FFF Friday: “My guilt has turned to anger…”

A little over a year ago, FFF Sara went into labor 5 weeks early. But the drama didn’t end there. Like so many of us, Sara endured the pain and frustration of figuring out the best way to feed her daughter…but ultimately, she became a stronger mom, and person, because of it.
***
December 24th 2009 should have been just another day. 5 weeks until my due date, I was stuck on bedrest due to low amniotic fluids. The biggest events I looked forward to were showering, peeing, and my twice weekly NST/AFI appointments. Anything to get up and off of the couch was a happy moment for me.
So when Christmas Eve came, and I was surrounded by my family and friends, I was actually SAD to leave my couch since I was with everyone I loved. You see, my closest family members are more than 400 miles away, so everyone had to come to my for Christmas. Being doted on from my couch was lovely, but still incredibly annoying and a hinderance.
So naturally, the ONE time I don’t want to leave my couch, I begrudgingly leave. The plus side to my family (and when I say family- my parents, sister, and grandparents) being around is that my dad cooked a huge breakfast that day. Waffles, bacon, orange juice, fruit salad… quite the feast.
We head off to my appointment after going through the drive through ATM and the post office. I got to my doctors office and was hooked up to the NST machine.
“Sara, you’re having a contraction”
“Really? I don’t feel anything!”
“Maybe it’s just braxton-hicks, let’s keep you hooked up for the full 20 minutes and see what happens”
“That’s fine by me, I’m feeling great”
“Sara, you’re having contractions every minute… I’m going to check to see if you’re dilated”
“Alright by me”
After some poking and proding…
“Sara… you’re 7 centimeters. You’re having this baby now. I’m calling over to the OR now, she’s still breech and the fluids are low. It’s dangerous to give birth with these conditions.”
What a whirlwind. Madalyn was whisked away to the NICU directly after birth, as she was unresponsive and limp. A tiny 5 lbs, 2 ozs, we were petrified for her life. I wasn’t able to see her until Christmas Day, and she was too small and weak to even cry, let alone suck out colostrum from a breast that was ill-prepared to give milk.
Out of sheer stubbornness, I refused to give up. I rented the horribly expensive hospital-grade pump, I took every herbal remedy known to man to up my supply. The amount of water I drank? Was enough to easily throw off my electrolyte balance.
I pumped every two hours, faithfully, 24 hours a day. Each time being hugely discouraged when I would get about .75 ounces total, between both breasts, with 20 minutes on each breast. With producing such little milk, I naturally had to supplement.
At 6 weeks, I pumped several dribbles and I knew I was done. Not because I wanted to be, but because my body physically refused to make any more milk.
I used to be upset about it. I used to think I was a horrible mother. And there were plenty of people around, that whenever they would pass judgments on me I would cry. Now? I get angry. My guilt has disappeared and since turned to anger. How people could judge reasons for why formula is being used is beyond me. You cannot tell by looking at me that I have major kidney disease; that the fact I made it to 35 weeks was a miracle in and of itself.
I am personally inclined to believe that the statistic of 2% being literally unable to breastfeed is horribly incorrect. I’ve heard from countless numbers of women of their stories of trying everything they could and still didn’t produce milk. I wish some new and updated studies would come out on such a subject.
Until then though, I will look at my wiggly, wriggly, THRIVING, healthy and giggly 10 month old girl and be happy knowing I did everything I could- and never passed judgments. 
***
If you want to share your story for an upcoming FFF Friday, simply email it to me at formulafeeders@gmail.com.

Maternity Leave Guest Post: “My Decision”

FFF Brooke has been a vital part of this community from the beginning, often contributing no-nonsense, brave commentary when debates arise, and speaking her mind when others (ahem, moi) are afraid to do so. The following guest post is about her decision on how to feed any potential future kids. Enjoy!

