On Feeding My Kid

I don't want this space to just reflect my experience as a mom--I am NOT nor will I ever be, a mommy blogger.   But I do feel like it's important to be candid and honest about my experiences because that is what has helped me all through my life.  Both from reading others' experiences and from the catharsis of "letting it out" in writing.  Once an experience is on this blog it's a little less heavy in my mind.  

For those reasons, I'm going to talk today about my personal experience with breastfeeding, and the mystery/lack of medical support/bullshit I was told--and as usual, my feeeeeelings about it.  If anyone reading is curious (and particularly if they want to breastfeed) I highly, highly recommend doing some research on lip ties and tongue ties.  I literally thought "being tongue-tied" was a colloquial way of describing tripping over one's words, until I met Allyn, who had a tongue tie his entire childhood and adult life, until surgery.  I knew it was something to look out for, which is something most new moms don't even hear about.

I always didn't care one way or the other about breastfeeding. When everyone asked my answer was "I'll try" because I'm pretty "meh" about all things motherhood and always have been.  I didn't want to hear the tips and tricks and advice and invasive conversations, because there's nothing I can't stand more than mom advice after asking me a question.  It's like they're opening an avenue to lecture me.  Not interested.  Inwardly, I always just assumed in my head that yes, I would breastfeed, and there wasn't a question of it. After all, "my mom did it with 4 of us" as you hear so often.....

What makes me angry is that there was no attempt to help me at all. My pediatrician didn't notice his tongue tie.  I was the one who brought it up, and she clipped it but left him with a lip tie. The lactation consultant never appeared at all in my hospital room, even when I asked for her.  She huffed her way in hurriedly as we were packing up and dismissively said she could give me a breast pump "it isn't that good" when I asked for one.  When I asked for advice, on the way out the door, about lip and tongue ties she stated her own daughter was in her 40's and had just found out she currently had both.  Like...how does that help me?   Does your 40 year old daughter breastfeed???

But this conversation was on my way out the door in a wheelchair.  Is that an appropriate time to show a new mother with zero support how to breastfeed???  During the course of my postpartum stay I was a bit preoccupied, recovering from a c section after 40 hours of labor.  I looked/felt so dead that the nurses just let me sleep and fed my baby formula constantly, despite me asking them to wake me up if it was time, to attempt to breastfeed. (I was really out of it and couldn't lift my arms for awhile either, sooo thanks, shitty anesthesiologist) But I told two separate administrators, plus a nurse, that I hadn't had an appointment with a consultant yet.  My point is that I was charged for aftercare in which the CNAs helping me stand up to go pee were basically all the "support" I got.  (No offense to them, shoutout to my CNAs, they were AMAZING)

My experience was that I came out of this horrific, traumatic birth and then sat in a tiny, stuffy room where a nurse told me flatly "yep that's breastfeeding, it just hurts" after the baby latched on and bruised me beyond belief. All the months of reading every book, every SINGLE book DRILLING into my head that my baby won't be as handsome or as intelligent without breastmilk, that he won't love me as much or thrive as much, and with breastmilk he won't ever get sick or have asthma or ear infections and life will be easy, and he won't die of SIDS...do you love your baby? BETTER BREASTFEED THEM!!!!....DO YOU WANT YOUR BABY TO DIE OF SIDS? NO? BREASTFEED! ....all to end up with a baby who couldn't latch because of a tongue tie and a lip tie, and me sitting there, frustrated and in tears, with severe PPD unable to fight against it.  Pumping didn't work either, the pump I got was cheaply made and had several issues and in between taking care of a newborn and recovering I just didn't have the energy to prioritize a goddamn breast pump.

I went to the baby's one month checkup and was, at the time, still doing a combo of breast feeding and supplementing with formula, but he still couldn't latch properly because of the tie and was swallowing air. 30 minutes of starved feeding ended with frustrated screams until we popped the formula bottle in his mouth, then he was fine. Every. Single. Feed.  Do you know how demoralizing it is to watch your kid fight and fight for a good milk flow, screech unhappily at you, and then sigh in relief at a powder mix?  Such empowerment much womanhood.  Just what I needed.

