What I can do is give him a mother that loves him more than anything in this world, that gives him her undistracted and undivided attention, and has shown that she’ll go to extraordinary lengths to try to do what’s best for him.
I was born to be a mother.
I was born to be a mother. I don’t mean that in an every female should have children and stay home and raise them kind of way. I don’t believe that. But I always knew that I wanted to spend days holding a baby against my chest and spending too much time rubbing lotion into chubby little thighs. I am a sister, the oldest of seven children, and the only girl. I have been a second mother since my first brother arrived before my second birthday. I am the daughter to a mother who proudly breastfed all of her seven children, even multiples, and who is a certified lactation consultant. Growing up, and still today, motherhood and breastfeeding are the most beautiful thing to me. Before I became a mother, those things were one and the same. While on our pregnancy journey I had this angelic vision of sitting topless in my bed nursing my cooing newborn baby. But it didn’t work like that.
Growing up I learned that you can truly achieve anything or get anything you want if you work hard enough. Never in my life have I not won something, gotten a job, or accomplished a goal that I really wanted, because I always put every ounce of my energy towards it. I always got what I wanted because I worked to make sure that I did. After my son was born and breastfeeding wasn’t going well, I poured that same energy into making breastfeeding work. He had a perfect latch, I just wasn't producing milk. So I worked with lactation consultants from three different organizations and combined all of their advice. He was doing his part, the fault was on me, so I was going to work harder than any breastfeeding mother and this was going to work for my son and me.
Over the span of 15 days, I pumped 73 hours.
I am a Behavior Analyst so I take data on everything that I do. Naturally I took data on my nursing and pumping. I nursed using a supplemental nursing system 9-12 times a day and pumped 10-12 times a day. I power pumped for an hour twice a day. Over the span of 15 days I pumped 73 hours. I had two alarms set for nursing and pumping that went off every other hour. The longest stretch I would have day and night without having to pump or nurse was 30 minutes. I drank water all day, ate every lactation cookie, drank every shake, ate oatmeal with flax and chia seeds. I took Fenugreek and was prescribed Reglan. I spent working hours on the phone with lactation consultants who kept telling me that I was doing everything I could be doing. After working hours, when consultants who couldn’t give me the answer I was wanting to hear no longer answered their phones, I’d spend my time reading articles trying to find the solution myself. At night I’d sit up in bed doing research, my son laying swaddled in my crossed legs and tears running down my cheeks trying to read a bleary screen. I never produced a single drop. But I couldn’t give up. In my mind, tomorrow could always be the day that everything paid off. Finally after three straight weeks of this, physical and mental exhaustion, and my final visit to a lactation consultant, she advised that I go get my hormones checked. I received a blood panel and it was, at this point, the worst day of my life. I learned that my body was not producing Prolactin. No matter how hard I worked, my body could not produce milk without this hormone. Tomorrow would never be the day that everything pays off. Even with this news, it still took me another 48 hours to give up. I continued to pump and pray, pray and pump.
I would stand naked in the shower looking down at my breasts and cry. I’ve never hated anything more in my life. I had these two worthless masses hanging off my body. Every time I saw myself naked I was reminded of my incompetence and that my experience as a mother would never be what I envisioned. If someone would have offered me a mastectomy during those weeks, I would eagerly have taken it.
There is a special place in heaven for my mom, who sat in bed with me watching Hunger Games for a week, and for my husband who rubbed my back and took care of me and a newborn. It took my husband sitting on the edge of the bed while I was hooked up to my pump with a clip board and tear soaked data sheets strewn across our bed, telling me that I was missing this perfect angel of a boy that was right in front of me, before I could start to turn it around. I was infuriated when he told me that. Through gritted teeth I told him he could never understand and this was what’s best for our son. But he was right.
I mourned breastfeeding. I am still mourning breastfeeding.
I am finding peace with the situation, but I’d be lying if I said it didn’t make my gut twinge when I saw someone breastfeeding, or that I don’t feel judged when I have to give my son a bottle in public. I mourned breastfeeding. I am still mourning breastfeeding. I still hate that I didn’t get to give that to my son. But I took much more than breastmilk from him those first few weeks of his life. I took away his mother. I missed the bliss of those first few weeks of rosy cheeked, milk breath newborn snuggles being hyper focused on something that I felt defined my worth as a mom. I’ve learned breastfeeding doesn’t make a mother. No, I cannot give him the nutritional benefits of breastmilk. But what I can do is give him a mother that loves him more than anything in this world, that gives him her undistracted and undivided attention, and has shown that she’ll go to extraordinary lengths to try to do what’s best for him.