While You Were Nursing

(Does anyone remember the awful 90's movie on which this title is based??  Anyone...?)

In the last six months I've spent a LOT of time nursing.  I've nursed on the big comfy chair in the nursery, on my bed at all hours of the night, on a folding chair in the backyard when the weather was nice, at friends' houses and grandparents' houses, and mostly on our couch.  Probably hundreds of hours on the couch.  Hundreds?!  Yes.  Hundreds.

Our little spot on the couch
Newborn Olivia after nursing on the "Brest Friend" pillow

Looking back on all the time I've spent nursing, I realize that I've come a long way with this "motherhood" thing.  The first time I nursed Olivia she was about 30 seconds old.  She had just been placed on my chest after the craziest journey of her very-short life.  I didn't have time to realize that I didn't know what I was doing.  It just sort of happened.  Magical, really.

Magic baby nursing!

After that there was a couple days of "honeymoon nursing" where the magic continued.  Nothing really went wrong, nothing was too challenging.  Just insert boob aaaaand go!  I was in mommy heaven.

Reading and snoozing on our chair in the nursery (breast pump on the left)
But the music died on Day 3 or 4.  My milk came in, which is a nice way of saying that my boobs engorged to the size of small basketballs, and it completely freaked me out.  And it hurt!  Suddenly nursing turned into a comical feat of acrobatics.  Like trying to place a beach ball into someone's slightly open mouth.  For her it was like drinking from a fire hose.  We had issues.

I got lots of help from the lactation consultants.  Odd as this sounds though, I didn't fully accept that I needed help for a long time.  Because of the weird honeymoon period, I thought we really had it figured out.  Other moms might need help, but not me and Baby O!  We were clearly pros.

Not the case.

Nursing a baby is a natural thing, but it certainly doesn't come naturally.  Moreover, there are so many women with amazing advice to give, why not ask for help?  When I reached out, I found a wealth of information that made my life so much easier.

In the first couple months I could often be found playing Words With Friends on my phone as Olivia nursed (I did this a lot at night to keep me awake.  Plus my friend Sarah was nursing her son at the same time, so we would play at 2:00 or 3:00 in the morning when no one else was updating.  It kept things interesting, and I never felt alone.)  One day I mentioned having breastfeeding issues to a friend on Facebook.  She recommended The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding - an amazing book that I read cover to cover.  I'm not sure if she knows how much that meant to me ... maybe she will now.  I read a tattered library copy of this book, which made me feel even more a part of this great community of breastfeeding women.  How many other struggling, searching moms had found this book before me and poured over it like I did?

Olivia on the breastfeeding pillow a few months later

My Grandma Lois (for whom Olivia is named after) talked about this time in her life when she reached out to other women; it was after her husband (my Grandpa Frank) had died.  I can't remember all the details, or why she was not near her close group of friends.  But she wasn't, and she needed people to spend time with, if for no other reason than to get out of the house and think of something other than being sad.  She said, "sometimes you just need to find a friend to do little things with - have coffee or go for a walk - she does not need to be your best friend."  The point was: find people.  Don't rule someone out because you don't have much in common or because you can't foresee a long friendship in the future.  You can find a great deal of happiness over a small cup of coffee with an unlikely friend.

This advice has been a godsend to me in the last six months.  Through nursing troubles, and the doldrums of being a stay-at-home mom, and some flat-out baby blues, I've reached out and found many unlikely friends.  Some may turn into best friends, but some will move away or go back to work; some live in different cities, and some I've just met in passing.  If you are reading this, and you've offered me some advice in the last six months, I am probably talking about you.  And though I don't know how to say it when I see you at Baby Clinic, or at the mall, or when you stop by the next time you're in town, I really really appreciate you. 

Two of my favorite ladies.  You are my rock(s)!
[breastfeeding break] ....... and I'm back!

Now, with regard to nursing, Olivia and I have come a long way, but we are by no means pros just yet.  I am proud of one small accomplishment, though.  Olivia can now nurse in bed with me side-by-side, and she can latch on without my help.  Perhaps you have to be a nursing mother to appreciate this, I don't know.  But if you knew where we started, when every latch-on was a delicate process involving shifting, positioning, and ultimately freezing in place for the duration of the feeding; you would know that we've come a long way.

But we are not pros.  Why?  Well for one thing, I've never been the kind of mom that could gracefully nurse in public.  You know, the moms who whip the nursing cover over their shoulder while quietly placing babe to boob, and no one is the wiser?  For us, its more like a rodeo/peep show.  Olivia tears the nursing cover away and screams at the boob as it comes flying out of my shirt.  I need one hand to hold her, one hand to guide boob to mouth, and one hand to hold the cover in place ... it just isn't going to happen.

Do me a favor friends, if you see a mom nursing in public, just wish her well and don't judge.  I'm sure she's doing the best she can with the hands that God gave her.

All in all, I am super happy that I chose to breastfeed Olivia.  We've had our challenges, but I've always thought of it as a team effort, and I'm just as proud of her as I am of me.  We have seen a ton of benefits too; she's never been really sick, she's had NO problem gaining weight, and its saved us a boatload of money.  And I get to spend a little time every day staring at my beautiful baby girl in my arms.

Full.  And happy.
What a view!

~hmv