This weekend, while with family for the fourth, some things were said about/towards me and made me very hurt and upset.
There are four new babies in our family (on my mom's side). Yesterday, in the middle of my grandma's party for the fourth, the subject of breastfeeding came up. Some members of my family are very opposed to the use of formula, which is fine, they can be. However, when the subject of breastfeeding vs formula is brought up and discussed, DO NOT dismiss me when I try and say anything and tell me "you just gave up [on breastfeeding]".
Let's start at the beginning...
I had planned, my entire pregnancy, to breastfeed. I read what could on the subject and tried to be as prepared as possible. I knew it could be tough at times but it is what I wanted. I wanted to give our daughter the best nutrition possible. We started out GREAT. She caught on quick, which made it easier on me. After only four weeks the time came for me to return to work. I had to. Financially we could not afford for me to be off any longer. I accepted it, we introduced Amelia to the bottle and I learned to pump.
Things went ok for a bit. She nursed well when I was home and accepted her bottle when I was gone. After a few weeks she began to reject me at feeding time. She would suckle for a minute or two and then pull away, crying. Overnight she would still nurse well, but other than that she seemed to want nothing to do with it. Jason would come home from work often to find us both in tears (Amelia was hungry and I felt like a failure). I was devastated. My daughter no longer wanted to nurse, she wanted her bottle and nothing else.
We spent hours upon hours on the Internet looking up ways to try and make it work, we spent time at the hospital talking to lactation consultants who did everything they could to help us (at $100 an hour might I add), I spent time talking to people I knew trying to find something, anything, that could help me and Amelia. In the end I kept hearing the same thing..."some babies just love the bottle, you can't change that at this point". I felt like I had failed as a mother. I cried, a lot. I often put her to the breast, hoping for a miracle, hoping that she would latch on and eat.
Eventually, I accepted that Amelia would never want to nurse again and I began exclusively pumping, still determined to give my daughter the best nutrition I could. I was pumping 8-10 times a day on average (sometimes more, sometimes less). I read articles about mom's who pumped exclusively. I visited discussion forums online where mom's talked about their experiences with pumping exclusively. Again, I did everything I could to be as informed as possible. Things went ok for over a month. Then I got sick, very sick.
In May I got a very nasty bug and was sleeping constantly, had no appetite, a fever of over 100 that kept coming and going,throwing up...you name it, I had it. My pumping suffered greatly. Not only was I missing pumping sessions because I could barely get out of bed, but I was barely eating for fear of throwing up. About 8 days later I started to feel like myself again. Myself with a much lower milk supply. I kept at the pumping though, again, still determined to give Amelia as much breastmilk as I could.
Summer school started in May. For the first four weeks of summer school I was on campus until noon or one. When I got home I would immediately pump, eat lunch and try and spend a little time with Jason before it was time for him to leave for work. On days I worked, I would get home, pump, eat and often leave for work right away. Pumping became such a challenge. You have NO idea how much of a challenge it was. After four weeks, my schedule changed to only two days a week, but I stay on campus a little longer. I cannot pump while at school. My class is non-stop, with a ten minute break, for 3+ hours. My bus ride there (vs paying a dollar an hour to park in a structure) is 40 minutes, each way. I cannot pump on the bus. There were so many missed pumping sessions, which I could not control.
Last week I made my peace. I accepted that as a working, student mother I could no longer keep this up. I was stressing out about missing pumping sessions, driving myself crazy (driving Jason crazy too) and was miserable. I was focusing so much on getting pumping sessions in that I was obsessed almost. Pumping was dictating our lives. It determined when and what we could do/get done. I didn't get to spend as much time playing/bonding with Amelia anymore and that's what did it for me...what is more important, pumping or actually enjoying my beautiful daughter?
Here's the bottom line: I DID EVERYTHING I COULD TO GIVE AMELIA BREASTMILK
I am a working mother who is also a full-time student in college. I did not have the luxury of months of maternity leave to breastfeed all day. I had to return to school in May to defer my loans, because there was no way we could have afforded having loan payments starting this month. My life is different than yours, our situations are completely different.
