Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Once More With Feeling: Contemplating BBAC

Welcome, Second Time Around Carnival of Breastfeeding readers!

Finger-feeding at about 6 weeks. Still at the beginning of a long, strange trip.

Could I do it all over again? Would I?

I do hope to have a second child someday. No, there are no current plans or even prospects, but I would love for Lily to have a sibling, I'd love to give birth again, and, honestly, I really would love to have the chance to have a normal, or at least a less abnormal, nursing experience.

When I got to act as a wet nurse a few times for a friend's baby, it choked me up the first time she latched on and chowed down happily - this was something I never got to experience with a newborn or even a young infant. By the time Lily and I made it, she was a roly-poly, active, distractable 5 month old on the verge of crawling - a very different creature than the little borrowed bundle I was guest-nourishing. Don't get me wrong, I was thrilled beyond belief that Lily was breastfeeding at all. It was just . . . different.

When we were in the midst of Lily's struggle, I found myself succumbing to moments of desperate jealousy of other moms with newborns or young babies who were able to nurse. My fantasies of motherhood had involved a lot of babywearing, strolling about with the baby nursing and sleeping in my ring sling at the grocery store, in cafes, on long walks. I envisioned making my way through my reading list while I nursed with my feet up in my glider with an ottoman. Tethered to the pump, I looked at those other moms through heartbroken, envious eyes.

Needless to say, I didn't get halcyon days of early motherhood. Please don't mistake this for bitterness - what I DID get was the learning experience of a lifetime, for which I have found my way to be grateful (the Anne of 2.5 years ago is telling me to piss off, but never mind that). It has led to what I feel is a true calling for me, a real vocation. It has given me insight and painful empathy for the mothers I will be serving, having experienced many of their woes firsthand. And it was a real triumph for both of us to be able to overcome everything that we did. I genuinely am not bitter.

Serenity at last.

But the question remains: could I do it again?

I would pray to be blessed with normalcy, but there is NO guarantee. I know much more now, to put it lightly. I would be prepared for any and all of the factors that affected us last time - tongue tie being the biggest, but the other components as well. What's the likelihood of facing some, most, or even ALL of these again with a second baby? Impossible to predict. Another tongue tie is certainly a strong possibility, as heredity is involved, but if we got it addressed immediately, our chances would be much better. Wouldn't they?

No guarantees. What if lightning strikes twice? Can I walk through the fire again? So many life factors come into play. Lily was a first baby. It would be so hard to repeat the process all over again with another child to care for, though as she gets older, she may be independent enough that having to take many of these measures could be more feasible than if she were still a young toddler. What would my financial situation be? What if I needed to return to work earlier than I did with Lily? How would that affect us? All of it daunting - yet not totally deterring.

I would imagine that it's something like a mom preparing for a VBAC after an unwanted cesarean, or looking at another birth after any difficult birth experience, period. Although I was blessed with a really wonderful birth, some aspects of our nursing experience were on the traumatic side, though it was a slow-motion trauma that occurred over months and months. What do VBAC-seekers do? They prepare with information, they seek out good care providers and other support, they evaluate their prior experience and look at factors that affected the outcome, considering whether these are likely to recur. And they work on the emotional healing as well - many times the preparation for the the next birth is a part of the healing process in itself. I'll dub myself as a mom seeking BBAC, then, perhaps: Breastfeeding Baby After Challenges (or Craziness).

So this time around, I'm armed with information, with resources, with experience, with support. I doubt I could be more prepared. Will this be enough? Only one way to find out.

Let's take it from the top.


Please stop by the other Breastfeeding Carnival participants' posts and leave some comment love:


  1. love the pic, she looks so peaceful and contented on the breast there. its a beautiful moment and i'm glad you got to enjoy it at last xxx

  2. I hear you....
    Your baby has a very nice head of hair!

  3. I was thinking how much your ponderings sounded like VBAC ponderings, and then you went there! I love the BBAC term. I see a fair number of BBAC moms in the hospital. I wish I could work with them longer-term, often it's just a few days/nights. But I notice a lot of commonalities: they are much more anxious and alert to signs that something could be wrong (especially anything that echoes their previous troubles), they are much quicker to supplement than other moms from their demographic, and they often have a lot of emotions and trauma to work through as memories or unprocessed feelings get brought up (along with the regular boatload of postpartum hormones). As hard as they want to believe that things will be different this time, and as much as we reassure them that things are going better (if things truly are), they just have so much difficulty trusting in the normal process because they trusted in it the first time and got really burned. I try to be very deferential with those moms about what kind of interventions/supplementation to do... my #1 goal for them is that they have a positive BF experience this time around, however the feeding itself turns out. If there's something that will help them stave off the emotional trauma of the previous experience I think it is worth it, even if it might compromise a 100% breastfeeding relationship. It would be great if there was a guide or support group out there somewhere for BBAC moms! They need it!

