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04 December, 2011

Expectations of Motherhood

My personality is one that has both a love and hate relationship with a change of plans.  Typically if it works in my favor, I am fine with it, maybe even a little excited.

Calling last minute to cancel an across town meeting on a cold, rainy night? I will probably want to hug you as my PJs and I were lusting for a night of hot chocolate and Netflix.

However, if you Fail me? Disappoint me? Let me down? forget it.  You're now on my shit-list.

You're my husband who says he'll be home at a certain time and then doesn't call, doesn't answer his phone, but later returns three hours late with that dumb look on his face of "what? you needed me?" will result in a long fight and lots of tears.

My expectations and "plans" for motherhood have left me in a similar place.

When I had to go on bedrest and was told there would be a good chance I'd have to be induced.  I cried right there on the spot. That didn't work with my unmedicated, water birth birth-plan.  However, a small part of me jumped for joy that I could pass off my two busiest, most stressful weeks of work to all of my co-workers.

My labor ended up (almost) happening on its own, allowing me to have a compromised version of my birth plan - little medication, but no water birth.  Given the options I ended up a very delusional happy girl.

Other things have worked in my favor.

Evie came early enough that my six weeks of maternity leave will end the day before our ten day paid Christmas and New Years break. Instead of having to use sick days for Christmas, I now get paid for the Christmas holiday

Cloth diapering sounded like an extreme chore to me, but it's not been the end of the world.  In fact, breastfed newborn poop is fairly manageable!

Sleepless nights have proved difficult and never ending, but I expected them.

However, I didn't expect the postpartum "baby blues" to hit me as strong as they did. For some reason, I thought that anticipating them would mean I would be immune.  Exhaustion. Hormones. Recovery aches and pains. Crying baby. Struggling to breast feed. It all adds up to a lot of crying. And a lot of hiding under my covers calling my Mom.  ($80 in extra phone minutes to be exact. Oops. But worth every penny...)

I didn't expect to resent or dare I say hate my baby for the first week.  She brought a lot of change, a lack of sleep, speaking in grunts to my husband as we passed off a crying baby in the middle of the night... And having those feelings made me cry even more.

The most unexpected of all came with an inability to breastfeed. We had a class on breastfeeding during our Bradley course, we took a three hour intensive class at the hospital and I read more than half of The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding.  I knew all the holds, what a good latch looked like, how to get the baby to unlatch, etc.

I'd heard stories of women struggling with breastfeeding and just figured they were either ill-informed, lazy, or gave up too quickly.  I'd heard stories of cracked nipples, bleeding, and toe-curling pain.  None of that was going to affect me since I wanted to breastfeed so badly and was ready to stick it out.

And that's when God laughed.  It was almost like He said, everything else has been so easy and perfect for you thus far - I hereby present you a challenge.

And boy has it been.  First of all, dear Internet, my large breasts have grown to the obscene.  A 38K to be exact.  So large that no store carries my size (they barely carry my regular size) leaving me with a pile of wrong size mail order bras and a lot of wasted money. I discovered a nearby hospital carried specialty nursing bras and went for a fitting.  As the specialist fitted me she whispered in my ear, "Don't worry sweetie, there is still one size larger if you find you need it"

While in recovery at the hospital,  lactation consultants told me that my boobs were probably too big to breastfeed because I would suffocate the baby. (Cue the tears and blow to the self-esteem)  My nipples were stretched flat and Evie couldn't get even a hint of a latch.

I learned how to pump and feed Evie with a syringe and later a bottle.  But she was rapidly losing weight and getting jaundice.  A nurse woke me up in the middle of the night and said we needed to get some food in her and they brought us formula.  I cried the entire night I fed her those bottles.  This was not in my plan.

Once we made it home from the hospital I kept up with the pumping and bottle feeding routine. I'd try to nurse Evie occasionally but I'd end up crying because I still couldn't get Evie to latch.  We even met with another LC two other times and it still wasn't working.

