What You Learn About Yourself When Breastfeeding

I was painfully and obviously inexperienced with my first child. I assumed breastfeeding would occur naturally. It did not. After a week of pain, of bleeding nipples, and of incessant crying (from both me and my daughter), I gave up and decided to pump. Before my son was born, I swore to myself I would either make breastfeeding work or I would go with formula. I was not willing to be attached to a pump once again. No, thank you. I never realized how much you can only learn about yourself after breastfeeding. I had always assumed I was self-aware. I thought I knew all of my strengths and all of my weaknesses, but it wasn't until I successfully breastfed my son that I learned so much more about myself.

Breastfeeding did not come naturally with either one of my kids. I struggled physically and emotionally and, as a result, I wanted to give up every day. I pushed myself beyond what I thought was possible. I cried regularly. I was angry on a frequent basis. Honestly, I wanted to stop. Yet while I gave up with my daughter, partly due to inexperience and partly due to lack of support and available resources, I made a promise to myself the second time around. A promise I kept. A promise that made me understand myself slightly better. A promise that made me respect myself a whole lot more.

I Am Strong

After the breastfeeding debacle with my daughter, I never imagined I would successfully breastfeed a child. It turns out, once I am determined, I can accomplish so much. The kind of strength I felt during and after breastfeeding was new for me, a new territory of a superpower I did not realize I had, and a strength that lay dormant until it was time for it to unleash and shout to the world.

I Am Unstoppable

I tried every latch position. I tried every possible way of holding my son in order for us both to be comfortable. I tried every nursing bra, every nursing shirt, and every nipple cream. I faced almost every obstacle that sometimes comes with breastfeeding: poor latch, tongue-tie, bleeding nipples, engorgement, low supply, oversupply, burning and pain. I went through it all. A few times I came dangerously close to mastitis, but the universe threw me a bone there and I never actually got it.

When I was ready to give up, I contacted lactation consultants, I read articles, I joined mommy groups on Facebook. For six whole weeks I cried almost every time my son latched. The pain was unbearable. But, I persisted. I gave myself six week, and after six weeks of suffering, it was suddenly easy. It was as if the first six weeks were breastfeeding hazing to see if I was strong enough to survive. I persisted.

I Am Selfless

As parents we are often selfless. We constantly make sacrifices for the sake and health of our children. Breastfeeding is definitely one of the most selfless acts I have ever done. Now, maybe that doesn't say a lot about me as a person, but I had to sacrifice a lot of myself and my comfort in order to breastfeed. I sacrificed my body, my social life, and my sex life. Maybe not all of those sacrifices were necessary, but they happened. I gained a lot of weight because nursing made me insatiably hungry. I no longer felt attractive; I felt like I always smelled like spoiled milk. My breasts always hurt and always leaked, and all of it affected my mental health. Obviously, it was all worth it, but it was definitely tough.

I Am Bold

I never imagined I would be a person who would breastfeed in public. I know, I know: I was crazy. But, if I'm honest, I thought I would feel really uncomfortable pulling my breast out in a restaurant or a park and feeding my kid.

The first time I used a nursing cover I wanted to die. It was uncomfortable and hot and seemed so unnecessary. Plus, I wanted to see my child's face. One of the best parts about nursing is watching your child eat. Watching him enjoy his nourishment and feeling so incredibly close to that little human. So, I became bold. I didn't care if someone looked at me funny. I didn't care what anyone had to say or what judgments came my way. I just fed my kid. Out in the open. For the world to see.

I Am Unapologetic

I was never really one to apologize for doing what I believed was right. But with breastfeeding comes a certain sense of feeling like you're constantly offending someone. It's weird, and maybe I am the only one who felt this way, but I felt it often.

When I first started breastfeeding, I felt the need to apologize every time I whipped my boob out at a social gathering. I felt the need to apologize every time I leaked through my shirt. I felt the need to apologize every time I cried out in pain. However, and very quickly, those feelings dissipated and I realized I should not be apologizing for something that is so natural and beautiful. I stopped feeling sorry and I started feeling empowered.

I Am Sensitive

I cried a lot. My feelings were hurt often. I cried when I watched other mom's effortlessly nurse their babies. I cried when someone told me breastfeeding isn't worth the struggle. I mean, obviously my hormones played a decent part in my tears, but I realized I am more sensitive than I had imagined.

I Am Amazing

This is the part where I tell myself I am amazing. I am amazing for crushing every obstacle. I am amazing for feeding my child with something my body produced. I am amazing for suffering through the most physically painful moments of my existence. I am amazing for being selfless, nurturing, and strong.

With every moment in parenting, I've learned something about myself. I learned I make a lot of mistakes and I take a lot of wrong turns. But breastfeeding taught me I can accomplish something I thought was not in the books for me, and that feeling is pretty awesome.