Speaking of Mamaries, Part III

This post is directly tied to the backstory, found here. So today I find myself standing at a familiar crossroads. It's so soon. Too soon. I thought I was prepared, and that my decision was easy and clear, but things are a little more tender now that I am staring at the two parting paths. My toes wiggle in the familiar dust, and I pause to wipe away the tears as they softly slide down my cheeks. Abigail is three days old, as of about two hours ago. I had created a fragile, tiny little hope that things might be different this time. It's not for lack of trying on her part- she has been much more cooperative and willing to work with me than her older brothers were- which is why I think I allowed that small kernel of hope to stir. She has nursed so well for the last three days- strong suck, good mouth position, opens wide, stays on for substantial lengths of time- all good omens that maybe this time it would work. My milk came in last night- and I was so excited that she would get some good food- and so was she. She was eager and latched right on, tasting the pre-milk and going with gusto for the real stuff. She tried. And tried. My breasts were full, and I could feel the let down. After an hour, she still had not managed to get more than a tiny bit, she was frustrated, I was feeling desperate all of the sudden, and she was starving now. And so I there I am, exactly where I was with both of my sons. Lots of milk- tons of milk. No delivery system. All night she and I tried making this work. The best I could do was to hand-express and allow it to drip in her mouth- which did not make for a happy baby or a happy mama. By this morning, I am totally engorged and getting worse. Just looking at her makes me ache, and let down more milk that only can drip out. When a baby willingly nurses for an hour, and only gets less than an ounce, what do you do? The way my body is, my babies cannot depress the milk sinuses to express it themselves- the only option I have is to pump. What I wouldn't give for a nipple. It sounds ridiculous, but it really is that simple- I'd give my left arm for a nipple that worked- but bartering body parts isn't really practical. Who wants my left arm? So, at my crossroads, I look on down the paths. It is tempting to take the same trail I took before- there are lots of good reasons to do so- but the idea of pumping for months on end makes me fear for the kind of mother I would be to my other children. Because I have done it, twice, I know what it means. And I simply cannot. Do. It. Again. A few hours ago, after talking to yet another Lactation Nurse, I put on a really tight bra, and put some ice packs on my swollen, tender, aching breasts. Then, I went in the kitchen, and made Abigail a bottle of formula, angrily swiping at the tears that just would not stop. She took it eagerly- she was so hungry, poor little thing. And now she lies sleeping in my lap, and I type this and continue to swipe at the incessant tears. In the grand scheme of things, I know this isn't the end of the world. I know she will be fine, and I will be too, once the hormones and pain calm down. But when I reach for that bottle, I mourn just a little bit for my inability to feed my baby. I ache in my heart, and I ache in my body. The reason I am sharing this, is I hope that other mothers will look with more kindness and less judgment when they see me pull out a bottle. From the previous children, who drank my milk from a bottle, I feel the weight of it- every time. I hear the comments, and sometimes I want to wear a sign around my neck, explaining myself. But it's too personal. Too painful. If you ever see a mother in public bottle feeding her tiny infant, please refrain from unkind thoughts or comments- she might be a lot of things, but then again, she might be me.


Blogger Karen said...

I'm sorry Tracy. My heart aches for you, with you.

4/28/2006 05:00:00 PM  
Blogger Trivial Mom said...

Tracy I can 1/2 relate with you. I mean litterally half. My one side is perfect, never had any issues with it. The other side is exactly the same as yours. I produce tons of milk, but the baby can't get it out. I can pump it out, but unless I pump every two hours everyday my milk in that side drys up.

So with my googie I didn't know what was going on for the first 4 months. I was so confused and hurt because she refused to nurse at 3 months. We fought and fought about it, with one or both of us crying every feeding. It wasn't until I started pumping for her that I realized that the one side didn't produce as much, and that that was the cause of our troubles.

I know the feeling of shame as you pull out a bottle (especially at church) whether it's formula or breast milk. But what can you do except hold your head high and glare right back at all the unwelcomed judging eyes.

4/28/2006 05:58:00 PM  
Blogger The Wiz said...

Tracy -

First of all, glad you're back. So happy to see your name on a post here again.:)

OK, next - you said it yourself. This is not the end of the world. And, truly, you WILL see that once your breasts stop aching and your hormones calm down.

People looking and saying stuff happens in literally every situation. You'd get the same if you were breastfeeding her - are you sure you want to do that in public, you're warping your boys sexuality if they see their mother's breasts like that, you pick it, somebody somewhere has said it to some mother somewhere. Their problem, not yours. Say that to yourself every time you see a look, "THEIR problem, not mine."

