Saturday, August 30, 2008

Motherhood is a Bittersweet Symphony

It was just yesterday that I was pregnant, and decided to breastfeed. I took a class about nursing, where the lactation consultant painted a rosy picture of breastfeeding. Although she made it sound nice, I was truly terrified. I was more nervous about breastfeeding than I was about labor and delivery. Seriously. I mean, people were going to see my BREASTS!

But I knew the benefits for Evie and myself, so I decided to try it. No pressure, I would nurse as long as I could. I hoped to make it six months or even (gasp) a year. I didn't really have a firm goal because I didn't want to disappoint myself if it didn't work out. I was just going to see what happened.

Well, the first time I nursed Evie, it was a miracle. She had just been born, and she put her little mouth to my breast and ACTUALLY NURSED! I couldn't believe it! There I was, a MOM WHO WAS NURSING HER BABY! Later, Evie's pediatrician casually mentioned I could supplement with formula until my milk came in, but I dismissed him. I could feed her just fine myself, thanks.

And then the day I was leaving the hospital, the baby blues set in. I know hormones played a big part in my breakdown, as did sleep deprivation and just not knowing anything about caring for this little creature. Evie was hungry, and she was mad. She cried and cried and her nurse nicely suggested we should think about supplementing with formula. But what about nipple confusion and my milk supply? I was paralyzed with indecision. I felt like a failure as a mother already. My body was not doing what it was supposed to -- it was leaving my precious girl hungry!

After a good cry and a visit with the lactation consultant, I felt better. I would give her tiny sips of formula and nurse like crazy until my milk came in. Evie's reaction was my first clue to her temperament. She wanted to eat! We all had a terrible first night at home - me and my hormones, my hungry baby, and poor Chris. The next morning we visited the pediatrician and he ordered us to give her a bottle. Evie sucked it down in minutes and fell into the most peaceful sleep. Right then, we decided to supplement until my milk finally came in.

Just hours later, I was nursing Evie and I heard her swallow! My milk was finally here! Evie had a 24/7 buffet, and often fell asleep while eating. I remember our nursing sessions would take forever. She would nurse for 45 minutes, be alert for 15 minutes or so, sleep for half an hour and wake up hungry! A week or so went by and things settled into a nice routine.

Then I noticed something odd. Evie would nurse for a few minutes and then begin to fuss. She often had this little cough, too. It turned out to be reflux. I had never heard of this, but her doctor assured us it was common and gave us a prescription.

Then she started having bloody diapers. This freaked me out. The reflux wasn't under control yet, and now this. Evie was non-stop crying. I was going crazy. We spent her one-month birthday in the Emergency Room, where they gave her a different RX for her reflux and diagnosed her with Milk Protein Intolerance. I was under orders to cut dairy from my diet and see if her condition improved.

A week later, things weren't much better, so our pediatrician referred us to a Pediatric Gastrointerologist. After speaking with us for a couple minutes, Dr. Brady increased Evie's reflux medicine and diagnosed a Cow's Milk and Soy Protein Intolerance. She suggested I change to formula and I actually cried. Okay, I could still breastfeed, but she warned it would be tough. No eating out, and I had to read food labels to watch for dairy and soy. Trader Joe's was my savior.

Even though the diet was restrictive, nursing was great. It was so nice to have these quiet, snuggly times with Evie. We would settle in with the Boppy, and I would stroke her face as she drank. I would sing to her and I always felt such warmth. I felt like a mother. I noticed how she grew taller and taller. Her feet began to hang off the Boppy. She grew more hair. She even asked to nurse!

Right after her first birthday, I reintroduced dairy and soy and Evie did great. Even though she could drink cow's milk now, too, we both still liked nursing. And so we've gone on and on. I've been waiting for Evie to naturally want to stop, but here she is at almost 20 months, and she still finds it comforting.

