Thursday, August 7, 2014

When breastfeeding can't come naturally - World Breastfeeding Week

Like many mothers of premature babies I had the odds stacked against me.  Producing breastmilk would be no easy task but I was told it was of critical importance to the health of my baby who weighed about as much as a bottle of coke.

I was only 25 weeks into my pregnancy. My daughter was not ready to be born and my body was not ready to produce breastmilk. 

My body was in shock.  4+ weeks of bedrest, a traumatic C-section delivery, and some serious internal hemorrhaging meant that my body had other things to tend to.

I had to establish a supply with a pump.  Every 2-3 hours, 24 hours a day.  

Odds meant nothing to me though.  We had already defied some odds and succumb to others.  When I realized that providing breastmilk to Virginia was literally the only thing I could do for her for the foreseeable future, it became my most important job.   An immensely tiring and painful job.

The monotony of assembling the cups, tubes, and plugs, followed by pumping a few drops, labeling bottles with time and date, cleaning said parts, and putting everything away was a far cry from the natural and instinctual experience that I had expected through the breastfeeding process.  Nothing about pregnancy and motherhood at that point was what I expected, but the difference was that by providing breastmilk for Virginia I was providing her with the only natural thing left.  

There were many moments where I doubted my ability to continue to pump.  Clogged ducts, low supply, and stress all made me doubt whether I could continue the 7-8 time a day ritual.  Thankfully I had a wonderfully supportive husband, some amazing nurses and lactation consultants, and a beautiful growing girl to keep me going.  

Then we got lucky.  Virginia turned out to be terrible at handling a bottle.  Like, really really bad. And scary.  She choked, she desated, she turned blue, and she passed out.  But she did none of that when we tried nursing.  It was sort of shocking to everyone, including me and was just what I needed to keep going.  And just what she needed in order to learn how to eat orally.  

For a full year both Virginia and I got to experience the most natural thing for us as mother and baby.  It healed us and allowed us to bond.  Breastfeeding ultimately went beyond the essential nutrition and antibodies that were so essential to her health while she was so very tiny and sick.  She gave back to me just what I gave to her in those early days ... hope and healing.

the results of several months of hard work.

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