I finally figured out what’s really been bugging me more than anything about the whole breastfeeding negativity and the Time Magazine cover… (Now, watch closely as I make this all about me!)
I would have given almost anything to have been able to nurse my daughter. It’s the one place I still feel grief even though I count all my blessings that she is healthy and happy and that I was lucky enough to conceive, carry and deliver her. So when I hear the power and incredible gift of feeding our children from our bodies being diminished or downright rejected, I take it personally in my own way.
I’m finding that I feel a bit shy to jump into this discussion at all. I don’t have a great photo of myself nursing my daughter. I guess I still do feel not mom enough in this way. And then as I was looking for the one photo we might have gotten of me actually nursing her, I came across all the other photos of me with her, her dad with her…. and I started to feel better. I know she got it all energetically. Maybe not the nutrition in my milk, but the connection, the bonding, the security, the love. She knew/knows she was part of my body. I’m sharing a few here (mostly because I can’t resist them… must share.)
I added my own breastfeeding story at the end. Mostly to share in case someone else can benefit from what I might have done differently or just from the companionship. The night I “gave up” we went to dinner at our friends home and I never knew that my friend had not been able to nurse her daughter (then 7) either. It was so nice to share that with her, it was a comfort not to be alone and feel like a failure, because I knew she was a wonderful mother, so….maybe it wasn’t the most important thing. And then I got to eat chocolate, which was a lovely consolation.
I’m a fan and a believer in breast feeding and even in extended breast feeding. I have always been a supporter of nursing moms, nursing in public, and photos shared on Facebook…. I believe in attachment parenting. If I hadn’t read the Sears book, I would have had to invent it myself once I had her in my arms, all tiny and squishy and mine to nurture…. Attachment parenting was the only way. It was our intuition and our gut instinct. Of course, another benefit of being older parents I think, is that we couldn’t care less about opinions of family or friends… Good friends are mostly like-minded, but we still laugh about the “old friend” who couldn’t stop telling me that we needed to “Ferber-ize” her. Imagine. Not even noticing that her words were ridiculous. As if we’d anything-ize our child. It’s like what you do to mufflers, not children.
And now for the TIME magazine cover…. I’m not a fan. I’ve been thinking a lot about this and reading lots of posts and opinions. I didn’t want to speak out in any negative way. I saw the cover mom and her son on the Today show and found her to actually be smart and conscious. Not the impression I had from that cover. And only today did it occur to me that maybe she could have done something different. They couldn’t have used that photo if they didn’t have it. She said in the interview that that is not how she nurses (obviously.) I don’t know how big New York City photo shoots go… but what if she’d said, “I don’t feel comfortable with this”?
Honestly, I do think it’s creepy. Her son, who seemed like a little boy on T.V., has a too mature look on that cover. It bothers me that it is almost exactly the yukky, weird image people who don’t understand expect. And that poor child having to have that out there. I hope he doesn’t come across it during puberty.
Something about the Boobs
My own daughter, deprived of nursing, still has had a need for the boobies. And my husband has still been shut out for a long time. Really, judging by the way she’s lately been growing apart from them, I guess I’d have been nursing her well past 4 (at least to some extent for comfort, etc…)
Again, before I had Em, I didn’t think I could handle having a child old enough to talk and walk over to me, nursing. But I didn’t know my child then. For her, I am comfortable giving anything. When I fed her a bottle, she would keep a hand on my breast and the other would just be caressing my skin, arm, shoulder, chest… She loves ‘em. She’d just grab them and kiss them. Clearly they were extremely comforting to her. I always felt guilty that she missed out and glad that she found a way to get her connection. She didn’t get as much of the nutrition as I wanted her to have, but energetically she was getting it all. Especially since we practice attachment parenting.
Now my body seems to be mine again and she is taking possession of her own. She understands personal space and privacy a bit better because she wants it, needs it for herself now. And so, we’re all good around here. And I think I can finally let it all go. It was great looking through all those photos. None of the strain shows, only the love. Lots and lots of love.
My breastfeeding story. It’s a bit of a whine, I’m afraid. I’m still not over the grief at not being able to nurse my girl. I tried and tried. I know there are many things it might have been, but I suspect that the doctor we had messed me up by telling me she was starving and having me give her supplemental milk. I was so freaked out and overwhelmed and those first days and weeks were such a blur. Going by so fast at the same time as we seemed to live a lifetime in them. She was jaundiced and had to be wrapped in these crazy lights. And we just didn’t know what to do. I never considered I’d have a problem with this. I mean, what the heck had I been hauling these monsters around for all these years if not to feed my child? I know breast size means nothing, but still… I just assumed it would be easy, natural.
I tried. We tried. It was almost as hard on my husband as it was on me… at least it was a bit hard. We went to consultations and got as much help as we could. And then we got all the equipment and started pumping. They told me to pump every 2 or 3 hours. It was so gruelling and the worst part may have been that I didn’t get to spend that time with my baby. Daddy fed her from bottles (as much breast milk as I could get out, plus whatever it took to make a meal.) I was determined not to give up, but after a few months, I had to. It wasn’t good for any of us anymore and I just prayed she’d gotten something out of what she got.
I feel like I missed out. I know I did. I also know enough to know that this is not as important as all the wonderful things and how lucky I am to have a healthy child…
By the way, what I wish I’d done differently is: Call for real help immediately. As soon as the doctor scared us that she wasn’t getting enough, I wish I’d called Le Leche League.
And the other thing I’d have done differently is that I wouldn’t have given her even one ounce in a bottle. I’d have used a dropper and let her have little bits that were more suction and slower, like nursing.
So, my conclusion is that attachment parenting is the most important thing. Within that we do the best we can and as much of it as we can. And that there is no one best way to love our children. Just love them.