Can you pinpoint the worst day of your life? I can. It came just 4 days after Little M was born.
Our story starts out like many first-time parent stories do. Everything was great while we were in the hospital. Then we went home and had absolutely no idea what we were doing. Who let us come home with this tiny baby without taking a final exam? Are they nuts??? Still, we somehow managed to figure most things out.
It definitely wasn't easy for us. Little M decided to show up 2.5 weeks ahead of schedule. The first of our family was scheduled to visit 2 days before his due date, which meant we were on our own for a while.
I talked a lot with my family over the phone, particularly my sister Jill who already had two kids of her own. She kept asking me if I was engorged yet and could not believe that my answer was always no. She would ask me if I could hear him swallowing, to which I would reply, "I think so?" Spoiler alert: he wasn't.
Little M came home with us on a Thursday. That night we started to notice weird things, like he was making a strange gulping noise. We called the nurse hotline several times those first couple of days. They talked us down a few times, but had us take his temperature just to make sure.
By Saturday, my mom alarm was going nuts. Little M slept for a very long time. He wasn't eating. The final straw was the fever he now had. So around noon that day, we took him to the emergency room. At four days old. FOUR. DAYS. OLD.
With all the postpartum hormones raging through my body, I could pretty much do nothing but cry and think of every possible worst outcome in existence. While we were waiting for Little M to get examined, he projectile vomited twice. They determined that he was dehydrated because my milk hadn't come in yet. Awesome.
Only four days old, and I'm already a terrible mother.
How could my own body betray me? Betray my baby??? I'm supposed to be able to feed him. How is this even possible? He's going to die and it will be all my fault. I'm so sorry, my little baby. I'm so sorry. I'm so sorry. I'm sooooooo sorry.
They brought us some formula and Ray gave Little M his very first bottle. He guzzled it. I'm so sorry for starving you. Little M had an ultrasound to make sure there were no blockages. Ray gave him some more formula so they could monitor the fluid through his digestive tract. He guzzled that bottle, too. I'm the worst mother ever. I'm so very sorry I hurt you.
After being in the ER for over twelve hours, we went home with some formula and a game plan to make sure that Little M was properly fed. Jill immediately hopped on a plane to help me out. I will be forever grateful to her for coming to support me during that time. I don't know what I would have done without her.
I spent the next few weeks fighting to establish a supply. I took fenugreek supplements. I did nurse-ins. I pumped when I could which wasn't very often since Little M literally nursed every hour. I eventually got to a point where we no longer needed to feed him formula. After about 2.5 months, we were able to ditch the bottle completely.
As Mother's Day neared, I saw a local photographer offering breastfeeding photo sessions. I knew that this was exactly what I wanted for my very first Mother's Day. I wanted to remember nursing Little M forever.
At 25 months old, I weaned Little M. It was definitely harder on me than it was on him. He loved to nurse. At two years old, he would still nurse at least six times a day. But I think I loved it more. I fought so hard to make it happen. I wasn't quite ready to let go. But I had to give it up for the sake of Baby J.
My breastfeeding journey with Little M still stirs up so many emotions. There's the overwhelming joy as I remember how he used to love to sleep on my breast once he was done eating. There's the feeling of being trapped when he would actively nurse for 75% of the day. And there's the incredible guilt of not knowing that I wasn't actually feeding my baby. Over three years later, and that guilt has not completely subsided.
But now I have a new breastfeeding story in the works with Baby J. As we celebrate World Breastfeeding Week here in Seattle, I encourage you to capture your own breastfeeding story. Take selfies while you nurse. Ask your spouse, friends, and family to take a photo of you. And if you would like a professional breastfeeding photo session, then I would love to hear from you.