Friday, June 4, 2010

My Breastfeeding Story

My Story: The Lactivist with Broken Boobs

I have severe ulcerative colitis, which has been flaring since October of 2009, when I was 18 weeks pregnant with my son. Ulcerative Colitis is an auto-immune condition that is similar to Crohn's Disease. For reasons unknown, my immune system sometimes attacks my lower intestine, causing ulcers, bleeding, and severe diarrhea (gross, I know). I had been in remission for 3 years, but it came back. I was able to manage it while pregnant with steroids that are moderately safe for expecting moms.

Then, my son was born. We initiated breastfeeding right away - we were even able to do the "breast crawl", which was one of the most amazing things I've ever seen. I had trouble with latching, but we dealt with that. I ended up with a clogged duct and then mastitis, but we dealt with that. Both my son and I got thrush, but we made it through. I believe in breast feeding. I believe in the benefits of breast milk, and I did all the research. Come hell or high water, I was going to breastfeed my son and give him these magnificent benefits.

When David was 3 weeks old, my flare went from bad to worse. I was in the bathroom 20+ times a day. I was bleeding profusely, and when I wasn't nursing, I was curled up on the bathroom floor. I hid how bad it was from my husband, friends and family. I knew I should tell my doctor how bad things were. I knew I needed help.

I also knew that the only "breastfeeding safe" drugs for UC were the ones I was on - the ones that were failing. I knew they'd make me stop breastfeeding, and the guilt of that was terrible. My doctors had made it clear that the next step was to the big guns, drugs usually used to treat lukemia and an immune suppressant given by IV, both of which cross into breast milk. One drug is so bad that women who might become pregnant can't even handle it - they can't even touch the pills.

I believed that David would be at risk for infections, for sicknesses, for obesity, have a lower IQ, bond less with me. I figured, if I could just hold out a little longer....maybe it would go away.

2 weeks later, I passed out in the bathroom after a nursing session with David. When I came to, my husband and sister-in-law rushed me to the emergency room. I was barely coherent, but I argued with them both that it wasn't serious.

My body had gone septic and I was very, very sick. I was in the hospital for 8 days. They treated me with hefty antibiotics and steroids, and had me on massive painkillers. Breastfeeding was totally off the table, for good.

My husband, suddenly the single father of a 5 week old baby, had to switch to formula immediately to nourish our son.  Even with all I'd been through, the first thing I tried to get when I was coherent was a pump so I could keep up my supply. My husband was so angry; he felt that the pressure to breastfeed almost cost me my life. He and my doctors all made it very clear that what my baby needed was ME, not my boobs.

The entire experience was horrific. I never should have attempted to breastfeed, and I should have gone on the stronger meds right away, as soon as he was born. I put my own life in danger, but I really believed all of the research (and frankly, propaganda) that formula-feeding my son was akin to child abuse. I was convinced that giving up breastfeeding meant that my son would be at a disadvantage for his entire life....and it would be my fault.

I am now on those scary medications that are keeping me moderately healthy and out of the hospital. My son is thriving on formula. He is bright and wonderful and strong. He has never been sick. I still feel guilty sometimes, but I know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that formula is the right choice for us, and that it's a blessing. 100 years ago, one or both of us would have died, plain and simple.

I firmly believe that breastfeeding is important and should be supported.   Nonetheless, those who say formula is the devil just haven't done the research behind the REAL reasons some people switch.  It's rarely about wanting to party or wanting pretty boobs, in my experience. Life's just not that simple, and sometimes formula is the right choice from the very beginning.

Do you have a breastfeeding story to share? I'd love to hear it!

First blog post!

About me.... I am a first-time Mommy of little David #9, and the wife of big David #8. That's right, 8 and 9. The tradition of naming first born sons "David" goes back 9 whole generations to a clan leader in Scotland. On the bonny, bonny banks of Loch Lomond, no less. As I tell my friends, I'm very lucky the family tradition isn't Leonitus or Icabod.

Baby David is almost 3 months old and perfectly precious in every way. He recently discovered his feet and learned how to giggle - often simultaneously. Here he is, a couple of days ago, talking to a flower.

I have returned to work full-time and I am happy to be back. I don't wish I could stay at home, although I do miss my baby terribly sometimes. I'm just one of those people who needs the constant activity and fast pace of the corporate world.

So... welcome to the Blog! Let's see where this goes from here on out.