Okay, so we’re going to get a little personal here.
After all, I am talking about milk coming out of my boobs which I feel a little awkward even saying because I’m way more modest than I like to let on. Anyway, we’re getting personal because the pumping mom is one who doesn’t have a big presence in the world. Maybe there’s just not a lot of us, maybe we’re ashamed. Either way, it’s time to come together and learn to be okay with the choice we’ve made because motherhood is not just about what’s good for our babies, but what’s good for us. After all, what is good for us is often good for them too.
So let’s back track a bit.
I’m pregnant and I’m making VERY definitive statements. I somehow decided that because I’m pregnant I’m now in the club of mothers who know what’s best. I’d never say it to her because my in-person form of affection is pretending all the nice things I say are sarcastic, but I’ve always aspired to be a mother very similar to my own. She gave birth to all three of her children unmedicated. She breastfed all of us and she kept a very relaxed household where we were responsible for our own actions and consequences were 100% within our control (as in, we could decide if they happened by either doing or not doing the thing that would lead to said consequence). She’s one of the best role models a mother could be and I wanted so badly to be as strong as she is. (Real quick disclaimer: my mother has been amazingly encouraging towards all of my decisions made as a mother so far and any guilt or shame I’ve felt or express here have been brought on by myself only.)
So the first step to learning I don’t know it all:
The epidural. I got it. I’d feel more shame but first of all, 10 hours of off the chart, 3 minute apart contractions only for the nurse to say I’d dilated 3 centimeters in that time calls for a capital F this, I can’t be in this much pain any longer, why am I torturing myself? and second, I don’t know, I feel like the first thing pretty much says it all (more on the whole experience here). The next “firm” stance that went down the drain was bottle feeding. Specifically, bottle feeding before 6 months.
With all my confidence through pregnancy, I didn’t really research too much. I always had this thought that the baby came out knowing how to eat. I mean, bears do it. Deer do it (I don’t know why those animals came to mind but here we are). Other species do it, so my human baby will certainly know how to get milk from my boob, right? Well, I guess some babies do but my baby, however, did not. He came out thinking I knew what I was doing, the poor boy. So we both got frustrated. He got hangry, I got frustrated, and I’d give the baby to Ian and start getting mad at Ian like it was somehow his fault? He should’ve made me take classes, he didn’t set the pillows up the right way, something else about how he did something wrong in the intimate moment between me and my baby that he in no way was actually involved in or responsible for…. It was a disaster. I basically just cried every time. I got mad and then I cried and I became a bit of an emotional terror.
Here’s the best part:
You know how new moms are paranoid and emotional and hormonal and extremely sensitive to their new babies wellbeing? So yeah, the ding dong nurse at the hospital decided to tell me that (even though this kid pooped as he was being born into the world and about 8 times after that within his first day of life) if the baby didn’t poop at least once within 24 hours after bringing him home, he wasn’t getting enough food. So we take him home, my breastfeeding confidence shaky, at best. I was having a bit of a struggle trying to feed him, though it really seemed like he was getting something. The anxiety I felt when he would wake up looking for something to eat, wow. It made me cry just thinking about it, sort of still does. It felt like I couldn’t do the one thing I needed to do. I couldn’t even feed my own kid.
Then, 24 hours rolled around and no poop. The poopiest baby in the whole world didn’t poop once and that is when I lost it. I went to the bathroom (for a billion hours because trying to use the bathroom 24 hours after birth is almost more terrifying than giving birth), something came over me, and I sobbed. I cried harder maybe than I ever had in my whole life. I was failing him. He was starving and it was all my fault because I thought the newborn, infant, tiny, new to the world baby would know what he was doing. Sure, he’d latch and yeah, he was peeing, but he wasn’t pooping.
To top it all off, I hated feeding him and he wasn’t too fond of hanging on a woman’s boob that was sending off the worst vibes in the world. I swear, for a second I thought someone would come in and take away my mothering license. Now, I’m a little afraid someone will take away my mothering license for saying I hated breastfeeding but you know what, I really did. I 100% believe the one and only reason I didn’t get postpartum depression is because, when I was in the bathroom sobbing, I called my mom and told her to bring me a pump. The one compromise I wouldn’t make was breastmilk. How he got it though, that was up for debate now.
So I got a pump and I immediately felt like a mom again.
I was finally confident, I was happy, and Ian could feel at piece because his wife wasn’t yelling at him every three hours anymore. I made my little routine and my boy was eating and he’s barely cried ever since. I was happy so he was happy and now we’re buddies and he’s a fat chubby boy (also he’s totally pooped a lot since then).
That is when I learned my first real rule of motherhood: Give yourself a break. Just because you’re not doing what everyone else seems to do does not mean you’re weak or wrong. Motherhood is not just about what’s good for our babies, but what’s good for us.
I’m always open for pumping questions, I’m basically the Queen of Pumping now so please reach out or share your own breastfeeding/pumping experiences!