FFF Friday: “I wore it like a badge of honor.”

Here’s the thing about judgment: it’s part of life. We all do it. It’s sort of like picking your nose, or pooping. We all wish we could pretend that it never happens, but humans are gross creatures. It’s inevitable. 

That’s why I don’t tell people not to judge, because it’s useless. Instead, I ask them to listen. To consider how your experience might keep you from understanding the other person’s experience. We can’t possibly know every moment of someone else’s life, or every layer of their heart. There are exceptions, of course – go ahead and judge axe murderers or neo-Nazis, please – but I’m talking about that mom you see at McDonalds smelling of cigarettes with a morbidly obese child. Or the mom on the playground who grabs her misbehaving son a bit too hard. In these isolated moments, in our generalizations about certain parenting behaviors, it’s so easy to think that we are superior, that we are infallible. Just remember that tomorrow, it might be your child who hits another. It might be you who loses your job, and needs to fill your child’s belly with whatever food is cheapest and most accessible. You just don’t know. 

But regardless, you will judge. And that’s okay. But I think it’s awfully nice when you can acknowledge it, like the amazing Dana does in the story below. 

Happy Friday, fearless ones,

The FFF

***

Dana’s Story

Before I begin my storyline from breast to bottle, first let me begin with my public apology to anyone who heard me speak about breastfeeding vs. bottle before, during, and even shortly after pregnancy. I was one of “those women.”  I was obsessed with breastfeeding. I couldn’t even wrap my head around the idea of bottle feeding. I thought women were selfish and lazy for not at least attempting breastfeeding. It’s for your dear child after all! Whenever people asked if I would be bottle or breastfeeding I proudly proclaimed breastfeeding. I wore it like a badge of honor. Family, doctors, nurses would all smile and say “good for you!” I was IN. I was a part of the club. Or so I thought…

Boy did I get slapped in the face by reality! I had an amazing 9 months. I had almost zero morning sickness, despite being overweight prior to pregnancy I was gaining at a good rate and only what was expected, I had the BEST midwife ever. I suffered from some pelvic pain towards the very end, and there was slight worry about pre-eclampsia as well but nothing off the charts. I went into labor March 10, 2013. Around 11:00am contractions began. My pull towards everything natural and my  true hippy inside drove me to labor as long as I possibly could in my own home. I labored on the couch, in the shower, on the floor, in our bed. Everywhere around our little 2 bedroom duplex till about 3:00pm when I couldn’t stand it anymore and contractions were 4 minutes apart. We got to the hospital at 3:30pm the nurse checked me and exclaimed “Wow you’re at 9 ½ centimeters!” Everything was going exactly as I had planned. My husband and midwife were wonderful, I retreated into myself and had my eyes closed 90% of the labor process. I delivered my beautiful 8 pound 9 ounce son at 6:44pm with zero pain medication! My hippy heart soared with pride, another badge to add. He latched on right after birth and nursed while we waited for the cord to stop pulsing before cutting it. Everything was going exactly as planned.

My son was extremely sleepy and had a very difficult time latching on. My breasts are naturally large before pregnancy and only got more cumbersome after. It was like trying to fit a watermelon into a kitten’s mouth!! Nurses and lactation consultants buzzed around me trying to “help.” One nurse was so rough with my son and I shoving his face into my watermelon sized chest over and over until myself and my son were crying and I finally asked her to leave the room. Despite all the difficulty we were sent on our merry way with NO IDEA the torture we were walking into.

My son suffered from jaundice so we went home on March 12, 2013. That’s the moment all hell broke loose. He was exhausted. My husband and I were exhausted. There was absolutely NON STOP screaming, arching, congestion, painful hiccups, zero sleep….my son was literally sleeping 4 hours in a 24 hour period. He viciously pushed away from me every single time my breasts came out. He couldn’t latch on and when he did he fell asleep instantly. My breasts were not sore, they did not crack or bleed, my sons pitiful latch never hurt one time.

My mental state on the other hand…I have never in my life felt more depressed or rejected. I can’t even begin to truly tell anyone how horrible I felt. All that “pride” I had in me and my capabilities was GONE. I hated myself. I hated my son for only being able to rely on me. For needing something so badly but not being able to just figure it out! I hated my husband for encouraging me to continue going because he knew just how badly I wanted to breastfeed. After all I was the one who religiously educated him on the WONDERS of breast milk. I hated my Mother for begging me to stop. Looking at me slumped over the breast pump for hours and hours at a time with an expression of agony. As I listened to the pump tell me over and over again “you’re failing you’re failing!” And still…a tiny part of me continued to clutch that badge of pride with white knuckles. My husband and I would weep right alongside our son as he screamed in pure misery. Still, that proud woman I was before would spat out nasty hateful words like “No wonder breastfeeding Mother’s are so righteous! Formula feeders have it so easy. Pop the bottle in the kids mouth and done. Breastfeeding Mother’s have EVERY right to act holier than though. They ARE better. WE are better!”

