FFF Friday: “Each day I try to move past my own body anger and mommy guilt…”

These days, it seems like everyone wants simple messages. Everything needs to be packaged into 140 characters, turned into a meme, posted with a hashtag. 

But maybe that’s the problem with all this parenting stuff. Things are rarely so glossy or clear. There’s a lot of shades of gray; a lot of exposition. By limiting ourselves to the messages we see on social media, we are limiting our ability to understand, connect, and evolve.

Stacey’s story has many layers. She expresses them beautifully, but this isn’t a story I can tie up with a pretty bow. Like so many of us, she has mixed feelings about her feeding experience. Her voice – and others like it – get lost in this world of absolutes and told-you-so’s and this-is-how-it-is’s. 

These are the quiet voices, ones that seldom get heard, but should be heard. They add the color and nuance to our conversations. 

I hope we can take the time to listen. 

Happy Friday, fearless ones,

The FFF

***

Stacey’s Story

I think its time to tell my story.  I have a love-hate relationship with feeding my children.  I love feeding them.  I loved breast-feeding them, having them at the breast and snuggling them, and providing what I was able to make.  I hated breastfeeding because never have I felt so inadequate, out of control, and just a sense of anger towards my body and my disease in my life.  I love bottle feeding because I love snuggling my children and seeing them be satisfied and grow.  I hate bottle feeding because it represents what my body has been unable to do for me, and what I feel my disease has stole from me.

 

Since the age of 14 I have struggled with a variety of autoimmune diseases, which over the course of the following 7 years would each come to be diagnosed.  It was extremely difficult being a “sick” teenager.  However, once I was into my 20s I really came into my own, managed my health, and lived “normally”: traveling, finishing graduate school, working, getting married & pregnant.  My pregnancies were each managed by the Special Pregnancy Program at a University hospital, and my first was born extremely healthy by induction at 39 weeks. I had a very quick labour, no painkillers, and put my son to my breast within seconds of his birth.  It was so “natural.”  And those first few days went very well.  No breastfeeding issues were identified at the hospital.  Everyone commented on how naturally I took to breastfeeding my son.  He had a good strong latch, and I was able to relax.  I was confident I had it down.

 

Fast-forward 2.5 weeks- little man was constantly at the breast, when he wasn’t at the breast he was crying, and he was a really skinny baby.  We go to our 3 week healthy baby check up and little man has not returned to birth weight.  I get the name of a lactation consultant and she can come to our home that night.  When she observes, apparently my son had to suck 8 times for each swallow.  I’m not producing enough.  I need to supplement immediately.  She provides me with supplemental nursing system that I can try, and recommends 20 mins/side breast feed, followed by supplementing 2oz formula, and also pumping for 10 mins each side.  I am to put him to the breast every 2 hours, even at night if he’s sleeping.  I do this religiously for the first week, and my disease begins to flare thanks to lack of sleep and stress.  My boobs hurt.  I hate the damn pump.  I’m eating galactagogues and herbs and disgusting tea.  I’m doing everything I can.  But my production is not increasing.

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My dad, a wise farmer, advises me: put baby to the breast, he gets what he gets, and then top him off.  Forget the rest, you’re killing yourself and you can’t make milk if you’re dead.  I retire the pump & the tea & the waking the baby to eat.  I keep taking the herbs but I quit stressing about the food.  I focus on resting and eating foods I can digest easily to get my health back.  I manage the breast feeding and topping off for the next 3 months.  It goes smoothly. It’s our thing.  In public, I alternate between feeling embarrassed about exposing myself, my body, and exposing my inadequacy when I get out the bottle to finish off.  When people see the whole scenario play out, you can see the puzzlement.  Some make comments… “why don’t you just bring a bottle to a restaurant,” Others feel it’s their job to inform me, “you’ll never make enough if you keep offering the bottle.”  eventually I cave, and just bring the bottle out in public.  It seems easier, but then I feel the glare from the breast feeding mammas at the cafe… obviously I don’t care enough about my baby to give it the breast, since it’s the best.  Eventually, following another flare of my digestive system I totally dry up.  Simultaneously my son was rejecting me and he was hit by a head cold which made breast feeding that much harder.  I had no painfully engorged breasts from weaning.  They just stopped producing completely.  My son became exclusively bottle fed at around 4 months of age.  I was sad, but I accepted it.  Next time I would get off to a better start and hopefully I wouldn’t flare.  Then things would go better.

