Sunday, June 21, 2009

Sharing Lactation, Part II

After Ira's birth, I was in rough shape. While Gail and I were admiring our brand new son, our doctor was assessing the damage. After several minutes, she said to me very gently that she was going to need to stitch me up in the operating room, under spinal anesthesia, "It will be about 20 minutes," she said "You enjoy your baby right now." It was actually a total of about 45 minutes before they rolled me out. I snuggled him close, we sang him a song, I was in awe that this whole baby had grown in my body and actually made it out, but he wasn't really interested in nursing.

When Gail picked Ira up before they took me out of the room, I said to her "Hold him. You nurse him if he wants to."

I know separations like that after birth can be really hard for lots of women. As I was laying there in the OR, I remember noticing that I really felt OK. I was so relieved that Ira was with his mom. I knew Gail was snuggling him, and it turned out that as she held him, he perked up, and started to nurse.

Since that first session, I've been nursing Ira. Even though Gail has milk since she has induced lactation, we wanted to make sure that my supply was well established before introducing a new variable, sort of like how you wait a few weeks to introduce a bottle. Now, at 3 1/2 weeks, that time has come, and today or tomorrow, Gail will nurse Ira, starting with one feeding a day.

Those first few days, when nursing was really hard (it went OK, but it was painful, and Ira was sluggish about learning to latch) and I was so exhausted, I sometimes wanted to just hand him over and say "You do it. You already know how." But we knew I needed to stick with it, and now Ira and I have worked things out. We've had some minor problems with over-supply but those are balancing out, too. He's growing wonderfully. I feel so proud that my body made this beautiful baby, and that now I am sustaining him.

On the eve of Gail's nursing debut, I find myself a bit reluctant to share.

There are lots of reasons that I will share anyway, not least of which is that I'm the one who nagged Gail until she agreed to induce lactation, and my reasons for wanting her to do so still stand. I also know that even though I find it satisfying to be Ira's sole source of nutrition, at some point, not too long from now, it will also be a burden. Even though I'm sticking with our plan, and am mostly happy to do so, my slight reluctance is interesting, and I want to know where it is coming from.

I'm reminded of a conversation I had with another mom back when Leigh was a baby. She was saying how her husband was taking to parenthood more slowly than she had hoped, that he didn't seem interested in the baby. I asked if he got any time with the baby, maybe even time alone, and she said that no, that it was too hard for her to leave the baby with anyone else (even the father), and that she cried if anyone else ever fed the baby. I confess that though I said supportive things, what I thought was that she needed to suck it up and hand over the kid, at least every now and then, if she had any real desire for her husband to parent their child. Three years later, it appears I'm experiencing some version of that same reluctance. Oh, I'm more than happy for Gail to trot off to the park alone with Ira after he's fed and show him off to the neighbors. I have zero qualms about her providing lots of his care once we're back at work. I don't think I'd be feeling this way if we were planning standard bottle feeding of my milk (like we did for Leigh). But nursing? It stings a bit. Now, I don't think I'll cry when she feeds him, but I'm not at all sure, so I guess I need to apologize to the universe now for some of the mean things I thought about that other mom.

There's also some piece of my reluctance that has to do with how much darn attention Gail gets for inducing lactation. When people find out that we're doing this, conversation always gets sucked into a giant lactation vortex, from which no other conversation topic can escape. Yes, it is super-interesting, but I sometimes think snarky things like "But wait! I grew the kid! And she only makes 10 ounces a day! I make like 3 million!"

Along similar lines, I find I'm having some non-bio-mom insecurity. She's getting all of these kudos for being the most deluxe NGP ever, and I find myself craving more credit for the work I did the last time. It's like I was some sort of first run model of a non-bio-mom, that still needed some bugs worked out, and all that work I did to connect with Leigh and parent her without the benefit of a nursing relationship, still comes up short. I already grappled with feeling like I came up short next to Gail when we just had Leigh, but now I'm wondering if I come up short as a non-bio-mom, too.

But at the same time I'm feeling these not-so-nice things, I'm also feeling thrilled that Gail is now voicing a real desire to nurse Ira. Back when I was pestering her to seriously consider it, her reasons for doing so were primarily logistical, and also probably to get me to shut up about it. She was reluctant to nurse again, partially because of the complications she had while nursing Leigh, and also because we both understand that nursing does not make a mother. But now that our son is here, she really wants to nurse him for him, not for some ideal of sharing care or doing nights "better" than we did last time. I love that. It makes me truly happy that she's excited about this.

I also have been thinking back to those moments right after Ira was born, when I got to know that he was close and secure with his other mom, and I didn't have to panic that we were separated or that he hadn't nursed during the 45 minutes I was with him before being rolled away to the OR. That was such a gift. Just like right after he was born, I won't always be able to be with Ira. I feel better knowing that when I'm not there, his other mom is providing for him.

(See also Sharing Lactation, Part I)


Anonymous said...

I anxious to hear how your family continues to handle this transition. Thanks for a great post and good job growing that baby!

giggleblue said...

let me just tell you that i soo very respect the fact that you guys are blazing unchartered territory here and still sparking conversations in our household about second babies.

you are incredibly strong to be able to even do this shared lactation! i think about TL giving the baby a bottle and it kinda makes me feel weird inside. even thought it's expressed BM, i feel as if i'm failing our daughter in some way. i don't think i would react well to TL actually breast feeding her - but then i can understand very well how it works in form and function as i'm now becoming a slave to the pump. i hate it. perhaps TL should be lactating??

i say that if this works well for your family, then do it! (which clearly you are!) i'm hoping that you will continue to share your honest and true emotions about the process and i enjoy hearing both sides of the story. keep it coming ladies!!

Anonymous said...

Your honesty is touching... and inspirational. And not only do you get mad props from me for being the NBM last time, but I'm also impressed that you are sharing the nursing. I think I would have a hard time with that. I'm also impressed by A's willingness to induce lactation, because good g-d, there is NO WAY I would do that. At least not that I can imagine now. But most of the props go to you, because you're the one who sacrificed her hoo-ha this time. :) I hope you're healing well.