There I was, 48 hours in with baby number three. I’d been down this road twice before, yet somehow, the chemical imbalance of postpartum hormones had knocked me right off my high horse once again. I sat there in my hospital bed holding my little miracle, fresh off of a 30-hour stay in the NICU. I hadn’t slept for more than 90 minutes since the moment he came into this world.
I was riddled with anxiety. Over lack of sleep. Over post-surgery pain. Over every breath his little lungs took. I couldn’t eat. Couldn’t sleep. I couldn’t explain what was so wrong.
After getting to know the hospital grade pump and waiting anxiously for a whopping two drops to show up, my milk was coming in. And fast.
On top of everything feeding my anxiety at that moment, the thought of suffering from a failed attempt to nurse, engorgement, and ultimately mastitis was terrifying me. I had experienced it with my first two and was NOT about to go there again. I needed sleep. I needed sanity. I needed the familiar routine of my husband and me tackling formula feeding as a team.
When the lactation consultant came in for her final visit, I felt weak and ashamed. I explained to her that this was my third heavy dose of postpartum anxiety in five years, with breastfeeding being a major trigger for me. It just wasn’t going to work. I looked down at my baby and took a shaky breath as I waited for her response.
What she said next changed everything for me.
I was prepared for disappointment on her end. Prepared for a speech on the benefits of breastfeeding, and a long list of websites and social media groups to help me make it work. Instead, she softened her expression and simply asked me about my previous experiences. She listened as I explained my past struggles to get in front of engorgement and mastitis while dealing with a c-section recovery and crippling postpartum anxiety. I explained that I’d been given an all or nothing education on this topic, and if I could just get through these tough first weeks… maybe things would be different.
She didn’t judge. She didn’t try to convince me. She simply listened, cared, and educated me. Together she and I made a list of items to grab from the store, and ideas to help tackle to cringe-worthy engorgement phase. She carefully explained my options on stopping my milk completely, slowing it down while I get through the tough days, or going full steam ahead.
Our conversation felt real. Empathetic. Safe. She met me somewhere between “breast is best” and recognizing my mental health as an equal priority. She met me in the middle.
I’m forever thankful to this woman. I left the hospital with a new sense of comfort. Maybe this didn’t have to be all or nothing. I stuck to her suggestions like my own little postpartum bible, and a handful of (hard) days later, I felt like myself again. But this time, with a milk supply! (Insert happy dance and fist pump)
With her help, I’m four months in with a thriving baby boy. I pump and bottle feed him, I nurse, and he occasionally has some supplemental formula. The third time was the charm for me. I’m proud to be able to do this for my baby, and fortunate to experience it myself. But mostly, I’m thankful for a nurse that said, “Hey, it’s okay. Let’s figure this out.”