I hope that sharing my story with you might help another person who is going through something similar. When I was in the midst of it, it seemed like there was no light at the end of the tunnel – and nobody who had ever experienced anything like it. I felt alone, and if I can help somebody to not feel alone, then that’s enough.
To begin, I am a breastfeeding advocate – my aim with my children was to feed for as long as they wanted it – two years was my minimum aim with both of them.
When I fell pregnant with my first son we found out that my father had bowel cancer. My father was my favourite person in the universe – kind, caring, silly and exactly like me in so many ways. My father fought like hell to stay and get to know my first son – and he won the battle for quite a while. But, when I fell pregnant with my second child it became obvious that my father was on a downhill spiral – he was still fighting hard, but loosing the battle. The cancer had spread to his liver and was to spread to his lymph nodes and his bones before long.
When my second child was born I did everything possible to make sure I didn’t tear during labor so that I would be able to travel to visit him immediately after giving birth – as he is 12 hours drive away (or a 1 hour flight). It turned out that my new baby had extreme colic – nonstop screaming from the night he arrived home, never sleeping, always feeding… it took a month for us to realize that he had colic! By this time my husband and I were delirious from lack of sleep, and running on empty.
At two weeks old I took my newborn baby to visit my father, who had gone downhill since I’d last saw him. He was bed-bound and obviously in incredible pain. Unable to stay with him (because of my children and obligations at home), I had to come home. I was depressed – horrified that such a beautiful person could be erased from the earth like this. Despite this, I kept breastfeeding – I’m not sure how I found the motivation to be honest. I don’t know how my milk supply stayed up.
When my son was about two months old I had to travel urgently back to my parents house, as they believed my father was finally dying. Due to my son’s colic I was exhausted, absolutely spent – he screamed most of the way through every single night, never slept during the day and cried through most afternoons too. I kept breastfeeding. At this time I also did night-vigils with my father for a week when I could have been catching up on much-needed sleep (while my baby slept)… I kept breastfeeding.
After my father died, I came home and became truly depressed. I kept breastfeeding my son, but I found my supply was dropping – my son wasn’t getting enough food (he was a big eater!) but I was determined to keep breastfeeding. I refused to supplement with formula. I eventually called my beautiful midwife, who suggested making fenugreek tea to help my supply – thankfully this worked very quickly for me – though I had to continue drinking it for quite a while because the depression didn’t lift for over two years.
In the end, I breastfed my son for over two years – he was still feeding three times a day right up to the end, when I decided to call it quits.
I am so proud of myself for persevering – for doing what was best for my son when I just wanted to curl up in my bed and cry. It was a horrible and humbling experience – the death of somebody so beautiful and precious to me, the depression that went with it, and a baby with extreme colic and the sleep deprivation that goes with that. I am well aware that many people I know – friends and acquaintances – would have given up on breastfeeding and/or taken antidepressants, and I am so amazed at my own strength when I look back at it all.
For more stories from mamas who overcame obstacles in their breastfeeding journey, check out the complete list of posts.