This post may be the most personal look into my life I will ever publicly share. If you choose to read on, you will learn that my motherhood journey doesn’t look at all like I thought it would in some ways. I have researched. I have cried. I have felt alone. I have felt like a failure. I have felt broken. Most people that read this will think, “wow, she’s dramatic.” Maybe I am dramatic. But this journey was a difficult one for me and so I ask that you be kind. Finally, now that my son is four months old, I have found some acceptance.
Our journey through infertility was draining emotionally. Every month that the pregnancy test was negative felt like another tug at my heart. Maybe we just weren’t meant to be parents. Maybe we were so attached to our niece and nephew because we would never have children of our own. Maybe I couldn’t be a good mother, so God was protecting me.
Then, a day before our fourth wedding anniversary the second pink line appeared. I was pregnant! To say I was shocked would be an understatement. My husband couldn’t believe it either. I began to be cautiously optimistic.
About two weeks after we found out I was pregnant, I began experiencing symptoms of a miscarriage. My first pregnancy ended in miscarriage, at the same day of gestation as this pregnancy and this felt like deja vu. I told my husband what was going on and he told me, “I worried that’s what was wrong.”The symptoms didn’t stop like my doctor’s office told me they would. In fact, they got worse. I felt defeated. I had the devastating feeling that I was once again losing my baby. I cried out to God while on bed rest, asking Him once again not to take my baby.
I finally had an ultrasound at my doctor’s office around 8 weeks. We saw our baby! I also saw what I knew were subchorionic hematoma, but I didn’t say anything to the ultrasound technician. My doctor confirmed that the SCH were the cause of the bleeding and that they should resolve themselves. That didn’t stop me from always worrying during my pregnancy. I LOVED being pregnant (I really did!), but I allowed Satan to steal a lot of my joy.
While I was pregnant there were a few things I was absolutely sure of. One of them was that I was going to exclusively breastfeed my son for at least 6 months, possibly longer. I knew that the nutrition and benefits of breast milk far outweighed those of formula, but my main deciding factor was that I knew I would need that bonding relationship with my child.
As soon as my son was born, he was hungry. Those first several weeks he literally wanted to eat almost 24/7. I knew that was normal for newborns. I didn’t mind. I was enjoying the snuggles. At his second doctor’s appointment around two weeks old he hadn’t gained a single ounce since his previous visit. His pediatrician didn’t seem concerned, but wanted us back in his office two weeks later for another weight check. I was so nervous in the weeks leading up to that next appointment. The nurse weighed my son and he had gained 6 ounces! I was so relieved! Dr. Esposito wanted us to come back in another week for his one month checkup since things seemed to be going well.
At his one month appointment at 5 weeks old, my son had lost 2 ounces since his last appointment the week before. As soon as the nurse left the room I started crying. My husband didn’t understand why I was crying, and I told him that I knew they were going to tell me to start supplementing with formula. My issue wasn’t with the formula itself, but with the fact that there was something wrong with me. Dr. Esposito came into the room and my fear was confirmed. He suggested a couple different formulas to me and told me I could pick whichever one I wanted. That night we started giving a half ounce of formula after each feeding.
Everyone I talked to told me to “just keep nursing! Do skin-to-skin! You ARE making enough milk. Your baby will be fine!”
I was nursing around the clock. My baby kept falling asleep. A couple days after that appointment I had to head out of town for a ladies’ get together. I broke down the first night and had to take my baby back to the hotel room because I just couldn’t keep myself together. That’s when I decided to schedule an appointment with a lactation consultant. I didn’t just want to supplement for supplementing’s sake. I wanted to find out just how much milk I was making and how much my baby was getting.
**NOTE: my baby was never dehydrated or classified as Failure to Thrive. If your newborn is dehydrated I urge you to seek immediate attention.**
At the lactation appointment we did a weighed feed and determined that baby’s latch was fine and he was transferring what I had, I just didn’t have much. I WASN’T making enough milk. We left the office with some tips to try to increase my milk supply. I left that appointment with so much hope!
For the next week I nursed my son, supplemented with 1.5 ounces of formula (that number was based on his needs and how much I was actually supplying) and then used my breastpump for 15 minutes, every 3 hours around the clock. I made lactation cookies, I drank lactation tea, and I took a fenugreek supplement. I increased my fluid intake and made sure to rest as much as possible. We followed up with the lactation consultant a week later and found that I had increased my supply by 3 ounces per day! We were on the right track. The lactation consultant told me to keep it up and come back in 2 weeks for a final appointment.
At that final appointment we found that my supply had not increased anymore in those two weeks, so I was told I just have “low supply”. No reason given, I just don’t make enough milk for my baby. That was when I really started to feel broken. Some mothers choose to solely feed their babies formula, and that’s fine. But in my case I wanted desperately to be the sole source of nourishment for my baby, but discovered I just couldn’t. My husband didn’t understand why it bothered me so much, and that’s ok. It was my body that was letting our baby down, not his.
Each time my son spat up after a meal I was reminded that I wasn’t enough for him. He didn’t care what what in his bottle, but eventually he would inevitably spit up the formula he drank. We tried 4 different formulas trying to find one he could keep down long enough that he could continue to gain weight. I guess I felt like if I couldn’t produce enough “liquid gold” for him I should at least be able to find him a decent substitute. Last weekend we finally found a formula that our son seems to be able to keep down fairly well. We had his four month checkup on Tuesday and he is now in the 28th percentile for weight and the 48th for height!
Some parents struggle with the sleepless nights, the loss of personal hygeine, keeping up with the diaper changes. That has all been easy for me. My trial has been different. Everyone’s journey is different. At 4 months old my baby eats every 2-2.5 hours during the day by nursing and then drinking a bottle of 3-4 ounces of formula. My alarm is set for 4:00 each morning so that I can pump in the event that Baby Bear sleeps through the night (which he started doing around 3 months.) Last month we went 8 full days without formula due to a donation of milk from a very generous woman we are blessed to know. Am I exhausted? Absolutely. Do I miss being able to drop what I’m doing and just head out the door? Not really. I’m determined to give my baby every drop of Mommy’s milk that I can.
I just want to use my journey to acceptance to encourage other struggling mothers not to give up. Don’t be afraid to meet with a lactation consultant. While low milk supply is rare, it does exist. Listen to your mommy instinct. You have it for a reason! Don’t be afraid to speak up and share your story! I wish I knew when my son was born what I know now, but I’m confident that if my husband and I are ever blessed with another child I will be prepared for the roller coaster that is low supply. There IS support out there. Alternatively, if you have an oversupply I encourage you to get in touch with a local milk bank or your state’s Human Milk for Human Babies and Eats on Feets Facebook pages and bless a baby with your milk.
Please don’t judge a mother bottle feeding her baby. You don’t know her journey.