It's dark in my bedroom. I don't even know what time it is; maybe 3 in the morning. My 5-week-old son is crying out for me from his bassinet again. We just nursed two hours ago. My head feels fuzzy, and I'm a little disoriented. This is day 39 of interrupted sleep. I have breastfed my baby somewhere around 360 times so far, if you figure he eats about nine times in 24 hours. My sore nipples are pink and blistered. My right breast has a blocked duct. I'm more than a little mentally and physically beat up. I'm broken and vulnerable and honestly, I want to give up on breastfeeding. And motherhood. I'm ashamed to admit it, but I wish I could run out the front door.
Of course I don't. Instead, I groggily pick up my son and a moment later feel him latch on. Sharp pain shoots up my breast, causing me to gasp. My shoulders hunch up to my ears instinctively, and I have to force myself to relax as my little boy suckles furiously on my tender nipple. The tears come easily. I'm just so tired. And worn out. Since I'm exclusively breastfeeding, I never get a break. I try to focus on the faint light coming from the hallway, but darkness is enveloping my thoughts.
This is too hard. I can't do it anymore. I resent my son for needing me so much. I hate my life.
Somehow we get through this feeding session and I put my son back to bed. I doze off, but my mind stays buzzing with self-pitying thoughts, and I sleep only a little until I hear him stirring a few hours later. This time, I open my eyes and see sunlight streaming through my window. My son's bright eyes are open, looking up at me, a little smile playing on his adorable, chubby face. I'm still exhausted and my boobs are painful to the touch, but in the light of day, things feel a little less daunting. I'm not as overwhelmed, and I actually enjoy cuddling for a feed with my baby.
With just a little space, time, and sleep, I realize that wanting to give up on breastfeeding is only natural. Because it's tough as sh*t, and so is being a mom. I'm glad I push through difficult feelings of self-doubt and frustration and get to this rewarding moment, when my baby is warm in my arms, his soft skin on mine, his gentle breath sweetly caressing my breast as he feeds.
Truth: I'm probably going to want to run right out the door of my house again. But I can't let momentary discomfort and exhaustion derail my commitment to breastfeeding my son, which, overall, I enjoy. So, after 362 feeds, here's what I've learned: It's OK if not every breastfeeding moment is beautiful and special. It doesn't mean your breastfeeding journey is forever doomed! But sometimes breastfeeding seriously sucks, pun intended. Here's hoping more moms will talk about those moments so the dark, painful hours spent nursing, alone and broken, won't feel quite so shameful and isolating. Until then, mamas, when the nursing gets tough, have faith there's light and love right around the corner.