April 24, 2013

The Breastfeeding Diaries: Sara from Running From the Law

Grab your tissues for this one. This amazing and sweet mommy melts my heart.

Hi!  I'm Sara from Running From the Law.  I'm an attorney, blogger and new mama to Baby Mac (ten months old).  I'm thrilled to be here guest blogging for the amazing Julie.  I am honored to be able to share my story in the hopes that maybe I can help someone out there that may be struggling with breatfeeding like I did.  This post was incredibly difficult for me to write.  Breastfeeding your child is such an intensely emotional  and personal topic that I went back and forth about whether or not I wanted to blog about this subject at all and open myself up for negative comments and ridicule.  The anonymity of the internet can allow people to be so cruel sometimes and the thought of anyone criticizing me for the choices I made (and struggled with) scares me to death.  So please be kind.  I don't want this post to sound all "oh poor me, waah waah, I couldn't breastfeed" and I hope it doesn't come across that way.  This is just my attempt to tell my story and share my struggles.  And thank you Julie for sharing so many different experiences with breastfeeding.  I've learned so much from this wonderful series.

That being said, I'm going to start off with the obligatory saying breastfeeding is hard.  Really really hard.  So hard I couldn't do it.  And it kills me to say that and makes me feel like a horrible person...like a bad mother that just didn't try hard enough.  But believe me, I tried.  And tried and tried and tried and tried.  Before I had Mac, breastfeeding was something I felt very strongly about and I really wanted to be able to feed my baby myself.  From everything I'd heard and read, I knew it was going to be difficult and painful, but I had no idea it would be SO difficult and SO painful.  I read all the books, I took the class, I read a million mommy blogs on the topic, I grilled my friends with kids.  I thought I was prepared and I was determined to make it work.

So when I had Mac, I was convinced that it'd be awkward and uncomfortable for a while, but we'd figure it out.  After 17 hours of labor I had to have a c-section.  The first day wasn't so bad.  His latch didn't seem strong, but at this time the nurses told us that babies doesn't really need to "eat" much and reassured us that he was getting what he needed.  I was convinced that there was no colostrum coming out, but the lactation nurses kept telling me everything was fine.  However, by the second night, it was obvious that something was wrong.  The baby was hungry and there was nothing I could do.  I felt so helpless because my milk wasn't in and I couldn't feed him.  We kept trying and didn't lose faith.

When his weight started falling (even though I know it's normal), I began panicking.  After a few consults with the lactation specialists, we didn't feel like we were making any progress and started pumping (to get my milk to come in quicker) and supplementing with formula through a feeding tube while he breastfed.  It was a slow and painful process, but it was worth it to me to keep trying.  Every time he'd try to eat he'd either fall asleep or just stop trying and cry.  I felt like we weren't making any progress.  When Mac's weight went down again (he'd lost 8% of his body weight at this time), we switched to a bottle of formula and he started doing much better.  We saw two different lactation specialists in the hospital and both were discouraged with Mac's lack of interest in nursing.  Honestly, they were not very supportive and I felt like they were continuously frustrated with me and angry with the baby.  I cried every time they came into our room. It was so discouraging.

But we kept trying.  When we got home from the hospital I thought things would get better without all the pressure from the nurses.  We tried repeatedly, but again he'd either immediately fall asleep at the breast or give it a try and then start screaming like he was in pain.  And then I'd cry.  And by cry, I mean bawl.  I felt like my baby was rejecting me and it was the worst feeling in the world.  I started dreading every feeding.  I'd cry just thinking about it.  I'd cry through the whole process of trying to get him to latch, of trying to calm him down, of trying to remain calm myself.  It was too much.  He was stressed out...I was stressed out...so we took a break from breastfeeding for a couple days.

I kept pumping every two-three hours and finally (after 6 days) I started making enough milk to feed him breastmilk from a bottle.  My husband had the pleasure of feeding the baby, while I pumped and watched with hurt feelings.  I felt so devastated.  Every three hours I'd try to feed him and he'd scream, so I'd hand the baby over and hook up the pump and cry.  For the next couple days, we feed him pumped breastmilk from a bottle and I slowly started coming to terms with feeding him expressed breastmilk.  At this point, I mourned the idea of bonding with my baby during our feedings, of having him snuggled into me, of looking into his eyes while I provided him with the most wonderful and natural sustenance.  I couldn't believe I had already failed my baby.  I was a horrible mother.  I wasn't cut out to do this.  Hormones will make you think crazy things.

