Monday, November 30, 2009

Giving Thanks for Breastfeeding Support

On Friday, Tanya at the Motherwear Breastfeeding Blog wrote:

Earlier this week I encouraged everyone to provide feedback to their hospitals about your breastfeeding experiences. . . .

So I thought, during this week of giving thanks, that I'd balance things out by encouraging you to write to anyone who has made your breastfeeding experience better.

I'm running a little behind on this "assignment," but seeing as today is one year since my boobs and I "hit rock bottom" and I was the closest I ever came to giving up, it seemed like a good time to say these things.

There are many other people who supported me along the way, and I feel bad that I'm not thanking each and every one of them personally, but I think it's fair to say that these four are the ones who really made the biggest impact on our success.

I suppose I should begin at the beginning.

Dear LadyKay:
When Peeper came along, you were there when I needed you, with support and advice. You remind me that you and Kiddo1 made it through some similar challenges (jaundice, nipple confusion), and suggested that a nipple shield might help us as well.

But, more importantly, thank you for brainwashing indoctrinating setting such a great breastfeeding example for me when I was a teenager and young woman.

You taught me most of what I knew about breastfeeding before Peeper was born, and you showed me the benefits of full term (I don't like the word "extended") breastfeeding.

You made me a lactivist, decades before I ever lactated.

Because of that, I went into this 100% determined to breastfeed Peeper, come what may, and without that, I know I couldn't have stuck with it through our difficult start.

Thank you.

Dear DoulaK:
I don't know how I would have made it through Peeper's first six weeks without your advice and support, starting even before she was born.

Thanks in large part to you, Peeper's birth was as close to my ideal as possible, given the situation (four weeks early, in a hospital, unknown Group B Strep status, and her varying heart rate), and I was able to avoid an epidural or C-section that might have caused us even more problems.

I can't even begin to guess how many hours I spent on the phone with you over the next six weeks - often because you'd called me to check in, just when I was really needing someone to talk to.

You gave me tons of great advice and great suggestions, but even more importantly, you listened to me, and told me that everything we were going through was normal, and reassured me that Peeper would eventually figure this all out.

The one thing that kept me going in on the toughest days was that you kept telling me that she could do it, and that the effort - and pain - that I was going through would pay off in the end.

Even since we've been past that, and she's been nursing like a champ, you've continued to help us, with both practical advice and emotional support, especially during the time of her surgery.

There is no way that I can possibly repay you for all that you have done for our family; I can only try to "pay it forward," by helping and supporting other moms and babies, and hope that I make even a fraction of the difference for them that you have for us.

Thank you.

Dear Dr T:
I can not get over how lucky Shrike and I were to have found you. After our first session, we knew that you were a good fit for us, and that you "got" us, but we had no idea just how well-matched we were or how important that would turn out to be.

When we began seeing you, a little more than three years ago, we didn't even have any plans to become parents, and certainly weren't shopping for a therapist with any particular viewpoints on parenting, birth, breastfeeding, or anything of the like.

Since then, between us, we've been through three pregnancies (hmm, does that mean it's my turn again?) and along the way, we've found that as far out of the mainstream as we might be, with our parenting choices, you are swimming way over there with us.

Under the best of circumstances, it would be important to have a therapist who understands and supports the parenting choices that we're making, but given how difficult the early weeks were, and other issues that have arisen along the way, it's been even more crucial.

When I read other mothers' stories of their experiences with mental health professionals regarding breastfeeding, postpartum depression, and the like, I almost feel guilty for having had such great support!

Based on these women's accounts, I can easily imagine that many a therapist seeing me at two, three or five weeks postpartum would have told me that breastfeeding was just too upsetting for me, that I was on the brink of postpartum depression and that I should stop putting so much pressure on myself, accept that I was one of those women who "just can't breastfeed," and switch to formula.

I can't imagine anything that would have been worse for my mental health.

Instead, you told me that everything I was feeling was not only normal, but absolutely to be expected, given the circumstances. You commiserated with me about how much pumping - for lack of a better word - sucks. You understood, as only another nursing mother can, how important this was to me, and encouraged me to stick with it.

Of course, before Peeper was born, before she was even conceived, you were with us every step of the way, helping us to deal with the whole process of making her (Including months of biting your tongue about your own pregnancy as, week after week, we talked about our baby plans!), and wrote not one, but two letters to our fertility clinic, telling them that we weren't too crazy to have a baby.

And you've been with us through all the ups and downs of her first year - not only our breastfeeding struggles, but all of her health questions, her surgery, and so many other things that we've dealt with as new parents.

Through it all, you've supported and understood - not just intellectually, but really understood - our parenting choices, and helped us to feel secure in them, even in the face of criticism.

Thank you.

Dear Shrike:
All the advice and encouragement in the world would not have mattered without your support.

From day one - from long before day one - you have been there for me, for Peeper - for our family.

I know you've not always completely understood all my neuroses - and there have been plenty - but you have accepted them, and have supported me through them.

You gave Peeper all her feedings for the first few weeks when I couldn't bear to give her a bottle myself.

Then you gave her no feedings for months, when I couldn't bear for anyone to give her a bottle.

You hung in there with us, encouraging me to put her to the breast as often as possible, even when I'd have rather skipped it, because it hurt so much when she refused.

You held me as I cried, and held her as I pumped, and helped me hold her to try to nurse, and never suggested I should give up.

You listened to endless hours of nipple-talk.

You were there for us both in those difficult early days, and you've been there for us all along, even when we've not been so fun to be around.

There is nothing I love more than to watch you and Peeper together; it makes me so happy to see you making each other so happy.

I couldn't ask for anything more, and it makes me love you more every day.

Thank you.


  1. Dear Whozat,

    You're welcome. And thank you, because without you, I doubt I would have become the nursing mother that I was. My first real exposure to nursing came at age 8, when you were born. I remember standing in your bedroom, watching Anonymama sitting in the brown vinyl rocker/recliner (hey, it was 1968) breastfeeding you. I remember the intensity of emotion that I felt. I WANTED TO DO THAT. I don't recall ever being jealous of you taking Anonymama's time or attention, but I was extremely jealous of her, that she got to be your mother and to nurse you. I wanted to be your mother and I wanted to nurse you. Obviously, I didn't get to (I had little goodies) but I never had any question, from that moment on, that I wanted to have babies and I wanted to nurse them.

    When my time to be a mother finally came, you were a tremendous source of support for me. Even though most of the time we did not live in the same town, you were there when I needed you and helped me to make it through many difficult times and made sure that my children had the best Aunt Whozat in the entire world.

    Thank you.

  2. These are all so sweet... The one to Shrike made me cry.
    I so often complain about what was difficult in my breastfeeding journey... But I don't think I've ever really said Thank You to the people that made it possible for me to continue!
    I think I may steal your blog idea!


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