It could be worse. A LOT worse. You have a beautiful child, you have options as to how to feed her, and she'll take a bottle. Some babies fight that tooth and nail and would rather starve than accept anything but the breast. She doesn't know what she's missing, and she doesn't care. She's just happy to be here, to have you as a mother, and to get fed.

Let the breasts dry up, let the hormones release, try to get some nutrition in you and a little sleep, and the bottle thing will not be an issue sooner than you think. I know with your history it's extra hard to accept this. But you can, because you know the alternative. Best of luck to you.

Before you know it, your main problem will be how to keep Eric from stealing all the baby's bottles.:)

4/28/2006 06:52:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"But when I reach for that bottle, I mourn just a little bit for my inability to feed my baby."

Tracy, you did feed your baby, but I know what you meant. Thankfully we live in a time and place where there are other options than only breastfeeding. You sound like a wonderful mother. You know, when you see people giving you looks-it might not be judgment you're seeing. It might be envy, even empathy, longing for the freedom that bottle-feeding allows. The look may not have anything to do with you. As for those who are judgmental, it's not their judgments that matter. Congrats on the new angel!

4/28/2006 06:55:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Tracy, my heart goes out to you. When my twins were babies, I had to supplement with formula and I always felt like such a failure when I picked up that bottle. (And I did that awful exclusive-pumping thing too, for 2 interminable months.) I eventually made my peace with it, and I hope you will too (and sooner than I did).

Congratulations on your sweet new baby! Enjoy her, and try not to spend this precious time feeling guilty (which you do not deserve) or worrying about what other people think.

Pam W.

4/28/2006 08:06:00 PM  
Anonymous Wanderingrose said...

Times change so much, when my first was born my MIL had a fit that I wanted to breast feed, the nurses were okay with it but not encouraging, information wise I had read one book and was on my own.

The day my milk came in was one of the most traumatic in my life, the baby would not eat and I did not know how to get the milk out with out him, my breasts were like basketballs, :) and I was in agony. Fortuatly everthing worked out after that.

We now we have swung completly the other way and are made to feel guilty if we can't or don't want to breast feed. Who would have thought.

4/28/2006 09:46:00 PM  
Anonymous Susan M said...

Man, the guilt mother's put themselves through. I was unable to nurse (and I really wanted to), but I never felt a moment's qualm about going with a bottle. It meant other people could feed the baby. Dad could feed the baby. Grandma could feed the baby. It's actually weird to me, since I never experienced it, that other mothers were so limited in who could feed their babies!

4/29/2006 12:14:00 AM  
Blogger Cheryl said...

I'm so sorry, and yet so proud of you at the same time. The only other thoughts I have are pretty much everything "the wiz" said, so, I ditto her. :)

tracy, you are a GREAT mom. And congratulations on your sweet girl's birth!

4/29/2006 12:20:00 AM  
Blogger Keryn said...

Oh, Tracy, I am sorry. It's an awful feeling to have your body let you down, even if there are good alternatives. It just doesn't feel fair! I think it's okay to mourn your inability to nurse for a little while. Considering all you have been through, you deserve to have a little cry about a disappointment like this.

Just know that there are a whole heck of a lot of women "in the computer" rooting for you. You are awesome!

4/29/2006 01:34:00 AM  
Blogger Tigersue said...

I'm sorry Tracy that things have not worked out for you the way that you would want it too. The only suggestion I would have made and I'm sure the Lactation consulatant said this to you is to check and make sure her tongue was down. Babies can nurse and nurse and if the tongue is up they won't get anything.
Bravo to you for what you have written. I have always been frustrated with women that look down on moms that give their babies bottles. It is not a sign of a bad mother, or a less of a woman, it is just someone making a different choice for many different reasons. You are doing what you can, when you can. You are wonderful! It is okay to cry if you need to, but don't for a minute think you are less than wonderful because your body will not cooperate for what ever reason!

4/29/2006 04:50:00 PM  
Anonymous JKS said...

We definitely need to pace ourselves as mothers. You are choosing not to put yourself through the "hell" because you have other children. You need to take care of all of them.
I believe I should push myself hard, but I should also be aware of how much I can do for my current child, as well as for my future children.
I have seen blatent favoritism. The first child gets two years of preschool and lots of swimming classes, etc., the next child gets nothing because they can't afford it for two children.
I think you are making a smart decision. You know that you should do the best you can, and that is all you can do. That is what makes you a good mom. And making a choice like this (between two less than perfect choices) is what life is all about.
Good luck! And remember that this choice will mean lots of positive things for your family that will more than outweight the negatives.

4/29/2006 05:20:00 PM  
Blogger Lisa M. said...

