Jace's Last Latch
Jace's mother, Bethany writes:
I’ve always known I would be a mother. For as long as I can remember, I’ve wanted a large family, so it was a punch to the gut when we had fertility issues. After over three years of trying, a medical alley-oop helped us conceive Jace. In conversations with friends and my mom, I knew breastfeeding was something I was passionate about trying. I say “trying” because only one of my three close girlfriends was able to breastfeed long-term. I knew it wasn’t going to be easy, but I did my homework. My friends had prepared me for the stumbling blocks they encountered, I read every crunchy natural mom blog on the internet, and I took a breastfeeding class. I was still unsure, but ready. Until delivery day.
That first latch was something I’m not sure I can even put into words. The last push came, the OB wiped Jace off, and then handed him to me. I pulled him up to my chest, and I was shocked that at seconds old, this tiny pink blob crawled to the breast and latched on. I thought we were golden – he knew what he was doing even if I didn’t, and we’d be perfectly fine. And, for the most part, we were. Jace was a champion eater from that first time, but even with all my research, I wasn’t ready. There’s a physical toll to breastfeeding, for sure: engorgement, three (yes, three!) months of fighting thrush, the lip tie causing a shallow latch, and having to go dairy-free due to milk protein intolerance. But none of that was as arduous as the emotional and psychological effort it takes to breastfeed a baby.
I wasn’t prepared for the heaviness of being emotionally and physically on-call 24/7, and postpartum depression is sneaky. We worked years to have this baby. I wanted him more than anything, but sitting alone in the nursing chair was torturous. I sat for hours and hours overnight, half the day, half my life it felt like. I was trapped in a chair, alone with my PPD thoughts and a tiny human who relied on me for everything. PPD told me I didn’t know what I was doing. “Who am I to think I could handle this? But I’m a psychologist, an expert in child development, I should be able to handle this alone. I can’t ask for help because then people will know I don’t know what I’m doing. I wanted this, now deal with it.” I was never diagnosed with PPD, but I’m sure I suffered from it, if only temporarily. We took to calling it ‘the fog.’ Every evening as soon as the sun went down, the fog rolled in. I’d weep for hours with Jace latched on nursing. It wasn’t a mistake that the fog settled in about the time Jace needed cluster feeding.
It’s indescribably taxing to be the primary caregiver for a nursing baby, but I know it was also taxing on my caregiver. My husband met my every need during that time, often before I knew what I needed. I never had to ask for water or a snack or the remote or anything. He anticipated everything, but even the most dedicated of husbands still can’t nurse the baby. Enter sneaky resentment. Enter the slightly murderous, very stabby, maybe smother-y thoughts. During his waking hours, he was the most devoted caregiver for me, but during those hours that superman had to sleep, I may have envisioned punching him in the throat on more than one occasion. Of course he didn’t deserve any of that, but PPD has no place for logic or reason.
At around 4.5 months, the fog began to clear. If not for my husband, my mom, my mother-in-law, and my network of mom friends, I’m not sure I would have made it out of the fog. I know now my PPD symptoms were growing pains. I was mourning my past life and adjusting to the new one. Even though I so desperately wanted this new life, the transition was still brutal. At around 6 months, we were pros. I went back to work after summer break, and pumped while away from Jace. At home, we had a routine and everyone knew their jobs, and nursing became something I looked forward to instead of dreading it. It became the break in my hectic day. It’s a time to lock eyes with my son and breathe. I know that last latch is coming soon. My supply is dwindling after a bought of sickness, and I no longer keep up with pumping what he needs. We’re feeding daily from my freezer stash of milk, and nursing when together, but I know this will end. The bond we’ve built with breastfeeding is unlike anything I’ve ever experienced before. It’s powerful and lasting, and I will mourn its passing.
Bethany, thank you so much for sharing your story. If you or someone you know would like to share, please fill out the contact form on the home page to set up a FREE Last Latch session.