EVERY single mother to be faces this fork in the road. You go 9 long months carrying your baby, or babies in some cases, and you spend countless hours preparing for their arrival. You’ve had your baby showers, the nursery is as neat and tidy as you will ever see it again and the countdown begins as you anxiously await your first born.
With Brody, I stopped working at 38 weeks. Unfortunately life as a hair stylist working 12 hour days on my feet running around were not laying right on my pelvis and my hips were about to give out. I was ready to focus on “preparing” for him, which mainly consisting of cleaning and re cleaning things around the house and trying to stay comfortable. I was huge, not that “Oh, hunny your pregnant, enjoy it” huge, I mean HUGE. Like water weight, my body looked like a flotation device huge. Come to find I was carrying around an 8pd 6oz babe at 5 feet 1″ kind of huge. He arrived four days late, after a day spent baking a martha stewart bundt cake, contractions picked up in the evening just in time for Dan to arrive home from work and hurry to the hospital. 18 hours later, with the threat of an emergency c-section my body decided to dilate from 5 to 10 in literally 20 minutes or less.
When the doctor came in and said it was time to push it was as if time stood still and my brain completely froze. I was in the zone – without a doubt. I could only hear her, and the sound of Dan encouraging me on as I pushed my brains out. 40 minutes later, that bald headed wide eyed Brody was crying away and Dan and I started our parenthood journey. Having your first born is sincerely the most magical, truly unbelievable moment. No amount of ultrasounds can help you understand how you grew a human being — its pure insanity.
Nursing was the game plan, he latched perfectly within 30 minutes of delivering him. It was amazing, and so relaxing. Family came in and held him tight, passing him around as he was tightly swaddled up and as soon as my epidural wore off they scooted me out into the room I’d be in for a few days.
Within 10 hours I knew this whole “natural course” of nursing was feeling anything but natural. Brody was struggling to latch properly, leaving me with scabs and bleeding boobs. It was awful. By the time I left the hospital I was instructed to strictly pump for him, that him nursing just wasn’t going to happen. I was fine with that – still in my early day daze of just being smitten with my baby. I’d do whatever it took.
I spent four weeks completely glued to my pumping machine. For those who have done it, know that it is just as time-consuming as nursing itself. Pumping 10-12 times a day to maintain my supply, I found myself with the ol’ ball and chain, locked away in a room feeling like a cow with my nipples being tugged at. It only took 4 weeks for me to grow a profound hate for pumping, and as a first time mommy, I did not hesitate to switch to formula. I wanted him fed, happy, and more time with him, period. It was a simple as that.
He grew rapidly and so healthy over that course of that 11 month period. Not one cold, not one sickness – he was a perfectly happy formula fed baby.
Fast forward to being pregnant with Owen, and I was bitten by the natural bug. I worked until 3 days before I gave birth, pumping out 12 hour days at the salon, moving slower but feeling fantastic. I carried different with Owen, ( we did not know the sex ) and the water weight stayed away and so did the intensely large belly. I was to be induced at 39 weeks along, because what I didn’t describe in the paragraphs above was the immense struggle it was to push Brody out of my smaller frame. I was stitched in areas the sun doesn’t shine and swollen for weeks, literally ladies, it was a sight to NEVER be seen.
I ADORED being induced, it felt very calming to be in the hospital, knowing that I had the nurses and doctors to keep an eye on the entire process. It really didn’t feel unnatural, “picking” my childs birthdate. It felt safe and reassuring. Pitocin started at 9:30/10:00 – and I was all for doing it naturally. Well, apparently my body decided to push itself into high gear this time around and labor was the polar opposite of Brody. I came prepared with loads of magazines, snacks for Dan etc, preparing myself for another 18 hour birth. I will never forget the way those contractions felt. Gripping the nurse, feeling like I was being put through a meat grinder just shaking up a storm and telling myself I couldn’t do it anymore. I opted for the epidural, and was so bummed to find I was only 4cm. That’s all I could make it do before I felt like I was dying. It took only a few minutes, and the intensity of the contractions sky rocketed through those few minutes, through the roof . They laid me down and checked me, and I was 7 suddenly. Which explained why the pain was increasing so rapidly. 30 minutes later, that sweet boy Owen was here. 5 1/2 hours of the fastest labor ever to me, to learn that it was a BOY and a brother for Brody we were elated.
