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Breastfeeding after Infertility

Sue Stuever Battel
Reed City Michigan USA
From: NEW BEGINNINGS, Vol. 21 No. 4, July-August 2004, p. 134

I have always been a self-confident person, but four years of infertility struggles left me deeply depressed and unsure of myself and my body. My husband, Bob, also suffered as we yearned for a child.

Infertility is hard on a couple. I feel fortunate that, in our case, it actually brought us closer as we learned all we could about medical treatments and adoption.

We chose to try medical treatment first. Infertility treatments, I think, are especially hard on women. It was me who had to be poked and prodded with a multitude of tests, me who felt an empty womb, me who was called barren. I felt as if I were the only woman left sitting in church on Mother's Day when the pastor invited all mothers to stand and receive applause.

Even after doctors confirmed our problem was male-factor infertility related to sperm quality, I noticed on my charts that well-meaning technicians repeatedly made assumptions that labeled me with "ovulatory dysfunction." Something was wrong with me, or at least that's how I felt.

The saddest week of our lives, in November 2001, ended up being the happiest. After undergoing an all-consuming medical technique to try to conceive a baby, Bob and I received a phone call from our specialist saying the blood test showed I was not pregnant. But lo and behold, the baby inside me was fooling us. Less than a week later, another test (and another and another) proved that a healthy baby was growing inside my womb!

But while other pregnant women dream about what their baby might look like-whether he'll have Mommy's eyes or she'll get Daddy's nose-I never let myself think in real terms about my developing daughter. After so many disappointments, I was afraid to get my hopes up. I feared something would happen to my baby.

On August 3, 2002, a wet, tiny person was placed on my chest. The baby I had just birthed stared at me with big, brown eyes. She is our beautiful daughter, Adele Lynn Stuever Battel, now a healthy and active toddler.

I nursed Addy within minutes of birth. We used a nipple shield for three weeks until I figured out how to better present my flat nipples and she learned how to latch onto them. We attended our first La Leche League meeting when Addy was about six weeks old. All the breastfeeding challenges we encountered after that were quickly smoothed out with the support of fellow members and Leaders.

Now at every well-child visit, the doctor confirms what Bob and I already know: Addy is healthy, happy, bright, and growing well. I believe a big part of this is because she has two loving parents who know human milk and its accompanying comfort are what she needs.

My body, once labeled as "dysfunctional," is now responsible for nurturing and nourishing a wonderful little life. Once afraid to look forward, I now dream about my daughter as a child, a teen, as a mother herself.

When Bob and I were hit hard by one of those horrible, knock-down flus, Addy remained healthy. I know the antibodies I gave her through my milk kept her that way. When strangers remark about how contented Addy is in a variety of situations, I know it's because she feels a secure bond to me, as fostered by our nursing.

While pregnant with Addy, I decided we would try our best to do everything just right. Things had to be perfect for this child we had struggled to have. For us, that didn't mean expensive clothes or gadgets, but the perfect food (human milk), the loving arms of attached parents, and a committed, stay-at-home mother. Looking back, I probably would have chosen to breastfeed anyway if we had been able to conceive four years earlier, but maybe I wouldn't have been as committed. Maybe I would have given in to cultural pressures to wean early, maybe I wouldn't have known about attachment parenting, or maybe it would have been harder for us to live on only Bob's income.

It may be silly, but sometimes while Addy nurses a song runs through my head, "I am strong! Strong! I am invincible! Invincible! I am wooo-maaa-aan!"

Breastfeeding after infertility made me feel once again like an empowered woman. Just look at my growing girl. I did that!

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