Throw Back to My Breastfeeding Story

1598FD13-FFA8-4E39-8E64-1EE92348E65EI searched high and low for this piece that I wrote almost exactly four years ago now, because I knew that I had written it and that I wanted to share it here during breastfeeding awareness week as I feel like I am coming close to the end of my breast feeding journey with our daughter, who will be turning a year next month and it’s bitter sweet to say the least.

Nursing did not come easily for me at first…. in fact I didn’t really think I would ever be able to do it, and now three kids, three years of nursing and four-and-a-half  years later, I am sharing this story with all of you because…

I think it’s so important to know you are not alone in the struggle and…

I think it is so important to make choices that work for you and and your baby and not because you are feeling pressured and…

I think it is so important to seek support and comfort from people around you during those early days, weeks and months because that truly is what you need.

So if nothing else comes of me sharing this throw back to my own struggles with nursing I hope that it helps one new mom feel like she is not alone.

 

Breastfeeding: A New Mama’s Story

“We need to get him to eat,” I could hear this through the fog of an early morning
haze as I awoke from what seemed like years of sleep after the birth of my son. The
years were only hours and this was only a short nap. When I opened my eyes I could
see the nurses trying to get my little one to “lap-up the formula from a tiny cup like a
cat.” With his blood sugar levels and temperature plummeting since birth, they were
trying to do anything they could to get him to eat more. Only hours after birth, my
breast milk hadn’t really started to come in, which is fine in normal circumstances,
but in this case he needed more to sustain what were considered normal sugar
levels. By nightfall on the day of my son’s birth he was in the NICU attached to
machines and in an incubator as the formula was not enough and he needed a sugar
drip to help stabilize his sugars. I was told to try pumping (expressing breast milk)
to see if that would help.
Before the birth of my son, the idea of breastfeeding was incredibly intimidating for
me. I didn’t think I would be able to do it and was always very insecure when people
brought it up. Simple questions like; “will you breastfeed?” or “how long do you
think you’ll breastfeed for?” terrified me and my response was always, “I will try my
best and see what happens.” I truly could not imagine myself breastfeeding and was
so scared to admit this, as it was something that seemed to define motherhood,
something seemingly “natural” that I might not be able to do. Letting go of these
preconceptions, that breastfeeding is something I could or couldn’t do, that I am the
“type” of woman who breastfeeds, that I should or shouldn’t feed in public, or that
breastfeeding somehow defined what “kind” of mother I was has taken me a very
long time, but I am finally able to see my experience as a learning process and one
that I want to share. Yes, there are a million and one medical reasons why “breast is
best,” and yes, this kind of language is what makes new mothers so worried and
stressed about making the right choices, so instead of offering those facts, facts you
can read up on anywhere, I am going to share my story of a breastfeeding journey
that begins with fear, moves towards burden and stress but ends with a beautiful
bond. My hope isn’t that this will make you choose the right decision, but to give
new mothers something to relate to or even some comfort as you come into your
own.

