This is my baby girl. My third one. When it comes to nursing, she’s done well. But I’m not writing about her so much as I’m writing about me. I’m selfish that way.
Breastfeeding is something I’m passionate about, but it has not come easy for me. In fact, I have a love-hate relationship with it. There. I said it. The pro-nursing mommies can gasp in disgust. It’s this unspoken rule that breastfeeding is best, so it must be loved by all moms all the time. Nothing could be more untrue.
On a side note, typically I like to write victory posts with happily-ever-after type resolutions. This is not one of them. This is not like my regular writing. Because I’m not sure where I’m going from here. I may continue nursing. I may not. It may be the battle of my life if I attempt to close Tatum’s milk shop right now. My health may well depend on it, so I can cleanse and address my energy level, discomfort and toxins that are wreaking me. But I’m not sure what I’m going to do, so maybe writing this will help me sort through my options in my own head.
Here’s the thing. I hate boobies. Mine have always been lumpy. (It’s a genetic thing.) So as much as I’d like to do self breast exams for my own health, I have a really, really hard time doing it. I don’t like the feel of breast tissue. I don’t like mine touched in any kind of harsh way, which basically means bumping into me. Heck, a heavy hug can be a bit uncomfortable for my ta-tas, in all honesty.
I had NO IDEA how hard breastfeeding was going to be. Luckily for me, my boobs and babies had no idea how stubborn I could be. My stubborn nature won out, but not without a hard fight or two with each experience.
My firstborn was the most challenging. Hours after her birth, she was whisked off to the NICU where the nurses shoved a bottle in her mouth upon her arrival. She had a curled lip and trouble latching, and I had production issues. I ordered supplements from out of the country, pumped a dozen times a day (even on my commute to work), ate oatmeal every morning and did everything I could to produce milk for my baby girl….all for about 4 ounces of milk — TOTAL. Yep. I was a crazed momma. Obviously, baby one was fed a mixture of my milk and formula and weaned herself at 1.
My son was a champion nurser. Though I recall sitting in my living room staring at my bleeding nipple, crying to the lactation nurse on the phone and telling her I was over it. I. just. couldn’t. do. it. another. day. He was only six days old. Much like the phrase “I just can’t do it” in the midst of pushing baby No. 1, eventually she had to come out and I’d stick by my stubborn promise to nurse baby No. 2. By 10 days old, we were over the hump. We made it to a year with absolutely no supplemental formula needed. We did have a small bout of mastitis, which was easily treated.
This time around it had been 11 years. My memory was foggy. I thought it would be easy. Breastfeeding is, by the way, never easy. At least not in the beginning. That doesn’t mean it’s not worth it. It’s just amazing that anyone at all every makes it through the first two weeks. Any mom who does deserves A LOT of praise. It’s hard. Really, really hard. When you see a nursing mom, congratulate her. Honor her. That took so much. When you see a formula-feeding mom, congratulate her. Honor her. You have no idea what she might have sacrificed or what her reasons were that she chose (or was forced to choose) bottles over breast.
Anyhoo, back to me.
To look at this gorgeous photo, you’d think it was smooth sailing. It wasn’t. I latched her on wrong the first time she nursed and paid for it the next two days. Thankfully there were no major meltdowns right away. But a few weeks in, there was an awful diaper rash and a white tongue. It was yeast. All my pumped milk had to be dumped, and we both had to be treated.
Aw. This sweet, sweet girl. She liked her middle-of-the-night feedings until about 9 months old. But she never nursed in excess. She just ate and was off to more important feats.
Meanwhile, a lot of my health issues were creeping back in the form of subtle symptoms and emotional baggage. Endometriosis pain returned when she was about six months old, and eventually it was accompanied by insomnia, fatigue and depression. It used to be the story of my life.
I’ve prayed about this and had conversations with friends about this. My husband and I have talked at length about this. I know my health and my ability to mother all of my children well will be so much better if I could just cleanse again, but I can’t cleanse if I’m nursing. So, am I the good mom who keeps giving her daughter breast milk as long as possible, even if it means dealing with excruciating pain and related mental health issues? Or do I stop so I can address the other issues that are probably making me less patient, zapping my energy and setting me up to be reactive and snarky because of the pain and lack of sleep?
As the date of our vacation approached, it occurred to me that the very thought of packing, making and cleaning bottles was MORE stressful for me than nursing. So that became my benchmark. Just. Make. It. To. August 7. Or maybe she’d lose interest even sooner. Just like Tatum’s siblings did.
Here she is again. She’s so cute. She used to nurse normally like this. I can’t share a photo with you today, because she sticks her butt in the air and is constantly moving her whole body all over the place. It’s impossible to discreetly nurse her in public. lol!
This is where the story takes a turn. My girl who never lingered at the breast is suddenly very compelled to search out the boobies at any time she feels like it. Right when I had her down to three feedings a day, she learned to lift my shirt and help herself to the buffet of momma’s milk.
And if I try to push my shirt down from her tiny, white-fisted grasp, she belts out a holler of protest in her best high-pitched voice. Yep. Her first fit. Over my boobs.
That’s where we’re at…a showdown to see who will get the boobies first.
I have my hopes….still. That after our vacation, I can give her a few bottles and wean her. Maybe. Or, maybe not. Perhaps she’ll be the one to outlast me. Here’s the crazy part, I know I’ll never nurse another baby again. As much as I want to focus on my health so I can be a better mommy to all three of my children, I hate that this chapter is coming to an end. It will end.
And even though part of me wants it to end now, I’ll cry. I’ll pout. And I’ll throw my big momma fit. For now, though, me and the boobies are on tour. Tatum — I am sure — is flaunting them on our trip out east every chance she gets.