The prospect of my wife being pregnant had been an exciting and beautiful notion, with periods of frightening moments of fatherhood scattered in between the entire pregnancy, of course. We had waited a long time, and even though we knew we could handle it, it still seemed scary. Our logic was, “hey, sixteen year old girls have babies all the time; if they can handle it then so can we.” That makes sense, doesn’t it?
Well, we tried to do everything right, from the start. We ate organic, ate a wide variety of foods, and kept the sugars to a minimum. Wifey was like a beast with the workouts too, yoga, P90X, jogging, and even dance sessions on the Wii so long that I had to beg her to stop. We also read books, like Brain Food for Baby (highly recommend by the way), and we scoured the internet for trusted information. And I have already blogged about the baby classes, and much of the comical musings that were brought on with it. By the end of the pregnancy, we had our plan in place, and we felt ready.
You know what happened though? The plan didn’t work. We were confused by the contractions, surprised by the level of pain, and of course, baby was coming early. We never really panicked though, constantly repeating to ourselves that if fifteen year olds could do it, so could we. We went to the hospital, and after hours of pushing, we realized that we were going to have to do a Cesarean birth. That is when the shit hit the fan for me, and the first thought of real fear entered my mind. C-sections, while routine and common, are still surgeries under the knife. I am normally the calm one of us two, but I freaked out, for reasons outside of the scope of this puff piece.
Anyways, everything went ok, and later that night the real game of propaganda began. We met our first lactation consultant. Oh yes, this is a real person, and a real position of the hospital corps. Of course we had planned to breastfeed. Of course it hurt my wife’s already uber-sensitive body to do so. Sometimes, we learned, babies latch on to the breast and it hurts like hell. Of course we kept trying anyways. Of course it was killing me to watch her in pain. Of course we wanted a healthy, happy baby. Do you think we are monsters?
The lactation consultant came on like a highly specialized Storm Trooper spreading Darth Vader’s message of conformity and critical necessity. For a moment, her eyes seemed to signal that things would be getting physical at any second and that a slew of backup storm troopers would be entering at any moment to quell any resistance. I was ready to defend my family. It was a time of uncertainty and frustration, the likes of which none of the baby classes had prepared us for.
I highly sensationalize the actual events, naturally, but there really were some tense moments. When I had seen my wife cry enough, around night three, I had to ask the nurses to take it easy. It was only then that they had us begin using the breast pump and feeding the baby with tiny tubes. Through all this time, our experience had been pretty terrible. Time that we should have spent bonding with our baby and finding ways to feed her that were sustainable, was made sour by tension filled hours of trying to force the baby to latch on to my wife’s distraught and pain-filled breasts.
I had never before seen anyone make my wife feel like such a failure. She is a strong person, and the strongest woman that I know. There were no words that I could say or statistics I could give that would have changed how she felt, though. As if seeing our birth plan go out the window had not been enough, they had to suggest that she was inadequate or abnormal, thus implying that she was not a good mother. She was giving milk. What would have been so wrong with going straight to the pump when things were not working out? We were all about trying, but when is enough, enough?
The truth is that every mother is different. We would go on to later learn that many of our friends had similar, and even much worse experiences. In truth, only about 11% or so of mothers are able to exclusively breast feed beyond six months, or something close to that. I think I read that around 25% can do it exclusively beyond three months. I would never try to dispute the many benefits of breast feeding. The information is pretty overwhelming on its benefits to the baby’s overall health when compared to formula only. Pass down your immunity to me, mom? Yes, please!
Talking about the benefits is the easy part. The CDC and the American Academy of Pediatrics can do the research and make recommendations to their heart’s content. The action of it is quite another. It is not only personal, but the experience can be a source of tension, and if left unchecked, real resentment could set in. Post partum depression anyone? No, thanks. I’ll pass.
The most important part of the experience is passing on mother’s free, delicious, healthy, nutritious milk for baby to drink up and be healthier than not. If it works out, and you can breastfeed and bond through it without resentment, then you are one of the lucky ones, and congratulations. If you can, at least add breast milk by means of pumping, to the formula. If not, then straight formula is ok. Baby will be fine with your love and a life full of nutritious choices. That is the bottom line. Only, I think that the lactation nazis can’t see the forest from the trees. By the way, when did everyone stop thinking for themselves?