For some, breastfeeding comes easily and for some it doesn’t. New mother Andrea Postal shares her personal journey in the hopes of helping other women through this often challenging experience.
Breast May Be Best, But it’s Nobody’s Business
by Andrea Postal
I will never forget the moment shortly after giving birth to my son, the moment he was put to my breast for the very first time. The intimacy between mother and child, though no longer connected by the womb, now becomes a connection to our body for nourishment and comfort, creating such an indescribable bond. The moment was truly amazing, but it sure didn’t last long.
I think we can all agree that breast milk is best, ranking highest in nutritional value along with many other benefits. However, like the choice between cloth and disposable diapers, crib to sleep or family bed and the plethora of sleep training methods, breastfeeding is also a choice, and one that is best left in the hands of the woman who knows herself and her baby best. Sometimes we as moms are quick to jump on any woman with a bottle in her bag. Informed decisions – yes, judged – why?
My experience was unlikely the first of its kind. As a first time mother who’d studied every book on caring for a newborn, little was mentioned about nursing my little one apart from the whimsical sketches of a mother romantically nursing her child in five easy positions. Just take your pick, right?
Nowhere did I read about the burning, scabbing, bleeding and blistering mess across my chest that’d I’d likely experience, and is all too common in those first few days. It’s taboo in our culture to discuss such atrocities, but somehow, without warning or explanation, we’re expected to woman up and push through the unforeseen torture in order to reach the most highly esteemed goal – breastfeeding.
. From midwives to public health nurses, lactation consultants and breastfeeding clinics, much is available if help is sought out.
Words can’t express the appreciation I have for my midwives and the local nurses for the care and help that I received. I sought help in hopes that I could breastfeed, but at the end of the day, I longed for one person to tell me it was okay if I couldn’t do it. But “couldn’t” wasn’t an option, and “giving up” wasn’t acceptable.
After more than 3 months of tears, grief, shame, exhaustion, and extensive striving, (this is hardly a glimpse into my struggle, I won’t even delve into what medical use I derived from yogurt and plastic wrap) I determinedly pressed on to breastfeed my son, despite the complications, infections, pain and horror of it all. I came to a point where I was done torturing myself and my son, and formula seemed the best option to be able to finally allow myself to enjoy my baby boy.
I shed more tears over the pain of letting go of breastfeeding than those of the physical pain and anguish of breastfeeding itself. I deeply mourned the possibility of forfeiting the bond that I thought was only achievable through skin to skin contact, through the intimate act of my child being comforted, fed and nourished by me, his mother; sole sustainer of his life.
I was ashamed; afraid to be labeled as a bottle feeding mom, as though it was equal to that of poisoning my child 8 times daily. I can’t even begin to count the dozens of women (and men) who ventured to ask my breastfeeding status, and the deep pain in my heart that would resonate each time this question was asked, afraid that soon the answer would be “not anymore”. Nobody would ever know why, nobody would know the battle I fought and was about to lose. I think that bothered me most of all.
Eventually I came to a point of readiness to be “one of those moms”, and out necessity I allowed myself to reach a place of acceptance that this breastfeeding thing might not be for us, and that was OKAY. There is so much more to having a loving, bonded relationship with your child than breastfeeding, and that must be understood regardless of the choice that is made between breast and bottle.
My story doesn’t end here. Shortly after coming to terms with the whole situation, breastfeeding slowly became more comfortable, and now 7 months after my son’s birth, we have an enjoyable breastfeeding relationship. I am forever grateful and so appreciative of all who helped bring me to this place. I spent hours reading, viewing, listening, learning, trying, and seeking out ways to make this breastfeeding relationship work. There was no solution or miracle fix to the problems we faced, but my own inner strength, desire and stubborn perseverance were the greatest reasons of my feat against all odds.
Today, I can offer my story, my knowledge, help and understanding, and though breast certainly is best, at the end of the day, what others choose is none of my business.
Andrea Postal, mother of one beautiful son.