***

My Decision
by Brooke Linville
The Medela pump sits in a sleek black case on a shelf in my garage, right above the plastic tubs of organized baby clothes and next to the giant plastic bag full of bottles.  That bag mostly contains the bottles we didn’t use.  Avent, Adiri, Playtex.  The Dr. Brown’s glass bottles are safely tucked away in a back corner of my pantry. 
I look at the black bag often, reminded of the promise of pumping and the realities of sitting propped up in bed, hoping for just a little more milk.  I think about the moments at the end of our breastfeeding relationship when all I could get was less than an ounce, knowing that I had failed. 
Up until recently I didn’t know how we would feed subsequent children.  I like the idea of breastfeeding, and I honestly wanted to give it another shot.  But I also knew that there was no way I was hooking myself back up to that pump.  My husband and I discussed combo feeding for this hypothetical child, a feeding method that worked great for my mom when I was an infant.  It seemed like a good compromise.
Until we realized that our journey to completing our family might not be as simple as sperm meets egg.  I have Chronic Lyme Disease, and if you’ve read anything about Lyme, you might know that this is a highly contentious illness with medical opinions that span the spectrum.  There are some who believe my condition doesn’t exist, that I’ve been appropriately treated.  There are others, like my doctor, who believe that Lyme evades the immune system and hides in a cystic form waiting for an opportune moment to convert back into the more destructive spirochete.  My doctor, along with others, believe that Chronic Lyme is never cured, but rather in a state of remission and that pregnancy can bring it out. 
This has all led to a very complicated series of discussions about how to complete our family, of which I will spare you the details.  Suffice it to say, two of the options make breastfeeding almost impossible unless I induce lactation, which I won’t do.  If I decide to carry another baby, however, I would have the option to breastfeed.
But I won’t.
Given the little that is known about Lyme, I do not believe that the risk of breastfeeding is worth any potential benefit.  I already have a son raised almost exclusively on formula, and he is healthy and happy and smart.  If I still have Lyme remaining in my body at that point, I could pass it through the breastmilk, and that is not a risk I believe is worth taking. 
I’d also like to point out to all of those who have talked so much about donor milk, we don’t have safeguards in place to test for all of the infectious agents that might be passed through human milk.  The Red Cross just barred those with Chronic Fatigue from donating blood because of XMRV.  Who knows how many have donated up to this point who have infected the blood supply.  I believe the same can happen with milk.
I am so grateful that I live in a time where formula is not only an option but a rather safe and healthy option.  I already know that our children are a product of so much more than the nutrition they get in the first year of life.  And my children will thrive because of formula, not in spite of it.
That black bag with the Medela pump sitting in my garage that held so much promise two years ago?  It’s going up on Craigslist tomorrow.


FFF Friday: “I will not feel guilty…”

Merry Christmas, FFFs! This ultra-positive, strong post from FFF Jenny is my gift to you. I hope all of us can be as truly fearless about the way we feed our kids as Jenny is, in the long run. 
***
Yesterday, I wrote down my entire breastfeeding experience. I was somewhere on page 5 when I decided to just delete the whole thing.
This is what you need to know: Breastfeeding, for me and my daughter, did not work out. After about two weeks of being born, she was on straight formula.
It’s weird summarizing an experience that changed my life into two sentences. I have written countless journal entries on this subject. I have talked extensively about my experience with all my friends, my family, new moms, experienced moms, strangers in online forums. My therapist. Surely, I would have more to explain than just those two sentences.
But here’s the thing. It was on page five that I realized I wasn’t just sharing an experience. I was trying to justify my actions. I was trying to justify why an educated woman who grew up knowing “breast is best” would be giving her child formula. And the thing is, no matter what I went through, no matter what choices I made, no matter how much I may have struggled, the end result really didn’t matter. I’m giving my daughter formula. There will always be someone who will say I could have tried harder. Someone to say I made the wrong decision. Some to point out all the disadvantages of formula, and all the benefits of breastfeeding that I’m missing out on. I know that this will happen. But I also know:
1)      My daughter is nourished. She has all the nutritional requirements she needs to grow and be healthy.
2)      My daughter is loved. She has a mother that has her best interest at heart, even when making hard choices. Especially when making hard choices.
3)      My daughter is happy. And she has a happy mother.
4)      My daughter and I are bonded. I ensure we maintain a close, attached relationship.
5)      My daughter’s needs are being met. I can not answer every cry with a bottle, and I am forced to learn what soothes my baby and how to meet her needs appropriately.
What I will say is that I did not come to the decision to formula feed lightly. It was a decision that really took a toll on me. I battled over this decision. I felt like a failure over it. But ultimately, I had to do what was best for my baby and I. And despite all I knew about “breast being best,” in my case, it really wasn’t. I encourage breastfeeding and I am going to take what I learned from my past experience and apply it in the future. But I will not feel guilty if it doesn’t work out—instead, I am thankful that in today’s age, babies have an alternative source of nutrition that is safe, healthy and they can thrive on.
And that is why I am a fearless formula feeder.

Maternity Leave Guest Post: A Christmas Wish from a Preemie Mom

In honor of Christmas, I’m posting this great essay from FFF Lisa. I’m sure we all have our own wishes to add to this list, so feel free to share yours in the comments.  Hope you are all having a lovely holiday season!

- The FFF

***
I received my greatest gift in September of this year, a tiny baby girl.  She’s an impatient thing and decided to make her entrance eight weeks early.  I know I have everything I need or should want — my husband and I celebrate four years of marriage this month, my daughter is home and growing like a weed.  But, I’m greedy, so I still have a wish list.

