So much more than just #53 on a list

One year ago today, I gave birth to a beautiful princess.  She stole our hearts from the minute she was born.  Those perfect, pink lips.  Those big, bright blue eyes.

Despite my best efforts to go au naturel, I caved and got the epi.  Had I known I was dilated to 10cm and ready to push, I probably wouldn't have done it, but what's done is done.  I had the epi for three contractions and one and a half pushes, after which we got to meet and hold our precious little girl.

It was my first time delivering a baby with this particular obstetrician.  The one who delivered my first two was a man.  A very confident, slightly-disconnected man.  I have no doubts about his abilities as a doctor, but he lacked any, oh, I don't know - emotion.  My new OB was a woman, also a mother.  She cheered me on, encouraged me.  I think she was as excited to meet our new baby as we were.  After the final push, she caught the baby, strategically covered the sensitive areas with a blanket, looked at Sam and said, "You ready, Dad?"  Sam took a peek under the blanket and declared, "It's a girl!" 

Then she laid my newest naked baby girl on my chest for a moment of skin to skin contact while Sam cut the cord.  It was the perfect start.

Within fifteen minutes of birth, Sarah nursed for the first time.  She was perfect at it.  She was hungry (almost incessantly) and a very eager nursling.  She must have nursed every hour for the first two or three days of her life with a longer stretch here and there when she decided to sleep for maybe two hours.  Yadda, yadda, yadda and one week later, we were sitting in my OB's office waiting for a prescription for mastitis, which would end up as nothing but a distant memory and a minor (at most) stumbling block.

I nursed Ben to four months, Abby to seven, and I was determined before Sarah's birth that this time I would make it to one year.  I have regrets about quitting with Ben when I did, but I was preparing to go back to school full-time, going back to work part-time, and he was starting at daycare.  I had a lot on my plate and couldn't fathom pumping.  I guess I can cut myself some slack on that one.  With Abby, I had not one single regret, only pride that I made it to six months of exclusive breastfeeding, all the while battling supply issues.  The day she turned six months old, I put the pump in the bag and didn't even glance its way for three more years.  We morning and night nursed for another month.  I remember how hard I cried our last nursing session.  I rocked her in her room and held her, and just cried because that chapter of our lives was over.  I know that probably sounds crazy, but there is something to be said for those feel-good hormones that nursing provides.  And I was kissing them goodbye.

I struggle a little bit with an all-or-nothing mentality.  Most of my stress (and in turn supply issues) with Abby came from my determination that I would get to six months...that I refused to give her formula until I had "made it" to six months.  My brain can repeat to itself over and over how ridiculous this is, but it can't seem to convince itself.  I guess it's a little bit of stubbornness.  I suppose I can't complain about that trait in my kids, huh?

Either way, that mentality kicked into gear when the idea of nursing to a year came into play with Sarah.  I "made it" to six months, then all of the sudden we'd made it to nine.  She started eating a lot more real food and sleeping through the night around that time, and by ten months I was feeling the pressure at the pump during my work day.  I just wasn't keeping up.  I tried all of the traditional remedies for milk supply; oatmeal, Fenugreek, binging on water, increasing pumping time and frequency.  It didn't seem to help, but it wasn't getting worse.  Ultimately, I remembered the stress I put on myself with Abby and how counterproductive that was, so I tried to tell myself not to worry.  For once in my life, I adopted and applied the "Que Sera Sera" motto.

And it worked.  We made it.  To one year.

It has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my life as a mother.  However many times a day, I've been able to snuggle up with my princess and enjoy her...just the two of us.  Is it always in peaceful solitude?  Of course not.  But whether there are a million and one distractions or not, it's our time.  And that can't be substituted...for either of us.

When Sarah was just a tiny baby, we would nurse laying side by side, our tummies touching.  Her little legs would come down just to my belly button.  She just fit right in that little spot next to me.   I would watch her eyes slowly drift shut as she succumbed to the so-called milk coma.  

Now that she's older, she doesn't succumb to the drowsiness, but rather stares at me with the big, bright blue eyes, plays with my face, and even grins a devilish little smile while doing so without skipping a beat.

I can't say for sure whether it's because of the breastfeeding or not, but there is a correlation between the length of time I nursed my babies and their overall health.  There is also a correlation between the length of time I nursed them and their willingness to try new foods.  Without question, Ben is my pickiest child and Sarah is no less than a vacuum cleaner when it comes to food (and even non-foods, as I removed some pebbles from her mouth just last night). 

I couldn't have done it without Sam's support and encouragement.  And, also, my friends who were no less than my personal breastfeeding cheerleaders (this means you, Kat!).  I know for many, there is a stigma associated with nursing.  Shoot, I had to overcome that in myself.  Growing up, I knew of one woman who nursed her children, and well, quite frankly, we all thought she was a little weird.  If you had asked me before I had kids if I would even consider breastfeeding, I would have probably said no.  Like I've said before, becoming a mom changes you.  I never imagined I would become a lactivist, and yet here I stand. 

It was on my 101 list, and while I'm thrilled to be able to say, "#53 - Breastfeed Sarah on her first birthday...consider yourself checked!", it's been so much more to me than just an item on a list.

Happy Birthday, Little Girl!

It's been an incredible year!


Brooke said...

That's awesome, Jennie! I'm so happy for you and Sarah to have this amazing milestone to share. I truly admire Moms that stick to it. Again, congratulations!

Cate Pracey said...

You are amazing! So proud of you! I made it to two days before Jack's first birthday because the little guy was just done, but it is something I am very proud of and DEFIANTLY shows in his eating habits and his health! Way to go Momma!

Jada said...

Great job Jennie! I was the same way--had to stop bf Ainsley at 3 mos and Kyle made it 1 week shy of 18 mos!!! My goal was 6 mos. So I can definitely say I made it. Enjoy your day with big girl Sarah!!!

Elizabeth said...

Congratulations!! I have so much respect for moms who work, pump and breastfeed.

stacie said...

I'm so proud of you Jennie! Since becoming a mom, I have become somewhat of a lactivist also. You are a real inspiration! :) And Happy Birthday to your beautiful Sarah!

Shelly said...

Yay Jennie and Sarah! I wish I could have had that kind of experience with bf. Unfortunately I didn't get a "good" hormone rush. My hormones kept saying "get it off! get it OFF!" so I had to find other ways to bond. I envy and respect moms who can do it though! Happy Birthday Sarah!

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