Tuesday, August 07, 2007

My Story

In conclusion of World Breastfeeding Week, I thought I'd share a brief version of my breastfeeding story.

In 1996, when Ray was born, I had no idea there would even be such a thing as a breastfeeding story. Back in the day, I was left to rely on the small world of office birth and parenting stories and had very little input from friends. In fact, I really was just going through the normal course of doctor appointments, childbirth classes, and the one-hour breastfeeding class held at the hospital. I wasn't reading any books about breastfeeding because I was still in college and spent my spare time preparing for natural childbirth with the ONE (yes ONE) childbirth book someone had loaned to me. So I really just wasn't very prepared for breastfeeding and I guess I just assumed it would happen normally and easily.

And it did happen pretty well. But when I look back on how it started, it's really a true blessing that we had any success at all. I was very much a closet nurser and did lots of soothing with a paci. I remember being frustrated with those nights when Ray would cry after being put back in her crib or when she seemed to want to nurse again before 2 or 3 hours had passed. But somehow, we made it.

Until she was 9 days old that is! WOULD YOU BELIEVE I LEFT HER FOR AN ENTIRE EVENING SO THAT HENRY AND I COULD ATTEND A GARTH BROOKS CONCERT IN BIRMINGHAM?!? What was I thinking? (I am sooooooo sorry, Ray!) I know she didn't have very much milk expressed for her in a bottle because I wasn't making very much "extra" with pumping. She cried a bunch while we were gone. And I will NEVER forget feeling that music in my full boobs! When the concert was over, I could NOT get home fast enough. I was such a dummy....

At 3 months old, I was starting the weaning process because I knew I'd be returning to work. I tried pumping to supply her needs but the job I ended up having was NOT pump-friendly and by 4 months, I was having to supplement with formula. It only took a couple of days before she wanted nothing to do with nursing and was a full-time formula-fed baby. She got her first ear infection (that never really went away for a year) that first week off of breastmilk.

Fast-forward to Indie. Because of Ray's massive ear infections, I was determined to nurse Indie for longer. I was confident the formula made her sick and I did NOT want to experience that same pitiful baby stuff again. So I swore I'd stick it out.

But it was HARD! I remember wanting to quit at around 6 weeks old but Henry sat with us while I was crying and said, "What can we do? You know you'll regret quitting. What can help? Don't give up yet. Let's figure this out."

So I found some breastfeeding books, read them cover-to-cover, and did every step-by-step instruction in them. And, thank God, things got better. But in hindsight, I realize I probably had a pretty massive breast yeast infection because things never really got perfect with her, just better.

So we worked through all the stages the pediatrician says you're supposed to do...cereal, apple juice, jarred baby food, etc. And around 6 months of age, I felt accomplished and even wrote in my journal, "it was time to wean." Besides 6 months just being the "goal" I also knew we had a Disney World trip planned for the time Indie was 7 months old and I'd surely be insane to be breastfeeding while on vacation! OH HOW I WISH I HAD KNOWN BETTER! The hassle of carrying around bottles of good water and powdered formula was such a PAIN! Breastfeeding would have been a MILLION times easier!

Skip ahead again to Rocky. By the time I was pregnant with him, I was bound and determined to nurse for at least a year. I was into doula-ing by that time and made all kinds of new friends in the natural childbirth world. I was on the internet by that time and found a huge new world to research and interact with. I was finally being changed in the way I thought about things, and boy was it different.

And in all honesty, I don't remember too very much about Rocky's first months. I know it was horribly depressing and hard and that it was only by a mix of committment and laziness that I pushed through those first few months. We had yeast/thrush SO BADLY and I was struggling with post-partum depression in a pretty big way. I remember the agonizing pain of every nursing and the pitiful cries Rocky made as his rock-hard stomach struggled to deal with the massive buildup of gas in his gut. I remember being laid out on the couch while Henry took Rocky outside to calm him. When he couldn't walk with him any more, I'd lay down with him and be miserable in pain as Rocky desperately wanted the comfort of nursing but was painfully unable to latch for long. It was rough.

