I recently read an article that suggested we are going about this postpartum thing all wrong. The author urged women not to do anything but rest and breastfeed for the first month or so after giving birth – to let the dishes stay dirty, to not worry about losing the pregnancy weight, to just focus on your baby.
In theory, this sounds rather blissful. But thinking back to my own postpartum experience, I don’t know how blissful it would be in practice. For some of us, getting back into shape, getting out into the world, feeling like our old selves – these are essentials. They are part of who we are. And when you’re already struggling with a seismic shift in identity, those little things that make us who we are become incredibly important.
I love Sarah’s story of going to the mall, and how a little makeup made her reconnect with who she was. It’s important to take the pressure off postpartum women, but it’s equally important to recognize that for some women, lying in bed and nursing is not going to relieve that pressure. For some, getting back to “normalcy” is exactly what they need to clear their heads and hearts, so that they truly can enjoy their babies.
Happy Friday, fearless ones,
When I was pregnant my husband took a breastfeeding class at our local hospital. There were women and men from all walks of life, first time and experienced parents. We bought into the “breast is best” mentality. The lactation consultant went through information that we could use to help us with breastfeeding and what our partner could do to help. Wow! They made it look like a piece of cake, the most natural thing that you would ever do. I was expecting it all to happen naturally because it was the only option. Boy, I was in for the emotional ride of my life.
Ironically my breasts did not enlarge while I was pregnant. I really wanted them to because for once I wanted larger than a B cup! I asked my OBGYN about it and he was convinced that they would. He was right, well to a certain extent..
I gave birth in a baby friendly hospital. My delivery was very easy I believe by most standards. I was relieved to get an epidural. I was terrified of the pain but I literally felt nothing and was so happy about it. I was in so much pain prior to that point I wasn’t enjoying the process. Immediate skin to skin to promote breastfeeding and my daughter roomed in with us. She would not latch, I was so upset they sent in a lactation consultant. The lactation consultant was a nice lady, she showed us different holds and advised us to use a nipple shield.
We got home and my milk didn’t come in for a few days. My daughter had jaundice and needed to gain weight, but no milk so this was magically supposed to happen? We went to the pediatrician 3 days later and she lost more weight. She would fall asleep at the breast and we tried everything to keep her awake. I would wake every 2 hours to feed her. The pediatrician said to supplement with 1oz of formula and their office lactation consultant would contact me.
Since my daughter was lazy at the breast I started pumping 15 minute sessions. I would get 2-3ozs total at the beginning. One breast was underproducing, I’d get .5 oz. I could tell my breasts were lopsided. The lactation consultant called to check in and help. She suggest fenugreek and pumping immediately after nursing. She called every week for 6 weeks to try and help. At one point I was so frustrated spending my entire day pumping and/or crying because not much was happening and I was giving it all I had. I was exhausted, delusional, lashing out on my husband and he was my top supporter. He would do anything to help and I was taking my breastfeeding problems on him. The 6th week came, at this point I was giving the breast milk I could get and supplementing with formula. The lactation consultant said again I just needed to keep trying that she breastfed all her kids exclusively for 18 months. I wanted to tell her to shove it, I was just trying to get through the day without a nervous breakdown and feeling terrible my daughter was getting a combination of breast milk and formula. I told her everything was going great literally so she would stop calling me. My mom and sister were successful at breastfeeding so when I talked to them about it they just didn’t understand.
Fast forward to week 8, still pumping getting 3 ozs if I was lucky every pumping session but my nipples hurt so bad I just secretly wanted it to end. I was so depressed I had to get out of the house. I was crying in my car but put on a brave face to go out in public. I found a store in the mall and this really nice lady did my makeup and complimented me on how beautiful my daughter was. I thought at least I look good! I lost it again, I hadn’t thought about this since the day she was born because I was spending my entire day pumping and trying to get her to latch. She was so beautiful.
I called my OBGYN. I told him how anxious and stressed I was still with the whole thing. We spoke about the issue before. With the exception of my husband, he kept me sane. He was so matter of fact, funny and supportive. I told him how I felt judged, a failure for this not working out how I planned and how people said formula was poison. He said all this crap people say is not true, he was formula fed as well, to not be so hard on myself. My first thought was he is a doctor, just maybe if my daughter was as smart as my husband she still had a shot at going to MIT. What a relief!
Things were looking up! I quit the whole pumping nonstop, frustration and began exclusively formula feeding my daughter. The blessing in this is she immediately came to life not cranky from being hungry and I was a normal, sane person. I was still feeling anxious but not as bad. I was prescribed medication from my family doctor but I did everything I could to not take them. I had an appointment with my OBGYN again to get on a different birth control and I spoke with him about the meds and my anxiety. He made a few suggestions to relax and that therapy might help me.
I joined a few moms groups and talked to friends about my struggles. Most of them were successfully breastfeeding. I heard everything, that it was a mistake getting an epidural as it delays your milk, not eating the placenta and getting it encapsulated was the reason for my blues. I immediately felt judged by the breastfeeding moms. The connection they had with their babies and with each other made me feel worse. A lovely mom ask me if I wanted her breast milk because she had reserves. For a moment I considered, but after I thought, oh how ridiculous this sounds! I was at my wits end and turned to therapy to talk this out. It helped me realize I was doing the best with what I had.
My life has changed. I still feel icky at times because I wanted to breastfeed so bad I then remember how it robbed me of my sanity and time with my daughter. My husband and I have amazing times together (no leaky boobs!, we go out on dates) and I have a glass of wine here and there and don’t feel guilty. My daughter gets enough to eat and slept through the night almost immediately with formula. I found a new pediatrician that supports my decision and that my daughter loves. I’m ecstatic my daughter is healthy and thriving and everyday we have quality time together. Its amazing and made me realize how lucky I am and letting it gooooo. I’m a great Mom!
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