My son was losing weight, I was losing weight. Neither one of us was getting the nutrition we so sorely needed. We were exhausted, and way beyond the end of our rope. One fateful day my amazing husband was moving my precious bags of liquid gold in the fridge. (Nothing was being frozen as I was barely producing enough to keep up with my son’s demands. I had switched to exclusively pumping and those bags were EVERYTHING to me, to my son!) My devoted, encouraging, supportive husband dropped an entire bag full of milk. Hysteria is the only word that comes to mind. I literally saw red. I crumpled to the floor sobbing and shaking. Screaming how I couldn’t do it anymore. I was making myself sick. My son was struggling to live on what I was giving him and getting at most 4 hours of sleep (the only time he wasn’t screaming!) in a 24 hour period due to his reflux.

I saw my midwife and told her I felt like I was inside a dark hole with dirt caving in on me, I was digging out as furiously as I could but it all just kept falling in on me no matter what I did. I was prescribed Zoloft and given the kindest words I had heard since delivery in terms of breastfeeding. She said “Dana, its okay to stop.” I just looked at her through bloodshot tear filled eyes. She continued. “Your mental well being is directly tied to your son’s well being. Your breasts are not.”

It was over. I gave up. I took the pills, I gave in to the “poison” that is formula and with that I turned into the Mother I always dreamed of being. I loved my son; I loved staring into his eyes as I fed him. I enjoyed him and he was finally able to enjoy me because I wasn’t hooked up to a pump anymore!!! We took him to a Chiropractor and we never looked back! His reflux totally changed from that day forward. His belly was happily full for the first time in his little life, and he wasn’t in agonizing pain. You know what I have to say about that badge of honor I toted around like the Holy Grail? Screw that! I traveled to hell and back for my son yes, but more so because I feel like I was brainwashed, like I had joined a cult and drank the kool aid!! There was no gray, it was all black and white terms. No leeway whatsoever! Formula was poison and it didn’t matter that my son was rapidly losing weight and doing worse and worse by the second, I truly believed that what little breast milk he was getting was going to solve everything, apparently create world peace too! NO! IT DOESN’T! You know what did restore peace in my home, my heart, and my life? FORMULA.

Ask me how long I lasted breastfeeding? Based on my personal hell and agony that I went through it sounds like quite a while right? It felt like an eternity, the story alone has taken me 8 months to be able to put into words. I breastfed my son for a mere 12 days. No cracked bloody nipples, no physical pain…just a mental hell.  12 days of what my husband and I now fondly describe as “living in a horror movie.” My son will be 8 months old in 2 days, he is happy and healthy. He is beautiful and bright. He is pulling himself up and trying to take off walking at only 8 months old. I guess 12 days of breast milk and currently 227 days on formula will still give you a breathtaking intelligent child. Who would of thought?

 ***

Have a story you’d like to share? Email me 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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7 thoughts on “FFF Friday: “I wore it like a badge of honor.”

  1. This. Exactly this. Thank you for sharing. I obsessed over breastfeeding to the detriment of bonding with my son. Letting it go was the smartest thing I’ve ever done and no day passes where I’m not grateful I did.

  2. THANK YOU!!!! I so needed to read this. I have felt such guilt over not breastfeeding because it is so in your face. I really do feel like I need a formula feeding support group! Not only for the emotional aspects, but seriously, there’s a lot of different bottles out there and issues that come with bottle feeding and a little support would be great. I’m so glad I found this site and can’t wait to read Bottled Up!

  3. beautifully put! thank you so much for sharing this – i really needed to hear it. so happy for you that things got much better. 🙂

  4. Thank you for sharing your story! It means the world to know that i am not alone, not the only one who went thru this hell. It really reminds me my own story that i ll write some day. I was in your shoes ,and still am. I know exactly how you felt and exactly what you are talking about.
    I did not even care breast or formula, before i had my baby and everybody keep telling me that i HAVE to provide milk no matter what. That i MUST pump till the last drop or i ll get sick.
    And i know the feeling of rejection, because your baby wont latch.

    • Dreamka – When other people try to dictate what we, as women, “have to do” or “must do,” that’s code for “do it my way.” I, for one, support women who follow their hearts and instincts. We are all entitled to make our own decisions. Your baby will be as happy as his/her mama. – peace

  5. Hi Dana, Your words, “I feel like I was brainwashed, like I had joined a cult and drank the kool aid!!” struck me because that was the name of my post that I wrote here last October,, “Different Flavors of Kool-aid.” I had to hit “Previous” on this Blog quite a few times to get back to it so I included a link below. My story includes a tragedy; and a near-tragedy. I wish you peace & much love & happiness. Cheers to the flavor of Kool-Aid that’s best for our babies!! <3
    http://www.fearlessformulafeeder.com/2013/12/guest-post-different-flavors-of-kool-aid/

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