Breast is best, right? That’s what the posters say. The ones in the maternity ward, the ones in the pediatrician’s office, the ones in the WIC office. Breastfeeding allows for better bonding, better nutrition, better everything. Just everything.
I know. I breastfed my older two, loved it completely, and grieved when I was done.
This time… I can start grieving early, so I suppose that’s more efficient, at least, right?
Because I can’t breastfeed.
The combination of very intense medications during and immediately following the infection/surgery/coma nightmare made it doubtful, with doctors on either side of the argument. I heard advice in both directions, but most leaned in the direction of trying to breastfeed. It was suggested that I “pump and dump,” that is, use my breast pump to keep the milk flow active (because it did, indeed, come in, after the colostrum, and I do take a tiny, tiny bit of comfort in knowing that at least Isaac got an hour or two of nursing with however much colostrum that produced). So I did, and slowly was working up a measurable output.
Then came the question of the pain medications; the ones for the surgery wounds were no problem, because I would stop taking those eventually, but what about the ones for the back pain? Could, and should, I breastfeed on those? There were tremendous doubts there, and again there were doctors on both sides of the argument, but my caregivers, the ones I had been seeing before and throughout the pregnancy, were on the side of nursing, so I was leaning in that direction. I continued to pump and dump, and to waver.
Then the decision made itself, in the form of night sweats and hot flashes, insomnia and radical mood swings, risk of numerous cancers and cardiovascular problems. Sometime in mid-March I was given a radical abdominal hysterectomy, a gift I very much did not want but couldn’t find a way to return, and the immediate side effects damn near drowned me. I have never sweat so much in my life, and all in the middle of the night, alone and miserable. “Hot flashes” and “night sweats,” they sound like such cute, pithy little experiences, how bad can they really be? The answer is, bad. They can be really bad.
I just could not tolerate the symptoms of abrupt, early, surgically-induced menopause, and I felt the long-term benefits of hormone replacement therapy were important, too. And so I put my own health first, ahead of my desire to breastfeed. Ahead of the fact that I hate damn near everything about formula feeding: I hate how the formula smells, itself, and I really hate how it smells coming out, from either end. I hate the extra work, all those bottles and sterilization. I hate the quantifiable nature of it; it’s no longer, “He ate until he seemed full, and now he seems content,” it’s “He had 4 ounces at 2:00 and slept for 3.5 hours.” And so on.
The priority here is that my child is being very well cared-for and nutritiously fed while I’m unable to do so, myself. He’s thriving. Willem is enjoying the chance to be more involved in Isaac’s care than he could with the other two.
I might, someday, feel less guilt. I don’t expect to feel none, I just hope to feel less.