My Experiences in Motherhood
Sunrise, FL, USA
From New Beginnings, Vol. 25 No. 6, 2008-09, pp. 11-13
The First Journey
I can't say I enjoyed nursing the entire first year. But ask me about the second and third years, and I'll tell you a different story. A difficult delivery ending in a birth by cesarean didn't help my daughter and me to get off to a good start. We were beset by problems and even ended up back in the hospital for tests because my daughter wasn't nursing well.
Luckily, we had a fantastic lactation consultant, Pat, who saved our nursing relationship. We were in her office almost every day the first two weeks. She stood beside us and cheered my daughter on to nurse. "Come on, Mia! You can do it!" And miraculously my daughter would start to move her tiny jaws. Pat turned to us and said, "She needs a lot of encouragement."
We made it through the first months to move on to an infant pulling off the breast and screaming. My neighbor remarked, "It's like you're going to war." That's exactly what it felt like. My daughter's distraught screams would elicit tears of frustration in me.
At five months, I finally figured out how to nurse lying down. What a welcome relief from sitting up all night long. Five months of age also brought a distractible infant with them, a move from Orlando, Florida, USA to Miami, Florida, USA to live with family, and severe postpartum depression.
Nursing felt like the only thing I had to offer my child during that period. We would retreat to the bedroom to nurse while I cried inconsolably, convinced my daughter would be better off with another mother. I also felt like nursing was draining me of all energy as Mia nursed pretty much all night, waking if I tried to unlatch her.
After months of depression, a friend in California, USA helped me find a local playgroup, one started by a few La Leche League mothers. I drove 45 minutes to meet with them and they saved my life. They helped me get back in touch with reality and pulled me out of my depression.
As my daughter's first birthday rolled around, I realized that I had nursing mother friends, a wonderful little girl, and a nursing relationship that was still going strong. In fact, my daughter had no interest in food until about 14 months, so nursing provided her with almost all of her nutrition.
After the trials and tribulations of the first year, I moved into a period of truly enjoying nursing. My depression had lifted and my daughter loved my milk. Nursing also became a valuable tool for lengthy medical exams of my daughter's heart murmur. I would nurse her during echocardiograms, amazing the doctors that she would stay still for so long. Nursing actually prevented her from being sedated at a young age to get the data the doctors needed.
I went to a La Leche League meeting shortly before my daughter's second birthday. While tearing up amongst friends, I announced that I had achieved my goal of nursing for two years. In fact, we were going beyond. Although I felt like I was ready to wean her, I knew that she had heart surgery in her near future to repair an atrial septal defect.
The surgery was scheduled when my daughter was two-and-a-half. Only because we were breastfeeding, the nurses allowed me to stay in the intensive care unit with her and even sleep beside her in bed. My daughter pretty much stayed latched on throughout her recovery period. I was so grateful that we had made it through the first month, and then the first year, and then the second year of nursing to be able to offer her such comfort.
My daughter weaned later that year, a month before she turned three years old. I nursed her for the last time in the early morning, reveling in her sweet body that my milk had helped to grow and heal.
I teach prenatal yoga classes and am constantly passing on information about breastfeeding. My students never stop hearing about it. One thing I'm sure to say is that although it may be difficult at first, it's worth it in the long run. You don't know what's going to happen in your child's life that makes nursing a true necessity.
The Second Journey
When they get back from their father's house or I arrive at his, both children run and hug me. I inhale the smell of them. No matter what time it is, Eva leads me to the couch with the words "na-na." Having gone two or three days without nursing, she always wants to nurse immediately upon seeing me. So I sit and I nurse her, feeling her snuggle up to me. She reaches up and twirls my hair, her body relaxes and we are both happy and reconnecting after our separation.
Her father and I are divorced. My ex-husband is very supportive of Eva's nursing relationship and mine and understands about not being able to be separated more than two nights in a row. The children go back and forth between houses and we also spend the night at each other's places so that Eva will not have to be away from me too long. It's not always easy being with my ex-husband, but we both feel it's important to get along for our children's sake.
Eva's a tiny child who climbs and jumps and never stops going. I got pregnant with her after three miscarriages. I had given up hope of ever having a second baby when my pregnancy with her held. I planned to have a vaginal birth at a birthing center but, as with my first birth, I ended up in the hospital having a cesarean.
I fought for the right to keep Eva with me and away from the nursery warming lights. Once I got her, I latched her on and never let her go again. Like they did with my first daughter, nursing problems came immediately -- a baby not nursing enough, a nervous engineer husband running weight gain calculations out loud, and thrush. But this time I had an incredible circle of nursing women, many of them La Leche League Leaders, to support me. I was on the phone to them immediately, seeking support on how to get Eva nursing more and crying less.
Eva's infancy was pretty easy and I felt happy and bonded to her. She started dropping weight though around nine months old. Over a couple of months, she went from the 90th percentile down to the 50th and then the 25th. By a year, she was down to the 10th percentile and everyone was worried. The pediatrician neglected to ask what was going on at home.
My husband and I were having major marital problems. He often went out at night and I was trying to night wean Eva, before she was ready, so that I could join him in the hope of saving my marriage. The night weaning, my increasing depression, and the stress in the house was taking its toll on her.
My pediatrician advised weaning her completely and told me that there was no benefit to nursing after a year. I knew otherwise. Instead, I started nursing her more. I added back in the night nursings, cut out some solids and replaced them with my milk, and my husband and I started marital therapy. Eva started maintaining her weight again and was able to hang onto her 10th percentile curve. I also switched pediatricians and sent my former one information on the benefits of extended breastfeeding that I printed from www.llli.org.
After a year of therapy and much heartache, my husband and I decided to separate. When I dreamed of motherhood, it never occurred to me that it might include divorce with two little children, ages seven and two. My parents were married for 35 years and would have stayed married for life if my father hadn't died in his 50s. But here I was about to be a single mother.
I was grateful every day for my playgroup, the same one I had joined after the birth of my first daughter that had pulled me out of depression. This time during my depression instead of retreating to my bedroom and crying alone, I retreated to the park to be with my friends. They surrounded me, took care of my children, and listened to me cry as much as I needed to. During a time that was incredibly stressful, painful, and uncertain, they were respite.
Eva is almost three now. After six months of living in two houses, things are starting to settle down and fall into a predictable routine. I nurse her usually once a day, usually after her nap. But when we've been apart, I nurse her as soon as I see her. We settle down onto the couch, the milk starts flowing, and her body softens. When I nursed her for the first time, I only thought about how lovely she was. I couldn't have imagined the circumstances that would come to pass, but I'm thankful we have this oasis, a constant comfort, in the middle of all the transitions and changes in her life and mine.