The Story of Lucille & Rhonda

Surviving the attainment of a few degrees as well as a rather prestigious teacher certification, spending 6 weeks in Africa enduring inter-country adoption, and birthing two children are a handful of the hard things I have been through in my life. Would you like to know the most difficult experience of my entire 30+ years?

Breast feeding, that's what. *Gentlemen (if there are any of you who care to read this), fret not. There is nothing graphic or inappropriate betwixt the covers of this post. Be cool. I'll warn you if things get crazy.

With Sassafras, I had 0 desire whatsoever to nurse, and for a good reason. Her delivery was so, well, traumatic that I could not have handled one more thing physically in the 5 months {oh yes, FIVE} it took my body to recover. Didn't even consider it, and she was a perfectly healthy child. Never had any sort of illness whatsoever until she was 2 1/2 years old, and even then it was just a little ear infection. She continues to enjoy superb wellness and also happens to be rather bright, so we are relieved to know that feeding her formula didn't impair her awesomeness in any way. *REALLY wish there was a special font for sarcasm. Or at least an emoticon for eye-rolling.

Simmah down, you with feathers ruffling. I know what the facts are and yes, human milk is best for human babies and all that. It is. It's best. I am not here to argue that. Don't even try. But formula isn't poison, either, and it is ok to say that out loud.

Pearl was 15 months when we got home. I had researched the induction of lactation for adoptive mothers and was pretty weirded out by the boatload of chemicals that mom has to ingest. Great for some, but given that my kid was basically on whole milk already AND that The Captain and I don't do meds/hormones if we can avoid it, it wasn't a viable option for me.

Cut to Sweet Love's impending arrival. This time, I decided we would give it a go. I read, consulted experienced friends, read some more, hit up a nursing class, read even more, bought or borrowed the recommended accessories, and braced myself for what I knew would be hard but also worth it.

She made her entrance and we took off on what would quickly become the most physically painful, frustrating, annoying experience of my life. And let me just say that before you start thinking maybe I just wasn't doing it right, understand that I was man-handled by every lactation consultant in the hospital, both during my stay and afterward. They examined me, examined Sweet Love, put her on, readjusted her, gave their stamp of approval, and stayed during feedings for moral support. They and the nurses were incredibly supportive during my stay. In all that free time you have between feeding every 2 hours and entertaining guests, I watched videos on the hospital TV about things like latching, self-expression, pumping, etc. Riveting.

After we got home, I had the Lactation Center on speed dial. I had wonderfully supportive friends who let me text them around the clock seeking advice for my latest problem, and the very sweetest one even brought freshly cooked corn dip and chocolate to my front door when I was dangling off the cliff of quitting. I took supplements, drank Gatorade, took coconut oil, ate oatmeal, took soy lecithin, used olive oil to help with pain, used lanolin and coconut oil to help with irritation, had a dark ale, even took a little nursing vacation. I drank water, but not too much water. I ate nuts, but not too many nuts. I tried nursing more often or pumping more often, to no avail. I tried stretching out sessions longer in hopes of more buildup, with no success. I googled a million different home remedies for cranking up a milk supply. Lucille and Rhonda (as I came to refer to my rebellious milky friends) were simply uninterested in functioning properly.

It was a mental game for me, and pigheadedness happens to be one of my strongest traits...unfortunately. I iced sometimes, used warm compresses at other times, layered up with cabbage leaves still others, and went from exclusively pumping to finally exclusively breast feeding and back again. Every single time I climbed one mountain of pain and engorgement/clogged ducts/bleeding/blebs/blisters/ruptured intraductal cysts, I would encounter a new one. It never ended, and it was horrible. Bonding? Please. Sweet Love and I were in a constant battle of getting comfortable (well, for her...there was not one single comfy thing about it for me). Though the nursing cover was very helpful for pumping, Sweet Love and I actually fought with it when I tried to use that with her. Envision yourself on one side of a sheet and a thrashing puppy on the other side of that sheet trying to smack you in the face. I don't know. Maybe sista needed some air.

From what I gather, it isn't supposed to be this way, and it isn't for most moms. It's at least a little hard for almost everybody, and truly easy only for a small percentage of mamas who were made for that. But for those of us who give it an honest, 200000% go at it, understand that sometimes it just doesn't work out. Even when we really, really, really want it to. Be supportive of that, too. Obviously, The Captain was on board when I stopped pumping for the last time. He hated the pain and frustration for me as well as his inability to help feed her. Or maybe he just hated me smelling like steamed cabbage. Reasonable.

By the time I got off the nursing train, I only had about 3 oz a day; it wasn't remotely hard...nowhere close to the big hairy ordeal like it is for some mamas to quit. After 4 months, Rhonda and Lucille were tired out. As was I. Nursing was a marathon of emotional and physical distress, and it was a complete relief to shut down the operation. To stop being obsessed with Lucille and Rhonda, because I was and am more than Lucille and Rhonda.

Would I try it again with another baby? Okay, first, hold up, swole up. If I got pregnant right now, I'd...well, let's just say that isn't in the plan. At all. Fast forward five years or so? Sure, I'd give it another go. I can truly say there is not one more single thing I could have given to the cause to make it work with Sweet Love, but I'd like to think another experience might go differently. Though there exists a wee bitty chance of a sequel, the story of Lucille and Rhonda is well over for now.

Bring on the coffee!