Monday, March 3, 2014

On How Breastfeeding Changed My Life

I've had this post floating around in my head for a while now and I was just trying to find the right words as this is such a touchy and emotional subject. But alas, the right words never seemed to come so I'm just going to throw out what comes from my mind to my fingertips.

I grew up in a very conservative home where it was shameful to show your body and your body was never talked about. I don't even remember ever seeing a breastfeeding baby until I was in high school working at a local family restaurant. There was a mother sitting at a table with at least 10 others and she was nursing her baby uncovered. At the time I was slightly grossed out and embarrassed to see it.

I never thought about breastfeeding after that until Gabe and I broached the subject of having kids. He comes from a large pro-breastfeeding family. I remember him asking me how long I would nurse for and being appalled when I responded with "3 months". I didn't have a good reason for that; it was just a number I pulled out of my head.

Fast forward to Alena's birth. We chose to induce at 38weeks 1day because Gabe was deployed to Afghanistan and we wanted him to be at the birth. When she was born, my whole family and some friends were there and I didn't get a chance to nurse Alena until an hour or more after her birth. It took a lot of effort and frustration as Gabe and I were alone in the room trying to get breastfeeding started. I had one more visitor come in and while we were talking, Alena just latched on all by herself! But then all she wanted to do was sleep. And sleep. And sleep some more. By morning, we were worried because she hadn't eaten again and asked the nurses if there was anything they could do. They gave her a small syringe full of formula and sent the lactation consultant my way. She recommend a nipple shield which would live to be the bane of my existence.

To keep this from getting too long, I'll give you the cliff notes from the next four months. Because we never got a great start in the hospital, my lack of knowledge, huge lack of support, and my postpartum depression that went untreated, I had an extremely hard time with nursing. We were bombarded with visitors too soon after returning home from the hospital and Gabe went back to Afghanistan when Alena was 10 days old leaving me with family who have never had successful breastfeeding relationships with their own children. I didn't know what to do and was too embarrassed to ask for help (BIG mistake on my part!). I was also lead to believe that I wasn't making enough (which I know now I was) and that "you've had a good start and it's OK to stop now". So I gave up after four months of breastfeeding and regret it to this day. Am I happy I was able to provide for her that long? Yes but I know I could have done more. To this day I believe that our relationship has suffered and is not as strong as the bond I have with the boys as a result.

Besides the regret, I didn't give breastfeeding another thought until I was pregnant with Christian. "This time," I thought, "I will not see a lactation consultant (I feel her giving me the shield did more damage than good) and I'm just going to go with the flow and see what happens." And at 38weeks 3days, I was induced; this time it was just the Dr who wanted to induce because my fluid was "low", but STILL in the normal range! I was able to nurse Christian much sooner because we had no one in the hospital waiting to hold/see him.

There was a little bit of struggling to get him to latch but he got it and got it good. He ate more times in the hospital and we didn't have any problems. I refused to even let the lactation consultant into the room in fear that it would mess up the good thing we had going. Again, long story short... I started pumping as soon as my milk came in "just in case" and Christian was always a good nurser so I knew there were no supply issues.

And here is where the life changing started to happen. The longer Christian nursed, the more I wanted to keep going, and the more I researched about all things pregnancy, birth, and breastfeeding. I read tons of books, blogs, and Facebook pages gaining knowledge; making me realize the mistakes that were made with Alena's birth and breastfeeding failure. And also about how I should not have let my OBGYN talk me into an induction with Christian.

I had 4+ years of research and experience under my belt when Noah came along and this time, I have no regrets and feel like we got it right. Not only am I more confident in our decisions, but I feel like a better mother than I was before. I've realized that the more I learn or do, the "crunchier" or more of an Attachment Parent I become. From home birthing, co-sleeping, breastfeeding, baby wearing, cloth diapering, non/selective vax, not circumcising, non CIO (cry it out), you get it you get it. I don't do it as part of a fad. I don't do it to show off or because I feel superior. I do these things because it's what I feel is best and works for MY family. It feels right and natural.

Nursing Alena has helped me garner the experience and understanding to sympathize with others going through their own struggles. Nursing Christian and Noah has gained me the knowledge and know-how to help those struggling and to support them.

Through these experiences, I realized what my calling in life was (besides a mother). I found out my passion for pregnancy, birth, and breastfeeding could be turned into a career. So thanks to my breastfeeding struggles and then the triumphs, I came to make the life changing decision to go back to school. Although the thought of going to school terrifies me, I made the choice last year to sign up with Childbirth International to become a birth and postpartum doula, childbirth educator, and breastfeeding counselor. The job will be challenging to say the least, but I know it is needed and I will be helping others reach their own birth and breastfeeding goals.

I was lucky enough to be able to donate milk to a local mom of an adopted baby this time!

The excitement over the future of my career choice is hard to express in words but just know that I'm jumping for joy inside. I've already made a Facebook page as a place to put out information. I look forward to finishing up school and then start helping others. So thank you, my children and breastfeeding for changing my life.

1 comment:

  1. Loved this post so much! Thank you for sharing it with us at The Blogger's Digest, I'm going to feature it tonight :)


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