8.21.2009

Notes on Nursing

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On the ninth of next month my little baby will be a year old. It's unbelievable to me that it's almost been a year since I first held him in my hospital room, and he nuzzled right into me and nursed for the first time. It came so easily and naturally for him.

I was afraid it wouldn't. I had had a repeat cesarean, and just like with Vaughn was incredibly sick for 12 long hours. Those 12 hours meant bottle feedings, nipple confusion, and a rough start. With Vaughn I was unprepared. I hadn't considered that I might have a c-section, or that he might not latch on. In vain I tried, and then eventually gave up. I didn't know what I was doing.

But with Mason, nothing-- not even the kind of birth I was going to have-- was more important to me than being able to breast feed him. I was determined.

I was filled with joy those first few days as he nursed so often and well. He was my sweet and beautiful little baby boy who loved to nurse. I had no problems.

And then I came home.

Suddenly, I became incredibly sore. And then more sore, and then was feeling excruciating amounts of pain. I had heard that breast feeding can be painful for some people-- but that it goes away after about a month and a half. So I just tried to grin and bear it. But it became unbearable. I would cry and cry, and pray and pray. I remember so many times kneeling next to my bed and begging God to please take the pain away. It's all I wanted. Couldn't I just have this one thing? I hadn't had the kind of births I wanted. This was a good thing I wanted. Couldn't he please just help me? I felt like he was indifferent to my suffering. That he just didn't care. I felt utterly, and helplessly alone.

Without knowing it yet, I had developed thrush, a bacterial infection, had severely cracked and bleeding nipples, and had nipple blanching. It was the worst pain I have ever experienced. Part of the reason that the pain was so awful, was that it constantly hurt. When the baby nursed, each suckle was a stabbing pain all the way through my chest. When he stopped I had an aching that wouldn't go away. Nothing made it feel better, and anything touching me made me miserable.

But I told myself if so many other women have gone through it, I could too.

During this time the presidential race was in full swing. I remember sitting on the couch at one point sobbing and shaking in pain through one of Mason's feedings while they were introducing John McCain at the National GOP Convention. They kept referring to the torture he endured as a prisoner of war. Now I don't mean to make light of his service, or the torture he went through-- I feel more affinity for the man now then I ever did before-- but I seriously wondered what kind of torture he went through. What kind of techniques were we employing in our country? I was pretty sure that I'm not the only woman to experience nursing pain, so hey! if millions of women through history can go through it, why not a couple of terrorists? I could just imagine it:
  • Us: Tell us what we want to know!
  • Them: (Said with squinted eyes) NEVER!
  • Us: Tell us what we want to know or we'll strap this newborn baby to your chest!
  • Them: (Surprised eyes, recoiling backwards) No! Not the baby. Not the baby!
  • Us: (Eyes narrowing) 20 minutes. (dramatic pause) Each side.
  • Them: AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH! NOOOOOOOOOOO!
We'd have Osama in a week flat.

It was also during this time that I started to realize that the kind of pain I was experiencing was not normal nursing pain. I would say that it's pretty safe to conclude that you are not experiencing normal nursing pain when:
  • Each time your baby latches on you begin swearing profusely-- even in front of your devoutly Mormon parents
  • Feel like throwing your baby that you love so dearly as far away from you as you can while you're feeding him.
I began to get help. From so many people. So many friends and family who let me cry to them, and pointed me in the right direction. There was dear Natalie. There was the La Leche League specialist who helped me, and then finally a lactation specialist who helped me. I remember these people with so much gratitude and love. They will never know how much each kind word and deed helped.

It wasn't easy. Those seven weeks that I was in pain were a roller coaster of emotions. I felt like quitting and sometimes did quit almost every day. But suddenly as if it had never been there, the pain was gone. With the help of others I was able to pull through and can happily say that I am still nursing my baby.

I look back now, and can see that my prayers were being answered all along. Heavenly Father had sent people along my path to help me through it. Mostly he gave me a strong desire that got me through the roughest times. He cared about and loved me, but knew that this experience would strengthen me, and make me a better and more humble person.

Mostly though, it gave me gratitude. Every time my baby latches on to eat, I feel a gratitude that I am able to provide for his needs-- that I have friends, family, a loving Heavenly Father, and people around me that helped us get here.

Thank you,

Love me and Mason
xoxo