My birthday last year was the worst one of my life.
I started the day at home alone with my 3 month old daughter.
She was on a full on nursing strike and I was feeding her formula in a bottle.
My relationship with her father was strained beyond repair.
One month before we had taken her to Children’s Hospital, where she was relieved of a tongue and lip tie, via a laser, that supposedly was keeping her from extracting enough milk, and contributing to low weight gain.
A couple of weeks before that, again, alone at home, nearing 10 p.m., I received an email from our pediatrician that warned me that Sophia may be nearing “Failure to thrive.”
I didn’t know exactly what that meant, but I understood the words. This sent me into a googling tailspin and left me crying uncontrollably in front of my computer screen with an aching heart and no way to seemingly soothe it.
I had a baby. And she was failing to thrive.
It was funny because I’d felt very certain throughout my pregnancy, and right after Sophia’s birth, that it was very important for me to have 40 days of rest and a slow pace. I wanted to take time to bond with my child, to learn to nurse, and to heal my body.
I deeply felt that all the world would come rushing in soon enough, and I desperately needed a respite.
This desire of mine was a point of contention amongst those closest to me. People wanted to see Sophia, they wanted me to come out.
I, having just birthed a child, and consequently losing my partner, was in a deep grieving process at that time, and felt I could tell no one about it.
How do you explain that yes, you’re happy, but no, not really. How do you let people in to see your tear streamed face, your red puffy eyes and your broken heart?
Had my relationship been consistent and steady, had we been getting along, and I’d felt supported in my process, it would have been different.
The reality, however, was that my relationship was in turmoil and I was in shock.
All that I’d dreamt of during my pregnancy, and when we’d chosen to have a child, was popped immediately upon her birth. Day one found me encountering some unexpected and intolerable circumstances and it was clear- exhausted, up laboring for 5 days, no sleep, body ripped, baby crying– the fantasy bubble had officially burst.
Those days were the darkest of my life.
So, I know now why I clung so fiercely to my 40-day postpartum rest. I needed to heal on multiple levels, I needed a slow pace. And when those days were up, the world did come rushing in, far beyond what I could’ve known, but must have psychically sensed.
Sophia’s “failure to thrive” sent me seeking answers in a place called, “The Mamahood.” A place I’ll long remember as a sacred safe house where I’d find people who were like me, who could help me, and who knew what I was going through.
Without the expertise of the lactation consultants, and the other mamas who sat there in circle with me for that whole summer, I don’t know what I would have done.
It was my birthday and I was alone, save for my babe who was refusing to nurse. I called my mom and asked her to come be with me and we went to the Mamahood for breastfeeding group. I cried in the group as I told them I was so frustrated, and the procedure to release her ties wasn’t working, as she still wasn’t nursing.
I’d try to get her to latch with the guidance of the lactation consultant and Sophia would scream and arch away from my breast. I remember the way I felt so incredibly depressed. It was my birthday and I wanted to feel happy, but all I could feel was hopeless and sad.
That day was the rock bottom that caused me to save my nursing relationship with Sophia and to begin to re-build my life.
I went home and meditated on it and asked questions and it hit me like a ton of bricks.
She was so full from the bottles of formula that of course she wasn’t going to nurse! She wasn’t hungry!
I vowed to get into bed with her, go nowhere for days, and be skin to skin and only offer her the breast. I was done giving her bottles, we were going cold turkey and if she was hungry, she’d have to nurse.
Others told me they admired my tenacity. Many moms I knew got frustrated and quit. Breastfeeding is a challenge and follows a law of supply and demand.
If babies aren’t driving the supply, mamas will lose milk. If mama’s have too much milk, and babies get flooded, they’ll reject the breast. It’s a complicated dance with lots of variables and it takes a fierce mama warrior to stick with it.
Today, Sophia is going on 16 months and still nursing.
It’s one of my most treasured times of day, and the most fulfilling experiences of my life. Snuggling with her, playing with her hair, eye gazing, these are the sweetest moments I’ve known.
Last year, 4 months in to being a new mom, my first birthday as a new mother, I wanted to be celebrated and supported by others. Not having that expectation met left me disappointed and sad.
Yesterday, on my 39th birthday, I chose to have no plans, do whatever I wanted all day long, and to create my own fun + happiness without relying upon anyone else.
I got a pedicure at JLounge Natural Nail Bar & Spa + the best foot massage ever. I bought myself a piece of Key Lime Pie at Whole Foods and sat and gazed at the Flatirons while I savored every bite.
How are you letting go of expectation and giving to yourself? What is nurturing you, now? Leave a comment, I’d love to know!
All my love,