I Received this email from Tina from Massachusetts, shortly after posting last fridays "What I've Learned-It Only Takes Four Months"
I have always known that I would breastfeed. It was never a question for me, although I did have to convince my husband. When my son Owen was born, the nurse placed him on my chest. In minutes, he found my breast and began to nurse. The nurse smiled at me, telling me he was a natural, and I cried. Isn't that what we dream will happen? My next opportunity to nurse my son didn't come until the next day. The lactation nurse got him undressed, placed him in position, and Owen bobbed his little mouth in anticipation. He grasped, and gulped, and in one quick moment, he popped back, chocking and screaming. We tried again, position after position, until finally it was decided that he was just not ready. With tears streaking my face, I gently rocked my newborn son to sleep.
The rest of the day was a blur of the same. Painful screams, tears and quiet desperation as that "perfect" scenario quickly slipped away. Nobody slept, nobody ate. Nurse after nurse walked in, truly believing that if that forced his tiny little face into my breast hard enough he would eat. All they got were more screams, growing angrier each time. I was heartbroken. I felt broken, unable to perform such a natural task, unable to provide food for my helpless child.
And then I met the night nurse. Like all the others, she pressed his face into my breast mercilessly. He cried and gasped, as though he were being tortured. I looked at her and cried and i begged her to stop. She didn't. Finally I pulled the baby up and curled around him. The nurse pulled back in awe. I had insulted her. She left the room and quickly came back with a small bottle of formula. She placed it next to me and stepped away. She glared and told me that I could not starve my child and that I needed to feed him the formula. In a fit of hormone driven rage, I picked up the bottle and hurled it at her head with all the strength I had. In retrospect, that could have been handled better, but I think my point was received. I was then informed that this nurse needed to do a glucose test to prove that I was starving him. Two hours and a vial of blood later, my son was returned with the diagnosis of being just fine.
The lactation nurse came into my room the next morning and helped me to hand-express. Cup after cup, my husband fed him with a tiny dropper, so we wouldn't have to give him a bottle. The nurse was astounded at how much I was able to express, and left to get me a pump so she could teach me to use it. She set me up and left to check on another patient. When she came back, over an hour later, my nipples were mutilated, unrecognizable, and covered in red blisters. This is how I left the hospital.
I don't think I made it through a feeding without crying for weeks. I would try for hours, watching him sputter and choke as the milk poured out of his mouth. I soaked through two to three bath towels with each feeding, and nursing pads barely lasted an hour. My breasts were badly engorged and I was in a lot of pain. I asked family, friends, neighbors and near-strangers for advice. I begged my mother as though everyone were hiding some secret from me.
At Owen's two week visit, the doctor set up a VNA lactation nurse to visit me. She winced in pain as I revealed my breasts. She prescribed a cream for the nipples and told me not to pump anymore, that I was increasing my supply. For the next two weeks I iced my breasts, took shower after shower, and leaned over the sink just to relieve some pressure. No shirt was loose enough. When the nurse came back, she found me worse off than before. That was when she told me that I had an oversupply. She set up a pumping schedule to "reset" my breasts. Music to my ears. Within twelve hours, I felt human again, and something amazing happened, Owen latched on right away. Not only that, he stayed on.
It took another month of ups and downs before things really settled in. Owen had gotten lazy from the milk just pouring into his mouth, and had never gotten a good latch, because I was too afraid to break any latch he had. I got engorged a couple more times, but now I knew how to fix it.
Despite all of the problems we had, Owen has never had a bottle, or formula for that matter. At now ten months old, the breastfeeds like a pro. I look back at our first months together as just one of the many challenges we will face together, and I am proud of how far we've come. I'm thankful for the people who supported me, and the one person who was able to help me get where we are today. I wish there were more people out there, who could tell new moms that it's going to be okay, that there is an answer to every problem, and a light at the end of every tunnel, and you CAN do this.
We, as moms do some pretty amazing things. We create life from a tiny mass of cells, and we do it more perfectly than any scientist. We create their food from no more than our own bodies, and we do it better than the wealthiest businesses. Why do we still question ourselves?
Tina, nursing mama of Owen 10 months