Aug. 5, 15
"Too Bad You Had To Switch To Formula"
You know you've heard it. That's why you clicked on it, right. You've heard the judgments, perhaps even said the words yourself . . . even if only in your mind. "Breast is best." And sometimes that is true. But here's the surprise, YOU get to decide. For YOU.
This week is World Breastfeeding Week, and absolutely, I support it through and through, inside and out, in word and in deed. I'm personally breasts deep in little peoples hands, mouths, education and giggles. That's right, I said "mouths." You do the math. And yes, I'm also often rubbing in vernix up to my elbows as I'm asked to assist both my client and her new baby with their anatomy and their connection, even while the cord is still pulsing away. A healthy breastfeeding relationship is often a client's chosen NorthStar and my job is to make sure that NorthStar is attained. Sometimes the little person comes out sucking away and latches on with the vigor, purpose and enthusiasm that I have for a trip to Maui, an iced coffee and a scone at 4pm. And the world seems right and all is beautiful.
But sometimes it sucks. Sometimes it causes us to feel depressed. Sometimes it is a great strain on our other relationships. Sometimes we simply don't want to do it! We get to say to ourselves, our child, our partner, the world…"I'M NOT DOING THAT WITH MY BODY RIGHT NOW." Period. And that is all you need to know. And that's enough. And the world needs to shut it.
I also answer texts and calls night and day for mothers who want to know why it feels like there are softballs growing in their arm pits, why there are red streaks on their breasts, why their baby has white spots in their mouth and why their breasts feel like there are shards of glass inside. They want to know why this hurts when everyone tells them that if they are doing it right it shouldn't hurt, and apparently they are doing it right. They want to know how they can possibly go on starving their baby since they were told that they clearly aren't producing anything if they can't pump anything out. Their support groups tell them to try harder, try better, try more. I sit silently with mothers who are sexual abuse survivors as they choke through trying to willingly place their breast in someone's mouth. With women who want to breastfeed just once before they hand their little one over to the woman who will now be the infant's mother. With women who put cabbage leaves on their breasts and bind themselves in gauze so that they can return to work as quickly and 'professionally' as possible to maintain their family's insurance and continue to pay their rent. I take walks with mothers, beautiful walks filled with tears and a desperate plea for self-forgiveness for a past 'failed' relationship with breastfeeding. The kind of choking tears that even years later still can add depression to our day. The anguish in the voices that scream, "Why is my body such a failure??!!!" To anyone that brings judgement to these women for nourishing their children in the way they see best, I suggest you do that far from my earshot. I might go cray-cray on you. Or at least bring me a coffee and a scone, and I might try to tone it down bit.
7 years later I still see shock and aversion in people's eyes when I tell them that I fed my oldest child donated breast milk from 5 different women in our community for the first year of his life. (For those of you that just had an adverse reaction, it's okay, I forgive you. And to those of you that fed my child, thank you. Forever and ever thank you.)
We all make our decisions with the information we have at the time. And that's it. We are not failures when something we set out to do doesn't come true. We are not in charge of the world or how everything goes round. We are not lesser mothers because we choose something our own mother or our friends or our sisters or society or doctors or nurses or lactation consultants or midwives or doulas or moms groups or our partners or even our grown up children find to be a lesser choice. The pressure that mothers feel is IMMENSE from every angle and we are doing the best job that we personally can at any given time.
So take a breath, forgive yourself if need be, unfollow judgmental people on social media, and refuse to have a conversation or interaction with someone who does not fill your bucket. You don't have room for their toxic mess, you're too busy doing everything you can to be the amazing parent that you are. I'm proud of you. I'm tears-in-my-eyes-voice-shaking proud of you. And my guess is that somewhere deep down below the self-judgement that you are proud of you too. You alone know the sacrifices you make to continue to grow this child you so dearly love. And if you want a safe, un-bias, confidential pair of ears to lay your deepest and darkest upon, I'm a phone call away.
So, next time unsolicited advice comes your way, have your most rockin' "F-Off" sentence ready, and USE IT!
Close your eyes, let your sentence come to you. The first thing that comes to mind is perfect. Got it?
Let's try it OUT LOUD together. Here and now. Yes, I'm serious. Whereever you are at, you're going to say your sentence OUT LOUD, and it is going to feel freaking amazing!
"GO NURSE YOURSELF, MY BABY AND I ARE FABULOUS!"
One more time. A little LOUDER now!
"GO NURSE YOURSELF, MY BABY AND I ARE FABULOUS!"
Well, how'd ya do? Felt great, right?! And now you have the power to say your sentence whenever you want. You shout that sh*t out loud whenever, wherever and feel your confidence grow. Watching women and families find their authentic voices is the best part of my job. When clients ask me if I want to hold their new baby I'm happy to say, "No. I absolutely don't. I'm here because I want YOU to hold your baby." And when you have a sentence like that ready to go, I assure you, you will.
your decorah doula
The MomPost No Use Crying Over Spilled Coffee
Lindsey Harman, MFA, CD(DONA), PPD, PES, CBE