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Monday, January 05, 2015

Eulogy to Nursing


I am still breastfeeding at eight months.  I doubt I will be doing it for much longer.  

I really wanted to get as close to a year as I could.  Actually, if I’m being honest, for the first two months I really wanted to just GET THROUGH THE DAY.  I literally took it day by day.  She was born a month early so we had trouble getting her to latch, then getting her to latch properly.  Then, finally, after pumping every two hours and attempting to feed every hour and a half for about a week my milk finally came in.  I was constantly worried she wasn’t getting enough.  I topped up with formula pretty much from the beginning as I didn’t trust my own supply.  I made so many mistakes, using formula first before nursing (duh-now she won’t eat as much from me.)  Lower demand equals lower supply.  Is sensible.  Is logical.  Is all of the things you aren’t when you have a newborn in the house.  Sleep deprivation plus the pain of recovery plus the overwhelming realization that HOLY CRAP THIS TINY THING IS DEPENDING ON ME equals no rational thought left in your brain.  Or any coherent thoughts at allreally.   

Even after the first few weeks when she got the hang of latching she would cry and de-latch on and off again (which should have been one of the nine circles of Dante’s Hell.)  OUCH.  The thin T-shirt I wore to bed made the milk-makers HURT.  After seeing THREE lactation specialists (who gave me conflicting advice from everything to how to hold the boob to how to ensure she is getting milk) I finally saw one who helped.  

She said ‘Sweetie, lot of people try to make this harder than it is.  She’ll latch on.  If it hurts sharp-like, don’t tough it out, stop, de-latch, try again.  When it only hurts a little, that’s when you know its right.  When she cries and de-latches, switch sides.  And let the girls air out, don’t close up shop right away.  Oh, and, all those people who tell you it shouldn’t hurt if it’s done right - they’re wrong.  It’s gonna hurt.  Probably gonna hurt ‘till three or four months.’  That’s just the way it is.’

She was right.  The pain got steadily less as we both settled into a routine.  For awhile in the second month or so the milk came in too fast and she would choke and sputter and get frustrated.  (So I had the pleasure of having both not enough milk, then too much at around the same time…!)  I’d have to ‘sponge’ off the excess with a towel and then re-try.  Such a waste!

Soon after that though she got less fussy and began to dive-bomb-tiger-attack whenever I offered.  She’d get this squinty look on her face and chomp on with vigor.  With VIGOR.  

Around five months old I could tell when the milk came through because she’d get this blissed-out look on her face, her eyes would flutter and roll back in her head like she just got a hit of crack cocaine.  We called it her ‘milk-drunk’ stage.

I used to be able to feed her in a busy Panera and never have a problem - now at eight months the light in the room will distract her from eating.  I’m hunched in the rocking chair in her darkened bedroom every 2-3 hours of the day feeding her in the only place she will focus on eating.  Ugh.  Add to that I suspect my supply is getting low (she still wants more after feeding her and will eat up to 4 ounces of formula even after I’ve fed her) and I think the end is nigh.  The last couple weeks I have been fighting what I am suspecting is a losing battle, drinking more water, more ‘mother’s milk’ tea, eating lots of milk-producing foods, feeding her every time she seems cranky, adding another pumping session.  Nothing seems to be bringing back the milk.  I could take drugs to encourage my supply but at this point I don’t think it makes much sense.  Plus she is beginning to realize drinking from a bottle is quicker, and she can look around more.  (Hard to see what’s going on with a boob in your face.)  

I will miss being able to eat WHATEVER I WANT.  I ate a chocolate bar A DAY at Bill’s dad’s the last long weekend we were there - I LOST two pounds.  I’m within two pounds of my pre-pregnancy weight and it isn’t because I’ve been dieting.  Or exercising.  It’s the extra 500-700 calories a day I’m burning nursing Ellie.  Mind you, my body doesn’t LOOK the same pre-pregnancy, all those tummy muscles flappier than Grammie’s lips without her teeth.  

I am both so excited and so sad to be nearing the end of nursing.  I remember the glow, the awe in realizing that I was producing what my baby needed to survive FROM MY OWN BODY.  The blood in my veins turned to life-sustaining milk for my baby.  Wow.  No matter what I accomplish in my life it will never be as amazing, as awe-inspiring, as miraculous as what my body is capable of without any conscious direction from me.  

Also, IT’S SO ANNOYING.  She flails about and shoves her fingers in my mouth and pulls and grabs my chin and squeezes and digs in with her little nails.  That’s when she’s not pounding on my boobs or chomping too hard, or flailing on and off to check out the most interesting new sound coming from down the stairs.  Not to mention the need to yank my boobs out wherever we are, no matter how crowded or busy and have her chow down.  My husband has a not too flattering picture of me from last weekend nursing her in a secluded section of the National Gallery of Art.  I look pleased.  I am not pleased.  Especially since all her flailing kept pulling off the tarp I had over us exposing me to the world.  Bill had to stand there and try to keep catching it and putting it back in place.

I want my body back!  I want Bill to get up with her at her midnight feeding (or her 530am wake-up call) and just give her a bottle!  She’s already eating solids like gangbusters.  

So, this is my Eulogy to nursing.  You were special, you were amazing, you were painful and hard and annoying.  You made me wear ugly nursing bra’s for almost a year.  You made me buy geeky button-down shirts.  You made me flash unsuspecting museum go-ers and made not a couple older men very uncomfortable.

You did a lot of good in your time, and the baby is a better, healthier place because of it.  You will be missed.  You will be mourned for the appropriate period of time.  Then I will put on my pretty new red bra, put on three layers of hard-to-get-off shirts and sweaters, drink THREE glasses of wine and NEVER PUT THAT PLASTIC TORTURE DEVICE THEY CALL A PUMP ON MY POOR BOOBS EVER AGAIN!  Unless we have another one.  Thank you.