to start to taper off. I’m willing to try and make it to his eight week appointment (aka the one where he gets all shot up with vaccinations). But then? Done.
While I’ve seriously enjoyed catching up on Saved by the Bell episodes while pumping, that does not make the process worth it. I can watch Netflix without being attached to a vacuum.
Am I disappointed? Yes. Do I feel guilty? Hell to the no.
And big ups to those who DO succeed at exclusively breastfeeding. No doubt you guys are warriors. The time and effort are crazy insane and you’re all champs for pushing forward. I caught a glimpse into that world and even if I had been able to produce, it is unknown how long I would have persevered.
I had my anguishing breakdowns over not being able to provide for my child. I felt like I was failing what I should naturally be able to do. I cried over the chafing, the pain, the lack of milk. I cried because it felt like my entire day revolved around this and there was no time left for anything else. Feed. Burp. Pump. Feed. Pump. Burp. Feed. Feed. Feed. Pump.
To be totally honest, the way this played out sort of made this experience easier for me. Little A (and me, for that matter) can sleep longer since I don’t have to wake him up to feed him. Big A can assist with the feedings, allowing me to sleep in, get shit done, take a break when I need to, cook dinner, write blogs, whatever.
Is it a cop out? Maybe. But then again, wasn’t my whole pregnancy?
I’m over it. John Q Public better be, too.
*A possible side effect of the drug is a decrease in breast milk supply.
Seriously. You’ve honestly gone four days without coming here? I thought you liked me.
After that amazing first post-partum hospital meal (only slightly exaggerated due to intense hunger – the food was actually pretty good!) I get transferred to recovery and am told I have to be able to get out of bed within four hours otherwise I would be threatened with a catheter. Which was totally fine when I was in epidural land, not so much now.
Due to fear, I waited until the last possible second to make the journey out of bed and to the bathroom. The aide came to assist. Now. This aide was a big Jamaican woman with a thick accent. Bubbly, funny, loud, almost over the top. She led me into the bathroom and ordered me around. Big A says: Before that awesome Jamaican tech came in, the other nurse said “if you don’t pee now, I’m putting in a catheter”. That plan sounded horrible.
She told me to go. So I went. Even though I was terrified.
She handed me a spray bottle so I could hose myself off because that’s just what you do I guess. I did so, hesitantly and gingerly. Because, you know, POSSIBILITY OF PAIN. And I had no idea what the @$^! was going on down there. She saw how I was doing it, scolded me, snatched that bottle from me, refilled it and then went to town. Went. To. Town.
THERE IS A BIG JAMAICAN LADY POWERFULLY HOSING OFF MY PRIVATEST OF PARTS.
“You gotta use hot water, hot as you can stand. You gotta SPRAY it down, you gotta heal up fast.”
I could not stop laughing.
She showed me how I needed to take care of everything, from the wash off to the butt baths to the preventative measures. It seriously was a process to go to the bathroom now. I felt like I was building sandwiches in my underpants with giant pads as the bread and ice packs and/or Tucks pads like cold cuts. You won’t be eating a sandwich for lunch now. Sorry.
Here’s the thing. Your privatest of parts? Not so private during these times. There are numerous people watching you deliver, the nurses are checking your under regions for excess bleeding, the lactation consultants are feeling you up, your boobs are constantly out, you must have zero shame to make it through unscathed.
Luckily, I had practice from a few Spring Breaks in college so I wasn’t fazed.
KIDDING, MOM! Big A says: No, but really.
Anyway. If you’re pregnant with your first and reading this, take heed. Total strangers, and lots of them, will be seeing various parts of your body and you best be okay with that.
The rest of my two days in the joint were a blur. It included a fair amount of napping, a lot of pain from nursing, drugs delivered on demand and being peed on. And learning what newborns are all about.
