Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Son of Frankenboob

Brace yourselves, this is a long one.

I call my husband and I "neo-hippies" sometimes. It all started gradually, and the impetus was my (non-invasive) breast cancer diagnosis. We progressed from cutting dairy out of our diet (much to the chagrin of my Wisconsin-based family) to cutting out junk food (OK, BoJangles makes an occasional appearance), to cutting out partially hydrogenated oils and MSG, to shopping exclusively at Whole Foods and buying organic produce (local AND organic when possible). We use cloth shopping bags, we don't take "regular" medicine if we can possibly help it, we recycle. So, it's no surprise that we were pretty much pre-sold on the idea of breastfeeding.

Unfortunately, frankenboob (lefty) had been radiated and was quite obviously not growing with the pregnancy. I mentally counted frankenboob out, but was assured that righty, with enough encouragement, would produce enough to be viable. I have to say that this was the aspect of newborn care I was the most apprehensive about. I know several moms who had trouble and/or weren't able to breastfeed at all, and I knew how devastated they were by it. I suppose this all put me in the wrong frame of mind to begin with, but I am a worrier by nature. So, I worried.

When the time came to try and breastfeed, the whole latching process seemed OK, but righty didn't seem to be with the program. I suffered through the indignity of complete strangers coming in to try and milk me (what the blazes??), but there really wasn't a whole lot going on until the day we checked out of the hospital. Then I could tell that righty was finally doing something, and I couldn't wait to give this another try. The lactation people (the aforementioned milkers) had given me an apparatus to hang on my bra. It dispenses formula through a tiny tube, so that the baby drinks formula while he also is attempting to extract breast milk. Genius, right? Well... trying to get a good latch AND position this tiny flexible tube in exactly the right spot when the baby is hungry and lunging at me and just basically wiggling all over the place is something like impossible. I must have latched and unlatched him 10 times per feeding before he wasn't hurting me AND was getting formula.

By the end of the week, this was taking a toll. My poor brother, who was visiting for Christmas, had the bad luck of being up late enough to witness my husband and I doing extensive searches for relief of MY NIPPLE IS ON FIRE. And of course, we're looking at pictures of various ailments and then looking at my boob, and dear lord I think we scarred my brother for life. The next day, I shelved the stupid apparatus and just tried the "breastfeed, THEN bottle feed" strategy. The pain subsided, and the baby seemed happy not to be interrupted so many damn times.

Righty, being equally suspicious to the oncologist, had gone through three separate biopsies, one that left a long scar right across the top. Going by the fact that it never produced more than half an ounce (not NEARLY enough for any baby), I'm going to guess that the surgeries messed up the whole deal. On the plus side, the baby was getting something, but on the minus side, our whole neo-hippy plan of exclusive breastfeeding was just not gonna happen. When I went back to work, I ditched the breastfeeding entirely, knowing that pumping enough for even one feeding would take me several days. Nuts to that.

So, we have a bottle baby. It was a somewhat long process for me to accept that, even though in some ways I was mentally prepared even before I had the baby. I have made some kind of peace with it now, and of course we have organic formula so some part of our neo-hippiness is being appeased. Still, every time I see some smarmy comment about how you really *should* be breastfeeding (oh, those people are out there lurking on seemingly innocent forums about babycare), I want to punch them in the nose.


Roger said...

Hey Jen,

We were lucky enough on this score that (while we were VERY apprehensive about it ourselves) it went pretty well.

Have you ever heard of John Scalzi? I'm reminded of a blog entry about their decision on breastfeeding vs formula - it's here under the title "Breastfeeding Mafia".

And if you don't read his Whatever blog on at least a semi-regular basis (dude can WRITE), I am ever so humbly proud to introduce you to him.

Also - did you hear? HBO's ordered Season 1 of A Game of Thrones!!!1one

Estelle said...

oh yes, those forum about baby nursing and breastfeeding ... it was really a mess with twins, I wish I could have breastfed them, it would have been a LOT easier, but I had to give up after two months (yes, I know ... I can be quite stubborn) of pain and bloody milk.
Anyway, as they are doing well now, I know I made the good choice. But I also know how frustrating it can be.

Super Jen said...

Thanks Roger, in fact you just introduced me to him and I will check it out! I'm SUPER EXCITED about the HBO series.

Estelle - since my left side was not viable, they told me I was going to feed my baby as if I had twins, so I can relate!