I was not ready to have my baby when labor began.

It started at 30 weeks 5 days, and I was kept on bed rest until my daughter was born at 35 weeks. She came out healthy and crying, and that moment felt like heaven. But, after she was born, things quickly became very challenging. My midwife had a very hard time getting my placenta out. She had to manually remove it (with her hands) and it was the most painful part of the whole process. I lost a lot of blood and felt weak and dizzy for days. I came home exhausted, pale and fairly miserable.

My milk had not come in while we were at the hospital.

We gave my daughter formula until we were able to secure some donated milk. (Donated milk felt like a lifesaver; thank you to all the mamas out there who are so willing to share!) I was so grateful for the natural milk I could give her, but I felt like a failure for not being able to do it myself. I pumped, I saw 3 lactation consultants, and I took so many supplements. Brewer’s Yeast, lactation gummies, mother’s milk tea. I tried to sleep and keep my stress level down, but I felt like I was failing at that, too. Finally on day 9 my milk began to appear. It wasn’t much, and no matter how hard I tried, my daughter would not nurse. She seemed as weak and tired as I was, so we continued with bottled milk. We tried finger feeds and nipple shields. Nothing worked.

I was a little over 2 weeks postpartum when I started bleeding very heavily and developed a fever.

It turns out I still had some retained placenta that needed to be removed. I had a D&C which took care of things, but left me feeling lower than ever. I had envisioned a beautiful experience of a 40 week delivery and then bringing my baby home to settle in peacefully, and it just hadn’t turned out that way. I exclusively pumped small amounts of milk for almost 3 more months alongside many failed nursing attempts and supplementing her bottles with formula when the donated milk ran out. I went to one last lactation consultant. I told her I was ready to quit altogether, and I was seeking advice on how to slowly stop pumping. She offered a different perspective, and a few supplements I had not tried; goats rue and moringa. I figured I would give it one last shot, and suddenly, the milk began to flow!

At 5 months, I found myself exclusively breastfeeding.

My little girl was determined and so was I. We’re deep into month 11 now and going strong. My hope is to continue for a while longer and then even when I wean her, I’d like to continue pumping to donate my milk as a way of giving back. When I reflect on our story, I think to myself, I am not sure I made the right choices. Obviously I am very glad to be here, able to nurse my baby. However those first months were brutal and I fear that I missed most of the joy of getting to know her while I was so preoccupied with my concerns over feeding her properly. I am trying not to feel any guilt for it. It is hard. But.. Being a mom is just a series of lessons, and I keep learning.

Written By: Chantel E.