Thursday, August 7, 2008

On the boob again

I've been wary of saying it out loud, let alone putting it in writing for fear of jinxing myself, but I think I've finally overcome my nursing problems.

After nearly four months of complete and total excruciating pain, never-ending frustration and at times feeling completely hopeless, my determination has finally paid off.

It's singlehandedly the most challenging hurdle I've ever overcome in my entire life. More challenging than having to memorize Shakespeare when I played the leading-lady in Hamlet. More challenging than learning to drive a stick shift. Even more challenging than that horrible online German course I took for my college language credit the summer before my junior year.

If nursing had been something that simply was a benefit to me, I would've given up at the second sign of struggle. Maybe not the first sign, but if I had run into repeated road blocks like I did, I probably would've shrugged it off and said I tried.

But because it was good for Allison, I persevered -- many times at the expense of my physical well-being and certainly at the expense of my sanity.

Knowing I was absolutely killing myself, many of the people closest to me begged me to stop. But there is no rationalizing with a woman who wants to do right by her child. If I thought it would've helped, I would've stood in the middle of a highway. At night. Wearing black.

Each time Allison's teeth scraped two matching gouges on both of my nipples, I'd pump until they healed and steadfastly try nursing her again. Then new sores would form. Wash, rinse, repeat.

In the meantime, lugging and sterilizing and storing all the pump parts, keeping track of the dates of each bottle and transporting them in coolers when we went anywhere, finding outlets on the run -- it took every ounce of my patience. Not to mention pumping every time I gave her a bottle to guarantee my milk supply didn't wane -- even if it was the last thing I wanted to do because my wounds would crack open and bleed. Once, while I was trying to distract myself by reading a magazine, I looked down and realized the milk was a deep shade of pink. Wiping away tears, I dumped it down the drain.

The strange thing is, it really had nothing to do with formula. I don't think it's evil or anything like that. It's just that I wanted to continue nursing and felt like I should go out on my own terms, not because we hit a bump in the road. Or, in this case, ran face-first into the side of a mountain.

I tried all of the advice my lactation consultant suggested, but in the end, it was Allison that finally made the difference. I think she eventually realized that she enjoys nursing much more than gulping down a bottle and, to do that, she'd have to change the way she latches on.

The entire thing has taught me so many lessons -- first and foremost that I am far more capable of attaining my goals than I give myself credit for.

It also showed me the true meaning of sacrifice and selflessness. Plus, I discovered that women can be an amazing network for one another if we learn to stop cutting each other off at the knees.

There's a lyric in Van Morrison's "Wild Night" that goes "all the girls walk by, dressed up for each other." It always stuck with me after I heard John Mellencamp's version of the song when I was in high school because it's so true. Many times women try to outdo and one-up rather than just realize we have much more in common than we do different. And if we could just get over that, we'd be a major force to recon with.

Because when it came to having to pump in a public place, I knew I could always count on the kindness of female strangers -- regardless of their age or inexperience with it. It's like they just understood what lengths I was going to.

One time in particular, while I was attending a catered event without Allison, I asked our waitress if there was a room I could pump in. Without hesitation, she cleared out the administrative office and posted a "Do Not Disturb" sign before I even retrieved my parts from the car. Then, when I was finished, she gave me a bucket of ice to store it in. And I'm guessing she was maybe 19. As I left, I sought out her boss and praised her as much as I knew how.

Overall, it has been a huge learning experience. One I hope to be able to share with other women if they ever need it.

And, as for me? I know I'll draw strength from it when I'm faced with my next difficult situation.

11 comments:

Anonymous said...

I AM NOT SURE WHY I AM CRYING. I AM 49 YEARS OLD MY DAUGHTER IS GROWN AND IS NOT HAVING ANY CHILDREN BUT FOR SOME REASON THIS POST JUST TOUCHED ME. YOU ARE SO STRONG KELLY AND YOU MAKE THE REST OF US STRONG. THANK YOU!

Jennifer Suarez said...

You said:

But because it was good for Allison, I persevered -- many times at the expense of my physical well-being and certainly at the expense of my sanity.

This is what being a Mom is all about. I've found as a Mom it is something we continue to do throughout our child(ren)s entire life - without hesitation.

I'm so proud of you. Sometimes us Mommies don't hear that enough. We do what we do without the expectation of "Thanks" or "Good Job" but I just wanted to remind you how special and wonderful you are. You are a fantastic Mom and Allison is a lucky little girl.

Kristin said...

This was inspiring =]

-KrIsTiN-

Traci said...

I applaud your strength in doing what you believe was the very best thing for your daughter!

You are totally right about women. I've thought many times about how I wish we could all be more supportive of each other instead of constantly comparing and critizing.

That's a great story about the waitress!

Ray said...

When it comes to being an awesome mother, "You're my HERO Kelly!" I hope when Allison get's older, she knows just HOW MUCH her momma sacrificed for her.

And funny that you talk about if women get together they're a force to be reckoned with, because I was thinking about that a couple of days ago. If women got together and stopped being b*tches to one another, "We could rule the world!"

Well, take care.

Marcy said...

I am in awe of you for this. I'm not sure I would have stuck with it through all that. You are an amazing woman, and Allison is such a lucky lady to have you as her mother.

the plainsman said...

Yeesh! You are a strong and tenacious person, Kelly, not that Jerry, your family and we, your readers, did not already know it.

What I liked about this was how you worked the story of continuing to nurse under adverse conditions into another, more universal theme "that women can be an amazing network for one another if we learn to stop cutting each other off at the knees." Well done!

Uh...Mellencamp did a cover of Van Morrison's "Wild Night"? :o)

Melissa said...

As someone who exclusively pumped for 6 mths because my baby had latching on problems from the beginning, I KNOW how much effort that takes. And for you to have perserved with it, even with the teeth/sores issue...wow. Major high fives.

Alexa said...

I am crying....and letting down. You inspire me. I have a 4.5 month old and have had to take nursing day by day. I am so proud to have made it this far, I feel like I am doing something for him each and everyday I pump at work for him, it is the hardest thing I have ever done, and the most rewarding. Bless you for sharing with us....

Celine said...

This post warmed my heart :) The selflessness you demonstrated for your daughter, shows the world that there IS hope for this generation of mothers.

I especially liked the part about the waitress, girls around that age are generally selfish... for lack of a better world, bitches.

Heidi said...

For some reason, this post brought tears to my eyes.