FFF Friday: “I allow me to judge myself.”

Welcome to Fearless Formula Feeder Fridays, a weekly guest post feature that strives to build a supportive community of parents united through our common experiences, open minds, and frustration with the breast-vs-bottle bullying and bullcrap.

Please note, these stories are for the most part unedited, and do not necessarily represent the FFF’s opinions. They are also not political statements – this is an arena for people to share their thoughts, and I hope we can all give them the space to do so.


Jennifer’s FFF Friday piece is one of the most striking submissions I’ve ever received, and somehow it got lost in the disaster zone that is my inbox. I apologize to her, and to everyone, for not sharing her incredible story sooner.

***

When I was a teenager I was diagnosed with PCOS (Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome), and told that when the time came I would likely be unable to conceive a child without medical intervention. This was fine, I didn’t care.

Many years later, my husband and I decided that we wanted to have a child. In the intervening years I had also been diagnosed with MS (Multiple Sclerosis) and I lived in constant pain. I was unable to walk unassisted and used a power wheelchair to get around in public. But this would not stop me. My husband and I wanted a child, and the one thing in my life that I had always been told was “You are so stubborn, you always find a way. No matter what it costs you.”

I went and saw an OB/GYN, who again reiterated that I would be unable to conceive naturally. She told me to go off my hormonal birth control, to go off my MS medications, and made me an appointment to see an RE (Reproductive Endocrinologist) 6 months later. I would be “fast-tracked” because of my health concerns, but I still had to have time for my body to “clear out” before they could start talk of hormone injections and the probably IUI or IVF I would need to conceive a child.

Imagine my and my husband’s surprise when two months later I peed on a stick and was pregnant.

We began researching like mad; we planned an all-natural childbirth which ultimately led to us planning a homebirth attended by a midwife. We planned to breastfeed, obviously. We planned to cloth-diaper. We planned to baby-wear and co-sleep. We were going to do this Right and Natural.

Pregnancy was good for my MS; I actually started being able to walk unassisted for short distances. It was amazing. I was sick my whole pregnancy, throwing up two or three times a day, but if this was the price I had to pay, that was fine.

We were shocked again when I went in to labor on December 26th, 2009. My due date wasn’t until January 15th, 2010! My parents rushed over to start putting together baby furniture and doing laundry. My husband helped me labor in our bed. My midwives rushed over to check on things.

And I labored for 36 hours at home. Around 2 am on December 28th, my midwives checked on the baby with a Doppler. The baby’s heart-rate suddenly dropped, then became erratic with contractions. This was not normal, this was not safe. My perfect natural birth was not going to happen.

I was rushed to the hospital. At 3:59 am on December 28th my son was born via emergency C-Section. My husband followed my son while they stitched me up. And I hissed at him “Do NOT let them give our baby a pacifier or any formula!”

My body had failed to bring my son in to the world naturally. But I’d be damned if my body was going to fail to FEED him naturally.

Trying to breastfeed after a C-Section is horrific. But I was determined. My son wouldn’t latch. He was a “lazy nurser” the LC said. I had to keep waking him up because he’d fall asleep nursing. I pumped and nursed, determined that I’d have enough of a supply. All I DID was nurse.

I was so tired. I was in so much pain. I didn’t take hardly any pain meds because I didn’t want them in my milk, and my son was nursing CONSTANTLY. I didn’t have the 2 hours to let them cycle out of my system.

My son was born at 7 lb 9 oz. When we went to the pediatrician a little over a week later, my son had dropped to 6 lb 7 oz. He looked so sick. I didn’t know what was wrong. He was so scrawny, so tiny, and so angry all the time.

But I kept trying. Because I was stubborn and determined and I NEEDED to be able to do this. Even when the pain from my MS was so bad I could hardly move, even when I was so tired I couldn’t see straight, even when my amazing husband said “Baby, please, please, let me just give him a bottle…”

The last straw came when my husband got called in to work at 3 in the morning. My son screamed for 2 hours while my husband was gone. My husband came home to find my son screaming beside me and me unable to stop crying in bed.

My husband took our son to the kitchen. He made him a bottle from a sample of formula that he had hidden from me. And I passed out, still crying.

When I woke up, my husband told me we weren’t doing this any more. He said that there was no way that the benefits of breastfeeding our son were worth this. He asked me when the last time I held our son and smiled was. I couldn’t tell him. But I looked at my baby, my happy, quiet, calm baby, and I smiled.

We ordered a case of formula online and had it delivered to the house. I couldn’t bear to go buy it.

I stopped crying every time I held my son. He stopped screaming all the time, he started smiling and cooing and being happy. He grew and thrived. People stopped being able to guess he was a preemie. I went back on medications and I stopped being in pain all the time.

