I shared this elsehwere a little while ago and wanted to post it here to have with all of Lilly's other baby stories. I want her to know how much I love her and that my inability to nurse her was a hard-fought battle that still makes my heart ache. But I also so that one day when she is a mommy herself she will know that no matter how she chooses to nourish her children, what should matter is that she does it with all her heart. And any mommies who read this who are or have struggled with breastfeeding, don't let anyone make you feel the way I've felt. It will only leave you bitter and angry.
(Someday I really will print all of these and put them into a book... someday!)
I've shared a little here and there about my disaster of an attempt at breastfeeding Lilly, but I've never really gone into any detail on how hard it was on me as a mom-- perhaps harder than the PTL, pre-e, last minute blood clot, massive amount of blood loss, PPD, jaundice and colic all combined. Yes, I'm sure that sounds a bit extreme, but hear me out.
We live in a society now that praises the heck out of women who breastfeed. Parenting books always discuss breastfeeding scenarios before throwing in a pitiful little alternate chapter for formula feeding. My own pediatrician's office and ER waiting room have posters and magnets stuck on the walls and anything metallic touting "Breast is Best!" And everywhere a new mom goes, one of the first questions people--strangers included-- feel compelled to ask is "Are you breastfeeding?"
Jaundice can be cured, babies grow out of colic, Paxil does wonders for PPD. PTL, pre-e, blood clots and blood loss are all things that resolve with treatment. But making the decision to formula feed your baby is one that can affect your child for the rest of his or her life. So when the decision isn't actually yours to make because of medical or situational factors, it hurts like hell.
For mothers who planned all along to breastfeed their baby, only to learn that it will not be happening, it is a huge emotional loss. I would go so far as to say that it was devastating to me. My own mother has shared with me her fond memories of nursing me and how close we became because of it. She still grins in pure love when she tells me about how special that time was. I couldn't wait to see what all the fuss was about, especially once I found out that I, too, was having a daughter. It sounded like the ultimate mother-daughter bond.
Unfortunately my experience with breastfeeding was horrible. There is no short way to list all of the cards we had stacked against us, so I'll spare you the babble. The point is, I eventually HAD to give up and give my poor daughter a bottle of formula. The two of us had struggled with every other aspect of her entrance into the world and this was the first thing that was easy for her. A friend, and mother of 3, went through something similar with her middle child and she told me "Katie, just let her enjoy the one thing in life that CAN come easy to her". It made perfect sense. I felt a huge relief of stress and felt like I was finally providing for my child.
But I also felt tremendous guilt and embarrassment for failing at something I felt women were built to do. I bet I cried at least a couple hours a day over this grief. People kept asking me how it was going and I felt like I had to constantly defend myself-- for Pete's sake, the child didn't even want my pumped milk. What could I do???
I know a big part of my emotions was hormone and PPD related, but even now I still feel sorrow over not being able to provide what is supposedly "better" for Lilly. I wonder if she'll have a childhood frought with ear infections or allergies over everything she encounters. I wonder if she rarely smiles at me because we lost out on that bonding time. I wonder if I'll ever be able to nurse my future children or if I'll go through this all over again.
Maybe this seems silly or even pointless. But I'm sharing it with you all-- FF'ers and BF'ers alike to help shed a little light on how hard it can be to miss out on being a part of the "Good Mommy" club. If you ever have to go through this yourself, I hope you'll remember my post and know that you aren't alone. If you ever have an opportunity to show support for someone who isn't able to breastfeed, I hope you'll remember my post. And if you are part of The Club please remember that it is really, really hard to be doubted or questioned about your decision.