  4. I am considering a BBAC (love it) too, after exclusively pumping for 20 months for my first whose latch problem was never diagnosed. My plan is to save enough money to find an IBCLC or even two to be on-call after the birth, to have someone with me or at least on the phone at EACH NURSING SESSION to try to get it right. But as you said--try is the operative word--there are no guarantees.

  5. *hugs* My second was my difficult baby. Not the same issues (I can't pump efficiently, so it was breast or nothing!), but I had the gamut: screaming, arching baby refusing to latch, crying at the sight of the breast, sleepy baby who couldn't wake up, bad latch, weak, ineffective suck, colic, PPD... all with a baby I couldn't bond with due to our traumatic labor experience leading to an epidural.

    If it weren't for all the mothers before me who I helped get through one of that list at a time, my own stubbornness and belief in my body to do it and the experience I had with my first... also, the LC who helped me train my baby's suck so it wasn't so weak... there's no chance I would have had a successful nursing relationship. I've seen maybe one or two moms overcome the combined difficulties I did in the 4 years I've been helping them.

    But I did it--all while tandem nursing O_O and dealing with a 2 year old and a newborn--completely alone over 11 hours a day (I can't drive and was too depressed to call for help from anyone) starting 3 days postpartum. It was quite the experience. If anything, I feel stronger for it, because we've been through hell and survived.

    I would love a baby without any problems this time around. I really, really would. I know it could get worse and I really don't know if I could survive it being even WORSE than Naomi.

    I wish healing on you. As a VBAC mom and, apparently, a BBAC mom, my heart goes out to you.

  6. Great acronym, Anne! I think that the correlation to VBAC makes a lot of sense--I think it can be very difficult to be viewed as an "experienced mom", which you are, of course, while still having to deal with all the feelings on "never having done this before". Fear of failure, as well as having only the other experience to reference (a cesarean birth or a difficult, unsatisfying or complex feeding experience) can be so daunting. OTOH, the drive to succeed can also channel a mother-wisdom and power like nothing else. I am thinking that will be you, my darling!

  7. I went through an uphill battle to nurse my second child. It took us months of pumping and nipple shields and supplementing before things got to be "normal". I cried when I saw other women peacefully nursing in public because I couldn't do that too. If he had been my first child I really don't know if I would have made it, but I had successfully nursed one child for 18 months and I was bound and determined to do it again. Baby #3 is on her way and I find myself thinking, "It just can't be that awful again. It just can't!." I am armed with even more information this time around and I am ready to do what needs to be done, though every fiber of me hopes it can just be easy this time.

    Sending you lots of healing vibes, and as well as the strength to know you can do it all again when you are ready.

  8. Yes! I did have a chance to have another baby and breastfeeding normally. My first was a picture perfect nurser. My second had a host of health issues and by the time we treated them - at 7 months - my milk supply had dropped so severely that I didn't seem to be able to get it back. After a few months he was only taking solid food and the bottle, no more nursing. I was bummed b/c I had hoped it would go the other way - more nursing, fewer bottles - I didn't care how much table food he ate, b/c he was eating, which was the most important thing for a baby who weighed 9lb at 5 months but I had been really hoping to give him more healthy fat from my milk. His younger brother - third baby - nursed very nicely. I was working full time from home, mother of three, and tired. When my milk supply dropped around 3 months (as it did with each baby), I did everything I knew and more to get it back (even that D-prescription from that doc in Toronto...ahem, which worked so well!) I was so happy that he was healthy enough that we could nurse easily from the start. I was also proud I had learned from my own experience how much I valued breastfeeding, maybe even more than I knew I did before I had such a hard time with my second. I had plenty of support and was grateful to be able to nurse him til he weaned himself around 16 months.

  9. Oh Anne! This why I love you so much! This is exactly how I feel. You took the words out of my heart. As a doula and childbirth educator who has worked with VBAC extensively, I kept thinking to myself how much I resonated with those moms. It really is the same feeling. The Trauma. The desire for a Do-Over, but the Fear that gets in the way. I myself and still stuck in the thick of the Fear. I am at point right now, that I can't bare to do this all over again. Just can't do it.
    BBAC. I am all over it.

  10. i am a vbac mom, and a BBAC,love the term! with twins this time. unfortunatly, as much as I TRULY thought things would be different this time around, I find myself witht he tongue tie and low supply issues I did, unbeknownst at the time, with my previous children. I would have a c-section 10 time to finally have a NORMAL breastfeeding experience.I haven't even been able to enjoy my VBAC! So, I find myself chained to the pump AGAIN, trying to get throught ONE more month, hoping things will turn around. it is exhausting. The sad thing is, these are definitly my last children, and I really thought it would be differnet this time. I have no chance to FINALLY get this right, and I am so sad about it. thanks for your blog/posts

  11. Oh, I so remember the resentment of mothers who had an easy time with breastfeeding, never mind mothers who had natural births (I had two unplanned c-sections, myself). I think it's often exacerbated by folks who (often without meaning to) imply or just believe that if it's difficult or you need medical intervention, you must have done something wrong. It's hard not to blame yourself when others do the same.