I told the pediatrician I wanted his lip tie taken care of and she shamed me so hard, saying it was invasive, unnecessary, "he might end up with a gap later on but that's no problem" (okay?)  "a lot of kids break their own lip ties from minor trauma like falling" (like I should just push him around every opportunity to assist...?) "dentists are the only ones who correct lip ties" (false) "and there are two dentists in the Salt Lake Valley that I know of who do it so at this point you have to wonder if it's a money grab" this woman had a personal soap box against lip ties.  I said directly to her, "I can't breastfeed" and she replied, "okay."

 That was it .....I just didn't argue. She didn't even look in his mouth.

My PPD was so bad that my roommates, the most beautiful and wonderful angels in this world, took charge and among other things got me a new pediatrician and dragged me and the baby to his two month appointment. I informed the new doctor of the lip tie with what I can only describe as hopelessness; he examined my son's mouth right then and said it was a severe, rare type, and called in a senior pediatric doctor.  That doctor then asked if another doctor could come observe the procedure.  Not only were they willing to help and do it on the spot, they were treating this seriously and using it as a learning experience to help others in the future. Thirty seconds and two drops of blood and it was over, his whole mouth had changed shape.  The doctor mentioned that he would research how best to document the procedure so that it wouldn't cost as much.  Just a money grab, right?

Unfortunately, it was too late for me.  Ender was done trying,  He didn't want anything to do with breastfeeding, and I was so over it and angry that the last thing on my mind was pumping in the middle of this rage and depression.  I felt so defeated.  And I still do.  I appreciate the "Fed is best" movements and I appreciate everyone's sentiments that I'm not a failure, but I don't mind saying that I still feel like one.  I feel like if I wanted I could pump and try to get my supply up again and at least give him bottles.  Truthfully my PPD is anything but resolved so just getting through the day is the most I can do and I feel like I've failed my baby.

I found the below video and it was the ONLY THING that gave me a bit of hope.  Women in their 'mama tribe' and feelgood-doula movements treat breastmilk like it's the solution to every ailment on earth--I was even told to use breastmilk on my bruised nipple (???) but the prospect of feeding Ender bread-soaked in water is so harrowing that I can't help but be amazed at formula's existence.  I know I'm not 'poisoning' my baby (as some websites and forums truly, truly perpetuate) and I know that I love him just as much as someone who breastfeeds, but that doesn't stop the inadequacy or feelings that I gave up and need to do more.  It's so hard to come to peace with literally anything about my birth and postpartum experience, and I doubt I will for some time.

Here's the video that helped:


About Settling Down

I hate to be that stereotypical person, you know, "my life iz sooooOOoo CRAZY lulz" but...haha, it kind of is.

I bought this mug at Ross once.  It has a flamingo on it.  It's this mug, actually. I LOVE flamingos (sidenote, not because I'm into pinup stuff, I actually have loved them because I'm a Benny Siegel fan) but when I noticed this big huge coffee mug, I couldn't get past the big "welcome" banner.  Welcome? Like, you're welcome because this cup is full of coffee?  Welcome to your morning? And I almost didn't get the mug because I was put off by the weird Engrish-reminiscent banner.  But then I thought of this:

And I thought, "oh man, this mug is talking about my life." So I bought it.  And every time I get me a cup o Johan in that mug, I welcome myself to the fuckin' show. 


I've talked years ago on this blog about how I was veering toward a career in earth science or geology.  At the time I was a new EMT and though I love the field, I wasn't sure if I had a future in it.  The truth about EMS is that it doesn't pay, and if I were thinking of committing further--paramedic or firefighter, say--you pretty much have to mow down competition and/or travel extensively to find a position.  I've met many a man in my career field who's so hell bent on getting a spot with a fire station he'd set you on fire.  There are people with a passion for it.  I have many passions.  I don't want to stand in the way of someone who wants and deserves a career as a fire chief.  I am very ambitious, but it just didn't feel right.  So I stalled, waiting.  

However, in my work as an EMT, especially now, where I work around chemicals and dangerous substances, I talk to and network with a lot of people who have been in this field a long time.  I also have the opportunity to do work that I feel is important and meaningful, while thinking about the long term of this field, and getting feedback on my questions and ideals.  These people have made careers at it and they come from a variety of backgrounds.  Some of the people I work with are chemists.  Some have hazmat or wildland firefighting experience.  It's a whole world of chemistry, explosions, reactions, burns, concoctions, ...good stuff.  Fun stuff.  I have been mulling over my options as I learn. 

