Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Walk a mile with someone else's boobs

I'm not an expert in... well... anything. However, I feel like my life experiences have taught me a lot. Jack of all trades- master of none- is really a good way to describe me. I dabble in a little of this and that.

This is my breastfeeding saga.

When my son was born, I was a single mom. 23 years old and freaked out, scared out of my wits. I had never even changed a boy's diaper. I didn't even plan on having kids until my life took this unexpected detour.

I made a conscious decision to not breastfeed him because I knew I would have some hurdles in this solo parenting journey that haunted me and I wasn't up for any more unknowns. I knew I would likely be depending on the help of my family and friends and that being the sole milk machine, might make it more difficult to call on them in times of need.

In the hospital, I got 'the look' from the nurses, that look: you young, ignorant, slut- don't you know breastfeeding is best! I knew, I didn't care, I was lucky I had gotten this far- healthy baby, full term. In hindsight, I was selfish and fresh out of my college rebellion phase and maybe grasping onto it, slightly, minus the sex and drugs.

My son thrived on formula (GASP) and is still healthy and, as a 14 year old, I think he's thankful that I can't pull out stories and pictures of me breastfeeding him when his friends are over.

Enter child #2- planned- thought out- legs up in the air- watching the calendar- taking pregnancy tests constantly- planned. I was determined to do this one right. I wouldn't let those bitches judge me this time. I was in the mothering groove and I was ready to attempt breastfeeding. I took the classes. I read books. I was serious.

Child #2 had other plans. Plans of crying constantly. Plans of screaming until my ears bled. Plans of being lazy and having NO INTEREST of latching on. I went to the lactation consultants with baby in hand and tears in my eyes. Nothing.

I attended a nursing support group that was held in the backroom of a child's second hand store. The store owner and leader of the group was pregnant and had her 2, 3, and 5 year olds undoing her bib overalls at their whim throughout the meeting to get a drink of "milky". As much as I was put off by this, it made me feel like that much more of a failure, because I couldn't get my ONE newborn to latch on! I left there feeling worse.

I went to my pediatrician. I sat in a dark room swaddling a naked baby at my breast while massaging her legs and begging her to latch on while the doctor watched-for-an-hour. AWKWARD. But still nothing. She was 4 weeks old when my doctor finally decided that she was a 'lazy nurser' and I would probably be better off bottle feeding. She won. Her will was stronger than mine.

Child #3 -I could prove that I wasn't a failure. Breastfeeding wouldn't take me down. I was confident. I had done this before (no one needed to know that I failed, miserably.) From the moment she was born she latched on like a champ. It was a completely different experience- it was rewarding, overwhelming, redeeming. I reveled in it. I finally accomplished this hurdle and unspoken judgement that had followed me for so long. She nursed for 11 months and never took a bottle or drank formula.

Child #4 followed suit of #3- as if she left the directions, step by step, in utero. It was too easy. So easy, I never wanted to stop, knowing that she would probably be my last, I wanted to hang on as long as I could. I needed her to need me. I started getting family comments, "isn't she about old enough to be done nursing, yet?" She probably was, I wasn't. I could have kept going for a lot longer. I gave in to social stigmas and acceptability. At 13 months, I weened her. And me.

I've been on both sides. I see why people make the decisions that they make. I don't judge. This is never an easy decision and is rarely a simple road. Women need to stick together and stop with the high and mighty shit- from both sides.

The cherished smell of a baby, a mother's love, the emotional attachment and adoration for that baby is no less or more with breastfeeding. We all want to do what is best for our baby's health, future, and happiness. Every one's circumstances are different and we do the best we can with what we have. Only you know what works best for you and your baby.

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20 comments:

My Bottle's Up! said...

this is the EXACT reason why i started my website... mine was allergic to my breast milk.... a-fucking-llergic and people STILL look at me like i'm an alien for stopping nursing him when he was only 5 weeks old.

amen sista... amen.

Danielle-lee said...

Thank you for sharing!
I went through hell w/ my girl. She was sooo hungry and impatient, and i was HUGE and she would get all crazy-frantic, and then milk would be squirting in her face and all over me and all over the couch, and...omg, it was awful. For a month I did this, and pumped, and finally just gave in. And she was FINE. And I felt BETTER.
I hate that people judge. It's unreal. We are all different.

Mariah said...

seriously, both sides need to calm the fuck down. Well said Tena

Mommy Melee said...

It always makes me crazy when women teaching workshops or helping with breastfeeding have a REALLY extreme vibe going on. (Nursing older preschoolers, etc.) I think it makes things less accessible for women who are just trying to make it for 5-10 months.

Denise @ Sunflowers, Chocolate and Little Boys said...

I nursed my first two and bottle fed my last (due to my being on medication). I got weird responses from both sides. Some thought breast feeding was unnecessary and others couldnt believe I was bottle feeding. Whatever! they are my boys and they are all healthy. Screw everyone else.

P.S. I have to give you credit b/c I would NEVER let our pediatrician watch me nurse, not even for a minute let alone an hour!

Soxy Deb said...

Tena your absolutely right. This is a personal decision and one that no one should judge. It's unfortunate that there are nurses (and doctors-mine told me it was my fault that stress one wouldn't breast feed-nice, huh?) that should learn when to shut their mouths.
It's a VERY personal decision.

Cassaundra said...

