A few weeks ago, I was looking for a notebook for a reason I can’t remember. It was clearly important enough for me to find one because I looked in the guest room closet, a closet I rarely go into.
There, on the top shelf, was a notebook. I immediately recognized it as the one I got for myself after my son was born. I couldn’t remember exactly why I hid it, but I felt hostility towards it. I pulled it off the shelf and I opened it up.
Within seconds of opening the notebook, all the emotions I felt during that time 3 years ago came rushing in like a tsunami wave. The emotions crashed down on me harder than I expected. I remembered then why I had put this notebook away, hoping to never see it again.
On the first page – which is the only page I had written on – was a list.
The list contained a bunch of questions that I meant to ask my doula. Or was it my doctor? Or lactation consultant? Or pediatrician? Whoever the list was for, it was a list with no answers. I can’t remember if I ever even asked the questions to whoever I meant to ask them to.
The list contained 14 questions I wanted to ask about breastfeeding:
1. How long till it heals? (nipples)
2. How long till I notice healing?
3. What will it look like healing?
4. What will it look like if it gets worse?
5. Should I pump? Healing with pumping?
6. Is pump flange big/small enough (24mm)?
7. Diet? Sugar?
8. Latching correctly?
9. Vitamins I’m taking?
10. Alternative treatment?
11. Advantage/disadvantage of formula?
12. Burning feeling in nipples – white tip, sharp pain
13. Engorgement; nighttime
14. Swim in lake?
As a new mom trying to breastfeed, I was miserable and felt like I was stuck in an ongoing nightmare.
I went through what felt like the hardest time of my life trying to breastfeed. I was plagued with guilt, misery, pain, sadness, frustration, and anger. I felt all these emotions while going through postpartum depression and trying to keep myself and my child alive.
My breasts were so engorged and I was in constant pain from my overactive let-down and supply. I had all this milk but I wasn’t able feed my son. I wanted to hurt the people who would tell me I was lucky that I had such an overactive supply because I did not feel lucky. I felt cursed.
Every time I sat down on my milk-splattered couch to feed my son, I’d endure a flood of negative emotions. Every time I had to sit down to feed my child, I’d secretly wish I never had him.
“Breast is best” they say. But is it? Is it worth a mother’s sanity? Is it worth it to go through what I went through just so you can please those who believe that if you don’t breastfeed your child, you’re a failure? I myself was not breastfed and I think I turned out all right.
To be frank, my nipples were destroyed and I am not being dramatic. The skin on my both nipples was literary torn off. The “white tip” I speak of turned out to be two white nipples. Because my nipples were raw, I had to hand express because pumping would open the wound and I wasn’t able to physically put my son to my breast because of the pain.
Hand expressing only allowed me to get a certain amount of milk at a time so we supplemented with formula. Unfortunately, the formula wreaked havoc on my poor child’s stomach and we had to give him enemas.
I held a lot of guilt that was so heavy that I felt like I was carrying the weight of the world on my shoulders.
My husband is a “breast is best” supporter and while I don’t think he intentionally made me feel bad, he did. He really wanted his child to be breastfed and I felt like I was letting him down by not wanting to push through. Needless to say that was a low point in our marriage. I didn’t stand up for myself. I allowed his persistence to take over. I allowed him to bully me into breastfeeding.
Now before you get all angry with him, know that we worked things out and we came out stronger. Also know that I take responsibility for it as well because I didn’t stand up to him and I allowed him to make this decision for us.
My husband wasn’t the only one delivering me with a basket full of guilt. I also brought the guilt on myself. I felt bad that I didn’t want to feed my child naturally anymore. I felt bad that I didn’t want to keep trying. However, I kept at it because I thought I had to.
I finally took my friend’s advice and called her doula. The doula not only helped me successfully breastfeed my child, but she invited me to her mommy group where I found the support that I needed from other new moms. There, I met a woman who gave me the name of a pediatrician and lactation consultant duo who she believed could help me, and they did. I started healing both physically and mentally. Once my nipples healed, breastfeeding became a walk in the park.
I have scars on my nipples to this day that compliment my scar from my C-section.
These scars remind me how tough I really am. These scars remind me that I cannot be beaten. The scars also remind me that I do not want to go through this again.
Breastfeeding is a personal choice. I’m tired of hearing “Breast is Best” because to me, it puts guilt on mothers to do something they may not be able to, or even want to, do.
Mothers, please listen to your heart. Do what is best for you. Find a support group. Talk to someone. Tell your husband to fuck off. Ignore those pesky voices that tell you that you are failing if you don’t breastfeed because you aren’t.
You are amazing no matter what.