When I was pregnant with Finn I pulled out all the stops. I bought all the books, I watched videos, documentaries, I felt prepared. And I was, for the most part. We came home from the hospital and even though I had to deal with an emergency c-section and all the fun stuff that goes along with it, it went pretty smoothly. I had planned to breastfeed. I had the top of the line Medela pump, I had a fully dogeared copy of The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding, and even some very cute nursing tops. And although it wasn’t the easiest thing I’ve ever done, it worked. Finn and I figured it out together and I would declare my first experience with breastfeeding a success.
I expected the same with Levy, and although I had the added obstacle of a very active toddler to look after I was quite optimistic. When I got home from the hospital, however, things were very different. My recovery from the second c-section was a lot harder than I thought it would be and the “baby blues” I experienced mildly with Finn went a lot deeper into postpartum depression. I found myself struggling to get the most basic things accomplished, and despite seeing two different lactation consultants nursing was just not working as well the second time around. But I kept at it, even in my fog I had a mild determination to breastfeed Levy too, and we struggled on for a couple of weeks. Then, after a trip to the emergency room I found out I had gotten a very serious MRSA infection from my hospital stay. I was given some major antibiotics to try to combat it and was ordered to pump and dump all milk for the two weeks that I was taking the antibiotics. I had a modest supply of frozen milk, and that lasted me about a week.
It was during this week when I finally felt well enough to leave the house, and my Mom took the kids and I out to lunch. I was exhausted from taking care of a newborn and a toddler on top of dealing with the MRSA and still recovering from the c-section, plus I felt so ill from the heavy antibiotics. While Finn ran around at the play area at the mall I rested on a nearby bench to give Levy a bottle. An older woman approached me, and I at first expected her to say something along the lines of “How old is the baby?” and fuss over her for a minute but instead she leaned in close to me and shook her finger in my face. “I’m a mom of three and a grandmother, shame on you, you should be nursing that baby not feeding her formula.” And with that she turned on her heel and walked away, robbing me of the chance to respond to her at all. She was fortunate for doing so, because my response would not have been pleasant. But it would have started with me pointing out that I was, in fact, feeding the baby breastmilk. It was my last bottle of frozen breastmilk, but instead of asking me that she passed judgment in a rather cruel and horribly obnoxious way. While concocting up some sort of scathing response that I would never have the chance to deliver I burst into tears in the middle of the mall, and my Mom grabbed Finn and we went home. She assured me the woman had to be some sort of nut for speaking to a stranger like that, but the remark still stung. In my state at that point her nasty unsolicited comment was another heavy weight around my shoulders, and I felt like I was being pulled under.
After those two weeks of the first antibiotic they told me it wasn’t working and I was put on yet another round of a new, stronger antibiotic. This was the last straw for me breastfeeding Levy. My milk supply was already low and things weren’t getting any better. I was sick, I was exhausted, I felt completely beaten down, and I gave up. I agonized over making the final decision to stop, I cried over it, I changed my mind a million times, but ultimately I stopped and began giving her formula. The MRSA would not be healed until a third round of antibiotics was up, but it did go away, and I slowly started to feel better. With much support from family and friends I started to emerge from my postpartum depression as well, and I got back into my routine, I started riding again, I started running, I went to yoga, and I started to feel like a person again.
I’d like to say that woman was the only one who passed judgment on my choice of feeding my child, but she wasn’t. It would happen a few more times, and on a couple of occasions I did have the opportunity to respond to the accusatory strangers, and people who weren’t strangers. I explained to them that they should perhaps get to know what someone’s situation is before making comments, or, bypassing that, they should perhaps just keep their mouths shut about other people’s choices. In every single instance, the person making a comment was a fellow mom. This made me so incredibly sad, that these women would find the need to make another mom feel bad about her choices. I swore to myself that I would never, ever do the same, and that I would in fact try to prevent it if I could. Here at Mamatoga I want to continue to foster my idea of a non-judgmental community for all moms. Whether you’re a baby wearer or a stroller pusher, bottle or breast feeder, c-section or natural birther, you belong here, and this community will support you no matter what.
This time around, in spite of my difficulties in the past, I’m doing a pretty good job at nursing Jack. I’ve even become a somewhat notorious (under baby sling) public nurser, something that I thought I would NEVER be able to do. With Finn I needed to have the Boppy and the right seat and the perfect conditions to nurse. Now I feel confident enough to nurse on the go and it has made my life (and everyone else’s life in the family) so much easier. Fingers crossed, I’m going to just keep nursing until it’s time to stop. And when I do, I would hope that no one passes judgment. I wanted to share my experience with all of you to let you know that as moms, we should support each other, no matter what our personal choices are. Being a mother is enough of a challenge that we don’t need to be snarky or critical of the choices we each make. Whether public nursing freaks you out or you are a mom who nurses their toddler, let’s all accept (and support) each others’ choices. I’m planning on having other moms share their experiences here too, along with My Mom Life, in an effort to further build this little mom community we have here, and I want to thank you all for being part of it. Let me know if you’d like to share your experience with motherhood and we can all learn a bit from each other together. xoxo Jenny
Read more from the My Mom Life Series here.