It never ceases to amaze me how everyone thinks that personal boundaries disappear once you become pregnant. This state of affairs became abundantly clear to me when I was about 6 months along with FC, and there was a knock on the door. When I opened it, there stood my husband’s assistant – a 20-something with hands reeking of cigarettes – whose bloodshot eyes widened, staring at my belly. “Woah!” he yelped, and grabbed me as if he were measuring my fundal height.
And then there was the time (those of you who read Bottled Up know this one already) that my boss, in the middle of a company strategy meeting, asked me if I’d been toughening up my nipples yet to prepare for breastfeeding.
More good times.
Postpartum, they ask you about how your baby was born: did it come out of your vagina or did you have surgery where your organs were laying on a table a few feet away? They ask about your sleep schedules, how much weight you have lost, how you are feeding your baby…. it goes on and on.
So, Lindsay – I feel you. I feel you, because people felt me. And asked me. And it felt sickeningly intrusive.
Enjoy Lindsay’s story, and enjoy your weekend.
Happy Friday, fearless ones,
“A New Mom’s Interrogation”
“Are you nursing?” “How is breastfeeding going?” “Will you pump once you go back to work?” “How is she eating?”
In the first two weeks after Eloise was born I was flooded with questions like this. It shocked me how many people (many who were not close friends) asked me and my husband if I was breast feeding, because I had never asked a new mom any version of those questions. I had never thought to, I guess, and it just seemed kinda personal. After my experience I am so glad I have never asked a woman that question, and never will. So for everyone who wanted to know how breastfeeding is going: the relentless lump in my throat has just now started to disappear so I’m finally comfortable and confident to talk about my experience.
After a dramatic delivery, my little Eloise was exhausted! So much so that whenever I would try to nurse her, she would just fall asleep again. In the hospital, I had every nurse help me, and two lactation consultants. With the lactation consultants aggressively putting E’s face to me, she would try to eat, but my milk had not yet come in. The result – a screaming baby and an anxious momma.
I worried she wasn’t getting enough to eat, and sure enough, when it was time to check out of the hospital, E couldn’t leave yet, because her jaundice wasn’t improving and she’d lost a good bit of her birth weight. I was distraught. I failed my first test as a mother. I couldn’t even feed my own baby. A nurse came in and told me they’d have to give Eloise some formula. Of course I was fine with that. I just wanted her to be okay.
Fast forward to 5 days after E was born. Although my milk had come in, Eloise and I still could not get it right. She would scream or sleep at feeding time. So, bottle of formula it was. I kept trying to nurse, and she kept on screaming. Though there was milk, it just would not come out! I ended up getting such clogged ducts that it developed into mastitis. (That pain was as bad as the delivery.) I pumped every 2 hours for 20 minutes, just hoping to give E some breast milk. One of my breasts only produced blood, and as for the other one, for days nothing came out, and then when it did once, it wouldn’t again for another few days. I tried everything I read on the internet to help my supply, and talked to two more lactation consultants. Nothing seemed to work and my patience and sanity were wearing thin.
The lowest moments were when E was crying in her bassinet and I could do nothing for her, because I was attached to that damn pump. At a follow-up appointment for my mastitis my doctor noticed that a few of the clogs hadn’t disappeared. There were still three large knots in my breasts*. The emptiness and fear I felt going to get that ultrasound was unlike any other feeling I’ve had. I decided then to stop pumping. Call me selfish, but I wanted to hold, comfort, and cuddle my baby. Rather than the constant up and down of whether or not I was able to produce milk; I wanted to have control (at least a little bit) over my emotions. In the first few weeks of E’s life I thought more about my breasts than my baby. I hate that.
I hated myself for not being able to feed my baby. I doubted my capability as a mother asking myself constantly what was wrong with me. I had more than one nightmare about CPS taking Eloise from me because I wasn’t nursing. In fact, I was so brainwashed by society and the hospital that I actually thought our pediatrician wouldn’t even see Eloise because she was formula fed. And each time someone asked how Eloise was being fed, or how breastfeeding was going, I had to hold back tears.
Now that Eloise is almost 3 months old I am feeling like more and more like myself. I stopped justifying why she is formula fed, or explaining to people how it didn’t work for us. It bothers me, still, that people ask how my daughter is being fed – because, does it really matter? She is eating, she is thriving, she is happy. I certainly could have kept trying to pump, but in the end, I made a choice to spend that time with Eloise, and to have my sanity. And I am a better mother and wife for it.
So if someone asks how breast feeding is going, I can say without tears, that Eloise loves her food and I’m a happy momma. Isn’t that what really matters anyway?
*The radiologist could not read my ultrasound to determine if the lumps were a concern due to lactating. For now, we just wait to see if the lumps go away, and my doctor thinks they will in time. I am hopeful.
Feel like sharing your story? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I promise I won’t grab your belly with nicotine-stained fingers.