My frustration grew to the point where my tears turned to anger, bitterness and jealousy.  I sobbed hysterically to my mother for a good thirty minutes about how easy and natural I thought this would be. How (seemingly) every mom is able to breastfeed but me. How the mental game of breastfeed was eating me alive.  How I could sacrifice cold, dark mornings to train for endurance races and even PR in a snowy triathlon...but I could not seem to endure the pain and trials of breastfeeding.

She comforted me, and reminded me as so many others have, that if pumping and bottle feeding is all I can do, than I am still meeting my goal of feeding Evie breast milk, the delivery method just isn't as I expected or wanted.  I resolved that day that I would continue to pump and try breastfeeding only once every other day, to keep my emotions calm.

We had one more LC appointment the Tuesday after Thanksgiving.  I was dreading it.  Evie and I hadn't practiced much, nor did I feel like things were improving.  The last thing I wanted to do was disappoint the pediatrician (she is also our lactation consultant).

Evie's check up stats were perfect.  Instead of judging or criticizing my lack of efforts in getting Evie to latch, the pediatrician invited me to come in as often as I'd like for help, but that if pumping was all I could do, than it was okay with her. She even gave me a few tips on how to do it.

For some reason, that was all I needed to be set free from my perceived failure to my own expectations. Funny how, sometimes, approval from others is all we need.

Evie and I continue to mostly pump and bottle feed, and we practice here and there.  I read an article that said sometimes babies of large breasted women don't get a good latch until they are 3-6 weeks old.  I am holding on to hope.

I have learned a few lessons in all this.  First, I have a lot to be thankful for.  If this is my biggest struggle, than I am really and truly blessed.  Second, I have been very spoiled and fortunate in all the good things that have come to us so easily and naturally thus far.  Third, motherhood is full of surprises. I really need to let go of my pride and expectations, to let God work in me, and to become a lot more humble.


  1. Thank you for writing honestly and openly, E.

    And I want to echo your sentiments that: YOU ARE AN AMAZING MOTHER and that Evie might be able to latch later. Evie is lucky to have a mom who sacrifices so much for her. Seriously.

    I suppose if you have to pump a lot, you'll get a lot of blog reading/Netflix watching in? Ha. That's what I did every morning when I pumped. But I'm keeping my fingers crossed for you.

    So much love and support and hugs and cheering you on, friend.

    (Also, how awesome is Evie's pediatrician?! Love supportive doctors! )

  2. Hi! I'm a friend of Ashley's and I had very much the same experience as you - bed rest, compromised birth plan, poor latch but most importantly - A BEAUTIFUL, HEALTHY BABY!!

    I've written a lot about my struggles to breastfeed and with post partum issues.

    breastfeeding stuff here:

    I know the helplessness you are feeling but you are doing an AMAZING job!! Your daughter is so lucky to have such a dedicated Mama.

    Know that your breasts are not too large to nurse, your nipples are not to flat. Nursing is an intricate dance that neither of you have have done before and takes time and practice. Hopefully she can learn to latch. I would suggest at La Leche League group if you have one nearby!

  3. Thanks for sharing all of this E. It's good to keep up from afar. You're doing great and Evie couldn't have a better mother, no matter what! Just remember - if you want God to laugh, tell Him your plans. xo

  4. Oh E, what a great mother you already are for realizing it humbles you every second of every day!! I went through guilt when I didn't produce any milk because of my thyroid cancer. But I shortly discovered that With bottle feeding, Allen could take middle of the night feelings!!! I was worried Noah and I wouldn't bond but that was nonsense! Noah is still a mama's boy!!! And I love it!!! You and Evie will get a routine down and you will feel like life is more manageable!! I still want to meet her, that is a must after my surgery!! I am here for you, love you!!!! Enjoy that little angel!

  5. OMG! You are my twin!!! Same thing happened to me. Too big of  boobs, no good latch, unhappy baby, frustrated mommy. TEARS!!! 
    So I pumped and pumped (and hated it most of the time) But now I have a big plump almost 7 month old. 

    You are awesome and doing a great job! 

  6. Beautiful baby girl you have!!!  Just from this post I know you are a fantastic mother!  The dedication you have and desire to give your all.  I have large breasts, but hats off to you! My two favorite moments that always seem to help my daughter and I- bathing together and nursing when she's drowsy in my favorite side laying position.  She's now 13 months {oh how time flies!} and those are still our two favorite moments that she nurses the best without distractions.