 

Next time rolled around faster than any of us thought it would.  Our gorgeous girl was born 3 days after our son turned 19 months.  I was armed and ready for my breastfeeding battle.  I was a seasoned veteran returning to the front.  My herbs and breastfeeding tea were packed in my hospital bag.  I had a lactation consultant on speed dial, along with my naturopath and my birthing doula.  I had hired help for the entire postpartum season lined up.  And then the day after my daughter’s beautiful, natural birth, I was officially diagnosed with insufficient glandular tissue and my daughter had a tongue tie.  Apparently this might be a fight I would not win.  I was angry because I’m a Type A who usually wins.

 

Within that first postpartum week, I do some serious soul searching at 2am… We decided to fix the tongue tie to give me the best shot.  I decided not to pump after feeding.  We decided to supplement 2oz each night before bed so I could get some rest.  We said, let’s see where we are in six weeks.  Then eight weeks.  We had spent hours upon hours breastfeeding every day, typically 15 hours.  We went in for extra weigh-ins and she was consistently gaining, but only about 3 oz/week.  We never put her health at risk- she always made enough wet diapers, was consistently alert and strong, and very happy.  However, at eight weeks my daughter was not yet 9 lbs (she was born at 6 lbs) and we didn’t feel she was hitting her development milestones.  It was pretty clear she needed more.  And so we began to supplement after each feed.  Our feeding began to schedule itself- every 2-3 hours we would breastfeed and then top off.  We managed this for 2 months.  It was a comfortable 2 months.

 

At about 16 weeks she began to push me away.  Breastfeeding is a lot of work for baby and bottles are easy.  That was the hardest part.  She preferred the bottle.  When I lost my postpartum help at the four month mark, her rejection had already brought on the wean.  So we let things naturally finish.  It’s been 1 week since her last feed at the breast.  It was only 5 minutes.  I was sure it would be the last.  It had been 2 days since she had last latched.  I gazed at her and pet her forehead as we finished our special moment.  Like all things in motherhood, when one stage and need ends, another becomes more pressing and my motherhood only evolves.  And each day I try to move past my own body anger, and mommy guilt, and be thankful it grew 2 beautiful healthy babies despite its challenges.  Sadly, I’m still not able to embrace my identity as a “fearless formula feeder.”  I hope to before the journey concludes.

 

As I finish my breastfeeding journey, and come to embrace bottle feeding, I believe strongly that mothers need to be supported fully in their journey to feed and nurture their children, however that happens.  I really felt that support lacking with my son.  My experience with my daughter has been somewhat better.  We moved cities and our care-team seems much more open and supportive of us.  I am so grateful for this support from the medical world.  In larger society I still hear critics, and feel that some don’t think I’ve tried hard enough or others that feel I shouldn’t have even tried.  Neither feels “good”.  What I’ve come to see is that support means embracing with openness. The breast or bust mentality doesn’t help when you’re struggling and CANNOT PRODUCE; but for me the “well just give her a bottle already” attitude really didn’t help either.  I just wish society as a whole could embrace mothers and say- “wow, you’re really doing your best!” Whatever that “best” may be.

I also feel like I couldn’t have followed this path of both/and to this point without amazing support.  My husband really is clueless about parenting, but his unwaveringly trusts me and provides me with what I say I need, when I need it.  My dad, the wise retired farmer, really provides an emotional counterweight for me.  My in laws do their utmost to support our family by providing love, babysitting, date nights, and shower time.  My Manny this summer really allowed me to give my daughter as much attention as I gave my son in the early days, while knowing he was totally and completely happy & looked after.  I didn’t have to sacrifice one for the other at all and I maintained my health.  My care team provided me with education and support in a respectful, validating way.  Despite what has not worked out perfectly, I’ve really been lucky.  Many other Mommas do not have this kind of postpartum circle of care.  I hope that as a society we can acknowledge, love, and embrace women as they struggle on the journey through the maze of choices and non-choices of motherhood each day.

***

Want to share your story? Email me at formulafeeders@gmail.com

 

FFF Friday: “There isn’t just one way to do things right.”

I don’t think I tell you guys this enough, probably because unlike the rest of the world, I still find myself immersed 24/7 in infant feeding issues – but it really, honestly does get better. And worse. And better. And so on. That’s what parenting is: a series of near-misses, celebrations, mistakes, and rewards. To put so much stake, so much blood/sweat/tears into one tiny part of a lifelong journey…. it’s really ludicrous, when you think about it. 

So, stick with me, until your kids are a bit older, until you’re out of the formula/breastmilk stage and your worries shift to preschool choice and behavior issues, and then forget me. Stop checking this blog. Erase my Facebook page.  Forget this ever happened. Forget you even cared. Because you are more than how you feed. You are the sum of an intricate, complex, messy, wonderful equation. Don’t limit yourself to the simple arithmetic of breast + bottle.

