So after my debacle, which lasted a month, at the hospital I was literally handed a pile of discharge paperwork, asked to sign it and kicked out. I had been on bed rest, attached to 4 different machines, sliced open without a completely working spinal, had a child ripped from my abdomen, and could have lost my life, and I didn’t even get a high-five as I left. Seriously?
I tore through the paperwork when I got home in search of a manual. I needed some sort of step-by-step instructions for this little human I must now carry outside my womb. Obviously, it had to eat, it needed protection and such…..I waited for those ‘instincts’ to kick in, but all I felt was bloated, sore and exhausted. Is this the elation everyone was talking about when referring to motherhood?
Why did no one tell me that there was a chance I might not instantly bond with my daughter? I was both mortified and ashamed at how I was feeling and assumed I was alone with fear. I had pictured my birth experience over and over in my head; no drugs, vaginal delivery, doctor pulls her out and places her directly on my chest, she latches without incident and I immediately bond with her as our eyes meet and I can see into her soul…blah blah blah. Missed that boat, didn’t I?
Here I was, a brand new mother, who was now pumping breast milk around the clock in three hour intervals and then bottle feeding my newborn. This was NOTHING like I pictured motherhood to be. I was determined, while pregnant to exclusively breastfeed after reading research on the benefits, but could not get my own daughter to latch after she was born. Granted, that was in part due to the fact that I was on Narcotics from the C-section and exhausted from the trauma of her birth. However, my head was also filled with all sorts of nonsense from the NICU nurses, lactation consultant and everyone else in the world who had NEVER been in my situation; your nipples are too small to nurse, it is because she is a preemie, you have to use a nipple shield to start out, if you cannot latch her by the next feeding we are inserting a feeding tube with formula. PRESSURE?!?!?
For 3 whole weeks I pumped around the clock and NEVER supplemented with formula – this meant I pumped for 20 minutes and then took another 40 to feed my daughter. Ex. 12:00am Pump. 12:20am Bottle feed my daughter. 1:00am Wash bottle, freeze remaining milk. 1:30, go to bed. 3:00am Pump 3:20am bottle feed my daughter…..you get the picture. Motherhood was completely robotic for me at this point. I longed for things to be ‘normal.’
After a friend invited me to a La Leche League meeting, which I first thought she was asking me out for coffee, I did get my daughter to latch. The leader asked if I had ever heard of the ‘lift and push method.’ Assuming she was not talking about my new method of putting on a brassiere I sat there, bare-chested and allowed this woman, whom I had never met before, to show me how to correctly place my daughters mouth onto the breast. My daughter latched instantly, and for the first time since I gave birth, I felt like a mother. She was 3 weeks old.
So, lesson learned; there is no instruction manual for those first few weeks so that you are forced to learn what works for you and your child. This is the process that creates the bond between mother and child. So if you find yourself frustrated and lost and not sure where to start or who to turn to for advice, just focus on cuddling that little human being you just grew in your womb. As thier body heat radiates enough to start a fire, take comfort in the fact that you will figure it all out together. I promise.