I didn't plan to have a special needs child. I didn't plan to stay in Children's for a week after she was born. I planned to breast feed. None of that happened, and I have to say I am happier and probably all the better for it. I'm ok with the amount of change that came with my day to day life. I adapt well at work, it was about time I figured out how to do it at home, too.
I just finished reading a blog post (located here) about a gal who exclusively pumps.
Holy crap. It's not just me.
I know, I know. I'm not special. If I have the issue there's bound to be someone else with this issue, too. Right??? Tell that to the gal sitting on the couch at 3 am on her second pump of the night, who is crying cause she just pumped blood, or is worried that the amount of milk isn't going to be enough to provide a full feed, or is trying to figure out if she washed the other pump equipment earlier in the day, so she can just go right back to sleep.
It's rough some days, I feel like I am chained to the pump. Every two to four hours I pump, and then I try to get the baby to eat. Whatever she doesn't eat via bottle, she gets via a tube. By the time that is all done, it's just about time to get to pumping again. Because she works so hard to eat, she has to take in more calories to maintain her weight, which means more milk, which means more pumping. One day I pumped for 5 hours. It's hard explaining this to people. For a while I kept hearing people ask why I didn't keep trying to breast feed all of the time, or why I was busy, and so I would gently explain Isabella's condition, or my pumping schedule. It was hard having to explain myself and justify what I was doing. You always hear that "breast is best", and if you're not doing it that way, something must be wrong with you.
When I first had Isabella, I was crushed when I found out that I wouldn't be able to breast feed. I kept thinking about all that would go wrong-I wouldn't be able to bond with her, my milk won't come in right, she won't...Blah. Every negative thought that I could have had about myself in the first few days popped up.
Luckily, I had a supportive partner, and a great medical team at Children's who was there to help cheer me on. I started out hand expressing and using the pump, using a tiny syringe to collect the droplets of colostrum. Then, a bigger syringe. Then my milk was coming in enough that I started to fill up the little containers. I was proud of myself and my little container that was filled up to 80 mls! The day that I pumped almost 200 mls in one session I did a giant happy dance.
For the first few days of her tiny life, Isabella was solely tube fed. She couldn't take a bottle or do breast feeding. She couldn't get suction and would usually get frustrated and scream. We would both end up tired and sad. It still stung that I wouldn't be able to breast feed her. Eventually, our specialist found the right bottle and a valve that prevented milk from going back into the bottle when she ate. I cried the first time she took a bottle of my milk. The video of me feeding her still makes me cry. From that moment I started to feel better about not breast feeding. Getting her off the tube became the goal.
I can't remember who it was, probably Nick, who had an awesome reframe of my situation. No, I am not breastfeeding, but at least I know exactly how much milk I am giving to Isabella. There's no guessing game, no worry about weight loss after birth. I was given a target amount to pump, I pumped it, and I fed it to her. That helped take off some of the pressure.
I was doing great-pumping a ton, making more milk than I knew what to do with. Life was good, and I was feeling a little better about not breast feeding. Then I got my first round of mastitis. Holy crap, that is no joke! Mom's who EP are at higher risk of blocked ducts and in turn mastitis-the pump just isn't as efficient as a baby. You don't get this info in class. You get it from the lactation consultant you see when your boob is swollen up the size of small country, and not in the sexy way, but more in the Quasimodo lumpy way.
I not only felt like crap physically, mentally I was upset-how could I have let this happen. If I can't take care of my own body, how am I supposed to take care of a kid? All my negative (and pretty damn irrational) thoughts came back. Unfortunately, so did the mastitis...in both breasts.
Son of a...
I was in pain and on antibiotics, I smelled funny, my kid smelled funny and pooped way more than I was used to. To top it off, my milk production was reduced. Fail.
That was a few weeks ago. I just keep going at it, figuring it will all work out. It always does. My milk production still isn't what it was, but I'm still using my support system, posting my thoughts and experiences on facebook, adding when I find other posts from women who are in the same non-traditional boat as I am. It feels good. I have those days where I want to say screw it, and just go to formula. I want to be able to sleep during the night, instead of being up every few hours and being tied to the pump.
But for now, it works. The other big lesson that Isabella has taught me? It's no longer about me. It's all about her. She likes breast milk way more than formula and she farts way less with the breast milk, so we all win there. A well fed, less farty baby equals a happy momma and poppa.
In closing this post-Motherhood is hard. What works for some, just won't work for others. It's long hours and no pay. It's a crying baby, and feelings of happiness and frustrations that run deep. I am so thankful for the experiences of those around me, and those that I am just meeting. It lets me know I am not alone. Every NICU parent, every momma whose delivery wasn't the dream that they had, and every momma that knows the frustration of feeling like a failure over the "dream" not going to plan, it lets me know I am not alone.
Here's to finding what works, what doesn't, and just being happy. Here's to no judgement, and being ok with the new version of your dream. Whatever that may be; it's going to be the right way.