My Breastfeeding Journey: Day One
The first day of breastfeeding is a stressful day. You are meeting someone you’ve been looking forward to seeing for months if not years, you just had a person who lived with you either pushed out by you or stripped out by doctors, there’s blood, there’s phone calls, there’s Facebook updates, tweets, Instagrams, Skypes, Touts, YouTube channels to be updated. If you are really lucky, you have in-laws who now have one more story to tell around the Thanksgiving table. There’s a lot going on, and in the midst of it you have to do something as intimate and significant as breastfeed with someone you just met.
I don’t remember when I decided to breast feed. It was years before I even started thinking of conceiving, before I knew the benefits to me and my children, or even before I had breasts probably (which means it was a long time ago). So when I got pregnant my decision was made, and I just set out on my mission.
There were pamphlets. There were books. There was the Mocha Manual, YouTube videos, blogs…I even had my doctors and nurses giving me information on how to naturally feed my baby. I read plenty of literature so I never thought for one moment that I wouldn’t like, and more importantly, wouldn’t excel at breastfeeding. It never occurred to me that after two days of labor that ended in a c-section that I wouldn’t want a small, needy thing sucking the life out of me. No matter how that baby comes out of you, removing a whole person from your person is not the moment you want to start giving more of yourself. You’re bleeding, tired, happy, sad, in my case there was baby daddy drama … there was a lot going on so to start another brand new journey after ending the brand new journey of pregnancy? I understand why some would think it isn’t a worthwhile task. Heck. The formula IS right there, isn’t it?
Yes, the formula is there, but they didn’t know what I had. Remember all that research? I was armed with the courage of my convictions backed by volumes and volumes of information on how and why I should at least try to breastfeed. So I set off to do what I had always planned.
It turned out that after the c-section I had a fever and some complications with my blood pressure. I was very afraid I had developed some sort of infection. Of course, writing this now I don’t know how I could have gotten one in the hour it had taken them to cut me open, but I believed it then so when the nurse came to ask me if I wanted the baby fed in the nursery. I said it was okay to do so. I worried about nipple confusion, but my child needed to be fed and any good book will tell you not to worry so much about the methods, but that your child’s needs are met.
I would be a liar if I told you I remember the first suckle. I kind of have an inkling of how it went. I’d seen a video of a baby “rooting.” This is when the baby is laid on the mom’s stomach and the child finds the breast naturally. It is proof positive that baby’s naturally want to breast feed. I find it just a little funny that a mother wouldn’t just put her child on the breast. Why make the baby work for it? But as you get to know me, you’ll realize I had to try it. My background is in pediatric medicine. I love the stuff. And if truth be told I love weird things. If my child could on day one find my breast and start eating on her own that is something I would LOVE to see.
After that first try everything went very well. I’d never had a lactation class and not one nurse really came around to help me. There seemed to be a five-hour window when it was just me and my daughter where she cried, and cried, and cried while I tried to feed her. Eventually I did give in to the bottle, but the next feeding she was right back on the breast and we were right back on track. I will caution new moms to be very careful when breastfeeding in the hospital and at home. Breast milk releases prolactin and oxytocin which make you sleepy and relaxed. After two days of labor and very little sleep, I was breastfeeding my daughter and was awakened by the nursing staff twice with my baby precariously close to falling out of my arms and onto the floor. I know it’s hard not to be around the little darlings all the time those first few days, but keeping the baby in the room with you keeps you from sleeping, and not because of the baby waking up…it’s just your excitement of having the child there. Let that child leave for a few minutes and see how much sleep you get. But I digress, rules against hospitals letting mothers make choices like that are not the subject here.
Day One of nurturing your newborn can be these great, wonderful bonding moments, but for me it was another hard thing that happens and no one told me the down and dirty version, but that means they didn’t tell me how fulfilled I would be when I did work everything out either. I chuckle because difficulties can bond us, too — which is another thing no one wants to mention. You have to be diligently prepared for the good and the not so great. Every moment I have with my happy, healthy, smart child tells me so.
Ella Rucker is the mother of a two-year old daughter and guardian of two boys. She moved from Dayton, Ohio to “the city so nice they named it twice,” New York, New York, twelve years ago to pursue her now realized dream of becoming a writer. She loves to read about the “mental laws” and seeing them work in her life, but her greatest joy is laughing madly and wildly with her daughter who amazes her everyday. You can find her at goodenoughmother.com or by tweeting her @ellalaverne.