The first time I tried to nurse my son the experience was far from natural, the nurse
helped me to try and teach my son to latch at around 5 am on the morning of his
birth. It felt awkward and incredibly uncomfortable. I tried a few more times that
morning struggling and feeling very uncomfortable the entire time. My son was
eventually able to latch, however, I was not producing the amount of milk he
needed. Later that day, as my son’s blood sugar levels began to plummet, the nurses
began to try formula instead. This didn’t upset me as I was not set on breastfeeding and I just wanted my son to eat. What changed my mind was when I began pumping
(expressing breast milk) and noticed that as a result of this my son’s sugar levels
started to stabilize.
Women always talk about this maternal instinct, something that kicks in when your
children need you, and this was my first experience with this. I began to realize, or
think that I had the power to help my son, if I could just produce the milk he needed.
So I pumped, and pumped and pumped. Finally, between the pumped milk, sugar
drip and formula supplements, my son’s sugar levels slowly began to stabilize. And
later, after a few visits with the lactation consultant, I learned how to nurse semi-
comfortably.
This however, was only the beginning of the process. A few days later, once my son
was released from the hospital and we were at home, the challenges continued.
Breastfeeding is a lot like long distance running; it doesn’t come naturally right
away, but once you can push through a series of walls (barriers that can make it
incredibly difficult) it can become easier and begin to feel somewhat natural. There
were so many of these “walls” over the course of my breastfeeding journey;
worrying that he wasn’t getting enough, my personal struggle with public feeding,
clogged ducts, and of course many external pressures. But looking back, this year-
long journey would never have happened without the support of my husband,
family and friends. It really does take a village to raise a child and that village is also
the same support system mothers need as they come into their own.
The initial stages of motherhood, and often that whole first year, are filled with
moments of light and dark. There is a beauty in the bright moments that words can
hardly describe, the pure, raw and incomparable love that you feel for this little
human who has forever changed you and your life. And then there is also a darkness
that comes with the insecurities, uneasiness and daily struggles of trying to keep an
infant happy and healthy. Breastfeeding fell into both of these categories for me. The
struggle and insecurity came first and, to my surprise, being very sceptical of the
mothers who told me how beautiful this bond could actually be, it became just that,
a beautiful bond between me and my newborn baby.
This bond, as beautiful as it did become, was not something that came easy and not
something that came without struggle. For many millennial mothers the stresses of
outside pressure can sometimes outweigh our strongest support systems. The
pressure to be a “specific type” of mother who is always doing the “right thing” can
sometimes make the simple daily tasks that come along with motherhood, like
breastfeeding and maintaining nap/sleep schedules, seem next to impossible. These
pressures created added stress that made my own breastfeeding journey a
challenging one. It felt like even if I tackled one element of the journey, like feedings
at home, I was still struggling with the public feedings and felt immediate stress as soon as I was out of pumped milk and needed to feed in a public setting. This stress
was something my son could obviously feel, because the feeding always turned into
a huge mess. He was hungry, I was stressed, but neither of us was comfortable
enough to make it work. I never did push through this barrier; something I hope
might change with my second baby. Instead I became a pumping machine; making
sure I always had pumped milk whenever we were leaving the house. In many ways,
this put more stress on my breastfeeding journey as I felt like I needed to be overly
prepared for any situation and leaving the house started to feel like an event, but in
the end, while I wouldn’t recommend this, I think this did help to ease the transition
from breast to bottle when I had to go back to work.

Sometimes the biggest frustration that came with breastfeeding was the burden I
would feel as a result of the feedings being my sole responsibility. This created a
kind of tension between my husband and I when I was tired or if we were out
socializing. As a result of this, whenever he would try and support me and help me
to stick with the breastfeeding I would be wondering if it was a ploy to get out of the
night feedings. Looking back, I know now that this was not the case at all and I am so
grateful that he stood by me through these difficult moments. The socializing
element of this that was hard for me goes hand-in-hand with my fear of public
feeding. I would often go to a bedroom or have to leave if I needed to feed my son
and this made me feel like I wasn’t able to socialize during the few outings we did
have in the first year. As an incredibly social person this was very difficult for me, I
didn’t feel like myself to begin with, motherhood being one of the biggest transitions
of my life, and adding this to the situation made me feel even worse, at least at first.
While the journey from burden to beauty was not a linear one, the struggles came
and went and the burdens eventually became blessings, I did arrive at this point
partway through. The burden did become a beautiful bond and what was once a
source of stress actually became a way for me to unwind and de-stress.
Breastfeeding became a break from the chaos of motherhood, the tension of social
situations and a way to connect with my son without all the noise of expectations
buzzing in my ears. It became our time, just us, and I now look back on it as minutes
of calm amidst the chaos. It began to bring me peace. Instead of fighting to make a
public feeding work, I began to see this private time as a break from our day. I could
escape a busy social situation for 15-20 minutes for a feeding and my son and I were
always much calmer afterwards. I began to enjoy these times, because we were on
our time and this became our escape. As a new mother I was very heavily
influenced by the words and suggestions of others, constantly questioning my own
choices and decisions, but I began to find that when I was on my own, just me and
baby, I was able to make my own way, become in tune to my son’s needs and we
could connect. The feedings gave me just that, the time I needed to connect and
create a bond with him and I no longer felt like I was missing out or alone, this time

was something I began to look forward to. And this was something that helped me
learn how to be me in motherhood.

So in the end my hope is that whatever choices you make as a new mother you are
able to find that place of peace, create a sense of calm amidst the chaos and become
you in motherhood.

 

xo

Vanessa 


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