If you don’t listen to me, listen to Lilia. Her short but incredibly sweet story is below. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

Happy Friday, fearless ones,

The FFF

Lilia’s Story

Seven years ago I had what I thought would be the biggest disappointment as a mother.  Despite a deep desire to breastfeed, I was not able to do it. For years I tried to find the reason, I thought knowing “why” would give me peace of mind and take away the terrible guilt I felt. I read many articles, talked to doctors and lactation consultants and no one could give me a reason or explanation.  In my mind, if no one could tell me why I couldn’t breastfeed it had to be because I wasn’t trying hard enough.

I didn’t want to be the bad mother, the only mom pulling out a bottle in a room full of judging eyes. The pain I felt was not only emotional, my breasts were so bruised from pumping  so much that having my baby latch was a nightmare. It was mental and physical torture. Eight weeks (with a terrible case of thrush) went by until I realized this wasn’t a battle worth fighting.  Yes, I “gave up” and I was so relieved.  At last I was able to hold my baby, look at her and admire the big miracle she was. I would hold her for hours and just make a bottle when she was hungry.  No more fear and pain for either of us, just the certainty that we both finally had what we needed. quotescover-JPG-54

The physical pain was gone, for both of us, but the emotional pain lingered for years.  I had let the ability to breastfeed define me as a mother. I had given all my power to those who told me I should breastfeed. For a while I was furious for allowing this to happen.  But mostly, I mourned those first days and weeks I missed, pumping instead of holding my baby, living in fear of her being hungry instead of feeling the joy of being a new mom.  I just felt sadness because I knew I would not get that time back.

Despite my experience, I was willing to try again with my second child, but it didn’t work out either.  This time I tried for a total of one feeding, I would not put this baby through any pain, her sister and I had endured enough for her. Tears still come out as I read these words and those of the moms going through the same struggle, but seeing my babies grow up healthy and happy and the loving relationship I have with them confirm every single day that the way I fed them had absolutely no impact on who they are today or who they will become.

I know I will have many setbacks and there will be many disappointments as I try to raise healthy, happy, productive human beings. There will be many times in which I will feel like a failure, but looking back, the inability to breastfeed has become a tiny speck in a world of possibilities for me to mess up as a mom.

After all these years and one more baby, who was formula fed from the start, I have learned that the “failures”, setbacks and disappointments only make me a more resilient mother. I realized that the guilt didn’t come from giving my child formula. It came from what I thought people would think of me for pulling out a bottle instead of my breast to feed my child. But as painful as this experience was for me, I am thankful because I learned to see every situation as unique, there isn’t just one way to do things right.  I learned to do what is best for me and my children. I learned to dodge the bullets of judgment that will come my way for one reason or another.  And finally, I found the people who are on MY side, and this is priceless in the dangerous world of parenting.

***

Feel like sharing your story? Email it to me at formulafeeders@gmail.com.

 

FFF Friday: “That First Bottle: Nine Years Later”

If you follow me on Facebook or Twitter, you’re probably well aware of the #FacesOfFormula campaign. The following essay was submitted along with the author’s photo. She preferred to have her name changed for publication, but I wish I could tell you her real name simply because I want to thank her personally and publicly for these words; for explaining why this campaign is important; for being so insightful and honest.

For now, though, my private thanks will hopefully suffice. THANK YOU.

Happy Friday, fearless ones,

The FFF

****

That First Bottle: Nine Years Later

by “Karin”

New moms are often told that offering just one bottle of formula will trigger a domino-chain of dire consequences.

momthejunglegymI’m not a new mom anymore. I have two great kids, both in elementary school. I’m here to tell you that my firstborn’s first bottle of formula was indeed the start of something bigger, with many long-term implications.

That first bottle was the start of me accepting the most effective treatment for my postpartum depression– an illness that, left unchecked, had a 100 percent chance of harming the mother-child bond.

An illness triggered by my rigid, near-delusional belief that only breastfeeding made me a real mother.

 

That first bottle was the start of me respecting my own maternal intuition, instead of letting “experts” who didn’t even know me dictate how I should think and feel about breastfeeding. Or anything else. (Ironically, the experts will often tell moms to “trust your intuition,” when they really mean “only if it agrees with my theory.”)

 

That first bottle was the start of me thinking critically. I began to question a supposedly first-world society that sentimentalizes mothering beyond reason, while failing to actually support it. A society that puts all the pressure on individual women to meet increasingly impossible ideals.

