Life After Birth | Liesel + Zeke

Life After Birth | Liesel + Zeke

As told by Liesel: Nursing Zeke was transformational. I found strength in myself and support in others and a bond shared with this wonderful kid. Our journey was amazing and perfect for us. I could take away his sadness, his hurt, his frustration, his hunger, and be his total comfort. I had no idea the impact it would have on me. I am amazed by myself! Before I had a baby, I thought nursing was strictly nutrition for the offspring. I had no concept of the love and bonding that also grows with each session. I was not around any nursing mothers growing up and my first real encounter with a nursing relationship was 8 years ago. That mama made it look easy! It was not easy! Blood and lots and lots of tears were shed from both of us. Did you know that a baby could re-form nipples by nursing? Guess what? They can. Really painful reformation, that’s what it is. From exclusive pumping to an SNS to just the nipple shield to my plain raw nipples we did it and kept on doing it through 22 weeks of pregnancy. Every time I would make a change I would give myself three more weeks. Magically, around the 4th month everything clicked, for both of us. A three-year journey is far more than I ever imagined. I’ll miss his little hands rubbing mine, his milk drunk sleepiness, the nipple filled grin he would flash, and the most adorable way he used to sign and make a funny noise when he asked for milk. I know our nursing journey together is over but we have so many adventures ahead and I can’t wait!

 

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Life After Birth | Melissa + Griffin

Life After Birth | Melissa + Griffin

Dear little one,

37 months ago, we met for the first time and started our nursing relationship. You were a tiny, fiesty one born unexpectedly at home, both 4 weeks early and in 2.5 hours. This was the end to a long journey to get you here to us: infertility, IVF, losing your twin, and severe hyperemesis gravidarium. You took to nursing immediately and enthusiastically, and I finally felt that SOMETHING in this whole adventure was going the way it should.

Until it didn’t. Or at least it seemed like it didn’t.
Six weeks of age brought a GI appt as you were referred by the ped who was concerned that perhaps you also had reflux like your older brother. Mama gut said you didn’t, but that you did have some food intolerances so I quit eating dairy in the interim. You were gaining weight, albeit slowly, and we were following this closely with weekly weights. We had seen a IBCLC and even the dentist who looked at your tongue tie and upper lip ties and proceeded with craniosacral therapy which seemed to help with the restrictions (as well as you re-enacting your birth each session by wanting to be held upside down).
The GI walked into the room. Looked at a graph, not at you sleeping in my arms, and pronounced you “failure to thrive”. He then declared that I needed to stop breastfeeding.
Wait. What? What? My heart hit the floor and the tears came shortly after. I managed to keep it together enough to tell him no, I would not stop, but that I could pump and fortify (add calories) if that was needed. He left and I called your dad and sobbed.
We left with the plan being partially fortified feeds and little to no instruction on an elimination diet. At the end of it all, you ended up with MSPI (which is now just milk protein intolerance still at 3 with liquid cow’s milk) and we both ended up gluten, dairy, soy, tree nut, and peanut free. I’ll spare everyone the long frustrating details. You gained weight with the extra calories and restrictions. Mama survived a restricted diet and we were both able to successfully reintroduce almost all the foods (no gluten for mama-celiac and still no liquid milk for you) by 2.
Life After Birth | Milk Story | Melissa + Griffin 4
That diagnosis shook me to my core. I sobbed. I grieved that *I* couldn’t provide all you needed to grow and be healthy. Despite my sadness, I fought to keep our nursing relationship intact. You see, you loved nursing. You were a very intense nurser. Much more so than your brother. I knew that for us, for you, just giving up and formula feeding was not going to work. I had to fight. I cried every time I fed you a bottle for the first few weeks. I hated the cycle of pumping, adding formula, then feeding the bottle. But we kept on and you grew.
Along the way, mama (and you) got lots of help and support from other nursing mamas that kept us going. A supportive pediatrician helped. Lori who did your CST helped. Dr. Virts who released your ties at 6 months when your latch became painful helped. Daddy helped by feeding you bottles while mama pumped and cried. Daddy helped by being supportive of us continuing to nurse.
“Ee-es” you called nursing when you became old enough to have a word for it. When you first started using this phrase, you would also sign “eat”. I nursed your brother to past 2 and figured you would proceed on this path as well.
I didn’t expect you to nurse past 3. I admit, there were many times between 2 and 3 where I wanted to call it quits, it was driving me crazy. But, I also wanted you to wean peacefully and on your own time, like your brother. I was fervently praying that wouldn’t take until 4, lol.
Life After Birth | Milk Story | Melissa + Griffin 5
It’s now been 3 days since you last nursed. You ask some times at night when you rouse. You sleepily say “ee-ees” and pat my breast. Then you snuggle up on my shoulder and go back to sleep. In this moment, inhaling in your little boy sleepy scent, I am glad that I waited for your time. That I let you choose the end of this story.
And I am ever grateful that we had this story and this journey.
Love,
Mama
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Life After Birth | Caitlin + Andy