But when he was 9 months old, my desperation and Henry's prayers brought us to a new understanding of health and nutrition and within a few months, our lives were radically changed! We slowly conquered the yeast problems and our household was sane again! It was by Rocky's 1 year old birthday party that I realized this healthy-living stuff really worked and that I was gonna stick with this breastfeeding for as long as we both wanted because it was working for us in a really big way! I also had a bit of guilt-related stuff going on that drove me to attempt making up for lost time. Mix all of this with a Maya Wrap and we became a crunchy, attachment parenting family without really even trying!

Rocky happily nursed into the first trimester of He-Man's pregnancy. I don't know if hormones made for a taste or supply change but something made him ready to stop. His very last nursing was at the movie theater when we went to see the Jonah Veggie Tales movie. I distinctly remember him saying, "I'm allllll done, Momma." And that was that.

He-Man got the (I'd like to say...) advantage of me being older, wiser, more experienced, and MUCH crunchier than ever before. By the time he was born, there was no question that he'd be 100% breastfed for as long as we both were happy with it and I fully expected that to be at least 2 years. And I was right. It was at least 2 years. It was ALMOST 3 years! But another Disney trip played a part in weaning. By the time He-Man was nearing his 3rd birthday in March, we went to Disney the December before and his nursing was down to pretty much just naps and bedtime. Well, at Disney World, exhaustion was the only thing needed to get a child to sleep. There was absolutely no need for "mik." So with a few, "I think I like to nurse" sessions after our trip. He-Man decided it was done.

And I thought that was it forever.

And now we're to Captain and things couldn't be better. I can't believe I'm blessed enough to be doing this again. And time is going by much faster than it ever has before. I REALLY can't believe it's time to let him start experimenting with solids! I mean the kid's gonna be 6 months old next week!! We've already let him gnaw on a hard-baked dinner roll but I'm sad about the fact that I need to start considering some other foods we can let him play with.

So, you can see that breastfeeding has been a big journey for us. I certainly didn't start out as a passionate, some say millitant, breastfeeding Mom but with the blessings we've seen and the health improvements we've received, and the bonding that's occurred, I can't help but want to encourage other Moms to reach for the same thing. It's MORE than worth the effort. It's really just an amazing way to love and be loved.

Hope you've all had a wonderful Breastfeeding Week!


Amy said...

Wow! That is a very personal, moving story. I understand the passionate part of breastfeeding. When you have that bond because of breastfeeding that you can't get with bottlefeeding(don't condemn me I've had it both ways so I know from experience.), It's hard not to be passionate and help others to experience it. It is such a unique bond and love between you and your nursling that's just overwhelming and amazing. It probably has alot to do with the hormones released when you are nursing also! Thanks for sharing your story of how breastfeeding has impacted your childrearing.

Anonymous said...

Thank you so much for sharing your experiences. It's comforting to know of others that have struggled a little too. I pray to have another chance to do it better!


Hope said...

Beautifully written. I nursed Nate (my first) 7 months before being diagnosed with breast cancer. Then I had to wean to start treatment. It never really became easy, but I'm so glad I stuck to it. It turned out to be my only breastfeeding experience. I really wanted to breastfeed Reese (with my remaining breast), but was so fearful of the cancer thing I didn't. It makes me sad we didn't get to experience that together.

Martha's World said...

This is why I take particular note of advice from mothers of many children. The more you have, the more time passes, the more you learn and grow.

Billy & Suzanne said...

Thanks for sharing your experience and all of your wonderful encouragement! I know my family wouldn't be the same without it. I couldn't breastfeed Julianna, but it has been so encouraging to have a friend that is well versed in attachment parenting. Now, I have the privilege to nurse Matilyn and I am so glad to have you to encourage me along the way. God bless you and your family!