Sometimes beginnings can be rough, but I didn't think ours would be THAT rough
My son Asher and I got a rough start due to complications during my labor. My placenta was retained, causing me to hemorrhage, and an emergency D & C had to be performed to save my uterus. During that time and for 4 days after, my son stayed in a completely different part of the hospital from me, as I required blood transfusions and intensive monitoring. This separation was devastating at the time, and frankly, traumatizing to think about even today. I was only allowed to see him once a day when he was wheeled down from the maternity ward in a plastic bubble, and I could not touch him, much less do skin to skin or breastfeed since I was in the ICU unit which was full of bacteria, including the C. Diff bubbling in the neighbouring bed!
Every time that I had to read out my ID number to the nurse, granting me permission to see my own child that I'd waited so long to hold, the more tormented I felt. There was so much pressure before the birth to be sure that we bonded, and our mandated separation felt like it was starting us off on the wrong foot. I had anxiety and guilt that I would never be able to properly connect to him, and of course, feared that breastfeeding would be impossible. In fact, in retrospect I realize that not be allowed to breastfeed my son was the most painful part of the separation. It made me feel out of control, and as though I was interrupting the natural order of things.
Despite severe anemia that prevented me from being able to sit up, use the toilet, or walk, I was very determined to get colostrum to my son. For a person that is as anemic as I was, this was no easy feat. It required constant pumping, and took any energy that I had to heal myself. I lost all of my birth weight in a few days time in my efforts. I wasn't trying to be a martyr, but I knew the importance of starting the process. More than that, sending him the colostrum was my was to get closer to him; I called the tiny tubes of milk my 'love notes' to be couriered up to him by the amazing nurses.
Knowing that I was getting him this vitamin and antibody rich milk made me feel a little more peaceful, and a little more like I was caring for him, even if from afar.
When I was finally reunited with him (5 blood transfusions late and countless exams later) there was an immediate connection. He looked right into my eyes, and without missing a beat, instinctively latched on. I felt such relief! Finally, I was able to nourish my son in a way that none of the nurses could. I was bonding with him in a way that no one else could. I was completely his Mama.
The days that followed at home were blissful by comparison, but weren't easy as I suffered complications from the D & C, and the anemia lasted for months. We called in a lactation consultant to make sure everything was going well, and she gave me a special tea and excellent instructions to help me boost my supply. She was incredible, and our feeding relationship excelled as a result of her efforts and calmly delivered wisdom.
Today, my son is 20 months old... and still breastfeeding! I did not plan for this to be the case, but he is a very active little guy, and breastfeeding relaxes him like nothing else. I am starting to consciously cut down, with the goal of weaning him by his second birthday in January.
The process is much harder than I anticipated, not just because he still loves to nurse so much, but because of the emotions involved on my end. Having to push him away and watch him cry in frustration and rejection takes me back to the emotions of our first fraught days together; I sometimes feel that I am disconnecting us. My husband in particular would like me to discontinue nursing because he feels that it could be wearing me down a bit, and I think that having an external voice pushing for that separation reminds me of our early forced separation, even if his remarks are said with the best intentions. I know that it will get easier, and I will be very glad to have my breasts back, but I would like our weaning to happen on shared terms with my son, and not the judgement or commentary of anyone else. Of course, I know that we have had a lot of time to breastfeed that many women never have, and I feel blessed to have nourished my son to this age, to have kept him healthy and to have been able to bond in the process.
While it may be hard to let go of his baby days, I am so glad to see him step into toddlerhood in a strong and healthy body, powered by my milk, and I know in my heart that our bond extends far beyond the one fostered by breastfeeding.