You are NOT better than me and your children are NOT better than mine because you were able to have success breastfeeding. DO NOT EVER tell me, or anyone else, that I "gave up" on breastfeeding. If I were going to "just give up", I would have NEVER killed myself exclusively pumping for two months. From day one I have been determined to give my daughter the best nutrition possible and guess what, for us it comes in powder form. Anyone can disagree with this all they want, but do it quietly please. You may not realize how much you are hurting someone with even a simple sentence. You do NOT know their story, their experience, and therefore, are in no position to tell them, or anyone else, that they "gave up".
Perhaps the person who made the remark didn't mean anything by it. However, I felt VERY looked down upon and VERY judged. I spent that night crying, feeling like a failure all over again. Breastfeeding does not always work out for everyone, no matter how bad they want it to. That is why even a little remark like that had the power to anger and upset me this much. I WANTED to breastfeed, more than anything. I still wish breastfeeding worked for us.
I felt like a complete failure when Amelia rejected my breast. I spent hours crying because I had failed. I pumped all I could so I could feel like less of a failure(as long as she got breastmilk it was me nourishing her, right?). Once my milk supply diminished, through no deliberate fault of my own, it was frustrating. I would spend all this time pumping and only get about half of what I had been getting just a few weeks before. I began to feel like a failure again. One day I realized that I spent so much time trying to pump that I was missing out on too much time with Amelia. I have a wonderful daughter and all I want is to play with her and hear her stories and more. When it became evident that due to many factors, most (if not all) of which were out of my control, that exclusively pumping was just not working, I decided to stop it. To focus on my daughter, Jason and school.
I have a healthy daughter. She is happy. We are happy and have a great time together. Isn't that what is important?
So, for those of you that have read this all the way through, you may wonder why I wrote this. For one, I needed to get this off my chest. Yesterday I was not even given a chance to get a word in to "defend" myself (and why should I have to defend myself?). Secondly, let this be my request to anyone who might have considered commenting on our decision to use formula to NOT bring it up if they cannot be supportive. It was a decision that was always a last resort for us. We are busy. Jason and I barely see each other and we barely get to spend any time, the three of us, together. It was not working for us that our precious time together was spent with me sitting in a chair, pumping.
It is a day later and I am still crying about it. I feel like a failure all over again. Members of MY OWN FAMILY were so insensitive to my feelings on this, how do they treat other people? Women who struggle with breastfeeding are NOT failures. We are NOT defective. Many of us do EVERYTHING we can to get breastmilk into our children and guess what, it doesn't work sometimes, no matter how badly we want it to.
I am so hurt right now I just can't move past this. I have no desire to attend a family gathering for a VERY long time. This [the breastfeeding stuff] was not the only unpleasant situation I encountered this weekend. Overall it was the worst time I have ever had at a family gathering, and I generally have a really great time! I have never felt so judged and so looked down upon in my life. It saddens me that I might miss out on family gatherings and getting to spend time with the people that I look forward to seeing at them because I am afraid of being treated like this again.
My immediate family has been great. My parents and grandparents (and also Jason's family) have never said anything negative to me about the way things worked out. I would rather take time to go to IN and see them and have an enjoyable time than go to a holiday party, barely see them, and leave feeling like a failure because of other family members.
I just don't even know what to do right now. I feel awful. I know I am not a failure. I know I did everything I could do to give Amelia breastmilk and the nutritional benefits it brings, more than a lot of other people would have done I think. So why am I so upset? I think it is because I am in that class of mother that wanted, more than anything, to breastfeed her baby and it just did not work out. I exhausted every outlet I could think of trying to make it work and it didn't. It was hard not to feel like failure two months ago when Amelia basically naturally weaned herself. Pumping exclusively was the next move and guess what, it was HARD. I stuck with it. I stuck with it as long as I could. As mentioned above, there were several factors that made exclusively pumping an even greater challenge for me. A challenge that in the end was proving to have more cons than pros and so we are at the end of the rope. We are at our last resort, formula. Amelia will grow up just fine. I was formula fed, Jason too, and we are here, healthy and happy. I am still disappointed in how things have ended up but I need to focus on my daughter. Amelia is the important thing here, not how she is fed. Why can't other mothers understand that? All are entitled to their own opinion, and I encourage all to have their OWN opinion, but please be respectful.