I will add my anecdotes and my story to the fray. I certainly can't say it any better than the eloquent professionals who have posted before me, but this thread transported me back to a very difficult period in my life, and it is strangely timely. Just today a co-worker, pregnant with her first child, was expounding on her plans for birth and motherhood -- and yes, made a few less than tactful comments about my own choices and journey as well as what she viewed as poor parenting on the part of her peers. So funny that I should finally open this thread.
My living kids are 22 and 24. I should have a 25 year old daughter. Because of a very complicated situation involving PPROM, two months in the hospital, and an overzealous surgeon, I had a traumatic emergency c-section that ended with my trying to bleed out and a dead baby. I was young, (20) I was trusting, it was my first pregnancy. I was faced with the unimaginabe choice of withdrawing life support or prolonging the suffering of an innocent child. The day my daughter died, I became an advocate.
With my oldest living child, I had to have a scheduled c-section because of the severe trauma my uterus had endured. Luckily, I had supportive nurses. I had done some quality research, and even though I was somewhat uncomfortable with the idea, I set out to breast feed. Even better, my daughter was an easy baby, latched well, and even though I was far from a natural, I began to enjoy nursing. I also used pacifiers, occasional formula when out and about, a home breast pump, sippy cups, etc. She was 60/40 breast fed until about 14 months. Never had issues with "nipple confusion", weaning the pacifier, anything. She was and is healthy and happy. I
I had a great LC in the hospital who educated and supported me and made me feel competent and confident, but this was also during a time when I could choose to have rooming in or have the baby go to the nursery for a bit while I rested. A relative pointed out that I shouldn't need much rest; after all, I had never labored. I was told again and again how easy I had it.
The nurses and LC gave me options and helped educate me - but
most importantly, they let me know that I was the mom, and I was going to be the expert on what worked for my family. They empowered me.
I so strongly agree with the posters who have emphasized the importance of balance for new moms. I don't know what I would have done had I been in "mommy groups" and experienced some of the shaming I see today. I recently had a co-worker (young, second pregnancy) state that I should have *insisted* on attempting a VBAC so that I could "at least feel like a real woman and a real mom."
During the scheduled c-section, extensive scar tissue was discovered on my uterus - I actually had a uterine "window" from the previous trauma. I was advised not to have more children. So, no thanks, no VBACs for me. I will skip the ruptured uterus and round two of a life threatening hemorrhage. I could never be allowed to labor down. It simply was not a possibility for me.
I conceived my son while on the pill. I had extensive complications from the start. I spent months on bed rest, trying to keep pre-term labor at bay. My son was eventually delivered by stat c section at 32 weeks. I was unable to put him to breast because he experienced every conceivable minor complication and a few oth the major ones - a head bleed, sepsis.... the list went on.
I again had a wonderful LC who got me a hospital pump. I hand expressed colostrum and then pumped hourly. I pumped while looking at the baby. I pumped where I could hear other babies crying. I pumped and pumped. The quality of the hospital pump was incredible. I had minimal soreness and quickly established a good supply.
I went on to generate a milk supply that rivaled that of a Guernsey cow. I donated to milk banks. I had a standup freezer full of milk. My son was literally never able to breast feed - he could never latch and developed severe oral aversion from prolonged gavage feeds. I was able to feed him breast milk for around 18 months, without formula supplementation. He never nursed. Not once. A huge key here was that I was NOT working a traditional job. I became a single parent during this time, but had tremendous community and family support, as well as some financial means, which made so many things possible that just are not feasible for others experiencing similar struggles.
I have been been criticized numerous times over the years for everything from the vbac issue to not exclusively breastfeeding my daughter, to becoming "obsessed with pumping so I could feel like a woman" to choosing to carry my son at all when it was against medical advice. Only my closest friends know of the decisions I had to make regarding my first daughter's life support. All of these things hurt me in one way or another. I became a parent advocate for families in the nicu. I worked with families who had just lost a child. I shared my story, and what information I had. I tried to empower the families I worked with. I developed my voice and my personal stance on autonomy, suffering, and palliative care decades before taking my first patient as a licensed nurse.
Im still an advocate. I try to bridge the gap between the MDs orders, the patient's needs and desires, their goals for lifestyle and quality of life, and the autonomy all patients deserve... even when a part of me may vehemently disagree with their choices. I try to empower my patients the way I was empowered.
Some of of the things I have read and experienced - particularly over the last 10 years - make me thank my lucky stars that my child bearing years are long behind me. I may not be a "real woman" or a "natural mother" as some associates have stated; I may even be a terrible mother for giving my daughter bottles and formula when it suited my situation. What I can say is this: I raised two happy, healthy and loving children. I did what the vast majority of moms do: I tried to pair the knowledge I had obtained and the opinions I was given with the reality I was facing and my family's unique circumstances. It wasn't easy. I wasn't always right, and had to backtrack and start over. I truly believe that my ability to provide breast milk to my son was a wonderful, healing gift I was physically and emotionally able to give. I had tremendous advantages that so many others do not.
I believe breast milk is amazing and miraculous. I also believe that having a reliable, accessible mass produced infant formula available is a feat of science. I love that formula is there to help provide options and make the world larger for women. I wish there were better supports for new moms, as so many others have eloquently stated. Being stressed out, clinically depressed, judged, and exhausted with a screaming child does not promote health, wellness, or bonding between mother and child. Not even close.
These women are vulnerable in a way they never expected and likely never will be again. I will always advocate for them, I will always strive to educate and find that sweet spot that bridges the best of science and real world struggle. I'm not an L&D nurse, but my volunteer involvement remains.
Motherhood is hard enough without being shamed by peers and judged by professionals. Well being is multifaceted: physical, emotional, psychological and fiscal, just to name a few. Thank the universe that there is more than one way to get the job done and produce a satisfactory outcome; My offspring and I certainly wouldn't have fared well with a one-size-fits approach.