Little A stayed in our room for the majority of the time, with the exception of the last night when he stayed down in the nursery to be under the stronger bilirubin tanning lights. I slept like a champ that night, skipping two nursing sessions since he was on a strict 30 minute limit to be out of the lights and by the time he would latch, time was up and he would have to supplement anyway. So I opted for sleep. And sleep was good. Besides, when the nurse came to wake me for those sessions she phrased it as such: “do you want to come nurse or keep sleeping?” Obviously sleep was the answer. If she had known me at all, she would have made it a demand, not a choice. Big A spent most of that night at our house. Putting the crib together.
While I was sort of hoping that they would keep us an extra day for some reason, they didn’t and we were released into the wild unknown Wednesday morning. ON OUR OWN. UNASSISTED. FULLY RESPONSIBLE. Big A says: it really wasn’t THAT big of a deal. I’ve been around little kids for a bulk of my life. I even babysat my first infant at 9. Then I remembered that my wife, my partner in this adventure, had just changed her FIRST DIAPER!! Ish just got real for her.
On the way out, there was another mother being released and I looked at my diminutive six pounder and then at her normal sized eight pounder and back at my six pounder and then up to the skies to say thank you to whomever was listening.
Plus her baby? Typical ugly squishy looking baby. Not to be totally mean but since I am, it was truly an unfortunate looking child. Once again, I thanked above. Then wondered if my kid was really as cute as I thought or if I had mommy blinders already.
I decided he was epically cute. The universe loves me.
So let’s recap.
Water breaks. I get an epidural. I push for a few minutes. I have a baby.
I wanted to end this post with further insight into my feelings on this whole experience, but to be honest, I am just not ready for that yet. I am also slightly overemotional already because the Olympics tend to do that to me and that #@%! P&G commercial with the moms viewing the athletes as children? Gets me every @!#%! time. It would have gotten to me without having spawn, but now that I DO have spawn, HOLY CRAP. I have to avert my eyes. It doesn’t help that they run it all the damn time. Between that and the Michael Phelps focused Visa commercials narrated by Morgan Freeman, I am a wreck. I DON’T EVEN LIKE MICHAEL PHELPS.
ANYWAY. So ends the story of how Little A arrived into this crazy world. Now that he’s here, to stay apparently, it’s hard to remember how life was without him.
His story, though? Our story? That’s just beginning.
I still know shitall about babies. I also hate going to classes. I am much more of a hands-on type learner – sitting and listening to someone spew information isn’t generally the best way for me to absorb facts. That’s why I opted to nap instead of going to class during the college years.
That being said, my mom was adamant that we take classes. Birthing, Childcare, Breastfeeding. I refused the birthing class, because it seemed to be geared toward natural birth, which I will have no part of. Childcare we probably could have used, but my husband refused to go, citing “HOW HARD CAN IT BE” plus it was like seven nights or an entire weekend and who has time for that shit. But mom was going to ignore my phone calls until I booked something.
I’m not fully comfortable with the idea of breastfeeding, but I figured I would attempt it, mainly for the health benefits. Also to save to $1300 a week formula apparently costs (which may be a slight exaggeration). I figured I would just wing it, like everything else in this adventure thus far, shove the boob in the kid’s face and watch TV while he had at it. That plan of action did not appease Grandma. So I registered for a class.
Breastfeeding 101. $20. Game on.
June 21, 2012
After circling the hospital, making sure I know where the ER entrance is so I know where to go on Dooms Day, telling the fetus that this is his birthplace and he better cooperate, then freaking out because HOLY SHIT I’VE NEVER ACTUALLY STAYED IN A HOSPITAL BEFORE AND NOW I AM STARING ONE DOWN IN THE FACE, I find the Medical Wellness building, park my gas guzzler crossover SUV in the hybrid row and head inside.
I’m about five minutes early, which never happens, so I panic.
I get told to “pick up the papers on the back table” and “grab the baby of your choice from the bucket”.
IS THAT HOW IT WORKS? GRAB A BABY FROM A BUCKET? Seems legit.
