This isn’t “fed is best” or “breast is better”. This isn’t a Postpartum Depression post. I touch on both of those in this post, and they may be something I touch on in the future, but for now I just want to be open about what I experienced as a new mom in the hopes that sharing my story will help others who have been through this and also help me feel a bit of closure about it.
When we got pregnant with our first, I wanted to breast feed. There wasn’t even a thought or discussion of doing anything else. It was just a decision. Breastfeeding and then pumping a bit her and there for my husband to do a bottle or if I needed a break.
I was so sure about breastfeeding the thought that I would not physically be able to had never even crossed my mind. Our bodies are truly something incredible with the abilities that are built in when it comes to our children. I had grown this little child from a small seed to a full baby (all 41 one weeks of my pregnancy) and I felt so strong in my own body and it’s capabilities.
We first started to see problems when he was about 2 weeks old. Our sweet easy going newborn became different. He just didn’t seem to “fill up” with a full belly. I would nurse him for what seemed like a long time, both sides, just for him to be hungry an hour or so later. It just seemed like we were struggling. I knew that part of this was part of a growth spurt (after hours of online searching) and tried to go with it for about a week.
At the tale end of 3 weeks old (on the cusp of 4 weeks), I decided offhand to go ahead and just try and pump and give him a bottle of pumped breastmilk. I was exhausted and somewhere deep down just knew that something wasn’t right. The moment I started pumping, I knew. It became even clearer after the first 2 or 3 pumping sessions. I should have been producing more. I knew that pumping wasn’t ideal for getting milk out (thank you google), but after going back and forth with breast and pumping, I also knew that there was no way he was getting much more the natural way either.
***Now, let me clarify something before everyone jumps in with comments. I tried EVERYTHING. I took every supplement, herb, tea, diet plan, anything that I read could even have a smidge of helping us out. I researched the hell out of breast feeding, pumping, power pumping, increasing supply, etc. You name it, I tried it. I’ll get into that in a minute, but we will just say I pushed beyond what I should have pushed to make this work. Again, this post is NOT ABOUT THAT.***
I cannot even begin to put into words the feeling that comes with the knowledge that your body is failing you at something. Something that you should be able to do, that is built into our bodies and you cannot do it. Very rarely am I at this loss for words and on this, this I have no words.
This alone feeling was different from the times I felt it before (with my abuse and trauma). There wasn’t anyone that I felt like I could talk to about it, that would really actually understand how I FELT rather than just say why don’t you do this, or this will help (which honestly doesn’t help when you have a woman on the verge of tears at every second), or the worst, this is obviously not working for you. I felt so so alone, like I was fighting a very solo battle.
***I did have a very strong support group in my husband and our family, but nothing can replace the feeling of having just ONE person say, “hey I’ve been there. I know how you feel”. ***
It was a never ending, physically and mentally painful experience. It is something no one prepares you for. Something no one even thinks to talk about. Something those going through it don’t know who they can talk to about it.
I pushed my body past its breaking point, in both a physical and mental state. I was doing everything I could to pump any bit that I could do, while simultaneously trying to balance my infant, work, home and myself. I beat myself up over and over wondering why. Why was my body letting me down. Why was this the one thing I could not do. I had seen all those posts of those moms who had breastfed so easily, you see them more than anything else, why was I struggling?
I finally switched over to formula for him at 3 months. I was broken. I felt like I was constantly fighting. Fighting my own body, fighting my own mind (hello Postpartum Depression), and I was tired. I felt like I had failed my child, failed my family, failed myself. It took me a full year to feel better. To know that even though I couldn’t do this one thing didn’t mean that I failed. It didn’t mean anything less for my children. Didn’t lessen me as a person or a mother.
And it doesn’t lessen you either. Motherhood is a beautiful time of trials (physically and mentally), of taking care of yourself and your new child, of blessings, of new adventures. No matter how we are doing this, what our bodies can do is incredible. What we can do is incredible. Don’t be afraid to let go of what you thought motherhood was going to be and embrace what it is. I wish I had done that earlier on in our first year of parenting.