 

I began to wonder about the ideological agenda behind bombarding mothers with “science” that is oversimplified, hastily published, or just plain wrong. Whose sole purpose seems to be scaring us, shaming us, and reducing us to our bodily functions.

 

I began to ask why the concept of the “good enough mother” was now being replaced by the “optimal mother” who, beginning with her preconception diet, is all about controlling her child’s every outcome.

 

As if this were possible, or even desirable.

 

That first bottle ignited my feminism and made me a radical advocate for both moms and kids– just as breastfeeding did for many of my friends.

 

That first bottle helped me realize that me and my close friend who nursed and co-slept for 4 years, were more alike than different. I observed that exclusive breastfeeding did not magically relieve my friend’s insecurity and self-doubt about her parenting.

 

That first bottle was the start of me coming into my own as a mother. It brought me back to myself– someone of infinitely more value than two breasts and a uterus.

 

As my mood lifted and I got some therapy (and sleep), I began understanding things about my own childhood experiences that I didn’t want to repeat. I even ended some hopelessly toxic family relationships, for my kids’ sake as well as mine. It was terrifying and exhilarating.

 

That first bottle gave me the strength to have another baby, four years and 3 devastating miscarriages after the first. I formula-fed from the start so I could take the best medications for me. No PPD this time, just the standard-issue fatigue/marvel/gratitude.

 

(By the way, my little dude had reflux and woke up every 90 minutes for six months. If I hadn’t had help feeding him I would have hallucinated!)

 

That first bottle made me realize, as the years went by, that my previous guilt about not being a “good mother” would never have been transformative or beneficial to anyone. In fact, it would have cast a pall over our family life. And we’re too busy doing dinnertime lip-syncs to Queen’s Greatest Hits to bother with that!

 

That first bottle helped me to appreciate that as my children get older, their needs become more complex and their individuality more apparent, and they need a fully present and attuned mother more than ever.

 

That first bottle helped me not to give a crap what people think.

 

Not giving a crap came in very handy when my older child developed motor delays and unusual behavior, and was eventually diagnosed with autism. We were devastated at first. But then we realized we now had the gift of understanding, and some real help for our child. On a regular basis, though, things can get pretty raw in public.

 

Imagine a school-aged child on the floor at Costco, screaming and throwing her shoes. Or, blowing a Bronx cheer in some random adult’s face. I can’t tell you the kinds of stares and comments I’ve had to learn to slough off.

 

Those strangers don’t know the incredible gains my kid has made in four years– and that, far from being “in her own world,” she has an acute and nearly telepathic sensitivity to others’ emotions. How I work third shift just to pay for her therapies. They don’t know that raising a child with autism involves discipline plans that must always be followed, no matter how tired the parent. How challenging and counterintuitive it all feels some days. How many times I have nonetheless stayed calm while my child yelled at me and raked her nails into my arms.  Because she is not being “bad,” and scoldings don’t help.

 

That first bottle helped me show her, by example, that it’s okay to struggle and to be different. It helped me have faith in my ability, and hers, to survive and thrive together. It helped me to fall in love with her, to understand her, and to feel blessed that she is in the world and in our family.

 

And finally, first bottle helped me care for myself so I can now be present for people in crisis, as an ER social worker. It set a foundation for me to make room for other people’s experiences, and to create a safe space for them.

 

I have met many patients who feel that their mental health isn’t worth much, or that they should just tough things out without help. I’ve been there, I get it, and I can offer a way out of that hell.

 

So yes, that first bottle started something. It gave me guts, and then it gave me wings.  It gave me two children who are cherished and secure. And I’ll be forever thankful.

FFF Friday: “We all have stories…maybe we should listen with open minds and open hearts…”

It can take me an obscene amount of time to post an FFF story. Mostly, I just go in order of who sent what in when; other times, I choose specific posts because I want to highlight a particular issue that week. And other times, I am just a moron who somehow loses really great stories in the mess that is my inbox. 

This is one of those times. Meghan’s story is one of the most raw, honest accounts I’ve read in awhile, and she wrote it a month after her second child was born, when I’m sure everything was incredibly fresh and emotional.

But, um…that child is probably over a year old now.

Most likely (hopefully) Meghan and her kids are thriving, and decisions about formula and breastfeeding are a distant memory.  I really, really hope so. But for those who are still in the thick of it, this story needs to be posted. Even if it did take me a freaking year to do it. 

So thank you, Meghan, for your patience. And for writing this.

