Sara is such a fun, kind and beautiful soul and I LOVE the photos that she does.
Her post brought me some serious feels. I’ll let you read it, but for anyone who has/is struggling on their breastfeeding journey, I think it will resonate with you too.
“I’ll be breastfeeding my baby no matter what!”
I must’ve said that 100 times while pregnant with my first daughter. To my mother in law, my mum, my friends, my husband…anybody who tried to get me to see the other outcomes. Well-meaning people who just wanted to introduce me to the idea that it may not work and that it would be ok if it didn’t.
But, I refused to hear it. I refused to believe that there was any reason why I couldn’t do it.
Now, before you leap off your couch and chase me with pitch forks and fire. I was not of the mindset that breast is best. I have ALWAYS believed that fed is best. But for me, for my dream feeding scenario, the way I wanted to feed my baby was by nursing. I so badly wanted to snuggle their little body against mine, smell their lovely baby head and feed them the way nature intended. And save some money…if I’m being brutally honest. #maternityleave
Imagine how crushing it was when the milk never came.
Let’s rewind a little bit.
I was pregnant with my first baby. A baby I wished for and tried for and wanted so badly. We were truly hashtag blessed. I had decided to go with midwife care – which I LOVED – and was determined to breastfeed this baby. Probably until she was 13 (not actually). I knew I wanted an epidural (I’m no hero) but, wanted to prolong it as long as I possibly could. I was going to push that baby out and get to hold her on my chest immediately, we’d nurse flawlessly, and rainbows would emerge in the sky among us.
The Universe had other plans for us…
This baby would. not. come. out. to the point where my midwife had to transfer care to the on-call OB so that she could vacuum her out. That still didn’t work. Out came the forceps…and you know how the story ends. If you don’t, don’t google it. I didn’t get to see Lucy until the next afternoon when I was wheeled into the NICU and we tried nursing for the first time. I couldn’t wait – this was my time to shine!
Here comes the Universe again, ready to tear that dream up.
Nursing did not come easily. We tried, and tried and tried some more. We used nipple shields, pumps, syringes, tubes, visited lactation consultants, drank nasty tea. But, there was not a single drop of milk to be had. I so badly wanted to do this. I was ashamed to go out with my baby and feed her a bottle. I felt embarrassed when people asked why I wasn’t nursing her. It took everything in my not to break down and cry when I saw other mother’s nursing their children.
Cue the PPD/A, the darkest days of my life, the loneliest days of my life. As someone who has always had body image issues this was just another body disappointment to add to my lengthy list. My body had failed me on the one thing it was supposed to be built to do naturally. I had completely failed my child, our connection was in jeopardy. We probably woudn’t have any kind of bond. I mentally beat myself up about it for a LONG time. What was wrong with me?
Quite a lot in fact.
My placenta had not come away the way it was supposed to following Lucy’s birth. In fact, it stuck around – undiagnosed – for a month after she was born. After multiple visits to the hospital, an exciting ambulance ride (not really), and numerous extraction attempts (surgical and non), and one lengthy hospital stay while I fought off mysterious infections and received multiple blood transfusion we finally had answers. See, when your placenta is still adhered to your uterus…your body still thinks you’re pregnant and therefore milk does not produce. Colostrum, yes. I did get about 2 ouches of that (WIN!) but, no milk.
I finally had answers. But, I didn’t feel any better. I was sick, and had been poked, prodded, on drugs, and was unbelievably exhausted from the blood loss, depression and crippling anxiety. I was so done. I needed to focus on getting healthy – mentally and physically – and could not bring myself to start that breastfeeding journey all over again. What if I still had issues? I didn’t have the strength to start all over again. But, I also didn’t have the strength to stand up for my decision and to believe that I was doing what was right.
The memes; the Facebook mom group discussions; the motivational quotes. Just google breastfeeding quotes and it’s easy to see why someone who wasn’t able to breastfeed or who CHOSE not to breastfeed (which was my decision with baby #2) and it’s no wonder we feel ashamed about mixing a formula bottle in the middle of the mall while Brenda over there judges our “horrible parenting decision”. “Breastfeeding isn’t a choice don’t you know? It’s a responsibility!” No offense to any Brenda’s.
But, this story isn’t to get sympathy or to have someone tell me I made the right choice. And it’s certainly not to have people tell me I made the wrong choice. It’s not to villainize the breastfeeding champions or victimize those of us who didn’t, don’t or have no desire to nurse. This story is to open people’s eyes to the fact that we don’t know someone else’s story. Nor do we need to know everyone’s story. It’s really none of our business. I’m hoping that my story will help you approach this motherhood journey with grace and to reserve judgement about another mother’s choices. To listen, respect and be kind.
And most importantly – to show yourself grace as you enter this exciting, new, confusing, exhaustion chapter of your story. Do what you need to do for your health. Make decisions based on what works for your family. Ask for help when you need it. Take help when it’s offered. Don’t let people’s opinions weigh so heavily on you. As my #1 role model, Ru Paul says “People have been talking since the beginning of time. Unless they’re paying your bills, pay those bitches no mind.” Can I get an Amen up in here?
For those of you who have a similar story to mine. Know that it’s ok. How you’re feeding your baby is rooted in love. You’re so strong! For those of you who are breastfeeding, how you’re feeding your baby is rooted in love. You’re so strong! For those of you who are tube feeding, how you’re feeding your baby is rooted in love. You’re so strong!
YOU are the world’s best mama for your littles.
Fed is best. Kindness is best. Love is best. And really, at the end of the day, they’ll all eat sand and dirty car floor crackers.
You can follow Sara on IG: @sara.inreallifephoto