formula won: adventures in breastfeeding part two

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Before reflecting on my at-home feeding experience with baby number two, I need to set the stage. Consider this a detour, a reflection on both labour and my feeding stint at the hospital. If you’re just joining the fun now, you may want to read part one first.

Here we go. The second installment.

THE MOTHER OF MARATHONS

I put on eighty pounds when I was pregnant with Isaac. Yes. 8-0. Vancouver is a food lover’s paradise and I seized every opportunity to indulge before we moved to Scotland. Edible memories, folks. It was a delicious nine months but by the time Isaac was six months old, I was ready to say goodbye to the baby weight.

In a moment of insanity/stupidity, I registered for a half marathon. We planned on visiting Vancouver that coming summer and our trip home coincided with lululemon’s first SeaWheeze half marathon. I jumped at the opportunity without much thought. Once I paid the race fee, there was no turning back.

Running on the Chariots of Fire beach and watching the North Sea wash the coastline while I sweat was epic. It was 2012 so Carly Rae Jespen was in high rotation. Training was intense – it pushed me to my limits, both physically and mentally – but it was awesome.

Eventually I crossed that beautiful finish line eighty pounds lighter than the day Isaac was born. Despite my renewed strength and charisma, my body was feeling delicate on race day. That and my knee was acting up. I took it easy. I still achieved my goal to finish, even if I was way over my target time. So what? I forgot about that detail in a jiffy once I devoured a plate of smoked salmon eggs benedict and chugged a mimosa (and later indulged in some award-winning salted caramel gelato. Oh, Vancouver. I love you.)

Two days after the race I was still feeling delicate. I was still craving carbs – way more than usual, at least. I wasn’t pounding back water but I was still taking several trips to the loo. Channeling Sherlock, I deduced that pregnancy would explain my situation. The thought terrified me because after so much change – a new home in a new country with a new little roomate – things had finally leveled out again. Things were relatively back to normal. Reluctantly, I bought a test. Within twenty seconds those damn little blue lines practically shouted at me, mocking me for being so clueless. No wonder I stopped so frequently to refuel on race day. I later found out I was six weeks pregnant that day.

We were not planning on having a second child so quickly but (ta da!) we did. Nine months flew by thanks to something I call the Toddler Factor. Isaac did a terrific job of keeping me occupied until my due date.

I won’t go into the details of Lucy’s arrival but I will say that when my contractions skyrocketed, I was so grateful for all the grueling training I did to prepare for that half marathon. The mental tenacity came in handy when labour went from zero to sixty million in a heartbeat. Despite my best wishes, there was no time for an epidural. Instead of pain medication, I focused on my breathing and indulged in laughing gas. Apparently I entertained Steve with my terrific revelations. When it was all over, I felt like I had sprinted an uphill marathon without stopping. The endorphin rush blew my mind.

A DIFFERENT KIND OF FINISH LINE

Motherhood and athletic training have a lot more in common than just endorphin highs. Both require hard work and take a toll on your body. Both make you crave pasta (and Old Dutch ketchup chips and cheesecake and anything from La Taqueria. Remember? Eighty pounds.)

A major difference bewteen the two, however, is that athletic events come to an end. Races have finish lines. Yoga challenges conclude after forty days. Twenty laps in the pool means a trip to the sauna. When you’re entering motherhood, the finish line is a mirage.

You moms out there know what I mean.

You finish the first trimester, say goodbye to morning sickness and live to tell. You still have work to do.

You finish at your job, finish the nursery, finish prenatal classes. You still have work to do.

You finish counting the days until your due date and finally, you go into labour. The baby arrives. Line crossed. It’s over.

But unfortunately it’s not. As soon as the delivery is behind you, the new finish line skips miles ahead and the terrain to get there is not gentle. Breastfeeding, the race no one really talks much about, is waiting to greet you on the other side and there is no water station or post-race celebration, honey. Your baby is hungry immediately. I don’t think women really talk about that enough. It blindsided me not once but twice.

LUCY’S BEGINNING

So here we are. My second go at breastfeeding. The second time around I forget to brace myself for war.  (Again, the Toddler Factor: busy little man and a dwindling brain capacity.) When Lucy finally entered the world, the doctor put her on my chest as if to say, “Go on, lady. You know what to do.”

Believe it or not, in an instant my breastfeeding know-how came back. Lucky me! Was it muscle memory? Maybe. Was I successful? Kind of. The searing pain wasn’t there but it was mostly due to the endorphins. I sure fooled the lactation specialists at the hospital. They knew nothing of my nightmare experience with Isaac. To them I was an expert.

“Tummy to mummy, nipple to nose, baby to breast, right?” I asked.

“YES!” they said, practically in unison. “You’re a natural! It’s so much easier the second time, isn’t it?”

I sure hoped it was going to be. The lactation specialists showered me with praise and admired my imaginary maternal halo before leaving.

And that was it. The hospital sent me home just sixteen hours after Lucy was born. No constant monitoring, no hospital breastpump, no extended stay. I remember feeling cautiously optimistic but it seemed like the time to finally give away the bottles had come. We thought I was going to sail merrily into the sunset, blissfully breastfeeding my baby girl. We were almost right.

Formula: 1

Breastfeeding: 0, but narrowing the gap

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