Happy Friday, fearless ones,

The FFF

***

Meghan’s Story

I tried to no avail to breast feed my first son. The hospital in which both of my babies were born are very much against formula leaving it as a last resort, they only offer the bottle when blood sugars are low or some other complication arises. There is no nursery to send your baby off too if you want to catch some zzz’s baby rooms in with you. Even my pregnancy with my first was difficult. I had to deal with feelings of inadequacies because I learned at 8 months that my baby was breech and he was big my doctor felt due to borderline preeclampsia and my babies size turning him might not be the best option. So instead of having a vaginal delivery which I desperately wanted I was going to have a c-section. That’s okay, I thought. At least I can still breast feed.

 

In the hospital me and the nurse tried to latch him on. Nope, not happening, it was a screaming wiggly nightmare. When he finally latched (after the nurse and the LC got him on-  it took 2 of them) he fell asleep immediately and his head rolled off of my chest. Then it started all over again. At one point there were 3, yes 3 LC’s and a friend of mine who was a breastfeeding champion, attempting to get him to latch on again. Nope nothing, and then a few hours later more of the same. He was on strike. My baby boy was obviously not a boob man. On day 3 his blood sugar took a little dip, so here came the bottle. He loved it, downed it all. Then the screaming bouts of pure hell started. He cried for hours after. Only further adding to my feelings of grief for not being able to get him latched on. I was alone on my room at 2 a.m. Crying uncontrollably unable to comfort my little bundle of gas.

I tried to BF every 2 hours. The night we got home after I had not slept for 5 days, my husband at the time finally had a day off (yes that’s right he did not take any time off for our son’s birth- he went back to work the same evening he was born). I went to take a well deserved nap only to wake up 3 hours later completely engorged and in so much pain I thought some one had dropped an acme anvil on my chest. My night gown was covered in milk that had leaked down to my knees. My milk had come in, an abundance of it, and my breast tripled in size. I was so relieved. FINALLY, I thought. Now he will finally get some milk and we will be fine. I woke my son up and tried for hours to get him latched. He finally would, kicking and screaming, then fall asleep, roll off, and rinse/repeat .

I was in so much pain, sleep deprived but determined. I tried this torture for a grand total of 6 hours. Yes, 6 hours of this vicious cycle until my (now ex) husband woke up in a foul mood and took the baby into the kitchen and made him a bottle of formula. Or poison, in my watery dark circled eyes. I slumped my shoulders and buried my face in my hands sobbing. I reached for the pump to relieve my aching breasts. He finished his bottle, cried from gas pains and finally slept. We scheduled a visit with the LC, more of the same.

This went on for 2 weeks. I tried to pump for those weeks, but I was alone all the time with the baby cause his dad worked nights and slept during the day with a colicky newborn. The only way to get this baby to sleep after the initial hour of agony (gas pains)  was to walk him around bouncing with each step or to take him for a car ride leaving this tired momma no time to pump. I had no support. My one friend at the time who wasn’t totally swamped with work or other life tasks was actually just rude about it. She had already expressed her displeasure with my scheduled c-section and my son’s circumcision. She told me to keep trying, she preached the benefits. The ear infections, the risk of SIDS, the bonding all the crap I had beat into me from every LC and mother I knew. Didn’t they understand I was exhausted, I was losing my mind?

I didn’t want to stop. I had the milk, I had the tools, but he just didn’t want it. I finally just gave up. The wave of guilt and self loathing washed over me. I couldn’t enjoy my baby, I could hardly get off the couch. I kept thinking of everything I couldn’t give him. Every bottle of formula, crushed me. It hurt me to the core of my being. I failed him. I felt so lost and had no one to talk too. Eventually I just pushed these things from my mind it got better once I went back to work, but still every time I saw a mother breastfeeding it would resurface. To the point of forcing a smile, and retreating to a bathroom to shed silent tears. Sometimes opening a new can of formula brought the tears on as well.  I told myself I wouldn’t have any more children. My marriage was failing, my son had colic, and ear infections. He was a stressful baby, very loved but stressful none the less.

The experience actually made me not want more children even though I had dreamed of at least two.

Fast forward 3 years. I met the man of my dreams, he loves my son. He helps raise him. I thought, okay, I can do this again, maybe not the breastfeeding but the baby part. I want to have children with this man things will be better and different.

After a while that good old stick popped up 2 lines, turned blue, and screamed pregnant. I took about 8 if them. My first thought was fear, not happiness but fear. Happy came immediately after but all in I saw in that first instant, was breastfeeding, colic, and a marriage that collapsed under the demands of new parents who got hitched too quick. I was terrified I wouldn’t be able to breastfeed-  in fact I told my spouse I wouldn’t even try after we left the hospital, that this one would be formula from the start. He was very supportive; he had heard the story.

