“Sometimes nursing is a dream, sometimes it’s an absolute nightmare. Oaklee and I have cried many tears over it. I just want it to work out, but at what point do I admit to myself that it’s not in the cards for us? I haven’t done so yet because I just can’t fathom exclusively pumping… Apparently I believe in the benefits of breastmilk enough to let all of this thoroughly piss me off for however long this takes.”
I never knew how important it was to me to breastfeed until my hungry baby was crying, I was crying and I was making my husband sit silently on the floor of the nursery for “emotional support”… several times every day of the week. For as long as things had been going an other way, I just couldn’t see it any other way. I have breastmilk. My baby needs breastmilk.
For four and a half months, I’d largely been exclusively pumping but I just had it set in my mind that I was going to breastfeed Oaklee and couldn’t fathom only ever pumping. It was yet another checkpoint where I was being dealt a hand I didn’t want to play and yet another reminder that prematurity doesn’t end. It doesn’t end when your baby finally breathes on her own. It doesn’t end when she takes her first full bottle. It doesn’t end when she’s discharged from the hospital. It doesn’t end the first time she rolls over…
I wanted to roll over in the middle of the night, pick up my hungry baby, breastfeed her and set her back down to sleep. Instead, I was going downstairs, pumping, washing pump parts, storing breastmilk, heating a bottle, waking my sleeping baby and giving her a bottle. There are tons of women who do this, some even do it by choice, but it is not what I wanted.
We were warned of the possible growth and developmental delays Oaklee may face, but to see them play out in such a necessity as feeding post-discharge was heart breaking. Several people told me to, “Just give it time. She’s just too small,” but you’re not allowed to be too small to eat. It had to happen one way or another, and I was banging my head against a wall over that other way.
Pump. Wash the pump parts. Measure a bottle. Give a bottle. Wash the bottle. Pump. Wash the pump parts. Measure a bottle. Give a bottle. Wash the bottle… and then sometimes she would spit up entire feeds, rendering the cycle moot and adding the steps of change the clothes, wash the clothes.
She was too small. Her digestive system was too weak. She was too premature.
On November 12, we were offering 120 ml (approximately four ounces) bottles and Oaklee nursed a total of 28.5 minutes, split between four breastfeeding attempts of eight total feedings. We had still made very little progress toward getting Oaklee to be a true breast-fed baby. And we still didn’t know if that would ever happen.
In the stats:
Birth weight: 2lb, 12oz
Last known weight: 9lb 11oz (11.9.17)
Adjusted age: 7 weeks, 1 day
Actual age: 20 weeks, 3 days
Days in the hospital: 69
Days home: 68
Appointments since home: 13