I never thought I'd say it, but my son is another factor in what I plan on doing for the rest of my life.  Honestly, I could be content forever with a fulfilling and mediocre-paying career, I truly could.  If I'm a good EMT, why not be satisfied?  But that changed this year.  Wanting the best for his future blah blah blah--I won't get redundant, every smug parent ever says the same crap, but it really does make a difference in where I see myself going and work I want to do.  I need something sustainable, and something that will ensure he doesn't end up in Farner eating food bank rations (not that I don't have pride in where I come from.  I just want him to have better.)

Whenever I talked about living in Salt Lake to county dwellers, the response is "oh I couldn't live in the city."  "I hate the city."  "The city drives me nuts."  My reply was always the same "I'll move when I'm older."  I wasn't disagreeing with them, but made sense as a young adult to stay somewhere close to networking.  You can find events and meet people.  There's always some shitty concert or bar or party or gallery or festival to get dressed up for.  The shopping is better, the restaurants are better, the extra-curriculars are better.  Being a young adult is about learning what the world has to offer and I learned.

Turns out the "when I'm older" has come, though.  Living in the city is chipping away at my sanity every day.  I don't care about shopping and festivals.  I am not interested in meeting people; I've met all I want to meet.  Driving bumper to bumper and cursing at red lights is pretty much my idea of hell.  I always had this dream of being in a comfortable house in a small community--maybe not as isolated as where I grew up, which is pretty much the jungle--I didn't imagine the handsome lumberjack husband but I'm so glad he's here.  I imagined having foster kids (never imagined my own, but I'm SO glad he's here) and cats (check) spending some place I like working in a home I love managing.  No more farmer's markets, just my own garden.  No more downtown restaurants, just learning my own recipes.  A place where I can pick and choose important events and travel farther to them instead of screaming at the Maverick Center every time there's some dumbass country music artist blocking traffic all night long.  I've outgrown the city and want to go back to my roots.

Every time I envision raising Ender in the city I get massive anxiety.  I was thrown from a backwoods Appalachian school into a city when I was fifteen and it was an obscene culture shock.  I'm not saying it's better or worse.  I feel that school and its effectiveness is based on parental input as well as the teachers, and rural versus urban isn't really an issue in a city the size of Salt Lake.  Allyn was born and raised in Salt Lake and he is the smartest and kindest human I've ever met, so I know it's possible to be a city slicker and turn out okay, but there are parts of my childhood that I want my son to know and not wonder about.  Things like lightning bugs and snakes and the occasional bear in your backyard.  Exploring in the woods with no restrictions, just imagination.  Riding horses and raising animals, survival skills.  The quietness of reading books for hours while it rains.  Being so bored you make up your own games and force your parents to play along.  Grabbing a toy and going outside and letting time pass until the sun is completely gone.  Even in my poverty and knowing, then and now, all of the things I didn't have, those days seemed so completely full to me.  That may be why I go back and try to recapture the magic of places like Cherokee and Ghost Town.

Combining the Two
So, with all of these heavy topics at hand, what am I to do?  I've decided that I'm not yet ready to fully settle down and that's no surprise.  I'm only 30 and there are many more states and maybe countries that I want to live in.  Utah will always be the place I return to, but luckily for me it will be there whenever I am ready.  I am drawn to places, unsurprisingly, with beautiful forests and landscapes.  Before I was ever in foster care, my parents and aunt Doris both pitched the idea to me to become a game warden or work in forestry.

Living and working here has taught me that I really am at my best, and happiest, when my work interacts with nature.  Not just in the way that a park ranger might interact with nature, but the actual science of things; biology, especially chemistry, ecology, geology.  That I have dilly-dallied around and still after years feel strongly about these topics means something to me.  I've moved so much that I'm comfortable with the idea of moving for work, moving my family.  Ender already had his first flight to Tennessee and back.  I used to be a wild woman fluttering around wherever on my Crocodile-Dundee-esque "walkabouts" but I have no problem doing that with my boys either.

I don't know what kind of forestry jobs exist for environmental science graduates, but I know that the career field is open and varied.  I honestly would love the experience; anything from a game warden to a wildland firefighter to a ranger to instructor and on down the line.  The time has finally come to finish my education and I'm doing it without having a set, black and white career in mind.  But I feel great about it.