Saturday, December 1, 2007

Can I talk about boobs?

(By the way, you are not allowed to freak out about those pictures. My boob is safely encased in a bra and tank top and Luca is not attached. This is post-feeding, when she's in Milky-Zone. Plus, I was brave enough to post the pictures, make-up free and all, so you can't be too mad.... and I look kinda skinny in them, further supporting why I'm allowed to post them.)

Well, it's my blog, so I suppose the answer is I can talk about anything I damn well please. So there we have it. Boobs it is (they are?). I'm not sure whether any of my 6 or so readers really give a shit about my boobs and their happenings. But lately I've been thinking a lot about the wonders of boobs in general, and specifically related to feeding babies.

Now, let me preface this with one thing: the intent of this blog post is not to make anyone who has a baby/babies feel bad if they do not/did not breastfeed. Your boobs, your baby, your decision. we have that clear? I care not who has or has not sucked your teets, although if someone has and you're happy/proud about it, I'd love to hear your story, be that someone a cute baby or a cute boy (or is the millenium, people!).

With that out of the way, let's get on to the topic at hand....boobs.

Let me just say now: anyone who says breastfeeding is easy or perfectly natural is either a freak of nature and extremely lucky, or a sadistic bastard trying to make new moms everywhere feel like complete failures. Suffice it to say, breastfeeding was anything BUT easy in those early days. When I was still pregnant, I told myself I would try to breastfeed, and if I couldn't for some reason it would be ok. But I had myself fooled into believing that it would be easy for me. It was not. I also was pretending to be a rational human being, not an extremely-stubborn-even-under-the-best-circumstances-so-forget-being-rational-when-hormonal-and-post-partum new mom.

The first problem we faced was that Luca swallowed some fluid when she was born. So, I got to hold her for a few minutes, but was not allowed to feed her until almost 3 hours later, once they determined her lungs were clear. Missing that window of the hour after she was born took a toll. By the time I first tried to breastfeed, she didn't seem interested at all. She was just sleepy. And trying to latch a baby when neither of you has any idea what you're doing and it's 3 a.m. and you just...HELLO...birthed a real live human being? Well, it's not easy. And it hurts. In fact, the pain was so bad that the hospital bed was shaking because I kept tapping my foot like a mad woman to try to get my mind off the pain.

We went home the day after Luca was born, and I continued trying to feed her. She was still super sleepy, though, and I assumed she was getting enough. And then...all hell broke loose. My milk came in. And it just so happened that right about that time, Luca decided she was not only awake, but HUNGRY. I'll spare anyone still reading this far the details, and just say it was the longest damn night of my life. Baby crying. Mom crying. Dad trying everything short of actually latching on himself to make sure the boobs were working. I thought I would go insane. And at 4 a.m., when your baby can't eat and you can't figure out why, there's not a whole hell of a lot of help to be found.

The next day, we took our exhausted selves to see a Lactation Consultant. Future Moms who wish to breastfeed...find thee a LC you like and put her # on speed dial. They are freaking lifesavers (I went and saw Mary here: I think she cost us the best $30 we've ever spent. Basically, she snuggled Luca, listened to my story while politely pretending she could NOT tell I was 2.4 seconds from a mental breakdown, gave me a huge motherly embrace, and gave us just what we needed to make this whole thing work.. Behold the Nipple Shield.

Some moms get their baby's first shoes bronzed. Not me. I'm getting the damn shield bronzed. For you moms and to-bes, I'll note here that I've been told many times that Luca should have been weaned from the shield within a week or two of introducing it....and here we are nearly 7 months later and still using it. I say: screw what the 'experts' say and do what works. Did I mention my plans to bronze that little fucker?

You know, you can read and read and read all you want about breastfeeding and how to know if baby's eating enough, and still.....I never knew. And it was a nightmare, because she wasn't gaining weight fast enough to please her Dr. She was born at 6 lbs, 7 oz and left the hospital at 5 lbs, 15 oz. By 2 weeks of age, she was supposed to be back to birth weight, and she was not. This, despite the fact the kid LIVED on my boobs for the first 6 weeks of her life. We're talking Darrick would go to bed and I'd be on the couch feeding her....and 8 hours later he'd get up for work and we'd be in the same spot, both of us half-asleep in the same position.

