Rae took perfectly to the bottle from the instant it touched her lips. There was no more crying that night... from either of us. She finished off 2 ounces within 3 minutes, eating as if she hadn't eaten in days. In fact, this may very well have been the case. She clearly was not getting the milk she needed, not after losing nearly a pound in two weeks.
The relief I felt was like nothing I had ever felt before. I thought I had felt relief before in my life but nothing compares to going through the devastating heartache I felt and then finally knowing that my baby was getting what she needed. That knowing was the absolute best feeling for a new mom who doubted herself through every step. That knowing was the one shred of control that I felt in my life at the time.
I very quickly came to grips with the fact that Rae was going to be bottle fed. I was perfectly content with my new decision. It was, actually, quite shocking how OK I was about it. However, the little voice in my head, that voice that constantly second guesses everything, was wondering why I was so OK with this switch. Was I being selfish because her latch hurt and her nails dug into my skin as I held her writhing body to mine? Was I selfish in wanting to pump because the responsibility of feeding her wouldn't fall solely on my shoulders anymore? Had I given up too easily?
I quickly dispelled those thoughts in favor of knowing that I was doing what was best for my daughter. She was still getting the very best, breast milk, even though it was not coming in the traditional way.
I talked to a few family members about our new routine, expressing how extremely relieved I was that Rae was eating so well. I was happy to share the good news that she was gaining weight. The response I received about pumping completely opposed that feeling of relief I felt. They were sad for me, they sent me links to websites for help on latching, told me to go back to the hospital to see a specialist, told me to watch videos on positioning.
They told me to not give up on breastfeeding.
That's what hurt the worse. Had I given up? There it was again, that voice in my head. It was coming back and in the worse possible way. Was I giving up on the most important experience for my daughter?
I thought about this for days with the guilt returning to my heart. All these people were telling me that what I felt as relief was wrong and that I was somehow giving up. Of course, nobody ever said those words. Their words were meant to be encouraging but they were anything but.
Undaunted, I continued to pump and bottle-feed Rae. She continued to gain weight but better yet, she was finally content. She stopped needing a pacifier every second of every day, she fell asleep with a peaceful smile instead of a furrowed brow. I was headstrong in the conviction that, by any means necessary, Rae was going to get what she needed to be happy.
You see, that's the thing about me...I am very stubborn. I'm headstrong to a fault sometimes but that's what I needed. I finally dispelled the nagging voice in my head and brushed off the words that were tearing me to pieces inside. I certainly had not given up! If I had given up, my child would be fed formula. Screw those people telling me to not give up. And while I'm at it, screw that voice in my head telling me I'm being selfish.
Becoming an exclusive pumper is extremely hard. It takes hours of dedication and it's certainly not the easy way out. It is a selfless act.
I have been pumping for 6 weeks and am very proud of my dedication. Some days I wish it would all be over, that maybe formula isn't all that bad. But then I look at my smiling girl and remember that as long as I can produce the best, I'm going to give her the best.
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