Human Pacifier

It’s been one of those weeks in our house where life just seems to get in the way. Everyone has felt under the weather and ragweed is blossoming in full force. It’s a joke in the Scruffy City that if you didn’t have allergies when you arrived here…you do now. And it’s true. We’re basically always voted in the top 10 cities for the worst allergies. If we are being totally honest the grogginess of battling allergies, preventing them from becoming a full blown cold or sinus infection, feeding the boy at night, keeping up with his needs during the day, and trying to maintain a general level of cleanliness in the house has me on the brink. Stay-at-home moms are warriors, man. I never underestimated them before, but now I never will. All of this is to say that I’m exhausted. Like cry in the middle of the coffee shop exhausted and I love the time I’ve spent at home. I wish it could be this way forever. But, I’ve had very little of myself to give this week. And when you are the food source for another human being you don’t always get the option to say, “no”.  Sure, I have bags of breast milk squirreled away in the freezer, but pumping milk also requires some sort of effort so in my mind despite the fact that I feel awful I might as well just feed the boy the good old fashioned way and give him the boob. I’m trying to save my milk for late nights when I am sleeping hard, days when the boy stays with my mom so I can accomplish something other than our survival, and my eventual return to the true-crime hustle.

It Ain’t Easy

I have a complicated relationship with breastfeeding. There was a moment in the hospital when the boy latched for the first time that I thought, “We’re not going to be able to do this.” It was painful, bordering on excruciating and I had just gotten done with 17 hours of labor without a single bit of pain medication. I knew it was wrong. I had enough friends and family members who struggled with breastfeeding to know that this wasn’t supposed to be a painful process thru and thru. It was going to take some getting used to, but this was too much. The first two days my son was alive he ate some from the breast, but got most of his milk from a syringe, tube, finger, and a spoon. I asked if they had checked him for tongue-tie when he initially went to the nursery. The nurses assured me that he had been checked, but that they would send the lactation consultant to see me as soon as possible. Let me tell you, a good lactation consultant is a gift from the powers that be. A lot of people don’t know that breastfeeding can be complicated as best, but these women…they know their shit. They taught me different holds and showed me exactly where my nipple should land in the boy’s mouth. But something was still off despite the fact that the consultant said I was doing everything right and that I had the perfect nipples for breastfeeding (such a strange compliment). I was devastated at the prospect that this might not be for me. I didn’t tell anyone that I had any doubts. I was just determined. After our second consult I asked the lactation consultant if she though he might have a tongue-tie. Sure enough she thought he might. He saw another pediatrician and eventually had both lips and tongue clipped. And everything about feeding became a million times easier and less painful. We never looked back and my doubts immediately faded. Mamas, trust your instincts.

Literal Titty Baby

The boy is a good eater. A very good eater, so good that he wants to do it 24/7. Awake. Asleep. Doesn’t matter he wants to eat and touch me. And apparently he has his father’s metabolism. He should be approximately 9 million pounds at this point, but he’s just putting on weight at a healthy rate. It’s really kind of annoying. Those Strike genes are crazy good stuff. Little did I know when we started our breastfeeding journey that it meant my child would want to be attached to me at all times and if his mouth isn’t latched on to my nipple directly then he wants to have it hanging out of his mouth or his face touching it just in case he decides he wants to eat. And on days when he isn’t feeling great he wants to actually nurse every second of the day. Before I was a parent and thought I knew everything I would have thought or said something like, “Well just don’t let him do that.” (Laughs maniacally and eye begins to twitch) Fuck off. I’m not a chump. It is not for lack of trying to get this child to use a pacifier or a bottle, hangout in his play gym, sit in the bouncer, lay in his crib, or just live for a second not on my body. I’m not stranger these days to being screamed at or baby sassed and even though this kid makes me a puddle of mush I think I still have a pretty thick skin.  But, like his parents, the boy is nothing if not persistent or stubborn as hell. Whichever way you choose to look at it. And there are days where I would rather drop dead than be touched for one more second. Those days I just want to tear my boobs off and hand them to my child and tell him that I don’t want them anymore and he can have them. I can’t decide if that is an only-child thing, a human thing, or a dramatic thing. Let’s just say all three to make me feel better. I’m an only child and I have basically a 3-foot personal space bubble around me at all times. It’s the reason I am not allowed to go to concerts or sporting events that don’t give me a designated seat anymore. Being someone’s comfort and food source has been an adjustment to say the least.

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Photo by: Colleen Keough Petree

Royal Pain in the…Boob?

