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Having a brand new baby is a miraculous, life transforming event. It reminds me of just how powerful my body really is. In less than a year, I created a whole human being. What started out as a single cell, rapidly grew into a living, breathing individual, completely sustained and nurtured by nothing but my uterus. After 9 months, my beautiful child was finally born into the world. Still, after all that work, the little one is still dependent on me for all her nutrients - and like some kind of super power - my body just makes the food she needs all on it's own.
Breastfeeding continues the intimate relationship that was established in the womb. There are countless benefits to breastfeeding, but that is not what this post is about.
Because after many sleepless nights scanning blog posts, articles and forums I realized that the internet is FREAKING FULL of Instagram selfies, fluffy prose and magical black and white photos of perfect newborns lovingly suckling at Mommy's breast. The reality of my situation was such a far cry from these happy, sweet images that every time I came across one it put me in a hormonal episode of envy and rage. I decided that what really needed to be written was the truth as I was actually experiencing it.
The truth was...
or at least the first two weeks of it.
No, really. Week One of breastfeeding your baby is like the ultimate endurance test for moms.
Think about it...
Now, add to this the need to nurse every hour and a half with sore, bleeding nipples.
It's enough to make any woman run for the hills...or at least to Walmart for some Enfamil.
Which is exactly what I did on day three.
After two days of nonstop nursing while in excruciating pain, I was at the end of my rope. My husband took our son to his TaeKwonDo class and I was home alone with my baby girl for the first time. As the boys walked out the door, I immediately went into memory making mode. I wanted the hour to be full of love and nostalgia.
The first ten minutes went according to plan. We stared into each others eyes. I gently touched each one of her perfect toes, took in the details of her tiny ears, watched closely as her chest moved up and down with every breathe. Then, I watched as her face slowly contorted, turned bright red and exploded with cries of hunger.
I knew it was going to hurt, but I was determined for the moment to not be ruined. I ran back through the mental list of all the breastfeeding tips I had recently googled.
Still, she latched on totally wrong. Her gums clamped down fast, and the hard ridge just under the surface of her gums pinched together, with my sore nipples right in the middle. I watched in horror as blood pooled at the corner of her mouth and pain shot straight through my body. I put my finger to her lips and released the suction. Immediately, she started to wail and for the next 45 minutes we cried together.
She was my baby. It was up to me to give her food. I kept thinking, if this was another place, another time, her survival would have entirely depended on my ability to provide milk. And there I was, failing miserably. Less than 72 hours before I had pushed her 9 pound 6 ounce body out of my vagina, at home in a pool with no medication - and I did it without fear or issue. Still, in that moment I sat paralyzed and totally incapable of giving my child what she needed. By the time my husband got home I was a total basketcase. I could see in his face that he thought something had happened to our daughter. But, he quickly put two and two together. He promised to keep our baby safe while I ventured to the store to get whatever I needed.
When I got there, I was begging to throw in the towel. Like an oasis in the desert, the shelves were stocked with hundreds of containers full of everything my little girl needed to survive. I instantly empathized with all the women who had faced a similar position before me, dropped any and all judgements of mother's who choose not to breastfeed and thanked the Universe for being born into a day and age where options existed. I put the box of 8 ready to drink infant formula bottles into the cart. For a minute I savored the thought of the pain disappearing, relished in the idea of waking up in the middle of the night with a bottle ready to go, of Daddy being able to feed our daughter while I slept soundly in the bed. Still, my heart was heavy. Memories of breastfeeding my son flooded my mind, and I knew deep down I really wanted the same experience with my daughter. I remembered how easy his first year had been. How he had slept through the night early on, never got an ear infection, got a cold or staid up all night with colic. He had an immune system as strong as diamond and I wanted my daughter to have the same great start to a healthy life.
With tears of determination streaming down my tired face, I waddled (yes, I looked like a hot mess) to the next isle over and loaded my cart with breast pads, Lansinoh healing packs andnipple shields. I made my way home - reluctantly committed to do what I needed to successfully breastfeed.
It's now (as I write this post) Day 12, and guess what? I'm doing it!!
It took a lot of Acetaminophen and hot baths, but I am exclusively breastfeeding ten times a day. The nipple shield has saved my life. I think I'll be ready to stop using it before the week is up. Her latch is perfect now and every day gets less painful and easier to deal with. Now I am enjoying the closeness of nursing my daughter and benefiting from the daily Oxytocin boost. My body is feeling almost back to normal and I've lost 25 of the 35 pounds I gained during pregnancy.
I wanted to write this post honestly, so that women who are going through the same thing can see - it isn't supposed to be blissfully easy. Nature has a way of showing us how powerful we are and how willing we are to sacrifice so much for a little person we've only just met. Don't compare your experience with others, and stop being so hard on yourself. Breastfeeding is hard. In fact, raising children in general is hard. But in the end, behind every hardship is an even bigger reward.