Life After Birth | Caitlin + Andy

As told by Caitlin:

The birth of my son isn’t a story that would be helpful for anyone to read. The long story short is my beautiful rainbow baby boy was born on September 9, 2014.

So we will skip to a half hour after his birth. I finally get to hold my son after what feels like an eternity. The nurse laid him on chest and I guided him to my breast. It didn’t take him long to latch and he laid contently with me for hours. The first few hours were precious and I’ll never forget how it felt to finally have my son in my arms.

Against nurses orders, I kept my son in bed with me for pretty much the entire time we were admitted. On day 4 we headed home, he had only lost 5 ounces since birth. By his one week appointment he was 3oz over birth weight! We were so excited! Breastfeeding was working! Our son was thriving! We at least had that, even if we lost the birth experience we wanted.

At 8 weeks postpartum I had to return to work. I had 100oz in the freezer and I was terrified I’d run out. The first day the sitter went through 30oz of milk and I had only pumped 12oz in the 11 hours we were apart. So I started to wake up half hour earlier each day to pump. And an extra session at work. And an extra at night. Because he was blowing through 20-30oz a day on average at daycare. We didn’t know about paced feeding, and he seemed to only be content with a bottle in his mouth. We moved houses when he was 7 months old, and I had over 1,000 ounces of milk in the freezer. I contacted a human milk bank who after some screening accepted my donation. By his first birthday I had another 1,000 ounces to donate. We had made it to one year of breastfeeding and I felt so accomplished! We made it!

Well, my milkiedoodle didn’t get the memo that we were only aiming for a year. I started to wean off the pump but a Mom nearby needed milk for her baby, so I kept pumping for her little one, donating around 2,000oz over three months. In addition to the donor baby, I was sending 10-12oz a day with my son to daycare. I had to get several forms signed that he was to have my milk and not cow milk at school. I never thought it would be such a hassle to give my son what was best for him.

Well, his second birthday rolls around and I’m thinking that I should stop pumping finally! Weaning off the pump was proving difficult, but by 34 months I was finally done pumping!! Maybe I’m crazy for all that time pumping, but I kept thinking I had to do what was best for my son. And I had this obsession that if I couldn’t be with him, at least my milk could be.

Preschooler breastfeeding, Life After Birth Project

His third birthday comes to pass and we’re still breastfeeding on demand. I made the decision that I needed to start weaning him because he would never initiate weaning himself. We first dropped the on demand nursing and went to three sessions a day – morning, after work, and bedtime. Next to go was after work, and at 3 years 3 months we cut out the morning session. He asks frequently about having milk, and even though I explain it’s for bedtime only, he seems to understand but shows disappointment. On March 9 he will be 3.5 years old and that will be our last nursing session, unless he stops somewhere between then and now.

preschooler breastfeeding, Life After Birth Project

I feel so sad to think that this time is coming to an end. I felt like nursing my son was the first and only thing to go right in my motherhood experience. We made it to our goal of a year and kept exceeding the goal, so I’m not disappointed with that. It just seems so sad that one day soon I’ll put him to bed without that tender moment, and he may cry and fuss until he settles without his milk. I know that he will be ok, but after all we’ve been through, it’s hard to let this last bit of babyhood go.

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Photos: Bergen Howlett