I forced breastfeeding from my mind. I knew I would try in the hospital but I would stop the moment I got home. I knew it would be another c section. What I didn’t know was hypertension and gestational diabetes along with bed rest was right around the corner. Giving me loads of time to think and rethink my decision.  I forced the hope back like a damn lion tamer, no sir I would not put myself through that disappointment again.quotescover-JPG-72

 

Then… Here comes boy number 2. In the recovery room the nurse hands him to me and says it’s time to nurse. I cuddle him skin to skin for a moment, take a deep breath, and much to my surprise he latches on like a champ. I stare at him in awe, receiving much praise from the nurses and LC’s for the next few hours. Then there is a tiny spark of hope that I tried so hard to suppress for months. I feel a determination, I can do this!!!

 

He was content just being on the boob. Slept there for hours, cried anytime someone took him away from me. Then the problems started. They checked his blood sugar. It was low but not too bad, so they encouraged more nursing… any amount of colostrum is good they told me. So, a few more hours tick by of him on the boobs. The nurse checks him again and his blood sugar dropped more. She is now worried. An amazing LC comes to my room and she realizes the latch is perfect and although he is moving his jaw the suck is off. She then spends an hour and a half trying to get him to suck on anything, her finger, a dropper, we spend an hour expressing colostrum into anything even a spoon to just dump it in his open eager mouth. Nothing.

 

He is getting lethargic, and now throwing up even though he has had nothing to eat. Throwing up tons of amniotic fluid. Then they bring us the bottle. I welcome it, praying his blood sugar goes up. He is suckling, but not swallowing; it dribbles out of his mouth. An hour later they rush him away to the NICU, they have to get him to eat, his sugars are dangerously low. I am in shock what a difference a couple of hours can make

I am confined to a bed unable to bond with my newborn in the first 24 hours of his life. The tears flow freely and the guilt rears it’s head. My spouse is consoling me, telling me he will be okay. I get updates all through the night, he took a bottle but threw it up, he is getting a feeding tube, he is sleeping.

 

I am up all night, I finally demand they unhook me from everything less than 12 hours post op, I want to see my baby. I am reprimanded by the shift change nurse for not asking for a pump (which I didn’t know was available.) I take my painful first steps wait impatiently for the iv to finish, I am finally unhooked and in a wheelchair to go see my son. The second I come in the nurse informs me they just gave him a bottle but he threw the entire thing up so they might have to use the tube again, it is still in place.

 

I hold him and then I try breastfeeding. He greedily accepts, then we supplement with a sensitive formula. He keeps if down. I go back to my room for some much needed rest, then for the next 8 hours I force myself to walk to that room in the NICU every 2 hours to breastfeed and supplement and then back to my room to pump.

 

He comes back to us healthy and happy. I nurse, he gets a bottle, I pump. We get home, the nursing is going great, I am elated. He spends hours on the breast, then I pump. He cries until he gets the breast back. I have a sense that something isn’t right. I chalk it up to fear of failure. This is our routine for 2 days, until we go see another LC, for a weight, and jaundice check, and a consult. He has lost 5oz in 2 days!!! His jaundice has gone up significantly due to not getting enough to eat. She gives me hell about the latch and the positioning, his latch is good but not perfect. She wants me to do the football hold not the cross cradle. I am getting overwhelmed. He nurses for half an hour, all the while she is criticizing, and telling me not worry in the same breath. “Woman are designed to do this, breast is best, woman have done this through war and famine so you can too, your baby knows what to do, let him stay on the breast as long as possible.” In my head I keep thinking what if…I don’t make enough milk, how am I supposed to nurse around the clock when my ADHD 3 year old comes home from grandmas, what if my breast isn’t best?

 

Then she weighs him, the look on her face is enough to make me lose it, turns out I am only producing less than half an ounce between both breasts. Half of a measly ounce!!! She then pounds this into my head while I am sobbing and she herself is offering a bottle, “Don’t give up you need to give him breast milk because formula puts him at higher risk for SIDS.” The shock and anger in this tiny room is palpable. “Let me tell you a little something…with my first son I got postpartum OCD and anxiety, I never slept unless a family member or friend was awake watching my child sleep because I was terrified of SIDS.” I left the office feeling ashamed and heartbroken.

