I ran into one of THOSE women online today. The ones who say “Every mom can breastfeed with the help of an LC and maybe some fenugreek.”
I would have gladly kicked puppies and nuns if it would’ve helped Elanor’s and my breastfeeding relationship. But the combination of diabetes (poor milk duct maturation), her illness and hospitalization, that my initial relationship was with a pump, her age when we were cleared to bf again, and her food allergies (and my almost complete collapse from trying to go dairy free) made it impossible. I still pumped every ounce I could squeeze out of my boobs for that child for five (almost six) months believing that breast was best and dreaming of the day when I could try to put her to breast.
I was never more miserable in my life. I’ve probably never been as lousy a mom as I was in those months. Sure everything I was doing was FOR her…but I wasted tons of time WITH her and didn’t enjoy her nearly as much as I could have otherwise. Severe post-partum depression combined with post-traumatic stress syndrome AND undiagnosed bipolar disorder? Not pretty. Scratch that…it wasn’t just not pretty…I was suicidal at times, and the only thing that kept me from driving my car off the road into a river or into a tree at a really high speed or picking up the giant bottle of pills or made me put down the very sharp knife….was Elanor. Was the idea of her growing up knowing I’d killed myself when she was a baby and possibly blaming herself the way I spent years blaming myself for my father’s lack of presence in my life…an event that really had nothing to do with the child as a person as was all about the adult’s internal shit.
The very best thing I ever did for Elanor was to put down the breast pump, allow my therapist and psychiatrist to properly diagnose and medicate me, and give Elanor the prescription hypoallergenic baby formula. Those allowed me to slowly come back to myself and to be a good mom.
When I decided to go off the lithium last August so that I could become pregnant again over the winter/spring, I definitely stopped and thought about the consequences. The mood swings. The depression. How hard it would all be. But I decided to try.
If I didn’t have the support system I do, I don’t know that I could be doing what I’m doing. But I do have the resources to step back when I need to. To cry. To hide. To manage my bi-polar as best I can without meds.
When Wheelie is born, I plan to try to breastfeed. But I also know that the second it isn’t worth it, Wheelie will move to formula. If I’m a worse mom for bfing than I would be as a formula mom on Lithium, I stop.
The difference with Wheelie, I think, is that I put down the kool-aid.
I just don’t believe that every mom CAN breastfeed or SHOULD breastfeed anymore.
I do think that breast is the ideal, and it’s worth striving for, but that 2 oz of formula don’t negate the benefit of 6 oz of breast milk if that’s all my under-developed boobs can make. If I had to exclusively pump again (hard to imagine that scenario, but let’s play what if) I might skip the night pump and ask Ravi or B to do the night feed to trade the benefit of the extra sleep against a diet of pure breastmilk.
I believe that I am an important part of the equation. That my happiness is important too. That my emotional and physical well-being are as important as my babies.
So when I run across one of those moms, I see red. Because telling me that every mom can do it if she just tries hard enough minimizes and disrespects everything I’ve gone through as a mom. It belittles me. It calls me a failure.
I am not a failure.
I’m not a perfect mom. But I am a good mom, and no one can take that…or the benefit of the breastmilk that E got (no matter HOW she got it) away from me.