It’s World Breastfeeding Week, I am beyond proud & amazed with all the Mothers that are able to soothe, feed & provide for their babies via the breast. However, what about the rest of us? It breaks my heart to say that I am not one of those women. It still pains me to talk about it & it’s hard to swallow but…I have come to terms with it but, I’ll be honest, it did take me a long time to get there. My story isn’t the worst, my story isn’t to get sympathy. My story is being told, because I simply want other mommy’s to know that, YOU my love, are NOT alone.
As most of you know, I had an induced labor. I did not want to go two weeks past my due date, so I chose to have Holland on February 1st, 2018. A date that I will cherish forever.
After the first couple of days after having Holland, I assumed during feedings she was getting the hang of things and that I was producing enough. However, that was not the case.
At her first check up, I was told that baby girl wasn’t getting enough. She should have been back at her birth weight already & sadly enough… she was actually almost a pound less. After much convincing, my pediatrician agreed to let me go a little longer to see if: my milk just hadn’t come in yet, I would either produce more or if Holland just needed a little time to get used to things but if her weight wasn’t up, we would have to supplement.
Supplement… the thought of that just broke my heart. I didn’t want to supplement, I wanted to be able to provide for her. So, after many tears & much pep-talk, I purchased a breast pump to try to up my anti.
It seemed to have been going well, but I still wasn’t getting the amount that I should have by pumping. Which was so frustrating, considering I was doing everything my pediatrician had told me to do. Even with all that frustration, I kept in mind that my sister could not pump AT ALL but could breastfeed. So, I was praying that was the case for me too.
So, at our two week check up, weigh-in was a nerve wrecking event. But, to our surprise Holland’s weight was a little more than over her birth weight. We were so excited & couldn’t wait to hear what our pediatrician would say! Until she said the unexpected. “Holland should be around 8 pounds, she’s still not gaining fast enough.” You’re going to have to supplement.
The tears just streamed down my face, I couldn’t breathe & it felt as if someone kicked me in my momma heart.
Why? Why wasn’t she getting enough? What is wrong with my body? What is wrong with my breast? All these things just kept going over & over in my head. But the worst was… Am I not fit to be a mom? Why do I see everyone else breastfeeding & I can’t!
So, my next step was to go see a Lactation Consultant. I was so nervous to go because I had a feeling that she was going to tell me, “Yeah, this is just not for you.” But, that wasn’t the case here. She told me everything looked great: boobs, latch, swallow, everything was great. So, WHY wasn’t Holland gaining enough? Still no answers. But, they told me that the pump I had initially purchased was for maintaining breastfeeding, not starting out. So, I rented a pump from the hospital. Once home, I tried & tried. Still getting the bare minimum. And to make matters worse, the nipple coverings were either too small or too big.. so regardless it hurt like hell. It was infuriating. Especially because, when I would “pump” myself with my hands, I would be able to produce over two ounces in no time. It MADE NO SENSE.
After Holland’s two week checkup, we had another (we were having to go weekly because her weight wasn’t going up fast enough), to our surprise she was at the perfect weight. It made me SO happy to know that she was doing well, healthy & getting all the nutrients she needed. But, still, my momma heart was breaking because all of that… well, wasn’t from me.
Regardless of what my odds were of my milk supply growing, I continued for weeks of pumping, supplementing & breastfeed… it became exhausting. I was exhausted. Holland wouldn’t take me because she would get more from a bottle. I would pump & cry because it not only hurt but I hated doing it.
During those two months & up until she was five months.. I tried everything in between as well, just to try to get my milk supply up. I mean everything… all tricks, lactation consultant suggestions, I read blogs, books & websites, tried any gimmick, any product, any snack, cookie, or drink… I tried. Nothing worked. My milk supply was slim to none. More or less.. none. I had cried, prayed, pleaded & begged with the Lord the first three months of Holland’s life to help me produce more & feed Holland the way God intended all babies to be fed. The natural breastfed way. But, unfortunately.. amongst all the praying, pleading, begging, cookies eaten, natural vitamins taken, money spent on breast pumps, consultations, NOTHING helped me.
It breaks my heart still every time I have to hold my daughter to my chest & bottle feed her. Knowing that my body, my breast & against all odds & natural made products I can’t physically provide for her. Not being able to breastfeed Holland caused heartache, stress & resentment. I had heartache each time I had to make a bottle for her, I stressed out each time I couldn’t find anything to soothe her & yet she was nuzzling at me & I couldn’t do a thing, but make a bottle & resentment towards my body because this was the ONE thing all mothers should be able to do… yet I couldn’t.
Even with all that trying & successfully failing… I knew my milk was there, I could feel it, I could see a little when I pumped & even more so when I squeezed myself. So I knew she was getting something, at least something of me…. but again, not enough to sustain her.
I’m my head, my thought was that “Okay, I had an induced pregnancy so that’s why my body hasn’t registered that it needs to produce milk. But.. it will.”
After months of trying, I finally gave up after my GYNO Doctor told me, “My wife tried with our first & couldn’t, we now have four healthy children that were all bottle fed. I’m a huge supporter for breastfeeding, but when it becomes stressful. Stop. It’s not worth it & who gives a shit what other people think.”
That was one of the hard parts… what would people think? Or even worse… what would people say?
I came to realize, I just had to not give a shit.
I’ve never told anyone (outside of my close family & friends) this story, I’ve never felt brave enough to tell anyone that I was having the hardest time & it killed me inside to admit to anyone that my body wasn’t good enough. That it wasn’t woman enough. I was embarrassed to talk about it. I would hide feeding Holland in public, I certainly never posted her with a bottle on social media (because heaven forbid I be real with myself). I honestly had a pitty party for myself. It made me angry to see other women share photos of them feeding their child. Not angry at them, angry at myself that I couldn’t do that. I became so angry that I resented my body in the mirror. I resented myself for not doing more.
After many nights of prayer, God helped me realize that not being able to breastfeed wasn’t that I wasn’t woman enough or good enough to be Holland’s momma. He showed me that I was blessed, blessed to have been able to get pregnant, blessed to have been able to give birth, blessed to have a safe & healthy delivery to a beautiful, healthy & happy girl & blessed to have a supportive, loving husband that stood next to me. He cheered me on, made me feel woman enough & showed me that even though I wasn’t capable of breast feeding Holland, that she is still a healthy, growing, beautiful & happy baby.
She’s my perfect girl & although it selfishly took me too long to realize it, she is beyond a gift & not being able to breastfeed her isn’t the worst thing in the world. In that moment, it seemed awful, but looking back…. God had a plan & his plan wasn’t the same as mine. Which now, I’m more than grateful for.
So, if you are struggling, try not to get discouraged. God has a plan for each & every one of us. It will be hard as hell most days, but as long as you & baby are healthy… that is all that matters.
I know this post isn’t the cheerist, or most perfect one… but this post is real. It’s real & I re-live it each time I’ve read & re-read this. It is not a post to get sympathy. I’ve made peace with myself most days but it recently hit me hard when seeing all the posts about World Breastfeeding Week as I’m sure it did with other women in this same position.
What this post is about… is to let other women out there that have struggled with conceiving, adoption, feeding, etc. know that YOU ARE NOT ALONE. You are woman enough. You are good enough. You are deserving enough.
P.S. That photo was taken by my sister one night after we were asleep & after unsuccessfully trying to cycle breast pump & feed all day to get my milk supply up. I was exhausted… Holland was exhausted & lots of tears were involved.
But that’s our story.