“Wait. So, you’re not breast-feeding???”
I’ve been asked this question dozens of times over the last six months, so let me answer it now, and forever hold my peace.
No, I’m not.
There. Now everyone knows.
Yes, I know how beneficial it is for my baby. Yes, I know how much money we would’ve saved ourselves from not buying formula. Yes, I know that breast-feeding helps you lose the baby weight. And yes, I know a million other reasons why it’s so wonderful, so please don’t rub it in.
Before I had my baby, I remember having lunch with one of my mommy friends, and the subject of breast-feeding came up. I told her that, yes, I had every intention of breast-feeding my child. I told her that, because it was true. I absolutely had been planning on breast-feeding for months. In fact, I had my bright, shiny and new breast pump and all its accessories, waiting in its designated spot on my dresser for my baby to arrive. Breast-feeding? Breast pumping? I mean, it all seemed like a no-brainer to me. It would come easy to me. Of course it would. It’s the most natural thing in the world to do, right? So, why wouldn’t it?
Why wouldn’t it? Why wouldn’t it?! Bwaaaaahahahaha. Because sometimes things don’t go according to plan, and that’s just the way it is. Every somewhat, well-adjusted adult on the planet knows that. My mommy friend warned me of this, too. She told me that although she did breastfeed, and even though it came easy to her, breast-feeding was not like that for everyone. I silently listened with blissful ignorance. Surely I wouldn’t be one of those moms who had a hard time, I thought as she spoke. My entire pregnancy had been pretty straight forward, so why should this be any different? I mean, my mom breast-fed me and my brothers. I assumed the odds were stacked in my favor.
But I was wrong.
Even with all the will in the world, you can’t make something work that just won’t work. And I’m an extremely willful person, too. That’s a nice way of saying stubborn, by the way. If I really want something, I don’t raise my white flag until I’ve exhausted myself to my absolute breaking point, and that might mean a trip to the ER, which is exactly what happened about a week and a half after I had my baby. I was so rundown from birth, recovery, and taking care of an infant that my milk barely came in, and I got a migraine so severe that it took needle injections into my skull, and an MRI of my brain to make sure I didn’t have a bleed. When I left the ER after the migraine incident, I was advised to pump whatever milk had come in, and dump it out, because the injections I had gotten could be harmful to my baby.
I could barely keep my eyes open for days after my ER visit, and I was so weak, but even after all that, I still wanted to breast-feed. I was no quitter. No, not me. So, I continued to pump and pump and pump, until one day, I just stopped, stared at the breast pump that had become a torture device, and started to cry. Even with all of my gung-ho pumping, I wasn’t even getting two ounces. I sat there, and asked myself why I was putting myself through this.
Why was this so important to me?
To answer that question simply, I just really, really wanted to. I mean, I wanted to so badly. I had this deep desire to do this wonderful thing for my child, and I felt cheated. In keeping true to my headstrong nature, it was hard to accept that it wasn’t working, but deep down I knew it wasn’t. I was sick, exhausted, emotional, and looking back at that time, dangerously close to landing myself in the hospital for a third time if I had kept going.
I put the breast pump away, took a deep breath, and felt something curious.
Oh, sweet relief.
Yes, I wanted to breast-feed for my baby, but if I’m being honest, a big part of why it was so hard to give up on, was because I feared what all the other moms would say.
Judgement, whether real or imagined, can really make a mess of things if you let it in. When I said goodbye to that fear, and when the day finally came when I no longer felt defensive when asked if I was breast-feeding or not, I felt like I could finally breathe.
I’ve realized over the last six months that every mom has to do what she has to do. Meaning, we as moms, can’t be so hard on ourselves out of fear for how we might be judged by each other. Everyone has their own way of doing things, and honestly, everyone is just trying to survive.
You’re not pureeing your own baby food with organic fruits and vegetables?
You’re not using all natural, recycled diapers?
You send your infant to daycare, because you have to work to support a family?
You send your infant to daycare, because you choose to work?
You’re a stay at home mom, and you don’t have any timeline about when you’ll go back to work?
You’re vaccinating your baby?
You’re not vaccinating your baby?
You let your kid watch television for a little too long today, because you needed five minutes to yourself?
I could keep going, but you get the point.
Something profound might happen if we shut our minds off to the silent judgement that occurs while reading that Facebook post, or when you see that mom open up the cookies in line at the grocery store before she pays for them and give them to her screaming kid, or at the playground when she loses her cool because her kid is refusing to leave.
Maybe, just maybe, it might leave room for us all to enjoy ourselves a little more.
Photo by me.