My first experience breastfeeding was short-lived, due to a breast milk shortage and postpartum depression. But when I was trying to nurse, you bet your ass I was giving it my all. Sure, I didn't know what the hell I was doing, and I was afraid I was doing it wrong, but I wanted to do the one thing I was told I "had to do" as a new mom. I think that's why I spent so much of my time afraid, and why there were things I was actually terrified to ask for while breastfeeding. Looking back, I wish I had spoken up and voiced my needs and cared less about what people may or may not have thought about me needing help. Who knows, maybe that would have made the difference between continuing to breastfeed and switching to formula.
Admittedly, I was pretty excited to go on a breastfeeding journey with my daughter. After everything I'd heard about nursing from friends and family, I had such high hopes about the entire situation. I just knew I was going to experience the similar bond my friends were enjoying with their babies. I mean, when they breastfed they made it look so easy; so effortless; so inevitable. So you can imagine how deceived I felt when I tried, and tried, and tried some more, only to feel like a new-mom failure.
I kept at the breastfeeding thing for as long as I could and despite the disappointing, daily results, but it only took a few weeks of pain and depression to realize that I had to let it go and start using formula. I couldn't seem to get it right, and I felt so alone and isolated in my efforts. Sure, my partner understood when I started pumping, but there's a lot of things I should've asked for well before my breastfeeding journey came to an end. Things like, well, this:
Some new moms give up on modesty in the name of getting the job done. I wasn't one of them, though. When guests were over to love on my baby, and I knew it was time to feed her, I'd try to slip away without being rude. Usually, it would end with me in tears from having to rush through a feeding. I don't know why I was so fearful in asking for a little privacy. It's something my daughter needed and yet, at the time, I felt like I was being rude when I asked for it.
It's great to have visitors, and to know my baby is loved, but I should have told people to stay away for a while. I had a hard time concentrating when anyone was around. No one tells a new mom how much work it is to learn how to breastfeed. It wasn't natural for me, I struggled a lot, and I didn't feel comfortable or secure, so a little space to figure things out on my own and without watchful, well-intentioned eyes, would have been so, so helpful.
I admire the moms who can breastfeed in public, or in the center of a crowded room, as if it's nothing. I had to use every last bit of focus I had when I was trying to nurse, and even in a quiet room it didn't seem to work as well as I had hoped. Sometimes even my partner's voice would be a disruption. I'd get frustrated and, in the end, our daughter would cry.
Maybe if I'd asked for more quiet time to do the thing I promised my daughter I was going to do, breastfeeding would've been easier.
Sometimes I didn't want to be alone, though. Towards the end of my breastfeeding battle I felt so lonely and isolated, which only made my postpartum depression worse.
I couldn't ask for anyone to sit with me, because it felt weird, and I seemed to experience a mental block that wouldn't allow me to reach out and ask for companionship or support. I just can't help but wonder now, when I look back on those dark, lonely days, that simply asking my partner to sit with me would have helped.
A new mom needs help with a lot more than she's going to ask for — I promise you. There were plenty of times I needed a snack, water, a pillow for my neck or back, a blanket, or any number of things to help me stay comfortable long enough to breastfeed. But I didn't ask for those things, because I was afraid of looking like I didn't have a clue as to what I was doing or how to nurse successfully. So, instead, I sat by myself, miserable and frustrated. It didn't have to be so hard, and it wouldn't have been if I had asked for some assistance.
Yeah, so all my "not asking" for things led me to a dire place. Not only did my postpartum depression worsen, but I couldn't bring myself to sit long enough to even try to breastfeed. The result was a fractured bond between my new baby and myself. I waited way too long to talk to my partner and doctor about pumping. Once I went this route (and sought additional treatments), things improved.
For a very long time I endured all kinds of postpartum emotions, thinking they were "normal" and not a sign of postpartum depression and anxiety. If I'd asked for medication and therapy sooner, things might have turned out differently with breastfeeding. Now, I'll always wonder.
I don't know why it was so hard for me to ask for a hug, or a listening ear, but it was. Part of becoming a mother was feeling this tremendous pressure to get everything right on the first try. The pressure is just too much. So many nights, I'd sit breastfeeding my baby girl and wish my partner would wake up long enough to support me. If I could go back now, I'd stop waiting and just ask for it.
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