Saturday, June 12, 2010

"I wouldn't trade this for anything."

As I write this I am not sure what will become of my breastfeeding relationship with my son, almost 9 months old. I have been back to work for 5 months and this boy is loving his bottles more and more. Two back to back ear infections and a cold have recently caused him to refuse all nursing except once around 4am. And so I pump and pump and pump. Not unlike the start of our breastfeeding journey…

I had a wonderful and easy pregnancy with grand plans for a pure and natural delivery, until week 35 when I was hit with the news of a “very breech” baby, non-stress tests 3/week and a c-section date. That didn’t last long. At 36 weeks exactly a non-stress test landed me in Labor and Delivery and smacked me with an extreme case of pre-eclampsia and hypertension. And a spot in the operating room. Not so minor detail: my husband was in another country and didn’t get to us for another 24 hours from the birth.

I was so scared my body was shaking like a leaf and that didn’t stop for the duration of my 6 day stay in the hospital. He was 5 lbs and had some breathing issues so he spent 6 days in the NICU. I was so doped up from the anti-seizure meds it was 24 hours before I could see him, and I hardly remember that first day. I also don’t really remember how it went down, but the bottom line was my son couldn’t come home until he was breathing, growing and eating. It wasn’t like they discouraged me from breastfeeding him, but they wanted to be able to measure what he was eating and bottle feeding took less effort from him.

And so I pumped, and pumped and pumped. My hospital roomie had twins in the NICU and there was a strange bond in us both waking up around the clock to pump (though who really sleeps in the hospital). And as soon as his feeding tubes came out he got breast milk. The nurses called it butter milk it was so golden. I was obsessed and proud to show up to the NICU for all his feedings with yet another little bottle. The nurses even starting freezing it and when they finally sent us home I already had a freezer stash. They did encourage me to breastfeed and before we left they showed me how to latch him well.

I honestly don’t think I needed the encouragement though. I was so determined! I think because my hopes for birth went so wrong, I was more determined. And because there was so little I could do to control both my health, and my son’s health, breastfeeding was the one area I could control and succeed. And so I gave myself no choice but to succeed. And from there it was easy. Painful, yes, but easy. Sure I may have walked around the house for a few days with my nipples hanging our, air drying. I will never forget one of the first nights at home, being so exhausted and changing for bed while crying and laughing at the same time as milk leaked in a steady flow all over the place. And for the first 10 or so weeks at home my son ate every hour or two around the clock. But it was fantastic. It made me feel strong, proud and organic. Family loved to ask his current weight and then marvel at how many pounds he gained (he’s 20 lbs now!).

Because we were not able to “bond” well at birth or through our stay in the hospital, breastfeeding allowed us to bond at home. And when I returned to work it was the precious time where only I could provide for my son. That is selfish in some ways, but I don’t apologize for that.

We’ve had a great run, and I hold onto hope that once he is well he might decide to come back to nursing. We’ve nursed in stores, restaurants, planes, cars and airports. On vacation we sat on the lawn in front of the White House and nursed, as well in museums and at monuments. I really wanted to nurse at least one year, and be able to say that he never received anything but breast milk. And so I’ll pump some more.

Erin, 29 Mom to Clinton, 8.5 months old

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