August 9, 2010

When Oban was just several weeks old I wrote – very authentically (as per usual) – about our struggles with breastfeeding.  In fact, so that there would be no confusion I titled the post,  ‘Breastfeeding Sucks’.  And I meant it.  Almost a year later I have some different thoughts to share.

I never saw a single woman breastfeed her baby until I was 30.  I didn’t grow up around it - I didn’t know anything about it.  It was so far off my radar that it wasn’t until meeting my husband and entertaining the idea of children that I ever even considered breastfeeding.  Because I have never been all that comfortable with my body, I spent a good deal of time leading up to Oban’s birth thinking that it would probably never work out.  That I would ‘give it a shot’ and if it just made me miserable – I’d go to the bottle.  Well.  Boy did it ever make me miserable.  The shocker was that I had such a strong desire to make it work that I was willing to endure just about every challenge in the book.  And some that weren’t.  Have a looksee:

Overactive letdown, Oversupply, Tongue-Tie, Inverted Nipples, Hole-In-Nipple, Teeny Baby with Teeny Mouth, Plugged Ducts, and bouts of suspected Thrush.

I cried for 10 weeks almost daily.  I cried out of frustration, anger, desperation, pain, and total exhaustion.  No one ever told me what to do.  I did not have anyone else’s expectations to deal with (thank god).  I felt no pressure to continue, or to bottle feed.  But I had this feeling about breastfeeding that was very similar to how I came to feel about my labor.  I am a woman – a mammal – with all the functions and capacity I need in order to grow and deliver and nurture my offspring.  It felt (it feels), like a very basic and primal component of my being.  Not succeeding in either an un-medicated labor or breastfeeding would not have meant defeat, however, there was an incredibly intense force driving me to test the bounds of my physical limitations before throwing in the towel.  And amen for it.  Because honestly?  I can’t believe I survived either event.  They were both epic.

I’d often hear the whole: 8 weeks!!!Just 8 weeks and life gets better.  You begin to love your baby a little more.  Breastfeeding gets better.  They start to smile.  Hmm.  Well, 8 weeks came and went.  He did start smiling (which saved his life), but I still had a hole in my nipple and I did NOT look like those women on the cover of Mothering magazine.

8 + 2 weeks of more hell, and it did get better.  I hadn’t even realized it, but it did.  Slowly – day after day – we just finally fell into it and it was a little less work and pain each time.  So lets get to the best part shall we?

The way I feel about breastfeeding Oban now, almost 11 months later, makes me emotional and weepy every time I think about it.  It is so much like his delivery.  I ran the gauntlet.  There aren’t many occasions in my life where the reward is compelling enough to entice me through pain and suffering.  I like my journeys relatively uneventful and uncomplicated.  Easy.  Fun.  Or rather, easy fun.

Example:  While in Montana this summer we took a hike up a mountain.  About 3 miles up, 3 miles down.  The elevation gain kicked my ass.  I cried lots.  Oban and I both.  We cried.  (Poor, poor, husband).  The view was stunning, but I was more interested in going back down.  I hated it.  I was hot.  With a miserable baby who had boycotted his first nap and didn’t want to be strapped into a Moby on his sweaty miserable mama.  It was just a bad scene.  (Poor, poor, husband)  I just don’t have that gene.  I don’t like to do much of anything that makes me uncomfortable in the name of all that carpe diem shit.  Thats for people like my husband.  And he’s REALLY GOOD AT IT.  Let him have it!  See don’t be fooled - I may wear Birkenstocks and drive an Outback and climb some boulders, but I’m a whiny bitch when it comes to roughing it up.

All of this just to illustrate how poignant sticking out an incredibly torturous 10 weeks of breastfeeding was.  Because it was sooooo worth it.

I believe that through the bond of breastfeeding, I have been able to experience an understanding of LIFE that is beyond words.   I believe that through breastfeeding I feel a level of connection to my son that would otherwise not exist.  It is true bliss.  If I had to die tomorrow – I’d do it while breastfeeding.  It is that sublime.  It is a peace that I treasure, one that fills me with a love for my child unlike any other exchange.  It is calm, and healing, and a privilege that I do not take for granted.  It is perfect.  If anything can be perfect…breastfeeding is perfect.  It is exactly how it is supposed to be.  It is nurture.  Pure, and simple.

It was not easy, enjoyable, or even remotely rewarding in the beginning.  It was hell in a hole in my nipple – that transformed into perfection.  How great is that?  It’s pretty great.