At the beginning of the week, I found myself in room 1 of the lactation clinic. Again. The nurses there started calling me a frequent flyer several visits ago. The other babies in the waiting area are teeny; they “graduate” and move on while Edie, at almost 7 weeks, and I still find ourselves in the remedial class.
Each time I go to the clinic, I hope that time will do the trick, that Edith and I will finally figure out how to successfully nurse. Every article and listserv and web site I’ve trolled say that breastfeeding shouldn’t hurt if you “do it right.” By that standard, we’re definitely doing a lot of things wrong.
More than two weeks after Edie’s tongue tie was treated, I still hurt every time she ate. I’ve hit so many walls when I simply want to give up yet somehow I continue. Edith is the reason I’m doing this: I want to give her the best food possible, and I want to be the one to give it to her. I swear she must know when I’ve hit my breaking point. After a miserable night with no sleep, she showers me with smiles and gurgles that make me vow to do whatever it takes to make her happy.
I thought the same thing when I was preparing for Edie’s arrival: I would do anything to ensure her healthy birth. Eric and I decided that would include having our baby without medication. The first part of labor was a breeze: Eric, my sister Amy and I took Finn on a long walk in the park. Once I got to the hospital, though, everything became much more serious. I vomited through much of it. None of the positions that we learned in birthing class relieved the pain. My labor was progressing surprisingly quickly for a first-time mom, my midwife said, but the contractions came one after the other with no relief in between. What’s more, I later realized, I was having back labor.
Finally, I looked at Eric and said “Durian,” our code word that meant that I really did want help and he shouldn’t try to dissuade me or tell me I could do without. So at 9 1/2 centimeters dilation, I got an epidural. It kicked in a few contractions later and I was ready to marry the anesthesiologist.
I rested for 45 minutes then the nurse next checked our progress. “I see hair!” she said. The epidural allowed my body to relax and dilate the final half-centimeter. What’s more, I finally fully effaced, and Peeper turned so she was no longer facing up—the cause of the back labor. 48 minutes of pushing later. I held our beautiful daughter.
“Giving up” and getting an epidural, which was nowhere in our birth wishes, turned out to be the best decision for Edie’s birth. I have no regrets about it.
Would throwing in the nursing towel be the same, or would I regret it?
I’ve had moments in the last few days that were absolutely miserable. Eric had to stand by helpless as I doubled over sobbing, clutching my middle, because I hurt too bad to feed our daughter. He had to choose between soothing Edith and consoling his wife. No one should be faced with that decision.
Another moment I fell apart because the cap to a bottle of my pumped milk wasn’t screwed on tight enough and it spilled when I tested its temperature on my wrist. I despaired over the hard work it had taken to get that milk and cried over its loss. I also felt terrible that I’d become so desperate that losing a half-ounce of milk could reduce me to a blubbering mess.
Then there were the times when I heard Edie start to rouse from sleep and an ugly part of me didn’t want her to wake up. I dreaded having to suffer through 20 minutes of a feeding. Worse than that pain was acknowledging what I’d been reduced to: someone who hoped her baby would just continue to sleep. That was not the kind of mother I want to be.
I haven’t given up completely yet. I’m pumping from the more painful side, which the midwife told me yesterday (at my eighth lactation visit, by my count) is infected and clogged to boot. I’m hoping the antibiotics and rest will allow me to heal enough that I can continue nursing.
If not, we’ll have to reassess and move forward on a plan B. Even more difficult will be loving myself as an imperfect mom who did what she could but reached her breaking point.