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Friday, December 08, 2006

The Hardest Most Rewarding Job

I never imagined that I wouldn't breastfeed my children. I assumed it was something that would come naturally to me. I was completely unprepared. I sought out no support, and little education. No one at the hospital where I delivered helped me, I got one visit from a lactation consultant who told me I was doing fine. Looking back, knowing what I know now, I can tell you I most certainly was not doing fine.
We struggled, my son and I, from the day he was born. Misinformed that a csection mommy could only use the "football hold" (we had latch problems) that a baby eats every 3 hours (No one told me I should nurse on demand, even if that was every hour) or showed me how to use the pump I'd rented ("you'll only need that if you get engorged)

We lasted 3 weeks. The pump sat in the corner of my living room for 37 long days, collecting dust and rubbing salt in a very raw wound.

I saw moms nursing their children and I would cry. I got the occaisional dirty look when giving my son a bottle at the mall and wanted to scream "I TRIED". The feelings of failure and dissapointment didn't fade easily. 3 years later they are still with me.

When I became pregnant with my daughter, I was determined to give breastfeeding every effort I could. I would try harder. I would dedicate more time to building my supply. I would do nothing but nurse night and day if that's what it took, never leaving her side. I'd take the supplements, drink gallons of water, I would make it at least 6 months. 6 months would be amazing!

My sweet baby spent the first 24 hours of her life in the NICU, having swallowed fluid on her way out. Strike 1 against breastfeeding. Laying in bed recovering from a second csection, I asked for a pump before I even saw a picture of my new baby girl. I watched the clock, pumping every hour. I wept when the nurses insist she have a bottle before leaving NICU (they did agree to let me nurse her first). Strike 2 for breastfeeding.

Complications seperated us again at day 6, and she went home with Daddy while I stayed in the hospital. Strike 3 for breastfeeding.

Yet we overcame. Back at home she was nursing like a champ, and I couldn't have been happier. When I couldn't keep up with her, the occaisional bottle of formula crept in, and before I knew it we were supplementing with formula about 50 of the time. I was, and am, completely OK with that. She got all the benefits of breastmilk, and I never had to stress if she was getting enough.

I know we wouldn't have made it long if I hadn't kept my son in daycare part time on my maternity leave. The hours when he was at school not only gave me time to have 1-on-1 with my daughter, it allowed me to have a much more productive pumping schedule to help increase my supply.

I went back to work when my daughter was 11 weeks old. Carving out time to pump was difficult, I felt guilty for stealing away for my "breaks", especially when people asked where I was going.

Our office has no rooms without windows, so I pumped in my car in the parking garage. It wasn't too bad, I tried to bring work with me whenever possible. I pumped 3 times a day at work, for 15 minutes. With setup, that's 20 minutes. It's a long time to be gone.

There were a couple incidents where people walked up on me in my car. That was pretty embarrasing. One opened the passenger door and I'm pretty sure he was more embarrassed than I was. I was always well covered, but having to explain what I was doing to coworkers was an experience I could have lived without.

I continued to pump until my daughter was just over 5 months old. As my supply dwindled, those marathon sessions with the pump, the endless bowls of oatmeal, gallons of water, bottles of supplements came to and end. When a last ditch effort of a prescription for Reglan left me nearly falling asleep at my desk, I knew it was time to close down the dairy.

Our family is complete, there will be no third child to see if I can do better next time. I'm OK with that, and both grateful for & proud of sucess I had the second time around.

Sometimes I wonder: If I wasn't working, would I have been able to keep breastfeeding longer? Then I look at my crazy 3 year old as he bounces off the walls and say to myself, "who am I kidding, I got more breaks at work then HE would have ever given me!"


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