I thought breastfeeding would be so easy.
It’s natural, isn’t it? That’s what women have done since the beginning of time. So, how hard could it actually be? I read all the mommy blogs, attended a class on the how-to at the hospital, practiced holds on those creepy baby dolls. Certainly, I was good to go! I’d know what to do when the time came, right?
But only after several exhausting hours of labor, when the nurse handed me my little girl with the words, “She’s hungry” did I learn that nothing can really prepare you for the physical and mental toll breastfeeding can have on new mothers.
And that absolutely nothing, nothing can prepare you for when it doesn’t work.
We left for our daughter’s first doctor’s appointment a week after her delivery and I was feeling pretty good. Tired, yes, but I was healing marvelously and was in high spirits. I had gotten dressed, had breakfast and even brushed my teeth. My little one was calm and we were out the door on time. I felt like a superhero. I was made to be a mom.
But my euphoria died 16 minutes later at the weigh station when we learned our daughter was still not at her birth weight. How had I not noticed? I kicked myself as we talked in the car about how to feed her even more before our follow-up appointment a few days later. And while her weight rose slowly over the next few months, it never seemed to be enough.
Every time we went to the doctor, I’d leave in tears unable to put into words the disappointment I felt toward myself. I’d spend the rest of the week furiously feeding my child, trying to make up the weight or I’d walk straight down the hall to the lactation consultant to see if maybe this time, we’d finally have an answer.
Her latch was fine, my supply was good. She was eating every two hours, nine times a day for several months. I was doing everything I possibly could. I was a milk machine. I was physically exhausted and emotionally spent.
Why was my body, that had nurtured her for nine months, failing her? Why, after all this time, was it failing me?
Finally, as the doctor talked to me and my husband about supplementing, I couldn’t even hear what he was saying. Instead, all I could hear was confirmation of my deepest fears: You are not good enough. You are not strong enough. You are not enough. Period.
I wish I could have told myself, “Being ‘enough’ doesn’t mean you have to do it all alone.”
I’m not a superhero, and even the most convincing of capes couldn’t change that. I’m a beautifully fragile human, who needs to be kinder to herself. So I’ll remind myself again.
Being “enough” doesn’t mean you have to do it all alone.
I learned that then, and I remember it every day now.
I alone won’t be able to fulfill her every need or stop her heart from getting broken. There are some scrapes and bruises and aches my kisses won’t fix and tears I won’t be able to dry.
Nothing about this life will ever exactly go according to plan.
And if I’m being honest, I’ll probably never have this whole motherhood thing totally figured out.
While the issues we were having with weight gain were aided by formula supplements and my problems with breastfeeding fixed themselves over time, the early days in many ways shaped who I am as a mother and as a woman.
Over the 16 months, I was able to breastfeed my child, my idealistic visions of motherhood came to a crashing halt, but brought me deeper into the reality of who my daughter is and who I am.
I’m not perfect, and I’m certainly not the supermom I once thought I would be. I can’t force my life or my motherhood to look a certain way, just like I couldn’t choose how my breastfeeding journey would go, but both I and my daughter are the better for it.
I don’t have to worry about fulfilling her or ensuring her lasting happiness, I just have to be her mom.