I was talking to a friend recently about her pregnancy that wasn’t going as she had hoped, and we started getting into my postpartum experiences: three babies, three different births, three totally different nursing stories. The more I learn about my kids, the more I’m convinced that every baby has their own path, and we just need to do our very best to keep up.
To begin: Imagine a fairly “green” soon-to-be mama. She had big plans for her first baby: a natural childbirth, breastfeeding and cloth diapering. Yep, she was one of those mothers. Now imagine that same mama going into labor 3 months early, totally unexpectedly.
That mom was me. Me… the one who planned everything out, with no room for exceptions. At least that’s the way I was prior to
November 2003 when my world was rocked upside down. My son was born 3 months early via emergency c-section, he was in the NICU, he would wear (gasp!) disposable diapers, and he would not (could not) breastfeed.
I pumped like a mad woman. Pumping was really the only thing that I felt I had control over. Is it really control when you are hooked up to a machine? Anyway, it made sense in my head.
I pumped the entire time he was in the hospital around the clock. Do you know what kind of freezer stash you get when you pump every few hours around the clock and your baby only gets an ounce for the entire day?? We tried to nurse, but he was so little! The nurses couldn’t help me (not many moms asked to breastfeed at my hospital NICU), and really, I was just happy that he was alive. I decided not to press the issue because I really had faith that “it would just happen.”
Well, apparently I don’t know everything (shocker!), I didn’t even know what I didn’t know, and I especially didn’t know who to ask for help. My son had a whole slew of problems relating to eating. After he was released from the hospital at just over 3 months (and barely 5 pounds), he continued to have issues eating. He was burning more calories than he was taking in; breastfeeding would be very difficult. I was still determined to continue trying.
I remember it like it was yesterday, we were at a speech therapist’s office (did you know that babies see a speech therapist when they have issues with eating? I didn’t!), and the therapist assured us that our son would eventually be weaned off of his NG tube, but eating for him was like running a marathon. We needed to make it as simple as possible and allow him to burn as few calories as possible, and (here it comes… that punch to the gut) “he was not a candidate for breastfeeding.” Oh wow…that certainly came out of left field. I never saw it coming. I had tears in my eyes from those words. You know the tears: you’re so mad and sad at the same time, but you can’t blink for fear of everyone seeing you break down. He was not a candidate for breastfeeding. That hurt.
Well, I pumped for 14 months for that little guy and he was so chubby (as chubby as a preemie can be) and I was so proud.
Three years later, I had my second child. I had the birth I wanted, and that big fat (well, fat for us after having a 3-pounder) purplebaby was laid on my chest immediately after he was born (I actually caught him… pulling him right to my chest). We lay there and reveled in the fact that we did what we had planned for, and it was amazing. And then… what’s that?? What’s he doing?? He pushed his way right to my breast. That little boy knew what to do. After being a mom for almost 3 years, I actually had a baby at my breast, sucking with gusto! He was my boob baby. Our nursing relationship was as perfect as I could imagine, save for the fact that he refused to take a bottle, but that’s another story.
And then another 4 years later, a little girl arrived, and she too took right to the breast. My 5-minute labor in the hospital made me wish I had just stayed home to have her! While she is a mama’s girl too, she’s not quite the mama’s girl that her older brother was. Remember the show Dinosaursfrom the 80’s? The little baby dinosaur called the daddy dinosaur “not the mama”? Well in our house, with our daughter, I am “not the dada!” Daddy can do no wrong – she’s only 1… I foresee HUGE issues as we enter the teenage years with her. My husband was home during her first year much more than he was with the boys and was able to soothe her like nobody else. I wanted to be sure that we nipped the whole bottle feeding thing in the bud before any issues arose. I pumped, gave my husband the bottle and she took to it like a champ when she was just a few weeks old. And the look she gave my husband after he fed her was priceless. It was as if she was more in love with him since he too could feed her. That made pumping a little easier. She just turned 1, still loves her daddy and they still have “their time” with a bottle a couple times a week. I still get those quiet nights alone with her and actually don’t mind missing sleep for those late night or early morning feedings. I am trying to enjoy these moments, because like her brothers, I know it won’t last forever.
Three kids, three completely different experiences and three totally different personalities. Just because one thing doesn’t go your way, doesn’t mean it’s the end of the world. Go with the flow. Ask questions. I sure wish Breastfeed, Chicago! was around 8 years ago. I might have found someone to help me nurse my preemie. It’s all good though. What I learned was that pumping didn’t make me any less of a mother (even though some people made me feel that way… but perhaps that was my filter), pumping made me an AMAZING mother. Pumping is hard work, and we do what we need to do for our kids. If your child consumes breastmilk, you are a breastfeeding mother; it doesn’t matter how you get there.
Lastly, just because you had problems nursing one baby, doesn’t mean you’re going to have trouble with the next. Hang in there, build a community of support, and know that you are doing the very best that you can.
Beth is happily married, living in the south suburbs of Chicago with her husband 3 children and dog, Luca Brazzi. She has 43 months (and counting) of breastfeeding under her belt (rather, above her belt). She enjoys teaching others about healthy kids and non toxic cleaning through her Shaklee business, Maximum Wellness (http://maximumwellness.myshaklee.com/us/en/). When Beth is not running her business, she can be found laughing with her family.