It’s been awhile since I posted. Life’s been rather insane lately; job changes, life changes, location changes (I’m moving from Los Angeles to Chicago in June)… and in all honesty, it’s been sort of nice checking out of this particular reality for a moment. Sometimes, seeing all the madness and meanness inherent in the parenting world is exhausting.
But ultimately, I always come back to one thing: to me, this stuff is frustrating and tiring. To a mom in the thick of it, this stuff is utter HELL. As we all move on, and our kids get older and new issues arise, it’s too easy to forget that other women are still suffering. That doesn’t mean we can’t let the anger and pain go – because after all, that’s the goal – but that we should stay protective of the next generation of mothers, too.
That’s why I love Megan’s story. She has obviously processed her experience; she can speak about it with insight and eloquence, as well as some healthy distance. But she’s still telling her story. She’s still speaking up about the lessons she learned, hoping that others can benefit from finding their own kernel of truth in her account.
Please…keep talking. Even when I’m sloppy about posting these every week… find somewhere to speak up. Your stories matter. You matter.
Happy Friday, fearless ones,
Megan’s Story: “Not Natural”
Being “all natural” is the latest catch phrase in motherhood, eating, and living. Don’t get me wrong; it sounds good and healthy and can be a worthy pursuit, but sometimes life takes an unnatural turn.
My road to motherhood has been anything but natural. It started marked by grief. We could never naturally conceive. Weeks of hormone injections, ultrasounds, and doctors visits all culminated in a cold sterile room with my husband sitting by my side for implantation. This is about as far from natural as baby making can be. Upon leaving, we were given a picture of two eight-celled embryos, our babies. It was surreal. We snapped a picture together. I grieved the lack of intimacy required but rejoiced we had made it so far.
I stared at those babies, prayed for those babies, hoped beyond hope for those babies to live, and one day at 7 am in my office bathroom I saw something I had never seen: two lines. Our first ultrasound showed one small heartbeat, and we were overjoyed. All the unnatural lead the way to a very real baby, and my journey to natural could continue despite the unnatural conception.
Fast-forward 41 weeks and 4 days, after a terribly long and generally uncomfortable pregnancy (I wasn’t one of those infertility patients who was so grateful it made me not complain—to my shame). I found myself at a birthing center, unable to physically stop the forces of my body from bringing this baby into the world. It was the most wonderfully horrible natural experience of my life, and suddenly my husband and I welcomed our son, Phineas Alexander, into the world. An unexpected gift. We were relieved, we were tired, we were happy.
I assumed I would breastfeed—it’s natural, after all—and he was on my chest immediately. By day three I realized something was wrong; he refused to latch all night one night. On day four, the lactation consultant stopped by and suggested he was tongue-tied. I had the first appointment I could with a doctor to correct his tongue so he could latch correctly. A Monday appointment guaranteed a weekend for significant damage to a normally chapping experience. A still lazy lower lip, even after correction, caused blood-mixed milk to spill from my always hungry baby’s mouth.
The natural way was killing me. I couldn’t wear clothing, I couldn’t snuggle my baby close, and I couldn’t hug my husband. Instead of feeling joy to see my baby awake, I would feel dread.
One day three weeks later, after about as much support as someone could hope for, I sat sobbing in my midwife’s office. She took one look at the situation and told me what my husband had already made clear: something had to change. “This is not normal chapping, these are the worst nipples I’ve seen in 30 years.” She sent me home with strict instruction to bottle feed my precious baby every two hours, as much as he would eat. I was to pump to keep up supply, and her words stuck with me as we left: “Maybe he’ll go back to the breast, after you heal.”
Maybe. It took two and a half weeks for me to heal to a point where I could tolerate clothing. While Finn was thriving, I was once again grieving the loss of the expected—the natural. We tried going back, correcting the latch, re-teaching the suck, and this resulted in a gaping hole and the return of the blood-mixed milk. And the pump, oh the pump, was a leash that I hated, one that caused it’s own pain. One night in the kitchen my husband was trying to comfort me, “we didn’t go through all we did to have a baby just to breastfeed. I want you to enjoy him.” I wept. I didn’t enjoy him and he might be my only.
At six weeks, I made the decision to wean him and stopped pumping. I became a formula-feeding mom. I was overjoyed. We are all healthy, the hourly tears have stopped, the baby is strong, and mom can snuggle. We tried “hard enough”, we tried every single thing any lactation consultant, the ENT doctor, and my midwife suggested. Even now with a nearly walking (!) 8 month old, people will casually ask me “Did you try…?” and it takes all that is within me to maintain composure and simply nod yes.
This journey has softened me; it’s given me compassion for those living the unexpected and trying to make the best decision in the moment; one they may second guess a million times. So I proudly tell our story in the natural birth lovin’ circles while mixing up his formula. I am thankful for the “unnatural”; without it my son would not exist and without it he would not have a full belly.
We live in an imperfect world, and what a gift it is that there is unnatural help along the way.