Oh Tracy,

My heart aches for you. I tried and tried and tried to get my son Ethan to breast feed.

I ended up pumping and pumping and pumping for four months, only to find that what I had pumped he couldn't eat anyway.

It is heartwrenching.

If I promise not to give you the "*gasp* look" will you sit by me, when I pull out my bottle and give it to my almost three year old? I love it when people glare at me for that. *chuckle* If they only knew it took us two years to get to this point... It might make for a more understanding glance.

I am so very sorry for your struggles.

But congradulations on your adorable arrival.

4/29/2006 08:43:00 PM  
Blogger nestle said...


I've sooo been there. Guilt and everything. I just don't produce enough (after a week of the pumping thing... every 2 hours, I was able to get a whole 2 ounces out!!! Out of both boobs. Umm yeah). Just think of it this way. Your boys have already given their mommy and baby sister time for a whole 9months. It's now time for them and you to have a chance for normality. In the past we've had wet nurses, now we have formula.

On a personal note. I just went to a wonderful women's conference our stake put one. One of the presenters likened ourselves to light houses. Did you know that lighthouses have 2 lights? ONe on the bottome and the top one that you see. Apparently you can't see the top one (Christ) if the bottom one is out (you). This lady likened that to how many boats are on the ocean (our kids, our husbands) are depending on us to lead them and be their light. Helping them see the light of Christ but also leading them to peace and love in the family. If you are tired out, not doing well your light dims and everyone suffers. Right now is the time to take care of yourself. You've just gone through a horrendous pregnancy. Recover, rejuvenate, relax. We know what's in your heart and so does the Lord. Sweet Abigail will do fine (mine on formula were ~20lbs at 4 months each, yep they sure liked it).

4/29/2006 09:14:00 PM  
Blogger chronicler said...

Tracy, I feel for you. Immensely. Sometimes our bodies just won't do what they need to do. It's these times that I am glad I was born into a modern world. I couldn't dialate. Three pregnancies, no dialation. Then, three pregnancies, no nursing. The daughters (all three) got sick on breastmilk. I have suffered through the rolling eyes, the guffaws, and the holier than thou gals who said I just didn't try hard enough. Finally I said too bad for you. My babies love me and I'm so glad they're here.

Oh and on the painful engourgement. One word: Cabbage. Have the DH go to the store and get some cabbage. Tear off a couple of good leaves and line your bra with them. It helps the pain go away.

Have agood cry and know, KNOW, you are not diminshed by this at all. You are wonderful.

4/29/2006 09:51:00 PM  
Anonymous Amber said...

I posted something about this just the other day on my blog. With the advent of another baby in a couple of months, I hope to not again face the same nursing nightmare I had with my first. The same one you have: Too much milk, no way to get it out.

I have decided with this one that I will NOT relive the nightmare of those first four months of pumping every hour and a half, day and night for a colicky baby. It was too stressful and emotional. More importantly, our babies need our emotional well-being and if nursing is preventing us from giving them that, then I think we need to just get beyond the guilt and realize what's best for baby: a mother who is whole, well-rested and happy.

Hang in there and don't listen to all those pro-nursing La Leche League Nazis who believe "Nurse or Die." Just take care of yourself and your beautiful little girl will be that much better for it.

4/30/2006 12:56:00 PM  
Blogger Tracy M said...

Thank you everyone for the words of support. We are doing better now, as the hormones and swelling subside a little (mine, that is!)

I do want to just say for the record, I know the LLL has helped many, many mothers. My personal expereince was not a positive one, but perhaps that is the exception rather than the rule. In an organization run by volunteers, I suppose it is unfair lump all LLL'ers into one group. As someone else said, zealotry, in any form, is not a good thing.

Abigail is doing just fine on the formula, which is such a releif- no gas or spitting up or fussing at all- and on the bright side, her easy tollerance affords me the freedom to eat anything I want, which is more fun than I can describe after nine moths of barfing!!!

I am so very grateful to have a forum where I can talk about the things that come up as I go about the work of mothering. Being at home all day, every day, with little ones is a blessing to be sure, but having an outlet as an adult, woman and mommy is almost as priceless... And, I'm a better mom because of it! Thanks again, everyone.

4/30/2006 04:06:00 PM  
Blogger Elizabeth-W said...

So sorry you're having to go through this. And, you're right--those raging hormones don't help any at all. When my baby was a year old I unexpectedly went into the hospital for 12 days and baby got weaned (way before I was ready). I cried and cried and cried and cried. And the nurse said that while I was in mourning, I was also a hormonal tornado. That helped me feel a little less freakish.

5/01/2006 01:32:00 PM  

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