About a week after Mac was born we had our first appointment with the pediatrician.  He had gained a couple ounces from when we left the hospital and the doctor was pleased with our progress.  I have never felt so relieved.  He was gaining weight on the expressed breastmilk and doing fine.  We mentioned to the doctor that we were having trouble with breastfeeding, so he had the lactation consultant come in to speak with us.  She wanted to watch me feed him and offer suggestions.  So she watched as I struggled to get Mac to eat, as he wouldn't have anything to do with breastfeeding and as he screamed and cried (which of course make me cry).  I know she could sense my frustration and disappointment.  She told us that it wasn't the end of the world if we couldn't breastfeed.  She stressed the importance of giving him breastmilk if I could, but reaffirmed that expressed milk would be completely fine, as would formula.  She encouraged us to do whatever we were most comfortable with and whatever would be the least stressful for both mom and baby.  Happy mom = happy baby.  It was good to hear.   I felt proud that I could at feed him breastmilk and that I was doing everything I could to make sure that he was still getting the very best food possible.

However, I still wasn't exactly ready to give up.  I made an appointment with a lactation specialist to come to the house and help us give breastfeeding one more try.  At that point, I almost called to cancel the appointment, but figured it couldn't hurt to get one more opinion.  This nurse was wonderful.  She was kind and supportive and patient with me and the baby.  She was complimentary and made me feel so supported.  A very different feeling that I got from the lactation nurses in the hospital who were frustrated with me and Mac.  She had me try all kinds of different products and positions with the baby.  We finally found a position that seemed to work for us (lying down side by side) and I breastfed my baby for the very first time.  Cue the tears, again.

So I breastfed my baby nonstop for the next week.  Every three hours on the dot we'd snuggle in together and he'd eat.  And eat and eat and eat.  It was absolutely wonderful, but exhausting.  Sometimes he'd eat for two solid hours and then want more twenty minutes later.  He was voracious.  My body couldn't keep up.  He'd get as much as he could then scream bloody murder.  Feedings started getting stressful again.  He'd latch for a few seconds and then scream like he was in pain.  Was it reflux?  Was it my milk?  Was it the flow?  Too much?  Too little?  I was at a loss, so I called the lactation nurse again, who gave me some suggestions.  I tried them all.  I tried pumping to letdown before feeding him to see if the increased flow would help...it didn't.  I tried pumping in between feedings to see if I could increase my supply, but that wasn't the problem.  We tried all the different positions again.  We changed locations.  We tried feeding in bed, in a chair, lying on the couch, upstairs, outside on the back porch, in the car. Nothing worked.  Except the bottle.  He'd take the bottle.  And because he wasn't feeding from me anymore I got double mastitis.  So once again, I started pumping and cried and felt like a failure.

For the next couple weeks, I went back and forth with trying to breastfeed and pumping.  Maybe every tenth time I tried he'd eat for a few minutes and then scream and we'd go back to the bottle.  I still didn't want to give up, but I was so stressed I couldn't handle it.  I was also terrified that my supply would tank from exclusive pumping so I was religious about pumping every three hours on the dot, day and night.  And of course you can't hold your baby while you pump, so if someone wasn't around to hold him, I'd have to put him down and listen to him cry (while I cried) and pumped.  It was the most emotionally and physically draining few weeks of my life.  It was so hard for me to just let it go.  The guilt was insane.  I wanted desperately to just give up but I felt such crazy pressure to keep trying, keep pushing it, keep going.  Looking back on it, I feel like I let this ruin some of the experience of having a newborn because I was so crazy obsessed with making it work that I was needlessly stressed to a breaking point and miserable.  I did it to myself.  I drove myself absolutely crazy.

And then I just stopped trying to breastfeed completely and I just pumped.  Once I stopped forcing the issue, the stress slowly started melting away.  I had to mourn the loss of that experience and get over it.  I had to move on.  I had to stop the insanity.  I had to admit that breastfeeding did not work for us.  I had to let it go.  And it was so wonderfully relieving.  It allowed us to get on with life and just enjoy having a baby at home.  I had to learn to stop being so hard on myself.  It wasn't the end of the world.  My baby would still love me.  I could still be a good mom and happy with myself.

