Crying over spilled milk
I am fighting a losing battle, I know I am. But I refuse to give up. I am not ready to wave the white flag although I can see it on the horizon.
Breastfeeding has defeated me. The struggle is winding down, with breastfeeding putting more points on the scoreboard than I ever could.
I know I had a “good run.” That some mothers don’t get that and I am grateful. But alongside the defeat, what is actually bugging me more is the lack of choice. I didn’t chose to stop, my body did. Perhaps one of the biggest lessons we learn when becoming a mum is the magic our bodies are capable of – they created life – and alongside that wonder, there is also challenge, there is struggle and sometimes there is defeat.
It annoys me that my body gave up before my mind did. That I want to breastfeed but there is no longer any milk. I didn’t know milk envy could be a thing. Some people admire their friends’ cars or jobs or new shoes; I admired their milk supply. What my friends could express in minutes took me days. You will cry over spilled milk if it took you every waking hour to pump it.
Breastfeeding was never easy for us. The process itself was, but keeping the milk flowing was not. I fought off formula for so long. When she wasn’t feeding, I was pumping. I was drinking as much fluid as my body could hold and then some. I was buying every vitamin there was, drinking all the breast milk tea and eating Boobie cookies (yep, that’s a thing).
I was napping to make milk. I was getting up in the middle of the night and creeping silently through the house to pump a little extra before she awoke. When I went back to work two days a week, I couldn’t pump enough milk to cover the hours. My family brought her to me to feed on my lunch breaks. On the days they didn’t, I spent my breaks in the mother’s room expressing milk and storing it until I got home.
It was liquid gold and I tried to stockpile it, but I was always one step behind.
When the doctors told me I would have to switch to formula, I refused. I pumped harder. I blamed the pump. I went out and spent $250 on a better pump. It made no difference. It was never the pump. It was always me.
My exclusive efforts managed to drag out over six months. When her weight dropped and my always happy baby screamed from hunger, I admitted defeat and purchased formula. I paced the isle. I lingered. I read every single label. Twice. I was ashamed to put it on the counter, I was embarrassed I needed help, and when I mixed her first bottle, I stood in the the kitchen and cried.
There is such pressure on mothers to breastfeed I felt I had let my daughter down. My natural birth had been taken with an emergency caesarean and now my body had failed me again by not producing enough milk. I researched everything I could. I had read articles that told me my body would produce what it needed. It wasn’t working – my daughter was hungry and that was all that mattered.
Three months after the first formula purchase and I am still letting go of the guilt. It is slowing slipping from my conscience the way breastfeeding is slipping from our lives. I still refuse to give up. I still take my vitamins, drink litres of water, and pump like my life depends on it, only now the pump remains empty. I continue to cringe when I feed her in public from a bottle and when people ask, “You’re breastfeeding, obviously?”
One day soon I will have to wave the white flag. I will have to put away the pump and throw out the maternity bras. I know this day is looming, I’m just not quite ready to admit it.
I am learning something new every day, even if that is learning to let go of expectations and to love myself. Sometimes we have to admit defeat. We have to surrender. But when we surrender out of love, we can’t ever really lose the battle, we just change our ammunition.
Come with us x