I just got done with Nola's late-evening feeding, and I just realized how much I truly love the feeling of my milk letdown. Oh my goodness, there is nothing like it. First kisses, great accomplishments, love for my spouse (sorry, Kevin), and even childbirth do not compare. To me, letdown represents pure life-giving love, God's provision for us as His children, and faith in Jesus Christ that allows me to believe that my body can do what it was made to do.
It wasn't always this amazing.
I did not breastfeed Natalie at all after the first couple days in the hospital mostly because I fell for the jaundice hype. Then after that I fell for the lactose intolerance hype. As a brand new mother, I relied less on my own instincts and more on the information I was given by a doctor. Looking back, I wish I would have tried harder. But I don't know if I was mature enough to do so.
With Nathan, I exhausted every option. Perhaps it was drowsiness from jaundice, perhaps it was chronic low-supply caused by latent PCOS, maybe a thyroid problem, perhaps I needed to pump more, and on and on and on. We were up and down I-57 every couple of days for weight checks, blood tests, and visits to the lactation consultant. There was also a lot of stress beyond this in our lives at the time, and I suppose that probably contributed to it too. As I recall this period in my life, I think I was trying to force my will instead of seeking God's will for me. I did everything I could do and still the result was failure (at breastfeeding, obviously not a healthy baby since he was downing 8 oz bottles ever 3 hours).
This time around, not only have I relaxed a little (as "seasoned" moms tend to do), but I have truly begun to seek God's will for me and my family. I prayed fervently for successful breastfeeding before Nola was born. And ever since about the middle of my pregnancy, I really felt like it would be a success this time. Then she was born, and she latched beautifully. Then the night before we were to come home, the night nurse expressed concern over her weight. "Ok, here we go," I thought. I prayed that her weight would stabilize so that I would not be ordered to supplement.
After being up with her much of the night because I couldn't sleep for fear of bad news the next day, the nurse came in to take her to the nursery so the pediatrician could see her. I got up and walked down the hall to watch the rounds. After about the 4th baby, he still hadn't gotten to her and a strange ache in my back and neck began to make me feel like I would collapse. So I turned around and walked to my room with tears in my eyes.
A little later, the doctor came in and told me that she looked good enough to go home but that he would order a jaundice check the next morning. I was glad she would come home, but anxious about the jaundice check. We spent the entire day waiting to be released and didn't make it home until late afternoon. And by the time we got there, my head was feeling like it was going to explode. I went to lay down with Nola, and I felt much better as I was laying there with her. I really didn't want to get out of the house the next day to take her for a blood test, and there was this inner battle going on between instincts and information.
The next day came, and since I could barely sit up without feeling like my head weighed a thousand pounds I dilly-dallied around until it was too late to go for the jaundice check. They called me from the hospital, but I ignored the call. We put her in the sun, and I fed her every 2 hours between resting. I was in bed for 3 more days before I began to get scared that something was really wrong with me. We went to visit one of the nurse practitioners in the OB office, and they told me it was probably a spinal headache as a result of the epidural. So after some bloodwork to rule out postpartum preeclampsia type symptoms, they sent me over to Carle ER to get a blood patch to cover the hole in my spinal cord from which spinal fluid was leaking and causing my headache.
I went through this whole story to say that I believe God gave me that headache as a tool. He knew that I just needed to lay in bed with my baby and fall in love with her. He knew that I didn't need to worry about some number on a blood test result. He knew that if I would give myself the chance that I could realize that there is nothing wrong with the way my BODY functions. He knew that in the past there was a problem with the way my BRAIN and HEART functioned, and if He could just remedy those things we may have a fighting chance.
Breastfeeding provides me the opportunity to nourish my baby with the best stuff she'll ever eat, and it gives me the chance to sit still and listen to God speak to me through those beautiful brown eyes he gave me to stare into.
I'm so blessed to know the feeling of letdown, and I'll never be able to praise and thank God enough for giving me such an amazing gift.