This post has been a long time coming, and I’ve needed time to roll it over in my head- exactly what I want to say- before actually putting it on paper. I’m ready to share my story and I hope others will be able to laugh, cry and nod as you read my story. I’m just a normal mom, who was standing in front of a hungry baby, asking her to eat.
I believe life gives you warnings when your body knows something isn’t right. And my first warning came to me when I was still in the hospital- mere hours after giving birth. I was ready to breastfeed- I took the class and read the books and got the pump and did everything I was supposed to do- but when I tried to get this tiny baby to latch, I started crying. I found out later that I had D-Mer, which is a very unpleasant sensation that you feel when your milk lets down. It was as if the world was closing in on me every time my baby needed to eat. I felt sick to my stomach.
The day I brought my baby home, my milk hadn’t come in and my mental health was already starting to wane. I was stubborn and steadfast, insisting to my pleading mother who offered formula, that I was ONLY going to breastfeed and stop TRYING TO GET ME TO FEED MY BABY FORMULA POISON. I remember the looks on their faces, my mom and Adam, as I wept over my 3 day old child, who just wanted to eat, but my body wasn’t cooperating.
And it was weeks of waking to pump, pumping several times at work, each time feeling this awful feeling, never making enough milk for my baby, still having to supplement and feeling like a complete and utter failure every day. My mental health was slipping, because I felt guilt, and sadness, and nausea every time I had to feed. But I did it because I had convinced myself that mothers who CAN breastfeed, SHOULD breastfeed. I envied the mothers who exclusively breastfed to a year, who were so proud of their accomplishments. I wept, often.
I was confined to my house because I didn’t want to attempt to feed in public. If I had a little extra milk, we’d take it with us, but when we’d run out- which we always, enviteably did- I’d feed in the back of the car, tears running down my face.
It was at four months post partum that I decided to stop breastfeeding, or, perhaps, the decision was made for me. I was at my breaking point and I needed to quit, I needed to stop torturing myself, and I quit cold turkey. I felt better immediately.
My body and my mind was telling me that this was not the right decision for us, but my mind kept me in mom guilt mode. YOU MUST BREASTFEED, said everyone. BREAST IS BEST, everyone said. On formula, my skinny baby thrived, filling out with chunky thighs and cheeks. My mental health improved, I slept better, I ate more. I could breathe again.
So why regret? Why not just chalk it up to a life experience? Because I regret not having the wherewithall to control my mind and body. To feel pressured by everyone from the lactation consultant that visited me three times in the hospital, to the pediatrician that said he “hoped I was breastfeeding”. To all the moms who congratulated me for breastfeeding, when I was slowly dying inside.
The breastfeeding regret comes with wisdom to trust my instincts, to understand that what’s right for everyone else might not be right for me. If this can be a cautionary tale to any mama who’s struggling, who’s trying to reconcile what society thinks and her own mental health and wellbeing, then I succeeded in my mission.