Friday, July 10, 2009

My superpower


I remember being really excited to breastfeed Abigail, thinking it would be a natural, deep bond between us. It was a romantic thought. I envisioned looking down at my new baby's bobbing little head, feeling the mood-enhancing hormones sail through my bloodstream, and taking a deep breath of satisfaction. Like most of my experiences with new motherhood, this expectation was a stark contrast from the reality.

We spent five days in the hospital after she was born, waiting for her to figure out how to eat, and how to eat without falling asleep. I pumped like a cow-woman using this giant industrial-strength breast pump, we fed her a bottle, the breast, and even with a finger and syringe when she wouldn't cooperate. Never mind the surge of postpartum coo-coo hormones going through me, now I had to worry about her continued survival and ability to thrive on breast milk she didn't want. While living 5 hours away from any hospital or lactation consultant.

Now of course, she did learn how to latch on, and she did begin to put on weight. It took a good four weeks for her to figure out how to eat without inhaling all kinds of air, (later resulting in painful gas bubbles in a tiny new tummy), and when we did, it wasn't magical. By then it was just something I had to do. Part of our day. As she went through growth spurts, breastfeeding became the activity of choice for much of the day (and night). I became accustomed to wearing bamboo material breast pads 24/7, which meant wearing a bra or a tank top with a shelf bra in it all of the time, lest I spring a leak. I chose outfits in the morning based upon how easy a top was to remove and feed from. When I was feeding every half an hour or hour, this was an important choice.

I continued nursing Abby and while we were home, we weighed her at four months old. She weighed over 15 lbs, I was surprised to read. By this point, she was eating for about 5 minutes every our or two, and this system worked just fine. She would sleep a good chunk of the evening, and I began feeling human again, not just as a human pacifier/milkmaid. I realized that, on my milk alone, my baby girl had more than tripled her birth weight in 4 months. If that's not a super power, I don't know what is.

When she had an eye infection, what did I do? Squirt breast milk on it, on the doctor's recommendation. I didn't worry much when cold season came around because I knew she stood more than a fighting chance with all the antibodies coming into her through my milk. And when she's tired or upset or hurt, I have a built-in, no-fail system for soothing her little tears.

Upon reflection, I am amazed and proud of how responsible I am for her thriving little self. It has been a huge time commitment (I ave not slept a full night since January 28, 2009), it has been physically draining, requiring me to take in extra food and water to sustain the both of us, but it as been completely fulfilling.

It is still routine and common, but every now and then, I remember to close my eyes wen I'm nursing her to sleep, take a deep breath and feel how bonded and satisfied we both are.

1 comment:

  1. I love your writing! The honesty and openness about your struggles with your new role as mommy are a relief from all the "glory stories" out there. I'm so happy to hear that you got through the difficulties of breast feeding and that the outcome is a happy and healthy baby.

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