I wish there was more research into premature birth and lactation. You can’t convince me it’s there now, when the information conflicts so much. And I wish that the research wasn’t just on a large scale, but that individual hospitals researched what they are doing. That LCs would follow up after patients go home and see how many were able to establish nursing and if they are happy with their breastfeeding situation. Maybe they need to introduce the breast earlier, use nipple shields more often, work on different holds and tips for nursing a baby that only weighs 4 lbs (much harder than it sounds!) Maybe if supply problems are common they need to do whatever they can from the very beginning to help — check flange fit, help with insurance and pump rental, maybe even starting with herbs right away.

I wish that lactivists would stop treating preemie moms like full term moms. I wish they would promote breastfeeding to new mothers and advocate for things like nursing in public and pumping at work, but they would stop vilifying formula.  I wish it was common knowledge that formula is FOOD, not a bunch of chemicals. I wish they would stop yelling how NICU doctors and nurses are sabotaging breastfeeding relationships by giving bottles and causing nipple confusion, and understand that the NICU is different. I wish they would understand that when your child is born months early, living in an incubator hooked up to machines, breastfeeding is not the ultimate end goal, LIVING is.  
I wish there was more support for exclusive pumpers.  Breastfeeding is promoted as a beautiful, natural thing, and when it’s not — when it means being hooked up to a milking machine 8-10 times a day — the support isn’t there.  Instead those mothers see reminders that pumped milk is second best.  I wish certain outspoken lactivist bloggers would stop acting like they know more than doctors and nurses. I wish they would listen when moms say they are having supply issues and understand that pump rental, herbs, and drugs can be expensive and aren’t guaranteed to work.  Sometimes choosing to spend the money on formula that will nourish the child is the best choice and I wish that were recognized, rather than women being told they didn’t try hard enough.
Wonder if Santa could make any of that happen?  I’ve been a good girl, I swear. ;-)

“Maternity Leave” Guest Post: “Our boobs,Ourselves”

Our boobs, Ourselves 

by FFF Alison


“Mothering through breastfeeding is the most natural and effective way of understanding and satisfying the needs of the baby.”  – La Leche League international


Pregnancy and motherhood is supposed to be a time to transcend and heal all the past little issues and focus on transforming into the new role as a mother and doting on and loving a wonderful child that will finally make you into a real-grown-up (or a mother goddess, take your pick), well that may be true in modern motherhood fairy tales, but in real life there are so many messages out there that can make even the strongest woman feel like a fat, acne ridden teenage girl on the first day of school; and for those of us with body issues and a history of eating disorders put us in that situation with our underwear.

So let’s talk boobs. I was obese (with acne) growing up and in my early 20s lost 100lbs and was very proud of my accomplishment, but being a perfectionist I found many flaws with my body (from my nose to my loose skin) and gained a little weight ( to a healthier weight: I was very thin at my thinnest, but in my mind I was a huge failure for being a size 6-8… I am on the taller side of average and big boned) and kept not feeling good enough which expressed itself in binge eating disorder. Wait I promised some talk on boobs, here is the irony, I was actually okay with my boobs post weight loss. They were tiny and widely spaced, but I actually had a very athletic build. As friends of mine complained about the pain of big breasts, I enjoyed the freedom of not having to wear a bra if I wanted to and when it came to my passion of running I could get away with shelf-bras that came with the running tanks. With padded bras and the fact they weren’t exactly shown to everyone around me, my boob really didn’t bother me at all.

From 2001-2005 a lot happened, I graduated university, I moved to a new city, I got a great job, I bought a house and I got engaged. In October of 2005, just after my 28th birthday I ran a half-marathon and 3 days after that I got two lines on a stick I peed on, yup I was pregnant.

I always wanted to become a mom, so even though this wasn’t planned, I was a little freaked, but very happy. I knew I wanted to be a good involved mother and without even picking up any book, study or lecture knew I was going breastfeed. My mom breastfed me and my brothers during the 70s, and many women I knew breastfed (naively I thought it was the norm, heck my half-marathon instructor would nurse during our talks before the run). I also researched the subject up and down.

Fast forward to the Summer of 2006 after an uneventful except for being overdue pregnancy and a greater than ideal weight gain my daughter was born. Actually the whole birth kind of sucked, I ended up with a csection after pushing for a while. That said she was almost a 9lber and was super alert so she never particularly looked like a newborn. Since I had a section I was put into recovery and 1 hour later was given my daughter to feed. She fed, went back to daddy at the nursery, and they monitored me as I had an infection and slight complication (healed quickly).

Anyway, soon after started the breastfeeding struggle.  Anyhoo, G’s weight kept dropping and despite nursing all the time, skin-to-skin contact, seeing LCs, pumping, breast compressions and having tons of support, I started supplementing when G was 2 weeks old.

