Wednesday, August 1, 2012

World Breastfeeding Week!

In honor of world breastfeeding week (August 1-7), I wanted to share my nursing story. 

Saoirse was a "planned" baby. I knew I wanted to have a child, and the timing seemed right. I also knew I wanted to breastfeed. There was no "back up plan." I have heard of other moms-to-be asking people about what formula to have no hand "just in case." There was no "just in case" for me - breastfeeding was my only option. 
We planned an unmedicated birth in a birth center with midwives. I hated hospitals - they made me nauseous. We took Bradley Method birthing classes, and prepared to have a natural, husband coached, birth. I had a very healthy pregnancy, and went into labor just 3 days before Saoirse was "due." My water broke early, so the midwife took me over to the hospital to take a peek by ultrasound. That's when we found out - Saoirse was Frank Breech (feet up by her head, butt down - folded in half). I went in for an immediate (although not emergent) C-section. I was overwhelmingly disappointed. My one request - that I be allowed to nurse her as soon as possible once she was out. I was granted that wish.
The surgery went without a hitch. She came out, happy and healthy and smiling (they had to poke her to make her cry). Mike went to the nursery to have them weigh and measure her, and then they met us in recovery - yup, they brought her to recovery so I could nurse her! I have to give my midwife the credit for this one, as I'm pretty sure she just overruled any of the other nurses she ran into. The recovery nurse told me I must be special. She was hungry, and she latched right on. She stayed in the room with us, and I nursed her on demand. I was happy to be able to feed my baby. 
It wasn't all sunshine and daisies. Saoirse was "diagnosed" with a milk sensitivity when she was 2 weeks old, and I stopped eating dairy. We were told she would eventually grow out of it, so I wasn't concerned. She nursed a lot, and I didn't sleep much, but eventually she went to sleeping through the night. She turned into a "schedule" baby, and nursed when she woke up in the morning and after naps, and once more before bed. It worked well for us. She was happy to nurse, but wasn't "attached" to the boob, and Mike, or my family members, could feed her pumped milk from a bottle when I wasn't home.   
Then came my diagnosis. After months of testing, days of pumping and dumping, and high anxieties, I was diagnosed with Hodgkin's, and I was facing chemotherapy. 
My first question to my oncologist was, "how long can I hold off so I can keep nursing Saoirse?" Yup - I was concerned about what my child would eat first. That's just how it goes when you're a mom. Based on my stage, I was discouraged from waiting, and was given no option for nursing through treatment. This is my biggest hangup. I wish that I had pushed for more support, whether through alternative treatment options that would have allowed me to nurse, or through pumping and dumping while the chemo was in my system. Sadly, I didn't get this. So I weaned Saoirse in a week, which was much harder on me than it was on her. She switched to a homemade formula by bottle, and was perfectly ok with it. I, was stuck starting chemo and being engorged all at the same time. I was completely defeated. 
I remember being at a restaurant shortly after I started treatment, and going into the bathroom to warm one of Saoirse's bottles. A woman was in there and without thinking about it she said to me, "That's why my daughter always nursed her kids, so she wouldn't have to deal with bottles." Surprisingly I came back at her quite well - "Well, I nursed until I started chemo." I said to her. She shut right up. 
To those who have been lucky enough to push for what they wanted, and kept nursing longer than what is socially accepted in this country, I envy you. I can only hope that I will get my chance again - hopefully, sooner rather than later. 
Happy World Breastfeeding Week everyone. Nurse with pride, today and every day, knowing that you are doing the best you can for your child(ren). 

(PS: once we found out that Saoirse had cancer, I always said I should have kept nursing her so she could have gotten a jump start on chemo. :) )


  1. Thank you for sharing :) I think of you and your husband often. Wishing you all the best.

  2. I think of you every day. This was a beautiful story, thank you for sharing. Lots of love your way. <3

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  4. I nursed my daughter until she was two because I knew it was the best thing for her. Little did I know, that it would be the greatest gift i ever gave myself. The fact that I can't have more biological children adds to gratitude for that choice. Thank you for sharing! I think you, Mike and Saoirse often and send you love and light.

  5. Ah,that's so fantastic! Huge congrats to that accomplishment and what sounds like an amazing trip.

  6. Hey,
    This is really helpful pregnancy tips for all pregnant women, thank you so much for sharing this with us.

  7. This is a crazy thought, but occurred to me whilst reading this post: if you were breastfeeding whilst you had cancer (and didn't know you had cancer) could this have shared cancer cells with Saoirse, and contributed to her illness? Obviously it wouldn't have been your fault, as nobody knew, but I wonder if cancer cells can be shared through breastmilk.