It's a whole other level of physical exertion.
Breastfeeding can be incredibly challenging in and of itself. Learning how to get the baby to latch properly. Figuring out any lip or tongue tie issues. Wondering if they are actually eating anything and gaining enough weight. Questioning how you'll ever leave the house. If you will ever be brave enough to figure out breastfeeding in public when they demand milk. Constantly wondering about your milk supply—do I have enough? Not enough? Should I pump too? The questions can take up a lot of mental space.
Not to mention the physical aspect of it all. Slumped over on the couch for hours during and in between feeds. Craning your neck in strange positions to try to read or watch something while you nurse them. Tweaking something in your back to reach for something while they're attached to you.
And breastfeeding while sick, as I've found out, is a whole other level of physical exertion.
It's a hidden reserve of energy you didn't know you had until you need it.
It's having to rest your body after your child's needs are met.
It's realizing you're totally drained, but it doesn't matter—there's a tiny beautiful person counting on you for nourishment.
It's feeding through a fever, worrying your milk isn't going to let down. Having to utilize deep breathing exercises in order to trick your mind into relaxation mode hoping it'll help.
It's considering pumping between feeds just to maintain your supply that you're so scared will diminish as your body fights off infection.
It's watching your milk quickly disappear for a few days during mastitis then magically and miraculously return again.
It's sitting awake for hours at night even though you should be sleeping because your little one wants to cluster feed.
It's trying to rest during the day as much as you can because you're physically exhausted and mentally drained.
It's having to know you can't offer help to all your family members who need it and rely on it because you have to get better—and you have to be available to keep feeding your baby.
It's not wanting to leave the house in case you catch something else—because you can't be sick for much longer.
It's having to go to the doctor so they can listen to your chest, X-ray you and medicate you.
It's realizing the medication you are taking to get better is now upsetting your baby's tummy with gas and changes to their bowel movements.
It's being in pain and wishing your baby could understand that knowing full well they have no idea that anything is bothering you. Knowing you will soldier on.
It's being told constantly "You need to rest," "You need to focus on you," "You need to get better," but mentally not being anywhere near able to do that.
Breastfeeding while sick seems impossible.
But yet—doesn't loads of aspects of motherhood seem impossible at times? Being super pregnant seemed impossible to me once—but I did it. Birth seemed impossible to me once—but I did it. Figuring out a newborn baby's cries seemed impossible to me once—but I did it. Transforming into a mother seemed impossible to me once—but I did it.
When I am breastfeeding my 7-month-old, feeding her sometimes three or four times in one night, constantly feeding her on demand throughout the day—even while sick—sometimes seems impossible at that moment. The moment I'm in it. Because, honestly, the mentality it takes to drag myself out of bed when my head is swimming and it feels hard to breathe is intense.
Because it's hard. It's really hard.
But just like every other aspect of impossible motherhood, we rise up to the challenge. We figure it out. We have the confidence to know what to do, what's best for us and our baby, underneath any insecurity or fear.
Because we are strong. We are resilient. We are mothers.