BREASTFEEDING IS EASY & OTHER LIES WE TELL OURSELVES...PT 1.
Its World Breastfeeding Week! From August 1st-7th we get to celebrate, honor, encourage and learn about the miraculous benefits of breastfeeding. We will see so many beautiful photos of breastfeeding women all over the world and advocate for the importance of this natural and amazing food source for our children. I too will be posting photos of Junie nursing. Yes to advocate for it, but mostly because I am beyond fucking proud and full of joy that we have reached the place we are at in our nursing relationship. But...before I get to advocating, I think it only fair to share the real, raw and sometimes ugly truth about nursing my baby. There is so sooooo much to be said about our breastfeeding journey, so i've decided to break it up into parts for you....and for me, lets be honest, this is like therapeutic journaling for me. ;-)
This post goes out to all the first time pregnant mama's out there, may you gain more knowledge in this post than you do from the idyllic social media photos you see. Its also for the mama's who have had their nipples practically hanging off of their tit, to the mama's who have cracked, bled, screamed, cried, sweat, and thought something was wrong with them. Its for the the mama's with the tongue tied baby. For the mama's with thrush, mastitis, clogged ducts, low milk supply, oversupply and engorgement. To the mama's who threw in the towel. To the mama's who pushed through. And even for the mama's who had no problem breastfeeding whatsoever and it was just perfect and wonderful and easy, you lucky ----. Did I miss anyone?
Picture this...two weeks postpartum, sitting on the couch with my husband, perpetually topless with what my husband has lovingly called my new Natural Geographic titties. Messy bun in full effect, sexy mesh panties up to my belly button and a tear streamed, swollen, face from the hours of off and on crying from both me and the baby, but maybe mostly me. Its 10pm and i'm exhausted both emotionally and physically, I am blown away by how difficult things have been and feel a little bit like i'm drowning. Netflix is on and my husband turns on Ali Wongs Hard Knock Wife. If you haven't seen it...please do yourself a favor and turn that shit on. Especially if you are currently in the deep underworld depths of early postpartum and need a good dirty joke to pull you out for a second. I went from tears of exhaustion and all things overwhelm, to tears of hysterical laughter and appreciation. Appreciation that someone could take the insanity of those hard early breastfeeding moments and turn it into pure, relatable, comedy. I can't find any video clips, so you'll just have to go watch it. And if you don't have Netflix, contact me and we will have a viewing party filled with special drinks and chocolate and knowingness. The description she gave of what she thought breastfeeding would be like still makes me laugh and brings me straight back to those topless, mesh panty moments.
"I thought it (breastfeeding) was supposed to be this beautiful bonding ceremony, where I would feel like I was sitting on a lily pad in a meadow and bunnies would gather at my feet while the fat Hawaiian version of "Somewhere Over The Rainbow" would play..." Ali Wong-Hard Knock Wife
Breastfeeding is miraculous, its beautiful, its physiologic nutrition and a beautiful gift we can offer our children. But it must be said...breastfeeding is not easy. Let me say it again, just in case it didn't fully sink in...breastfeeding is NOT EASY. Now, even saying that two times in all caps doesn't leave me convinced that i'll get through to anyone who hasn't been there already. Because after 8 years of doula and training midwife experience, supporting mama's through their own breastfeeding experiences, caring for them postpartum, watching their babies grow through social media, or the few hours that I would spend with them at lunch or the park, I still wasn't prepared for just how hard it could be. I was not worried about breastfeeding at all, it was not a concern for me. When I thought of the postpartum period, my focus was placed on mental health and support, two extremely important parts. But what I did not expect was to discover just how hard breastfeeding can be and just how much it ties into the mental health factor and how vital breastfeeding support is.
I guess this is a good segway into beginning my story...
