More Humble Freaking Pie

This should be tattooed on my forehead

Well this has been a spectacularly awful day. Normally I try not to use my blog to just vent and whine (right, long-time readers? I never do that) but today sucked and I’m going to blog about it. Because it’s my blog, that’s why.

After Lincoln’s frenulectomy we had three beautiful days. Three days where I saw who my son could be, who he should be. He still wasn’t an overwhelmingly happy baby, but he was content. He wasn’t frantically trying to nurse every 30 minutes. Instead of taking one two hour nap in the morning and then dozing for 30 minutes in between fits of screaming and frustrating bouts of breastfeeding the rest of the day, he napped contentedly, ate happily, and spent his awake time cheerfully, in our arms or out of them.

Then it all went to hell.

I think the frenulectomy closed up. I know there are stretches to do so this doesn’t happen, but the ENT specifically told me not to do those because it could cause tissue damage around the stitch site. So I didn’t. And now his latch is worse than ever. It’s so bad that after an endless night of restless, angry nursing, I finally tried one last time to nurse him and he gave up three minutes in and just wailed. I felt so helpless and so desperate that I called my neighbor, who brought over formula and a bottle. Then another neighbor sent another bottle and more formula. But Lincoln wouldn’t take either bottle. I tried for hours. He went a solid five hours between the failed nursing attempt this morning and the moment around noon when I finally gave up, in tears again, and tried to nurse him. Maybe half an ounce of formula had dribbled into his mouth, but he’d spit most of it right out.

He nursed for about ten minutes and then fell asleep in exhaustion. I spent the next two hours alternately nursing him and soothing him when he got frustrated and crying myself. I felt horribly guilty about giving him formula this morning, but that guilt went right out the window today. At this point, I just want him to eat. Something. Somehow.

It isn’t like he’s underweight. He’s much, much thinner than my other babies were, and I know that my milk supply is about half what it usually is, but he’s still tracking okay on the growth chart. Or he was, three weeks ago. So he’s getting some calories at least, probably due to my ridiculously overactive letdown. But he’s never content.

We have an appointments with a lactation consultant and the ENT who did the frenulectomy tomorrow, so hopefully we will get some answers. I’m also going to borrow a pump so I can try breastmilk in the bottle. Maybe he’ll be more inclined to try it then. In the meantime…I dunno. I’m going to try not to actually go right over the cliff into total breakdown mode.

I said this on my facebook page this morning and I really meant it. I have never had enough sympathy for mothers who struggled to breastfeed. It was just always so easy for me, I didn’t understand how it could possibly be that difficult.

Well, fellow mothers, I’m sorry for being a snot-faced asshat who did her horrible part to perpetuate the mommy wars. Because this is terrible. It’s probably the most stressful experience of my life, and that includes drug withdrawals and living with my in-laws with three kids and my husband halfway across the country. This is so awful I can’t even put on a happy face when I see people on the street. It’s so awful that I didn’t even smile when the Ogre brought me home a bag of chocolate tonight. It’s so awful that I don’t even want to watch TV.

And I know it’s good that I’m getting my portion of humble pie, but I wish God would stop dishing it out so often. I’ve had so many humbling experiences with motherhood that there is absolutely no area left where I think I rock this shizzle because I’m doing it right, that’s why. Breastfeeding was the last holdout. I know nothing about mothering children. I have no secret abilities or innate gifts. I have no more grand delusions about how homebirthing or breastfeeding or cosleeping or attachment parenting will solve all those poor other mothers’ problems. Reality slapped those right out of me.

I get it now, God. Being a mother is a monumental task, and every mother is different, and every child is different, and no one-size-fits-all “your baby will be happy if you do X because RESEARCH AND STATISTICS” approach is ever going to work. Life has thrown me ridiculously thick frenula and a baby who can actually regenerate, probably because of my excessive gestational Doctor Who watching. The one thing I never worried about has ended up completely undoing me. I admit that I’ve been overly prideful about this one thing, and can only see that when it’s falling apart. I get it.

Please, though, no more pie right now. Let me get over choking this one down.

  • Juliet

    Hi Calah,

    Have you let your baby suck on your pinky, pad side up? If you feel his gums on your finger, he is retracting his tongue while nursing which is excruciating but fixable. Just a thought and it’s easy to check.



  • Karen

    Oh, I am so sorry for both you and Lincoln. My first three babies all had tongue tie (I can thank my husband for that, according to our dentist, who took one look at him and diagnosed mild tongue tie), and I tried nursing all of them, with varying degrees of tears and frustration and hell. They all ended up being bottle babies–even with frenulectomies for #2 and #3– and are all healthy and vibrant kids. I had so much guilt about it, though. Especially when my sister in law, who has exclusively breastfed all six of her kids, chirped, “I know it’s hard in the beginning, but I just made up my mind to keep at it!” I was told by a lactation consultant that once the tongue tie was corrected for #3, I SHOULD have been able to breastfeed, I just wasn’t trying hard enough. Then I went for a baseline mammogram and when the nurse was showing me the images I asked her where the milk ducts were on one of my boobs. She peered at the image and said, “Well..I see….two? There should be more…” and it dawned on me that maybe, just maybe my “failure” was a perfect storm of weird anatomies and maybe babies who learn a bad suck on their thumbs in utero and then can’t learn…anyway. When I was due with #4, my husband sat down with me and politely begged me to not even TRY breastfeeding, given that I’d had such poor supply issues, and this baby would most likely have tongue tie as well, and our attempts to breastfeed had led to tears and frustration and fights and horribleness. I agreed, and we stocked up on new bottles and formula.

