I have a humiliating confession to make. Up until recently, I’m not sure I genuinely believed that outside support for breastfeeding mothers is necessary. Despite what I preached, I was secretly convinced that breastfeeding support was a perk, a bonus that made things easier but not vital.
You see, when I became pregnant with Willow, I knew that I would breastfeed. Artificial feeding methods, including bottle feeding breastmilk, just weren’t options I had even considered. When she was born in the hospital and I encountered just about every Booby Trap you can imagine, we endured a difficult start to feeding. But even while my eyes filled with tears, shoulders tense, raw, bloody nipples searing with pain, I never once considered giving up breastfeeding my daughter.
As the weeks passed, feeding Willow became pleasant, second nature, easy. I started to wonder about the women who had given up on breastfeeding.
Well, I did it (and still am doing it) despite my many challenges. What’s your excuse? I ignorantly thought.
Eventually, when I started writing and advocating for breastfeeding, although I professed that breastfeeding support is essential to mothers and babies, deep down, I remembered my initial struggle.
Things have finally been put into perspective. Once foolish, I am now sympathetic to the many mothers who do not meet their breastfeeding goals.
Shortly after Iris’s birth, I decided that I was going to become a midwife. I experienced such joy bringing Iris Earthside and saw how birth can be positively transformative not only for a mother but for the whole family. I wanted to facilitate that possibility for other families.
The stars aligned! My dream seemed so attainable, so perfectly timed, so perfectly placed. I signed up for the Perinatal Educator prerequisite course with Dr. Amy Gilliand and began preparing for the 40 hour course.
I budgeted my time; one assigned book per week. I purchased color coded note cards, a new binder and busted out my old, college tote. I highlighted, I graphed, I researched, I asked questions. I was fascinated by and engrossed in the material; it consumed me in a way that made me feel so full. The more and more I read, the more I felt like This is what I’m supposed to be doing. I studied more in a six week period than I had in my entire four-year college career.
I was determined, powered up, passionate but at the same time, I was exhausted. And my family-life floundered.
Quickly I realized that my dream to become a midwife wasn’t going to happen without the proper support system in place. It didn’t matter how determined or passionate I was about it. I needed outside support to help with my many other responsibilities as a mother of two, a wife, a writer, a friend, a daughter.
When I accepted that that support system just wasn’t as strong as I needed, I decided to put my formal didactic studies on hold. That was such a difficult thing to do. I felt like I was giving up.
And so you see, my revelation.
I align this experience with that of mothers who desperately wish to breastfeed their babies but aren’t successful with their goals because of outside forces. These mothers often feel like they have failed themselves and their babies. And this feeling trickles into every other aspect of parenting. This is why it is so important we help mothers find peace with their infant feeding method no matter what it is. It’s what my idols have been telling me all these years and I finally get it.
It took a lot of reflection and talking to great listeners for me to come to peace with putting my studies on hold. I haven’t given up on becoming a midwife; my path has simply changed. Recognizing and accepting my limitations was freeing.
Similarly, mothers might feel like they have given up on breastfeeding, but breastfeeding is just one (albeit very important) part of motherhood. There are infinite ways for a mother and her baby to develop a healthy, loving relationship, and that should be her ultimate goal.
For information on how to support breastfeeding mothers, please visit the following links: