Wednesday, September 13, 2006

I'm not a pump mom anymore

Man, I've been thinking for a week now how to write this post, and I'm just stuck. So I'll have to live with whatever comes out of my keyboard at this point, since this post needs to be done with.

Since returning from San Diego, for almost a week I had been dealing with Darth D.'s cold that turned into wheezing, requiring round the clock nebulizer treatments. He's better now, thank God. But I'm still trying to wrap my mind around the 'asthma' diagnosis.

I know, I KNOW, that in this day and age asthma is FAR from the worst thing a child can get as far as illnesses go. I KNOW to thank my lucky stars that he doesn't have (oh God forbid) cancer, or a heart problem, or a liver problem. But the thing is, it's still a major pain in the butt. Darth D., he HATES having to sit for a nebulizer treatment. Doing it in the middle of the night is no picnic. And listening to him cough and struggle for breath is no fun, either.

I was feeding him breastmilk because I was trying to AVOID the asthma, and all the other problems that "they" tell you won't happen to your baby if you give your child nothing but breastmilk.

Darth A. only got a few days of breastmilk. For the entire first year, he only got sick a handful of times, and NEVER got an ear infection. Not once. But when I started taking him to playgroup at eighteen months, he started getting non-stop ear infections. That's when the peds finally realized that he had been snoring his entire life because he had enlarged adenoids, and the adenoids weren't letting the fluid drain out of his ears. So the first ear infection he got had never been resolved--the fluid just sat there, and kept getting reinfected. He had his adenoids, and then later, his tonsils taken out. Since the surgeries, he's only gotten ONE ear infection. I think that's pretty terrific. But until I had Darth B., I wondered if somehow I could have prevented his adenoids from being enlarged by feeding him breastmilk. (Yeah, now I realize how stupid that sounds.)

Darth B. got breastmilk for two months. At three months, in the middle of August, for God's sake, he got RSV. He wasn't in daycare, he hadn't been a premature baby, and up until that point, he had been completely healthy. But the RSV was hell on his little body, and he (and we) dealt with the 'aftermath' for two years. In the back of my mind, I wondered if I had pumped longer, if he had gotten breastmilk longer, whether he would have gotten RSV at all. But Darth B., it turned out, also had enlarged adenoids and tonsils which needed to be removed. So I felt like that problem, at least, was one that had nothing to do with me, and what choices I had made as a mother. It was a physical 'defect' written into my children's DNA.

Darth D. got breastmilk for five months, and for five months, he was never sick. Not even when everyone else in the house was sick, not even after his two older brothers, home with fevers and runny noses, kept putting their fingers in his mouth to suck. But two weeks after I stopped pumping, he got his first cold. And that cold resulted in an 'asthma' diagnosis. He caught the cold on the plane home from San Diego. It was his first time on a plane. Would he have caught it anyway, now matter what, even if he had still been getting breastmilk? Would breastmilk had made a difference in this chain of events? This is the question that haunts me. Another telling thing was that he didn't get an ear infection from the cold. Again, was that just luck, or did my feeding him breastmilk for five months somehow influence this?

When it comes to childhood illnesses, so much depends on the child's DNA, and luck. But I'd been sucked into this belief that my breastmilk would somehow prevent my son from catching ANY illness. Pumping was SO DAMN HARD, you see, and I NEEDED to believe that it was worth it. It was worth it, I believed, because it would prevent my son from BEING SICK. From ANYTHING. But that belief was misguided.

It's impossible to know what WOULD have happened if I had not pumped for Darth D. at all. Maybe he would have gotten sick months before. Maybe not. If I had continued to pump for him, maybe he would have caught that cold on the plane anyway. Maybe not. I do know what would have happened if I had continued to pump for him--I would have become resentful, frustrated, bitter, and I would have probably started to take it out on him, and the rest of the family.

So, was pumping worth it? Yeah, it was. I did the best I could for my baby. I can't protect my kids from all illnesses, but I can try my damn hardest to keep them as healthy as possible. And I know that feeding breastmilk is not just about the antibodies. There's other stuff in there that's good for them, too.

But I leave behind this phase of my life on a bittersweet note, because in the end, breastmilk still wasn't the cure-all I had fooled myself into believing it is. Pumping was worth it, the breastmilk probably helped Darth D. in ways that I can't even see--but it didn't accomplish all that I had hoped it would.

I wish I could leave behind this blog with a clear message of "pumping is SO worth it! You should do it!" But I feel uncomfortable with that, because pumping was SO DAMN TOUGH, and it was such a personal decision to make. All I can suggest to other women is, get all the information you can, from every source that you find, and make the decision that's right for you. In the end, pumping was still worth it for me. I'm proud to say that I was a pump mom. I'll have that for the rest of my life.

But the fact is, I'm not a pump mom anymore. It's time for me to leave this blog behind. So I call on other pump moms to start blogs of their own, if they haven't already, and if they have a blog, to blog more about their pumping experiences. We need to get more recognition out there.
We need T shirts! We need ads! We need a drink named after us!

