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Monday, July 24, 2006

Drama and Trauma Part II

Warning: the following post contains somewhat graphic depictions of traumatic breastfeeding experiences. If the words “breast” or “nipple” offend you or make you tug at your collar, my first suggestion is GET OVER IT! and my second suggestion is that if you can’t get over it, don’t read any further!

I nursed Dear Daughter for the first year of her life. Research shows it’s the best choice for the baby’s health and results in less illnesses in the baby as well as higher IQ. Don’t get me wrong though, I’m not a “breastfeeding Nazi” who shuns those who don’t make this choice. I don’t think I could have done it if I were working full-time. Those of you who have not experienced what it is like to hook your breast up to a milking apparatus can rest assured it is not a party, though the first few times I ever did it I thought I’d discovered a pretty neat party trick….

The first couple weeks of nursing a newborn are typically the hardest, often resulting in cracked and scabbed nipples. This undertaking is NOT for the faint at heart. But I made it through this phase with Dear Daughter and settled into a nursing groove with her that lasted nearly 13 months before she was totally weaned. It was an emotional experience the last time I nursed her. We were down to the bedtime nursing only for the last week or so, and each night I wondered if it would be the last until the first night she finally fell asleep without nursing, and I knew it was over. I sat in the dark and rocked her and cried even though I was ultimately ready to be done with the nursing thing. It’s just one of those “Mommy moments” that’s hard to capture with words.

I foolishly assumed that nursing Dear Son would be a similar experience. The first time I tried to nurse Dear Son, within an hour of his surgical removal from my womb, I was amazed at the clamp on that boy’s jaws! And he was all business. He somehow knew exactly what he was doing, and he was going to achieve it in five minutes or less. I also quickly learned that Dear Son could set his jaws like vice grips, and there was no prying him loose until he was good and ready. After a few months of being a voracious nurser he started having some impatient moments where he would pull his head back while pushing against my chest with his pudgy fist(while being attached to the breast). All of a sudden my neat party trick became something worthy of the Ripley’s Believe it or Not show. I managed to find ways to deal with all this. However, what came recently may be the last straw.

A couple weeks ago I experienced a clogged milk-duct and/or a clogged nipple pore. This is very painful and means that the milk continues to engorge the breast with no hope of coming out until the clog breaks free. Only that’s not the worst of it. Remember the description of my Dear Son with the vice grip jaws and the way he yanks back his head and pushes with his hand? Yeah…well even that didn’t do the trick, though it did manage to elevate my pain scale off the charts. The treatment for a clogged milk duct includes some rather aggressive massage to the breast to force the clog out. All this trauma was…well…traumatic. I will spare you graphic detail about the bleeding once the clog finally broke loose, but yes, there was bleeding. But wait…that’s still not all…! Dear Son also simultaneously decided to hit a growth spurt, which means he was up at least two times in the night demanding to be fed in addition to his regular feeding schedule. “Well,” you might be saying, “why didn't you give him formula?!” I did. But that's not a good solution. If you’ve ever filled a water balloon until it pops, you know how I felt. Except that, fortunately (I think), my breast didn’t pop. Though that may have been a less painful solution. The only real relief is to get some of that fluid OUT, which--save for pumping--must be done by nursing. So skipping feedings or substituting formula only prolongs the pain and leads to the very real possibility of an infection. Fortunately things didn’t go THAT far for me. However, two weeks later I am still in some pain.

Remember that this was all going on simultaneous to the events I described in the previous post AND Dear Hubby’s employer has had enough demands on him that he also pulled about three 16 hour work days in addition to his regular work schedule in the midst of all this.

All this means that, while I’m a trooper, there IS a limit to my sacrifice. I fear for when Dear Son begins to get teeth, which he has fortunately been slow to do. So I’m thinking I may not have a choice but to wean him early, which feels very sad for me. Not to mention I have no experience doing this, and I’m terrified of the engorgement and a possible repeat of the afore mentioned events.

Well, if you’ve made it this far, I’m impressed. And fortunately for us both, this tale of drama and trauma seems to be over. The end.

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