I had to stop.
It wasn’t out of convenience. It was certainly not out of vanity. The truth is, I tried. I tried hard. It just wasn’t for us.
I wanted it to be. God knows, I did. I neglected taking care of myself in almost every imaginable way to make sure she was taken care of first, and it still wasn’t enough. Her weight kept dropping. I kept getting more anxious, detached, weary. I was enjoying her infancy less and less in the name of getting her fed. Breastfeeding was sucking me dry and still not sustaining her.
I only wanted what was best for her.
If I didn’t, I wouldn’t have taken breastfeeding classes and seen multiple lactation consultants. I wouldn’t have rented hospital grade pumps and tried every position imaginable. And I never would have continued to endure a shallow latch, after constant failed attempts at a deep one, despite my raw and scabbed nipples.
If I didn’t, I wouldn’t have gone through such a challenging labor without medication. I chose that for her because I knew it was the absolute best. My personal comfort was of no concern to me. I was ready to face the pain for her. And I’m so glad I did. I felt everything. I experienced everything. I knew exactly where she was when she was there. I knew when she was ready to come, when I needed to push. I felt the moment she entered this world and the euphoria that immediately followed. I had the spiritual experience that I had read about; the experience they say only women who choose an unmedicated, natural birth can really know. And it was worth it. She was worth it all.
Maybe it would have one day leveled out. Maybe my body would have eventually stepped up its game and put out more milk for her tiny body. Maybe it would’ve gotten easier. But maybe, just maybe, it wouldn’t have.
Maybe her weight would have continued to drop, and my headstrong desire to exclusively breastfeed despite all the red flags would have only brought her harm. Maybe my breasts, altered and scarred from reduction surgery, never would be able to keep up with her needs. Maybe the depression I was experiencing would have taken more than a few days of rest to overcome, robbing me of more precious time with her. Maybe I would look back on these days and regret not letting go. Regret not enjoying and soaking up every moment of this stage of life with her instead of running myself ragged trying to force something that just might not ever be.
I know it’s true that breast is best when it comes to nutrition. I agree completely. But what about when it comes to a person’s emotional well-being? For me, supplementing with formula, and breastfeeding and pumping when I can, takes the pressure off. I finally feel like I am bonding with my baby instead of growing to resent her for how drained I feel. I finally see her for what she is; this perfect little miracle that I am so blessed to have been given during my short time on this earth. I finally feel like a mom–a mom who is stable enough to take care of her and love her like crazy. Instead of waiting for feedings to be over, wondering when (or if) I will feel the breastfeeding bond everyone tells me about, now I never want to put her down.
What once felt like a darkness creeping in is now being overpowered by light. I can love her and enjoy her and miss her when I don’t have her with me. I can watch her get stronger every day and know that, even if my body will never be able to get the job done on its own, I can still feed her and care for her and help her grow.
If it was my choice, I would choose to have had success with breastfeeding. I really did want that for her. But maybe it wasn’t entirely up to me. Maybe it was another test in my life, placed there to humble me and teach me more about relinquishing control–more about letting go. Maybe it was never really my choice at all.