I have anxiety. Maybe a lot.
Well, enough to make me exercise every day and medicate from time to time. But, the more I ask around, I realize I am like most middle-class women, struggling to get it right, and struggling for perfection.
I recently had, what I consider, my miracle baby at 44 years old. I am so happy to have him, but the anxiety and stress it has caused me, especially concerning breastfeeding, has been more than I could have imagined.
Breastfeeding has been difficult. It is painful for me, and makes me feel faint.
I hate it.
I gave in to formula at one point after only getting two hours of sleep. However, I didn’t want to rely on just formula to feed my baby. I wanted to keep trying to breastfeed.
Of course, all the trying has brought the breast milk in strong and hard. And, as all moms know, when it all comes in, it can be very uncomfortable until you nurse. So, I nurse. I feel faint when I do, yet good about myself.
For some reason, I feel like I have to breastfeed to fulfill what my body was made to do, and I don’t know why. As a new mom, this is when you are going to feel the pressure of breastfeeding – in the moment, as you experience it. It won’t be years later once you can see the big picture.
And that pressure seems to start right at the hospital. It’s subtle, but it’s there. Perhaps it’s when the lactation consultant drops by for a visit. Maybe it’s the look in the nurse’s eyes if you hesitate to answer when she asks if your baby is getting breast or bottle. It’s there when visitors come to the hospital and immediately ask if you’re breastfeeding or not. Or, really, if they ask how the breastfeeding is going. As if they are just assuming you are going to do it.
But, we shouldn’t assume every woman wants to breastfeed. Some women choose not to breastfeed at all; some exclusively pump, some women use formula, and some do both. And whichever option you choose is OK.
There is no reason to feel shame about your choice, despite the fact it can feel like everyone around you is pressuring you to breastfeed.
There is also the pressure we put on ourselves. Somehow we feel it’s our duty and moral obligation to breastfeed. If God has allowed us to have this amazing child then we have to do what’s best and breastfeed, right? Even if it means we are tired, uncomfortable, and in pain, we have to do it.
I feel like breastfeeding could be linked to postpartum depression and anxiety. You cannot turn a woman into a literal feeding machine when her hormones are raging and expect her not to have some feelings about this. The added pressure of being told we “need to do it” or at least give it a try doesn’t help either.
I think it’s normal not to be sure of yourself. You’re a new mom, unsure about feeding and sleep schedules, cleaning the umbilical cord, what each cry means…let me be the first to say, I am right there with you. I don’t know what I am doing, but I am doing my best, and that is what matters.
We need to talk more about breastfeeding. Share how truly difficult it is; share our struggles and triumphs. We need to support each other.
I know there are lots of others that feel like me, and I want you to know, you are not alone.