A Bittersweet Farewell
I suppose it is fair to say that my nursing relationship with Max was not what I expected. When I was pregnant, I really never considered the notion that breastfeeding might be difficult, especially at first. I had visions of my friend Michelle, casually holding her son Oliver at her breast as we went through the checkout line at the grocery store, or of women I'd seen at my midwife's office, just nonchalantly whipping out a boob in the waiting room to an eager, thirsty little guy or gal. Well, as is the case with so many things about motherhood, things did not go according to the plan I had in my head. Um, essentially that plan was: "baby born, baby's mouth placed to breast, baby drinks happily." I think that may happen for some moms but that is not what happened for me.
The process of Max's birth was not as I expected -- I had prepared for a natural birth attended by my midwife in a hospital birthing center. 3.5 weeks prior to my due date my blood pressure skyrocketed and it was determined that I would need to be induced due to pre-eclampsia. The induction lasted 2.5 days, during which time I was on a magnesium sulfate drip, not permitted to eat, and not able to really move around. They tried several things to get things going, but in the end it was pitocin that kicked things off. By that point I was extremely groggy and exhausted and consented to the epidural because I didn't think I had the physical strength to deliver him myself., as I would have had to do it lying down since I was still hooked up to the IV. Because I had been on the mag sulfate and that affects the baby's heart rate, there was a neonatologist on hand to examine him after the birth. In retrospect I feel eternally grateful to my midwife and to the very pro-midwifery hospital that I was able to have a vaginal birth, as I have told this story to many people who have suggested that if I had been elsewhere I would surely have had a C section. Anyhow, after about 2.5 hours of pushing Max was born but he was not placed on my chest directly as I had long envisioned. Instead he was immediately whisked away before I could really have a look at him and I did not see him for over a hour. I remember when he was brought to me, he was sleeping and I tried to nurse him but he would not latch on. I was disappointed but knew we would try again and keep trying until we got the hang of it. Little did I know I would be trying for over two months.
Max didn't really like nursing. He had reflux and was uncomfortable in the standard cradle hold position. I also had extreme over-supply and remember so many times where Max would be screaming in discomfort in my arms while milk was spraying out of control all over the place. I slept in a bra with 2 layers of nursing pads for over two months. Eventually we got to a place where nursing worked, but I always felt I was waiting for the other shoe to drop, and never felt very relaxed in my role as a nursing mother. I felt very sad about it for a long time, and felt like my relationship with my son was less because we didn't have this ultra-intense nursing bond.
Max last nursed 4 days ago now, and had been gradually giving it up for the past few months. He was down to really just one nursing a day for the past couple of weeks and every time I wondered if this one would be the last one. I would look down at him and try to burn the feeling of him at my breast into my memory forever but that feeling is so ephemeral. I am immensely proud that I worked so hard for my son to have the milk that was made just for him, and I am sad that our time nursing is over. This morning I packed up my pump at work and shed a tear or two. I won't really miss nursing necessarily. I know I definitely won't miss pumping. I guess I just miss my little baby! Max is turning one in just a few weeks and that is hard to compute.