It is a CRIME the way that the medical establishment FAILS Mothers. If a doctor watches you nurse for an hour there is at least 3 things he did wrong 1/ he didn't help position baby correctly, teach other holds etc, 2/ he didn't explain that a feed shouldn't take that long 3/ he spent that long with you and had nothing to offer except formula, sure proof he had no business pretending to know anything about breastfeeding. It sounds like you were failed by many medical professionals. No-one should EVER chastise a Mom who isn't breastfeeding. But a nurse who behaves that way instead of helping you and supporting you to make the healthy decision should not be allowed within 10 ft of a Mom. We live in such an anti-breastfeeding culture. It is really HARD for Moms to succeed against the combined forces of formula companies mega-million dollar marketing campaigns and the ignorance and ineptitude of medical professionals. We need to help Moms to stop being angry at and blaming themselves and start getting angry at the REAL FAILURES: Doctors, Nurses, bad Lactation Consultants and Formula Companies.

wakefield said...

I hated nursing. I am so stubborn and knew statistically my kids would be smarter if I breast fed so I buckled down and breast fed for two years with my first and hated almost every minute of it. With my second I had to go back to work and only made it a year. Then all kinds of new studies came out saying that it wasn't the breast milk that was making the kids smarter it was the parents holding the kids, making eye contact. I have recently read that if you always hold the bottle it is as good as breast feeding for infant stimulation. I'm glad I did it but I doubt I would have had I known it wouldn't make a difference in intellect. Yeah I know immunity and all that, but it was hell for me.

momcat said...

Child 1 - breastfed 2 years, child 2 - breastfed 9 months, child 3 - breastfed 8 months. I wanted to give my children the best start in life I could give them. The two oldest are smokers - couldnt care less about the breastfeeding, busy ruining their lungs!

Amy Amy Bo Bamey said...

I was young (21) and felt like a failure with my first too. Did it for like a week and gave up because it felt like 100 razor blades were shooting outta my nipples.

My 2nd I was more determined and did it for 9 months. It could have been longer if he remained toothless but when he got his first tooth and almost bit my nipple off I threw in the towel!

You said it well! You can't judge!

BacktoBarnwell said...

I'm forwarding the Deacon this article, FYI.

BacktoBarnwell said...

Oh, and BTW, you got Kathy Griffin calling you.

I got Josh Flagg e-mailing me.

You Win.

MrsSki said...

I agree...there is entirely too much judging in the whole breastfeeding topic. Everyone is different, every baby is different, you have to find your own groove and go with it. I enjoyed reading your post!

Zookeeper said...

You crack me up! But seriously, thanks for sharing your saga. I am a huge fan of breastfeeding, but I know it isn't right for everyone. We adopted three of our kids, so I clearly didn't breastfeed all of them. I loved nursing my babies, but the bottle has definite advantages. As long as the kid is getting fed, why should anyone care about the method?

Assertagirl said...

I have breastfeeding on the brain this week too, Tena, so I really enjoyed reading your post and hearing about how different it was with each of your kids!

Em said...

Ah, breastfeeding - tried with my first, he ended up being allergic to pretty much anything - so no go. With #2, I was determined - expensive breast pump and all. Then his PKU test came back positive, I dropped all my baby weight in 4 weeks thanks to the stress and my milk really never came in.

I would like to take this moment to apologize to my pediatrician's nurse who asked me the loaded question at #2's 1-month checkup - "no dear, I'm not nursing, I'm too f-ing worried about making him retarded" probably wasn't the answer she was looking for. Sorry. My bad.

Live and let live with the boobies!

Evolving Mommy Catherine said...

AMEN! I wanted to breastfeed, but my body didn't produce enough milk in 2 days for 1 feeding and it didn't help that my daughter was also a lazy eater. I was heart broken and the looks of disapproval from people when they saw I was bottle feeding, even though they didn't know my story, both pissed me off and made me feel like even more of a failure.

Susan in the Psych Ward said...

I wanted to nurse my daughter. But she was born early, was jaundiced and I had to formula feed for a couple of days. When we went back to the breast, she was too lazy and spoiled to have anything to do with the boobs. So, I pumped for 6 weeks and fed her my milk with a bottle. By the time 6 weeks was over I had had enough of pumping and feeding (which takes twice as long!) that we went to formula. People were shocked that I quit pumping.... they told me she would be smarter and healthier if she continued on breast milk. Really? Then why is she rarely sick, like when I call the doc for sickness they know she really must be sick because we're never sick kinda rarely sick, and she's one of the smartest kids in her school. Seriously, people need to chill the eff out!

sheila said...

I came over from dang, now I can't remember, lol. Anyhow...good post! I never breastfed any of my 3. I was a little selfish and a little wanting a glass or 3 of wine. :)

Kristi said...

I am 29 and expecting my first baby...and this baby was not something that I planned for...like, at all. I made the decision almost immediately that I will not be breastfeeding (maybe selfish? childish? not ready to REALLY be a REAL mom yet - but becoming more "ok" with the idea...) But I keep finding myself having to justify my decision and it makes me feel really shitty. Just wanted to say thanks for your post - seriously makes me feel way better reading it - and also reading the comments that other people put. Glad I am not the only woman ever in the history of the world that has made this decision!

I mean I am only 11 weeks why in the hell are random people asking me this now anyway?? Sheesh!