This post is a part of the Adventures in Breastfeeding Project sharing mother’s unique experiences, successes and struggles with Breastfeeding. This post is by Christine. Here’s what she had to share:
i always knew that i wanted to breastfeed my baby. i found it- and still find it- absolutely fascinating that you are not only able to grow a life inside of you, but that you are able to feed and nurture that life, too. for years, even! mind blown.
when i was pregnant with my daughter, marlo, i wanted to know absolutely everything that i could about breastfeeding. i went to numerous classes, i read all of the books. i asked all of the mamas that i knew far too many invasive and inappropriate questions. i was of the mindset that the more that i knew, the more prepared that i’d be; the more prepared that i was, the better and more successful breastfeeding would be. the more successful my breastfeeding experience was, the healthier, smarter, happier my baby would be. but the truth of the matter is that i can’t honestly say that all of my research and preparation actually prepared me for the actual act of breastfeeding.
when marlo was born, i was extremely surprised at how awkward it felt to me. all you hear throughout your pregnancy is how breastfeeding is so natural and beautiful and wonderful and such an amazing bonding experience. even though marlo had a great latch, i couldn’t seem to get myself or marlo positioned properly or comfortably, and fuck, it was so painful! i distinctly remember the lactation consultant at the class saying, “if you are doing it right, it shouldn’t be painful.” well, she lied. i was doing everything right and had three lactation consultants at the hospital give me the thumbs up but it was still so, so very painful. i also had to use those shield thingys that suck and make everything such a hassle. nothing about it felt wonderful or beautiful or natural to me. it was disheartening. and crushing. (at the time, i didn’t realize that this is so, so very common for new mamas.)
after a couple of weeks- but what truly felt like six years- of just figuring things out and working through the pain (bless first time mamas! and nipples!), marlo and i had become a well-oiled machine. i had succeeded. my girls were these gargantuan incubators of liquid gold and marlo would have spent every single moment at my breast if i would have let her. now that i think about it, she probably spent about eighteen hours a day there the first couple of months. our couch had an imprint of my ass that is still there to this day. i kid you not.
by that time, my hormones had plummeted and i realized that something wasn’t right with how i was feeling. my husband and family felt that something was off, too. after a few doctor visits, i was diagnosed with moderate to severe postpartum depression. i won’t go into the details because they are still too raw and heartbreaking to revisit; however, i will say that postpartum is such a thief. it robs you of joy, of connection, and of that new mommy happiness that every mother should be able to experience. i had this beautiful and healthy baby girl in front of me who i loved so very much. rather, on paper i knew that i loved her, i just couldn’t feel it. i didn’t feel it deep down in my bones, the way that i knew that i should. it was absolutely heartbreaking and debilitating. i felt like such a failure. even though i was doing everything that i could, even though i was succeeding at breastfeeding, something that was so important to me, i just didn’t feel the spiritual connection with her that i craved. to put it lightly, it wasn’t a good time for me or my family.
through the process of becoming well and navigating the road of postpartum depression, breastfeeding quickly became something else all together- it became my lifeline. it went from being the way that i fed and physically nurtured my baby to becoming the one way that i felt connected to her. breastfeeding became what i used to remind myself that i was doing a fine job. it became the tool that i used to get myself out of that extremely dark place that i know i shouldn’t be anywhere near. breastfeeding snapped me out of my unfathomable heart break and brought me back to the present, which was the milk drunk and healthy and beautiful babe at my breast.
i learned why people refer to breastfeeding as nursing. breastfeeding not only nursed her, but it nursed me back to emotional health. it soothed both of us, calmed both of us, bonded both of us. i will never fully emotionally recover from that specific time in my life. to be frank, i’m terrified of experiencing it again when we decide to have another child. but the one thing that i know that will be there for me is breastfeeding- nursing, rather- and i know that it will see both me and that baby through whatever we may experience. and that is a wonderfully, beautiful thing to look forward to.