I am not a small-chested woman, but nearly one year ago and for a quarter of a year, I had boob envy. You could have been small chested, busty or anything in between, but if you had a certain type of boobs, I was envious, maybe even jealous.
What type of boobs? Your boobs had to be irresistible to your baby.
After C was born she decided that she didn’t like nursing. Some claim it was the 44-hour labor. Some claim it was my anatomy. Some claim it was her personality. But after five lactation consultants manipulating my chest in various positions and oodles of tears, C still wouldn’t nurse.
After only one day, she was losing weight faster than the doctors wanted. Her heart was beating irregularly. She would scream or fall asleep when placed on my chest. Again, they claimed it could have been the long labor. Her doctor decided that if she didn’t learn to eat in four hours we would need to give her “supplements,” their euphemism for formula. I cried.
Four hours passed. The nurse came in with the formula. I cried. We put the bottle in C’s mouth and she downed it like a barracuda. She was hooked. But placed against me, she refused to nurse. But she gained weight and her heart beat normalized.
“This is only temporary,” crooned the nurses and lactation consultants. “It’s a confidence game,” they said.
I turned down visitors because I was trying to get C to eat. I cried. I cried sitting in the shower on the plastic bench. I cried great, large sobs because I couldn’t feed my baby.
By the time we got home we had hired a lactation consultant. The best in town. She came over for home visits and my husband and I would absorb every tidbit she gave us. We even tried the siphon system, my husband standing over me, one bottle of formula in one hand, a thin line of tubing running into C’s mouth while we tried to get her to nurse. She screamed. She fell asleep. I cried.
I pleaded. This was not how it was supposed to happen. I had already given away my dream birth when it extended days and included minor medical intervention. We sat with our birthing class and watched videos of newborns rooting on their mother’s chest, latching on and sucking happily away. We had hired a doula. I was planning on nursing for a year. I dreamed of my husband bringing our baby to my work while he took his paternity leave, so I could happily nurse her over my lunch hour.
One day after we came home we found ourselves back in the hospital for C to spend 24 hours in a light box to cure her jaundice. I took her out every 2 hours to try and nurse. She cried. I cried, looking at her through the box.
On a last resort, I tried the 24-hour cure recommended by my lactation consultant. I stayed in bed with C, with her on my chest, for 24 hours. She nursed 4 times, but I cried all day. My friend L came over and sat with me as I cried. I begged. I pleaded. I asked her to pray for C to nurse while she was traveling to various religious places in India. She got me out of bed. C never nursed that many times again.
All the while, I was determined to provide only mother’s milk for C, so I started pumping every two hours, night and day. The alarm would go off at 2, 4, 6, 8 and I would pump C’s meal for my husband to feed to her.
One friend recommended a great site, MOBI. I cried while reading it. Finally, women like me!
I begged. I pleaded. Maybe C would only want to comfort nurse. I could do that! She decided she didn’t like it. She screamed. She fell asleep. I pumped and I cried.
Meanwhile, friends were having babies. And they were nursing, sometimes with problems along the way, but their days were never divided by running home every 2 hours to hook themselves up to a pump. They happily went to coffee shops, ran errands and chatted away while I was begging and pleading for my baby to nurse. And I cried.
Then, one day, after countless tears, I made a bargain with myself. I got help. I got help to help my family. I wanted to be able to enjoy my time with C instead of begging and pleading and crying with a healthy, beautiful baby in the next room.
I stopped trying. And when I stopped trying, instead of feeling like a failure, I started to feel like I was providing for her. I was providing food and comfort for her, just not in the way I had imagined.
And slowly, my tears turned to smiles. I would still see other babies happily nursing and feel a great sadness. A loss. I never had that relationship with C.
Good things came out of this. My husband and C got to bond over bottles. I was able to devour books during my various pumping sessions. I watched entire seasons of TV on DVD. I talked to friends on the phone, that whirring and sucking sound in the background.
It took months for me to move on from the sadness of C never nursing. I don’t remember when it happened, but as I got better and she grew, I realized that this was a gift. It was an extension of my jump into the unknown. It was painful. It was challenging. It was maddening. But it was.
And now, nearly one year later, here we are.