Monday, November 10, 2008

Motherhood? Oh Brother-hood!

Just over one decade ago, I birthed my first baby. I had great expectations of how fabulous my journey into motherhood was going to be. These expectation where demolished within two weeks of bringing 'A' home from the hospital. The baby had three functions: a dead sleep, nursing ferociously, and wailing in a near animalistic way. Throwing herself so ferociously into a crying fit, she suddenly would stop, and instantly fall asleep in absolute exhaustion. Nothing would pacify, and we had tried everything from a vibrating bouncy chair, to drives in the car, to pushing her around the gravelly parking lot of the nearest grocery store in the middle of the night. If 'A' was awake, she was miserable. And I was afraid. My perfect little baby had a problem.

She was hungry. I discovered that I was not producing enough breast milk to sustain infantile life. In fact, at a two week check up, 'A' had lost a whopping 2.5 pounds.

After I watched her slurp down not one, but two bottles of formula in the pediatricians office, and after I had a semi-major melt down over my maternal short comings, I hatched a plan. I met with the clinic’s lactation specialist, talked to someone at lack La Leche League and I made frequent appointments at a nearby store called the ‘Lactation Station’. I was armed with a myriad of advise and products. I felt confident. More than prepared to tackle the problem. Cheered on by breast feeding counselors, I had been assured that it would be ‘no problem’ to build up a proper milk supply. I consumed herbal tea called ‘mother’s milk’, swallowed gigantic holistic pills twice daily, and took some kind of powder that farmers gave to cows to promote bulk retail on dairy farms.

Then there was the spectacle of ‘the feeding’. I had been instructed to first electrically pump for five minutes, on each side. Next came the nursing, wherein I ‘let’ 'A' suckle, again for five minutes, on each side. This was nearly an impossible feat as she possessed infantile awareness that I was a completely unsuitable food source. We ritualistically fought for ten minutes as she would ferociously latch on and then angrily squirm, grunt, and finally wail. In a grand pre-show of the forth coming Parental Power Wars I attempted to force her compliance as she arched her back and fought me with all of her two week old might.

The next attraction was jimmy-rigging a bottle like contraption that hung from my neck by a cord. Once filled with formula, and whatever little else I was able to produce from the pumping session, the bottle would disperse nourishment from two long skinny straw-like tubes. The plastic tubes were literally taped strategically to my flesh (use your imagination here) so my child could consume the liquid life-force as if it were a product of my own maternal making. The tubes were designed for an agonizingly slow flow to further stimulate the production of breast milk, and neither mother, nor daughter were fooled by the farce. Only the taste of plastic would convince 'A' that hunger would be abated. Once sensing the presence of the tubes, she would latch on and get down to the serious business of eating. Following the feeding I was to pump again. For five minutes, on each side.

I felt like a contender in the breast feeding special Olympics. The starting shot was that guttural cry: feed me! And the games would begin. One hour later I would cross the finish line which was signaled only after I washed then placed the pump pieces and nursing device components on the drying rack. Ding, ding, ding! My event took place eight to nine times a day and I wondered what it would be like to go outside again. Or wear a shirt.

Two weeks later, 'A' became a bottle baby.

All issues surrounding the ill fated feeding fiasco seemed resolved as I packed up the pump. Minus the time and emotional constraints of failure to breast feed, I expected life to magically transform into some version of normal.

It didn’t.

Though re-gaining the two and a half pounds, and consistently then some, that she had originally lost, my tiny daughter suffered several side effects from the two week forced fast. Firstly, eating continued to be a very intense exercise. She would inhale the contents of a bottle with lightening like speed, faster than any baby I had seen, and believe me, I was watching. Several months later, when I started feeding her solids, she would suck the pureed contents off the spoon without leaving a tell tale sign of squashed fruits or vegetables on her face, which any one who has ever fed a baby can tell you is overly bizarre. Secondly, she was very....particular. If snuggled too closely, she would arch her back and screech, even while asleep. She did however, like to be bounced. But not close and cuddly. No, we had to straight arm her. Holding the baby perpendicular to our own bodies and bouncing her up and down in the air. It was exhausting, though possibly good for the forearms. The pediatrician guessed this was a post-traumatic stress reaction from two weeks of nursing on an empty breast.

Close human contact brought out my child's inner fear of starvation.

And as if I didn’t have enough to worry about (guilt from bottle feeding, worry about infantile eating disorders and the stress of producing an emotionally disabled newborn) there was the the insanely prolific acid reflux. Nothing would stay in 'A's stomach for for than five minutes. The one good thing that came from her dislike for being held closely, was that the projectile vomiting was always traveling in a direction opposite from whom ever was holding her. Strategically, she could be aimed towards something washable.

It is no wonder that when I was given a book I could not help but roll my eyes. It was called 'The Joy of Motherhood'.

Though now I can take the messages in the book to heart, at the time all I could think was: Motherhood? Oh Brother-Hood!

1 comment:

Becca said...

I am curious to know what inspired this trip down memory lane. I remember all too well your traumatic experience with A and the first glimpse I ever caught of you in your overexposed state. I also remember the anxiety it caused me as I decided to nurse my firstborn. By the time I got around to nursing my fourth, however, those feelings of anxiety had changed to jealousy. But I will say, just the fact that you tried all that proves to me that you're a good mom. (Not to mention the hundreds of things I have seen since than that have only affirmed it!)