It’s not often that I’m reduced to tears these days. Especially not unexpectedly. I assume it’s a combination of some of the hormones in my body levelling off and the fact that half of M’s nights are “good” nights so I’m feeling rested at times.
But the other day I was sitting on the couch breastfeeding M and browsing Facebook when I realized if Scott looked over from the other end of the couch, I’d have to explain the tears running down my face.
I will admit that I click on the occasional sponsored link on social media when nursing because I can’t gaze adoringly at my baby 8-10 times a day for 5-20 minutes at a time. That’s upwards of three hours of just staring at a face. Every day. She’s beautiful and captivating but I have my limits. This time I was reading an article titled “Why This Lactation Consultant Told a New Mom to Stop Breastfeeding.”
Ok, it sounds like click bait at it’s finest but it was a clusterfeeding kind of day. It started as an easy read since I could generally agree with her points. The central anecdote met the expected plot points. I glossed over the references to a mother who took her own life in the midst of her breastfeeding related postpartum depression because I wasn’t in the mood for sadness. Perhaps that’s why the tears caught me off guard. They came where I least expected it.
The author ends with a one-year-later update on the family from her initial anecdote. They were thriving. The mother recounted that she felt a shift in her attitude when someone finally gave her permission to stop trying to breastfeed: “The tears stopped. She started enjoying the little moments with her boy and their bond grew.”
C is and always has been a daddy’s Girl. Since Day One. It’s likely just her personality and I can’t begrudge them their relationship. But a large part of me wonders what our bond would have been like if I could have looked beyond what society told me was right and actually figured out what was right for us. The first two weeks of C’s life were a nightmare. We had issues latching, so we would try breastfeeding, then I would pump, and then fingerfeed C, supplementing with formula. The whole process took long enough that I would barely get 1/2 hour rest before it would start over. Heaven forbid we give her a bottle, even of pumped breastmilk — the nurses scared that idea out of our heads. The nurses also would review our file, nod and sigh: “this happens sometimes with babies whose moms have epidurals” as though it was my fault (a year later we found out that she had an undiagnosed upper lip tie). Without a doubt, the exhaustion, guilt and fear did impact those early days of bonding.
C eventually figured it out, lip tie and all, and the following 14ish months of breastfeeding went well. Of course, our fear of bottle led to a very late introduction, and she never really took to one so I was never apart from her for long. Even though there were many a time I felt a little trapped, I’m glad I persevered, but I will always wonder what our relationship would have looked like if someone had given me permission to see breastfeeding as a choice I could make, rather than the only “right” option.
M has been a good eater since the mere minutes after her birth. And while casts and braces can make it more difficult to get comfortable in the beginning, there no directly related medical complications. But part of the reason we’ve had a more successful start with M was a phone call I made the morning she was born to her orthopaedic surgeon’s office. We would have to introduce bottles at 4 weeks old for her casting appointments. “Doctor’s orders” I remember telling Scott with a smile. Whether it was the idea of flouting the “as late as possible, if ever, to avoid nipple confusion” rule, or the presentation of the obvious excuse if breastfeeding failed, I don’t know, but that call finally made me feel as though I had permission to relax. And from then on, breastfeeding finally felt like my choice.
To be honest, I’m not sure what about the quote from the article elicited tears from me. It might have been the memory of the stressful weeks with C. It may have been the relief of not feeling that stress with M. It could have been those residual breastfeeding hormones. But as it turns out, just like how I feed my child, I don’t have to explain my tears to anyone.