The woman who told me to do these things is the custodian who is finishing setting up the room. A few additional people stream in, get told to grab a Bucket Baby and that will give the latecomers (not me for once!) a few more minutes. There end up being about 25 of us, five husbands, all of whom are squirmy and clearly not happy. Everyone is awkward, with their Bucket Babies laid out on the table. And crazy old custodian is just hanging out in the front of the room.
Maybe she ISN’T the custodian.
I have concerns.
Nothing against crazy looking ladies, but this woman was wearing black velcro Reeboks, navy blue Dickies work pants and a yellow t-shirt. Grey thin hair tied into the tightest, wormiest bun I’ve ever seen at the top of her head. Glasses. Hearing aids. Looks a little rough, nothing like the gentle, soft-spoken lactation consultant I had envisioned. More like a lunch lady.
She starts the class. Indeed, she is the lactation consultant. But she’s been teaching this shit for over 25 years, so I’ll give her a chance.
It was one thing when she started fondling the fabric boob. Which for some reason had a pull cord like those talking dolls used to have and I kept waiting for her to pull it to see what it did. A talking boob may have salvaged my night. But alas, no pull cord pulled. And I get that she HAD to fondle the fabric boob to show us how to do things correctly. But is was when she starting fondling her own boob, which was down around her belly button, that I started to lose my shit.
And it all went downhill from there. The “giggle loop” had begun. You know, those times where you start laughing at inappropriate moments and can’t stop and everything is exponentially MORE hilarious and you cannot. stop. laughing. Even if it’s not actually funny? Yeah. That was me. In the corner of the horseshoe of tables. Biting my lip, ducking my head, jotting down “notes” so as to not make eye contact, eyes tearing up, coughing, etc.
Everything was funny.
We were told to make baby open wide before latching. I started picturing large mouth bass. Being baited with boobs.
She passed around a book she recommended, but she “thought” there was more recent 3rd edition you could look for. The book jacket proudly proclaimed Fully updated for the 90’s!.
She said “consimated” instead of constipated.
One of the husbands (comfortably seating backwards in his chair, WHAT UP UNCLE JESSE) started a question crusade, at one point asking if they could “train the baby like Pavlov’s dog” to eat when certain music was played.
Everything was “as long as (event) is happening with baby, he should be “basically fine”. BASICALLY. FINE. Everything would be “basically fine”. AWESOME.
She demonstrated nipple shields. Over clothes, thankfully, but still necessitating a firm PICKING UP of herself.
IF THIS IS WHAT BREASTFEEDING DOES TO YOUR DIRTY PILLOWS I DON’T THINK I WANT TO PLAY.
That was when I had to excuse myself to use the restroom.
When I returned it was Bucket Baby time. We were shown how to properly do two of the 38 possible hold positions. Little A was not a fan of Bucket Baby and kicked him repeatedly, claiming his territory. Bucket Baby remained stoic. I did not need corrections on my holds. NAILED IT. You proud, mom?
We then got to watch a video that was produced around 1993. I’m talking Powerpoint-esque gradient title screen, crocheted vests with long skits, spiral perms, floral leggings when they were originally in style, Cosby sweaters. It was like Full House Goes to the Doctor with bonus boob footage. Now, I’m sure the techniques and all are still the same, but it’s been 20+ years. This is a world-renowned medical organization. UPDATE YOUR SHIT. At least once a decade.
Custodian Breast Expert moved on after to the video and started discussing pumping and returning to work – which actually did provide some answers I was seeking – she rambled about correctly sizing the pump to your nipple. Some women have ginormous nipples, according to the size of some of those hole diameters. And it took everything in me not to look down my dress and examine my own set. I know so little about my chest, evidently.
I even asked a question! Of course, it was about alcohol.
Was it a waste of time? Not totally, though I did get home past my bedtime. I was amused, so there is that. And I went in knowing nothing and at least I feel like I know SOMETHING now. But will I be requesting that my mom reimburse me that $2o fee?
You bet your sweet boobies.