The Dark side of Breastfeeding
She paused and looked at me, her gaze was strong yet peaceful- compassion yet stern.
It was as if she was looking through me seeing something I wasn’t.
I had just listed what the last 24 hours had been like, feeds, diapers, sleeps - I shared my concerns for my new less then a week old child - and after she had reassured me all was well, she paused. She looked up at me, with her knowing eyes and asked ‘ How are You doing?’
Taken a back, I didn’t know how to answer - stressed- drowning - in constant pain - I feel like I have no space to process how I feel.
‘I’m okay, trying to get some rest' I answer - it’s a half truth- I’m not okay but I can’t wrap my head around that.
My heart starts beating off of rhythm and I find myself flooded with panic. My body feels unlike like my own. It’s so broken- beyond repair I fear - my anxious thoughts run away.
Is this my new normal?
I look back and see how much of a fog I was in. I was trying to be strong for everyone, trying not to be needy when in fact I was in desperate need of help.
I had a friend lovingly prod my heart, she too has gone threw her own struggles during her postpartum season.
She was concerned for my mental health, she saw past the front. I had been operating out of an empty shell - desperately wanted to have joy but felt like I was in a deep pit of emotion too vast to climb.
Birth was supposed to be magical- it’s talked about like the stars align and you fall in love with this new baby. It was far from it - it was messy and beyond difficult.
The hardest part was the after, this new, desperate infant in constant need of my broken body.
Breastfeeding was a battle.
3 midwives - 4 lactation consultants- 3 paediatricians - 2 procedures - 5 medications - even more supplements - All with 0 solutions.
Where was the beautiful bonding moments I was hoping for ? Where were my precious breastfeeding shots? They never came: breastfeeding consisted of exhausting attempts, frustration and agony. Instead of a beautiful baby, I was continually strapped to an uncomfortable machine trying to pump the remaining life out of my sore body.
‘Are you breast feeding ?’ They frequently ask in cheerful tone- those people I barely knew.
When did small talk start including such personal and complicated questions?
I burst into soliloquy as a simple yes or no was not sufficient to capture the complexity of my situation.
3 and a half months later - when all the experts had failed to 'fix me' - when my baby and body had both thrown in the towel, my breastfeeding journey ended.
With the encouragement those who loved me -
I realized that formula was NOT failure and being a mother was so much more than milk.
Mothers will do anything for their children - but it doesn’t necessarily mean they should.
Mental health is far too briefly mentioned around the topic of breastfeeding.
When you feel like you can’t, when you’re not making enough, when everything is crumbling and you're dreading the next feed.
I needed to stop - my body - my baby - they were all telling me this wasn’t going to work -
yet I thought I could push through it all and bare it for my baby.
I realize now I was hurting her more by giving her milk and an absent mother. I didn’t physically go anywhere- but my mind did. I checked out - I was distant- I was dazed. There were times I didn’t even hear her crying and she was beside me.
‘That sounds like Postpartum anxiety.’ my loving friend said, It was like the light switch had flicked on- why I didn’t feel like myself most days - why little things had caused an internal panic.
I needed to take a step back - to realize I can’t give my daughter a mom that isn’t there,
that I need to take care of me to take care of her.
I slowed down the gears- took time to realign my heart and mind.
I need to fill my mind with truth - with hope.
I needed to meditated each morning on the goodness of God - his grace to me.
I needed to hear his voice - louder than the noice.
It has been quite a journey- I wish I had been less ‘brave’, more in tune with myself and more at peace with rejecting what people would think.
I wish I had let go of what I couldn’t and sooner embrace what I could.
This journey continues - it is full of grace and short rests along the way.
Filling my mind daily with truth has been vital. I've learned to embracing help, to share my story, to encourage others along the same journey. I have also learned the importance of having a community that when it comes to breastfeeding - knows the balance, the battle and beauty behind it all.