 

I went home and cried for hours, I made phone calls, I searched the web, I teetered between throwing in the towel soaked with sweat and tears or keeping on until I could add some damn blood to it. My mother finally came to visit and she told me simply and matter of factly, “honey there is nothing wrong with formula, enjoy your baby, stop stressing.” My spouse backed this up further: “Babe stop worrying, he is fine, he doesn’t care as long as he is fed.”

 

Finally I decided I would pump, and try nursing when my other child was sleeping. All the while supplementing. After all, I had done formula before, what is the harm? I felt a weight come off of me. My shoulders could move again. The tears stopped coming so often. I felt relieved. I tried fenugreek, I pumped every 2 hours like clockwork even at night. I tried hot showers, compresses, I spent tons of money on pumping supplies. I massaged, and ate the recommended calories and ate oats, and hummus. Teas and tinctures. I drank 70 oz of water a day.  I did all of this to produce less than 8 oz of breast milk a day.

Then I had a thought: What if I spent as much time with my boys as I did pumping and cleaning pump supplies? What if I stopped applying the creams to my sore cracked nipples? What if I just pump when I feel like it, when my body says “hey you’ve got a little milk here!” instead of trying to force a supply that just won’t come? What if I actually enjoyed feeding time by watching my son look at me like I am the best mom in the world just by offering him a bottle, Instead of dreading the pump afterwards? What if it doesn’t really matter because he is a healthy happy wonderful baby regardless of how he is nourished? I remind myself often that he is thriving, that his big brother is a smart, funny, energetic, loving and talented preschooler and he was formula fed. That his father is one of the smartest and amazing people I know and he was formula fed. That I am an amazing mom who battled colic, and raised one son in my own for years while working. That I am a mom who fights monsters,  kisses boo boos, plays make believe, watches Nick Jr happily and enjoys every second I spend with my children. That I am strong and brave. That I am human. That the naysayers and the moms who judge are insecure and set in their ways.

 

The first month of my second son’s life was an emotional, difficult journey for me. But my decision to use formula has been a well informed and empowering one. I feel better about myself, and my family. I can hold my head high and proudly say that I used to be a mom who judged until this epiphany. We as woman should never judge one another, least of all for our mothering abilities. We all have stories. Maybe we should listen with open minds and open hearts to our fellow mom friends. I am a mother and a damn good one and you know what? I was formula fed too.

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Want to share your story? Email me at formulafeeders@gmail.com.

FFF Friday: “We still have our babies’ best interests at heart…”

So, this week has basically been my own personal episode of “House, MD”. Or maybe “ER”.  Or, “Grey’s Anatomy” without all the hot doctors.

I won’t go into all the details, mostly because I have a mild concussion at the moment and am seeing 2 keyboards in front of me instead of the usual one, which is rather disconcerting…

But you know, this all makes me realize – I have a hard enough time with medical stuff and pain without having a newborn on my hands. I can’t even begin to imagine what Louisa went through… so her story feels very appropriate this week. Moms who have traumatic births or suffer from physical ailments in the immediate postpartum period need special help and special care – not universal “bests” and static recommendations.

Or something like that. Not sure I’m making any sense right now….!

Happy Friday, fearless ones,

The (mildly concussed) FFF

 

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Louisa’s Story

 

I had planned on breastfeeding from the moment I found out I was pregnant. The thought of it made me slightly uncomfortable, but I was going to do it no matter what and find a way to be comfortable with it. I attended the classes, bought the supplies – breast pump, nursing cover, special bottles for when I went back to work. I even pictured what times during the day I would pump while at work. I had a fairly easy pregnancy, no complications and a big, healthy baby boy. And then everything came crashing down…

 

I went in for a routine check at 39 weeks where I was promptly told I was not going to be leaving the hospital until I had our baby boy due to skyrocketing blood pressure. I was excited and terrified. Labor was, well you know labor. Nothing too horrible except it lasted for 42 hours and then everything changed.

 

Our son was laid on my stomach after he was born and I could tell something was wrong, no crying, not moving and not breathing. I had barely touched him before the doctors yanked him off me to start resuscitating him. As you can imagine, I was hysterical, I was convinced he was dead. Once they got him stable they briefly held him up to show me and then rushed him to the NICU. When the NICU doctor came and talked to us I heard big medical terms; nuchal cord, metabolic acidosis, subdural hematoma, etc. quotescover-JPG-51

 

After I was finally wheeled to recovery, around 6 am, mere hours after delivery, the nurse started to promptly show me how to use the breast pump and instruct me to do it every 2 to 3 hours. I was in a fog and could barely pay attention to the instructions. However, my first concern was waiting for the epidural to wear off so I walk and go see my son. I spent an awful 5 days in the hospital of which was a blur of trying to rest, going to the NICU and trying to keep everyone updated on our son’s condition. To top it all off, I had to somewhere in there try to find time to pump. I actually remember the nurse fussing at me the day after labor because I had only tried pumping once and I certainly wasn’t doing it at night, I was trying to get much needed rest. Plus I was more concerned with visiting my son.

