On Breastfeeding & Closeness

Here's what I have to say:

I tried breastfeeding Max and Maggie. I really did. In the hours after they were born, I was so disappointed that I couldn't nurse them right away, but I understood that that's what happens when your babes are born seven weeks early and then get rushed off to the NICU before you can even get a good look at them. I was also excited and happy to provide them with breast milk, and proud when what I pumped nourished their tiny bodies so well.

We tried breastfeeding in the two weeks they stayed in the hospital, but our opportunities for nursing were scarce, and I wasn't brave enough to ask the nurses to help me often. My little babes were oh so fragile, and I was still cautious when I held them.

After we brought them home, we tried again. We visited a lactation consultant and made a plan for how to wean them off bottles. But nursing hurt like fire, like nothing I had ever experienced, and I cried and cried until I couldn't take it anymore and I pulled my babies away from me. I worried about not knowing exactly how much food they were getting. When we were so concerned with every little bit of weight gain, not being able to measure their intake was troublesome. And I was so tired. I felt like I couldn't try to do any more than I was doing. I could only survive.

Eventually we switched to formula. Christian said it was my decision, and I prayed to know what was right. What was best for us, as a family. I felt that I received the answer: formula is a good choice.

After hearing all that, you may not believe me when I say that I have strong feelings about breastfeeding. My mother taught me that breastfeeding is important, that breast milk is best for babies. I never doubted her; I had an incredibly hard time overcoming the guilt that came with my decision to give Max and Maggie formula. I knew that when the next baby came, we would try breastfeeding again.

When Lucy was born, she was fat. She was healthy, strong, and eager to eat. So much about her birth, the normalcy of her arrival and the sweet plumpness of her existence, healed the pain that was left in my heart after the experience of Max and Maggie's birth. She excelled at nursing instantly. The lactation consultants who visited our hospital room exclaimed over how well she did. I was happy. It was easy. We snuggled together in our hospital room and I smelled her fuzzy head when she slept on me.

I feel so lucky, so blessed that breastfeeding has been almost effortless for Lucy and me. It was painful at first {after one 40-minute feeding she left me bleeding}, and we're still working on discreet public nursing, but trying to breastfeed Max and Maggie felt like trying to run with my ankles tied together. Breastfeeding Lucy feels like flying.

So here it is, what I really want to say:

When we visited the lactation consultant for help with Max and Maggie, she gave us all kinds of literature. One pamphlet I remember was printed on yellow paper; it advocated the benefits of breastfeeding. I remember that pamphlet specifically because certain parts of it haunted me as I tried to make my decision about how to feed my first two children.

There was a quote in that pamphlet from a woman who said that she had breastfed some of her children and bottle-fed others. Because of the bonding that occurs during breastfeeding, she claimed she felt closer to the breastfed children than to the bottle-fed children.

Maybe you can understand why that would upset me, as a new mother. One who is trying to do what's best for her children and exhausting herself with the effort. I felt like I had failed. I was worried that I had permanently damaged my relationship with my Max and Maggie. I was worried that if I had more children, I would love them more.

But now I know for myself. I have breastfed a child and I have bottle-fed children and I can tell you because I know, I know that how you choose to feed your baby does not determine your relationship with them. I know because I look at Max and Maggie, my wonderful darling one-year-olds, and the love that I feel for them is unrestrained. After what the three of us have been through together, nothing could diminish our relationship.

Breastfeeding has brought Lucy and me closer, I know that, too. I'm grateful for that blessing.

But I think of that pamphlet now, and it seriously pisses me off.


Important Thoughts 27.0

27.1: I often hear other parents talk about how their children are "showing more personality" as they get older; for Max, this translates into "emphatically showing likes and dislikes that make no sense to anyone else." For example, Max likes: graham crackers, cords, piggyback rides, dumping out all the blocks, throwing foods we know he likes {grapes! What's wrong with grapes??} on the floor without even trying them, and dropping anything he can find in the fireplace {tonight I found a hair elastic, a plastic cup, a block, a grape stem, and one of the remotes in there}.

Max does NOT like: Daddy leaving for work in the morning, anyone ever opening a door to the outside without letting Max outside also, anyone ever going upstairs without letting Max upstairs also, not getting picked up when Mama's in the kitchen, not getting to eat whatever you're eating, not getting to play with whatever Maggie has, being given a sippy cup of an inferior color to the one that Maggie has been given {apparently he has determined a hierarchy of cup/lid color combinations and he'll refuse to drink until you give him the best available one}, and having anything taken away that he's not ready to give up yet {usually non-toy items he's found on the floor/ground and decided are his own; today it was a collection of sticks from the deck}. Do anything Max doesn't like and he'll either crawl after you sobbing or scream so loud it will cut you.

27.2: It's one of those weird truths of newborn babyhood, but there are only two times when Lucy has a blowout - within the first three minutes after I change her clothes, or never. Seriously, if an outfit makes it past those first three minutes, I could leave it on her for a week and it would stay clean. Guaranteed.

27.3: I've been re-watching the first three seasons of Grey's Anatomy {the only seasons I watched live, and in my opinion, the only seasons worth watching}, and I'm reminded of a few things. I'm reminded that I sometimes love cloudy, drizzly, perpetually depressing weather. I'm reminded that I love this soundtrack and I still have all the words to every song memorized. And finally, I'm reminded that I used to be really embarrassed by the word "penis." Like, really really embarrassed.

27.4: Can I set the record straight? I don't think Maggie and Lucy very much alike at all. AT ALL. I think they have the same eyes, and I think maybe they might have the same mouth, but with such different noses and head shapes and coloring, they turn out looking about as alike as Maggie and Max {which is to say, not very alike}. They're more like opposite babies. Check this picture out.

27.5: I find myself with this strange amount of free time where I don't have enough to get anything done, like clean my house or make dinner or get dressed or blog, but I do have enough to keep up with what's going on in everyone else's life via the social media. {I do blogs, Twitter, Instagram and Facebook, but not Pinterest. Pinterest and I have kind of been taking a break lately, mostly because I go there and I look at everything and think, "But who even cares?" and then I find something else to do.} It's easy because I have my phone next to me almost always, so while I'm nursing or eating lunch or just while Max and Maggie are occupied doing something other than climbing on me, I can tap tap tap and be entertained.

And it's weird, because I've found myself checking my phone more and more often, hoping for some new e-mail or Instagram notification or Twitter mention to pop up. And why can't I go half an hour without glancing at my phone? It kind of grosses me out. On the one hand, I feel a little guilty that I'm even looking for a distraction while I'm nursing Lucy, because shouldn't we be bonding and stuff? But on the other, what am I supposed to do, just stare at her? {And really, that's not a rhetorical question - what am I supposed to do while breastfeeding?? I don't know. The lactation consultants didn't teach me in the hospital.} It's something I need to work on, this phone-dependence.

27.6: What kind of eggs are your favorite? And can you make them yourself? I've been cooking two over easy eggs for breakfast each morning, because I love dipping the runny yolk in buttered toast.