In my year of writing for this blog, I’ve written about the worst of the worst. I’ve shared some of the saddest things that have happened to me and my most intimate feelings. I’ve put myself out there, laid myself bare.
But for all that I’ve put out there, there is one painful thing that I’ve only mentioned in passing.
My story really isn’t that dramatic. My milk didn’t come in, my baby started to lose weight. I visited several lactation consultants, saw a specialist. I pumped for literally hours a day to stimulate milk production. After weeks of confusion and stress, I found out that I am among the 1-5% of women who were born with no or very few milk ducts. I will never have the option of exclusively breastfeeding my child.
I will never forget our first (and former) pediatrician’s callous and blunt diagnosis that my baby was starving. I will never forget the feeling of standing over my husband’s shoulder while he gave my daughter a bottle of formula her hunger was quenched for the first time. I will never forget those early weeks when I would try to nurse my baby and we would both cry with frustration. I will never forget the feeling of not being able to provide what I had always considered the most basic thing for my precious girl.
I was told that if I took a hot shower my milk would come in. My baby would cry in public and strangers would suggest that maybe she needed to nurse. As a progressive person living in a progressive place, I had bought everything that was sold to me on the benefits of breastfeeding. I was armed with a brand new freezer and a state-of-the-art pump.
I felt left out. Alone. Embarrassed.
I hung my head as I bought formula and felt guilty over the added and unplanned expense. I avoided conversations about feeding – one of the hot topics among new moms. I grew quiet when nursing inevitably came up. I didn’t feel as if anyone really understood. I felt judged.
Yes, I probably got more sleep. My husband and I were able to split the night shift. I could drink whatever I wanted and take medication without a second thought. But I would have given up any amount of extra sleep or forced sobriety to have experienced the stresses of a nursing mama.
And to this day, I’m not sure I ever really got over it.
Recently, I found The Fearless Formula Feeder. Articles titled “I’m still working on forgiving myself” were a revelation. I’d seen pro-formula articles before, but I’d never seen it put in terms that hit so close to home. I am working on forgiving myself, too.
And maybe, just maybe, I can be fearless.