 

Once I was finally let out of the hospital, I went home with a nasty, itchy rash on my back of unknown origin. I did the pumping thing around the clock and was completely and utterly exhausted. And I was also going up to the hospital two times a day. I continued to pump to give the milk to the nurses to inject in our son’s feeding tube and got somewhat more successful. It actually made me feel accomplished, I couldn’t control my son being in the hospital, but I could at least give him the best medicine and food possible, my breast milk. This continued for about a week (an eternity at the time).

 

But then, the rash on my back was not getting any better, was spreading to my arms and was extremely itchy and now my boobs were so itchy they hurt. It was as if I was allergic to pumping, it was that deep, under the skin itch you can’t scratch. I seriously wanted to scratch them off. I finally went to both my OBGYN and my family doctor who gave me antibiotics and a cream. Which, the cream, of course, I couldn’t use while pumping. So I tossed it aside and hoped this was just a yeast infection of some sort and took the antibiotics. And then I started getting extremely ill, like being woken up out of a deep sleep to run to the bathroom with excruciating stomach cramps kind of ill.

It was about this time that I had several mental breakdowns at the hospital. I felt like I was constantly watching the clock to see when I needed to rush home and pump instead of spending time with my son. While the NICU was encouraging me to pump there, it just wasn’t comfortable for me with nurses coming in and out and seeing my son hooked up to a million different things. So I would visit with our son for a couple of hours then rush home to pump and then come back. It was exhausting. And finally, the light bulb went off, why am I doing this to myself? I should be spending the time with my son and stop worrying about rushing home to pump. I mentioned it off hand-idly  to my husband that I was thinking about stopping breast feeding all together. At first he didn’t understand why. But luckily that night, the nurse that was duty with our son understood completely and reassured me that I had to do what was best for me and my baby. She felt like society puts way too much pressure on women to have to breastfeed and that they’re a failure and lazy if they don’t. So that was it, I stopped cold turkey. I was thankful my son had at least a week of breast milk before I quit.

 

And boy am I glad I did. Because that was when all hell broke loose. The rash was finally clearing up and the itchy boobs gradually got better, (although that took a good month for them to go back to normal). But I was getting sicker and sicker. That night after I made the decision to stop pumping, I couldn’t go back up to the hospital for three days because I was so sick. I spent my 31st birthday exhausted on the sofa and completely devastated to not be able to visit my son. I went back to my OBGYN and they took a stool sample. I found out I had C-Diff (a very serious and severe intestinal infection) and E-Coli. I was started on antibiotics right away (it took two rounds for the C-Diff).

 

Long story, long. I stopped breastfeeding by choice not because I wasn’t producing milk but because it was turning me into a wreck and I couldn’t be there for my son. Not to mention the illnesses would have eventually forced me to stop anyway. And now looking back, I know I was also battling severe post-partum depression which I also finally got treatment for.

 

I still sometimes am hesitant to tell people I bottle feed or after I tell them I wait for questions or an eyebrow raise. But I know I made the best choice for myself therefore making myself a better mother. When our son finally came home, I was a crazy person, sleep deprivation takes you to a whole new level of crazy. Plus, this being our first child we had no idea what we were doing. So the formula feeding was definitely helpful at 3am when I just needed 2 hours of uninterrupted sleep so I let my husband take over. Or in order to keep my sanity I had to get out of the house and take the baby to the park (and I’m not one of those that would have been able to whip my breast out in public if I was still breastfeeding).

 

And now as I plan for our future children, breastfeeding is not going to be part of the plan. I know I had a really horrible experience with everything the first time around. But I realize, I want to be able to adjust having a new baby and enjoy their newborn stage without worrying about pulling out the boob at 3am or wonder if they’re getting enough milk. And for those times that I need to get out of the house with or without the baby, I know I can do it and leave my husband in charge and not have to worry about pumping enough milk to cover the time I’m gone. For all those breast feeding moms that can make it work, awesome job, you rock! But for all us other moms, for whatever reason, can’t or choose not to, we rock too. We still have our babies’ best interests at heart and a healthy mom equals a healthy baby!

 

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Want to share your story? Email me at formulafeeders@gmail.com

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