When you reached your 100th day with us, little one, I vowed to be more kind to myself. For the past 100 days, I have been wracked with guilt about feeding you. I have pumped and nursed round the clock, and while my body cooperates to an extent, it is not enough to sustain you on my own. For 100 days I have let myself be ripped apart by feelings of guilt. Feelings that I haven't tried hard enough. If I would just eat better, pump longer, nurse more often, maybe I would not have to purchase your nutrition in a plastic can. And so I am trying, for my sake and yours, to forgive myself.
In the elation after your birth, you bobbed around on my chest. We were all exhausted. Our first latch wasn't successful or sustained and I was told just to rest after the 24 hours of waiting and working for your arrival. At some point we tried again, and you were so tiny and wiggly that I was terrified I would break you. I put you to my breast many times that night. The nurses checked our latch and gave us their approval. A pump was wheeled in and it was agony. So we nursed. We struggled, and you cried. I couldn't seem to keep you feeding for more than a few minutes. Armed with Google and your incredibly supportive dad, we asked for a nipple shield. After some cautious lectures about supply and stimulation, I finagled my way into a small silicone shield reminiscent of the popup toys from the cereal boxes of my childhood. You latched.
I joked at first that most of our feedings ended with at least one of us crying. That first night at home, that was especially true, as you nursed over 2 dozen times in just a few hours. You'd fall asleep for minutes, and wake shrieking. I pumped, but nothing dripped into the cups, and I found myself willing to wash the teeny tiny pump containers over and over again because the 5 oz bottles were so discouraging (they still are). We called the pediatrician on call at 2:30 am, and supplemented that first night, dripping 10 ml into your tiny mouth with a medicine dropper.
That next day was the first of four visits to the pediatrician and lactation consultant that week. You had lost 11% of your birthweight. You were in danger of failing to thrive. I pumped and nursed 8-10 times a day. We borrowed a hospital grade pump. And still, I only had drops to show for the long stretches attached to the chugging machine.
We tried a SNS system. We poured formula into the crazy contraption that was dangling around my neck. We taped small tubes under the nipple shield and tried to get you to latch without disrupting the precarious monstrosity adhered to my breast. I cried. You wailed. I was so determined to do this - to pump and nurse and struggle until my milk came in.
A week later, we taped tubes to our fingers so you could suck in the formula. I could not bring myself to give you a bottle. It would be confusing, right? And why would you nurse once you learned how fast the food could flow from the plastic tip? As you ravenously attacked our digits one feeding, I pulled a bottle from the cupboard, and you calmed.
I rented a pump when the loaner was due. I pumped. I nursed. Our entire day fell into patterns of the sound of the pump's motor and the beeping of the microwave as I heated the water to make your formula.
But you grew. I knew that was what I was supposed to focus on - how healthy and beautiful and alert you were. You surpassed your birth weight. You grew longer. You ate more. I came around to the idea of formula as I realized that anyone could feed you now - and not being solely responsible for your survival allowed me to breathe a bit. But then I was often in that breath plunged into guilt for not being able to care for you the way I thought I should. No matter what I did (and do), I cannot feed you on my own. And the pressure to keep breastfeeding is coming from me and me alone.
Your doctor assured me you would be strong. The lactation consultant told me I'd be a better and happier mom if I cut myself some slack. Your dad constantly cheered me on, and took over nighttime feedings so I could pump more and maybe get some sleep. And still I cried whenever I made a bottle for you that wasn't liquid I had fought to get from my breasts.
You were sick, and all you wanted to do was nurse. And though I had to often follow nursing sessions with a bottle, you still demanded my breasts. We became nursing champs that week, mastering new positions and snuggling in for hours as you ate, soothed, and slept. So, in honor of your 100 days in this world, little guy, I am trying to be kind to myself, and forgive my body for this one thing that it cannot do as well as I'd like it to. It grew you - an amazing, healthy, happy, goofy, and beautiful little boy. For that I am eternally grateful. We've had some great spells of success nursing in the last few weeks, and moments together no one else can share. Your newest game is to nurse, smile, chat a bit, and ravenously tuck back in, and I laugh every time.
Sometimes I get overwhelmed as you fight for more milk and I feel like I resort to a bottle to feed you. I've cried over your precious baby head many times as you've switched from bottle to breast and back. So, I will take whatever nursing we can get, and when I catch myself thinking that I could have done more, should have pumped more, should have tried harder those first few days... I'm not always successful, but I am trying to forgive my body. I am trying to focus on how perfect you are, and that what I am doing is good enough. Maybe in the next 100 days, I"ll start to believe it.