I have purposefully avoided blogging about breastfeeding. I felt like I would be insensitive to talk about my experience feeding Penelope. She latched beautifully from Day 1, I had minimal discomfort (except for engorgement, yikes!), and an abundance of milk, to the point where I needed to wash my bedding almost daily. What would be the point of talking about how wonderful breastfeeding was for me, when I knew so many friends who had painfully struggled with their own experience?
I've been on this journey for nearly seven months, and I'm realizing that every woman has a story to tell when it comes to feeding their child.
In the early days of breastfeeding, I felt like I was the child and Pen was the mother. I was awkward, almost shy, and felt lost in the world of breastfeeding. I had no clue what I was doing, but Pen was the one who showed me the ropes. My little girl, who has always seems to know what she wanted, REALLY wanted to drink. All. the. time. She drank, and drank, and drank some more. At each appointment with our midwife, we would all marvel at her crazy weight gain. My midwife would say, "I guess she just wants to be a chubby girl." Yes, a chubby girl she was.
As much as I loved feeding Penelope, there were dark moments when I just had enough. I was exhausted. Drained, literally. I didn't want to do it any more. Please, someone take this burden from me, I thought in my mind. Some days I'd just cry and say, "no more, please be finished". She wasn't finished, she seemed to always be famished.
Around four months, something happened. She started to cry, and cry, and cry some more. I didn't know what I was supposed to do. I tried to breastfeed but she'd pull away. She must not be hungry, was my initial reaction. Then, I tried some formula, and she sucked hungrily like she hadn't eaten in weeks. Maybe she hadn't. I talked to my doctor and she told me to just give Penelope what she wanted. Breast. Formula. Solids. Whatever made Pen happy. I didn't get it. Why wasn't she telling me how to fix this problem? I wanted to go back to the days of soaking wet sheets and a child that just won't stop. I cried, and cried, and cried some more.
I refused to believe that those days of uncomplicated feeds were long gone. I bought expensive pills that made my breath stink and my baby cry more. I decided that some formula at night was okay, but no more. I fed her solids, and she seemed happy. She was constipated all the time, but I just figured that was how she was.
At her six month appointment, the doctor was happy with my healthy baby. Then, we started talking about feeding. I admitted that I didn't give her much formula. "How long does she feed on your breast for? How much do you think she gets?" The doctor asked. Truthfully, I had no clue. A few minutes maybe. But she ate solids too.
It's not enough. You're not feeding her enough. She's barely gained in two months. My doctor was concerned.
Why didn't I notice? My baby was constipated. She cried so much more than normal. My baby was hungry, and I was too stubborn to believe it. To selfish. Convinced that I needed to breastfeed to be a good mother. That I couldn't give up so easily.
That night she drank, and drank, and drank some more. She drank formula, and she was happy. It's been two weeks, and she's already noticably more chunky. She is happy, and full of beans, and did I mention, happy?
She still breastfeeds, and I love those moments. I love to breastfeed her. In my dreams, I never wanted it to stop. I would go two years. I really would. I might have even gone longer, and I'm not embarresed any more to admit that.
But, a part of me knows that probably won't happen. I'll keep giving my daughter everything I have, but one day, and probably soon, there will be nothing left. Is that what I was afraid of? Once there was no milk left, I would have nothing left to give her?
I know these seven months I have been feeding myself lies. I am so much more than the milk that I can give her.
I am her nurturer, the one who softly strokes her hair and rubs her back each night.
I am her teacher, the one who tells her about virtue and honour and kindess to all.
I am her cheerleader, the one who encourages her to be all that she can be.
I am her companion, the one who spends long days reading, playing, and exploring.
I am her mother, and I will feed her and nourish her with my heart and soul, each and every day.