Friday, July 10, 2009

Admitting the struggle

This morning I was thinking about this. Why is it so hard to admit that we can't do everything and that sometimes, despite our best efforts, we struggle with certain things? Or why do we minimize them when speaking to others, in order to uphold some kind of image that we're stronger than we are? I know this probably sounds in like it is in complete contrast to what I normally write about women - that we are much stronger than we give ourselves credit for. That is true. I believe that with every fiber of my being! However, let's be honest, none of us is Superwoman. There is only so much - mentally, physically, spiritually, emotionally - that we can endure. And let's be honest, men can only handle so much, too, though they would like to have us believe otherwise. Point is, we all have our breaking points.

Making no sense?? Here is my situation. For weeks now, I have been having problems with breastfeeding Skye. Fortunately, I have never had any really major issues with breastfeeding; my babies always latched right on and learned how to nurse pretty nicely. Seth was a breeze to nurse. He stuck to business and never hurt me (that I can remember). Joy was rougher on me, but I was still able to nurse her til she self-weaned at 14 1/2 months. Between my 3 kids, I have logged in a cumulative 38 1/2 months of breastfeeding, or 3 years and almost 3 months. (Woot woot!!) I have nursed anywhere and everywhere, with or without a blanket (Joy and Skye would never allow that anyway). In fact, just last night I was nursing at the Miss Oregon pageant. I'm good at nursing. I know this, and I am proud of it!

But herein lies my problem. I am ashamed to admit I am not as good at this nursing thing as I would like others to believe. I want others to think its been a total breeze for me to nurse Skye, but the truth is, I have had many ups and downs nursing this third child. In fact, I have had a much harder time nursing her than my other 2, by far. For the first month and a half, we had some latch issues. She was what my doctor dubbed a "lazy nurser," and wouldn't open her mouth as wide as she could/should/knew how to, thus causing pain, cracking, bleeding....the works. Right around the tail end of that challenge, I developed mastitis (an infection caused by a clogged milk duct). I developed it on a Tuesday, spiked a fever and chills and was in a lot of pain that night, went on antibiotics, was a little better on Wednesday (at least enough to run a few errands), woke up on Thursday (my birthday, no less) with it on the other side and in so much pain I was in tears, my fever went back up to 104, spent 7 hours trying to get the doctor's office to call me back/call in a new antibiotic, got on the new antibiotic, and was still sick off and on through Sunday. Most people would throw in the towel after all that. In all honesty, I sometimes wonder how I had the resolve to keep going. But after that, it has been pretty smooth sailing until about 3-4 weeks ago.

Once Skye began cutting her top teeth, it began a whole new ballgame. Anytime she latches on, she chomps me. A lot. She has left teeth indentation marks on me I don't even know how many times, broken the skin two or 3 times now... I have scabs and sores. (Sorry for the nitty-gritties, but I am trying to be brutally honest.) Needless to say, it HURTS!! And it takes a lot for me to admit that. I have tried many, many things to get her to stop - changing positions, squishing her more into me, letting her back off more, making her open her mouth reeeeaaally wide to latch, taking her off then putting her back on again - and NOTHING is working!!!

At first, I was only able to admit I was having problems to my mom. She breastfed all 3 of us kids til we self-weaned, and I know she understands how I feel. Instead of being in love with nursing my baby anymore, I am frustrated, conflicted, and feeling like, unless I can get this resolved soon, I am in a no-win situation. If I continue, I will be in pain and resentful of the entire process, dreading each and every time she wants to nurse. (Which is the point I am at right now.) But if I stop nursing, I will feel tremendous guilt because Skye still wants to nurse a lot. I don't want the power struggle, especially over something that offers her so much nourishment and comfort. Before she got her teeth, I was determined to nurse til she was 2, unless she self-weaned earlier. Now I feel like that dream is going up in a ball of flames, and that is really hard for me.

So what is the point in all this? I felt I needed to be candid. To prove to myself and everyone else that sometimes the challenges and sacrifices we make are much, much harder, physically and emotionally, than we women readily admit. We think with work and determination, we can overcome any obstacle. But sometimes its just not that simple. Sometimes we feel guilty, frustrated, and stuck in a no-win situation, and that is really tough! Yet, we still wear this facade like we have it all under control, that everything is ducky, "sunshine and roses." Its hard to put our pride aside and admit that sometimes things aren't easy, even things that once were a total breeze. Women, we need to be more accepting of our own struggles, and accept that it doesn't mean we are weak, or failures, or whatever. It just means we need help. And ultimately, that is okay.

And in case I have scared anyone out there into thinking nursing is too hard or not worth it, it is! 100%!!! It is beautiful, wonderful, nourishing, bonding, convenient, always warm, immune system-building (for baby), comforting, breast cancer risk-reducing (for mom), endorphin releasing (for baby and mom), the best pregnancy weight burning kick start there is.... I could go on, but you get the point. It is totally worth it, to both baby and mom! But reality is, it isn't always easy. Sometimes it hurts, sometimes its hard, sometimes it takes a LOT of work. But most of the time its pretty great! And its ALWAYS worth the effort!! Which is why my current dilemma is eating at me so badly.

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