Sunday, December 30

What a Boob

Warning: TMI!!! This is me journalling. It gets personal. I mention body parts etc. But I'm allowed to, cos it's my blog, and I can cry if I want to...
I am a pumping machine. I am not a milk machine. A milk machine would pour out milk. I used to be a milk machine. When I was expressing milk for baby L, 4 years ago, I could pump two bottles worth out in one pumping session. When I was still breastfeeding baby FR a few short weeks ago, I had to have cloths handy to whack over my breast whenever she pulled off. I soaked several t-shirts a night. But now? I just pumped both breasts for half an hour, hunched forward and holding my decrepit Medela pump together with both hands in just the right position so that the groaning motor will keep going, and got 40 mls out. Forty mililetres. To be fair, I only got 20 mls out same time yesterday, but this time I went for half an hour, and I've been pumping for several days now. I don't think 40 mls is going to cut it.
Here is my breastfeeding story(novel, now) summed up for you thus far:
- I breastfed my first baby, M, for eight months. It hurt, for eight months. I wasn't depressed but after eight months of constant pain, I was suffering panic attacks, not sleeping, and after each feed I would anxiously count how many hours until I had to go through the ordeal again. It never occurred to me that formula was an option. At eight months I went to my GP saying that I was anxious and depressed, and she gently suggested that I wean M onto formula. I did. And it was good.
- I breastfed my second baby, L, for 3 weeks. Due to my chronic prenatal and postnatal depression, there were plans in place. I got stressed and tired, and the plan swung into action. I continued to express milk for L for another couple of weeks, until we realized that was stressing me out even more. Enter formula, stage right. And it was good. But L became very constipated, and we switched him to a rather pricier, specifically for babies who have been constipated by formula, formula. It worked out ok. But he is still on the constipatory(that's not a word) side of things 4 years later.
- I breastfed FR, my lucky third, for 7 or 8 weeks. I actually enjoyed it sometimes, but again struggled with horrendous pain. Pain that stressed me out and made me nervous and stopped me from sleeping. I don't have Raynauds and I don't have thrush(probably). And as my lovely doctor pointed out gently, if I had the same chronic pain for all three children, it probably wasn't them, it was probably me. Ouch. So we discussed various long-term pain-killer options, and in the end, after several days of tears and over-analysing and heart-breaking feelings of failure and self-loathing, I made the astonishing discovery that I had a say in the matter. I, as a human, did not need a medical reason to stop breastfeeding. I stopped because I didn't like it.(the interesting reasons are enough for a whole other post) And FR weaned onto formula, and it was good. I wasn't anxious. I was patient with the kids. I put make up on and chose my clothes carefully. I felt creative and inspired. Even though I continued to breastfeed once or twice a night, and even though the majority of FR's bottle feeds were done by me exclusively, I no longer felt trapped and vulnerable and scared.
    And then she got constipated. Really constipated. We went to the doctor and got various medications. The coloxyl drops don't work. The giant rubbery glycerine suppositories work without fail, but are a bit of a struggle to insert. And it doesn't feel great that my daughter can only empty her bowels if I stick something up there. On Boxing Day, in the morning, I was helping FR relieve herself; she lies on her changing mat and cries and pushes and I bicycle her legs and massage her belly clockwise and say encouraging things and make soothing noises. So there we were, and I noticed a bit of fresh blood in her stool. Ouch. And then, worse than just knowing it is obviously really really difficult in there, I saw it come out. I saw her strain her little body, and I saw a SQUIRT of blood come out. And I decided there and then that I would start breastfeeding again. I can be in pain. But I will not allow my decisions about my body to put my daughter in pain. It was not a hard decision or a noble decision. It was easy. I am a mother. This is what we do. Easy.

    And now, four days later, I sit next to the dining table, with my laptop open at just the right angle so that I can read endless Salon and Jezebel articles while clutching my ancient pump to my chest. My nipples have swolled to the size of grapes, with dark purple blood blisters bruising their surfaces. I stare at my tattoos, memorising them, noting which lines are a bit too thick, which are a bit too thin. I stare at the flies circling, unable to bat them away because if I let go of the pump, the motor groans and falters. I can hear the kids talking and playing and arguing. I have to pump on my own, in here, because the noise is so loud my ears are ringing. I can't be bothered putting make-up on, and I wear the same clothes for days. I snap at the kids, who of course have picked up on my mood and are the worse for it. Josh feeds FR, a bottle of formula and a precious tablespoon of breastmilk. It seems to help the constipation, not mixing with the formula in her bowels but lying alongside it. Her stools are two distinct colours, dark green streaked through with orangey-yellow. I want to go to my church, to the good people there and beg them to pray for a miracle - for a re-established milk supply, and even better, painless breastfeeding. But it's the holidays. Church is closed for a few weeks. My parents church only has services at 9 am, and I canNOT get myself and four other people clothed and out of the house by that time. I send messages to a few close friends and they promise to pray, but it's not the same, I want to be surrounded by arms, hands on my shoulders, hair falling in front of bowed quiet faces. I want to go to my lovely doctor, and beg for better pain relief so I can feed more efficiently, and for different, or more anti-depressants. Yes they all come with precautions, but my daughter is in PAIN unless I can breastfeed her. But it's the holidays, and they're closed for another ten days. I don't want to go to a different one, I always seem to get a terrible locum just when I desperately need help.
     So I sit, listening to the growl of the pump, holding my boob just so, watching the slow, wavering drip of milk. I sit and I silently will the milk to come in. I am endeavoring to turn back the clock, to take back time. I am trying to undo a decision I made weeks ago. It's not that easy. Well it isn't, but it also is.


kimberlee said...

Oh rachel, I am so sorry you are in pain. This sounds really tough! You are a very strong woman who is making a big sacrifice for little FR. xoxo

Christine said...

I so feel your pain, literally. I have Reynauds (which my midwife finally bothered to find out after ten weeks of agony and pumping exclusively every three hours, and then I gave up). You are very brave to keep going, I don't think I could. Do you have any breast-feeding friends who could give you some milk? Praying for you. xx C

zcat_abroad said...

Oh honey, this is heart-breaking. I wish there was some way I could help. Sending you lots of love, prayers and hugs.