Baby latched perfectly the first time! Nursing like a champ! I can't tell you how many times I've heard stories like that. Which is why I felt like a total failure when I had such a hard time nursing in the beginning. Some recent nursing related posts on other blogs have inspired me to write about my own experience and let some of the moms-to-be out there know that it's not always that easy.
My kids had the unfortunate luck of being born late on a Friday night. The hospital where they were born does not have lactation consultants on duty on weekends. WTF?!? When I was checked into the postpartum room in the wee hours, a nurse asked if I planned to breastfeed, and I proudly said yes. I was expecting that would get me some help learning to breastfeed from someone at the hospital. Or at the very least, that it would get my kids a little sign in their bassinets proclaiming that they were breastfed and should not be given a bottle. No such luck.
The nurses who I asked for help all gave different information and advice. One told me to remove some layers of blankets and clothing from my sleepy baby to help her wake up enough to latch on. Another scolded me for not having her bundled, and wisked her away to be put under a warmer. When my boy refused to latch at all, the nurse just shrugged and said "boys are difficult". When my babies had been taken from my hospital room for yet another checkup, and I was being given yet another post-partum depression survey, the nurses fed them bottles of formula. Without asking me. Then they told me that if my babies lost 2oz by Sunday, that I would not be able to take them home. And they handed me some backpacks loaded with free samples of formula. I felt exhausted, ashamed and defeated. I felt like I had failed my kids by letting them have formula. Tail between my legs, I took the free samples of formula and did what I had to do to make sure they could go home with me the next day.
When I got home from the hospital, I had a bit more luck with my baby girl. She was happy to nurse, but based on my output with the pump, I was afraid she was not getting enough. Knowing that the pediatrician could order them back to the hospital if they didn't gain weight terrified me. So she got bottles of formula in addition to nursing. The boy still refused to nurse at all. Screamed bloody murder when he got near the boob. He got bottles of formula, mixed with the few measly teaspoons I was able to get using the pump. We scheduled an appointment with a lactation consultant, but she was not able to come until the babies were 5 days old. It felt like an absolute eternity. She was able to get the boy to latch for the first time. But it was through some crazy trickery involving a nipple shield, dripping formula down my breast, then removing the nipple shield. It was a 2 person job, and it only worked once. Eventually my milk supply kicked in and we only did formula bottles at night. But he still refused to nurse, and screamed until he was red in the face any time I tried. It was the worst rejection I had ever felt, even though I knew deep down that I shouldn't take it personally.
Maybe I liked to torture myself, maybe I was just optimistic that something would work out, but I continued to try to nurse my son every few days for the fist 6 weeks of his life. And then one day, it just happened. It was like things finally clicked for him. Just when I had started to come to peace with the idea that my son would be a bottle fed baby, he got it. When he started nursing, my pumping output increased, and we were finally able to ditch the formula. We like to joke that he is making up for lost time. He went from the boy who wouldn't nurse, to the boy who co-sleeps and nurses half the night.
Given our rocky start, I never imagined I'd make it to a year with breastfeeding. Now I'm just a few weeks away from that milestone. It has taken me a long time to feel comfortable writing a post like this. I still fear being judged as a failure by moms who didn't need to resort to formula. I still feel upset about being let down by the hospital, who provided no support. Nearly a year later, and I am still working through my issues and guilt over the beginning.
better late than never! i actually finished the un-challenge. many thanks to the ladies at 1 in vermilion and offering of love for creating the un-challenge.
Day 24, our favorite thing to do without our kids....
Lunch dates! Sometimes we'll meet for a lunch break at work when the kids are at daycare. Yeah, I know I just said that I like eating dinner with my kids. Really, I do. But having twins is all consuming. It's so humanizing to have that hour to relax with each other and have some adult conversation without being interrupted. We used to get theater season tickets before we had kids, and that was always fun. We also used to go kayaking a lot in a nearby canal. It's a super easy place to paddle around, and dip your toes in the water or look for turtles. Hopefully we can bring them when they're a little bigger. (oh, shit, this is supposed to be about my favorite things to do without them, and now I'm bringing them along!) We get next to no time away from the kids since we live in a tiny open arrangement apt. with two big dogs and no yard. We have not been able to find a babysitter willing to deal with that setup, so lunch breaks are our only chance to have time away from the kids. We really need to move!
Day 25 – What did you want to be when you grew up? Why and/or how did that change over time?
The first thing I remember wanting to do is make greeting cards. I was in second grade, and one of my classmates got sick or needed his tonsils out or something. The point it that he was going to be UNABLE TO GO TRICK OR TREATING that year. Our teacher had everyone in the class make get well cards for him. The teacher liked mine, and the kids mother loved it and told me for years afterward how much she loved it anytime she saw me at a school function. Then I wanted to be a marine biologist, because I thought it meant I got to play with seals and dolphins all day. Once I hit high school, I realized that I had no idea what I wanted to do when I grew up. I still don't have a clue.
Day 26 – What is/are the best piece(s) of parenting advice you’ve gotten or can give others?
Best advice I got for the early days, with the onslaught of visitors was from my aunt. She told me that nobody cared what state the house was in, all they cared about was seeing the babies. It's true. I didn't need to make myself crazy with cleaning. I could have met people in a barn and they wouldn't have noticed.
The best advice I can give (at least something I hadn't heard before) ...put dates on your pictures right away. You might think now that you'll remember that a particular photo was taken at 10 weeks and not 7 weeks, but you probably won't.
And for twin parents, "what is a toy for one baby is a weapon for twins."
Day 27 – Which movies or tv shows do you think are the most accurate portrayals of parenthood?
I love Roseanne. I think this is probably one of the most realistic portrayals of an American family ever. I was so grateful for the Roseanne marathons when I was sitting around at home on maternity leave, just waiting to go into labor.
Day 28 – What size family do you come from, what size family do you want, and why?
I grew up with a brother, who is a year younger than I am. We have a half sister, thanks to my cheating father. She's 6 years younger than I am, and moved halfway across the country when she was 3. Due to my parents marriages and divorces, I have 4 ex stepbrothers, one ex stepsister, 1 current stepbrother and 3 current stepsisters. As far as my household goes, I can see one or 2 more kids. Elizabeth and I always imagined that we would each get a turn being pregnant. I never imagined I'd have twins. I used to think we'd just have 2 kids, but now I am preparing myself for 4 in case she has twins too!
Day 29 – What do you think about giving kids an allowance, and what chores do you or would you expect your child(ren) to help out with?
I really want them to learn to be responsible with money. I don't want to be an ATM. I want them to learn to save for things they want to buy. But I don't want them to learn to associate everyday chores with money either. It drives me nuts that my younger cousins would ask "how much will you pay me?" when asked to do even the most basic chores. I think I'd like them to be responsible for maintaining their own space, but also helping with family things, like preparing dinner, setting the table, feeding dogs, etc.
Day 30 – What is/are the most memorable questions or reactions you’ve gotten in regards to being a two-mom family?
A surprising number of people implied that we probably don't get to know anything about the father. As if we were just given some random sperm. They're totally surprised when we tell them that we know his physical characteristics, as well as some of his likes and dislikes. I guess most people just have no idea how sperm banks work. Usually I tell them that it's kind of like online dating, and they seem to get it.