I’m sitting in Charlotte’s nursery as I write this from my phone. We’re rocking and I’m nursing her.
It’s different this time around, as is the case with so much. With Bella I really didn’t enjoy breastfeeding. It hurt. She wouldn’t take a bottle. I did it for 15 months and when she refused one night I rejoiced. I missed it a little, but hadn’t been prepared for what it really entailed.
Then when I lost the twins, my milk still came in and I was horrified. How could this happen – talk about adding insult to injury. I felt like my body should have known they died, I didn’t want to wear breast pads and deal with engorgement. I felt betrayed again.
When Kaden was born, my only option at first was to pump. So I did. I pumped and showed up to feed him in the NICU and tried to nurse him as often as I could. And yet he was so sleepy. The nurses chalked it up to him being a newborn, but looking back now I know it was because his heart just couldn’t keep up. His little feet would get cold and I’d keep trying to rouse him to keep eating. Eventually they’d hand me a formula bottle and I’d feed him that, feeling like a complete failure that breastfeeding, once again, didn’t seem to be my deal.
To me – who really didn’t like breastfeeding and HATED pumping with Bella, the irony of being a pumping machine now is not lost on me. Still don’t like it. But it’s all day. Every day. And it’s all I really can do for him. That makes the plugged ducts and annoyance worth it. Because in this setting (with so much going on) it isn’t easy to find the time or place. Although the hospital does everything they can to accommodate. But still. Not my favorite. ?
I was nursing him for the last time in a room with Sam when the doctors knocked on the door and told me to come out immediately, his results on his heart were back. If I’d known that would be the last time I’d ever nursed him, ever held him without a million wires and a small army of people trying to maneuver him from his bed to my arms – oh. I might have never let go.
I pumped for the next two and a half weeks and when he died, I donated the gallons of milk I’d stored at Children’s. It took a long time for my milk to dry up. A constant reminder to pump for no reason. I thought about seeing if anyone would want it, but in a way I just wanted to be done. I sat on my bed one day out of the shower as milk ran down my postpartum stomach and thought, “My whole body is crying for him.”
When Charlotte was born, I was determined to give it another shot. She latched immediately after birth. That was one thing I’d wanted – them to give her to me. Don’t clean her, don’t take her away. Just let me have her. From there we both worked on getting it right. I saw a lactation consultant in the hospital and was able to figure out why nursing Bella always hurt. I began to feel a bit more confident in what my body could do.
It’s been 6 months now. I don’t have a nursing deadline, and we’ve never been on any kind of schedule with it. I’m not a fan of nursing in public (just my own preference, I’d defend any mama’s right to do that) so I cover or slip away to somewhere a bit more private. I don’t mind at all, it gives us both a chance to relax and unwind for a few minutes. There’s been some painful times. For the first six weeks of her life every time she latched I cried. Then I got mastitis and thrush at the same time. But we’ve kept going and working through it.
I always felt like I missed so much bonding with Kaden, and even Bella, because I either didn’t know what to do or had it taken away from me. I would have given anything just to feed Kaden more often – regardless of what it was. But the one time the doctors thought I might be able to, he got so sick from real food (he was fed through a tube in his stomach) and that was the last time I could.
So I hold Charlotte in these moments, thankful for the break this gives us. The several times a day it forces me to slow down. To hold and rock her. To slip away to her room and marvel at how big she’s gotten. To think of the journey that brought her to us. And how one day I’ll tell her about it all.
And a constant thought in my head is how very glad I am we get to do this part of life again. All of it.