August 1st – 7th is World Breastfeeding Week. Oh the overwhelming photos of moms who are breastfeeding their children or reminiscing the precious days they shared. Some of their tiny newborns, others with their toddlers and some who are holding their child as they drink from a bottle of breast milk for one reason or another.
It’s not the photo itself that bothers me. I think breastfeeding is very beautiful and a personal decision. I will never care if a mother is feeding her child in a store or at dinner. Showing the photo on Facebook is no difference. The mothers are proud beaming women who are saying to the world that I did it, I am providing for my child in the way I deem is important. And you know what? Go you.
My son was not breastfed. Maybe it was the fact that I was twenty-one and delivered him in a foreign land without my mom to help me. Maybe it was my mental state which could not fathom feeding my child from my breast. Maybe it was the intense pain I endured the second, third, fourth, fifth time I tried to feed him and all I did was bleed. Or maybe it was the craptastic nurse I had at five am who just kept telling me I was doing everything wrong. Formula just seemed best. And it was.
My logical side told me breastfeeding was best for my young one. It is what my body was made to do and by golly I wanted to do what was best. I wanted to be the young mom doing it all and showing all the nay-sayers that I did it. But, I didn’t. I looked at my husband in the wee hours in the morning as my son was eighteen hours old and told him I give up.
I was okay with my decision to not breastfeed my child after the thirty-second cry fest when my husband told me It was okay. You would think the beauty in the photos I’ve seen and articles I’ve read so far would not affect me but they have. They are rooting into a deep nerve that just needed to be hit. It’s a nerve that is penetrating so deep into my mental and emotional state that questioned my entire love for my son. It’s a muted pain I’ve sheltered from the public but have battled with the help of my family and close friends.
Seventeen and a half weeks ago Liam was born. For just under a year I knew my contract had stated that if Jamie was unable to produce milk from induced lactation that I was contractually obligated to pump milk for six weeks. It wasn’t until the last weeks before he was born that I learned I would most likely need to supplement. I spoke with the lactation consultant that was assisting Jamie and she did everything possible to control my worries.
The day after he was born we began our work. I pumped only every handful of hours the first few days hoping the milk flow would produce but it wasn’t until day four that it started. I pumped daily for almost six weeks. My milk was never enough to fully supply his thirst but it was enough in combination of Jamie’s milk and donated milk to keep him away from formula. This was Jamie’s wish and I was able to help provide.
I did not mind pumping. It took a time away from my family but after a while I got the hang of it. I took fenugreek to help increase my supply but I think all it did was make me smell like a pancake drowned in syrup. I would have continued to pump if I did not go back to work or if my workplace had a more private place where I could pump for him. He needed my supply and I wanted to give him the best start in life.
And that is exactly why it hurts. I did not think twice on my decision to not breastfeeding my own child that dark night three years ago. Actually, I still doubt whether or not I will breastfeed my second child in the upcoming year. But I gave the college try for someone else’s child. I would have continued for weeks even if it was only the measly 75-100 ounces I was producing. He was consuming much more than that and I knew I would only be a portion of what he needed. But he needed it and I was able to provide.
Seeing the triumphs from my wonderful friends has been a painful reminder. Seeing the articles of moms who have both succeeded and failed with breastfeeding has been a mirror image to my emotions. Although I pumped for a child that relied on breast milk, I do not feel like I am a breastfeeding mom. I have nothing to show for. No true memories. No bonding moments. No photos. Nothing. These three photos are the only physical reminders that I pumped for Liam. I’ve grown to not allow the emotional struggle weigh on my heart and I can honestly say I’ve overcome the guilt. Whether it was due to time or the hormones leaving my body we may never know but I’ve come to peace with it. My son is healthy and it does not matter how he was fed the first year of his life. Seeing all the stories so far compelled me to share mine. Sometimes there are women who are silent meals on heels.