My son is 9 months old now. He’s thriving and precocious, he keeps me on my toes and he is an absolute joy. He makes me smile and laugh constantly. He absolutely shows no signs of being “delayed” and he’s never been sick, not since I started feeding him formula.

I still struggle with the fact that I was unable to birth my son naturally and I was unable to feed him naturally. But I accept that my body has challenges, and that my job as a parent is to find ways to compensate for those challenges. I love my son unconditionally and I would do absolutely anything for him. I am a good mother because I put his needs ahead of my own. He does not suffer because he is formula fed, he thrives and all he knows is that his mommy and daddy and grammy and grandpa love him and make sure he is fed. All he knows is that he never goes hungry. Not any more.

I am the one who suffers the feelings of shame and guilt over being defective and over being judged by people who don’t even know me. When I give my son a bottle in public, I get looks. And it makes me angry. Those people don’t know me, they don’t know my struggles, and they have no right to judge me. But they do, and I allow them to. Because I allow me to judge myself.

Is breastfeeding more important than a healthy mother who is able to smile at her child? I don’t think so. Is breastmilk more important than a mother’s sanity? I don’t think so.

Will my son care that he wasn’t breastfed? I hope not. I hope that all he cares about is that he was loved and taken care of to the best of my ability.

***

Viva la revolution! Share your story at formulafeeders@gmail.com.

Suzanne Barston is a blogger and author of BOTTLED UP. Fearless Formula Feeder is a blog – and community – dedicated to infant feeding choice, and committed to providing non-judgmental support for all new parents. It exists to protect women from misleading or misrepresented “facts”; essentialist ideals about what mothers should think, feel, or do; government and health authorities who form policy statements based on ambivalent research; and the insidious beast known as Internetus Trolliamus, Mommy Blog Varietal.

Suzanne Barston – who has written posts on Fearless Formula Feeder.


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8 thoughts on “FFF Friday: “I allow me to judge myself.”

  1. You are right, your relationship with your child is so much more important then the way he/she is fed! Thank you for sharing your story!

  2. I enjoyed reading your story, I have 2 children, and the first one was born by emergency c section and breast milk was delayed, we never quite had enough but the midwives kept telling, just keep feeding, she will bring on more milk, but was never enough and when I started subbing feeds for formula I had clock work baby, naps etc.

    My 2nd child (a boy and much hungrier) was born 3 years later by elective C Section. Exclusively breastfed for about 2 weeks, then always toped up at night with formula, breastfeeding continued to age 7months as a comfort but mostly formula fed, what a blissful time to enjoy breast and bottle with my son, I truly had a such an easy baby and the beast of both worlds, he eventually weaned himself and that was that.

    Whatever works for Mum and baby, no one should ever judge but I believe in mummy instinct, if we think our kid is not getting enough to eat he probably isn't, so my best advice to new mums is to top up with formula while you express to get your supply up, but still nurse, and if it doesnt work give up, have a happy baby

  3. This made me bawl my face off! I experienced SO many of the same thoughts as you. You are very courageous for sharing your story, raw, real, genuine.
    You are an INCREDIBLE mother <3

  4. Yes! Being able to smile at your child is more important than breastfeeding! I remember suddenly being able to enjoy feeding my son when we finally went to formula feeding 100%. He was 3 months old, and I finally experienced bonding during feeding time. He's 18 months old now, and he still likes to snuggle in my lap while drinking his bedtime sippy cup of milk, and I'm game for it as long as he is!

  5. Thank you for sharing this. I suffer from another cronic pain condition (FMS) and I understand how hard it is to be the parent you need to be while also trying to keep yourself in the health you need to be to enjoy your life and your kids. I also had a child Dxed FTT for another reason and formula worked best for us even though I was able to nurse her for 9 moths (at which she was still at teh weight of a 4 month old. I nealry killed her).

    I am so glad to hear that there are other mothers out there with cronic pain issues who are not giving up on the famlies they want to have. Best of luck to you and yours

  6. Thank you all so much. As of today my son is days shy of 19 months old. He is running, climbing, talking, and is the light of our life.

    He gives hugs and cuddles to his daddy and I all the time. He screams with glee when he sees us for the first time upon waking or one of us coming back in to a room. I know now that formula feeding him was the best I could have done and the bond it allowed him to have with both me and his dad is priceless. Much better than when I couldn't even bear to look at him.

  7. Yup. I know that feeling but sub meds for depression for meds for MS and that is me. Congratulations on your son 🙂

    And yes, our sanity is so much more important. *HUGS*

  8. Thank you so much for sharing. And your statement is so true…I allow others to judge me because I just myself. I was recently diagnosed with an eating disorder…I eat to squash down my feelings of inadequacy because of my infertility and my choice not to breastfeed my adopted daughter. No matter how much I say that it's okay that I FF and that all that matters is that she is healthy, I still judge myself.

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