Part Three : The Breastfeeding Stigma
At the beginning of each part in this series you will see this little note. I want to remind you that I am not trying to come from a negative space, or a judgmental - holier than thou - kind of place. I’m coming from the place of a mother who knows she has a lot to learn, that she knows she has a long way to go… and that she loves being a mother. I hope that you don’t take anything I say as anything more than my own experience and a heartfelt message. I pass no judgment, and appreciate all mothers and the styles they embrace. I hope to learn something on this journey and hear your stories as well.
The most important thing I can say to start this post is that I have no opinion on which is best, bottle or breast… that what matters is that you are feeding your child, that you are loving your child and making the right decisions for your own family and circumstances.
From the first time I found out I was pregnant, I knew I wanted to breastfeed. So natural, beautiful, perfect, I thought. The way God intended it and it could save us money, foster a bond between myself and my child. It could be an beautiful experience.
I went to the classes that the hospital offered, I read the books. I talked to my Mom and felt really good about the whole thing.
Lydia was born. I tried… and it hurt. That’s normal I thought. I told the nurse and the lactation consultant. They showed me the right way to do it, helped me. And reinforced that I needed to do it, that it was the best decision. I kept trying, it kept hurting.
By the time we left the hospital I was nothing if not discouraged. I had spent my time trying and not succeeding at breastfeeding. Lydia cried so much and I was covered in these horrible blisters. I felt like I was letting Lydia down, that something was wrong with me… All the while the nurses saying “She’s doing it right, just get through it, this is what is best”. I remember crying, thinking I was a terrible mother.
I struggled. The first couple days I dreaded nursing time. I would use damp clothes and creams to ease the pain, but I was swollen and passing blood and clots every time Lydia tried to nurse. We would both cry… and I would beg God to help me. I was so ashamed. I told the nurses at the hospital the trouble I was having, that I couldn’t get Lydia full and that I kept bleeding and bleeding. They told me again, “Stick with it, this is what is best”.
After a week with no sleep, literally, and non stop crying from Lydia … I sat there, in the bedroom trying, to no avail to nurse her. Singing to her, breathing through the pain and watching her refuse to latch on. There was blood on me, blood in her mouth… I couldn’t do it.
Shaking, I pulled some formula from the cabinet, mixed it as shown… said a prayer and gave it to her. Her feet went straight out… her eyes popped open and I watched her eat like there was no tomorrow. I cried. And for the first time , she didn’t cry, as she ate. I held her close to me and thanked God for the moment. But I was still ashamed.
It took me years to get over the shame. I felt like I had done wrong by her. That I had missed out on the beautiful experience. Then I realized, that I had made the best choice I could. That any decision I made was based on love and effort, that I may not have made the decision that other mothers had, but that Lydia and I were, in fact, very close. That we had bonded and that she was healthy. I didn’t need to be ashamed. We are all different… and what mattered was that I loved her.
I tried with the other two, and had no luck, I even tried pumping. I made peace with it, and found myself a much happier mommy for it.
To this day, I would try again, I think it’s a beautiful gift, but I know that letting that define me, breastfeeding or bottle feeding, is wrong. That I should define myself by the efforts I made and the ability to embrace life as it comes. I should be defined by the love in my heart and more importantly the love that my children feel.
I know that I have been judged, for not breastfeeding. And maybe there is more I could have done… I won’t deny that there may have been things I just simply didn’t know that would have made it easier or more successful, but the point is, I understand both sides, and I hope that hearing my story, you will see this side of the debate… and that if you are a new mother and you feel these things, you will know you are not alone.
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I’d love to hear your thoughts on this, and hear your advice and insight… Us mothers need to come together and embrace our similarities and our differences so that we can be united and more supportive. I’ll encourage you to share here, in the comments or blog about it and share the link. Thanks for taking the time to read. It means so much