Before I had the baby, my goal was to breastfeed for at least 6 months.  When breastfeeding didn't work, I decided that I'd try to pump for at least as long as I was on maternity leave.  However, it was harder than I thought it'd be.  Around the 3 week mark I wasn't sure I could keep going at all.  I just willed myself to make it through one more day.  Just one more day...one more day.  When I made it to 6 weeks I was thrilled.  But a couple days later I got double mastitis again...and I was done.  I just couldn't keep it up.  I talked to my doctor who suggested that I decrease my pumping gradually until I dried up.  At that time I was pumping every three hours during the day and would go up to 6 hours at night in between pumpings.  So every couple days for the next two weeks I added an hour in between pumping sessions.  I got to the point of pumping only four times a day (as opposed to 8) and it was amazing - like freedom!  I didn't feel like I was attached to the pump 24/7, I didn't feel like I was going to explode all day long and I could keep giving the baby breastmilk.  It was finally a solution that worked for us. I could do this!

So that's what we did for 5 months.  I pumped and he had breastmilk from a bottle.  It wasn't ideal, but it was as good as I could do and I was proud of myself for keeping it up.  I was lucky in that my body made a LOT of milk, so I always had way more breastmilk than he could eat to freeze and save.  At 5 months post-partum I decided it was finally time to stop pumping.  It was a very tough decision that took me weeks to decide and many discussions with my doctor and my husband.  It felt like such a selfish decision.  Guilt to the max.  But it was just too much.  Anyone that has exclusively pumped knows that it's incredibly time consuming, doesn't allow any freedom/flexibility in your schedule, makes your body hurt all the time, makes you crazy emotional and takes a ton of dedication.  Yes, it's worth it, but it is hard.  And after five months I decided I was ready to have my body (boobs and mind) back.

It took about two weeks for me to completely dry up.  My breasts apparently thought I'd had triplets - I was getting between 8-15 ounces each pump session, so it took a while for things to return to normal.  The engorgement pain was awful, but after a week I finally started feeling more like myself than I had since I got pregnant.  By the end of the third week I felt amazing.  I had more energy and time to spend with the baby. I wasn't hooked up to a machine all the time.  I finally got the chance to snuggle my little one and feed him (breastmilk from a bottle) while staring deep into his eyes and smiling at him without my breasts aching and leaking all over the place.  I could wear normal (albeit larger) clothes again.  I didn't have to take my pump EVERYWHERE.  I didn't cry all the time.  I didn't hurt.  I could have a glass of wine!  I had my life back.  Honestly, it felt so good I wondered how I ever managed to make it that long pumping.

Because I had a giant freezer stash full of breastmilk, the baby stayed exclusively on breastmilk until almost the 7 month mark.  I think that's pretty darn good, considering.  That was even longer than my initial breastfeeding goal.  We made the switch to formula around December and honestly, it's FINE.  He is FINE.    I am FINE.  He doesn't mind formula at all and it's incredibly easy and convenient.  It's not poison (shocking, I know).  We survived.  He thrived, actually.  And that bonding experience I thought I'd missed out on by not breastfeeding was all in my head.  He's my baby...we have a special bond no matter how he got fed or what he eats.

Do I wish it had been different?  Yes.  I really do wish breastfeeding would have worked for us.  Badly.  Still.  Ten months later I still think about it all the time and what I could have done differently.  But I think I learned a lot through this experience and hopefully it'll be easier with the next baby (fingers crossed).  At least I'll know what to expect.  I'll know we'll make it though no matter what.  I know I will always do what's best for my baby.  But if breastfeeding doesn't work out, I'm not going to beat myself up again.  I'm not a bad mom because it didn't work for us.  I have to learn to cut myself a little slack sometimes.  Lesson learned the hard way.

As for my advice to the new mom regarding breastfeeding...I don't know.  Honestly, I don't feel like I deserve to give advice because I failed.  Isn't it horrible that I still feel like I failed when my child got breastmilk for 7 months?  That's not failing, right?  Maybe it is, I don't know.  It's just so hard to get over the guilt sometimes.  So I guess my advice is to just do what's best for you in your situation.  Everyone is different, every baby is different and every experience is different.  I'm confident that if you're reading this  (and have read this entire ridiculously long post) because you're in a similar situation and would like advice, you are already an amazing mom that just needs to follow your heart and your instincts.  Whatever you decide will be fine.

At 10 months my son is the most wonderful, happy, funny, amazing baby ever.  He's an absolute joy and I love being a mom with every fiber of my being.  I was made to be his mama and I am blessed beyond belief. Our journey was different than I wanted it to be or ever imagined, but we made it work for us.  We came out on the other side happier, stronger and more understanding.

So that's my story. Thank you for letting me share.

Sara

Told you it was a good one. Make sure you catch up with the Breastfeeding Diaries series at the top of my navigation bar.

32 comments:

Meg O. said...

