I was never very good at pregnancy. Sure, I guess it all turned out all right. The pregnancies always achieved the desired results -- a baby. But, I never really felt at home housing a child. My own mother claims that she always loved being pregnant -- that she never felt better. Yeah, Yeah, Yeah old woman -- time and quite possibly the hell I put you through in my adolescence has crippled your mind. Pregnancy sucks. Especially the second and third time around when you have other children who depend on you to actively participate in life rather than mold your body into the couch and take up permanent residence there for 9 months. They expect you to feed them, bathe them and all of that other mommy BS.
I have, however, been good at breastfeeding. I can't say that it's always come easy, but I felt proud that I breastfed the two girls for over a year. I firmly believed that breast milk was the only suitable nutrition for my children and I likened formula to pet food --I could not fathom feeding my baby out of a can. I thought women who complained of supply problems, latching issues or any other sort of breastfeeding hurdle were simply not committed to the cause. Of course, publicly, I would never say these things. In the many titillating (pun intended) conversations I've had with friends regarding feeding their young, I've always recited a politically correct mantra that went something like, "You just have to do what works for you. Every mother and baby is different." Really I wanted to call them out as lazy or a selfish-quitter.
Then I had Jack.
Jack is my third child and my first son. While pregnant with Jack, I was anxious about adjusting our lives to accomodate a third child. I worried about how the girls would handle a new baby. I stressed about finances and readying the nursery. Pretty common concerns of an expecting mother. I never panicked about breastfeeding. Why would I? I planned to nurse my third just as I had the previous two.
When Jack was born he latched on soon after birth and we were in baby-mommy bonding bliss. He was a great eater. My milk came in quickly and all was well in Boobville. Then it all fell apart.
When Jack was about 2 or 3 weeks old, he started screeching in pain a few minutes after he began to nurse. He would go red in the face and hold his breath. His cries were heartbreaking, and I had no idea what was wrong with him. He would wail, and when I was finally able to calm him, he would refuse to breastfeed. No matter how many times I offered, he wouldn't latch on. My husband finally convinced me to pump and give him a bottle which he took it with no problem. I made plans to take Jack to the doctor to find out what was wrong.
In the interim -- a long two weeks -- Jack would either refuse to latch on or scream after a few minutes of feeding and would have to be settled down and then fed with a bottle. I pumped in an effort to keep up my milk supply, but I could tell it was dwindling.
Jack was diagnosed with heartburn and put on an antacid. But now, I had a big breastfeeding problem as Jack would still cry everytime he was put to the breast. He had gotten used to a bottle, and to my dismay, prefered the faster flow of a plastic nipple to me, his own mother. Yes, I was taking it quite personally. I decided, however, to stay the course and keep at it. I told myself that he would eventually come around. I tried for weeks to breastfeed with the same results -- tears. Lots from him and a few, of course, from me. We were both miserable. Instead of enjoying my new baby, I was frustrated and stressed. He was too. So, I finally admitted defeat and started solely giving him the bottle. I continued to pump but eventually my supply ran out and Jack became exclusively formula-fed at 11 weeks old.
I, the total breastfeeding snob, had been humbled. All of the "lazy quitters" needed to move on over and make room for me -- after, of course, I extended my apologies.
I was sad. I felt like a failure. I felt like I had been forced to give up my baby too soon. I wasn't even sure if I'd be able to bond with the baby if he was bottle-fed. However, my sadness faded and revealed that both Jack and I were much happier. Feedings were now enjoyable and the entire family seemed more at peace.
I still wish things had turned out differently, but, in the end, it really didn't matter. My son was happy, and I learned a good lesson: You can't always parent every child the same way, and you can't always do for one what you did for the other -- but, of course, it doesn't mean you love them any less.
This post originally appeared on The Kids Made Me Fat, and is part of HuffPost Parents participation in World Breastfeeding Week.
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