Breastfeeding. Depending on your own experience, if any, with breastfeeding, I’m sure just that word alone can conjure up a lot of emotions. Up until recently I viewed breastfeeding as something magical. The ultimate bond and experience for mom and baby and the best source of nutrition for the little one. I was sort of right.
Tongue ties. Latching. Pumping. Engorged. Over producing. Under producing. Sore nipples. Scabbing nipples. Bleeding nipples. Mastitis. There’s the good, the bad, and the ugly of breastfeeding, and often we don’t hear about until we are in the throws of it ourselves. The “magical” experience I was looking forward to was met by some brutal realities, most of which I didn’t even know existed. Breastfeeding is also so intimate, so wonderful, the ultimate bonding experience between mother and baby. While sleep deprivation is tough, those wee hours of the night can often be the most cherished.
I desperately wanted to breastfeed. I’m getting tears in my eyes now, six months later, just thinking about it. I wanted to provide my little girl with the best of both worlds – that bonding time and the “liquid gold”. I felt like a failure. I was ashamed. I felt absolutely guilt ridden. I felt like it was all my fault and I could have prevented this from happening.
Twelve years ago I decided to get a breast augmentation and had very specific reasons for doing so. I was assured I’d have no problem breastfeeding in the future. I knew right after the experience didn’t go like I’d planned. Not only was I entirely unhappy with the outcome (and I woke up during surgery), but I’d lost all feeling in that area too, and now, twelve years later, has barely come back. Eight years later, I underwent another surgery to try to “fix” the first one, only to find out there was a sponge left in me from the first time around, and I ended up getting a horrible infection for 8 weeks after the second surgery. I think because of all the trauma to that region, I was unable to provide milk to my baby. I tried everything. I pumped, I expressed, I used the SNS for nearly a month so she could be latched to me during every feeding in the best attempt to produce enough for her. Nothing. While this is a very uncommon reason why a woman would have a difficult time breastfeeding, it opened me up to other moms who all had their own issues doing so.
The three words I heard the most in the first three months after giving birth were “it gets easier”. The “it” part related to many things; the baby, breastfeeding, the schedule, the sleepless nights, the crying, the chaos, figuring out what to do, trying to just keep the baby alive – the list goes on. Although I was unable to in the end, so many women are able to get over the difficult parts and go on to happily breastfeed their baby. “Normalize breastfeeding” – a term we often associate with women breastfeeding their children in public, and whether it’s acceptable or not . An important topic for sure, but I believe the term “normalize breastfeeding” should normalize the discussion surrounding how difficult it can be. I suppose because women have been breastfeeding since the start of time it seems like something that is so normal, so common, we figure it should come easily. But that’s simply not the case. I only hope that as women we can be more open to each other about the reality of motherhood, the good and the hard parts. That is why I am sharing my story with you, as personal as it is.
I want to thank all the mothers out there who have donated their milk to Evie, she made it six months almost exclusively breast milk!! Thank you to all the women who encourage and support each other on social media outlets like Instagram, and to all the moms everywhere because you all rock! The Honest Company also provides a great breastfeeding and formula resource for parents where I realize circumstances like mine happen to so many other families too.