But I want another baby. I'd like to stop breastfeeding a few months before we embark on another IVF Adventure this winter. Um, that means it's time to shut down the milk factory. So I cut out our morning feeding a few months ago. Then I stopped our middle-of-the-night sessions about a week ago. Evie would ask to nurse, and I would ask if she'd like a drink of water. (It also helped that I let her sleep in our bed.) It was pretty easy. Then last night she just skipped her bedtime session. I hid the Boppy, and this afternoon, she didn't ask to nurse before her nap.

I decided that was it. I had two margaritas after dinner, and it felt nice. Evie didn't ask to nurse before bed tonight, either. And so this part of our relationship is over.

I'm glad to have my body back, but I am so sad tonight! I feel guilty that I rushed this change, but I also feel proud to have nursed her for so long. I am a more confident woman than I was 20 months ago, and being a nursing mom greatly contributed to that. Evie and I have a bond that was encouraged each time we snuggled close to breastfeed. And I know I'll still think of her little body, stretched out across the Boppy, nestled into me. And I'll love those memories.

13 comments:

Heather said...

That was one thing that I always wanted to do, and it was advised against with all three children. There is just something magical about being able to feed your own baby. I am happy that you have such a special memory.

:)

Scarlet O'Kara said...

I really enjoyed this post. I felt like you did with my first baby...but unlike you, I gave in to all the outside pressure. Kyla drank breastmilk from a bottle for the first 6 weeks of her life.

It is a different story with Bryleigh. She is almost 10 months old and still nurses all the time. There are times when I want to stop, but then I start thinking about all the special times we have together. We will nurse until she is ready to stop...

MoziEsmé said...

I am amazed that you stuck with it through all the problems! It seems so many moms give up at the first sign of trouble - and it IS inconvenient in so many ways. Each person has their own set of circumstances, so I'm not judging, but wanted to say I'm impressed that you hung in there.

It's interesting how at first I wouldn't have minded giving up, but now I treasure the nursing moments as Esme gets more and more independent (almost 17 months) and these moments are the times reserved just for us together - yet I know we need to end this soon. Bittersweet . . .

Anna Grace`s Jie Jie said...

What a sweet post...

Elouise82 said...

My little one just weaned herself this week, and she's not quite ten months old yet. I had worried about feeling guilty if I weaned her before she was ready, but she took the decision out of my hands. I agree--it is so nice to feel like I have my life and my body back, but there's still a small part of me that misses nursing. Then I remember the tears and panic of her not figuring out how to latch on during those first couple of weeks, and those constant trips to the lactation's office ... maybe this isn't such a bad thing after all!

hubbameister said...

WOW!

Do you have to go through IVF again or are you going to try naturally.

Curious Grandpa

Momma said...

nursing is such a beautiful thing! thank you so much for sharing your story. We stopped nursing about a month ago and I still miss it. Something I thought I would never say those first few months. thanks again!

Beck said...

The end of the breastfeeding time is so sad, isn't it? But you've really given her a wonderful start to her life.

Ryan and Kristy Peterson said...

I loved breastfeeding Andrew too! What a great bonding experience for the both of you. Although it is now over, you can still cuddle with her and hold her as she drinks from her sippy...if she lets you. I am happy that you had that experience!

Rachel said...

THIS WINTER?!?

I'm so excited! :)

Tari said...

Beautiful post, Sarah!

Semi-Slacker Mom said...

Thanks for commenting on my blog so I could find yours. I think we have a lot in common. I did fertitily w/ my 1st 2 (not IVF). I tried to BF my 1st but my milk never came in & she was losting weight, so after 6 wks of trying everything. I had to quit. The next two were FAT bottle babies (same trouble w/ the boobs). #3 was on soy formula for awhile too.
Love your blog.

Jackie @ Our Moments Our Memories said...

This totally made me cry. I loved, loved, loved nursing Savannah, even though it wasn't always easy and I was always freaked out that she wasn't gaining enough weight. When it came time to taper off, I was so sad...it was the end of something so special. I know exactly how you feel.

I'll be praying for you all as you try for baby #2...we are also, and we are praying that some things get straightened out with me hormonally so that it will happen.