Tuesday, October 20

Something They Might Not Have Told You About Babies...

I mentioned in an earlier post that I would share some more about my early experience with nursing my Matthew. Ladies, let me be the first to say it, if someone has not already broken this news to you: Nursing is NOT always second nature. It is not always easy, and the baby, regardless of how soon after birth he lies on your stomach and you place him on the breast, sometimes does not quickly attach or begin to nurse automatically. It took Matthew and I quite a while to achieve this supposed instinctive and natural skill.

That first week was one of the hardest of my life. It's difficult to understand, unless you are a mother and have suffered something like this. It is absolutely devastating not to be able to give your baby what you as mother ought naturally be able to provide for him.

I remember as soon as Matthew was born, they swaddled him up in a lil wee baby blanket and handed him to me. I nearly wept for joy, at last being able to hold my little son in my arms and cuddle him close. Time stood still for a few moments, and all I can remember is gazing into his little eyes and hearing Jonathan exclaiming, "Oh wow, oh WOW" and "He's just perfect."

I thought the "hard work" part was over, and the "pure bliss enjoyment" had commenced. I was wrong. There was plenty of bliss, don't get me wrong. But my work had only just begun with labor.

I remember while I was holding Matthew for the first time, just loving him all over with my eyes and pronouncing him the most beautiful of all babies, the nurse finally suggested that I nurse him... What? Now? With this audience of my entire family and the nursing staff and doctors etc, etc? But they told me that the sooner, the better, so I shrugged and said there were no secrets anyways, as most of them had just seen me deliver the little guy.

Now ladies, another thing that "they" may not tell you is that... well, for lack of a better way of saying it, all those hormones that will earthquake your body during pregnancy, labor, and delivery will exponentially increase your well-endowedness... Let's just say I rocketed up quite a few cup sizes from start to finish. That made it incredibly difficult to even see Matthew's face while trying to encourage him to nurse. I don't know how he must have felt with this gigantic torpedo approaching at breakneck speed...

The first couple of attempts, I simply couldn't even get him to latch on. My mom and the nurses kept encouraging me, and telling me not to worry when he didn't get it. "Most babies don't get it at first," they said, "It just takes a while. Just keep trying..."

I tried. And tried. And tried some more. I was just SO big, and SO unwieldy, and SO out of control. Matthew just simply was not able to latch on.

They kept me 48 hours in the hospital, and every 6 hours, a new nurse would come on duty and tell me how I should be nursing well by now, that Matthew should be getting this, that it's not that hard. "Here, let me show you," they'd say one after the other, and yet another pair of hands would be showing me how it should be in order for Matthew to successfully latch... Nothing worked. And I started to feel tense and just a little bit uncomfortable with the thought of Matthew not getting it...

At first, I was just happy to have finished pushing and start hugging and kissing. After 48 hours in the hospital, I was ready to go home and be done with people constantly telling me how easy this should be. Only the last nurse (and I seriously thank God for her), mentioned that it might not be as easy as all that, and suggested that I call a lactation consultant if Matthew didn't get it soon. She also - again, GOD BLESS HER- gave me a modified little syringe to help get colostrum (what your breasts produce until your milk comes in) flowing and entice Matthew to latch. I'm truly so grateful to her, both for telling me that it was ok to call an expert for help, and for the practical tools she offered.

I remember walking out of the hospital and thinking to myself, "Now what?" At least I had Jonathan for an extra day. We went home on a Monday, and he got Tuesday off as well. But that first night at home, as I got up hour after hour with a hungry baby that just couldn't get what he so desperately wanted, I cried and cried. I felt I was a failure as a mother, and Matthew hadn't even been home a whole day. I felt that nursing was the one thing that was supposed to be natural, easy, instinctive. It was the one thing that I alone could provide for my little boy. It was supposed to be this incredible bonding experience, where I would look at my baby and he would look at me and it would be magical. And the fact that it wasn't made filled me with doubt and fear and anxiety.

