Wednesday, January 19, 2011

medal of honor.

not to toot my own horn, but i'm giving myself an award.  baby jack is 12 weeks old today.  while this means that our little bambino is growing bigger and smiling wider each day, it also means that i've been breastfeeding for 12 weeks.  back when i was pregnant, breastfeeding seemed like a no-brainer for me.  of course i would breastfeed my babies.  i mean, just ask anyone... breast is best, right?  i never dreamed it would be "work."  i really believed jack would pop out of the womb, instinctively knowing exactly how to latch on and eat like a champ.  i had never even thought about "nipple confusion," "nipple shields," or "supply issues."  puuuuhhhhleeeease. breastfeeding is the natural thing to do, right?

well, mannnnn, are we at six flags?  i swear breastfeeding is the most up and down emotional rollercoaster i've ever been on.  from getting up in the middle of the night to pump (even when jack is sleeping) to keep my supply up, to dealing with clogged milk ducts (sorry, i know it's TMI, but this is a blog post on breastfeeding, so if you kept reading, i assume you were prepared for this), to fighting through baby growth spurts, this three months has been, what i would consider, an epic battle.  definitely much more trying than studying for a bar exam.  the thing about studying for the bar exam is that i knew if i put in the time and effort, i would do well on the exam.  you don't have that same comfort with breastfeeding.  you can try your damndest, you can eat lactation cookies, seek out herbal supplements, drink literally gallons of water, and you might not be able to produce enough milk to feed your
baby.  isn't that crazy?  well, i have to say, i have literally tried pretty much every standard trick out there (some more helpful than others).  there have been many days that i felt like throwing in the towel.  but here, we are, 12 weeks in, and jack is happy, healthy and steadily growing.

this is probably a really boring post to anyone who hasn't gone through this.  i apologize.  i'm not trying to make this blog a chronicle of mommy-hood.  i don't plan to post about jack's bowel movements (but i also never thought i'd be at a christmas party discussing them with others, so i guess never say never...) or my mommy woes on a daily basis.  but i needed to pat myself on the back over this accomplishment because i never thought i would get here. i really didn't.

you know a weird side effect of being a nursing mom?  it's lonely.  while on jack's first road trip, i sat in the guest bedroom at my friend's house, nursing my baby, listening to my friends talking in the living room... and  i  wanted to be out there socializing with them so badly.  on thanksgiving, i had to take 5 breaks from the festivities to
feed jack, and each time while sitting there, i kept thinking "hurry up, little man!  i'm missing stuff."  it's not that i hate feeding him.  it's not that it's painful or uncomfortable.  sometimes i just miss the effortless way of life before... when i could sit around and talk to family and friends, without watching the clock and thinking, "it's about
time to for jack to eat."  i'm a social person, and being confined to a bedroom by myself for 20-40 minutes while little man chows down is sometimes so isolating for me.  (which is why i usually make my mom and sisters join me, regardless of what they want to be doing)

and yet, i love that i'm able to do this for my baby. (see, rollercoaster!)  when i get home from work, and we're sitting together and he's having his dinner and he looks at me so contentedly, i think, wellll, THIS is what matters. it is calming and soothing and relaxing to spend a quiet half hour with my baby at the end of a busy work day.  i appreciate being able to do this more now that i've gone back to work than i otherwise might have.

but damnit if it isn't hard, hard work.  who would have thought that i could turn into a crazed, homicidal maniac if threatened with the idea of wasting even half an ounce of precious liquid gold breast milk??? who would have thought that i would voluntarily choose sleep deprivation in favor of an extra pumping session???  who would have thought that they'd see me cruising down the highway, my breastpump hooked up to the cigarette lighter, filling bottles for my baby???  i've never been a particualy modest person, much to the dismay of my sisters, who have
been subjected to me whipping off articles of clothing in front of them when trying on new duds at the store, but over the past 12 weeks, any semblance of privacy has been discarded.  (i do draw the line at whipping out my lady parts in front of my dad and brothers, which is why i've been holing up in bedrooms, breastfeeding alone.) anyway, this is a public service announcement, if there ever was one.  breastfeeding is great for your baby.  the whole process intrigues and amazes me.  BUT IT IS HARD WORK.  it can make you crazy.  it can make you even more
emotional than you already are post-partum. it can make you feel like a failure for pumping 3 ounces as opposed to 4.  it forces you to rearrange your whole schedule in favor of not having one.  it is the single hardest thing i have ever done in my life.  i. am. not. kidding.  and while i've been known to be a tad dramatic (just ask my husband!), i firmly believe it to be harder than giving birth.  at least i knew there was some end in sight to the 2 hours of pushing.  yes, labor is painful, but for me, there was no accompanying emotional pain or guilt attached.  if a meeting at work runs over, and i have to shorten a pumping session or nix it altogether, i feel like i'm failing my baby.  it's not rational.  i know this.  i know that giving my baby formula would not be the end of the world.  formula is not poison.  but for some reason, i have it in my head that jack is getting breastmilk, and i am making every sacrifice i can to ensure that happens.  it is insane.  i never thought i would be like this.  i also never thought i'd make it to three months... and here we are!