For the next 4 weeks, I had to take her to the Dr every 3 days(ish) to get her weighed and make sure she was doing ok. I'd go in, they'd weigh her, and she would still not be gaining enough to make the Drs stop worrying. I'd hold it together and try to maintain a calm facade, then rush out to my car where I would break down and sob hysterically. Nothing made me feel more like a failure than not being able to help my baby grow. I believe the best way to describe how I felt is to say I felt like a wild animal who had been caged with my screaming, seemingly constantly hungry offspring. And I wasn't sure if the universe wanted me to figure out how to make breastfeeding work, give her a bottle and give up, or eat her. SO glad I didn't choose the last option, because by 2 months, she was gaining at a steady rate, and it was determined that she was on a 'curve', albeit a low one, and she was therefore ok, so we were allowed to go back to the normal baby appointment schedule, and around 3 months I broke my scale addiction and returned the rental to the breastfeeding store.

But, there was more. At 6 weeks I had to go back to work, and I was so sad and stressed out about it. I didn't know how I could continue to breatfeed when it was hard enough to do while home with Luca all day and night. I had a major breakdown and my mom had to come over and talk me down from nominating myself for 'Shittiest Breastfeeder of the Year'. Thank god for moms. I decided to stick with it, and it did get better. But part of what made it better was retiring Lefty.

Ah, Lefty. The bane of my breastfeeding experience. From early on, Luca was not a fan of Lefty, and Lefty apparently was not a fan of her, because he failed to make much milk at all. I worried about it. I stressed about it. And between feeding her almost constantly and taking supplements and eating enough eggs to feed a small village just to get more protein and pumping every goddamn 2 hours around the clock....Lefty still seemed determined to not pull his weight. I worried about that, since I was sure I needed both of them to be working in order to feed my kid. And then my mom, on the night she came over to talk me down, relayed how she fed one of my brothers from just one side. I never thanked her for that bit of TMI, but I should have, because her saying that freed me mentally to do the same. Thanks, Mom.

Weaning from Lefty was no big deal. I kept pumping him (I refer to Lefty as 'him' because no female boob would fuck with a post-partum first time mom the way Lefty did), sometimes 6 or more times a day. And when I went back to work, I tried to keep him going by pumping at night and in the morning, in addition to the daytime tandem pumping sessions. In fact, until a week ago, Lefty was pumped at least 2 times every day. I just stopped that last week when I realized I could pump Lefty three times a day or three times a week and still get the same cumulative amount....about 0.0000657462927397238th of an ounce. And so....Lefty has been retired. Only I refuse to bronze that Fucker.

Anyhow. So that brings us to now. Luca will be 7 months old this week, and we're still breastfeeding. Of course, she gets cereals and fruits and veggies now. And the funny thing about it is, if you'd asked me when she was 3 weeks old how long I'd breastfeed for, I would have expected to have weaned when I went back to work. I was sure it wasn't going to last. I was positive I was going to fail. And that she's closer to an age where a lot of babies are weaned (or, really, past it since only about 36% of women still breastfeed past 6 months in the US -, it's so easy I'm in no rush to wean. I have no plans to be breastfeeding a Kindergartner, so please don't worry. And I'm still shaving my arm pits, so we're safe there. But it took me until Luca was almost 4 months old to finally realize the joy and beauty of the mother-child breastfeeding connection. And I admit...I'm not quite ready to give that up. Because, really, after a long day of work and a disgusting commute, I find peace in these kinds of moments:

All I can say is, I hope maybe someone who read this will benefit someday from knowing that women DO struggle to breastfeed. Not all women, but since having a baby and talking to other moms, I think the majority do in one way or another. And if you're very blessed, like I was, you can work through it if you try. But not all breastfeeding issues can be worked through. And not all moms are as insanely stubborn as I was. For many a mom, sanity and happiness comes in a tub of formula, and I support and commend that decision. And I also promise this will not someday be me:


JELL said...

no no no no. no. this woman should be reported.

Jamie & Johnny said...

Hi Katie,
Of course I remember you. Thanks for saying hi. And thanks for talking about boobs. That is so great! I loved nursing, I nursed Trey until 13 months. Your little girl is a doll and I absolutley love her name. I'm glad to see you and your family are doing so well, Keep in touch! :)

SpazzyJazzy said...

Katie, you are awesome! I love this post. Breastfeeding was not easy at first for me but I hung in there as much as long as I could. The first couple of weeks were kinda hard and it hurt like hell. I shocked the hell out of my cousin's girlfriend who had her baby 6 months before Alex and she asked me how many ounces Alex was taking. I told her until my boob went flat. The look on her face was priceless.

Kellie said...

I can not believe you posted that last picture. You're a sick lady. Although you do look beautiful in the other two, I'll try to stick to remembering those instead.

Megan said...

Oh gawd, I could careless about breastfeeding right now but that post was amazing. AMAZING. And funny.

brandieib said...

Ah shit! Why did you have to kill that beautiful moment with that last picture??? LOL! Thanks for sharing your experiences, even if the last part did burn my retinas. :P


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