Instead of blissful bonding, my breasts throbbed from my milk coming in even though Matthew wasn't really nursing. Matthew sensed my tension and frustration, and he would get frustrated when he couldn't get any milk. Then it got to the point where I had to extract colostrum with a pump, then feed it to Matthew through a medicine dropper. I remember I would attempt to nurse Matthew, only to fail yet again. After enduring his pitiful attempts for as long as I could bear, I would give him the little colostrum that I had pumped with the eye dropper, all the while bawling at my inadequacies. After he would finally fall asleep, I would sit and pump for the next 40 minutes, trying to get the tiny bit of colostrum out that he would need for the next feeding, because of course he wouldn't be able to get it himself. All the while, crying and crying. It was devastating.

I can't explain how difficult this was for me. Night after night, I would sit by myself with my little baby, incapable of explaining to him how to nurse, and he being unable to accomplish it on his own. He would cry and I would cry, and I would pray to God to spare my baby from my failures. I was already exhausted from the delivery and attempting to adjust to having a new baby in the house. I simply couldn't fathom on top of that having to endure Matthew not nursing. I thought I was alone in this failure. No one told me it might be this hard.

I honestly suffered so much in that first week. Especially after Jonathan went back to work, and I sat there staring at Matthew in his crib, all beautiful and snuggly and sleeping, wondering if the next feeding would be any better. Or would I simply have to give up on my desire to nurse altogether?

Now granted, there are many mothers out there who give their babies formula, and I would be the last person on earth to make a judgment on that. It's a personal decision to be made based on your particular situation, needs, limitations, and God's will for your baby. I just really wanted to be able to breastfeed, and I saw my difficulty with it as a failure, which was a total lie from Satan. If you ever find yourself in a position like this and make the decision to bottlefeed, I will be the first to give you my support. There are many women who simply cannot breastfeed, and have to consider other options. May God bless you.

My mother was so incredibly wonderful that first week, giving me the support and encouragement that only another mother can, who knows that feeling, that suffering. Even she, however, had an easy time with nursing, and didn't know how to help me help Matthew. Jonathan too was a great help, supporting me and praying for me as best he was able.

Just remembering those sleepless nights with my wee one and the eyedropper make my heart ache a little even now. It truly was so hard. Ladies, do not ever, not even once, think that just because you have a tough time nursing, that you are a failure as a mother. I did for a few minutes over those first days, and it was such a lie from Satan to discourage me from the beginning. Sometimes it just happens. Nursing sometimes is just hard and takes time. Sometimes it doesn't happen at all.

And none of that reflects at all on your ability to be a mother, or to bond with your baby, or to give him all that he needs. He will have all that he needs and you will be able to care for and bond with him, regardless of whether you are able to breastfeed or make the decision to bottlefeed. My point with this post is not to suggest one over the other. My point is first of all to say to all those women to whom it has not been told, NURSING IS NOT ALWAYS EASY. Secondly, never, ever, EVER doubt your vocation or capacity as a mother just because nursing is hard or impossible. It's a tremendous cross to bear, but it is not a curse. I had to come to that realization myself.

Thanks be to God, Matthew finally caught on to the concept of nursing after a week of eyedroppers and pumping and throbbing and sobbing. I can't tell you the relief when I finally felt him truly latch for the first time, heard the little gulps of delight, watched his face relax and his little mouth move up and down with each swallow of milk. I cried, but for a different reason. I was so incredible thankful. All those prayers, all that suffering, and at last my little boy was receiving his nourishment from his mommy.

Matthew lost 10 ounces that first week, more than the usual 10% of his birth weight. Thanks be to God, he was a chubbers when he was born (8lbs, 14oz), so he had some wiggle room. But my mom told me after he finally started eating that she was definitely starting to get worried at the end there. He just wasn't eating much at all! And then, in the nick of time, something just clicked... and that something, I believe, was grace.

I thank God even to this day, after 5 months of Matthew nursing like a champ. Every time he wakes me up and I think to myself, "Man, at this point he should very well be sleeping through the night!" I remember back to those heartrending days and I think to myself how very blessed I am. And I stumble through the dark house to my beautiful baby's room, delight in the fact that he stops crying at the sight of me and gives me a big smile, and I hold him close, thankful for yet another opportunity to remember how God has been so marvelously faithful.

1 comment:

  1. Wow that is incredible! Thank you for sharing this!


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