breastfeeding for the past 12 weeks has opened my eyes to new experiences, new feelings and new crises, that's for sure.  but it hasn't all been maddening, though.  some of it has been pretty funny.  example: the great milk surplus of 2011.  last week, i attended a continuing legal education conference in des moines.  john and jack graciously agreed to join me on the voyage, so they got some hotel fun in while mama learned about statutes, caselaw and ethical obligations.  now, my plan was to pump on my 15 minute breaks from the conference.  we were staying at the hotel where the conference was, so i figured it would be pretty easy to run upstairs to our room, do my milk thing, then run back downstairs.  the plan worked brilliantly.  until all of the sudden i looked down, and realized, woooooahhhh, my boobs were kicking it into overdrive.  out of nowhere, the amount i was normally pumping had doubled.  here we were, in a hotel room in des moines, with a few bottles and no freezer or fridge, woefully unprepared for this goddamn milk surplus.  husband's suggestion was to throw out the milk we didn't need.  this earned him some dirty looks.  (hell, i almost got all amber vs. gary, teen mom style on him).  i appointed john to ice patrol and forced him to guard this excess supply for the duration.  we both had a good laugh about how things had changed.  back in february, he made sure to have a bathtub full of beer iced and waiting when i returned to our hotel room after the illinois bar.  fast forward almost a year and here we were, our bathroom overflowing with mom's milk, and him, valiantly guarding and icing the supply.  ohhh, god bless my patient husband. 

i've breastfed in the backseat of our car (while the car was stopped, of course) and pumped on the highway while traveling at speeds in excess of 70 mph.  this journey has certainly taken me to some crazy places.  and my breastfeeding woes provide excellent entertainment for my female colleague, who delights in listening to my diatribes.  i really feel like i should get one of those chips you get in AA.  you know, something signifying that i've made it to 3 months.  maybe an extra lactation cookie with lunch?  haha.anyway, cheers to this insane, ridiculous willpower that is coming from somewhere within (i don't even know where.... and ps, where were you when i needed you during bar exams 1, 2 and 3? particularly 2 and 3???) and a very sincere and heartfelt thank you to the friends and family i have coerced into bedrooms while i nursed my baby, so i would have someone to talk to, to make me feel normal again.  a very special thank you to my sisters, who have probably been scarred for life by seeing my boobs on numerous occasions and hearing me discuss breastfeeding woes. thank you to the moms i have dialed in fits of desperation, asking for advice and help.  i so appreciate all of you... and so does my growing baby boy.

now why did i write this?  because someday, when jack is about 16, and thinks that i'm the most annoying, embarrassing dictator on the planet, and he doesn't want to spend time with or around me, i am going to
remind him of all of this.  (actually, it would probably be better if john reminded him of all of this, so i can seem more selfless and amazing.  remind me to tell john about this asap).  and he will feel bad.  he will go buy me some mother-of-the-year card, and ask me to watch a movie with him instead of his girlfriend.  haha.  i know, i'm
kidding myself.  none of that is going to happen.  i promise i'm not going to hold my breastfeeding over my son's head.  i promise.  even if i don't even get a movie or a nice card out of it, i have the foresight to realize it's all worth it, even still.


  1. reading your blogs about all these first time mommy issues, brings me back.. even though it's been 2 years since i had these exact same feelings and was on the same roller coaster, i completely understand. you do deserve a medal for nursing. it's definitely a hard hard job. but it's good that you know what's important. bella got her very first ear infection at 2 years old and her dr said that because i nursed her for a year, she missed out on being sick like lots of other babes out there. jack's going to be one healthy and happy baby and it's because of you! ... oh and i remember feeling lonely nursing in separate rooms.. but jack will start taking less and less time nursing.. i mean seriously, sometimes only 5 minutes! cherish those quiet long periods of time while you have them because near the end, i wished bella would take longer nursing so i could catch more of my breath... hang in there steph. love you!

  2. You are a super mom. When you talked about being lonely in the other room - my God, if I didn't think that at Thanksgiving and New Year's the first years of my girls' lives. You are not alone sweet pea. And I'm so proud of you. The milk surplus story made me laugh because I remember crying when pouring out breastmilk that my girls didn't drink. The dirty looks were definitely called for. So glad you have hung in there - it's so unbelievably worth it all.