let that shit go
it’s breastfeeding awareness week. if your instagram and facebook accounts are anything like mine, they are flooded with gorgeous photos of serene mamas feeding beautiful babies. they are loaded with statistics supporting the claim of “breast being best.” each photo is magic. each statistic – powerful.
but today, as we reach the half way point in breastfeeding awareness week, i want to salute the mamas who, for whatever reason, are unable to breastfeed. to the women who like me, wash countless bottles and meticulously measure formula. to the mothers who wake up before the baby in the middle of the night, shuffle to the kitchen, and warm up icy cold bottles to the exact perfect temperature.
today i recognize the mamas who wince with guilt at every social media posts about the bajillion benefits of breastmilk and the wild dangers of formula.
i toast the mamas who cringe at the “normalize breastfeeding” hashtag while silently wishing they could also erase the stigma thrown onto formula feeding families.
i see you.
like many pregnant women, i dreamed of the day i would hold a baby in my arms and nurse him with all the goodness my body would provide. i avoided beef for most of my pregnancy. i read books and articles about the yucky antibiotics pumped into dairy cows. i continued eating organic, exercised, and looked forward to giving my baby the best of the best when he or she finally arrived.
when i went into labor more than a month early i feared i would be unable to nurse, but within an hour of my beautiful boy entering this world he latched right on and calmly nursed. i took a breath. relieved.
the next few days in the hospital i pumped what i could for twenty minutes every hour, but most sessions were dry. to avoid intravenous intervention for our baby, my mister and i syringe fed our boy formula. by the time we left the hospital after a five day stay with our tiny prince he weighed just 4lbs 8oz.
the morning after we came home i started truly producing milk. coincidentally it was also the morning of my baby shower. i was hormonal, healing from an unexpected c-section, sleep-deprived, and swollen. i left the party a little early, headed home, and pumped for hours on end, desperate for relief.
i barely got a drop.
among heaps of baby shower gifts, i sat. sweaty. topless. with a baby on my lap, tissue paper at my feet, and a machine hooked up to my breasts.
finally, i cried.
the next four weeks are a wild blur. we fed our boy whatever i managed to produce and supplemented with formula. i pumped for over four hours a day. it was exhausting. some days were incredible and i managed to start a tiny stockpile of breastmilk in my freezer. other days were almost dry.
after one month, in a fit of tears and sweat, i threw in the towel and we switch to formula full time. i was brutally tired. overwhelmed. constantly dehydrated. guilt ridden. for days i was sick over the decision. i spent months avoiding beef and now i was giving my son cow’s milk for every meal?! i was sure i was the worst mother alive.
but slowly… things turned around. i started to regain some strength. i felt healthy. alert. i was able to enjoy my son and our time as a family.
do i wish my breastfeeding journey was longer and more successful – you bet. but being a mother and a wife means knowing what is best for our family as a whole, regardless of what i originally, sometimes selfishly envisioned for us. my boy, my husband, and my dog need me. they need me present and happy. after many weeks, i was able to finally find peace with our decision.
today, in honor of breastfeeding awareness week i would like to offer a prayer for all the mamas and the babas out there who are struggling with guilt related to any of the billions of choices new parents must make.
i pray you are able to LET THAT SHIT GO.
let us all raise an icy cold bottle of stinky cows milk formula to every new parent doing their goddamn best. we got this.