I had a conversation with a friend last week that has been weighing heavily on my heart.
She said something a long the lines of, “I’ll take care of your baby anytime, as long as I don’t have to breastfeed him.” She went on to say that after reading my post about guilt (here) maybe she could have another baby. “Maybe I wouldn’t have to breastfeed. Maybe I am enough,” she said.
Girl, you are definitely enough.
As moms, our pursuit and desire to be perfect makes this whole parenting gig a lot harder. And I get it, I want to be perfect too. Maybe my kids will be perfect if I am? . . . I love my littles but I know that’s a losing battle. Plus, what is perfect anyway? I guarantee that my perfect and your perfect are different.
Let’s talk specifically about breastfeeding.
Our bodies can do amazing things. Not only can they grow humans but they have the ability to feed them. It’s nature, it’s God given, it’s the way the human race continues on. But what happens when our bodies don’t live up to our expectations? When feeding those babies isn’t as easy as we think it should be?
Out of all of my friends, close and casual, there are only two that I can think of who would say that breastfeeding was a breeze. Everyone else would say that it was ALOT harder than expected both physically and emotionally.
I have fallen way short of perfect 3 times now. Here are my stories.
I breastfed my first born with relative success until about 4 months old when I went back to work and my milk supply dwindled down to a dribble. I didn’t realize this until his 4 month check up when I discovered that he had lost weight. Talk about guilt! I felt awful. While I knew it had to be done, I struggled with having to add formula to his diet. I felt like my body had betrayed me. I had failed at something that I was made to do.
My second born had a major heart defect and I was highly encouraged to breastfeed by his cardiologist. I fed and pumped like a maniac. My breasts were attached to a baby or a machine at all times (yes, I had a toddler running around as well). I was determined to do the very best thing for this little guy. When he stopped gaining weight as a result of his heart defect, the doctor asked that I start supplementing him as well as breastfeeding. He was allergic to all formulas that tasted good and refused the others. I didn’t blame him, I tried these formulas and they were disgusting. The doctor said that a hungry baby will eat anything but I was not willing to let him get hungry. I had a major soft spot for this baby. So, we did the best we could. After his surgery, he gained weight easily. In retrospect, I was a MANIAC for those first four months trying to keep him healthy and fed on my own.
After my second baby, one thing changed: my attitude. With Elle I decided to take it a little easier on myself. For one, I hated pumping and I decided not to do it. I would feed her what my body would make and if we needed formula, we would use formula. And I would be okay with that. I took the pressure off of myself to be perfect and instead chose to be happy.
She latched right on the minute she was born. I felt like a pro. “That’s right, this is my third go round. I got this.” About a week after getting home my nipples started to hurt. Within days they were cracked and bleeding. Breastfeeding became extremely painful. It turns out that she had a bad latch. It took a few weeks to correct it and during that time I had to continue to breastfeed or lose my supply. I wanted to scream to the universe, “DOES IT HAVE TO BE THIS HARD?”
Formula became popular in my grandparents generation. It was touted as being better than breast milk. My two grandmothers had 8 children and none of them were breastfed. And guess what? They all turned out just fine or at least no more crazy than the breastfed kids. Ha!
To my friend and anyone else out there struggling with wanting to have the perfect pregnancy or delivery or breast feeding experience . . . it might not happen for you. My heart breaks for every mama who struggles or isn’t able to breastfeed, who has a tough pregnancy or delivery. I’ve been there and these are hard realities to accept. We can’t sweep our emotions under the rug. We can’t try to “buck up,” forget about it or move on. We have to allow ourselves to feel and then get help from our friends, family and especially from professionals. Most importantly, we need to find ways to forgive ourselves and our bodies and realize that breastfed or not, WE ARE ENOUGH.
Breastfeeding might not be what is keeping my friend from having another baby. I would not presume to know everything that is in her heart. But this was clearly a hard issue for her and I don’t think she is the only one. I think it’s important that she and all mama’s know that they are enough, with or without breast milk, stretch marks, scars, PPD, and all of the other things that make bringing babies into the world tough work.
LOVE is what your babies need and I bet you have plenty of that.