Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Baby mama

It's apparently national breastfeeding week!  My mothering website keeps tweeting about it every ten minutes.  I thought I'd share my thoughts about nursing my two sons since it's probably something I'm never going to do again.

i knew i would breastfeed my kids way before they were born.  i knew that a few of my friends who had already had kids either decided not to breastfeed or were unable to physically.  i knew it was supposed to be so difficult and painful and horrible but overall worth it to provide your child with the best nutrition available.  i thought when my son was born i would have them lay him on my chest and before his eyes were even fully open he would root around and find a nipple and latch on.

unfortunately my kids didn't come out quite the way i planned.  i still consider roman's birth a "natural" birth, in that i had no drugs and he came out vaginally.  however, he was honestly pulled out via "vacuum" by the obstetrician.  he was a big kid, almost 9 pounds, and as hard as i pushed i just couldn't do it all on my own.  as a result they wanted to keep him in the NICU for the next 36 hours, so i wasn't able to breastfeed him at first.  luckily kaiser knew i had specified that i wanted to exclusively breastfeed (they also reminded me of my wish for a natural birth when i first arrived in labor and was wavering on being medicated and i'm so glad they did) so they brought in an enormous hospital grade breast pump and had me pump some milk so they could dropper-feed roman.  i did eventually get to nurse him about 24 hours after his birth.  the nurses showed me the different holds (i had already learned them in the breastfeeding class when i was pregnant but it's not quite the same as with a doll) and the "hamburger grip."  overall it seemed pretty simple.  he was hungry and i was so happy to have the pressure relieved from my enormous breasts!

roman was a great eater and i had a ton of milk so it worked out well.  i nursed him all over town.  it was so convenient to wake up in the middle of the night and just feed him, although at first i was so concerned and wanted to be certain that he got an even amount of time on each breast, for a long enough period, so i had a clock nearby to make sure he got 15 minutes on each side while i read a book in the dim light of the "nursery."  sometimes i checked the internet or played with my phone.  understandably, i was quite tired and probably a bit cranky (i do remember yelling at mike irrationally) from these half-hour jaunts every 2 hours.

Nursing Roman during his first of many Yosemite camping trips.

i knew i didn't want roman to eat formula.  i am so glad formula was invented for those kids who are not able to be breastfed.  but i think it is disgusting stuff.  it's not even real food!  it's totally synthetic and creeps me out.  but i also worked full time, so that left me THE PUMP.  the pump and i spent so much time together that year.  at first it was kind of embarrassing and inconvenient having to excuse myself 3 times a day and spend 20 minutes in the HVM pharmacy being a giant cow.  but eventually it just became part of the routine and i did get a lot of good reading done (specifically i remember jodi picoult and jonathan strange and mr. norrell).  only twice people walked in on me--once was erika and once Dr. Bowman, but it wasn't that bad since my back was turned to the doorway.

i quit pumping almost exactly on roman's birthday.  i couldn't wait to be done pumping.  about a month before that though, i suddenly fell behind.  i wasn't getting quite as much milk when i pumped, and he was eating more than ever.  that last month i got so close to running out that i even bought a can of organic formula from rainbow grocery.  i felt like a failure and that was 11 months into my baby's life...i can't imagine how heartbreaking it must be to want to nurse your child in the beginning but not be able to for whatever reason.  luckily i never had to open that can and by the time i quit pumping roman was able to drink "regular" milk just fine.  however i continued to nurse him in the morning, before bed and before nap until he was just about 20 months old.  we loved our nursing time together, cuddling and talking and he would hold on to a piece of my hair and it was so sweet.  however by that time i was 5 months pregnant with his brother.  i was tired and uncomfortable, and roman was on the go all the time.  it was definitely a mutual decision to stop about the middle of july.  neither one of us missed it.

when oliver was born, it also didn't go the way i had imagined.  he was a c-section baby, and that was only after 2 hours of pushing and lots of drugs.  so much for a natural birth.  luckily even though i was in bad shape after the surgery, he was just fine!  the nurses gave him to me within a few hours of his birth and i got to nurse him, although at first it didn't seem like he was latching on very well.  plus he was only feeding for a few minutes at a time, but doing it every 15 minutes or so.  around the clock.  the lactation specialist came by and wanted to see our latch. "that looks like the latch of a 20-month old, not a newborn," she said, and i again learned all the holds and the "hamburger grip."  but it wasn't doing much good.  that kid was hungry but he also seemed really lazy (maybe from all the drugs coursing through my system?).  he gained enough weight back that we could leave but when we went for his one-day checkup the doctor suggested we look into "tongue tied syndrome" and decide if we wanted to have his tongue clipped.  we didn't, and he ended up learning how to latch on just fine, although he always was a very sloppy eater and it wasn't quite as easy with him as it was with roman (i'd later come to realize that nothing was as easy with oliver was it was with roman).

with the new baby, the pump came back.  this time i was prepared.  i always had at least a month's supply ahead of time in bottles in the freezer.  every time we opened the door, bottles of breast milk jumped out.  but i didn't want to run the risk of having to buy another can of formula (i eventually did return that original can i had bought for roman).  i again pumped until he was almost 1 year old, and i still had about 3 weeks of milk left in the freezer for him.

A satisfied newborn baby Oliver.  Bigger than some 3-month olds!

oliver loved nursing in the morning.  he was so sleepy and warm and soft and cuddly.  at night, however, by the time he was 18 months old he was distracted and it took forever for him to latch on and get down to business.  eventually i stopped nursing him at night.  i had mike put him down for the evening and he was upset for a few days but got over it quickly.  i still nursed him in the mornings and that was a sweet bonding time for us.  i decided to keep nursing him until 20 months, just like his brother, and then i just started distracting him in the morning until nursing was no longer part of our routine.  it's been maybe 6 weeks since then and he still likes to lay his hand on my breast when he is sleepy or needs comforting, and the other day i thought he was trying to nurse and roman did too ("baby wants to drink from your belly!") but i just held him and rocked him and tried not to feel guilty.

so breastfeeding for me was wonderful.  hardly ever painful, a little bit uncomfortable, but mostly a beautiful wonderful experience for me and my children.  i guess we were lucky.  but i know if it hadn't been so easy i would have tried and tried to make it work.  is that a good thing or a bad thing?  neither, i guess, just my personality and my beliefs.

i do know that breast pump can go straight to hell.  i appreciate getting it as a gift from my friend allison.  i appreciate that it has seen my two boys through their infancy and helped grow them into nice chubby toddlers.  now it's probably over 5 years old and i need to donate it somewhere, but secretly sometimes i think about taking a baseball bat to it in the backyard, office space printer style.

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