Go with the Flow by Daniela Ruah Olsen
Before we got pregnant the first time I knew what I wanted pregnancy to be like. I imagined how I wanted to give birth and how I would breastfeed for at least a year. No, I’m not a control freak. I was just deeply unaware that things don’t happen the way they do in movies. Nature made the decisions and all I could do was go with the flow (not an easy task).
My husband proposed on a Dec 31st and our son River was born a year later. My water broke at 37 weeks and I was given Pitocin to induce the contractions I wasn’t having. After 19hrs of labor, our first love was finally in our arms! It took a few days for breastfeeding to become second nature to us, but once it happened it was a breeze. All I had to do was squish my boob into the “shape of a taco” and pull my little guy’s face into it. Or hold him like a football, as they say. Simple right? It was an incredible sensation that I thought would last for as long as we wanted. Wrong.
When River was 5 months old, I married David (I still smile at the memories). Around that time, my milk supply began to drop and we had no choice but to supplement with formula. I was so sad that I wasn’t his primary source of nutrition anymore. Also, the idea of feeding him processed milk broke my heart, so I researched for days until I found the “cleanest” organic formula on the market. I had also read that a baby’s taste for different foods stemmed from breast milk, so I became paranoid that my kid wouldn’t accept a varied diet in the future.
Until my daughter was born, I blamed my drop in milk supply on the stress of planning a wedding and everything that that brings. I was so convinced that this time around I would make it to a year. I mean, so much about Sierra’s story was different; she was breach, I birthed her without drugs, she latched on immediately, she was a little bigger than her brother, and this time there was no wedding to create stress and mess with my body. I even continued to breastfeed through Mastitis the first week she was born. My temperature went to 104F and I felt like crap, but that couldn’t stop me. I felt both empowered and needed while breastfeeding, so when my milk plummeted AGAIN at 5 months it shook my self-esteem. From one day to the next I went from pumping 8oz in one sitting to struggling to get 2oz! I tried every supplement I could get my hands on. Teas, all sorts of grain bars and cookies made for breastfeeding moms, drinking dark beer, drinking tons of water, making sure I was ingesting enough calories, not working out too much and even meditating and telling my body to produce more milk. The one thing I found difficult to control was a set schedule and sleep.Nothing seemed to bring up my supply. I was scrambling and punishing myself for falling short. All I could think of were stories I had read about adoptive mothers who had stimulated their breasts to the point of lactating, even though they hadn’t given birth, so why couldn’t I? One of my good friends had her baby a few months before Sierra was born and fortunately for us both she produced A LOT of milk. In fact, she had plenty stored to spare. She offered it to me and I refused… at first. I was in an awfully negative headspace so all I could think of was that I wasn’t fulfilling my job as a mother and I was hard on myself. I felt inadequate at my inability to satiate my baby.
Here’s the thing; I was being a good mom, a great mom actually. I was doing everything in my power to nourish my kids. I was given the gift of breast milk from an amazing friend that I finally accepted and felt so grateful for. I have a wonderful and unbreakable bond with both my children and they love such a variety of foods. I mean, they eat everything. Above all, they are healthy and smart. Nature dictated that my water should break at 37 weeks… both times, and that my milk supply should diminish at 5 months… both times. I had no choice but to go with the flow. Though it was an emotional rollercoaster, at the end of the day my ultimate goals for my kids were exceeded. I’m a very happy mama.
*a note from YZM:
Just a reminder that we all have different experiences with breastfeeding. If you are having trouble, we would suggest contacting a lactation consultant. If you need help finding someone in your area, lalecheleague.org is a wonderful resource.