Thanks to all the people who have read my blog, and commented on my blog, and emailed me good wishes and thank you's. You kept my spirits up, and made me feel not so alone.

And now, goodbye, and Godbless. Hope to see you around in another blog sometime.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

It's not magic fairy dust, is it?

Things we experienced with the two older kids that we were hoping to avoid with this baby since he got nothing but breastmilk for FIVE MONTHS:

1. Having tonsils and adenoids removed
2. Tubes in the ears
3. Asthma
4. Frequent ear infections

Things we have recently discovered:

1. Darth D. has asthma
2. Darth D. has enlarged adenoids

Asthma and enlarged adenoids seem to be the genetic makeup within our family. I had hoped, based on all the "research" out there, that by breastfeeding Darth D., I could avoid another baby with asthma.

Now I don't know what I was thinking. Breastfeeding is not some kind of magical gene therapy.

In any case, now you know why I haven't been posting. Darth D. caught a cold on the plane home from San Diego. It developed into bronchitis, which set off major wheezing. Now we have to nebulize him every three to four hours.

It's not unlike having to pump every few hours....:-(

Saturday, September 02, 2006

More on Mothers rights

More like lack thereof.
Here's another article stating how much our society is AGAINST mothers giving their babies breast milk.
Really, I'm SO MAD about this. What's a mom to do? Hear, over and over, how she's a TERRIBLE MOTHER if she doesn't give her baby breast milk--but give her no rights when it comes to ensuring her very ABILITY to produce said breast milk? Do we label her a bad mom, without labeling her boss a bad employer?


(Thanks for the link, Cecily!)

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

I'm back

San Diego was great. Well, mostly great. Almost perfect, except for a few snags and (ahem) breaks along the way.

Things that went wrong:
Frst of all, Darth A. got sick the second day we were there. Like, fever of 103, throwing up, upset stomach, the works. By the end of the third day, we were debating whether I should go home with the baby and sick kid, and leave Darth B. with husband in San Diego.

But the night of the third day, as I was walking from the bathroom to the bed, I walked into a door and...broke my toe. How bad was the break, you ask?
Bad enough that I took one look at it and realized that I would be spending the next few hours in the emergency room.
Bad enough that husband took one look at it and said, "I better go get help."
Bad enough that I knew that if I didn't get it straightened out, it would become very difficult for me to wear closed-toe shoes.
Bad enough that it suddenly looked like I had a thumb on my foot.
It was BAD.

So off we went to the emergency room, leaving the Darths with the wife of one of my husband's co-workers. Three hours and four X-rays later, the doctor finally agreed that yes, my toe was, indeed, broken. He pulled it back up (without any pain medication or any damn WARNING for that matter, WHAT THE HELL??), wrapped it to the other toe with a wad of tape, and sent me on my merry way.

The next day, my toe was still causing a limp but I was fine on Advil, and Darth A. was all better, so we decided to stay the rest of the trip. It was great from there on in. We hung out at the beach or by the pool, went out to eat a lot, and basically took it easy.

I didn't pump once. By the second day, my breasts were completely back to normal in shape and feel. I can still squeeze a few drops out of them if I try, but I think that's completely normal and might actually take a while to stop.

So, my friends, my pumping days are officially over. I'll probably write one more post on what it felt like to stop pumping, how I did it, etc., since I've gotten some questions about that. But after that...I don't know. I don't know what to do with this blog. I am no longer a "Pump Mom." The factory has permanently shut down. Should I hand the blog over to another Pump Mom? Should I keep it running, and have, like, "guest bloggers"? Let me know what you think.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Tah Tah for now

Am packing for trip. Will not be posting until return.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

My creative side

As I sit, in pain, exhausted,
My breasts all hard and hot to touch
My goal's in reach, almost accomplished
I'll say "goodbye, lactating ducts!"

For (almost) five long months I pumped
These overfilled huge breasts of mine
So that my baby could get plumped
On only breast milk he did dine

At all hours, day and night
I hooked myself to the damn machine
None could help with me with my plight
I couldn't even drink caffeine!

I did the best I could, I know
to give the best food to my child
I kept on pumping, even though
The clogged milk ducts, they weren't mild

People really just don't get
how difficult pumping can be
it tedious, it's hell--and yet
I'm sure other mothers would agree

It's all worth it, if you feel
That breast milk is above the rest
But sadly, your ideal
Of putting baby to the breast--

Just won't happen. The babe won't suck
for one good reason or another
It's sad that you're just out of luck
You're still a good mother.

And when I look at my sweet son
My heart just melts, I swell with pride
I say to myself, "it was worth it, hon."
He is my joy personified.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

A father's role

First of all, thank you guys for the kind comments to my last post. So far, I haven't gotten a single comment or email of the "YOU ARE A TERRIBLE MOTHER HOW DARE YOU STOP PUMPING YOU ARE KILLING YOUR CHILD" variety, which I was really dreading.

