Friday, October 11, 2013

It (Sometimes Literally) Takes a Village

I have a low supply.

I learned the hard way to trust my instinct on this one. Every single stinking lactation consultant, doctor, and blog written by either an IBCLC or doctor or will say, "Even if xyz are happening, you probably don't have a low supply." Even if you're checking off every thing on their list, it's probably not low supply, because it's very rare that a woman cannot produce enough milk because it's a supply and demand thing.

Well, I'm that anomaly. It happened to an extreme with Rosie last year. She ended up losing almost half a pound between her 4 and 6 month check-ups. I look back at the pictures and wonder how I didn't see that she was losing weight. The truth is, I did see it. I just was told that I didn't and wanted to believe that I didn't.

To be totally fair, the pediatrician was a little concerned with her weight curve changing at her 4 month check, but when you're a first (or second, or third) time parent and you desperately want your kid to be healthy and complication-free, "they use old growth charts from the '50s that only had formula-fed babies, who grow at a different rate than breastfed babies" is a really dangerously comforting line.

So we got shuttled off to a bunch of different appointments to see if there was something wrong with her GI system, her thyroid, my thyroid, etc. It was only after a phone call to a high school friend's mom, who is a nurse, that scheduling an appointment with an IBCLC was even brought up (though it was from the point of being able to tell the GI specialist how much milk she was getting in a feeding). Turns out Rosie was only getting about 1.5 oz from me at a time. She should have been getting 4-6. No wonder she was losing weight. Since she was already 6 months, we were told to supplement with food (some calories are better than no calories) as well as formula.

It was also around then that I found out that my mom had low supply issues with my siblings and I. Between that, the fact that she and 2 of her sisters have Hashimoto's, and the various pregnancy aches and pains, I'm trying to make sure I make note of every little thing my kids might have to know, because it would have been really helpful to know from the start that feeding my baby might be problematic.

I hated the idea of using formula. Haaaaaaaated it. I felt like a failure - that my body was designed to work in order to feed my child and it couldn't, that I was a terrible mother for missing or ignoring the signs, that I should have been more proactive, etc. You name it, I probably felt it, and the fact that we're a single-income family in a high COLA area meant I didn't want to spend money if I didn't have to. But where I was lacking, others were more than able and willing to pick up my slack.

Side story: Nate has a friend that he's known since kindergarten. If you ask her, it's probably closer to say that she's known him and he forgot. They went to kindergarten together in Germany, but their parents got sent to different duty assignments and, against all odds, ended up at the same high school 10 years later. He spent the entire year denying that they knew each other when she finally showed up with their old yearbook and put the pieces together.

Well, this friend was, as Nate puts it, made for having babies. She gets pregnant easily, she gives birth easily, and she makes an absurd amount of milk. She was able to almost single-boobedly supply Rosie with enough breastmilk to feed her for 3 months. We had some other friends here and there (one who had to get rid of her milk when she switched to a different diet for her baby's digestive problems, for instance), but I got hundreds, if not thousands, of ounces from her.

Cue Freddy's 4 month check and, to my suspicions, he's starting to drop off his growth curve. I placed a call for breastmilk from friends on facebook and had no fewer than 5 offers of milk from women who just want to help in the only way I can't. I have so much gratitude for their charity and generosity that I don't even know how to really express it.

Sometimes I'll think about how, if we were born in a different era, Nate wouldn't be here because of his various health issues, I might be deaf from ear infections, or my kids might have slowly starved to death because of my low supply (I can't be the only freak who thinks this way, right?). Modern medicine and technologies have saved them and us, but really, with the kind of women I have been blessed to know, I now have no doubt that my babies would have been fat and happy with these ladies' kindness and literal self-giving. I would have been scrubbing a lot of floors and doing a lot of other undesirable chores in order to somehow repay my enormous debt.

But since this isn't the 1300s, I have a lot of baking to do instead. It totally makes sense to trade milk for cookies, right?

As I said, fat and happy. There is no way to adequately thank or attempt to repay those women for this gift.

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