Friday, August 5, 2011

Balancing Life Part 2: Breastfeeding


Last Friday marked my first day back to work, the end of an era. I remember my conversation with HR. At the time, 8 weeks of maternity leave seemed like an eternity. I foolishly told my boss that it was my summer vacation and I was sure that I would spend endless days on our deck getting a tan. How foolish I was. Those first weeks were a wilderness of bewilderment and doubt. I had spent so much time preparing for the baby by gathering baby gear and making freezer meals, that I had no idea what to actually do once I got the baby home. Breastfeeding was not going well (and is still something I loathe). When you spend a third of your day doing something that wants to make you tear your hair out, it was no surprise that every single day for the first three weeks, I cried. There was an evening when my parents were still here that we went out for supper on our own. I remember sitting in the driveway after supper, weeping, because I was so tired of trying to breastfeed unsuccessfully and didn't want to go back in the house.

I had prepared myself for the challenge of labor, but there was nothing in my arsenal that prepared me for the challenge of breastfeeding. After my prenatal breastfeeding class, I thought that breastfeeding would just be another one of those things that would come naturally. That my body was designed to produce milk and that it would be one of the best gifts I could give my child. They made it sound so easy. Boy, was I wrong. I had heard one or two horror stories about cracked nipples and getting mastitis, but no one mentioned how breastfeeding might not come naturally. I have one friend who had told me her tale of low milk supply. No one talked about having a child who is the slowest eater on the face of the earth or having a child who has a short tongue. Both of which I'm convinced are genetic - Lance has a short tongue and so does his father and my entire life I've been accused of being a slow eater.

Breastfeeding from day one was hard - even at the hospital. Lucan is a baby who, from the moment he entered this world, has sucked in his bottom lip. He barely opens his mouth up enough to latch. He likes to flail wildly and will sometimes anger himself and spit out my nipple. It took almost 6 days for my milk to come in. By that time my child was starving and had lost almost a pound since we had left the hospital. We started giving him a bottle of formula before he was a week old. I was taking a pound of Fenugreek pills and drinking gallons of Mother's Milk Tea everyday. I don't think it made any difference.

I remember at the end of two weeks thinking there was no way I was going to be able to breastfeed a month, more of less the entire first year of my child's life. The best piece of advice a friend (Carrie - that's you!) gave me was to make small goals and take it day by day. At the end of two weeks, I told myself to hang in there another week. There was a point at the end of the third week I almost gave up. I had gone to a Mommy & Me breastfeeding class at the hospital and Lucan refused to breastfeed there. I ended up giving him a bottle at the breastfeeding class. I was mortified and at the end of my tether. I ended up crying in the parking lot and decided then and there I was done with breastfeeding.

If you are acquainted with me, you know that I am stubborn to a fault. Even though I had vowed to be done with breastfeeding, I really wanted to make it to a month. I wasn't quite ready to give up. The lactation consultant that I had called everyday (yes, I realize that I'm annoying) suggested that perhaps I make an early move to my "work" schedule - meaning breastfeed first thing in the morning and then again in the evening and pump in between. That suggestion is the only reason I am still breastfeeding and still sane.

Now that I am back to work and pumping here, I'm finally grasping what everyone warned me about - that it's hard. It's hard to force yourself to leave your desk to go and pump. Most of the time I feel like I'm a bad employee.

I'm continually struggling with balancing plugged milk ducts, a child who just does not breastfeed well and the hassle of pumping with the pressure I feel from other moms to breastfeed. How long will breastfeeding last? I have no idea. But just like Carrie told me, I'm taking it one day at a time, setting one small goal after another. At some point I may be forced to examine the balance of breastfeeding Lucan versus our family life and what is the best for everyone. It will also force me to accept that I am not a horrible mother if I end breastfeeding early.

Now the biggest challenge may be is convincing myself that I am not a lesser mom if I give my child formula. Formula will not kill Lucan, nor will it give him a lower IQ or automatically ensure he will get ear infections. I was a formula baby, am relatively intelligent and had very few ear infections as a child. Motherhood, for me, is about finding balance and letting go of my preconceived expectations.


Kerry said...

Thank you for writing this post. Reading how you've been balancing life with little Lucan is helping me as well.

Our little Halle will be two weeks tomorrow and somedays are so overwhelming with the demands on my body. From breastfeeding to nights os disrupted sleep. I expected all of it, but with my hormones and emotions way out of wack, it helps to know I'm not the only Mommy who cries almost daily. Sounds like you are doing a fabulous job with your little man!

*carrie* said...

Thanks for your honesty, Kara. I'm proud of you for continuing to try to figure out what is best for all of you.

Love the pix of Lucan in his 2-month onesie!

Linz said...

You are such a blessing in that little boy's life, and in ours for sharing your motherhood woes. There are so many weird stigmas about breastfeeding - you either do it too short, too long, too privately, too openly.. I think the fact that you have persevered through so many trials already proves how awesome you are, and you can stop whenever you darn well please! I think a lot of kids our age were raised on formula, and we're clearly geniuses. ;)