My mother did not lie to me about giving birth. She told me that it would hurt. But that you always wait for the bigger wave and it never comes. That you actually want it to hurt more because you know you are one step closer to seeing your child and that when you do, all the pain would be worth it. She was right.
Mami also did not lie to me about breastfeeding. Her exact words: it'll hurt more than labor. Really, mami? I mean come on. EVERYONE has heard of labor pains. I have watched countless movies illustrating this. Not ONCE have I seen anything on television that shows this breastfeeding pain that you're talking about. I dismissed the statement though it was filed in the back of my head.
Enter the day of labor (details on this later). My child is set upon my breast where she roots and finds what she is looking for. Success! Maggie, my doula, loves it! She has been preparing me for this. All looks well. Except...
It kinda hurts a little. When I get up to my room, I know JUST what to ask for. After all, I have done my research. "Can I get some Lansinoh?" I asked the nurse. "Already?" she said and looked at me with the side-eye. I said it with so much determination that I know the look on my face said "I know what I'm doing, okay?" I'm sure the nurse laughed on the inside and thought, "she won't last." Well, I wish I could find her and tell her HA! But, I digress.
Where was I? Ah! The pain, yes. The next day I was visited by the lactation consultant who caught me while I was nursing. "Oh you are doing great!" she said. And I'm thinking, hmmm, really? Because it hurts a little more. "The latch is good and she looks like she's getting colostrum". I feel successful yet sore. She then proceeds to tell me that my child will go into this thing called "cluster" feeding that I'd never heard of. The only thing I know of that includes the word cluster is not a good thing. Well, that should have been my first clue.
I applied the cream and continued to nurse. Did I mention that my boob was bigger than my child's head? Okay, I should mention that now. My boobs were glorious and shiny and full of nutrition. I'd done good. But my nipples were killing me. Was I doing something wrong? No! The lactation consultant said nothing about wrong. She said good! She even did magic by taking my nipple and showing me that colostrum was coming out (prior to this I was doubting the whole "there's food in my boob" bit). I did hear, several times that if it was hurting then something wasn't right. But since she said everything was okay I just kept going. Through the pain.
Fast forward to four nights after the birth. I'm home. I think I have this down. My nipples are SCREAMING at me. I imagine they sound like New York City construction workers on a hot afternoon in Manhattan when they are behind on a project. My boobs are the size of cantaloupes. It hurts when I even think about latching her on. But I keep nursing.
The man was upset because he does not like to watch me in pain. His words were something like: I had to watch you go through 40 hours of labor, I can't take watching you suffer every time you feed her (because Lord knows that the words "it hurt me more than it hurt you" would totally apply here, right? Enter appropriate sarcastic look on my face...now!).
But he doesn't understand. I think, "this is what my body is made for". This is what I was meant to do in the same way that I always thought my uterus would hold a baby. I am severely hardheaded. It's a condition and I am afraid it's genetic. Meanwhile, I am starting to pump. The man thinks I should sleep more so he wakes up with the child in the middle of the night and let's me sleep. Pretty great, right? WRONG! I would wake up in such pain from my boobs being too full that I didn't know what to do with myself. I'd have to get up, put the contraption together and then pump. That takes a lot more time/energy than latching a leech, I mean, child onto me.
I find the local chapter of La Leche League. One of the leaders calls me back after an email. She tells me the one thing no one else had (other than my mother). It hurts. She also tells me that it's probably going to hurt for 6 weeks. Really? SIX WEEKS?! I want to sue all the movies I've seen where a mom has lovingly put her child on her breast and continued on with life as if she wasn't feeling that the child was going to pull her nipple off, spit it out and continue nursing. I also want to beat all of my friends that have kids until they feel the same pain that I do. But at least I hear this. I watch YouTube videos on latching. I attempt to do what they do. I continue to lube up with Lansinoh.