My feeding plan was nursing – that hopefully if all went well, he would latch and we would have zero issues. And thank the heavens, that little man latched like none other and as painful as the beginning stages of nursing are – it was far “Easier” than my last experience. So, we marched on to do the whole exclusively nursing thing. The first few weeks are a total blur. Owen was a cluster feeder, and he wanted to nurse every hour, around the clock. It was obnoxious. And as exhausted as I was I told myself I had to continue, because, hey, we made it this far. At 3 weeks old we noticed a rash rapidly developing all over his sweet little frame, come to find he had a severe dairy allergy, not intolerance, allergy. So, I found myself switching gears and going on a dairy free diet. What. was. I. thinking. You guys, I did it for 8 months – exclusively nursed Owen. He only took one bottle for a weekend away at 5 months and otherwise I was the sole provider for that little guy.
It was overwhelming, it was thrilling, it was so relaxing to nurse with ease. But it was oh so time-consuming. Dan didn’t get that special feeding time with Owen, because of Owens refusal for anything else besides the nip. But once your nursing successfully, it’s so hard to turn back because it took SOOO much work to get where you and the baby are doing it right. Owen was super sick at 8 months, with is asthma and allergies. So the whole “your baby is whatever % likely to not have allergies or asthma because you nurse…” ppssh.
So, with this new little guy I am completely on the fence. Like stick a fork in me I’m so sick of thinking about this done. A few months ago I never questioned breastfeeding this time around, I was able to do it for 8 months with Owen – I should with this guy too. And then Dan opened my eyes a bit, I guess pulled the rug out from under me in the nicest, most caring way possible. Asking if I was ready for that all over again … and my mama bliss caught a past tense grip on reality.
The endless hours spent on the couch nursing. The sore arms, and tears when Owen would never leave my side. The worry if he was getting enough. The allergies and my diet that was stripped to nothing. The ball and chain reality of being the sole provider for your baby and the stress that comes along with that. The mastisis and thrush that rotated here and there. Dan remembered all of this, and he remembered that regardless of how happy and good I felt being a mommy of 2, the stress that came along with it all.
I’m grateful for that, that he is capable of keeping me in check. And he honestly couldn’t care less what path I choose. Because a fed baby is a happy baby. BUT there is such a stigma now around breastfeeding. You always see the campaigns and social media posts of women nursing their babies, and how to take away the social stigmas against nursing. They are absolutely everywhere. And while being a prior nursing mama myself, I support it, my stomach literally aches for the mommas that do not have that option. The moms whose milk supply never came in, who supply has dropped, whose baby developed severe allergies, moms who have PPD, or other medical issues, adoptive parents or those babies from surrogates – those moms who formula feed and now suddenly feel embarrassed to pull out the bottle when it is now so super trendy to pull out your boob instead.
Celebrities who post their pictures of their gorgeous fresh babe latching and nursing so calmly make it look so easy. It doesn’t show the tears, the pain and the true dedication it takes to successfully nurse. And now those moms who formula feed their babies feel like they’ve failed if they chose not to breastfeed. So I feel that exact pickle right now – I know that I am capable, but do I want too? And how selfish is that if the majority of my reasons not to do it are because of me? One thing I know for sure, is that they thrive no matter what. So why is there such a stigma attached to it now, and why the heck is it such a big deal? Did our mothers and grandmothers toss and turn over how they were going to feed their babes?
So – for all of you mothers out there like me, who have done both, or want to try one or the other, or who have walked the path. Just please be more thoughtful of others decisions. Support your fellow mommy friends, squeeze them when their struggling with the guilt and over all challenges that come with being a new mommy. Feeding your baby, regardless of which source is, will help your baby grow to be healthy and happy. Do what feels right. Not what others think is right.