    And btw, although I never did get my VBAC, I did have a pretty blissful BBAC experience....so it can be done!

  12. I had a lot of breastfeeding challenges with my first baby, too. Once we finally got things going, he was such a boobaholic that I was able to get over some of my fears. Then my second pregnancy ended in a stillbirth and my first son was there to happily help me with engorgement issues. Pregnancies since have been healthy but there's always a shadow of fear for me. I think if I didn't have that fear, I would be worried about breastfeeding issues (I would find something to worry over)

    I hope I get the chance to do it one more time, but it may not be in the cards as my husband says he wants to be done. I, like you and many of the other commenters, wrestle with the what-ifs.

  13. Love the term, too! As a VBAC mom and LC it gives me more empathy for moms who have had a traumatic experience the first time around.

    I read your story and am amazed that you made it work despite so many obstacles. Without implying any disrespect to moms who don't make as big of an effort, I'm so impressed by how much (milk, sweat, tears?) you put into it. I'm not surprised that the thought of embarking on that journey again is really daunting.

    I have to think that the chances that it will be that hard are pretty slim. There were so many factors working against you, and it just doesn't seem likely that it could happen the same way again.

    So, thanks for the post and the story. I'm a better LC for having read them!

  14. Thank ALL y'all so much for sharing parts of your own experiences. It's heartening to know that the BBAC idea clicked with others, too.

    Tanya, "milk, sweat and tears" is QUITE the apt way of putting it, yes. And it's reassuring to hear you say the odds of it being THAT insane again are slim. That's my hope, and rationally I can see why that level of crazy is unlikely - but sometimes, late at night . . .

  15. Wow, Anne, thanks so much for sharing. I really admire your strength and perseverance. I also read Lily's struggle and wish I could hug you now! As others have said, I think it's highly likely that second time around will be much easier for you. You should be proud of yourself for working so hard. Most women, even the most dedicated, would have probably given up on trying to breastfeed given the same circumstances as you.

  16. It's truly amazing how much knowledge and support we have at our fingertips online now. Even just 4 years ago when I was doing breastfeeding research online or in the early days when I had issues and hit Google, there was NOTHING like what we've built now. From all of the support groups online to Twitter to the most brilliant minds in breastfeeding being accessible to everyone on Facebook, it's almost unbelievable how much support there is. So even though I didn't have nearly as tough a time as you did, I am too reassured by all of the support that is available now. Also? Lily is such a beautiful baby!

  17. Anne,
    Just wanted to let you know there is hope! I had a VBAC with my second and a successful BBAC. My first DD was tongue-tied but I never knew it. I went to many, many, many people even IBCLCs trying to get an answer, but it never happened. Finally after 6 months of dealing with nipple shields and no comfort nursing and steroid ointment my DD started nursing normally. I think she must have stretched her frenulum out. I never knew what was wrong UNTIL,
    My second, a boy was born VBAC and he had the same problem! I was so devastated. I too longed for a normal nursing experience, and was shattered. After my husband helped me pick up the pieces I went to the hospital where he was born for a meeting with their breastfeeding team. Well that's when I got the care I should have gotten with my first baby!!! They immediately identified tongue-tie and a few (painful) weeks later we had a local midwife take care of it. I IMMEDIATELY saw improvement, but it took a couple of weeks for me to be completely pain free and able to nurse lying down without pain.

    It can be done! We have a wonderful, very free (i.e. we nurse all the time without blinking an eye) relationship and he is now 2 years old. We have had bumps (thrush and mastitis) but nothing worthwhile comes without challenges.

    I encourage you- and I wanted to let you know that sometimes it takes another shot to heal from the first time. I couldn't even think of having a child for almost 4 years after the traumatic birth of my daughter whose c-section caused extensive damage to my uterus. But with the birth of my second I got the answer to what happened with the nursing of my first. I believe I got to come full-circle, and I think you will too.

  18. "It's truly amazing how much knowledge and support we have at our fingertips online now. Even just 4 years ago when I was doing breastfeeding research online or in the early days when I had issues and hit Google, there was NOTHING like what we've built now."

    It is so, so true! And thanks - I'm biased, of course, but I do agree!

    Really appreciate your story, Anon! So glad you experienced a "full circle".

  19. Amazing story! Thank you for sharing! I hope I can be as strong as you were in this story.