Sunday, July 18, 2010

The Most Expensive Breasts in the Universe.

I would have never imagined that my journey to breastfeeding would hit a climax with me bawling my eyes out as I walked away from my house and into our quiet neighborhood at 1:00 a.m. husband and baby in tow.

A pot of melted pump parts seething on the front porch.

"I'm sooooo sorry!" " I was just trying to feed G!" "How could I be so stupid!" in between sobs.

***

I have a love/hate relationship with the pump.

Love that it is a way for me to provide nutrition for my baby. Love that it helps ensure my milk supply stays intact. Love that it ultimately hopefully is a means to an end of baby at breast.

Hate hate hate it.

HATE!

Anyone who has had to spend a lot of time pumping, feeling tired, sore and unattractive as you glance down at your body in pumping action- a sight so foreign and strangely normal when really really you just want to nurse your baby yourself (and can't) understands this meaning of hate.

***

"And that will be $162," the shopkeeper tells me. On the counter is a hospital grade pump emblazoned with the words "The Liquid Gold Standard."

I am a mother in distress. Truly. I look it too. Holding my little babe I hand over the money, listen to the instructions and take home my bag of goods: a one month pump rental, a bunch of new pump parts that connect to the machine, and some bottles that apparently mimic breasts.

Our breastfeeding journey on day one seemed normal- a bit painful but lovely. But at one week it was discovered that our baby, round and pleasantly sized at birth was not gaining weight.

And so the pumping began.
***

When we were first married we bought a little Martha Stewart kitchen island cart on wheels. In all four apartments we lived in prior to home ownership it was incredibly handy and much used. I couldn't bring myself to get rid of it once there was no obvious space for it in our new kitchen. Somehow I knew it would still come in handy.

The pump is now housed on the cart along with a few other things to help us in the pumping/breastfeeding process- water bottles, ointments, etc. The kitchen island transformed into "the lactation station," as we affectionately and a bit sarcastically call it.

Some days I get overly confident and cheerily wheel the lactation station away and into the closet.

But over the next 5 weeks I wheel it out again and again as our breastfeeding roller coaster includes: nipple confusion (yes it's true!), thrush, mastitis, and a big discovery.

***

"I never really see him stick his tongue out much, do you?" I ask Dashing Boy one day.

Since having our baby I had heard the term "tongue tie" a few times. Our baby had been checked for a classic tongue tie immediately following his birth. But there are other tongue ties apparently. Less obvious ones.

One morning I decided to google it. "Posterior tongue tie," and "Tongue tie symptoms."

An article comes up and goodness gracious we have every single symptom: slow weight gain, breast infections, baby tiring at breast then hungry again, marathon feedings, sore nipples etc, etc.

***

"By the time all this is done, you are going to have the most expensive breasts in the universe!" my mom tells me one day.

We had just had our baby's tongue clipped- a procedure not covered by insurance.

One of the benefits of breastfeeding you hear, is that it is free!

Between pump and scale rentals, pump parts, lactation consultants, ointments and medications- and now this- well, lets just say that getting liquid gold to our baby has not been a cost-savings journey.

***

A large pot of water sits on the stove. It has been there for weeks now, part of the pumping routine.

The method goes like this: feed baby, pump, sterilize.

over and over.

This extra step to everything is incredibly annoying but I am determined to fight away the thrush monster.

***

"Six weeks. Just make it through six weeks and I promise you it will get better," my mother-in-law advised me about breastfeeding when I was pregnant.

Six weeks! I thought. That is a long time!

***

11:00 at night and time for bed. Rinsed off pump parts are sitting on the counter.

Feeling really responsible I think to myself and even say out loud, "I better sterilize these pump parts so I don't have to do it in the middle of the night."

We have gotten into sort of a routine. Baby sleeps for a nice 4-5 hour stretch, I feed him, then I pump right after. With all that has gone on, I'm just not confident yet that I can stop pumping. I want to make sure I keep my supply up, save the liquid gold.

I fill up the pot, plop all the parts inside and turn the heat to high.

