I thought it would happen right away. Like the moment I felt a flutter in my growing belly, my heart would burst. Of course, you're connected from the moment you find out that you're growing a person inside you, but is that when the love begins?
When they placed my first vernix covered baby on my chest, tears streaming down my cheeks, was it then? Healing from the inside out, rocking her, nursing, humming "You Are My Sunshine" in the darkness of the night–could it have been then?
Obviously, your love grows from baby's warm body resting on your chest, their first smile, first laugh, and when they finally say mama or hold onto your finger with their tiny, chubby hand wobbling along, but then let go to walk.
It wasn't a specific moment it happened with my girls, but then it's like an avalanche of all the moments—the good, the challenging, the sweet and the downright excruciating—and it covered me. Wrapped me up like a baby in my own womb. Seeped through my soul till I could feel it from the tips of my toes to the ends of my hair, pumping though my veins and radiating from my skin. Overwhelming, all-consuming, and indescribable. It feels warm and safe, but it can also be scary and painful. How lucky I am to feel this deep, deep love and to pass it on to my two tiny humans.
Are you kidding me? Like we haven't been through enough! I had literally just pushed a baby from my vagina and was beginning to heal, get into a breastfeeding and (barely any) sleep routine, when the breast pain set in.
This wasn't normal bloody nipple, wrongly latched baby pain, this was piercing daggers to my breast agony. I used a heating pad, massaged in the warm shower, but then the shivers, body aches and headache started.
I mean how is this even fair? Serious flu like symptoms with lack of sleep, and shooting breast pain that only feeding and pumping through seems to make better. It's not cool, but I sought out advice from other moms, nursed and pumped with tears drenching my cheeks, tried to sleep / rest when I could and soon enough, like a tropical storm, the down pour passed.
The first time was so bad, I needed antibiotics to help clear the infection, but sadly it wasn't the only time with my two babies that I got mastitis. I learned to know the signs and quickly start the checklist of ways to clear the duct, fight the infection and ease the pain: nursing, pumping, hot showers for hours, heating pad. I even tried what other moms had had luck with: dangle feeding (very awkward on all fours), cabbage bra cups (sexy) and electric toothbrush (no longer for my teeth). I say try it all and whatever works!
I know the excruciating pain of mastitis is an exit point for many nursing moms, so I'm extremely grateful to have made it to the other side, because there is joy and love on the other side of the pain.
This Too Shall Pass!
When my milk first came in, it came in with a vengeance. I was shooting it everywhere—like water guns on a hot summer day—drenching my shirt, covering her face, making her cough, and giving her stomach pains. My husband thought it was hysterical. Me...not so much! It was painful, upsetting, and hard to manage. It took some time, but I was able to find ways to control the initial let down and save my baby from a milk face mask every time I nursed.
I used hand expressing to get things started, then caught the spray in a burp cloth (or, even better, a letdown catcher like the haakaa) before putting baby on the breast. It's a learning process, but once you get the hang of it, your milk settles in and it doesn't happen anymore. I guess that's the lesson of parenthood: you can do hard things, and this too shall pass.