This is a beautiful moment, but I can't say that most of them have been this picture perfect.
I think you know what nursing this healthy baby meant to me--the dreams I had, how I thought it would save me. Just a few hours before we left the hospital, that dream came crashing down.
I can say that our first time was beautiful and wonderful--just Mommy, Daddy, and our newest sweetheart, Cassidy Nicole. I had no expectations. I didn't know the right way and the wrong way. I wasn't judging her latch or counting her swallows. I just put her to my breast and cherished the perfect gift we had just been given. She took my right breast and then my left. I was in awe of how easy that first time was. She was a champ. God had answered another prayer of mine by giving me a champion breastfeeding baby.
Now, you all know I rarely get off that easily . . .
To be fair, she was a champion breastfeeder; it was Mommy who wasn't. I just didn't realize it at first.
The first 24 hours, Cassidy was a pooping machine (She'll really appreciate that I put that on here one of these days.) So, we thought her nursing was going really well based on her output. Also, a nurse told me that the intense contractions I was having while nursing was another sign that the nursing was going well and Cassidy was pulling milk from me. Plus, the first weight check showed only a 3 oz drop in weight, which is really good.
Then, there was the second 24 hours . . .
Wow! Nursing my daughter felt like slicing into my nipples with a razor sharp knife. After the big deal that I made about nursing her prior to her birth, a thick layer of guilt washed over me when I admitted to my husband while my baby was fussing that I didn't want to nurse her again. It was always time to nurse. She always latched on and appeared to be calmed by it, though. Plus, she rarely cried, so I thought she was content--even content enough to go four or five hours between feedings at this early age. Whoops!
I started to realize that the breastfeeding wasn't going exactly perfectly since I was in a crazy amount of pain and my baby slept through every feeding. Still, I didn't ask for help. I thought I was doing okay and the pain and the sleepy baby was just a normal part of getting started. When the nurses asked me how breastfeeding was going, I told them the truth as I saw it: We were doing great. My baby wanted to nurse and latched on, but she wasn't quite opening her mouth big enough and I was hurting a lot. I said that every time they asked, but I assumed no one ever stopped in to help me because they thought I was doing a great job on my own.
Then, I was informed just a few hours before discharge that my baby had dropped 10 oz since her birth, from 7lbs 8 oz to 6 lbs 14 oz. All the mothers say this is normal, but it must not be, because my happy homecoming was tainted with a word I didn't want to hear: FORMULA.
That's right. Before I even left the hospital, I had to give my baby formula. We chose to give her formula because she had been an entire day without a wet or dirty diaper. As much as my pride did not want to give my baby that wretched concoction, I knew her dad and I had eaten a couple of times that day, but, despite my efforts, our sweet baby hadn't eaten at all. It broke my heart. I had to put my own needs to the side and do what was best for my child. She sucked the formula down and a dirty diaper was very soon to follow.
Apparently, I have a "delayed supply." I know, how could this happen to me of all people? Because. It's me. I left the hospital with a very strict plan to keep my baby fed and my milk from drying up. Every three hours, I was to nurse the baby for 15 minutes on each side, then give her 10mL of formula, and then pump for 10 minutes. What this computed to was me nursing the baby for 15 minutes on each side, watching the clock, counting down every second of the "job" I had to do, doing everything to keep the baby awake, watching to make sure she swallowed, and enduring the agony of the first few latches. Then, I gave up my snuggle time to her dad who gave her the 10mL of formula from a syringe so I could immediately get up and bond with the breast pump for 10 minutes.
As you can imagine, this is not what I imagined when I imagined nursing my dream girl. I didn't want to keep doing it. I thought about the freedom of switching to all formula--how I would get more sleep, more cuddle time with my baby, how feedings would go from an hour and a half to 15 minutes, how I could spend more time playing with her and dressing her up than stripping her down to keep her awake for yet another feeding. Oh, the guilt! How I told the Lord over and over again how sorry I was for the selfish way I felt after He had given me everything I ever wanted. How I told my daughter over and over again how sorry I was that I couldn't give her everything she deserved. I promised to make it better for her, to do everything I could to give her the best there was. So, I pressed on, like I always do.
It was only a few days into the regime before I thought for sure my milk was coming in and my baby was getting full. So, I took it upon myself to stop the supplements. You guessed it. Her weight dropped even more, down to 6lbs 10oz, and she was still having very few poops. We upped her formula intake.
At three weeks of age, (She's 3 weeks 2 days as of this posting.) I've still been nursing, pumping, and supplementing 8 times a day, everyday. I have done that around the clock for the first three weeks of her life. All I've felt is guilt and exhaustion. Guilt that I don't want to be doing that, then guilt that she doesn't weigh enough. I went from taking her off the supplement to giving her way too much. Yesterday, at 3 weeks 1 day, she finally made it back to her birth weight, BUT that was an 11 oz gain in one week! Whoops again. Now I'm going to have to back off the supplement a little, let my baby tell me what she needs instead of everyone else telling me what she should be having.
I'm going at this week by week now. I can't continue to devote almost three hours a day to my breast pump any longer. So, I'm still going to nurse her 8 times a day (She gets 1 to 1 1/2 ounces of breast milk at a feeding.), and I'll supplement her with an ounce and a half of formula, but I'm only going to pump three times a day. Hopefully, I'll be able to maintain enough milk doing this to continue nursing her and giving her some of the benefits of breast milk. But, it is what it is, and I do have to go back to work. So, I'm going to try to let this go. If she has to go all formula, then so be it. What matters most is that we hit the baby jackpot. She is the definition of perfect. We both got to nurse. I know what the experience is like, and she is close to Mommy because of it. I look down at her on my breast and see that I am making everything right for her in that moment. And I look down at her and catch a glimpse of him (Really, they look so much alike), and I get to know what it would have been like to nurse him, too.
I just can't ask for anymore than that.