This is a tale of two breastfeeding journeys... The first being with my oldest. I was a new mom at 23 years old. I remember wondering how I would be as a mother. I felt awkward. None of my friends at that time were having kids. Jon and I were literally the only people in our circle who were pregnant. At times, it was a bit isolating. I remember pondering how I would feel when I saw my little one for the first time... Would I immediately feel overwhelmed and put him to my breast? Or would I stare in awe? I see him.. His little face... His ten finger and toes, and I am in love. Prior to delivery, I was on the fence with breastfeeding, simply because I didn't know if I would be able to. I had undergone a breast reduction surgery at 19 years old, and most people were saying that it was unlikely that I would be able to breastfeed. I put him to my breast. He latches... Or so I think. According to my recollection, I didn't really have much help. It honestly felt as if the hospital staff were a bit indifferent regarding my desire to breastfeed. This indifference seemed to follow suite, even with the hospital lactation consultant. Fast forward to when my milk comes in... I don't know what to do! Do I pump? Do I try to nurse? All that I know is that my engorged boobs looked pretty crazy and a close second to an episode of "Botched"... Please note that I have a fussy baby. My boobs are engorged. I try latching him. He won't latch. In fact I wouldn't know what a "good latch" looked like if it bit me in the boob... I asked my husband who at the time wasn't sure what to do. We begin supplementing with formula (which was provided by the hospital)... What else was there to do? I had a fussy babe who "seemed" hungry. In that moment, I wasn't sure if he was "getting enough." I was in pain. I was emotional because of #postpartumlife. I began to feel incapability creep in as steadily as my milk supply. The insecurities were as real as my full breasts. I began to feel as if my body which had served my growing baby well up until this point, yet all of a sudden, was incapable of producing milk and continuing its task in sustaining the life formed inside of me. I decided to give him formula.
The following day, I called the hospital lactation consultant and explain to her what's happening. She provided me with two options... to continue... OR to end my breastfeeding journey. These were the obvious choices. I was honestly hoping that she would give me a plan C. It all seemed too stressful. I was alone and in desperate need of support. After five days of trying, and more people telling me that "it didn't take all that," than actual supporters. I stopped breastfeeding.
Fast forward almost nine years later, and I am preparing to give birth to my second son, Jedi. Before hand, I read every book on unmedicated childbirth and breastfeeding, and hypno-birthing. I Watched every documentary... I prepared with the mental focus of an Olympic athlete.. I wanted nothing more than a healthy baby, and to be able to breastfeed to sustain that health.
We are in labor. My husband and I ask for the lactation consultant at the hospital. This birth was taking a while, and I wanted to stimulate contractions a bit by pumping. Our LC comes in. Her name is Rebecca. I explained to her that I was unable to breastfeed my first (or so I thought). I told her about how I had a breast reduction almost 14 years ago. She looks at me and says, "well let's see what we have here." She squeezes my boob & voila!!! Milk come out. Colostrum... She looks at me with a huge smile on her face and says, "See, you can make milk." That was all that I needed... Confidence. "I CAN MAKE MILK." In that moment, it didn't matter what anyone said. I COULD MAKE MILK. I now had all the confidence that I needed.
We leave the hospital and so it begins. My nipples feel like they are about to fall off. It's painful. Like toe curling painful. I was exhausted and overwhelmed with breastfeeding. I wasn't sure if I was "doing it right"... if my latch was "perfect," as I had read in countless books and watched via numerous YouTube breastfeeding tutorials. I was beginning to feel alone. This is when I decided to attend a Mama's Circle at The Community Birth Center! It was filled with beautiful mamas supporting and loving on each other. I was baby wearing my little one, who up until this point, was sleeping all tucked in against my chest in his wrap. He eventually wakes and I attempt to feed him, which in turn feels a lot like a game of breastfeeding double dutch. Sensing that I was struggling with this game of "perfect latch," a wonderful mom from the Mama's Circle simply asks me, "How are you, mama?" She comes over and assures me that I'm not doing anything wrong and shows me how to properly latch Mr. Jedi onto my breast. She relaxes my shoulders. She puts a nursing pillow in place for better support. He latches perfectly... without pain. The mothers in this gathering also shared with me some tips on nipple care, and encouraged me to eat more and drink more water. That day, I walked away from a circle of moms feeling confident and assured that I, not only was capable of nursing my babe, but capable of continuing on in our breastfeeding journey... for as long as we wanted...
My story is a prime example that breastfeeding is all about support. I was able to produce milk with both babies. I just didn't have the tools or the knowledge of what to do. My body wasn't broken. I wasn't broken. My body was more than prepared to nourish my baby. I just didn't know it. The major component that made all the difference was my support... or lack there of. I truly believe that a mother's support system has everything to do with her continuing or ending her breastfeeding journey. Honestly, the people around me didn't have all the answers. But they were there to offer whatever wisdom that they had available. I was supported and that made all the difference.
My little one is now almost thirteen months old. We are still breastfeeding. It truly takes a village... I am so very grateful for mine.