Before I started this blog, I had a rarely used tumblr where I documented a bit about pregnancy and the newborn days. I just read through some old posts and decided to repost this entry about my experience with breastfeeding a newborn.
I am typing this note on my iPhone while nursing a nearly 13-month-old Nina to sleep. Suffice it to say, breastfeeding now doesn't feel like it did then. This shows how much things change in a relatively short amount of time. And it's a window into the rawness and all-consuming physicality of early motherhood. There are some f-bombs and unfettered descriptions of breasts, mostly mine. You've been warned.
On the morning of February 15, 2013, I gave birth to our daughter, Nina. I plan on sharing my birth story. I love chewing her cheeks, kissing her little lips and nose. She’s adorable. She’s here. But I have to get one thing off my chest (terrible pun intended).
I motherfucking hate breastfeeding with an intense burning passion from deep within.
I can’t even believe I’m typing that. I studied breastfeeding in school. I’ve thought about becoming a lactation consultant. I’ve silently judged formula-feeding parents. I never wanted to give my kids formula (even though I was formula-fed and I’m not an idiotic, drooling mess). I looked forward to cradling my babe in arms while gazing into her eyes. I was set to breastfeed a toddler. Yay, lactivism and all that jazz.
But I quickly learned that large, pendulous (yuck yuck yuck) breasts dangled in a 6 pound human being’s face is not so easy. I don’t have pert, perky tits that I can just let an infant blissfully attach to. I’m pretty sure one of my breasts weighs more than my daughter. I can’t just cradle her. I have to hold up my giant tit and cram her head onto my breasts and prop her and myself with 500 pillows. She also wails with a ferocious rage if she doesn’t latch on right away. And although the advice is to break suction and relatch if I feel pain, if I get her clamped on after 15 minutes of squirming and screaming, I’m not relatching—I’ll just suffer. So my nipples are missing skin now. The second or third day of breastfeeding was horrific. I cried while the baby cried. It felt like each time she suckled, someone was slicing my nipples with razors. I couldn’t believe I was having such an awful time with something I was so committed to. And I couldn’t believe I had to live though this horror show 12 times per day.
On day 2 or 3, I finger fed my daughter some formula (Similac sent it for free, duh), maybe 1/8 of an ounce. Not a huge amount. And yet I was wracked with guilt and visions of scorning attachment parents (mothers) flooded my head. I was the enemy. When I received the free formula, I was indignant and intended to donate it to a soup kitchen. That was on the other side of motherhood. On this side, I sobbed as I admitted defeat and asked my husband to prepare 2 ounces of formula so I could wet my daughter’s dry, cracked, wailing lips. I was utterly disgusted with myself. I failed. Again. And it was only day 3.
Then I got angry. I am feeding my kid, keeping her alive, truly the only requirement I have right now as the parent of a newborn. I didn’t fail. I made the best decision in a really difficult, painful, stressful, sleep-deprived situation.
The last month of my pregnancy did not go as planned. My birth did not go as planned. Motherhood has not gone as planned. Notice a theme? Parenthood cannot be planned. It can only be adapted to. I am learning that each time my daughter and I sob while I feed her milk from my body.