When I found out I was pregnant, after the initial shock of “what the heck?” wore off, I went straight into planning mode. Planning the birth, planning the room, planning the shower, and planning how I would feed. Breastfeeding was the only thought in my mind. I watched my mother breastfed my sister, and I thought it was the coolest thing in the world. It was just another reason why I felt women are magical. We grow things and make milk. If that isn’t magic, I don’t know what is!
Then I began to read parenting blogs, books, and even grabbed advice from my friends. And then came the doubt. What if I couldn’t feed my baby? How will I do it? What about work? Would my husband be able to bond if I was the only one feeding? One thing I learned is that there would be a learning curve, but that my body was made for this. I could do it. My breasts were built for this. Right?
Our sweet girl came in to the world via c-section. She was placed in my arms and I melted. My OB knew I wanted skin to skin immediately and that is what we did. I looked at her. She looked at me. I inhaled her. Then, I gladly gave her my breast. This is what were supposed to do, right? Well, she made it known from jump, she had no interest in latching.
None. Zero. Zilch.
So we tried a while, she wasn’t a fan. She slept, and tried a little while later. Still no interest. So in the “we can do it!” spirit, I kept at it. We tried, tried some more, and tried again. We did the SNS system. We met with lactation consultants. We tried nipple covers, latching devices, everything. She wanted no parts. I pumped. Nothing came. By day 3, I was over it. Angry. Upset. I felt defeated.
But. I kept trying. After all, I was made for this, right?
By day 4, my milk was coming in slowly but surely. Just as we were packing up to leave, I sat to pump. Praying, hoping, wishing something would be enough to feed my little one. I had pumped 2 oz from one breast. IT WAS A MIRACLE!! Then I sat and pumped another 2 oz. I pumped like I was going to win an award. We pumped enough to make the 20 minute trek home and then some. We also rode home with formula from the hospital staff. My little one had formula. as well as breast milk. Knowing that I would be in for a challenge with a little one that wouldn’t latch, in my head, I had to sketch out a plan to do this mommy thing. Again, I was made for this, right?
As a planner by nature, I was ready for the pumping challenge. I had ordered my hospital grade pump, already learned how to operate it, and had milk bags and bottles ready to go. I was gonna do this. So here we were, a mommy on a mission to get her baby some milk. I was a pumping mama. I was formula feeding mama. I set a schedule and pumped every 2.5-3 hours. We were producing liquid gold! After a few days, I noticed my little one had tummy trouble. At her first weigh-in with her pediatrician, I mentioned it to her as well as the lactation consultant on staff. Together, they suggested I watch my diet and try to rule out allergies. As fate would have it, Little Miss M ended up having a milk sensitivity.
Needless to say, my breastfeeding journey was already filled with guilt, depression and what ifs. But, we would press on together. I was watching my diet, making note of any changes that I noticed, and pumping like a champ. I was able to fill my freezer with milk and I was feeding my little one. I would go back to work several months later, and continue to feed her with help from a cousin, as what I had stored in my freezer.
Despite the guilt, depression, and what-ifs that accompanied my breastfeeding experience, what I know to be true is that I grew, carried and birthed the baby they said I wouldn’t have. I produced milk and fed that sweet baby. I can clean, sanitize and prep a breast pump with the best of them. I can mix up a bottle of formula pretty well, too. All of this was a page out of my motherhood journey. I can look back and be proud of that work. It was indeed loving work. It didn’t go as planned, and that is okay. In the moment, I wasn’t always in a space as a mother to see what that work looked like and be proud of it. Breastfeeding won’t look the same for everyone, it shouldn’t. But what I can say for certain is that it is a labor of love. A labor, I’d gladly experience all over again.