I feel so lucky to be surrounded by so many inspiring women in my life. And while they all play different roles (mom, wife, girlfriend, daughter, caregiver, etc.) each and every one of them inspires me to be a better friend, listener, caregiver, and woman. Each month, I would like to share one of my friends' stories as a way to inspire and empower other women who are looking for a little light at the end of the tunnel.
The first inspiring woman I would like to introduce is Kim, my sister-in-law. Kim is an incredible woman....intelligent, caring, passionate, and determined. She is also an eloquent writer, which makes her a perfect choice to be highlighted on The Sanity Spot. I am so blessed to have her in my life.
Here is Kim's story....
I sit here today with a nearly 7-month old baby girl who drinks only breastmilk, and I have a freezer full of my milk stored for her for later. If you had told me two years ago, when my first child was around the same age, that this would be the case, I would have laughed… or cried… probably both.
Looking back on my first experience with nursing, I’m almost surprised at how poorly it all went. When I was pregnant, I researched everything: I was going to have an unmedicated birth, I was going to wear my baby all the time, I was going to do “Baby Signs” and read to her every night and on and on and on. Somehow I didn’t see the huge gaping hole in my mommy education where breastfeeding knowledge should have been. I was so sure that it would just happen “naturally.”
After Lily was born, I was so hopped up on hormones and sleep deprivation that I didn’t know which end was up. The nurses in the hospital told me her latch looked good and I believed them. I was completely devastated after four days when Lily was obviously dehydrated and lethargic. We took her to a lactation consultant who told me to put her on formula or she’d have to be admitted to the hospital. A few weeks later, we returned and the prognosis was bad. Any breast changes? Nope. Fullness? No idea. How much are you getting when you pump? Maybe .75 ounces per session. She told me I had “insufficient glandular tissue” and I should just stop. Didn’t even want to see Lily’s latch. I felt so defeated. I finally pulled out the breastfeeding books, but they left me angry and bitter. The only problems they described were “engorgement” – too much milk. Nothing on not having enough. I felt alone - like a total failure. I felt so guilty and ashamed that I had “let my daughter down” by failing to produce enough milk.
I refused to give up. I took supplements that made me sick. I spent hours nursing and pumping with every bottle feeding. My mood was completely based on my pump output – a lot of milk meant it was a good day and a little milk made me so depressed I would cry and cry. My husband didn’t know what to do. He wanted to support me but he could see that the longer I tried to make it work, the longer I would emotionally walk on eggshells. I was completely blindsided. No one had ever told me that it was a possibility to not produce enough milk – and not just for lack of trying.
After six months, I finally decided to throw in the towel.
I got pregnant again when Lily was 13 months old. It didn’t take long for me to start thinking about nursing. Many of my anxieties returned, but I was determined to be smarter and more deliberate this time. First of all, I had some perspective. Lily had absolutely thrived on formula – hitting milestones early, smart as a whip, just awesome. If the worst case scenario was another kid like Lily, that wasn’t so bad. Second, I was going to prepare. I educated myself about supplements, pumping, everything. And I limited my craziness. No thinking about nursing until I was 7 months pregnant.
At 7 months, I met with a lactation consultant to develop a game plan. I asked other moms what they had done and did anything that sounded reasonable. I started taking alfalfa supplements. Two weeks before my due date, I started drinking 1 tsp of roasted ground cumin in warm milk, as suggested by some Indian moms I know. As soon as Maya was born, I added taking goat’s rue to turn fatty tissue into glandular tissue and fenugreek to boost my milk production. I didn’t listen to the random nurses in the maternity ward – I saw certified lactation consultants (5 times in her first 7 days) to help fix Maya’s tight and strong suck so that we could get a proper latch. After every feeding, I would hand express into a cup and would then feed her the milk from a spoon. Once I started to get streams, I switched to pumping after every feeding, except the middle of the night feedings. For those, I continued to hand express to save my time and sanity. I used a home-made Supplemental Nursing System to help supplement her feedings with pumped milk. Finally, I kept her skin-to-skin in a wrap for as long as I could. I stayed calm and didn’t let my hormones get the best of me.
As my milk came in over the first few weeks of Maya’s life, I was just overjoyed. I would wake my husband up in the early morning and make him touch my painful, misshapen, engorged boob as I beamed with pride. I had worked hard and worked smart and it had paid off. The proof is in the chubby cheeks and butterball thighs I get to kiss each day.