Wow, what an incredible story!! I applaud you for everything you had to go through and still tried. You really are a fighter. Sara, little Mac is just precious and I appreciate your truth and honesty. Totally teared up reading this!!!

E Hayes said...

Beautiful story! And you are far from a failure! Breastfeeding is so hard, and you gave it more than a lot of women would in your shoes. I have so many friends it didn't work for and not because they were lazy or didn't try hard enough. Sometimes it just doesn't work. Hell, my mom was unable to with me and I'm pretty damn healthy :) Wonderful photos, too!

Emily said...

Beautiful story! Sara, you are no where near failure! I think what you did took more time, love, and dedication than someone who is able to breastfeed normally. And for Mac to get your milk exclusively for 7 months? That's amazing! Thank you for sharing your experience!

Charlotte said...

I love both your blogs and cannot express how great this series is. I too 'failed' with my daughter and it still makes me upset to think about it. But she's happy and healthy, it's my issue not hers. Thank you for sharing, it's always scary to put yourself out there with such hot button issues.

SugarFreeAsh said...

Love this story! I'm in the process of ending breastfeeding due to circumstances beyond my control, and it is SUCH an emotional thing. I dont think anyone can truly understand unless they've been there!

Jes Sica said...

You DID NOT fail! Failing would be letting your baby be miserable/not eat. You triumphed! Thank you for sharing.

KatiePerk said...

You know how I feel about this. NOT FAILURE!! You worked through your situation, played the cards that you were dealt and you are all happy and healthy and pretty damn cute! I say that is SUCCESS Mama!!!

My Husband's Watching TV... said...

Awesome story Sara! I'm sorry it was such a struggle. AR is almost one and we're still BFing but I don't even have advice...every baby, experience is different and there's no one thing that works for everyone. Mac is lucky to have such an awesome mom like you!

Carolyn said...

What an incredible story! I think what you did was AMAZING! And your happy, healthy baby is proof of that! :)

Jen said...

Love Sara! You did an amazing job. That is such a HUGE accomplishment that you pumped for that long. What a great mommy you are! So glad you decided to share.

Katie @ Loves of Life said...

Girl. I think you are super awesome. The good news is, I can almost bet you money your next experience will be different. Not sure if it's more relaxed momma's, or more laid back 2nd kids--but it's possible you could end up with an experience you are super proud of. BUT--I do have to say, you SHOULD be proud of what you did for Mac, too. It's amazing. Not every mom would continue to pump like that, and you did the best for your kid. You're super ;)

Samantha baney said...

Love this story! I can relate SOO much! It's very refreshing to know that it doesn't come so easy (or at all) to some. Thank you for sharing, and I'm sure we can all agree that you are anything BUT a failure. <3

Emily said...

Great story! You did not fail, you made it work! I can relate to your emotions over this because my breastfeeding experience with my son did not turn out the way I imagined it would. As in I produced nothing and had to start to give him formula on day 4. I felt so bad about it! But I continued to try to bf for the next 3 months. Luckily, I visited a great lactation consultant who was not militant and made me feel better about the situation. You do what you have to do to take care of your child.

Jessica Reyna Brogan said...

Your story is truly amazing!!! I know a couple of moms that had difficulty nursing and just completely gave up...no lactation consultants, no pumping, no extra effort whatsoever. You are a profound success at providing for your baby, and for what it's worth, I'm proud of what you've done!!!

You're a Phenom-o-Mom!

And that Mac and Cheese picture is just too much! Love it!!

natasha {schue love} said...

Love Sara and her courage to share her story here. Sara--you are an AMAZING mama! And your story really resonated with me. Why do we beat ourselves up so much over these things? A friend once told me that we have to take care of ourselves before we can really take care of our children and I have to remind myself of this a lot of times. It's so true!

AMCallahan said...

Making it to 7 months of BM is great! Awesome you had such a good freezer stash.

I say all the time that I would far rather go through labor and delivery multiple times than go through the early days/months of breast feeding.

It is hard, physically, mentally and emotionally hard. So hard.

We are at almost 9 months now (little to no freezer stash, but 8 months was my long ter goal) and I'm having the HARDEST time deciding when to stop.

Mommy guilt is a bieatch.

Anonymous said...

I had tears in my eyes reading this the entire way through. Your story is so similar to my breastfeeding experience and I also felt and still feel so much guilt that I was not able to feed my baby the way that I had wanted. Thank you for sharing :)

Kristen said...

What a beautiful story. Thank you for sharing.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for sharing! My experience was similar and I had such a hard time because I had only heard positive breast feeding stories. It's good to know I'm not alone. And I ove your blog!

