Let’s talk about experience, our experience. Define best, your best not her best. I want to talk about the struggles in feeding our children, and not just breast feeding, although I will admit it’s all I know, but I was a formula fed baby so does that count for perspective? Breastfeeding is overwhelming me, and to be honest, it always has. My desire to continue is because it’s best, not for me but for my son.
Let me start by mentioning how much I loathe the hash tag #breastisbest. It’s alienating. There are mothers that try, try, and try again and then convince themselves THEY FAILED when the nursing experience doesn’t pan out. I still rage when a mother looks another in the eye and says things like: “Hang in there! Don’t give up!” PS, she didn’t give up, her ducts did. Or her hormones raged through her dermis, or she struggled with their latch or a dozing babe. We struggle to pump and feed our babies in the NICU, we adopt and foster, and have we forgotten, we are also fathers raising our babies through infancy? All I’m trying to say is, sometimes it’s not about giving up, but it’s about accepting our circumstance, and won’t that always be one of the hardest parts of raising our babies intentionally and with love? Am I the only (breastfeeding) mother feeling this way? Because isn’t parenthood alienating enough? Why make it even harder for someone? I recently read that wet nurses are more and more popular, especially with celebrities because of the social pressures to breastfeed exclusively. Breast or bottle, it makes you wonder, what’s actually more beneficial for our babies, the act of feeding and bonding with our children, or the breast milk itself?
I know now. I know why it’s challenging for women and their children to try, start, or continue their breastfeeding journey. It’s the toughest decision I’ve made in my life thus far, and it’s a choice I’ve made everyday for 391 days and counting. I do my best to make the conscious choice and not judge any parent’s decision on how they feed their child, because every lifestyle demands something different of us. Formula is certainly more convenient and everyone can be part of the feeding and bonding experience, but it’s expensive. Breastfeeding is free and on-demand, and at least in the beginning, that’s all you do. Dickens was right, “… it was the best of times, it was the worst of times.” Truthfully. It’s private, but it’s not. It’s public, but it’s not. At backyard parties I’m brought upstairs to a humid bedroom to feed my child. I didn’t know my choice to breastfeed would delay my partner’s bonding with our son, or how at 2AM the only way to bypass the ear piercing screams when I leave bed to use the bathroom is to balance him on one knee while I reach for the toilet paper. No one warned me how my hormones would get the best of me, or how the scope of humanity could be felt by reaching inside my ribcage, and I’m still weeping from the residual heat.
It’s difficult to write about this part of our lives. Judgment is part of reality, but mostly, I feel so lonely. There are days I yearn for my body to be exclusively mine again, and often I find my sensitivities linger there. Currently, I am struggling with a bout of nursing aversion and for almost 8 months my 20/20 vision is suddenly declining. There are days I can feel my weaknesses in waves of anxiety, nail biting, or fits of tears during naptime. Everything hurts. Quite honestly breastfeeding has taken over my life, and I’m still trying to come to terms with the right amount of selflessness to get us through. There are days I fear my fierce independent nature has or will get in the way of my mothering or nurturing, but mostly, my selflessness. Is that not my duty? Even after a year, if my son is teething, or going through a growth spurt we are nursing upwards of 6-8 times a day. Our nursing journey has been a waxing and waning along with the moon, the very same moon the brought my stubborn April baby in the month of May.
Our days can be so damn long, but the best and juiciest moments are far too short in comparison. We must remind ourselves of this in those dark hours, when the world has gone dim and all we can hear is the vibration of our baby’s milky breath on our chest, and the present moment is infinite and there is far too much space between us and our REM cycle, but the baby is falling into our breast bone like a Chinese soup spoon. There is stillness. There is gratitude. We are not resentful or full of worry. We are tired but we acknowledge our defeat and exhaustion. We feel full within ourselves; despite how tattered we may look from the stranger’s vantage point.
I promise you mama, it won’t be forever, even if today you’re still living it. Take a deep breath and let that be your mama mantra. The bond your nourishing between mother and child is everything they say it will be (bottle or breast), but the heaviness it bares in your chest is what can’t be taught or told, it must be lived, loved, and cherished from a deep place within. Honor that. Respect that. Ask louder and bolder so you can hear yourself. Is your child thriving, is he happy and healthy, or are alternations necessary at this point? Because at the end of the day, it’s our choice, it’s our normal, and for now, it’s our version of the best. Even with everything in a chaotic flux, there is a balance I hope we each acquire, most of which I am told will come in time.
Until then, let’s not defend our best;
Sara Consolati, The Village Journalist