My Breastfeeding Journey: Part 1

Awhile back, a local photographer by the name of Emi Halverson was looking for breastfeeding moms for a photography project. I volunteered and, as part of the project, sat down and wrote out my “breastfeeding story.” Phew! It is a long one! Eleanor and I (and Zoey) then sat for a breastfeeding photo shoot at a local park. With generous permission from Emi, I would like to share this story and the beautiful images with all of you. I’ve broken it up into two parts, as it is so very long. My story was originally shared here, on Emi’s blog. Please do go check out Emi’s page – she does just beautiful work and is really quite talented. Also, you gotta love an artist who wants to support breastfeeding rights and awareness!

ZOEY
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My first daughter, Zoey, was born via c-section in September 2010 because she was breech. Even though it was a routine, scheduled c-section and I was never even in labor, it ended up being quite a traumatic experience for me and ultimately resulted in PTSD. I didn’t even get to touch Zoey until about half an hour after she was born, and then it was her swaddled body laid beside me on the gurney as I was wheeled out of the OR, too groggy to even truly hold her. For the next twelve hours I was either vomiting or bordering on unconscious. It felt like I was climbing Mt. Everest just to open my eyes to even look at her. My husband knew how very important it was for me to breastfeed so, when the nurses tried to say they could just give Zoey a bottle of formula and “it wouldn’t hurt anything” he told them a very firm no and then held Zoey up to my breast to nurse because I was unable to hold her myself. He did this several times during the twelve hours it took for me to come out of the fog of medication and be able to sit up and feed my baby myself. By the beautiful miracle of nature, Zoey instinctively had known exactly what to do and latched on great from the very first try. Really, I didn’t have to do anything. She showed me how it was supposed to work and I followed her lead.

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Over the next few weeks I struggled with the discomfort of severely engorged breasts. I would try to pump but only get a couple drops of milk out. I couldn’t seem to trigger a letdown and, indeed, didn’t even know that’s what was missing. I was completely uneducated. Zoey would “snack,” nursing for only a couple minutes at a time but wanting to nurse every half hour to an hour. I couldn’t seem to figure out how to get her to nurse longer. It never occurred to me to contact a lactation consultant because she had no problem latching on. In my mind, breastfeeding was all about latch and I didn’t realize how many problems can stem from so many other areas. To top it off, Zoey also seemed to have silent reflux, despite her “small meals.”

One of the biggest struggles for us was Zoey’s refusal to ever take a bottle. By refusal I mean the worst, most violent and tortured screaming you can imagine coming from a baby. We tried every brand, shape, texture, size, and flow of bottle there is. We tried having only my husband do it, having me do it, having grandma and the babysitter do it, having me leave the house for extended periods of time while someone tried to get her to take a bottle. We tried putting her in the car seat, in a swing, in a high chair, turned around backwards in the bottle-giver’s lap, being bounced and walked, being in the baby carrier. Nothing worked. I felt like such a failure and completely trapped. Everyone told me “She’ll eat when she gets hungry enough.” They were wrong. I returned to work as a night-shift nurse, working twelve hour shifts, when Zoey was four months old. I would be gone for thirteen hours at a time and Zoey wouldn’t eat a drop. Then I would come home from work in the morning and Zoey would want to nurse from me constantly throughout the day while I needed to be sleeping. I pumped every three hours while at work and would only get two or three ounces of milk out. I was exhausted. Zoey was hungry and underweight. She completely fell off the bottom of the percentiles chart.

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All this time, I was also wondering where the “bond” was that breastfeeding mothers everywhere raved about. I didn’t know at the time that I was suffering from PTSD from my c-section. It didn’t help that, by the time Zoey was six months old, she would “stiff-arm” me, pushing her body as far away from mine as physically possible while maintaining just enough contact to be able to continue to nurse. This was one of the first of what would become many indicators that Zoey has some sort of sensory issues, which we are still working on clarifying and diagnosing. I just knew that, as I sat there nursing my baby, day after day, I very rarely felt any emotional tie to my daughter.
When Zoey was ten months old, out of sheer desperation one day I tried to give her a bottle of formula. We had bought it to have as backup since I was pumping so little while at work. I fully expected Zoey to reject this bottle, just has she had all the others. To my utter amazement she drank every last drop with complete satisfaction. That was the end of our breastfeeding journey. She weaned herself the next day, rejecting nursing in favor of formula. We went through my meager supply of pumped milk in a day or two and from then on Zoey only received formula. While a small part of me was sad that we were done breastfeeding, I was mostly relieved. I was no longer the only source of food for her and, more importantly, she was finally gaining weight.

Come back tomorrow for part two of my breastfeeding journey: The Eleanor Era.

2 thoughts on “My Breastfeeding Journey: Part 1

  1. Oh, man. Although not childbirth related, I suffer from being EASILY susceptible to meds and had a similar “over anesthetized” experience in knee surgery. It’s a horrible feeling and I didn’t have baby waiting on me. How miserable you must have been. Your hubby’s adherence to your breastfeeding goals brought tears to my eyes. Good on ya, hubby!

    1. Isn’t it just a horrible feeling? For the life of me, I can’t understand why anyone chases a narcotic high. And yes, he’s a fabulous husband and daddy. I am truly lucky. 🙂

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