Classy Fab Sarah said...

Sara,
What an incredible story. You are SUCH a trooper, and even though I know you were trying to do the right thing, I can't IMAGINE jumping through all those hoops to make it work.

You are amazing.

chelsey said...

Pumping for that long? You are amazing! I complain about pumping at work...which is only two days a week (embarrassing)!! I can't even imagine. You should never feel like a failure you tried way harder than anyone I know. Being a nurse myself I feel ashamed that people would make you feel that way in the hospital, makes me sick. They were supposed to be supporting and helping you and in turn it sounds like they added to the stress! Baby Mac is absolutely adorable and I LOVE reading your blog since my babe is just months behind him!

erin vancura said...

This is my favorite story to date... Probably because it hits so close to home!!

Tiffany @ Austin Family Diary said...

Such an amazing story. Thank you so much for sharing! I'm definitely going into Bfing the same way you did--knowing it's going to be hard, knowing it's going to be painful, but hoping it will just "work". Fingers crossed that it will, but if it doesn't, I hope I can be ok with it. I know that like you, I will give it my very best shot. I think it's amazing you pumped for 5mos! That is such a wonderful accomplishment and you should give yourself a huge pat on the back--and a big glass of wine :D

Jenny said...

Sara my heart just breaks to hear about the lack of support you received in the beginning. BF is hard plain and simple. You just can't do it without support and i'm so sorry you had a hard time getting it. We had a rough start with latching too but luckily I had great hospital support and then after found an amazing LC whom without I never would have made it.

I think it is AMAZING you pumped that long and that you had such a great pump response! Your body didn't fail you at all -- it just fed your baby differently. And I agree formula isn't poison. Your baby looks so happy and healthy and you did literally everything you could!

Also on a side note I know a lot of the info out on Breastfeeding talks about this amazing bond between mom & baby -- I didn't have that with my LO. Not everyone does. Please please don't beat yourself up or feel that you missed out, etc. You did all you could do and then some. :)

Thanks for sharing your story!

Sara said...

Julie, thank you so much for letting me share my story. It's still a little hard for me to even read my own words, but the comments are so incredibly wonderful and supportive. Thank you for allowing me to find my voice on this sensitive topic and I'd like to thank your wonderful readers for their encouragement and kindness! Love you all! Mwah!

Courtney B said...

Yes, it IS crazy that you feel like you failed!! But I get it, the guilt, the craziness, the tears... all of it! It's crazy! I can't believe how stressful nursing is! I wish people would have warned me. I am still nursing (but I was positive I wouldn't make it through the first month) but reading this story kind of makes ME feel like a failure. I don't think I would have the dedication and determination to make it work the way you did. Crazy that I feel guilty even though I'm nursing. I guess women will always find a way to feel like a failure. We are our worst critic! We really need to be proud of the fact that we have healthy, happy babies! Even if we weren't able to feed our child the way we had imagined, they thrived inside of our body, and the thrive outside of us because we love and nurture them JUST how they need it :)

Katy @ Ping and Pal said...

I hope that this post made you feel better. Once it's in writing I hope you see how wonderful of a job you did and are doing. You are a wonderful mother, obviously. Thank you for sharing such an emotional story. I'm still breast feeding my almost five month old daughter but it is a struggle for me every day. Stories like yours keep me going. Thank you for sharing.

The Shabby Princess said...

I'm going to be the ass that says something off color, cause, you know, it's me: your kid is a total boob man, his lack of desire to breastfeed just kills me. Sheesh. I love you so so much dear Sara, and you are an amazing momma. Mac is lucky to have you and I'm lucky to know you. xoxox

Kirstie Semler said...

Wow! This definitely made me tear up. I am due in less then a week and have wondered about situations like this! You kept pushing through and you were still able to feed your baby with breast milk! I think that in itself is amazing! I wouldn't feel like a failure if I was you. This was definitely an amazing story! Thanks for being brave enough to share it!

All Things Yummy said...

Thank you so much for sharing. You are so amazing to have continued trying even when so many would have given up. You are so so far from failure.

Meg said...

Thank you so much for sharing your story Sara! I completely agree that its such HARD work and unless you have breastfed, its so hard to understand how other mommies feel. You are not a failure! No matter how long the journey lasts, the fact that you gave it a chance is such a beautiful gift to baby Mac!

Kristen said...

awww you poor thing, i'm so sorry that it was so tough on you. you're not alone though! i can't believe you pumped for so long and was able to breastfeed your beautiful son for 7 months! that's insane! way to go!

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