He walked out the door. There I was with my sweet newborn, all alone, with all my prepped meals, my trusty dog, and a bunch of comfy blankets. The cloth diaper station was ready. I had all I needed right? It was 7PM, we had just gotten home from the hospital, after a whirlwind 36 hours delivering, and recovering from childbirth. My labor was less than 4 hours at the hospital, so truly it was mostly fending off nurses so I could sleep, and eating. A lot of eating.
3AM rolls around and I’m pacing outside my house. How the hell did I muster the energy to pace in the first place? I felt like death, I’m topless outside, pacing. I can still hear my son screaming inside for more milk that just won’t come. I did all the right things, I used lanolin, and coconut oil, I wore loose tops, I fed him on demand, rotating breasts. Why wasn’t this working? Why am I bleeding? Why am I in so much bloody pain? What is wrong?!
So naturally, I did what I always do when theres a problem: I turned to Facebook. In every mom’s group I was in, which was far too many to count, I started posting about the dilemma: baby won’t stop crying, it’s too painful to nurse, I’m bleeding, and home alone. I was met with a whirlwind of support, of loving “it’s going to get better”’s, “just power through”’s. What I didn’t expect to be met with was “this is normal!” This is normal?… No it’s not. My bleeding nipples are not normal. No book, no blog, no parent said this happened! Breastfeeding was supposed to be easy, natural. Why does it hurt so much!! I’ve got three appointments scheduled somehow in the morning with lactation consultants. It was time to sleep, or at least attempt to. I let him latch one more time, curling my toes, and biting my teeth as he attempted to drink from traumatized nipples.
At this point, I think most people would have given up. I typically see a challenge, one that’s clearly failing, and I say “nope screw that.” It often doesn’t lead to success, but I do learn a lot.The next day we had an appointment with the pediatrician, who was useless, and pushed formula. I told her that I have several appointments with lactation consultants, I’m doing fine, I just need support. We went across the street to a local mom who was also somewhat useless, barely taking a look, yet wanting to be a CLC out of her brick and mortar shop. What she did provide? A space for me to vent about the damn pediatrician.
Off to the LC at WIC. She led me into a room, me still jittery from caffeine, lack of sleep, adrenaline. She showed me a couch and said “We’re going to be here till this doesn’t hurt, and you can nurse again.” Those words still make me cry. She inspected my poor traumatized nipples, inspected my son’s mouth. He had slight ties, but it was also clear I had a lazy latch issue going. He was dragging down on my nipples, causing trauma, and open wounds. Y’all… You have never known pain until you have nipple trauma with a hungry cluster feeding newborn. I looked at her and told her all that happened the night before. The “what did I get myself into”’s, the “I can’t do this”’. She looked at me and said “those feelings are absolutely normal, but I know, given all that you’ve told me, that you’re strong. You’ll challenge yourself to push through this, and I will be here when the going gets tough.” We sat on that couch for 5 hours, until we were nursing tolerably. We practiced different nursing holds that supported my hungry, cluster feeding newborn, and talked about this lovely transition I had somehow barreled through.
It was the first time I felt supported, listened to, and cared for as a new mom, only 48 hours after giving birth. Two years later, her words continue to echo with any challenge I face, as I continue to nurse my toddler. She has gone on to start her journey as a CLC, still supporting clients through WIC. I will forever be grateful for all she taught me, but most importantly for listening to my needs, and my goals, and helping me achieve them.
Breastfeeding is not glamorous, it is natural alright. It is harder than many adults can imagine.Having to put aside your needs in the moment several times a day to lend your body to another being. It is the first sacrifice we as parents begin to make on a daily basis of putting our child’s needs first.
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