Monday, August 16, 2010

She Grieves

Even though I have no reason to be up this late anymore, tonight I just can't sleep. I learned tonight that a pregnant friend had attended a Le Leche Club meeting, and it was an emotional tipping point for me. I have not yet grieved for my inability to breastfeed. It stabs me in the heart each time I hear about my friends breastfeeding their babies. I really wanted to be able to do it, too... I really wanted to do it. I sit here trembling and tearing up over the injustice of it, and I need to let this go. Just let it go.

I couldn't help that R was born premature. Before actually going through it myself, I had thought that the women who developed preeclampsia had been under too much emotional or work-related stress. I thought if I just quit my job and took it easy during pregnancy, then preeclampsia couldn't happen to me. I mean, I was a massage therapist for all that matters! Aren't massage therapists supposed to be the relaxation EXPERTS?? But even though I had stopped working and wasn't under emotional stress, I hadn't considered physical stress. I've been a type 1 diabetic for over 20 years. Poorly controlled. I may have a clotting disorder called protein s deficiency [Update: the test for protein s deficiency came back negative. See here]. Hypothyroidism. Even though I try to eat well and exercise, you can't call me healthy. So this time around (it's not for certain that it'll happen again) my body could not handle pregnancy. HELLP Syndrome manifested, and that baby had to get out... to save us both.

Instead of staying in my bed after birth, nuzzled up against my chest, learning how to suckle from my breast, R was in an isolette in the NICU, being reminded to breath with caffeine, and receiving her nutrition from a tube down her throat, while I was in my hospital room, sleeping all day long and recovering from a taxed liver. I was able to pump breastmilk, the supply was there for her, but she was just as tired as I was. Getting her to drink from a bottle was such a challenge. The strength and stamina simply were not there for her to breastfeed. As she grew, I started working with a lactation consultant at the hospital, and we thought we had it. We really thought we had it. Until she came home.

I was so tired of pumping, and so thrilled to have my baby home, that I did not want to continue. No more pumping for me, I've got my baby now!! So I stopped pumping, and I did not give R supplementary bottles. She's breastfeeding! She doesn't need bottles. After a rough week of endless feedings, nonstop for hours on end, and a disgruntled and very sleepy baby, I called the lactation consultant and she said R was still too weak to breastfeed. I needed to wait at least until her due date, which was three weeks away. That was not what I wanted to hear... it was back to pumping, back to bottles, and even back to formula since my milk supply had diminished.

By the time R's due date came around, she had completely forgotten about my breast. Plastic was more familiar to her than skin, and bottles delivered the milk so freely and easily. She didn't want to breastfeed. I made an appointment with another lactation consultant. This woman helped me get R to latch on, but she also propped me up with lots of pillows and took care of burping R who was just getting into her colic. There was hope during the appointment, but it was so hard to then take R home and do it all by myself. I had to squish the pillows underneath R who was already in my arms, hope I had the positioning right, try to calm her down, and then toss all of the pillows aside so I could stand up and bounce her to try to settle her/remove gas. Wash, rinse, repeat... give up, give the screaming baby a bottle.

It was so hard to keep trying because she escalates so fast. She doesn't just cry, no, she'll cry for all of one second before suddenly she's screaming at the top of her lungs and I'm wondering where the mute button or at least volume controls are. I'll be deaf before I know it. Breastfeeding this baby is nothing short of impossible. It will take a miracle. I don't know where to find a miracle.

If I were Pollyanna playing the glad game, I can be glad that R is healthy. I can be glad that R is getting my breastmilk. I can be glad that R has learned to drink from a bottle. But my heart still grieves the lost and missed experience of breastfeeding. It's the one piece of the puzzle that somehow doesn't even fit anymore. I wish it would.


Maggie May said...

I've had friends who have gone through this grieving process- and it is a grief, to let go of something you passionately wanted to do for reasons beyond your control. I hope writing this helped at all, and I'm so glad you and your girl are good. :)

Yana said...

hey there. Thanks for commenting on my post, and for reading!
it's so encouraging to know there are others out there who have experienced the same loss, isn't it??

It is a 'grief'. I felt such a death to an experience, to bonding the way that many mothers do. Of course it doesn't make us love our children any less, on the contrary, I believe we have had to make even more of an effort to bond with our babies since the breastfeeding experience was taken away from us.

Slowly, but surely I have gotten to a place where I am proud. I can hold my chin up, because no matter what any judgmental nay-sayers out there say, I know that I gave my son every thing I had, and in the end I did what was best for both of us. We can be proud of how much we love our children, that it would affect us so much to not BFeed them.

Since I am new to your blog I will have to take a long look around.
I hope to see you around Boom-Heart more often!

Lynn Newsom said...

Just read this. Got to it from the link in your NICU post. I'm kind of going through the same thing right now since Neville has yet to get a good latch. I know it's only been week a week, but dang. I know I should just be happy I can pump and happy to say he's gotten nothing but my breast milk, but it's still frustrating. Thanks for writing this.

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