Let’s get real. I must be some kind of massochist to still be breastfeeding my daughter. Before having Lu, I was the breastfeeding queen, I reigned over my pinterest board and poured through hashtagged Insta pics to see what I was up against. Awww, look at all of those mamas breastfeeding while doing yoga under a waterfall! Surely this was going to be a breeze. I was going to boob my baby up come hell or high water because IT’S WHAT’S BEST dangit.
Well that slippery little sucker came into the world and changed it all. You never would have known she had an umbilical cord because she was HUNGRY, much like her mama around dinner time. The thing about the first latch is that you are warned that it will be a bit uncomfortable and in the blur of the moment, with everyone in the room grabbing your boob to make the feeding happen, it’s a little rough to know how much pain is the right amount of pain. So I braced myself, surely breastfeeding couldn’t be worse than the previous 42 hours of childbirth, right? I documented our First Latch photo on Instagram because, unlike a lot of the breastfeeding pictures I have seen on the web touting how beautiful and natural breastfeeding is, I felt like it represented the other side of the whole process, the OUCH factor.
I all but hung a paper chain to countdown to the 9th day, the magic day that the pain was supposed to go away. Instead of fading the agony was building. Every latch was increasingly more painful, every night was filled with searing tissue pain that would steal my breath. Q would hold Lucille while I cried that I just couldn’t feed her again, all the while beating myself up for feeling that way. Temperature shifts would bring a flood of tears to my eyes, somehow my boobs were simultaneously dipped in ice and lit on fire and nothing I did would make it better. One of the scarier moments was when I was physically brought to my knees as I got out of the shower, tunnel vision and cold sweats overcame me as I lie on the floor calling for my husband.
There were a host of problems, it turns out. I had a bitty baby with a bad latch (probably because I closed my eyes every time she got near me), I had a weird systemic issue called Raynaud’s Phenomenon that was causing the excruciating tissue pain, I made milk for all the Americas and was pumping early to give my shattered nipples a break. I could write the How NOT To Breastfeed manual in my sleep, ladies. In desperation, and through sobbing breaths I reached out to my OB and asked for an epidural for feeding times. While he thought my idea to be genius he said it wasn’t on the market yet. It took nearly three weeks, four bottles of vitamins, five various nipple creams, a blood pressure medicine script, and wearing tons of layers to get over the hump. Finally, we were on our way to blissful boobing.
Then the mastitis hit. I will venture to say that mastitis felt like I had been sucker punched right in the mammary gland. The deep purple flesh and fever were an awesome look for me. We pulled out all of the tricks from the Breastfeeding Olympics and nursed upside down, had I been thinking we could have Instagrammed that not-so-beautiful moment… It was a few days before the relief came and then BAM, mastitis’ ugly cousin Thrush came to live at our house. At this point I was beginning to weigh my costs in medications, vitamins, nipple butters, and the untold cost of my sanity against a can of formula. Similac called my name like a siren with their convenient marketing and ease of use. It is only because of the overwhelming support I had at a breastfeeding support group and my family that I was able to push through and continue along our breastfeeding journey.
This is where I believe social media campaigns have done a disservice. We can all agree that breast milk is the healthiest option for babies, there is no denying that fact. However, when all we see are mamas making a glorious statement about breastfeeding it can feel like the obstacles that arise are going to be the detriment of the breastfeeding relationship. It turns out that there are only two voices you hear on the subject of nursing and those are the VERY VERY PRO NURSING and those who are against it or feel slighted by those that do. We have countless women who neither love nor hate breastfeeding but do so anyway for however long they can/want to even though it isn’t always what is easiest. I thought for sure that my obstacles would be our undoing and that I was somehow flawed for not falling deeply in love with breastfeeding. Thankfully, there were women in my life that were open to sharing that nursing was just what they did, they also didn’t LOVE every moment of it. It was a comfort to me to know that though my boobs were malfunctioning, I wasn’t broken nor had I failed as a mom.
If you are struggling with breastfeeding and are feeling defeated try to take an objective look at where you are in your journey. Better yet, invite your partner to evaluate how you are feeling about nursing. If you are overwhelmed and unable to enjoy your baby because of the stress breastfeeding has caused, consider coming to peace with supplementing. You know what is actually best for baby? A healthy mom. There is indefinite value in increasing the quality of your life.
We have made it halfway to our goal on the breastfeeding timeline. I am thankful for the love and encouragement that has gotten us this far. If you need me, I will be in the corner of Target wrestling Lucie under a nursing cover and kneading clogs out of my ducts.