Wednesday, December 19, 2012

The Sudden, and Disappointing End to Our Breastfeeing Relationship

     Go back to the first moment I was pregnant and one of my immediate thoughts, right after "NO WAY!!!!!!! EEEEEEEEEEE!!!!", was I am definitely committed to breastfeeding. Screw those crazy formula companies, their product is getting nowhere near my baby.

     Now fast forward a little bit to the few weeks after Roxas was born. I was often yelping, screaming, and gnashing my teeth as I fed him. Out of sheer stubbornness I refused, flat out refused, to give up. I was married to the best cheerleader I could ask for and I credit him with helping me stick it out. I was strong, and after all...those moms on the internet said if I quit now I just didn't try hard enough. They wanted me to try hard? You got it. Bring on the bleeding, cracking and excruciating pain. I could make it through anything.

     Moving on, it got better. The first few weeks where I didn't have to bite a towel to feed Roxas were the best. I felt like climbing on the roof and shouting to the world "We did it! I tried harder and I won!" Then my supply began getting a little shaky and I was having a hard time keeping up my little freezer stash to send with the booger while the grandparents watched him. I was not going to be defeated. I began taking upwards of 20 fenugreek capsules a day, which worked but not as well as I would have hoped. I even tried a very expensive supplement that was guaranteed to work...and it didn't so at least I got my money back. I baked lactation cookies and stuffed my face. I pumped as often as humanly possible and nursed even more. I managed to keep a steady enough supply going although it was never at the level I really hoped for.

     Fast forward again to the end of November. Roxas is just about to turn 9 months old. One day he didn't really want to nurse much, shaking his head and pushing me away. No biggie, I thought it is probably just a nursing strike. Nothing to fear, keep calm and it will pass. The next day it happened again, and again, and again. After three days Roxas had refused to nurse at all and my supply had gone from small but just enough to practically non-existent. Now I wasn't even able to get an ounce after pumping all day, every two hours religiously. Over the next few days it got worse and worse to where now I can't even hand express two drops.

     This was the end. My breastfeeding relationship with Roxas was over. It was sudden, and it was unexpected. I spoke with the doctor and he agreed starting Roxas on formula was the best option. So I bought the special formula for 9-24month olds because somehow seeing "made for older babies" made me feel better. I don't know why.

    I never knew the last time I nursed Roxas would be the last. Typing this brings tears to my eyes because a part of me knows that part of our relationship is gone. That chapter in his life is ended. It hurts. It's devastating. I had set my goal of exclusively breastfeeding until a year (and hopefully beyond) and I fell short. I failed to reach my goal. I've struggled with this idea for almost a month now. It still feels like a fresh wound and it's painful to talk about. I was so dedicated and so attached to this idea that I would be that awesome mom who breastfeeds until a year. My son would never have a drop of formula! I said that so many times I began to believe any other option was failure as a mother. Yes, I failed to reach the goal of one year...but now I'm trying to look at it as I reached my goals of making it to 1 month, and 6 months, and 8 months of exclusively breastfeeding. For the first 8 months of my son's life I gave him the best nutrition I could.

     Part of the reason I think I am having such a hard time with this is the internet. I spent a great deal of time on extreme pro-breastfeeding websites having it hammered into me that breast was not only best but it was the ONLY way. Having statistics like only 1-2% of mothers truly can't breastfeed displayed everywhere I looked. Having people say things like "most mothers who quite just didn't try hard enough" or "they just didn't want it bad enough". Those things. They are what made this transition so difficult. Here I am saying to I must not have tried hard enough...I just didn't want it bad enough I guess. Do the women who say those things even have any idea what they do to the psyche of the women who have genuine issues? It makes them feel horrendous. Like we might as well just put Drano in our baby's bottle if we are going to formula feed. Yes, I know I should believe everything on the internet and part of it is my own fault for letting myself believe those things.

     Now I am working hard on turning around to the positive. I made it to 8, almost 9 months. That's a hell of a feat considering the trouble I encountered and I am VERY proud of it. Truthfully, Roxas is doing just fine with not nursing. I still try to offer it to him but he happily shakes his head no and pushes me away to go play with his toys. He is absolutely fine with this change, and it's somewhat comforting to know that. It's just me that is having the problems with accepting it. I am making progress though. I don't think I will ever be over it completely, and my goal remains the same next time around but now I am looking at it as just raising my "high score", so to speak. I just have more room for improvement now. I know Roxas is happy and healthy and he had the best start in life I could give. I gave what I could and no matter what it was an accomplishment.

     So, it's been a tough change but we are proud of how far we managed to come and what we've accomplished. I will continue to work hard on changing how I see myself as a formula feeding mother, that I am not a failure but rather a victor. I have achieved victory in keeping my baby alive and healthy these past nine months, no matter what my goals or plans were. The plan has to change sometimes and I have to accept it no matter how hard to swallow it may be.

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