There’s a reason isolation is a form of torture. As social beings, we crave interaction, connection. It’s fulfilling and sustaining. In the first days and weeks of my son’s life, connecting with other women brought me out of the dark.
In the hours after my discharge from the hospital, I became increasingly frantic that I could not latch my son, nor could I extract any colostrum from my sore breasts. My husband and I were using formula, but we wanted to help Leo learn to latch so that we could switch over to breastfeeding. As time wore on, I became increasingly engorged, in pain, and panicked. By the fourth night, when my milk fully came in, I was in so much pain I cried the whole night. I waited for a reasonable 8 a.m. to roll around so I could begin calling some of the numbers on the list for lactation resources that I had gotten from the hospital.
That Wednesday morning, I called one of the numbers on the list. Choking back tears, I blubbered my plea for help. The woman on the other end of the line, Irene, kindly asked if I could come into the hospital. “Now?!” I said, surprised because I fully expected to have to wait for an appointment time and horrified because it meant I was going to have to actually get my son and myself dressed, into the car, and down to the hospital. But my initial reaction was quickly replaced with relief and gratitude.
Irene, with her reassuring and positive spirit, helped that day. More than helping me remove some of the milk that was painfully stuck and show me techniques to encourage my son to latch, she helped me by reassuring me that my son and I would learn this new skill. With patience, we would figure it out together.
I began to attend her breastfeeding group on a fairly regular basis. Held three days a week at Yale-New Haven Hospital St. Raphael’s Campus, mothers come with their days-, weeks- or months-old babies. They weigh their babies to see how much milk they drink.
And they talk.
They talk with Irene and other nurses, doctors, and volunteers about their experiences, trials and successes. They talk with mothers who have the same problems and mothers who have different problems. The veterans talk with mothers who are just starting out, and offer encouragement. They exchange advice. They offer empathy and reassurance.
They talk. They listen. They connect. This is powerful and important. It’s what bonds us together and makes us human.
It took my son and me several months to truly “get the hang” of breastfeeding. There were many ups and downs, and more tears than I had anticipated. But, through the encouragement of other women, we made it. We achieved our goal of nursing at least a year and are still happily nursing today.
No matter if you’re pregnant, just starting out breastfeeding, nursing your third child, or are somewhere in between, I encourage you to connect with other women. I hope that by reading my stories, stories of other local mothers, and sharing your stories, this blog will be just one of those means of connection for you.