New babies bring excitement, they bring joy, and they bring feelings of love like never before. But often times, new babies bring fear, feelings of inadequacy, and feelings of hurt, sadness, and aloneness. And worst, they bring feelings of being judged by other mothers.
I dreamed that my adventure as a mother would take me to place I hadn’t been before, but I had assumed that the place would be filled with fireflies, late night conversations about the stars and the moon, and eating cheese and crackers as a pre-bedtime snack. I didn’t think that two weeks after my sweetness was born I’d be lying on the couch sobbing. And that every time my newborn needed me (aka: started moving his lips like a fish and turning his head side to side looking frantically for drops of milky goodness) I would wish to run as fast and as far as I could. I left my jogging shoes by the door, just in case.
Nursing, that loving “relationship,” started out not-so-hot for us. The little man had a short frenulum (you know, that thing that holds your tongue to the bottom of your mouth), and something that wasn’t diagnosed until weeks into his life. By then, he had learned to eat ALL WRONG, and my body was PAYING for it. Hence the running shoes.
Little Guy had his first “surgery” (OK, it was a quick two-minute procedure) three weeks into life. I was all worry, but he couldn’t have cared less. It was so fine with him that we all went out to lunch together afterward and I ate pan-noodles while he slept away. But what I had hoped was the magic cure was nothing of the sort. He had to relearn to eat, and my body needed to heal.
Months went by of more fear, more sobbing, more exhaustion. Nipple shields, lactation appointments, low-supply, engorgement, blah, blah, blah. He did eventually get it, and I thought we were sailing into a more pleasant future. Certainly, he was still colicky, temperamental and stubborn. But at least we had finally gotten a hang of this whole Eating thing.
Until the pain started again a few months later. Cracks, bleeding, serrated knives sawing off my nipples each time he ate. Lactation consultants, doctors, medications, and a dermatologist (who I still think four years later I should report given the way she treated my “problem”) later, life still sucked. And I still spent a lot of time crying and hating motherhood.
I was finally referred to a doctor who was a specialist in breastfeeding issues, and who, bless her heart, diagnosed my problem as a Staph infection. Who Knew! Apparently it is fairly uncommon, and almost rare. (Apparently I’m also predisposed to this issue as it happened again with my second child three years later).
In my case, the bottles of magic pills (5 months of them, to be exact) never completely solved the problem. But in the mean time, I got involved in MOBI (Mothers Overcoming Breastfeeding Issues) which allowed me to “meet” mothers across the country going through similar and, in most cases, even more extreme measures to feed their children.
I was so proud to be a part of such an emotionally strong and supportive group. Mothers who made different choices for more reasons than the number of items under $9.99 at IKEA, and who REALLY understood the importance of holding each other up and affirming another momma’s choices. Who saw the beauty of motherhood for what it was. Who knew it was less about what you fed your kid, how much TV you let them watch in a day, and whether or not you brought them to baby yoga or let them tear the house apart while you read a magazine – but only about Love.
They taught me that this whole momma-dom thing doesn’t come with a users manual – and even if there was one, it would be like a Choose your Own adventure, not like the one you got with your new HDTV.
Happy, Awesome Momma- filled adventures to you! May your popcorn bowls be full and your days be filled with more hugs and kisses than snotty noses and smeared peanut-butter in your hair.
EC and H