***

12:30 I am laying in bed, just having nursed the baby when I hear a faucet running.

Oh no! We must have left a faucet on. I better go turn it off so it doesn't run all night.

Sleepily, I walk into the bathroom. No leaking faucet. I barely make it to the kitchen and see it immediately.

The pot is sitting on the stove, plastic sizzling and bubbling. Smoke fills the kitchen- a terrible, chemical burning smoke.

"DASHING BOY!" I scream as I take the pot off the stove and set it on our cutting board, burning that in the process.

***

Looking into the pot you would think I would be saying to myself. "I can't believe I forgot about this but thank goodness I caught it before I burned the house down." Or maybe even. "Oh my goodness perhaps I should put a shirt on before I handle this thing as it is extremely dangerous."

But no.

I look into the pot and the first thing that comes to my mind that seems so devastating is, "Oh no! How am I going to pump tonight?" staring at the parts all jumbled up as if I can problem solve and come up with a way to make them still work.

And then I know I've reached my breaking point. Entered into the crazy.

Thankfully Dashing Boy comes downstairs with some sense. He takes the pot and sets it outside. He opens some windows to begin to air the house out. I snap out of it for a second and follow suit.

The smoke seriously burns when you breath it in. We have got to get G out of here, we both say.

***

So here we are walking around the neighborhood in the middle of the night, waiting for things to clear up before we can sleep soundly again.

"It's ok honey." "It could have been a lot worse." Says my kind Dashing Boy.

and I cry and cry.

Eventually we make it back to the house, lay a blanket and some pillows on the lawn and wait just a bit longer.

***

I look at the pot again, and part of me feels very victorious. Like, "yeah! in your face pump!" as I stare at half-there flanges that never will be again. And then another part is sad to see it go down so viciously as I suddenly feel sentimental toward the pump parts that helped me and my baby through our breastfeeding journey, tear.

Still another parts knows that likely I will be back at the store buying all the parts again. And that part of me makes a mental tally of that expense-and even more-so the cost of our beautiful pot. Just add it to the list.

***

But it's been 5 days now and I haven't pumped once. Baby is happy- he's eating. His cheeks are getting chubby.

And we are six weeks out.

(And boy do I hope we stay here! Thank you to everyone that helped so much- Dashing Boy, Mom, Cristie, Lactation Consultant, kind friends- and the wonderful la leche league. The support means everything.)


4 comments:

Brittany said...

Hey, if it doesn't creep you out and you need it (which hopefully you won't!) but if you need it, I have a breast pump, an electric double breast pump that I'm not using. I could send it via UPS to you and you could save on the cost of buying a new one. Let me know!

*Amy Leigh* said...

I cried when I read this post. It brought me back to when Hadleigh was a wee bebe and I was pumping every three hours around the clock--w.i.t.h.o.u.t.b.r.e.a.k.s--and I know EXACTLY how you felt-- sitting there, looking down with those crazy flanges, which I often accidentally called fi-lan-gies to my lactation consultant.

For us, it was the first eight weeks that were the hardest, but I stopped pumping around then (I could have stopped WAY earlier, I have a freezer FULL of pumped milk and no milk banks around here) and we have never looked back. Hopefully with the next baby (If you are planning on that--) you will be an old pro by then and you will have so much advice for people in the future!

Stick with it! You will NEVER regret it!

Jenna said...

You know how women who have bad birthing experiences can't read about the bad experiences of other women because it can trigger traumatic memories of their own experience? I never understood that until I read this post. I welled up with tears as well! What a nightmare it is to have feeding problems.

Good for you for sticking through it. (I promise I'm almost over my breastfeeding issues) Sometimes I hold my little one to my naked breast and cry to myself a bit that he doesn't see me as a source of food. I'd take a ball and chain baby over a formula fed one any day. :(

He is a lucky guy to have you as a mom.

Whit said...

I'm glad things are going better. This is a sad story. I really like the part about looking into the melted pot and wondering how you will pump :) Just shows how loving you are for your sweet boy. Keep up the good work!