Breastfeeding Healed Me, It Made Me

breastfeedingcafecarnivalWelcome to The Breastfeeding Cafe Carnival!

This post was written as part of the Breastfeeding Cafe’s Carnival. For more info on the Breastfeeding Cafe, go to www.breastfeedingcafe.wordpress.com. For more info on the Carnival or if you want to participate, contact Claire at clindstrom2 {at} gmail {dot} com. Today’s post is about how breastfeeding has changed your life. Please read the other blogs in today’s carnival listed below and check back for more posts July 18th-31st!

I say with honesty and without guile that breastfeeding my children has changed my life.

I wasnʼt unprepared for motherhood – we had been trying for a long time – and certainly wasnʼt young at 29 for my first child. I had taken classes and felt that I was ready. Then I had an unplanned and unwanted cesarean section, wasnʼt able to be with my daughter for more than an hour after her birth, and felt lost and lonely and uncertain without the expected bonding time.

When we finally met, it wasnʼt a story of “latched on like a champ” that you so often see plastered in new momsʼ facebook posts and birth stories. The poor little thing tried, to be sure, but both of us were tired and druggy, she was under 7 pounds, and letʼs face it, my boobs were huge. Without guidance, we tried to let instinct do its thing, but without that initial bonding time, she was actually hungry by the time we met and my body hadnʼt caught up with that yet.

My peanut made a good attempt despite my cluelessness, but that first night was fraught with frustration for both of us. A lactation consultant finally came in, taught me the “C-Hold” which I promptly dubbed “boobsandwich” and outfitted us with a SNS nurser with the intent of meeting both of our immediate needs. Some hilarity ensued, with the tube dripping on the bed riser mechanism which promptly malfunctioned leaving us stranded in the hospital bed at an impossible height for a few hours. Despite the bumpy start it seemed like easier days would come.

Unfortunately, they took their sweet time. I did produce milk – in abundance, once we got started – and we made our bumbling way through the “breastfeeding jaundice” diagnosis, the early colicky growth spurts, the resistant yeast/ thrush infections due to the antibiotics overdose at birth and the never ending nursing days when I would cry to my husband from my planted position on the couch: “Moooo!”. But we kept going. While I was often in tears, I was also finding an absolute bedrock of determination. I had missed out on the first hour of my daughterʼs life. I felt like my body had failed us in birth and I felt broken to the core. But nursing … I could do that, and I *would* do that, despite any obstacle.

That determination began to shift my approach to motherhood. I quickly abandoned attempts to put her into a crib and kept her close to me – skin to skin – in the early weeks. I learned how to nurse in a side-lying position once my incision had healed enough to allow it. What a game changer that was, and how my mind was blown: I could doze AND nurse? I could SLEEP again!

I had no idea at that point how much those late realizations were changing my parenting ideals and desires. I have a career that I love very much, and returned to at 8 weeks. But instead of having cleanly weaned beforehand as planned initially, I returned with a pump in tow, and felt joy and love during my three daily pumping sessions, knowing I was doing something for her nobody else could do.

Just as importantly, though, by five or six months nursing was doing something for me that nothing else could do: it was slowly healing my grief over our birth. As nursing became easy and natural, I felt less broken, less sad. I stood up for myself in my decision to continue that relationship past six months, laughed at anyone who said we should stop at one year. Realized that I had a biological tool to help my child feel grounded and centered and connected to her most important point of safety (me!). I felt a growing sense of power and ownership of my bodyʼs ability to meet the needs – physical and emotional – of my child and hoped that I could become whole again.

We nursed happily until I was three months pregnant with her younger sister, in fact, as she chose to wean peacefully when my milk supply diminished when she was 18 months old. As I planned a VBAC, one of the most driving pieces of my motivation was that this time I wouldnʼt miss out on that first hour; this time I knew what we needed to do and knew I could do it.

And it worked. And I didnʼt miss a moment of her first week of life. And nursing was fast, and easy, and natural. And I knew how to calm her, how to safely share sleep, how to feel close to her while continuing my career. And I didnʼt feel broken anymore. Breastfeeding healed me. It centered me. It made me.

Danica is an audiologist, the mother of two vivacious and sensitive girls, and soon embarking on a new challenge with a surprise pregnancy with a son. Having recently pulled a dead caterpiller, seven rocks, a handful of cottonwood fluff and something that may have once been an earthworm from a daughterʼs jeans pocket, she does not expect to be unduly shocked by life with a boy. But she is unquestionably looking forward to having one last nursing relationship.

Here are more posts by the Breastfeeding Cafe Carnival participants! Check back because more will be added throughout the day.

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