Before I had my son, I did all the prep work new moms are expected to do: I read all the books, did all the research, bought all the pillows, sound machines, and gliders. And because I knew I wanted to breastfeed, I invested in a breast pump that could travel with me when I went back to work. I even started eating a clean diet so my baby would have the best breast milk possible, and went to breastfeeding classes offered by my health provider. I was ready for anything . . . or so I thought.
Breastfeeding was an important part of my plan, to say the least. And considering that women are born with the ability to feed their children, I figured this act would come naturally to me. But of course, what you expect isn't always what you get. Not only did my son have latch issues (a lactation consultant with magical baby whispering powers helped us there), but I also experienced low milk production, which meant if I wasn't feeding him directly, I'd be pumping to try to increase my supply. Fun times all around! But the hiccup I didn't see coming? I couldn't breastfeed my son in front of other people.
It's not that I was against the idea of breastfeeding in public. I was embarrassed. The whole "feeding in public" topic just wasn't something that was covered in the reading materials, how-to videos, or breastfeeding classes. I was completely unprepared for my reaction, and in the beginning, I didn't even realize how this was affecting me and my relationships with my son, my husband, and my family.
In the first few weeks after coming home from the hospital, I fell into a routine of feeding my son in his nursery then immediately pumping to store up some milk, hoping to trick my body into producing more. And since newborns eat every few hours, I ended up spending nearly my entire day in his nursery, some of the time with him and the rest of the time alone. While I pumped, I could hear my husband and family in the other room enjoying each other's company. Slowly, I began to feel twinges of resentment that they got to spend so much time with him while I sat alone in a room, exhausted with sore nipples.
But the idea of actually feeding him while visiting with family? Completely terrifying. Blame it on ridiculous dormant body issues and an underlying layer of shyness I thought I had gotten over in high school, but I just could not bring myself to step outside the nursery and into my new reality. I was convinced that my choice to breastfeed was driving me insane, or at the very least, driving me insane with jealousy over my family's time with my little butterball.
Sure enough, the sleepless nights, stress of a new baby, and abundance of solitude sent me into a fit of depression. One particularly difficult night was spent crying in my husband's arms as I grieved for the maternal instincts I was convinced I would never have. The same instincts that drive mothers to do what's needed, putting aside any body issues, personal hang-ups, and fears. Why couldn't I do that? My husband looked into my puffy, red, mascara-stained eyes, and told me so very sweetly that it was my own hang-ups that were driving me insane, not breastfeeding. And he was right. Right then, I made it my mission to get over myself.
I visited my doctor the next day. After a heart-to-heart with her, we decided that a weekly visit to a breastfeeding support group might make a positive impact on my outlook. It slowly snapped me out of my postpartum funk. I became comfortable feeding in front of others in the group. I bought a really awesome — and fashionable! — breastfeeding scarf and worked on maneuvering my son and getting him to latch at home, in the company of the ones I loved most. Soon, I was feeding him in the car during outings and, eventually, wherever and whenever I needed to.
I've heard from so many women that becoming a mother changed their outlook on their bodies, that motherhood makes you feel powerful — from the physical challenge that is birth, to nourishing your baby through breastmilk, it changes the way you think about your being. Even though I encountered a few bumps on the road to shedding my own body issues, I came to realize that while I might hang on to 10 or 15 extra pounds, or get my cellulite from my great grandmother, my body did something absolutely amazing and I should relish in it, not shy away from it.
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