In those first few weeks after having Clara I beat myself up a lot for how my labour with her went. I regretted agreeing to the Pitocin, which sped up the process and then ended up asking for an epidural when the Pitocin both escalated and intensified my labour to levels of pain that ended up being unbearable to me.
When we returned to the hospital on the morning of the 12th, more than 24 hours after my water had broke, I was resigned to starting the Pitocin. I didn’t actually take the time to reconsider when the doctor on call gave me the choice between proceeding with the Pitocin or going back home. Partly I didn’t think that the Pitocin could be THAT bad (I thought my high tolerance of pain would be sufficient; I was wrong) but more so than that, I was worried about Clara and the risk of infection the longer we waited after my water breaking.
So I agreed to the Pitocin and initially, I regretted it. I thought my decision was too rash. And probably my decision to have the epidural was rash as well.
And then, last week happened, a difficult week when I’ve been reduced to tears because I’ve been so exhausted physically and emotionally that I’ve come to realize the lengths I will go to for Clara’s well being. With that realization came the understanding that my taking the Pitocin was nothing that I needed to regret because ultimately, my reason for taking it was simply because I was worried about Clara. I took my water breaking as a sign that she was ready to come out but that she needed a little help getting there. And as painful as the Pitocin was, it did, however, provide peace of mind that Clara was doing fine as we listened to her steady, consistent heart rate through those long, difficult hours.
As painful as it was, I did it because I thought it was what was best for Clara at the time and if I had too, I’d do it all over again.
Not Friday but the Friday before Clara turned 6 months old. A few days prior to that, still pumping, I dropped from 4 pumps a day to 3 – Clara’s on solids now, eating oatmeal mixed with fruit in the morning, a pureed vegetable from the garden for lunch (a choice of carrot, acorn squash or zucchini) and rice cereal mixed with more fruit for dinner. Because of this, she’s drinking a bit less milk each day and since we’ve run out of freezer space (I’ve mostly filled our deep freezer with little four ounce bags of milk and borrowed space in Anna Lee’s freezer as well), I don’t need to produce as much as I’ve been able to with four or more pumps. The 3 pumps have been extremely manageable, one first thing in the morning, another in the late afternoon, the last one right before I go to bed at night. No more setting my alarm to get up at 3am and pump while the rest of the house sleeps.
And then, my pump died in the middle of a pump last weekend. And the 36 hours that followed until I could get to Medela to have if fixed were physically exhausting as I ran around borrowing first one and then another pump from girlfriends. When the first pump didn’t work with my pump’s parts properly, I spent an hour and a half late Saturday night alternating between using the sluggish pump and hand expressing (ouch). And then showed up at my girlfriend’s house the next morning at 8am to borrow HER pump, a single mini-electric that worked well enough, with the exception that I could only do one side at a time and it took over an hour each time I had to pump.
By Monday, I was physically sore, bruised and in a lot of pain from using pumps that weren’t equipped to handle the amount of pumping that I do on a daily basis. Add to that that Clara was going through a bit of separation anxiety and wanted to be held constantly, I struggled every time I had to pick her up and hold her to me.
I know there are those that would ask why I went through what I went through to get my pump fixed and to (painfully) pump however I could while I waited to maintain my supply. It could be suggested that I got Clara off to a great start by providing her with breast milk for the first six months of her life and I’d be the first to say that to another mother who needed to stop breast feeding for whatever reason – and I’d say that same thing to any woman who stopped after 3 months, 4 weeks, or a few days (or even hours) because yes, I believe some is better than none. And then people could point to the almost 2000 ounces (if not more) that I have frozen in the freezer, enough milk that I could likely keep feeding Clara breast milk for two, if not three more months.
All of this is true.
I could list here the health benefits to me continuing to breast feed Clara. Because there’s lots of them. Like it reducing the chance of my getting breast cancer (since both my mother and aunt have it clearly there’s a family history of it). Or it reducing Clara’s risk of being obese or getting diabetes (hello, Dad!). Or her chance of developing allergies (like mother, like daughter? In that sense, I hope not).
At the end of the day, while those reasons to keep breast feeding Clara are all equally important, what’s just as important is my conviction that continuing to provide Clara with breast milk is what’s best for her. Plain and simple, end of story, period. I don’t NEED the long list of reasons, as valid as they are, when my conviction is enough.
All these things – the Pitocin that I agreed to despite wanting to, the epidural that I asked for despite wanting it, the pumping that I do despite wanting to feed my daughter that way – All these things I do because it’s what’s best for Clara.
And I don’t regret any of it.