Tuesday, July 30, 2013

The Beauty in Breastfeeding

I am taking part in Mothering.com's contest "Blog about Breastfeeding" to celebrate World Breastfeeding week!  Here is the link!  http://www.mothering.com/community/a/blog-about-breastfeeding-and-win   Please feel free to enter-- let's celebrate the beauty in breastfeeding!!

I am a mother.

I am a nursing mother.

I am also a lactation consultant in a busy urban hospital.  My journey to this point has been full of joy, determination, sleepy hazy nights, warm milky cuddles, a tremendous amount of studying, and, I believe, God's hand of grace.  Breastfeeding, not only nature's perfect way to nourish and sustain and grow and love our babies, was also the magical beginning of bonding with my first baby.  The first time I latched my sweet son to my breast, I felt a tingling, shivery sensation that flowed from my head to my toes and deep into my heart-- like I was waking up.  I was, now, fully a mother.  I was a woman.

You see, my relationship with my newborn son had a rocky start.  I was a new gradate nurse with some labor and delivery experience with a fantastic new job in a hospital nursery.  I just assumed that everything would go smoothly in labor and my birth would be complication free.  I was a healthy young woman who had a fabulous pregnancy and had no reason to think otherwise.  I was nervous and excited.  I was completely and totally unprepared for the roller coaster ride of my first birth.

I was admitted to L&D unexpectedly for immediate induction for a diagnosis of oligohydramnios following a routine post-dates sonogram.  I was classified "high risk" and was shackled to the fetal monitor.  Every minute, I felt more and more autonomy slip away as I was told what was going to happen to my body and my baby.  I felt like I was spinning out of control.

Cervidil.  Pitocin.  Body-wracking contractions and ruptured membranes.  No choice but epidural.  Still feeling nervous and excited, but also, in a way, darkened.  This was so much harder than I thought.

Fully dilated!!!  ELATED!  Pushing.  Pushing.  Pushing... Three hours.  Flat on my back, heartburn, sweat, tears.  Exhaustion, disappointment.  The "coaching" turned into yelling.  I felt like I was totally silenced.  No longer a beautiful pregnant woman, but now just a shell of a body.  Just get this thing out of me.

An exam: he was direct occiput posterior.  Attempt to manually rotate... fresh mec, decels... "C-Section."

All of a sudden, I went totally numb.  I couldn't think.  I stared at the ceiling tiles in a daze as they wheeled me to the OR.

Surgery.  Clanking of metal instruments.  "You'll feel a little pressure now."  Pressure, YES!  This was awful.  I couldn't wait until this was over!

And then: "WOW, what a big baby!"  No cries.  He was being suctioned for meconium.  I (as much as I HATE to say it) didn't care.  I was angry.  I was blaming my own baby.  I wanted nothing to do with him.  I am ashamed to admit that.

After what seemed like forever, I was wheeled to recovery.  By now, my baby was doing just fine, and being doted upon by his entourage of waiting family.  I was resting; shutting out the world, trying to process "what the heck just happened to me??"

By the time my arms stopped shaking an hour later, I was able to sit up and was finally physically capable of holding my baby.  Was I emotionally ready?  I really can't describe in words the emotions swirling in my head.  I had been so so so so excited to meet my sweet baby.  He meant the world to me.  I love him.  But, I was reeling from overwhelming sadness and confusion at how the birth made me feel.

The newborn nurse brought him to me and said: "he has to go up to the nursery for low blood sugar... if you want to nurse him, you have to do it now."

::Deep Breath::

Alone with my husband and my baby.  Our new family.  Nervous and excited, I instinctively brought my (adorable) baby to my breast.  He latched on!  Like magic!!!  I looked on with amazement as he nursed perfectly, like he knew how to do it all along.  He was teaching me.  "It's going to be ok, mom."  He looked up at me with such vivid and deep blue eyes and I felt it:  LOVE.  Perfect and pure.  Fire, warmth, glowing.  He unlatched and smiled one of those heart-melting newborn smiles and I saw his sweet dimples for the first time.  Ok, yep.  I am this baby's MOM.

We enjoyed a lovely breastfeeding relationship into toddlerhood.  I then nursed his little sister.  A whole host of new challenges arose with her, but we figured things out.  When she was 13 months old, breastfeeding saved me again.

I was (surprise!) 12 weeks pregnant with my third child when I began to miscarry.  I was devastated and heartbroken.  I labored quickly and intensely at home, delivering my tiny baby into my hands.  Perfect and beautiful.  But then, I hemorrhaged.  My husband, strong and steady, helped me to the couch.  I lay down, bleeding, and called 911.  I was losing so much so fast.  I was scared.  I tried to stay calm.  The fire department arrived and gave me two 18 gauge IVs.  I felt helpless.  I called for my toddler, my sweet one year old daughter.  She lay next to me and nursed.  "MMMMmmmmMMMM." She played with my hair, looked me in the eyes (oh, she also had those vivid, deep blue eyes with all the wisdom in the world!).  I felt safer with her in my arms.  Honestly, I didn't know what was happening to me.  Would this be our last time together?  My daughter, innocently and adoringly, rubbed her chubby little legs against my bloody body.  It seemed so ridiculous and so surreal at the time; these huge strong firemen standing around, waiting for the paramedics to arrive, keeping watch over my nursing toddler and I.  This is one of my favorite breastfeeding moments of all time.  She kept me strong in her embrace.  I could not slip away... I had to stay strong for these babies of mine!  I survived after a long night of transfusions, surgery, and the strength I was given through the love my children.

I totally fell in love with breastfeeding after that and decided to pursue my IBCLC.  I had to help other women discover this.  My daughter nursed until 26 months, through a second miscarriage, and a long season of grieving.  Nursing was as much for her benefit as for my own.

Then, four months ago, I experienced The Beauty yet again.  After much prayer, yearning, waiting, longing... my rainbow baby came to me.  I had the most amazing home water birth.  After a quick and strong labor, I roared my baby into the world, lifted her out of the water, and stared in stunned silence at the way she was just looking at me.  Vivid, deep, beautiful blue eyes: so wise, knowing, and peaceful.  She didn't cry.  She just gazed up at me sweetly.  Naturally, easily, wonderfully, she latched on and nursed minutes after birth.  That warm tingling shiver raced up and down my spine again.  Fire, warmth, glowing.  The simplicity of it all so stunningly beautiful.

I am a mother.  I am a breastfeeding mother.  It is not something that *I* do, but something that my children do for me.  Learning, growing, thriving together.  There is just so much beauty, strength, and power in breastfeeding.  Nursing opens an incredible connection between mom and baby that, if you let it, can change you forever.


  1. Wow... I had to leave a comment, but I just don´t know what to write...You brought tears to my eyes. Thank you for sharing your beautifull story :)

  2. wow is right! what an incredible story you have and what an inspiration you are!!!

  3. beautiful story, i loved it!

  4. I am speachless.... Your story is so touchy and so pure. Full with love and beauty of motherhood. Congratulations.
    I am a doula in UK and I would like to read your story to all mothers to be, specially those one who are not favouring breastfeeding (yet). Would that be all right?
    Thank you kindly!

  5. Gabriela, I am just seeing your comment now! Yes, of course, it is alright to share!

    Thank you for the kind words, piskito, summerplayshouse, and alicia!