    And #4 was born…without tongue tie. *d’oh* But really, it’s all right. The important thing is to get baby fed and mama sane. You will be in my prayers, Calah. Here’s a virtual *hug*, as cheesy as that sounds.

  • Mel

    Thinking of you, praying it gets better, feeling your pain. Been there! My third was a horrible nurser…he did experience slow growth for a while and had to be constantly monitored…he just started out with a bad latch that would actually cut off my milk supply while he was nursing. And that became a habit and I didn’t realize it was happening. Finally did get a consult with a lactation and she taught me how to hold him up properly so he could latch. That did help. So here is hoping that it will get figured out! You probably already know this but they need to take in the whole nipple…hope that’s not tmi. He may be reverting back to his habit pre frenulectemy and chomping down too hard and cutting off the milk. See what the lactation consultant has to say. I had to readjust my way of holding S and bring him straight on, like up and on rather than cradle him and lower down to him. Again sorry if tmi….it did not “feel” natural at first. But it helped him get a better hold. I had no problems at all with my first two or my fourth, like you, thought it was a breeze. Don’t feel so bad. You’ll figure it out. He just isn’t latching properly. And don’t feel bad if you have to just bottle feed him. It’s not the end of the world! As long as he is healthy, eating and hopefully gets happy again! O they also gave me a soft thingy called a nipple shield that helped S to work on his latch and protected me because by then I was in so much pain…anyway, ask about that too.

  • KK

    Breastfeeding is hard and every baby is different. Tongue ties are tricky. Good idea to get a pump – if he isn’t eating much right now then do lots of pumping to keep your supply up in the meantime. Don’t feel bad about a bit of formula until you get the pump. It is no big deal. This coming from the woman who cried her eyes out b/c we gave our firstborn formula one night when I was strung out and exhausted and had huge latching problems with him. I had clearly lost perspective! I did persevere and it worked out and this will too. You are on the right track with your upcoming appointments. If you need to give him a bottle with either formula or breastmilk it might be easier if someone else gives it to him until he will take it willingly. I did/do some pumping with all my babies and never had luck getting them to take the bottle from me when we were first introducing it. My husband did it or my mom or anyone but me. Also, with my third – we didn’t get around to introducing a bottle until 4 months and it took 6 tries before he would suck from it. My husband just tried every night for a week until he took it. Good luck and try not to get too stressed. I totally agree that feeding a baby is the most stressful thing and nursing problems can get so emotional. I had difficulties with all three of mine at different stages.

  • KT

    Oh girl…I’m sorry. All I can say is don’t get bogged down in guilt, it’s not going to change anything at all. It’s ok to cry and ok to say this sucks- it totally does! I’m praying for peace and grace for you. Hopefully god will throw you a bone.

  • Paige

    I have no kids so no advice. I had a mild tongue tie and I didn’t breastfeed at all and my mom STILL feels bad about it 28 yrs later, so know that you must be a great mom or it wouldn’t bother you so much

    Also, I’m 11w pregnant and you freaked me out about having a baby that can regenerate since I’ve been watch Doctor Who practically non-stop :)

  • B. Durbin

    For those that mentioned the pump—until you get one, you can do what our mothers did, which is milk yourself into a bottle. Seriously; I ended up doing that with my second child when I had to “pump” some places where there was privacy but no electricity or just plain no space. (It also was easier to keep from getting blocked ducts because I could target areas.) Call it a “massage.” ‘Cause you can dream, right?

    (P.S. Both of my kids had formula when breastfeeding was not convenient, like in the car or before my very slow-to-come milk came in. It’s FOOD.)

  • Jen @ Conversion Diary

    I have a theory that God has a special plan he puts some mothers on where if they ever, ever, even once think even a quasi-judgmental thought about another mom, they will be given extremely memorable opportunities to see things from that woman’s perspective, and from the depths of their misery they’ll cry out in regret that they weren’t more merciful when seeing others who faced this challenge. (Can you tell I’m on that plan too?) :)

    So sorry to hear you’re having a tough time. You’ll be in my prayers.

    • Cordelia

      Purgatory-right-here-on-earth, huh? Oh, gosh…I’m totally, totally doomed, then.

  • deltaflute

    Maybe someone already suggested but…have you tried a baby spoon or eye dropper? My oldest was a huge screamer and my supply was abysmal (not that that’s your problem). He would scream even was even a bit hungry. I gave him bottles of formula to supplement, but then later read that for some babies using a small spoon or an eye dropper helps because it’s the sucking that’s the issue not the swallowing. If you use that maybe you can get him to eat enough to try working on breastfeeding again when he’s not starving to death.

    Hope you don’t think I’m being to presumptuous. Hang in there. We’ve all had problems one way or another. My oldest was tough. My youngest piece of cake. Go figure.

    • calahalexander

      You’re not being presumptuous! I was going to today but the meeting with the LC went really well and I”m hoping we’ve solved the major issue. I’ll write about it soon, I’ve got Charlotte’s birthday party to worry about right now though. Thanks for the advice!

  • made for another world

    My one and only was not a good eater and it’s so so so hard. I feel your pain. I ended up pumping but, he still required so much time to feed that all we did all day basically was deal with feeding him. Not sure I would do it again…You are in my prayers!!