Trigger Warning: Discussion of pregnancy and breastfeeding.
Pregnancy is difficult. Postpartum is gross. Breastfeeding is, at least for me, brutal. With every kid, it has been a struggle. Breastfeeding is not for everyone. However, it is something I value, that I have been determined to do with every kid. In reality? It has not been so easy. It is so frustrating that something that is touted as “natural” can be so unnatural for some kids.
I was warned with my first that it would be hard. I’m thankful for that or it might have been so much worse on my emotions. As it were, it was still so difficult. My son refused to latch at first and in the hospital they said that his sucking reflex was not developed. It developed and I thought things were going okay. His wet diapers weren’t super consistent, but I was determined to power through. It did not work. He was so underweight at three months that pictures of him at this time make me want to cry. Turns out I didn’t have enough of a supply, thanks PCOS. We turned to formula and he is a vibrant, wonderful five year old now.
My second child latched, but wasn’t transferring much milk during feedings. Turns out she was an ineffective eater. I was still determined to make it work. We did triple feedings for a few weeks. That is nursing, bottle feeding and pumping at every “meal”. Eventually, she nursed. It was something healthy and beneficial for her. We lasted 12 months and I was so grateful. She is a sassy, smart three year old now.
Now my third baby. She is currently five weeks. I am trying EVERYTHING. Lactation consultant appointments every week, evaluated for and participated in revision for a tongue and lip tie, attempting to triple feed and nothing is working. My husband and I decided that this was our last baby. I want this to work so much. I continue to pump and I am, thankfully, producing enough. She still refuses to latch, at all. We are working on developing her sucking reflex. My desire is at odds with this moments reality.
I am struggling with frustration and disappointment. I oscillate between determination with a dash of hope, to resignation laced with sadness. You ever have difficulty with your own emotions? I wanna tell myself, “Get over it already!” Emotions though? They don’t work like that. These are some ways I am attempting to cope in a healthy way.
REACHING OUT FOR HELP
I do not like to need people. Isn’t that ridiculous? Many people have this hang up. We are human. We have needs. I always like to quote 27 Dresses when Katherine Heigel says, “Needs? I don’t have needs. I’m Jesus.” I know I’m not Jesus. I am in no way perfect and cannot meet my own needs. Talking to others is important.
I call my support system. I am transparent about how I feel in the moment. I receive their encouragement like another food source. I ask for what I need and I take to heart their advice. It is important that your support system is healthy and lends places for uncomfortable feelings. If they mirror your worst impulse to “get over it” maybe find another support system.
FEELING THE FEELINGS
I encourage feeling all the feelings a lot. Because it is important. I don’t like doing it either sometimes. It stinks. I feel all weepy and not fit for public consumption. I feel like a mess. You know what? That’s okay. It is a natural response to existing stimuli. There is something I am discouraged about, so I feel discouraged. It’s important to sit in it for awhile. Sitting in emotions and wallowing are two different things.
Wallowing means sitting in “negative” emotions, ruminating on the negative and refusing to be motivated toward change and coping. Coping with those emotions means acknowledging them, naming them, valuing them and moving forward in a way that honors what they say about who you are.
I feel sad about this struggle. I can name the disappointment, the exhaustion, the discouragement. I recognize that they identify part of who I am. I want to do this because I value the attachment it can bring, the ease of not having to wash bottles, not being tied to an electric machine, avoiding the financial burden of formula and having my baby drink breastmilk for the first year. In following along that process, I do not avoid my feelings and I do not wallow. I approach them without (most of the time) judgement. Then, I can move on.
ENGAGING WITH POSITIVE EXPERIENCES
When things are difficult, it is important to do things that bring joy. I can hold my newborn, snuggle with my other kids, eat some cheesecake, watch a comedy or listen to a good audiobook. In the midst of discouragement, we often avoid our happy places. It can seem like too much work.
Last week was my birthday. It seemed like too much work to celebrate. To prioritize doing something fun. Thankfully my sister insisted and I had a wonderful evening with my family. It would not have been helpful to solely focus on my struggle. It is vital to take time away either mentally or physically from the weighty topic. Not to avoid, but to remember that life extends beyond the difficulty.
I’m still not on the other side of this. Part of my motivation to write this was to be able to speak to myself as well as others. Coping with a struggle is never easy. However, there are steps to take to navigate it in a healthy manner. No one does things in a healthy way all the time. As I began to write this, I was tempted to wallow. However, writing is a positive experience for me. We can deal with life and all the obstacles.
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