If you knew me back when my first born, my Monkey Boy, was a newborn, you probably would have rarely heard me talk about breastfeeding. And more then likely, what I did have to say back then would probably have not been so positive. You probably would have heard me say things like this on a bad day…
“I can’t wait for this to be over!”
“This sucks ass!”
“I want MY body back.!”
“I am NEVER doing this again.”
I use to say stuff like that all the time for various reasons. I had people that supported me, so I wasn’t saying this for lack of support; however, the nature of the support I got wasn’t something that I understood or knew how to deal with on a daily basis.
I would constantly hear phrases from my small network of fellow nursing mothers like this…
“This is the best experience ever.”
“Nurse your baby for as long as you can.”
“Enjoy every moment because you will never get this time back.”
“Just try relaxing and enjoying this time.”
“I don’t understand where you are coming from because I have always loved breastfeeding.”
Phrases like this use to piss me off to no end. It wasn’t the best experience ever for me the first time around. I didn’t want to nurse my baby forever. I was not enjoying every minute. I couldn’t just relax. And I really didn’t give a rat’s ass if somebody didn’t understand where I was coming from.
Part of my stress that I felt I think partially came from the fact that I no longer felt “in control” of my own body. I couldn’t decide whether or not I was going to have spontaneous let down. I couldn’t sleep on my stomach without feeling like my boobs had spent the night in the octagon with Randy Couture. I didn’t feel sexy. I didn’t feel hot. And I started to worry that I would never feel like my old self ever again.
But despite all of these negative feelings that I had about breastfeeding, I still ended up breastfeeding my Monkey Boy for a year. And there are two reasons why I did this. The first is the good, respectable reason for nursing a child to at least a year, and that is that one year of nursing is recommended by the AAP. Back then I was still a very stick-to-the-”rules” kind of mom, so it made sense to nurse for a full year.
But the real reason that drove me to nurse for a full year is the fact that I am one competitive-ass mother. Have you ever watched Friends?
Yes, yes, I am serious. One of the main reasons that I nursed my Monkey Boy for a full year was because I secretly wanted to out-nurse every other mother I knew. I don’t know which is sadder, the fact that I was a competitive nurser or the fact that unfortunately I only knew one mother that nursed longer than a year.
And there are two reasons why I wanted to out-nurse every mother I knew.
1. I was tired of feeling like a failure/bitch for not loving every nursing moment with my child, so my out-nursing other mothers made me feel like I was being a good mother despite not loving breastfeeding.
2. I think I had a martyr complex. All of these other mothers had wonderful stories to share, which I did not, so being able to say that I nursed for a year despite disliking it gave me a story to tell.
But almost 5 years later and now with another nursing baby, I have learned a lot, and I have grown a lot. And I swear that I can thank 95% of it to Facebook. The problem with talking about breastfeeding with people that you know or asking for advice from friends is the fact that often times they want to solve your problems or will only share the best of their experiences because those are the ones they remember the most. I had heard so many happy breastfeeding stories and had been given so much happy advice that I could have chocked a kitten.
I remember being 7 months pregnant and seeing a status update from The Leaky Boob. It asked, “What is one bit of advice that you would give to a woman about breastfeeding?” It was the first time that I was compelled to write something, to talk to these online people who referred to themselves as “leakies.” I wrote,
“You don’t have to love every minute of it to be able to do it.”
And within minutes of writing it, tons of people “liked” my comment. And something changed for me. I realized that the experiences of breastfeeding women come in about as many different shapes and varieties as…well…breasts! Finding people who understood me changed the way I viewed breastfeeding and the way I viewed the breastfeeding woman.
But, the truth is, that an online sanctuary really shouldn’t be required in order to have this sort of AHA! moment. So I did something very “un-me” last night. I listened to an online radio show by Shari Criso about a pledge that was created by Melinda Olson of Earth Mama Angel Baby.
It is a pledge that is more or less about respecting breastfeeding without judgement. The overview of the pledge states,
“Take the pledge to agree to stand together for breastfeeding success and to support all mamas who desire to breastfeed, no matter what technique, position, frequency, equipment, duration or organization she chooses.”
I’m not a pledge person by nature, but something about this gesture spoke to me. There are so many times in life when you just want somebody to support you without question or judgement. And even though many people want to give advice, want to provide facts and want to share their personal stories in order to improve the experience of another…sometimes silence and acceptance speaks much louder and truer. Sometimes just listening and offering support, even if the person feels differently or acts differently than you, is the best possible thing that you can do in that moment for that person.
I don’t care how many stats, tidbits of advice and pleasant stories a person could have thrown at me during my first nursing experience because I can tell you that none of it would have mattered. In fact, it just made me feel worse because even though these things are not meant to be taken personally, they still can feel personal. And ultimately I found my way to confidence and happiness without all of it. Sometimes you have to just trust that a person can make the best decision without interference, and sometimes they do.
Below is the link to the pledge that I signed. If this speaks to you in some way, sign it. Nobody asked me to write this post, and I am not getting a penny for doing it. I wrote this because it was a story of mine that I haven’t spoken of due to embarrassment, but after listening to some very strong women speak about this topic, I felt moved to share it. I am a fairly normal human, and my experiences are more or less the story of how I got this way…leaky boobs & all.