The first couple days with my daughter at home were blissful and so beyond special, just as people made it seem to be. We sat in bed, snuggling together while she slept on my chest and I watched American Idol (don't ask...I hadn't even watched the show since I was 19 and suddenly it was my go to) and ate one of my absolute favorite desserts...Chocolate Ganache Tart with raspberries made by one of my besties @fromscratchbakedgoods. In those moments of pure ignorant bliss, we were breastfeeding relatively fine, I thought she maybe wasn't latching entirely right based on the look of my nipple, but didn't feel any pain so it must have been fine. Right? My unplanned c-section (that story will come another day) left me on pain meds in the hospital. Oxycontin and Tylenol, which were given around the clock, were working so well I didn't even know I had pain to worry about. When I got home, I made the choice to forgo the narcotics and attempt to take just Ibuprofen and Tylenol around the clock instead. Little did I know, that when the narcotics wore off and Ibuprofen & Tylenol were in focus, I would start to feel a bit more of what was going on, both from my boobs and my incision. Miss a dose of either of those, and i'd be left a sobbing mess. Either from the bad latch she had, or from my sore body and incision pain.
I had a whole set up going, grab the brestfriend pillow, make sure you have your water, set yourself up and football hold the babe onto the boob. But around day 4, my milk came in and, as they say, so did the tears. My boobs were engorged and I was in pain. My mother in law was coming to visit us that day and I asked my husband to please ask her to get cabbage. He didn't understand the urgency or importance of said cabbage and didn't ask his mom, which left me in tears of frustration and calling her myself to insist that she stop and get me some cabbage..."i'll explain later." Haha. Thankfully, she asked no questions and came straight away with the cabbage...(For those who do not know, cabbage is an amazing tool to use on engorged breasts to help decrease the oversupply or pain of engorgement. You don't want to overdo it though, because they're so good at what they do that it can decrease milk supply if used too long or often. Another tool for engorgement is a warm wash cloth with essential oils on it, lavender is a common recommendation).
Anyways, we sat and chatted and had a lovely lunch together. But as the hours went on, I was starting to get very overwhelmed. Juniper was nursing about every 20-60 minutes and my nipples were so insanely sore I would deep scary gasp every time she latched. Then once she was satisfied, I would hand her to my mother in law or my husband to hold for a little bit of time. Emphasis on little bit of time, literally within 20 minutes she would be rooting again. So back to the boob she would go, with me gasping in pain or crying out every latch. After a few hours, my mother in law left and my husband let me know that he had invited his best friend to come over and he was bringing us pizza. I tried my best to pull it together, but just as he got there, as Junie was latching for the 1,000th time that day, I burst into hysterical, can't breathe, crying. I called my best friend, barely able to get the words out that I needed help and she rushed right over. Thank god for friends who live close.
"I can't do this!!" I said sobbing, barely able to see her face through the tears. "I can't feed her, IT HURTS!!! Im not a good mother, I can't be a mother!" Then my beautiful loving friend took my baby, swaddled her, placed a binky right by her mouth, and shushed her to sleep. All while I ugly girl cried into a pillow in my room alone. She handed my sleeping baby to my husband, came in and sat with me and rubbed me and said words I will always remember..."babies do not need to nurse every 20 minutes...you do not need to be the only one to comfort her." And instantly I felt relief. How could I have forgotten?! Of course a baby doesn't need to nurse every 20 minutes. Sometimes they just need to be swaddled, or shushed, and sometimes that may take A LONG ASS TIME, but it will happen. My boobs do not have to be the only comfort. She hugged me, said her goodbyes, and just as quick as she came, she and her magic fairy dust went back to her own babies and husband.
Lesson #1: They're not always hungry! Sometimes they just want to be bounced and shushed! Sometimes they've been bounced and shushed and all other things and nothing is working. The point is, it is not solely your responsibility to figure that out or be the main source of comfort! Yes, you may be the only one who can feed them from the breast (with the exception of lesbian couples who induce lactation in the other mama, of which I would have killed for at that moment, and would still appreciate from time to time now-haha) but bouncing and shushing can be done by all! So let others learn along with you. Especially you c-section mama's, there is no bouncing or standing to be had for you.
James Van Der Beek posted a really great instastory someone tagged me on just as I was writing these words, the timing is pretty much perfect, so I feel it only appropriate to share his words with you....Mr. Van Der Beek, I hope you approve of this post. lol.
"Just maybe not on your schedule".....no truer words can be said of parenthood.
Now, we can't all just sit around all day reading and writing blogs now can we? :) Stay tuned for more story to come...