My first experience with breastfeeding is nothing new on this blog. In fact, you can read my goodbye letter to Medela here. As with everything related to Cati and her infant/baby days, my pumping experience is colored in the tormented shades of gray and black. I hated pumping because it felt like such a ball and chain but I loved it because it gave me the ability to give Cati breast milk when nursing just wasn't possible.
When I was pregnant with Elina I was determined to change things: I wanted to get that baby latched on and even joked that I would tape her face to my boob if I had to. And as with all grand plans, they are just that, plans that are subject to the terms and conditions of reality. I am pumping again and will try to do it for as long as I did it with Cati. I thought the choice to do so would be filled with guilt and regret but right now the overriding feeling is relief.
Ultimately, the convenience of a future relationship kept me trying to get nursing to work, but at the expense of my current relationship with Elina. Trying to breastfeed her was hard. Granted I got farther with her than I did with Cati but the past few weeks have been miserable for me. I haven't enjoyed Elina at all and I would secretly hope she'd keep sleeping so that I wouldn't have to feed her. At one horrible low point, after trying to get her on the breast for over an hour, I handed her over to Alex and told him I didn't want her. I instantly regretted uttering those words because the truth is that I didn't want the experience of struggling to feed her, not her herself. But this was how straining trying to get her to nurse was. I found myself head diving right into all those emotions I felt when Cati was an infant (looking back I'm convinced I had some kind of untreated postpartum issue ) and I did not want to feel that way, especially with two little girls depending on me to be the best mother possible. And there is no way I could be that mother when I lived my days in a dread that literally made me sick to my stomach and I spent my time snapping at Cati because I was upset with what was and wasn't happening with Elina.
If I would have been able to to at least get the baby to latch without a nipple shield (which was incredibly painful to use), even if her latch was wrong, then it would have been worth it to keep trying. Elina, however, flat out refused. My nipple would be in her mouth, dripping that liquid gold, and she would just cry and cry and cry. She would eventually fall asleep, but because she cried herself out. The only reason I survived a morning of this, where I tried to get her to latch on from 8am to 12pm is because I drove us over to a friend's house and camped out there for the day. My friend grabbed Elina when I couldn't take the crying anymore. She had no trouble sucking on my finger so the bottomline is that she just didn't want my nipple.
I tried. Lord knows I tried so very hard, but it just wasn't meant to be for me and for us. From the beginning we had problems. She wouldn't latch and all the staff at the hospital would say is "ohh she's going to be a good breastfed baby." Then, she was borderline with her biliruben levels and wanting so bad for her to be discharged with us, she got formula (anything to get her peeing and pooping). Then it was discovered that she was a poor sucker and I had to finger feed her milk to help her strengthen her suck. Then it was my nipples and we started using the shield. Then, with the help a lactation consultant, I got her to latch on without the shield. She must have hated this because afterward she simply refused the breast. I had a choice: continue in this way or pump and find a way back to my sanity.
I thought I would feel guilty, especially since I told myself I wanted to make it to six weeks. But honestly the pain, frustration, and detachment I felt from Elina were too much for me to handle. I was going through the motions and not enjoying a second of this sweet child. I was dreading being with the child who, aside from the breastfeeding struggles, was an "easy" (compared to Cati) baby. Once I made my decision I felt a weight lifted. I felt relief, calm, and at peace. I will never have the breastfeeding relationship I envisioned and aspired to have but I will at least cherish this stage in Elina's life. I was able to finally be a present mother to Cati and it felt so good to snuggle up to her before she went to bed. I slept better than I had in weeks because my nerves weren't eating away at me and I woke up feeling ready to tackle the world. I actually felt like I could make it through the day and like I actually wanted to try to make today be a good day.
So here begins another Medela story. I'm sure there will be complaints along the way. I'll deal with it then because today I feel good. Today I feel like I can tackle the world and that's exactly how I have to feel. Motherhood in the early days is all about surviving and today I feel like I can actually survive and conquer instead of just get by. And at the end of the day, I'm doing what I feel is important, which is giving my daughter breastmilk. I tried getting her to nurse and I did not bond with her. I felt more connected to Elina in one bottle feeding than I had in the entire time I tried to nurse her. That alone is worth pumping for.