Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Baring all about my breastfeeding experience

I promise no nudity, rants, or lobbying. Just want to reflect on my treasured breastfeeding experience.

Prior to Amelia’s arrival I prayed often for God to give me the ability – no, the opportunity – to nurse Amelia. My growing breasts were helpful reminders to pray! As they grew so did the length and frequency of my prayers! I was not comfortable with expecting “nature to takes it’s course.” I knew too many women that were unable to nurse their little ones. Additionally, I have two chronic illnesses which threatened my hope in God’s provision.

Threat #1: Sjogren’s Syndrome, an autoimmune disorder in which the glands that produce tears and salvia are destroyed (that is just the flagship symptom). You can easily pick out a nursing mom because their constant companion is a jug of water, beside their little one of course. For me, a jug of water is a constant companion, despite my little nursing parasite! Women are typically not diagnosed with SS during their childbearing years. Therefore, there really is no research or advice for nursing moms with SS. I really did not know what to expect. My Rhuemy didn’t know what to tell me. Fearing the unknown – yes that definitely was me!

Threat #2: Dystonia, a movement disorder characterized by involuntary muscle contractions. A relaxed mother is essential to the nursing process, studies prove this is true. My body is rarely relaxed. I often wondered – no, worried – how it would work. What would Amelia do if she was nursing and then all of a sudden I had one of my dystonic storms? (I am happy to say that a baby properly latched is stuck to you like a tongue stuck to a frozen flag pole.) Again there was really no research or advice. I asked my Neurologist about this, she did not know what to say, I’m her youngest patient. Again, fearing the unknown was an option.

Nevertheless, I prayed, endlessly.

One day, prior to my delivery, a friend told me, “You think you have hunger pains now, just wait till you are nursing.” Hopeless awe – simply put, that was my reaction. I could not fathom that what she said could be even remotely true! The same woman also told me that nursing would physically wipe me out. She was right. I appreciated her honest portrayal of nursing. Sure nursing fosters a one of a kind connection with your little one but boy does it wear you down mentally and emotionally as well as drain you physically.

From the beginning, the first time we both attempted this breastfeeding thing, it worked! I was amazed! It was amazing. If I had not just delivered a baby I would have leaped for joy! Then, right away I was tested by threat #2. I was allowed to nurse Amelia for the first time in the privacy of my hospital room but then after that, because of the medication I was taking to treat my Dystonia, I was told that I would have to nurse Amelia in the hospital’s nursery. My baby girl truly is a patient little one. There I would sit, exposed in the public nursery, people walking in and people walking out, sometimes I would jerk, yet she still nursed. This actually turned out to be a good thing. The nurses gave me tons of great advice and support! I left the hospital with tons of knowledge and encouragement!

By no means was I the type of nursing mom with a huge stockpile of frozen milk. Often while Amelia was chugging away and I was crying out to God, praying that I would have enough milk for the next feeding. The Bible story of the Israelites relying on mana from heaven day in and day out never felt so real! It’s quite possible that my SS contributed to my limited milk production. Nonetheless, God used this challenge for my benefit because I prayed more as a nursing mom than ever before!

There were nights of cluster feedings where I felt like I was losing my mind! Sometimes Amelia bit my nipple – boy was that painful. My favorite moments were when she would play games with me while we nursed! She is a very playful little one! Her favorite game was to stick her fingers in my mouth. Then, I would nibble on them. Nursing in public was definitely a challenge because of my dystonia. Somehow God always provided a place for me to nurse when I was out of the house. (Changing rooms in department stores make awesome nursing rooms for on the go shoppers!)

Today, Amelia is 13 months old. She still nurses in the morning and evening. Right now she is not ready to let those feedings go – nor will I rush them away. I look back on my breastfeeding experience and cry tears of gratitude. God surely did provide.

So now what? I feel an eerie sense of freedom mixed with nostalgia over Amelia’s growing independence. It’s weird - we both have gained more independence now that she is weaned. I feel like I need to join a support group…Hi my name is Emily. It’s been two weeks since I last used a breast pump. My baby girl loves cow’s milk and sometimes goes to bed choosing not to nurse!