Friday, December 7, 2012

On a failed endeavor.

I wanted to breastfeed my baby girl. I didn't make plans for how long, was waiting until I got into things to decide when I wanted to also give her bottles (of pumped breastmilk, I had bought a pump), and did not get myself into the militant anti-formula mindset that some do. However, I very strongly wanted to breastfeed, to give her the best start, to do something so perfectly natural.

I was happy to be able to do so almost immediately after she was born, before they took her to the nursery to clean her up, weigh and measure her, and so on. She latched on without issue, and I was thrilled. Of course, she was as exhausted as I was, so she kept falling asleep. Couldn't blame the kid, she'd had a hard day, too.

Later, though, we kept having the same problem. She'd fall asleep almost immediately after latching on, even if she had been awake and alert right before. Then she started to refuse the boob. She wouldn't just politely decline, though, she'd scream bloody murder, back arched and everything. I thought at first maybe she was just frustrated at not getting anything (it takes a few days for milk to come in), but then I saw that I was leaking colostrum (the pre-milk good stuff that is produced until the milk comes in) whenever she would initially start to nurse. So all the pieces were there... I was making the stuff she needed, and she was able to latch. But for some reason she just wasn't having it.
Sometimes if I could get her to just latch on even if she was going ballistic, she'd calm down and nurse for a little while (and inevitably fall asleep, which was another battle), but for the most part that wasn't the case. It was just a heartbreaking scream-fest, and my baby wasn't eating. One nurse literally scared the shit out of my poor screaming child by grabbing her head and holding it in place while rubbing her throat to encourage swallowing. Baby girl's eyes popped wide open, she stopped screaming as she froze up, latched on, and then loudly shit in her diaper as soon as the nurse walked off. I think we both hated that nurse. But even that didn't work. As with any other time a nurse tried to help us out (and none of the others traumatized us like that, they really were trying to help), she simply latched on and then either fall asleep or came off screaming as soon as they walked off.

But basically, she wasn't eating much of anything. I'd whip out the boob, she might or might not latch for a minute, she'd start screaming and arching her back and otherwise have a meltdown, I'd console her, she'd fall asleep, I'd wake her up and try again, and the cycle would repeat. There were a few times we were somewhat successful, and I'll admit I straight up lied to the nurses and told them she was nursing for longer than she actually was in those instances so they wouldn't insist on bottle-feeding her. But that night I caved. That evil nurse briefly became my savior when she asked me if I wanted her to take her to the nursery for the night so I could get some rest. I was in full-on breakdown mode, sobbing right along with baby girl as I tried to console her, and I knew I had in that moment reached my limit. I told her to take her, and when she asked if I wanted them to give her a bottle or bring her back in when she was ready to eat again I said they could give her the bottle. I was such a wreck, I could hardly move, I was exhausted and still hooked up to machines because of my blood pressure, was still on medication that made me drowsy, my hormones were going haywire, and the child I loved more than anything in the world rejected what I could offer. I balled my eyes out when they took her out of my room, feeling exhausted, feeling like a failure, feeling guilty and weak and completely powerless. But the logical, realistic, practical side of my brain kept saying "It's more important that she eats than that she eats the way you want her to." And my mom was there with me through it all, too, saying "You're not a failure, you're not a bad mom. You're doing what you have to, and this doesn't mean you can't keep trying."

I did keep trying, but had the same results. So after leaving the hospital I started using the pump, wanting her to still be able to get the benefits of breastmilk even if she wasn't getting it directly from the source. But again, things kept getting in the way of allowing me to pump as often as I would need to in order to keep up my supply to keep up with her needs, and she was getting formula a few times a day. In order for exclusive pumping to truly be successful, you need to pump either before or after every feeding, or at least every 2-3 hours. But I ran into issues, because pumping takes forever, feeding her and getting her settled takes forever, and that first week we were constantly on the go, and my pump stopped working the very damn night my milk came in. It was replaced the next day, but that was still a VERY uncomfortable few hours. I was trying so hard to do it all on my own even though I was staying with my mom and she was always there to help, but I wore myself out and what got pushed aside most often (aside from my health lol) was pumping. The most I pumped was six times in one day, and I only did that a couple of days.

Then I came back home after a week at Mom's, because The Hubby was coming home for Thanksgiving. That's when pumping really started taking a hit, because I kept pushing it aside in favor of spending time with him and helping him with baby girl. He only had a few days home, but after he left I decided to stay home, just me and baby girl, instead of going back to my mom's. There's no place like home, and all. But without someone to help me out, pumping dropped down to 2-3 times a day, and then down to 1-2, and now I'm on my second day of not pumping at all. She hit a growth spurt and started "snacking." She'd only eat a little bit at a time, and she was eating a lot more often. Plus she's been awake more, and when she's awake I'm holding her and interacting with her. Can't hold her and pump, and if she's left to chill by herself for very long while she's awake she starts fussing. So the only time I could pump is when she's sleeping. But she's been taking longer to get to sleep, and half the time she wakes back up as soon as I lay her down. The past few times I tried to pump I wasn't getting anywhere near as much as I had been, so I knew my supply was way down. It's hard to increase it once it's been allowed to drop, and the past few days she's been so clingy and fussy I haven't been able to pump any. I actually got her to nurse a couple of times yesterday (I've kept trying every once in a while--for the most part unsuccessfully), but I know she wasn't getting much and when I tried again it was back to "not gonna happen, Mom." So basically we're just using up what's left of the breastmilk I have stored in the fridge, then switching to exclusively using formula.               

I was putting quite a bit of pressure on myself, wanting everything just this once to work out easily. But it hasn't. It's frustrating that I couldn't even make it 4 weeks before giving up on not just breastfeeding but pumping as well. It has been difficult enough for me to deal with all this that I've been crying while typing most of this out. Re-living it is hard, going through it was devastating. But to me, it's more important that baby girl has a sane-ish, somewhat-rested mama. There were too many times where I knew I had enough time to either pump or get something to eat myself or wash bottles or do laundry, etc., but not more than one of those things before she woke up. I question what I could have differently to in order for things to have worked out, but ultimately I did what I did and that can't be changed. She is still growing, is perfectly healthy, and is just her own little perfect self. Why did I ever think that a child of mine would cooperate? I must say that it totally sucks that feeding her just got a lot more expensive, however. Le sigh.

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