Three weeks later, after shedding tears that could've filled up my roman tub I call Maggie. Maggie berates me a little for not having contacted her earlier and gives me a name. She says "this woman is the best". And I think, I don't know if she can fix this. I contact Pat, finally. See, the baby has been gaining weight just fine up until now. So it must be me. The first miracle: she calls me on a Sunday. The next, she sounds as if this is okay and not as if I am a weakling and perhaps doing this wrong. When I go see her, Pat informs me that the child is not latching on properly and has only been grabbing the nipple. Even when she does latch on right, the fact that I have so much milk makes her latch off so that her tongue can control the milk flow thereby making her grab on to the nipple which is causing me pain (thanks to the hot chocolate my mom's been making me drink (more on that tidbit later)“ and the fact that I've also been pumping it seems that I was making enough milk for twins!).
Pat manhandles me (and didn't even buy me a drink!) and seamlessly grabs my child's head and just plops her on. I think is that child abuse? I mean here I've been all delicate with the kid and Pat grabs my boob and her head and just BAM. If she doesn't latch on right (the baby, not Pat), she simply puts a finger in the side of her mouth and off she comes only to be latched on again. I watch in awe and wonder if Pat would consider coming home with me. I didn't want to ask because at this point I feel like an emotional wreck and am concerned someone will Baker Act me and then who will I nurse in the mental institution and will they let me pump in there?
She sends me off with some great information and a little cream that she conjures up in her office. Turns out I had a little yeast on my breast and it was causing the pain and some cracking (yeah, did I mention I had cracked nipples?!). Thankfully, the baby didn't have thrush. However, it meant that it would take a while for my nipples to heal. The thing is, you don't stop nursing while they do (at least I didn't. See hard headed statement above).
Throughout this time, mami kept giving me that look. You know the one. But it's different now. It's not just "I told you so". Being the great mami that she is, the look said, "I told you so, but I wish I could make you feel better".
So you see, I think I REALLY deserve that t-shirt. It would say:
I Make Milk
(It caused me a lot of pain (and my mother said it would), I needed a lot of support (thank you Pat for feeling me up and making me a better lactator), I'd totally do it again and plan on telling ALL THE WOMEN I can the truth about boobs as nutritional elements)
What's Your Superpower?
At work, I pump twice a day. Though for a while there I was only doing it once because I'd get caught up in the day and oh, let's not forget the mami brain. Then when I called Pat and wondered where my milk was going her first question was: are you pumping every 2 to 3 hours? I think she's had this conversation before. My office mate and best bud (let's call her Robin) sits back-to-back with me at opposite ends of the room and gets to hear the melodic err-err-err of my Medela Freestyle when I pump. She likes to make fun of me and tells anyone who listens that I am milking. The best giggles out of her come when I am in the middle of pumping and someone knocks on the door and proceeds to turn the knob immediately after (why do they bother knocking, I ask?). We have a lock, but she still thinks it's hilarious because then I have to say: "give me a minute!"or lately because hello?! It's been months and YOU know when the door is closed I am busy I say, "I'm pumping!" But my revenge is sweet. Through my sophisticated Jedi mind control, whenever she hears the pump and if she hasn't gone to the bathroom in the last 10 minutes, it makes her want to pee. But I don't let her out because I am pumping so she has to wait until I am done (15 whole minutes!).
Ten months later, I can't imagine not nursing. I rush home to make the early evening feeding. In turn, she waits for me (even if she's just eaten an hour before). She will latch on correctly and will look at me while giving me her hand to kiss. Every once in a while she latches off but now, she does it to smile up at me as if we share a secret. And then that pain suffered through the first 6 weeks of her life all of a sudden seems worth it (until I am ovulating and then I am reminded of the pain and wonder what the hell I was thinking going through all of that for so long!).
I have conference calls while strapped to my Medela Freestyle, my nipples look like chewed up gummy bears and I'm STILL Mom Sexy!
(A big happy blogoversary to The Mommyologist!)