…try, try again. That’s what they say, right? But what about when it doesn’t work?
“If at first you don’t succeed, and then you try and it still doesn’t work, it may be time to give up,” doesn’t really have the same ring – and doesn’t sit well in the culture of the American dream – where you can achieve nearly anything through determination and perseverance.
But sometimes? You need to know when to say when… That might be the easy part – saying when and accepting that decision and giving up in your heart are not necessarily the same thing.
There are some things that are impossible. There is no amount of trying on Henry’s part that would turn him into a duck, if, for example, that was his dream. I, similarly, am never going to spontaneously grow an extra arm – even with all of the effort and research and planning in the world.
Mommy wanted to breastfeed me so badly – she read the books and articles, took the class at the hospital, and did *everything* to make it happen. All of the literature says that it can be difficult, but with perseverance it’s possible and the most beneficial. We did not expect it to be easy, but NOTHING prepared us for it to be impossible. Even once we started having difficulty, we looked for resources for “low supply” and found 2 types of responses: “People *think* that they have low supply, but they don’t really and your body adjusts to what your baby needs.” or answers aimed at women with “low supply” who were getting 6 times what she was getting for an entire day in one session. Both types of responses ended with some sort of variation on “Don’t give up! It’s extremely rare for a woman to not be able feed her child.” The implication there being “if she tries hard enough.” Not true. These responses are 1 part placating and 2 parts patronizing – “you might think there’s a problem, but you’re probably wrong.” Increasingly, as we tried for THREE months, these responses – and the lack of support when there really does seem to be an issue – became infuriating.
For almost THREE months, our routine became:
- Attempt breastfeeding, with formula supplement supplied through dripping tubes taped to Mommy’s boobs and and attached to a leaky necklace. (30 minutes)
- Further supplement with formula using a “special needs feeder.” (30 minutes)
- Mommy would pump after every feeding hoping to further stimulate supply. (30 minutes)
- And then? Time to start over. Lather, rinse, repeat.
Mommy and I tried and tried. and TRIED.
Since Mommy was (and is) staying at home with me, she had not purchased a high-powered pump in advance. She bought a small, manual one for occasional use – but once it was clear I wasn’t getting enough nourishment, she sent Daddy out to exchange it for a “real” one. (That? Was not Daddy’s favorite shopping trip. He had no idea, really, what he was looking for and knew Mommy was an emotional mess at home. No pressure, though, right?)
We had lactation consultants and pediatrician check-ups and early intervention evaluations. Mommy took prescription medications, and herbal tinctures, and even made special “lactation cookies.” She pumped until she was blue in the… face. Through all of it, she kept looking for information and help – and was informed by *every* resource – “Don’t give up!”
She was pumping 6 times a day, sometimes for an hour or more in ten minute bursts (“power-pumping”) and getting a 1/2 ounce total. From both breasts. Did I say total? That’s HALF an ounce all together – not one to two ounces, and certainly not the 20-something I was consuming over the course of a day.
Not only was this not working for Mommy (she was *exhausted,* guys – she NEVER got to sleep – either trying to feed me or pumping – and she was beginning to hallucinate from fatigue), but it wasn’t working for ME! Breast is best? Not so much in our case. I had feeding issues myself – I couldn’t suck or swallow properly and was positioning my tongue incorrectly. I had colic and acid reflux and was hungry All. The. Time. I was cranky and fussy and all-in-all NOT a happy camper. I spent most of the first 3 months of my life screaming until I was purple in the face.
Apparently, Mommy has hypoplasia – she does not have the necessary tissue to produce milk. All the pumping in the world isn’t going to get milk that isn’t there.
So we gave up – and I began eating (formula) correctly and gaining weight. My colic and acid reflux resolved themselves, and now? A happier baby you couldn’t find.
Here is where we’re supposed to express relief at making the decision to switch to formula feeding and say how we don’t regret it at all because that was the right choice for us.
But the thing is? It’s not true. First of all, Mommy doesn’t feel like she had a *choice.* She wasn’t, after all, going to stand by and let me starve.
Mommy has never failed at anything that she really and truly put her mind to. She’s fairly intelligent, and lucky I suppose, but if she TRIES her best and works her hardest and wants something then, generally, she succeeds eventually. That’s not to say that everything has been easy, but she always really *believed* “If at first you don’t succeed…”
The fact that we really did try so hard and still failed STILL (4 months later) devastates her… She feels gypped, and inadequate, and guilty, and BITTER – she is angry every single time she spends money on formula and feels a twinge setting up every single bottle. First really major Mommy FAIL. And everything that’s written touting the benefits of breastfeeding for both mother and baby just makes her feel terrible – she wants to be able to offer the best for me and can’t.