Dispatches from the Breastern Front
I happened upon the following advice from a self-proclaimed breastfeeding expert: think of nursing as your special time with your baby. You know, because otherwise it can be tedious to spend so much of your life doing it? Well, nursing is certainly my special time with Bun Bun. My special painful, frustrating, awkward, I-dread-this-whole-experience time.
Okay, I’m exaggerating. Things have improved vastly since the BLOODY FISSURE days, and even at their worst, they were never as bad as many of you have had it. Er…so far. I’m making no assumptions that things won’t take a turn for the horrible at any moment.
But they haven’t improved a whole lot since my last dispatch. And what I’m finding difficult is this. I’ve reached a plateau and don’t know how to get the rest of the way up the mountain. It makes me feel incompetent. Stupid. I mean what the FUCK! It’s been almost five weeks of this, and as you can see from my chart, I’ve spent much of that five weeks practicing. Yet it still takes me several tries to get her on. It still hurts, though typically just on that initial latch. It’s still incredibly awkward. In fact, I have sustained some wrist injuries because my tiny little arms are unable to support the weight of my big fat baby (during the period while I attempt to get her on, before I can stuff some pillows under her various parts, and yeah, I have a hand me down Boppy, which I find great for tipping her into me at a really weird angle, but useless for breastfeeding, and okay, she’s probably only about nine pounds now, which makes me really impressed by those of you who have been wrangling giant babies from birth, although maybe giant babies make breastfeeding easier?). I’ve considered not feeding her ever again so that she won’t get any heavier. Mr. Bunny says that’s not a tenable plan. So now feeding involves ice packs and ace bandages.
And it’s also incredibly MESSY! The moment I unleash a breast, milk goes shooting out everywhere, and at every failed latch, there’s a geyser (often spurting into her eye, which I can’t help but enjoy, in a So, you don’t want to latch on? TAKE THAT! kind of way), plus a bunch dribbles down her chin…so I have to keep a towel on hand or end up sitting in a pool of milk. Of course, the towel turns out to be handy as once every few days she projectile vomits everything she’s ever eaten since she was born all over me, which makes me cry.
So. When I imagine ever feeding her anywhere but in the comfort of my home, where I can assemble the wedge pillow for sitting up and the three or four other pillows for propping her up, and the towel, and the burp cloth for catching major spills, and the ice pack, and the ace bandage, and the nipple ointment, and the ItzBeen* and the notepad where I record feedings (screw iPhone apps! I’m old school!), and the water so I don’t dehydrate instantly, and the handkerchief for when I weep…well, it seems unfathomable. Though it would be pretty funny if I opened up my diaper bag and pulled all that shit out…
But then I remember this. When I was in college, I got my first car–an ancient Volvo. I’d never driven stick before and had hardly driven at all, ever. I really couldn’t drive for shit. My wonderfully patient boyfriend agreed to teach me, but I found it ridiculously hard. The coordination required was just too much for my tiny brain, plus the stress of not really knowing how to deal with other cars, plus the cantankerousness of an old vehicle… Many episodes ended in tears. I honestly wondered if I could do it.
One day we set out for a lesson, driving around my neighborhood, a semi-ghetto in Oakland, CA. The kind of neighborhood where everyone sits out on stoops drinking from bottles in brown paper bags, where the local crack-house is grudgingly tolerated, where I would constantly get mistaken for a prostitute when waiting for the bus. As I lurched around the block, stalling and grinding and stalling and squealing, I naturally attracted the interest of my stoop-sitting neighbors. A group of them put down their drinks and gathered round. They began shouting instructions, illustrating with their hands the movement of clutch and gas. Cheering me on. Their support totally chirked me up. I felt a wave of confidence. I can DO this! I thought. I can kick driving stick’s ASS! And, I thought to myself, If I can do this, I can do ANYTHING.
I DID learn to drive stick. And that means I CAN learn to breastfeed. I just may need to take a quick trip to Oakland to get some encouragement.
*If you’re having a baby, get one. You might not understand how it could possibly be useful, but I swear it is. Mr. Bunny thought it was totally stupid, then spent the first few weeks of Bun Bun’s life apologizing to it.