I didn’t know boobs could get tired and mine get really, really tired. There are days that my nips look like soggy bathtub toes. This is because the boy is a really good faker and seems like he is still eating, but really he is asleep and using me as a human pacifier. We know if nothing else will comfort him he can be passed off to me and within seconds he will be fine. As hard as that is sometimes there is a part of me that loves that I have that effect on him. But, the second he is upset or hungry my boobs can sense it and my letdown begins. Hell, he can just look at me and there it goes. Fun thing about that? My body didn’t think that the pins and needles feeling was enough for it to know that milk is on its way. My letdown burns with the fire of a thousand suns and I start to leak everywhere. It is painful. Doesn’t matter where I am at or what I am doing I become a milk geyser. If I could do something about it I might be borderline embarrassed, but there isn’t a damn thing I can do about it so I’ve just embraced it. Another reason I have soggy bathtub toe nips? My breast pads are constantly soaked. Whoever invented those could become a billionaire solely from keeping me comfortable and dry. I invested in reusable ones because I feel like I’m single-handedly responsible for saving the planet and FMLA has made me poor. The boy is also an aggressive eater. There are times he is so happy and consumed in eating that he tears at my nipples like he’s a puppy. It takes everything I have in me not to boop his nose. There other day he pulled it like 2 inches from my body. I squealed. There may or may not have been tears.

Not the Fountain of Youth

As silly (and vain) as it may seem there have been a fair amount of tears associated with my boobs these days. My letdown burns like a mother, my nips are used as chew toys, and simply put they just aren’t what they used to be and that has been the hardest part of my postpartum body to accept. One of the best compliments I received in college was from a classmate was that I had some of the perkiest breasts she has ever seen. I’ve held on to that for years. If I had nothing else I had perky boobs. When I got pregnant they were perky and full. They were never huge. They were just right and I loved them. Now not so much. I have mom boobs. I love them for different reasons, but the streaks of purple, extra pink nips, and the heaviness and emptiness that comes from filling and emptying of milk is still taking some getting used to. But, I love that they are responsible for giving my boy a full belly at night.

What IS there to Like?

Before y’all think I’m down on breastfeeding (cause everyone on the internet is a hater these days) let me reiterate that for everything that is hard about breastfeeding there is something equally as fascinating and rewarding. I can’t pretend that every time I pump (I’ll write about that necessary evil one day) or accidentally squirt milk across the room that I’m not a little bit fascinated. I have the same, “that came out of me” reaction every time. It’s shocking. The same milk that feeds my son can also help clear up his baby acne and has about a billion other uses. It’s liquid magic. And making that milk can help melt off all of that ass fat I accumulated growing a human and eating delicious lard fried donuts every week. It’s science. If you’re into science this is a cool and encouraging article a friend sent me when I began breastfeeding. And there are days like today that we laze around and he eats a leisurely second breakfast or elevenses and pets me on the chest as if to say, “Thanks mom”.  It’s a gift and sometimes it brings me to my knees with gratitude that I get to spend that special time with him. Those moments during the day are ours. Do I feel lucky to be able to do that for my son? Totally. I know that not everyone is as lucky as I have been. I’m just here to let you know it ain’t easy. I’m so thankful to my friends that shared their stories with me. I thought it would just be second nature. Caveperson style instinct and ease. Nope.

Do What is Right—For You

I also know that fed is best. I don’t think any mom should ever be shamed or made to feel like she is less because she can’t breastfeed. What the hell is that about these days anyway? Sometimes it’s just not an option and that is okay. I was adopted. Not a single bit of breast milk touched this sass mouth. And to top it all off I was lactose intolerant. I got soy formula and I’m pretty sure it was before the days of putting DHA in everything. I’m here, fine, and a mostly well adjusted human being and I don’t have an extra appendage or strange ailment. Do what is right for you, your baby, and your family. You don’t have anyone else to please. Just know that if you are having a rough go of it you are not alone. If you need to reach out to someone about it you can reach out to me! I definitely encourage those who are struggling to reach out to someone. Even though my specific struggle (it’s still exhausting every night) didn’t last very long it was just a comfort to know that there were other moms in my immediate friend group that also didn’t just magically pick up their baby and breastfeed.

The most encouraging words I’ve heard all week are, “You got this mama. Remember, you can do hard things.” You can and you will.

And a word to the wise. Count your blessings. Either way count them. Because one day your little one might start to latch and never turn back and you will be feeding your baby  (who is taking their sweet time) on the couch and you’ll need to poop. Bad. Just saying. Not that I know from experience or anything.

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