I gingerly walked from my condo to the hospital, throwing up in each open garbage bin along the way, looking like a well-dressed junky in Vancouver. Nobody even glanced over to me, as I heaved into the bin, I just looked like part of the scenery.
As I arrived at the hospital, I quickly ran to the washroom, not even having time to close the door as I threw up again. A nurse followed, quickly getting paper towels. The orderly was quickly ordered to come on by to clean the washroom, I was completely embarrassed, the bathroom looked like a war zone. The kind nurse smiled and asked how far along I was. I attempted to smile back, but looked more like a pained look of constipation. I had no idea, I was here for my first ultrasound, my husband was going to meet me upstairs.
She gave me a cloth and told me where to get water. I was relieved she didn’t think I was a junkie, the way I had been throwing up, I didn’t want someone to judge me.
With morning sickness, came indecision. I just gave up reading or finding anything about pregnancy. My only prayer for the day was to make it to the washroom in time at the office so I didn’t have to explain myself.
Then my 5th month came up. A trip to the OBGYN, and a stack of insane pamphlets. I had to think about my birth plan, and whether or not I was going to breastfeed. seriously, giving a pregnant woman homework and choices is like trying to get a cat to what you want. My brain was much, I was not in the mood, and come on, these choices were painful. I just wanted to eat a bowl of chocolate chips.
Then came the well, are you planning on breastfeeding?
Crap, I had to sift through more documents, because, at Women’s hospital in Vancouver, you had to declare your intentions. The hospital itself was a proponent of nursing infants, so you had to specifically declare to the hospital you were planning on bottle feeding, and they needed to piss off.
I was actually terrified of breastfeeding, the thought of a baby sucking on my nipple grossed me out. I had planned all along to bottle feed, just seemed easier.
My Mother quietly told me how easy breastfeeding was. She loved it, she felt like it was the one thing she could do as a Mother that felt 100% right. I will get back to that story.
I was still unsure. So I started digging into my family history. I discovered my Great Aunt, Dr. Helen Macmurchy, was an advocate for Mother’s to nurse their newborns. I was a little shocked. She was a huge influence on My grandmother, who was actually named Helen MacMurchy, surprise she was named after her Aunt. At the time, women of a certain level of society did not nurse their babies, so for my Great Aunt, one of Canada’s first female doctor’s to be an advocate of breastfeeding for health reasons, was, to say the least, controversial.
My grandmother, however, did not breastfeed. She couldn’t, she had been too sick after giving birth, and could not produce milk. My grandmother, a nurse, knew that medically she had to supplement right away, and not keep trying. My great-aunt, as the story goes, was not pleased that my grandmother was bottle feeding. Judgment comes from everywhere, even a place of love.
My Mother, well, she was young and gave birth to my sister in Tanzania in the 60s. Just let that sink in for a second.
She had no choice, there was no formula available, well there was, but it could have been gold bars the stuff was so expensive. My Mother just did what all the beautiful African Mums did around her, nurse her baby girl, everywhere and anywhere, which also pissed of the wife of the high commissioner, but that is a whole other story. My grandmother, well, she was a little horrified that my Mother was nursing. She was from a generation that thought if you were proper, you didn’t use your breasts to feed your child. But really, my grandmother felt guilty she couldn’t nurse her babies and put that guilt on my Mother.
Insert eye roll.
My Mother, well, she did pass along judgment. She told me to make the decision and nurse my child, that it was easy, natural, and to Goddamit get over it – her words, not mine.
So, I felt the pressure, and that pressure isn’t fun.
I decided to nurse.
It is not easy and by far the hardest thing to master as a new mother. It isn’t like babies come out and know what they are doing, and as a new Mother, you fumble, you cry, you get frustrated.
After giving birth, I had an awesome male nurse named Money – yup, that is his name, he is one of the best nurses I have ever met, so if you are at Women’s Hospital in Vancouver, I hope you get Money on your shift. He quickly taught me tricks, manhandled my breasts and trained me how to get my son to latch properly, literally by taking my breast and shoving it into his tiny mouth. Seriously, 12-hour shift with him, and I became a master. Until I bled out at home.
I was at home for 3 days, when I got up to do a midnight feed. As I picked up my son, I felt warm sludge come out of me. I cried out. Got cold. I had to put my son down. My husband scrambled out of bed. Alarmed by the blood. I quickly cleaned up. I stupidly nursed and went back to bed. I should have gone to the hospital.
The next day I wasn’t feeling well, so we made a trip to the hospital. I was nursing my son in the hospital, but something kept feeling off.
That’s the thing. With blood loss comes the loss of milk. My milk stopped flowing, only no one told me that, I had been to the hospital, I had seen my doctor, and no one twigged. My child cried, I kept nursing. I went to the pediatrician’s office and was nursing for 2 hours in the office. No one noticed, no one said anything to me. I was drained, I cried. Finally, my husband bought the formula and gave my son a bottle. He gobbled it up.
In the meantime, I went back to see my OBGYN to make an appointment to get a D&C. Then had to go back to see another pediatrician. He was much older, calm, weighed my son, looked at me, and said “how do your breasts feel”
I had no idea how to explain it. So he asked “empty sacks or hard melons?” oh geez, they have never felt like hard melons, so I replied empty sacks.
He nodded, explained that since I had massive blood loss, I had lost my milk production. I needed to try to take a pill 3x a day, and see if my milk comes back in.
My milk came back in, but I was heading into surgery. It would be minor, no problem at all.
If you have read my blog, you will know that the surgery did not end well, and I had huge complications.
In the hospital, I was forced to nurse my son. The hospital would not except my cries of bottle feeding, my body had had enough, I had been through hell, and the idea of nursing was too much. Well, guess what. Money came back in for a visit, and convinced me to try. He remembered me from 3 weeks prior and said I had been a superstar. Well, if you knew Money, you couldn’t protest, or argue. So I did. I cried, it hurt like a F’n Futher Mucker. My uterus had never contracted the way it was supposed to until I started breastfeeding again. I cried and cried. My body was swollen, I had 3 I.V’s stuck to me, and I sobbed and sobbed. The nurse that had taken me on in the morning after my surgery just stroked my hair, my husband was out of the room finding food. I lay there, Money held my son’s head, I was too weak to hold him up, they both looked at me, and told me it would be ok. I just kept crying, the pain was beyond anything that I could explain.
Then something happened. My son gently hugged my breast, he started getting drunker, his eyes started to droop, and for the first time, I felt that I was magic. One of the nurses pulled him off to hold him and burp him, then quietly wrapped him back up and put him on my chest. It was the first time since giving birth that I understood what my Mother was talking about.
The thing is. Not every woman gets milk, not every Mother is going to have that moment I had (mind you, it took me a f’n long time people). It took my 3 emergencies, 3 I.Vs, and a blood transfusion to get that moment.
I felt judged even before I gave birth, I felt judged afterward, and you know what. No matter what your decision is, you are always going to have some crappy woman (yes, I am calling you out crazy ladies, because I never, and I mean never felt judged by a man, not even on an aisle eating candy while nursing in Target in Bellingham!). So that being said. Don’t judge.
I can’t even imagine ever telling a woman my opinions on the subject. I am grateful that there was formula available to supplement when I needed it, I am also grateful for my body being able to produce milk after taking some pills. I am grateful that my Mother finally told me the real reason she breastfed, she simply had to, she was in Africa in the 60s, scared, alone, and there were no other options for her, and luckily she had no complications so her milk was overflowing.
Do what is best for you, in turn, don’t judge someone else for their decision to bottle feed or breastfeed!