My Breasts Aren’t for Babies
We make plans like we actually have any control over our lives. Even when we are confronted with the reality of change, we, as a society, still continue to make plans.
This is going to happen, then this, this, and this.
It truly doesn’t work like that.
Some readers may remember that I had trouble breastfeeding my first born, and I had prepared myself better to give a stronger push for breastfeeding with my second—my now 4-month-old son.
I had the names of lactation consultants, a cabinet full of Fenugreek, and a recipe for lactation cookies, complete with a massive tub of brewer’s yeast.
I was going to breastfeed; there were no ifs, ands or buts about it. But, yet again, I was confronted with the reality of life, and the struggles that come with newborns … struggles we don’t always anticipate.
My son, among his many other anomalies, aspirates everything when he takes liquid by mouth. And, when I say everything, I mean, positively everything. The speech pathologist thickened the barium during his swallow study to the consistency of honey, and I could still see, on the screen, the food going up his nose, into his lungs, as well as down his throat. It was a free-for-all; the flaps protecting his airways were absolutely lying down on the job.
He was fitted with a gastronomy tube—a feeding tube that is implanted directly into his stomach, and has a small port on his stomach, called a g-button. We attach a tube, and his food is pumped directly into his belly.
The revelation that he was going to need this device was a major blow to me, emotionally, on top of all the other things he had to deal with. And, since he couldn't breastfeed due to aspirating, I was pumping like a mad woman, every other hour, yet only getting droplets. I still tried, in vain.
But, we were going on three months of living in the NICU, and three months of worrying about his heart function, as he was in congestive heart failure from his massive heart murmurs. My husband's and my relationship was strained, our daughter was feeling the effects of our absence, and I began and ended each day with tears.
Finally, the week he was scheduled to have open heart surgery, I saw a doctor and said I couldn't take it anymore; I needed help. The medication that helped me the most wasn't compatible with breastfeeding, and so, I sadly gave up. It wasn’t an easy decision; actually, it added to my fragile emotional state. The one thing I should be able to do for my sweet little boy while he was going through so much, I couldn’t. It was devastating.
I planned to breastfeed. When that wasn't an option, I planned to pump. Eventually, even that wasn't feasible.
My breasts aren't for babies, apparently. They just aren't. They are big lumps of tissue that hang off my chest, but they have failed me, twice, and sometimes I hate them for it. I get angry that twice I have been denied that bond that I have read so much about.
But, then, I think of those nights I spent in the hospital, around 2 a.m., when I would pick Jackson up out of his crib, and rock my sweet boy in a squeaky rocking chair. Where we would stare into each other’s eyes as the pump provided the nourishment to his body that I couldn't.
Let me say that again, WE BONDED. It was just as intimate, loving and soul-filling as a breastfeeding bond, and to tell me otherwise, would be to belittle me as a mother.
Our son was never left alone, not once, in over three months in the NICU. There is love there, and it’s incredibly strong. He didn't need to suck on my nipple to achieve it, either.