feast or famine, part one

After our son died at 21 weeks gestation three years ago, I was in shock, needless to say.

I knew I’d never stop grieving this child, our first and only. I knew my emotional and psychological recovery would take time. I knew physically my body would have to heal. I knew it would be a while before we could try again, that I’d need surgery to even get to that point. I was well aware I was facing an uphill struggle to ultimately conceive again and carry a baby to term. 

Yet I had no real sense of how I’d be able to forgive my body for its betrayal. How could I forgive my body for failing to sustain my child? How could I ever have faith and trust in my own capacity to nurture and sustain life again?

As devastated as I was, as much as my heart and womb ached, I honestly don’t remember the physical pain of my loss as much as I remember the anguish. My core ached with loss.

Yet aside from my aching womb, much of the real physical pain came from my breasts. 

I had been warned that my milk would come in. But I had no idea how hard that would be. I’d been given the usual precautions — i.e., tight bandages, avoid stimulation, hot water contact, drink sage tea, apply cold cabbage, ice, etc. — but hardly anything worked. I was in pain. I stayed in bed for days as much from discomfort as depression. I wish I had this information and support available then, but I did not.

All I had was empty arms, full aching breasts, and no baby to feed. The pain in my core encompassed my heart and my womb. Blood, milk, tears. For days, that’s all there was. 

I think because of this experience, I feel an added sting when I see nursing mothers. I know it’s one of the most natural things in the world. But for a long time, for me it was like an extra punch in the gut. Nature may be beautiful, but it is also cruel. 

After my inability to conceive again, I faced further resentment, frustration, sadness, anger, all of it. Now, three years later, after a lot of processing, I have finally accepted my body’s limitations. 

And now that I may become a mother soon through adoption, I am faced with a choice.

Can I try to reclaim and have faith in my body? Can my body still sustain and nurture life in some form?

To nurse or not to nurse? That is the question. 

For part two, read this


~ by luna on March 26, 2009.

13 Responses to “feast or famine, part one”

  1. I think I will never forget the morning my milk came in. I will never forget soaking my clothing.

    I wonder, if nursing again might be a bit of redemption?

  2. oh, luna, I don’t know what to say. this is so beyond anything i ever experienced…i know you’ll do what’s right for you.

  3. luna, I can only imagine what that must have been like for you. I’m so sorry. My breasts ached and leaked a few drops in the days after my m/c, but I was only 11 weeks along, and it disappeared quickly. Still, I remember how that seemed like the cruelest thing the universe could do to me at that point. It really added to my already overwhelming sense of loss.

    I would have tried to b/f Squeaker if we’d had enough warning of his arrival, but we didn’t and I didn’t and we’re all doing fine. In a way it was probably good because I’ve heard sometimes bottle-fed babies sleep better because they can get more full, and Squeaker has turned out to be a challenging eater and reluctant sleeper. On the other hand, I really do mourn the opportunity to let my body have the experience and to have that incredible bonding with my child, just as I still mourn the opportunity to carry a pregnancy full term. Who knows — maybe it wouldn’t have worked for us. But I would have liked the chance to find out.

    Open adoption raised another angle for me — would I have tried to b/f if his first mother objected? Probably not. Would she have objected? No, I think she would have wished us luck.

    Everyone is different … In the end, it’s a complicated, emotional and very personal decision. Wishing you luck!

  4. Luna – as a new mom whose baby survived a scary week in the NICU due to birth complications, if you can I urge you to nurse. I had the opposite problem – my milk took ages to come in. I look back and feel very sad. Watching other moms nurse in the NICU made me feel very inadequate.

    Thank you for sharing this great link. It made me cry and no, its not the hormones. I agree, nature can be very cruel. I really hope from the bottom of my heart you achieve success from the get go unlike me.
    All the best! Fingers crossed that this all works out…

  5. Also Luna, do you need to take drugs for prolactin hormone? Hope the side effects are manageable. Whatever decision you make I hope it brings you peace.

  6. I do think nursing could be a healing experience for you, but at the same time I know (from what I’ve read, not experience) that inducing lactation can be difficult, time consuming, and draining. I know that pumping even while nursing for me was so difficult that I gave up on pumping, some women (like me) just don’t respond well to pumping. I would hate to see that turn out badly and cause you even more pain…but I guess you can’t know until you try. There are people who have had a lot of success with induced lactation though, and I’m sure most of them would say it was well worth the effort. There is just no easy answer, only you can figure out what you should do. (((hugs)))

  7. I am so sorry. Nature is beautiful and cruel. I’ll add what I say to all my new mom friends, but ignore me if you’re not interested in others’ thoughts yet – try to nurse, if you feel any pull that way, but don’t let your success as a mom or a woman revolve around it. Nurturing a baby is about touch and comfort and warmth and food. All of those can be provided in so very many ways. If it’s wonderful for you two, great, if not, don’t feel compelled by a source of frustration.

    I was able to nurse my bio kids, but not my daughter, although I was still nursing my son when she came home. She was just too old and hadn’t nursed as an infant (a situation you won’t face!). Anyway, I caused myself frustration and I wish I had enjoyed feeding her and rocking her earlier instead of focusing on what wasn’t working.

  8. It’s totally a personal decision, but I agree that it could potentially be healing for you. I saw an episode of one of those baby shows the other day where the mom had uterine problems and couldn’t carry to term, so they used a surrogate, and she induced lactation successfully by taking birth control pills (to mimic pregnancy), then domperidone and pumping starting about a week before the baby arrived. She was able to breastfeed him immediately after the birth, and was very happy that she had done it. So it could be a wonderful experience for you. By the same token, of course, inducing lactation can be challenging and definitely don’t feel bad if it doesn’t work. And if you think it might be too hard for you to try and not have it work out, then maybe it would be better to avoid that risk — you are the one who will best be able to predict what your reaction would be. Either way, you know that you have your readers’ full support and all our best wishes.

  9. It’s such a personal decision. I know you will do what is right for you and your little one. There really isn’t a wrong choice in this situation.

  10. You didn’t ask, but I am going to add my voice to the chorus. YES! Why not try? Maybe you can make a deal with yourself – to give it your all, but only pat yourself on your back for trying if it doesn’t work instead of beating yourself up.

    Jack Newman’s website has some excellent advice on getting this to happen.

    I wish you much, much success in this. The thought of you being able to nurse your baby brings happy tears to my eyes.

    I remember my breasts engorged with no release too. God, it was awful.

  11. […] feast or famine, part two For part one, read this. […]

  12. […] more you pump, the better your production. Another factor is whether you’ve lactated before. Because my milk came in after our son died four years ago at 21 weeks gestation, my body might actually remember what to […]

  13. […] advised her on the protocol she would follow, and I commiserated with her about how awful it was. Having had full, painful, leaky breasts with no baby to feed, even though our situations were obviously different, I supported K as best as I could. Though there […]

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