Contributor: Rumaisa Kidwai
While I was expecting my daughter, I made sure to read up on everything motherhood related. I wanted to be armoured and prepared for the inevitable. A major concern during those days for me was breastfeeding. The advantages of exclusive breastfeeding, the importance given to this natural phenomenon in article after article I read made me resolve that I would do all it took to exclusively breasfeed my child.
When I reflect on those initial days, I can fairly say that my take away from that time is the lesson that things don’t always go according to our plans. I planned extensively and I was still unprepared for what was to come after the birth of my daughter.
Aroosh was diagnosed with Pneumonia when she was born. Which meant that she be kept in the NICU, under observation, until her condition improved. The time my baby and I were meant to spend together, skin to skin, bonding, was spent apart in two different wards. She was kept in a temperature controlled environment while I had to heal from my Cesarean away from her.
When we reunited after two weeks, it was a struggle for me to get her to latch on as she had already gotten used to top feed. I felt dejected, this wasn’t what I had pictured. Wasn’t it supposed to be a smooth and natural transition? Then why was it such an ordeal for me? I was constantly musing along those lines. Even though I was losing hope, I kept reminding myself to pull through. Maybe it was like this for everyone, initially. I just needed to give it some time.
What I didn’t know was the time we spent apart had already caused damage. Two months later I was still struggling and instead of things looking up, I felt that the milk supply was going down. In addition, my situation became painful with each passing day.
After a thorough check up, I found out that I had developed Periductal Mastitis. A name given to blocked milk ducts. It all went back to Arooshs birth and the time we spent apart. I learned that I should have expressed milk regularly while my baby was away from me which I did not. The excess supply and not enough demand had lead to blocked milk ducts. I was given a drug right away to stop the milk supply completely as there was no other choice. Which meant that, unwillingly, I had to wean off my three month old.
It was a painful time for me. I would cry to sleep at night, thinking of how it was all so unfair to my daughter. Somehow, I had become a failure in my own eyes, I felt less of a mother. It still pains me to look back to that time, as I was so inexperienced. All I needed was guidance at the right time. Sometimes, just reading up on stuff is not enough. It takes a village to help support a mother and I learned it the hard way.
Luckily, I came out of it unscathed. With time I realized that it wasn’t the end of the world. What Aroosh needed the most was a healthy and happy mother, who would love and nurture her unconditionally. Breastfeeding might come naturally to some, but there are mothers struggling every step of the way during this journey. And it is okay because each of us are dealing with babies who have different needs, Our experiences are unique.
I might have done things differently only if I knew better, but then I wouldn’t have become the mother that I am today. My approach as a mother has changed for the better and all as a result of what I went through. Breastfed or not, what matters the most is your and your child’s wellbeing.