Second of all...engorgement?
ow ow ow ow ow ow ow ow ow ow ow ow ow ow ow ow ow ow ow ow ow fucking ow fucking ow fucking ow fucking OW OW OW OW
I've had cracked ribs before. This is way worse, people.

So. This question has been on my mind for a while.
How much influence do you think the husband/father of the baby should have on a mother's decision to breastfeed or pump? And how much influence do you think that they have in reality, regardless of whether it's "fair" or not?

When I had Darth A., three days after he came home and I had been reduced to a sobbing shaking ball of something resembling humanity on my bathroom floor, the last thing my husband wanted to do was pressure me to breastfeed. In fact, he knew that most of the angst I was feeling was directly related to my failure at breastfeeding. After all, I had been told time and again that breastfeeding is
"the most natural thing for a mother to do"
"the best thing for your baby"
"the fastest way to bond with your baby"
"the most incredible feeling in the world"
"something you will think on with pride for the rest of your life, because you did it"
But I couldn't breastfeed, which made me...
a bad mother
unable to bond with my baby
incapable of feeling good toward my baby
shameful and remorseful, because I was a failure

Thank God, my husband recognized that at that point, getting me out of that cold dark hole I had crawled into was way more important than what we fed the baby. So he kept repeating over and over to me what a good mom I am, how loving I am, how my breastfeeding skills (or lack thereof) in no way reflected the love I felt for my baby. So I managed to crawl out of that numbing gulf of desolation I was in, and I was okay.

After I had Darth B., my husband was very concerned that I would fall back into that depression if I tied too much of my feelings of "goodness" and "worthiness" as a mother into my ability to breastfeed again. So he made it very clear that he didn't care if I breastfed, one way or the other. But this time things were different, because I had my electric pump. I knew that formula was not the only alternative to breastfeeding. So when things went bad, I got out the pump and fed Darth B. the breast milk that way.

The husband was not that supportive, though. I mean, he thought it was a great idea, and was enthusiastic about it in theory, but when it came down to me handing him the baby and telling him to watch both Darths so I could disappear for a while and go pump, he wasn't so happy about it. He didn't really comprehend that at least in the beginning, I would need him to shoulder a lot more responsibility around the house so I could have the 'extra' time to pump. So in subtle ways, he made his 'minor' aggravation over the whole situation known over and over again. He NEVER came right and said, "don't go pump," but he acted so displeased every time. After a while, I stopped pumping so often, and only pumped when the baby was okay by himself or when my breasts got very full. But I had not started out with a good supply to begin with, and not keeping to a good pumping schedule didn't help. After two months, my milk was gone.

With Darth D., my husband's attitude was very different. He wanted Darth D. to get breast milk for as long as possible, but at least until he started solid food. When the whole 'nursing strike fiasco' happened, he made it very clear that he was willing to do whatever it took to help me pump. He would watch all three Darths while I went into another room to pump, he cooked, he cleaned, he pampered me...when I asked, he would stay up in the middle of the night with me just to keep me company while I pumped, so I wouldn't be lonely. He stayed home from work when the clogged ducts were really bad, so I could keep to a two-hour pumping schedule. Really, he was great.

The flip side of all this was that I knew that if I stopped pumping, I would be disappointing him greatly. Again, he never came out and said "I want you to pump no matter what," but the feeling I got from him was that if I stopped, I would be letting him down. And after all he was willing to do to support me, I didn't want that to happen. So I stuck with it through countless clogged ducts and sleepless nights. I don't want to give anyone the idea that I was pumping just for my husband, or that I was forced into it. But he was like my coach, always giving me pep talks and showing me how he believed that I could do this. Without his help, I never would have lasted this long.

His opinion didn't change until recently, after I had to go on antibiotics for mastitis for the second time, and the pediatrician said Darth D. could start rice cereal. Then he found out he was going to San Diego for a week. I brought up the idea of me and the children going with him. "But I don't think I should be pumping anymore," I said. "I think I should stop before the trip." He said, "yeah, I think it's time." And that was that.

In theory, breastfeeding (and pumping) should be the personal choice of the mother. It's her body, her time, her decision on how she feeds her baby. But in reality, I think the father has a huge effect on the mother's decision and the outcome of the whole situation. Of course, there will be women on both sides of the spectrum going "I was going to breastfeed my baby for as long as I wanted, no matter what! Even if that meant he would still be breastfeeding in elementary school!" And "there was no way in hell I was going to breastfeed, and I was ready to divorce my husband if he made an issue out of it!" But I think most women feel as I do, that they want what's best for the whole family, and sometimes that includes going that extra mile to make their partner happy. Sometimes that might mean breastfeeding or pumping for a little longer than they had planned, and sometimes, it might mean a little less.

I'll tell you one thing, though. I can't imagine how a woman could attempt exclusively pumping without any support from her partner or family. That would be too damn hard.