The one thing about Lily's infancy that mad me sad was my inability to nurse her. I didn't write about it here at the time, but during my pregnancy with Lily I was on a drug called Imuran to manage my myasthenia gravis. The drug did a great job keeping me stable, but it's a drug with side effects and its safety during pregnancy is uncertain. Lily did just fine, of course, but once she was born it didn't make much sense to continue exposing her to the drug by nursing. So, on the advice of the OB and my pediatrician, we fed her with formula.
When I got home from the hospital and my milk came in I was pretty crushed. I wanted to nurse so badly and the aching in my breasts just amplified the ache that I felt in my heart. Oh and the post-partum hormones didn't help either. Those few days - before my milk went away - were the toughest of my post-partum period. It was the time during which I felt, most acutely, the "baby blues". I was very self-conscious when feeding her a bottle in public. Sounds odd - I know - but living in a progressively liberal area I was surrounded by nursing Moms and always wondered what they must think of me. I would obsessively explain to anyone who would listen my reasons for not nursing - like I had something to defend. The funny thing was that no one said or did anything to make me feel this way - my guilt and defensiveness was all internally generated.
There were also some strong benefits to feeding Lily formula. Gordon was able to help with the feeding from the beginning and the two of us were not all that sleep-deprived. She ate on a schedule and there were no concerns about weight gain. Gordon loved his time spent feeding Lily in the evenings and was able to forge a strong bond with her from day one.
I was happy to learn, between pregnancies, that a new MG-focused study indicated that low-dose Prednisone could be as effective as Imuran. Although Predinisone has lots of side-effects too, it is safe for both pregnancy and nursing. My nuerologist and I agreed to switch medications in preparation for my next pregnancy. As I've mentioned here before the Prednisone had some side effects during pregnancy which were not so great - most notably leading to gestational diabetes. However, the big perk is that now all that is behind me and I have been able to nurse Quinn.
So here we are, nearly 5 weeks into life with Quinn and he's been exclusively breastfed. And let me tell you - it's hard - but so far worth it. I love the way he searches me out when he's hungry, how his little head moves side to side with his mouth wide open. I love hearing his contended swallows and watching his eyes close as he fills himself up. I love that every ounce he's gained can be attributed to me. I love that I get to extend our symbiotic relationship beyond the day of his birth. Symbiotic - because I need him emotionally as much as he needs me physically. I love the faces he makes when he's done eating and how he settles into sleep immediately on my chest. I love feeling like a superhero as I nurse my baby while simultaneously pushing my toddler on the swing at the park.
I don't love the sore nipples that occasionally get raked by razor-sharp baby nails attached to flailing fingers. I don't love being the only source of food at 2AM and then again at 4AM and 6AM. I don't love not being able to get away long enough for a hair cut or trying to figure out how to nurse in a restaurant while eating a messy hamburger with one hand. I don't love wondering how I'm going to find time to eat my own lunch or get enough sleep. I don't love telling Lily over and over that I can't do something for or with her because Quinn needs to eat (AGAIN!?).
So yeah, it's been hard, but so far very worth it - gestational diabetes and all. I feel so lucky that I've been able to experience nursing and give Quinn this gift in spite of my health issues. When deciding to nurse this time around I was worried about how I would explain it to Lily. I was sure she would ask if I nursed her. People assured me that was not something to worry about - that she would be too young to go down that road. Well, Lily's gone down that road. She's very interested in talking about what she did as a baby. She will say things like "When I was a baby like Quinton I sat in that car seat" or "I used that bouncy chair" or "I wore this shirt". The other day she said "When I was a baby like Quinton I ate from Mommy". So far I've been vague with my answers here. Saying things like "yes, Moommy fed you special milk too", etc. But she does push on it and my heart breaks a little each time.
I ache to think that I couldn't do the same for Lily. Talking about how badly I wanted to nurse her still brings tears to my eyes. However, I know that Lily has received other gifts that I can never give Quinn - most notably my undivided attention for the first 2 years and 4 months of her life. I cannot provide exactly equally for both of my children, so I'm not going to try. I believe that trying to do that lessens what I do give them. They are not the same people and they do not need/want equally. I will give both of them as much of what they need as I possibly can. I will give them whatever I have to give.
The other day I was nursing Quinn in Lily's room, sitting on her floor in the dark. She was refusing to nap and so I was sitting in there with her keeping her company. She sat down next to me with her doll, Baby. "Baby's hungry" she told me. "Oh, well you should feed her" I said. She held baby up to her chest, as I was holding Quinn and looked at me questioningly. "Yes" I said, "just like that". "Baby's eating" she said. And we sat there together, mother and daughter in the dark, feeding our babies. And I felt happy that although I couldn't give her milk in her infancy, I could give her this experience* now. That she could watch me nursing her brother and learn about another way that Mommies feed their babies. That I can still share this little miracle with her. I hope she reads this post some day and that she understands.
*Sharing this time with Lily just made me even more confused about this insanity.