  7. Hi - I found you from Milk-Friendly. Just wanted to say hang in there. I'm also pretty busty (34F w/ the baby - normally 34E). I got all of my bras online through Amazon. My daughter didn't latch for an entire week, and I was feeding her through this syringer/tube thing. One day - she decided she wanted to latch, and she did. Hang in there - it's tough for more women than you think, it's just not discussed. I'm sure Evie will latch soon! Thank you for sharing your story.

  8. First of all, your daughter is just perfect!  She is beautiful!  Secondly, thank you for the honest post.  I think many women have experienced what you have in degrees and they are afraid to look for help at the risk of sounding or looking vulnerable or weak.  They, to me, are not keeping in mind what is most important, the welfare of the baby.  Which brings me to my third comment, you are TOTALLY giving that to your daughter by breastfeeding!  When my daughter was born, she could not latch AT ALL.  When the nurse told me one night, like you experienced, that she needed to eat right away and put a bottle into her mouth, I felt like a horrible mom who was putting my desire to breastfeed above my daughter's health.  I knew that my desire was in the right place but that I couldn't stick to my idea of how things should work out and risk my baby's health.  So I pumped and fed her with the bottle.  I remember looking at other women breastfeeding and yearning so much to be like them.  I even remember being jealous of my daughter's bottles. ha!   Every once in a while I would try and have my daughter latch but she always either didn't "get" it or she was so hungry that she would get frustrated while trying to latch on.  But I kept trying.  I noticed, one day while trying again, that she was getting something.  Unfortunately, she was full at the time so she didn't want anymore to do with it.  So the next time I planned to try in the middle of a feeding while I was mostly full of milk (after pumping only a few minutes.  It also helped make the shape of my nipples more latchable!).  And it totally worked!  I was ecstatic!  I now look at my pump and those bottles as my good friends that got us through.  I know that without them, my daughter would not have been able to have the best there is for those first weeks (or now, for that matter).  That is exactly what you are giving your little girl.  No one would argue otherwise!  There is a chance that you can have the chance of feeding her straight from the breast but if that doesn't happen for whatever reason, you are STILL giving her the best.  And I know it is a ton more work!  Good luck with everything! 

  9. Isn't it a shock how much we emotionally invest in nursing? You "drink the Kool Aid" on breastfeeding, so to speak, and then if it doesn't work the way you expected, you feel like a failure. Which let me tell you 5 months post-weaning... is a little nutty :) In JULY, however, I was a hot mess, hysterically crying after FOURTEEN WEEKS of an elimination diet that left me with only rice, turkey, and veggies, and still finding blood in my baby's stool. In JULY, I felt like a failure who was poisoning her child with prescription formula. Now, in December, I have some perspective. I tried literally everything I could to continue breastfeeding, and the best thing for my child wasn't breast... it was specialized formula that didn't make her guts bleed. I applaud you for pumping and being so dedicated to your daughter, and I have 2 wishes for you: 1. that she learns to latch and you get to experience how awesome it CAN be, but also 2. that in a year or two, you look back and realize with total confidence that you were (are now) a great mom who IS feeding her baby. Good luck! :)

  10. I just found you yesterday through Twitter (half-marathon talk of all things) and then when I came here and read this post, I cried.  I had a rough time breastfeeding.  Actually, I still have trouble saying "I breastfed" as opposed to "I attempted to breastfeed."  Those emotions about not being able to nurse are so raw and painful.  I'm glad you've found something that is working for you now and I have my fingers crossed that Evie can get the hang of nursing.  Either way, I promise, she will be fine, and you are not a failure Mama, nor are you alone.  No matter how many books, blogs, and forums try to tell you that you are the only woman on earth that can't breastfeed, I promise you are not alone.

    Also, um, hello baby cuteness in this post. Enjoy those newborn snuggles!

  11. Ummm....Evie is the most precious little girl I've ever seen! She is beautifulllllllllll


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