I thought since I asked all these beautiful mamas to participate in sharing their breastfeeding journeys, that I should share mine as well. My story is hard, and not one that I would necessarily consider inspiring for new mothers. But part of my story is also learning to find beauty and inspiration in the most unlikely of places. So I hope you find your own strength to persevere through tough times as you read this.
To begin my story, I have to start even before the pregnancy of my first child. My mother breastfed my siblings and me. It was always something I knew I would do when I one day become a mother myself. But my breasts were shaped differently than all the other girls, and that always concerned me. Asking my OB, she told me everything would be alright. And all women could breastfeed, even if they had small breasts. With this encouragement, I pressed on. We became pregnant with Emersyn, and I immediately sought out information to help me along. I found the Stillwater La Leche League, or rather it kind of found me. And I dove in! I wanted to be completely prepared for ALL the things! I went to every meeting while pregnant. I knew what I was up against, and I was ready! But no one prepared me for having my baby girl at 35 weeks. No one prepared me for being separated from her. The separation and early nature of her delivery derailed our breastfeeding journey right from the start. I didn't give up though. I struggled, I cried, I fought, but it just didn't happen for us. The blame was placed on her latch, her early delivery, and the immediate separation. Looking back, I now know that she had nipple confusion, and probably a poor latch. But what I took away from our experience was extreme failure. And it broke me. It took me having my 2nd child only 15 months later for me to finally begin to heal from the pain of the loss of our breastfeeding relationship.
Fast forward to Nora, my 2nd born. I was determined this time to successfully breastfeed her. It was going to work. We planned a home birth. I knew that if all was successful, we would have the best start to our journey. And technically, I suppose we did. Nora was born at home on Feb 27th, 2014. Fifteen months after her older sister. We struggled to breastfeed. It didn't come easy for either of us. I had midwives, and friends who were lactation experts all helping me. I went to the La Leche League at 1 or 2 weeks postpartum and just cried. My baby wasn't gaining weight, and she was crying all night long and sleeping all day. It was HARD. But I wanted this time to work! I would cry to my husband at night begging him to keep the bottles away from us (and he did, God bless him). The pedi and I decided that supplementing was best. So I purchased an SNS. I tried time after time to stick that little tube in her tiny mouth as she was latched. It was HARD. Honestly, I hated that thing. But I wasn't going to give my baby a bottle. I was going to make enough milk to feed her. I was DETERMINED.
When Nora was 3 weeks old, she got a cyst on her breast, and we had to take her to OU Children's to get it lanced and drained. While I was there, I asked to see a Lactation Consultant. And that's when I finally learned what was "wrong" with me. I had a condition called IGT, or Insufficient Glandular Tissue. Basically, IGT is where your breast do not have enough mammory tissues to produce sufficient amounts of breastmilk. When I received this diagnosis of sorts, I was relieved. It's like all this intense amount of pressure I had placed on myself was released. It didn't happen all at once, but looking back on it now, I can see. I no longer expected more of my body than was possible. I gave Nora a bottle, and slowly I came out of this fog I had been living in. Giving Nora a bottle was hard. I had watched her sister thrive on formula. I knew that she would be ok. But it still hurt. Giving her that bottle meant that the vision I had of nourishing her solely from my own body wasn't going to happen. It hurt, but I knew we were going to be ok. Having a name, and a reason for what I was considering my failures was such a huge relief. I started to heal from the hurt, anger, and grief of losing that part of what I wanted from our journey as mother and child.
The beautiful thing about mine and Nora's journey is that IGT didn't end our breastfeeding relationship. It changed it, but we still nursed for 6 whole months. And I'm so thankful for every moment of that time I spent nursing her. I still see mamas nursing their 1 or even 2 year olds and feel a pang of sadness, knowing that hadn't happened for us. But I grew, and healed so much during and after our 6 months. I took what time I had with her and made the best of it. One of my favorite photos of us nursing is this one:
It's a super crappy cell phone selfie, but I don't care. This was a moment of accomplishment for me. I was walking back to work from the post office. Baby girl was fussy. I had mail, my drink, and keys in one hand while comforting my babe with my breast and also taking a selfie. I was DOING it! Even through all of our struggles and challenges, I was able to feed her, to comfort her. Even with my lack of milk, that didn't matter to us. She still found comfort and some nourishment from me, even if only a little. And that was really what mattered.
Writing this blog has brought back a lot of hard memories for me. But the take aways I have from it all is joy, healing, and thankfulness. I'm happy that I was able to nurse Nora for as long as I was even given all our struggles. I healed from my past pain with Emersyn. It took some time, but eventually I was able to process everything and come out on the other end with a happy heart. I can now look back on those struggles with new light. I'm thankful for what I've learned through my journey, and thankful for my 2 beautiful daughters.