Did you know that giving birth to a baby is not the end of excrutiating pain? If you are an inexperienced, expecting mother then you might not want to read on because there are, well, quite a few spoilers. They certainly spoiled things for me.
First there is the afterbirth (placenta) that doctors will happily punch you in the stomach for to get out. Then (if you're really lucky) there are the stitches that make sitting and going to the bathroom a literal pain for days or even weeks to follow. Next up are the contractions that cause your uterus to shrink back to its normal size. Think menstrual cramps but a quatrillion times worse.
Last but not least we have the nipple pain. I've heard that not all women experience this and I don't know whether that makes me happy or furious (if I have to deal with it then so should everyone else, right? It's only fair!) but I guess I'll lean towards the 'I'm happy for you if breastfeeding turned out to be a breeze'. For me that has never been the case. Breastfeeding might just be the most painful thing I have ever had to do, and the source of the greatest insecurity I have ever experienced. I've been through just about every trial breastfeeding has to offer. Allow me to sum them up.
It all began when Lara was born and I found out I was one of the lucky women who has very sensitive nipples, so it took me weeks to be able to nurse without curling my toes in agony. That's when the thrush set in and I just about cried at the mere thought of having to nurse. Thrush is basically a fungal infection that causes nursing to feel like hot daggers being stuck into your breast, and this pain doesn't stop when the baby latches off. You get cracks in the skin of your nipples, they often bleed, and the risk of a bacterial breast infection is greatly increased. I was given medicine to combat the thrush, but it did nothing for me. When Lara then also began to look kind of skinny (not a good look on an infant!) I decided that enough was enough and I switched to formula. She instantly started sleeping through the night, gained weight, and I felt like a person again. I was sad I didn't nurse Lara longer, and for a long time I've felt very guilty, because I always pictured myself as an earth-mother who gives her children the best of all what nature has to offer, breast milk being number one in that.
Then along came little Julia! I was ready to give it another try and felt confident that this time things would be better.
The thrush came back with a vengeance, and I got a bacterial infection to boot which caused me to have a high fever and feel utterly miserable. Then I noticed that Julia's right nipple was extremely swollen and red. I knew that because of the mother's hormones that pass on to a baby through the milk, a baby can start producing tiny amounts of milk themselves, a very common in both boys and girls. This seemed a whole lot worse though, so I took her to the doctor. The verdict? Poor Julia also had a breast infection and needed an operation to clean out the infected area when she was only 10 days old. Never had I considered the possibility of my milk making my child sick! I tried to pump milk while Julia was in the hospital and I wasn't allowed to nurse, but don't even get me started on pumping. Basically I can't get any milk to come out that way, so because she wasn't nursing, and breastmilk is produced only when it is being drunk, I stopped producing. There ended the breastfeeding for Julia.
Max was a different story! Again there was the horrible start-up pain, and again the thrush paid us a nasty visit.. but this time the medicine we received took, and the pain actually went away! I was able to nurse Max for a good 5 months before he started looking skinny like Lara had done and he quit sleeping through the night. I tried letting him latch on more often, and longer, but it didn't help. I figured I was grateful I had been able to nurse him for as long as I had, and that now was the time to switch to bottle feeding. At least it wasn't a painful and traumatic ending to breastfeeding like with the girls!
Finally there is dear sweet little Elliot, who is such a good drinker. He's been gaining weight really well from the get-go, the start-up pains were minimal and we have both been enjoying the feedings so much! Finally I understand how nice and really how easy it is to nurse your child, always having his sustenance on hand and in the correct amound and at the right temperature. Things were going great.... until. Until that nasty thrush came and tormented me yet again. Luckily Elliot didn't get it, but for me nursing has once again become agony! I recognised it really quickly because of my past experiences, and went to the doctor the same day and got the medicine. I've been using it and doing everything I can possibly find on the internet to help get rid of this thing, but it's been nearly a week and today the pain got worse again instead of better. To boot I'm coming down with the worst head and throat cold you can imagine and I just don't have the energy to deal with this! I need to run a very busy house and for that I need my energy to go into doing the dishes, caring for my children, washing the laundry, making a gazillion trips to school and back, cooking dinners. I can't be using up all that energy on trying to get through another feeding without crying!
So this is it. I'm done. I feel no guilt, though I do feel sad that breastfeeding once again has to come to an early end, especially considering how much I had come to love it over the past couple of months.
I'm going to have to nurse Elliot a few more times to relieve the milk build-up (otherwise I might explode) but other than that I'm saying goodbye to the pain.
Now that I've made you sit through that horrible tale I had better reward you with some music right? I figure a couple of lullabies are fitting, as they are soothing and sweet and make you feel comforted. I can do with a bit of comforting today! Let me share with you the songs that I sing to my children before bed.