Fast forward 2 years and there I was, struggling to breastfeed my newborn son. Because of the reduced nerve sensitivity in my nipples, my letdowns have never been fast. So, slow milk letdown = frustrated baby = sore, cracked, bleeding nipples. With Desmond, I had to wear a nipple shield most of the 6 months I fed him because my nipples wouldn't heal. My friend Christy told me that it sounded like he had tongue tie, which could very well have been the case. I had to rent a hospital-grade pump to help keep up my supply. It was this HUGE, heavy machine that looked like the engine of a muscle car. It was so heavy and so loud that the only place I could pump was at home. Desmond was hungry all the time and it showed: he was in the 1% of weight and 25% height for his age group up until we started weaning at 6 months and giving him solids.
4 years later and I'm so much happier and more at peace with my decision to supplement Roman with formula. At 5 months, I still nurse him every time he eats (unless I'm not with him), but I also supplement with formula after every single feeding (except at night) since my "altered breasts" can't keep up with his demand. Yes, I know very well that formula is a far second place to breastfeeding, but I also know that I was never this content and at ease when I was breastfeeding Desmond. With Roman, I actually feel like I'm nursing him. With Desmond, it was a torturous means of alimentation.
So, I have two wonderful little boys, one who was exclusively breastfed for 6 months and the other who wasn't and I have had the fortune to experience both as a mother. And I'm A-OK with that.
But even though I had milk, breastfeeding did not come easily or painlessly. During those first couple of weeks, Roger or my mother had to rub my feet and calves to distract me from the sharp pain radiating from my nipple through my entire body. Though it was a good effort, tears flowed endlessly throughout each feeding session.
About 5 days postpartum, I pulled the Munch off and to my horror discovered blood around her entire mouth. I was bleeding from the inside out. I pumped the rest of the day to give my nipples a break, but that milk was unusable as it was dark pink, full of blood. But I continued on, and it slowly got easier and less painful, until one day a few weeks later, it didn't hurt at all.
I'm not going to lie, when we moved abroad when the Munch was just 6 weeks old, the ability to breastfeed was definitely beneficial for the ease it provided living a somewhat nomadic life. We never needed to worry about making a bottle, or where we would find the correct formula as we traveled around Spain. On flights, I fed her easily on the way up and down, never having to worry if her ears were popping. But I continued pumping anyway, just in case. Well that was futile, because the Munch stopped taking the bottle. This was beyond frustrating because it made it impossible for me to do things I was really looking forward: attending a futbol match, having more than 2 drinks in one evening, or staying out when a friend came to visit...Roger was able to enjoy our life abroad in a way I didn't -- with freedom. And I became resentful.
The Munch's attachment to my breast and our subsequent attachment to each other while back home in the states became suffocating. I had lost myself completely to my baby; I never did anything for me. I longed for the days when breastfeeding would be over. And then, when she was about 10.5m old, I needed antibiotics. But I refused to take them until the Munch fully and happily took the bottle before bed: that took over a month.
I'll never forget the night when I was laying on our bed looking into her room through our open doors and listening intently to my husband singing to her. It was the 2nd night in a row that he was giving her the bottle without struggle before bed. And it hit me, like a ton of bricks: someone else could do what only I had been doing since giving birth, since she was conceived. Someone else could sustain her life through nutrition, and I was now replaceable. I bawled. I bawled and bawled and bawled. A mini era had ended and our relationship would change, and I was scared of not being needed anymore.
When it came time to breast feed again, I thought I had it in the bag. However, once again, breastfeeding my child was extremely painful and difficult; I got an infection. If it weren't for Roger, holding my tear-covered face in his hands as I cried, "I can't do it, I just can't do it," and reminding me that I pushed through last time and that he was confident I could do it again, then I would have quit right then at only 2 weeks in. Then slowly, time proved him right: feeding sessions once again became less painful and I didn't dread the latch like [I'd assume] a radiologist dreads reading Dolly Parton's mammogram.
After storing about 15 small bags of breastmilk, I stopped pumping altogether. No, I did not have supply problems. If you have ever pumped, you know it can be very time consuming and requires effort; I was just too busy and too tired with my 3 little ones, that I didn't have that extra time and energy. On top of that, I was worried about growing a Frankenboob again. Yes, it is superficial. But it really REALLY sucks having a Frakenboob! I was so traumatized by my little right B boob vs. my massive left D boob during the last year I breastfed, that I never pushed myself to pump much this time around in fear of suffering the same awful booby fate. Maybe if I didn't know the horror my breasts were capable of, I would have made pumping a priority. It wasn't a memory that could be easily erased.
Besides, my other son had been growing well on formula. Through him, I guess I was forced to learn & accept that formula wasn't the devil. Therefore, this son could drink formula when he needed a bottle, too. Yes, he would drink formula, my breasts would stay more proportional, and my summer bathing suits would not be stuffed with 3 pushup pads this year. When I went out with my husband, I wouldn't have to worry about how my mountain looked next to the mole hill. Of course, I wanted to be the best and most dedicated mother ever, but I learned the hard way that even the most admirable and wonderful of all mothers need time: time for themselves, time for their relationships...and when I took that time, I wanted to feel beautiful and sexy and attractive, not self-conscious, not only like a milk tank. I didn't want Roger to be able to pretend he was having sex with 2 different women.
Despite my adamant resistance to pumping, my hubby persuaded me to pump more when the tiny stash of breast milk bags depleted because Hawk was rejecting the formula. But I only pumped just enough for half a bottle, or until I noticed a small increase in size in my "Olympian", as I used to call her. One night, the Munch helped me pump-literally- and this chore I had been dreading turned into a beautiful moment for me & my favorite girl. After all, me doing something solely for the benefit of her baby brother, but focusing completely on her is extraordinarily exceptional. Best pumping session EVER.
Now that Hawk is taking the bottle with formula easily, I am seriously considering stopping breast feeding. I walk around like a fucking zombie, running on minuscule hours of sleep each night, and I desperately want him to fill up on formula all day long. When he is biting my nipple like it's a piece of beef jerky, I desperately want to be giving him a bottle of formula instead. We shall see, however....because each time I think about it seriously ending, the ache in my heart begins to grow and I am not sure if I'm ready for this era to end.