Then doing all of google research trying to figure out what went wrong, according to most, it wasn’t my body that failed me, it was society, my support network, my lack of education on the matter and well, me. From my perspective every message from what I was reading was making me feel unbelievably inadequate. Making me feel if I did more x,y and z I would have been successful. It added to my core belief that I wasn’t good enough.I made myself crazy reading trying to figure out what I did wrong (later discovered the condition breast hypoplasia and that made a lot of sense to me and fit the look and my bfing experience to a t). I also felt even worse about my body and myself. People would post pictures of their bubs proudly stating that their chubby baby was exclusively breastfed, but I had no sense of that accomplishment. I would read posts, blogs and webpages describing how bad formula: some going even further pushing that line of reasoning that the women behind the bottle were severally misinformed and some even flatly saying these women were bad moms regardless of their reason for Formula feeding. I wanted to defend women like myself who struggled and went to the “vastly inferior artificial milk”. Eventually I needed to sort through my own feelings on the subject.


In retrospect, one thing I found jarring about the whole experience was just how out in the open it was. I had no issues about nursing in public, but suddenly every aspect of the feeding of my daughter became other people’s business, as a private person, that was hard to deal with. People would ask why I went to formula: some people would give me an eye roll or a very skeptical look when I described the experience. I found myself discussing my boobs to everyone and I soon wondered what the hell was I doing. I found the dispareging remarks people would make about their friends who didn’t BF for whatever reason very hard to hear. Reading their remarks seemed like a personal insult, which was a little ironic since I was reading those boards, blogs and articles to learn more to have a better experience the next time. I really felt that I needed to have a second experience to redeem myself from my not so ideal first parenting experience. To show I was a good mom. Even though what I had to do according to my reading would have been a herculian task (pumping, herbs, pharmaceuticals etc), it would prove I was good enough and doing what was best for my hypothetical second child. I even started to look into natural childbirth and homebirth thinking that would also show how committed I was (as that is often cited as a way to establish a good bf relationship). A lot of my thinking in regards to that was eerily similar to why I felt I needed to be a size 4-5, to show I was good enough, motivated, strong-willed with incredible willpower and that I was worth something.

I ended up with severe depression 2 years after G was born and even though I had had a work burn out the first thing I needed to discuss was my breastfeeding experience. It had shaped a lot of what I had felt about myself at the time. I lucked out with a therapist who had issues with that too so we talked and she took what I said seriously (a lot of people kindly dismissed my concerns with don’t worry about it you’re doing your best and it will seem insignificant when they’re older, which is actually true in my case, but hard while you’re going through it).

Like body image relates to our fundamental core beliefs about ourselves, breastfeeding for me reiterated past core beliefs of not being good enough, but worse it seeped into a new core belief that was being formed: the fundamental belief about my mothering skills. Failing at not only childbirth but also the beautiful relationship that was supposed to be solidified through of breastfeeing. It took time and therapy but eventually I gained a better perspective: motherhood is far far more then what and how your child’s food is delivered. Motherhood isn’t a checklist of a perfect scenario but a unique relationship between mother and child. I also think the whole issue of body image and breastfeeding is something that is ignored. If we become a parent we’re supposed to be a mom first and foremost and to dare talk about the insecurities that we may have are almost seen as selfish, as it should have been expelled with the placenta. Breastfeeding failure in my mind exacerbated the other failures and flaws on my body. I have been working hard on my self-esteem and body image and this is something that I had to deal with, especially with a part of the body that has many additional connotations of feminity, fertility and sexuality . Not to mention feeling that my body failed my daughter, that was especially hard, since I wanted to breastfeed so badly.

I am at a place now where yes, I would like to be thinner (I gained a lot of weight over my depression) and would like to do more of the things that made me happy (like distance running again, I was never fast, but always enjoyed the fresh air and was happy with my accomplishments there). I am in out patient treatment for my eating disorder and though I am not fully into recovery, I am learning to be kind to myself again. My husband and I make time for each other and we now have a great routine with our daughter. My daughter is growing, smart and thriving and can make me laugh everyday with some of the things she comes up with and the stories she tells, it is true about when they get older the less significant the infant feeding seems. I don’t know if I will have another child or not, but whatever feeding choices I make will be what works us. I would love to say I am always kind to myself and never berate myself for my physical appearance, but I would be lying, however I am working on it. I am not a perfect mom, but I am a good mom. I look back and now believe that I did what was best for her and for me. I look at things globally and if people don’t understand why I make a particular decision, that is okay. I am even starting to like my boobs again, wearing nice bras and being relieved I don’t struggle with chafing or back pain. 

At the end of the day, the lessons I want my daughter to learn are to be kind to herself and to get a strong positive sense of self, learning to sift through and challenge the many messages she will receive either overtly or subtly throughout her life and have the fortitude to choose the messages that enhance her confidence in herself: I am currently learning those lessons myself.
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