Tuesday, October 19, 2010

On Birth, Breastfeeding (or lack of) and Motherhood

A few weeks ago I was reflecting on becoming a mother and for whatever reason I was feeling a little down. In this occasion I wrote the following email to my best friend Rachel:

"Childbirth changes everything. Maybe not everyone feels this way about it. When I look at my life, I can divide it in 2 parts: life before James and life after James. My character has changed, my body has changed and it is taking me some time to adjust myself to the new me. I must admit, the type and depth of this transformation has caught me by surprise.  I thought I was going to be super-mom and instead I find myself more fearful than I ever being. At times I also feel so lonely. I guess it is a phase and like everything else it will pass. Of course, there are the positives as well.  There is no greatest joy in seeing James smile and knowing he is happy, healthy and safe."

The birth itself was quite an experience, My pregnancy was very healthy. James was born 3 weeks early but at full term. My labour lasted 35 hours. I got to 8 cm with no drugs and then accepted the epidural. Everything was going great until the last 10 minutes when James had to be vacuumed out. He came out right away but he had to be resuscitated. Consequently, they took him to neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) where he stayed for 2 days. He did very well and was healthy straight away. The staff in the birth and delivery unit were great, so were the staff at the NICU. I was not prepared, though, for a crappy experience in the recovery section. After 35 hours of labour the nurses would not let me sleep because they wanted me to pump my breasts for milk. It turned out my breast had a problem of some kind as the whole pumping thing was excruciating painful. This carried on for 24 hours. To make a long story short, I could not breast feed, no one took the time to figure out what was wrong (I would have liked to know) and the staff was making feel horrible about the fact I had to bottle feed my baby. This attitude carried on outside of the hospital. My family doctor, the nurse practioner were all very busy at making me feel guilty and very busy at offering no support regarding bottle feeding. Thanksfully the people at NICU and my GYN were more helpful. The experience left a mark though. For weeks I felt horrible and getting close to be depressed. Fortunately I bounced back. So to ANYONE OUT THERE WHO NEEDS TO BOTTLE FEED THEIR BABIES DO NOT FEEL GUILTY DO WHAT IS RIGHT FOR YOU, YOU NEED TO FEED YOUR BABY AND THAT'S END OF STORY. IGNORE THE MILK TALIBAN (great expression created by my step-sister!).
So here some pics of our baby James who was 12 weeks old yesterday.


  1. He's such a cutie!! I adore babies... and I had a very similar experience trying to feed my son Lazarus and felt all the same guilt and sense of failure that you describe. I tried so hard but finally gave up after 8 days when Laz weighed in at almost a pound less than his birth weight. He drained his first bottle in about two minutes, and from there things got much better. I'm glad you've bounced back and that the "milk Taliban" (love that expression!) didn't get the best of you!

  2. Wow Anna, I wish I could give you a huge hug. I too had a very similar experience. And after 2 months of trying I resigned myself to pumping full time. Sadly pumping milk 8 times a day was not enough for the Milk Mafia, including my mother in law who told me I was just not trying hard enough, and tried to convince me that some how I would damage my child by not feeding them properly. I even had a lovely lady from the La Leche league who told me it was all my fault because I chose to have an epidural and that was the reason that Aidan ended up in the NICU. I got to the point that every time Aidan cried to be fed I started crying too. To this day I swear if I hear the sentence "offer the breast" one more time I will start screaming. These people are supposed to help, but all they do is push their belief on tired, scared and confused mothers. I love your message to all mothers. Breast milk does not equal love and lactating does not make you a good mother. Hugs, kisses, cuddles and patience will give your child the best start in life.
    As for the mommy fog, well that goes away. In time you will feel like you have your mind, body and some of your sanity back. But if you ever need to talk, call me!

  3. Thank you Jody and Anna. I appreciated your words very much.