Monday, August 6, 2012

Purple Mountain Majesty a.k.a Adventures in Breastfeeding

I grew up in a very modest family. I don't mean modest in that we didn’t have much in the way of the physical trappings, although that was true too. I mean modest in that we were taught from a very early age to keep our bodies covered at all times. This was drilled into me by my sweet mother and progressed over the years in numerous discussions about the appropriate length of shorts and skirts (to the knee without exception), whether sleeveless was appropriate(never), and how tight clothing should be (consistent with a potato sack).

It was also a place that the subject of sex was only broached once in your life when mom sat you down around ten years old and gave you an anatomically correct biology lesson with charts and graphs. After that it was never to be spoken of again. I remember one day in the sixth grade when it finally occurred to me how the mechanics of the whole thing worked and I did a spit take at the lunch room table. Ughh, is that for real?!?

Needless to say, my parents took a traditional view of both subjects consistent with their upbringing.  I paid attention and outside of home whenever the subject of body parts or anything else came up I would react with the obligatory red face and toe scraping. It was so ingrained in me that after Buns and I got married I would get dressed in the closet. That’s how modest I was and no, I’m not kidding.

Mom also had her kids all in the late 70’s and early 80’s when mothers everywhere were being told that formula fed babies were healthier. As the oldest of four, all I had ever seen was bottles and quite of few of them.

By the time I was pregnant with my first baby things had changed. “Breastfeeding was best” and I wanted only the best for my babies. Little did I know that the joy of nursing that all the books talked about was not exactly what it was cracked up to be.

First, the books do not tell you the truth about those first days after you give birth when you “may feel some discomfort when your milk comes in”. 


What actually happens is that one morning you will wake up  with mutant exotic dancer boobs. Hard as rocks, the size of Mount Kilimanjaro, throbbing, excruciating, exotic dancer boobs. This pain and suffering is made doubly worse by the fact that your precious newborn will want to eat exactly every 15 minutes and in the process of “learning how to nurse” themselves will be basically suctioning pieces of your flesh off. Please see blisters, chaffing, raw, and bleeding in the dictionary.

I’m not sure who cried more during these early days, me or my babies but this much is true, Mom’s who nurse deserve an award. Maybe one called the Purple Mountain Majesty Medal for Injuries Sustained in the Act of Nursing would be appropriate.

Another issue the books don’t really prepare you for is that once your milk has come in it will sometimes decide to turn you into a sprinkler system without warning. The first time Buns and I left the house after having my oldest, we were standing in the middle of a crowded Wal-Mart when someone’s baby decided to cry. Cue the irrigation system. I looked down in horror at my rapidly soaking shirt, ripped Bun’s jacket out of his hands, wrapped myself in it and took off for the exit like a bat out of you-know-where. I’m surprised that the associates didn’t try to tackle me in the aisle. I’m sure I looked like I had shoved a something under my coat and was making a break for it.

All of that does get better after what seems to be about a hundred years, but what in reality is a few weeks. With exception, and she is always exceptional, was my daughter Bella. All the boys were voracious eaters but Bella just couldn’t seem to figure it out. With her I tried the football hold, the cross-carry hold, the pledge of allegiance, begging, pleading, praying and everything else I could think of to get her to latch on properly.  About a week in, I was sure she was going to starve to death and so I called my doctor who got me in touch with a lactation specialist.

For those who aren’t familiar with this there are nurses out there who specialize just in helping mom’s and babies figure this stuff out. I promptly made an appointment to see her and was invited to the support group that met the half-hour before my appointment. “That sounds great” I thought, “support groups are where everyone sits in a circle and talks about their problems, that might be ok.”
When I arrived the group was already in session. I was right about the circle part. What I wasn’t prepared for was that every single woman in the room had her shirt either open or completely off and was nursing a baby. I stood in the doorway like a deer in the headlights, the modesty program in my head spinning out of control. I was grabbed by the elbow by the lactation specialist and propelled to a spot on the floor in the circle. They were going around  telling everyone how much milk they produced in a day. Apparently this was a big deal. When it came to me, with red face and trying to look at the ceiling I told them. Thunderous applause rose up, I guess I was quite the milk truck. Go me!

When I finally got out of there I had a whole new understanding of how excited some people really are about this subject and I say good for them. Motherhood is an awesome privilege and if you find nursing to be a joy I think it is wonderful. The up side of all the drama is that there is something really lovely about being that close to your little one for those few short months and it is all completely worth it to give them all the benefits that we now know nursing provides. But for me, I’m tremendously glad I won’t ever have to do it again.



P.S. About an hour after I initially published this post I got a call from my angel mother who informed me that she did actually nurse all us little rascals for the first six weeks before switching us to bottles. Who knew? Apparently I was not really paying attention to such things back then. Kind of like when my brother Kent was born, and while staying with my grandma she asked me whether I would rather go see my new baby brother or go to a Conway Twitty concert at the state fair. No hesitation. Conway Twitty. 

So to my mom and all you nursing veterans out there, Purple Mountain Majesty Medals for you all!

1 comment:

  1. Oh my gawwwsh, I was laughing so hard, the kids kept asking me what was so funny. LIke I could tell them! You are perfectly hilarious, and you nailed it, you completely nailed it! I love you! Now I need to go build a fancy-schmancy case for all my Purple Mountain Majesty medals.


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