So, as it turns out, breastfeeding is really hard. *lightbulb goes on*
Also, the tyranny of breastfeeding! The sanctimony! The guilt! The UNRELENTING PRESSURE.
For the uninitiated – a group of which I was very much a member until very recently – you don’t actually appear, minutes post partum, full of breast milk and ready to feed. In fact, it can take up to about five days for your milk to “come in.” In the meantime, you’re blessed with thick, yellowing colostrum. It’s like baby gold. Full of antibodies and all the good stuff. But for babies, getting it out of your no-longer-your-own boobs, is like sucking jello through a straw.
The first day, I barely tried to feed at all. I felt like I was outside of my body looking in, Whose baby is this? Where did this stranger come from? What am I supposed to do with him? Oh, right, FEED HIM. KEEP HIM ALIVE. *Palm to forehead* (closely followed by OWW, STITCHES).
Thankfully, while I bumbled around for a few hours in my drive to win mother of the year award, Ezra was pretty chill – you know, trauma of coming through the birth canal, lungs plugged with mucus, and so forth. In fact, newborns are so pumped up with extra fluid that they could – but please, don’t try this at home – survive for 2-3 days with literally no other nutrition. Or so the kindly, avuncular pediatrician tells me.
By Tuesday morning (Monday middle of the night? Time is no longer something that concerns me, it just, well, passes), I started to try to breastfeed. And it hurt. And I felt defeated. And he cried. And I cried. And he rooted around and around and around – all gums and smacking lips and nudging his head toward my boob and grabbing at my chest with his pointy little dagger nails. It was all very animalistic. I got a good latch on one side only to experience toe curling pain as he adjusted or as I accidentally touched the back of his head, sending a signal to pull back! pull back! And leaving him gumming every so tight and pinchy like around my nipple. And quickly, what seemed like the inevitable occurred – the beginning of the downward spiral. He latches, I cringe in pain, I detach him, I feel ENORMOUS GUILT HEAVIER THAN THE WEIGHT OF THE WORLD, I try to reattach him, but sore nipples beget sore nipples and fussy babies make for bad latchers.
And so we went. And just when I felt we had achieved one much sought after positive feed, we were hit with the news that his billirubin was high, and jaundice, the bane of pale white babies born in winter the world over, had hit. The only cure?
More cowbell! Baby blue light phototherapy. You know, baby’s first day at
the spa. C even downloaded a rainforest sounds app to get him in the mood.
It was all very entertaining – except for the part where I began weeping uncontrollably because MAH BAY-BAY! and then the other part where, you know, we had to watch him cry and squirm and scream, naked under blue light for 24 hours. Feedings were regulated, structured and competed in importance with the blue light. ALWAYS MORE BLUE LIGHT.
|Baby's first day at the spa.|
Meanwhile, I attended a hospital sponsored breast feeding support group, begged the lactation consultant to basically move into our hospital room/adopt me – she politely declined – and experienced only mildly successful feeds interspersed with SO MANY TEARS (his and mine).
The first week is a race against the clock – a race to prevent him from falling more than 10% below his birth weight. Born at a whopping 7 lbs, 14 oz, we were hoping to keep him from sliding past 7 lbs, 1 oz. But my boobs could barely keep up and when a nurse suggested supplementing with formula, I nearly lost it/declared myself unfit to be a parent
Finally, we came home. No more blue light, feedings on his schedule, in a comfortable chair, in a place where I didn’t have to wear shower shoes in the bathroom. To try to ease the transition, we had a post-partum doula come to the house and offer her wisdom. It was easily the best spent four hours of my week – except, you know, for like, giving birth. She helped us with breast feeding, she helped us with bathing, she helped us with sleeping and soothing and various forms of baby wearing. Mostly, she restored an ounce of confidence and helped us not just muscle through this – although let’s be honest, WE ARE DOING OUR DAMNDEST TO MUSCLE– but also to <novel thought> enjoy this squirming bundle of lungs.
And through it all, the feeding continues. But perhaps of equal importance, so do the conversations – with other moms who had similar challenges that are never discussed openly in public because, RED ALERT INADEQUATE MOTHER. The babies that couldn’t latch, the supplementing with formula, the breasts that, due to an earlier surgery, can’t produce enough milk. I have not met a single mom who didn’t struggle to establish breastfeeding. And somehow, that is just a little bit liberating.
SO. Onward we go, armed with MyBrestFriend, gobs of Lanolin cream, a naked baby and a Netflix subscription for prime feeding distraction. On Friday – and, I should say, without any of the aforementioned accoutrements – I achieved one of my lifelong goals when I <wait for it> breast fed while flat on my back, enduring (the most painful of my life) pelvic exam and stitches “check up.” I’m pretty sure I deserve some kind of ESTROGEN MEDAL OF FREEDOM AND BADASS MOTHERHOOD™ for that little number. No, seriously, I’ll wait at the podium.
 Try being the operative word here.
 Which, let’s be clear, is not actually what I think. At all. But there’s this whole culture that feeds off maternal inadequacy; this idea that there are ideal ways to do things and that anything less is a reflection on one’s fitness to be a parent. That supplementing with formula – or using only formula – means your child will be a maladjusted delinquent hellcat, bent on world destruction and you, a parent in name only, barely capable of raising a house plant. Well let’s just knock down that trope right now, shall we? Pleaseandthankyou.
 I can barely type this name without gagging. I registered for a boppy because the name so offended me. But it turns out that for actually feeding – as opposed to for tummy time or other pursuits of which I am only becoming aware – the BrestFriend is brest (sorry, couldn’t help myself).