I don’t want this space to just reflect my experience as a mom–I am NOT nor will I ever be, a mommy blogger. But I do feel like it’s important to be candid and honest about my experiences because that is what has helped me all through my life. Both from reading others’ experiences and from the catharsis of “letting it out” in writing. Once an experience is on this blog it’s a little less heavy in my mind.
For those reasons, I’m going to talk today about my personal experience with breastfeeding, and the mystery/lack of medical support/bullshit I was told–and as usual, my feeeeeelings about it. If anyone reading is curious (and particularly if they want to breastfeed) I highly, highly recommend doing some research on lip ties and tongue ties. I literally thought “being tongue-tied” was a colloquial way of describing tripping over one’s words, until I met Allyn, who had a tongue tie his entire childhood and adult life, until surgery. I knew it was something to look out for, which is something most new moms don’t even hear about.
I always didn’t care one way or the other about breastfeeding. When everyone asked my answer was “I’ll try” because I’m pretty “meh” about all things motherhood and always have been. I didn’t want to hear the tips and tricks and advice and invasive conversations, because there’s nothing I can’t stand more than mom advice after asking me a question. It’s like they’re opening an avenue to lecture me. Not interested. Inwardly, I always just assumed in my head that yes, I would breastfeed, and there wasn’t a question of it. After all, “my mom did it with 4 of us” as you hear so often…..
What makes me angry is that there was no attempt to help me at all. My pediatrician didn’t notice his tongue tie. I was the one who brought it up, and she clipped it but left him with a lip tie. The lactation consultant never appeared at all in my hospital room, even when I asked for her. She huffed her way in hurriedly as we were packing up and dismissively said she could give me a breast pump “it isn’t that good” when I asked for one. When I asked for advice, on the way out the door, about lip and tongue ties she stated her own daughter was in her 40’s and had just found out she currently had both. Like…how does that help me? Does your 40 year old daughter breastfeed???
But this conversation was on my way out the door in a wheelchair. Is that an appropriate time to show a new mother with zero support how to breastfeed??? During the course of my postpartum stay I was a bit preoccupied, recovering from a c section after 40 hours of labor. I looked/felt so dead that the nurses just let me sleep and fed my baby formula constantly, despite me asking them to wake me up if it was time, to attempt to breastfeed. (I was really out of it and couldn’t lift my arms for awhile either, sooo thanks, shitty anesthesiologist) But I told two separate administrators, plus a nurse, that I hadn’t had an appointment with a consultant yet. My point is that I was charged for aftercare in which the CNAs helping me stand up to go pee were basically all the “support” I got. (No offense to them, shoutout to my CNAs, they were AMAZING)
My experience was that I came out of this horrific, traumatic birth and then sat in a tiny, stuffy room where a nurse told me flatly “yep that’s breastfeeding, it just hurts” after the baby latched on and bruised me beyond belief. All the months of reading every book, every SINGLE book DRILLING into my head that my baby won’t be as handsome or as intelligent without breastmilk, that he won’t love me as much or thrive as much, and with breastmilk he won’t ever get sick or have asthma or ear infections and life will be easy, and he won’t die of SIDS…do you love your baby? BETTER BREASTFEED THEM!!!!….DO YOU WANT YOUR BABY TO DIE OF SIDS? NO? BREASTFEED! ….all to end up with a baby who couldn’t latch because of a tongue tie and a lip tie, and me sitting there, frustrated and in tears, with severe PPD unable to fight against it. Pumping didn’t work either, the pump I got was cheaply made and had several issues and in between taking care of a newborn and recovering I just didn’t have the energy to prioritize a goddamn breast pump.
I went to the baby’s one month checkup and was, at the time, still doing a combo of breast feeding and supplementing with formula, but he still couldn’t latch properly because of the tie and was swallowing air. 30 minutes of starved feeding ended with frustrated screams until we popped the formula bottle in his mouth, then he was fine. Every. Single. Feed. Do you know how demoralizing it is to watch your kid fight and fight for a good milk flow, screech unhappily at you, and then sigh in relief at a powder mix? Such empowerment much womanhood. Just what I needed.
I told the pediatrician I wanted his lip tie taken care of and she shamed me so hard, saying it was invasive, unnecessary, “he might end up with a gap later on but that’s no problem” (okay?) “a lot of kids break their own lip ties from minor trauma like falling” (like I should just push him around every opportunity to assist…?) “dentists are the only ones who correct lip ties” (false) “and there are two dentists in the Salt Lake Valley that I know of who do it so at this point you have to wonder if it’s a money grab” this woman had a personal soap box against lip ties. I said directly to her, “I can’t breastfeed” and she replied, “okay.”
That was it …..I just didn’t argue. She didn’t even look in his mouth.
My PPD was so bad that my roommates, the most beautiful and wonderful angels in this world, took charge and among other things got me a new pediatrician and dragged me and the baby to his two month appointment. I informed the new doctor of the lip tie with what I can only describe as hopelessness; he examined my son’s mouth right then and said it was a severe, rare type, and called in a senior pediatric doctor. That doctor then asked if another doctor could come observe the procedure. Not only were they willing to help and do it on the spot, they were treating this seriously and using it as a learning experience to help others in the future. Thirty seconds and two drops of blood and it was over, his whole mouth had changed shape. The doctor mentioned that he would research how best to document the procedure so that it wouldn’t cost as much. Just a money grab, right?
Unfortunately, it was too late for me. Ender was done trying, He didn’t want anything to do with breastfeeding, and I was so over it and angry that the last thing on my mind was pumping in the middle of this rage and depression. I felt so defeated. And I still do. I appreciate the “Fed is best” movements and I appreciate everyone’s sentiments that I’m not a failure, but I don’t mind saying that I still feel like one. I feel like if I wanted I could pump and try to get my supply up again and at least give him bottles. Truthfully my PPD is anything but resolved so just getting through the day is the most I can do and I feel like I’ve failed my baby.
I found the below video and it was the ONLY THING that gave me a bit of hope. Women in their ‘mama tribe’ and feelgood-doula movements treat breastmilk like it’s the solution to every ailment on earth–I was even told to use breastmilk on my bruised nipple (???) but the prospect of feeding Ender bread-soaked in water is so harrowing that I can’t help but be amazed at formula’s existence. I know I’m not ‘poisoning’ my baby (as some websites and forums truly, truly perpetuate) and I know that I love him just as much as someone who breastfeeds, but that doesn’t stop the inadequacy or feelings that I gave up and need to do more. It’s so hard to come to peace with literally anything about my birth and postpartum experience, and I doubt I will for some time.
Here’s the video that helped: